Author Etiquette - How to Take an Extended Break

by Jennifer 29. June 2017 07:28

Welcome back to Apocalypse Ink Products. It’s summer and you know what that means: VACATIONS! Time to take some time to relax and have some fun.

 

Yeah right.

 

If you are like many authors, you’ve figured out that the work on creating books and stories never ends. There’s the thinking up part of our creative endeavours. Then there’s the writing part. Followed by the editing and wanting to torch the whole thing phase. If you think you are finished you don’t know much about publishing. Next up is the submission phase and all of those nervous habits tend to come out and play. If you get accepted great! If not, then lather rinse repeat that submission phase until either you get accepted somewhere, decide to self-publish or trunk that puppy.

 

Oh and hey, if you do get accepted, awesome! But then you might have a few (or a hundred more edits) before your story or book is ready for reading. Except, unless you put on a publicist hat, no one’s going to know you have books out. And then here comes the mad rush to get interviews, guest posts and reviews along with pleas to purchase the book.

 

And that’s just if your work is published by a legitimate publishing company (large or small.) For those of you who self publish, you need to add in cover art, design, formatting and proofing.

 

Some of this happens quite slowly, at times over the course of a year or more. But other times, this is a fast paced bullet train that takes just a few months.

 

And it doesn’t even include book signings, online events, conventions and guest speaking engagements.

 

No wonder some authors get tired, sometimes feel as though they are burnt out, and get writer’s block. They never take time to rest. And that’s not good.

 

Even the most steadfast of authors realize they’ve got to take a break. Mostly because it’s for their own well being. Creative wells run dry. Exhaustion and it’s many complications can put you at risk. Sometimes you have to take a break because of outside matters.

 

Breaks can be short or long, depending on the circumstances. A short break is easier to deal with. A day, two or even a week, can help an author feel refreshed and ready to hit the word mines again.

 

But what happens when an extended break is necessary?

 

That’s where things get a little more complicated.  

 

There’s an unspoken belief that taking time off can have a devastating effect on their income. If they are not actively writing, editing, and promoting themselves, their name and books can fall in sales. And it’s kind of true. Newer authors and authors with indie presses often feel as though they are rolling a boulder up a hill in order to get their name “out there.” As they become more well known, the boulder seems to get smalleror maybe it’s just that they are getting stronger. But a break, especially a long one, can find them back at the bottom with an even heavier burden.

 

So what do you do if you find you need a long break, but still want to keep your name out there?

 

First, take a look at how long of a break you are going to take. A week? A month? Longer?

 

If you are able to plan how long you are taking a break, you can alert friends, family and fans that you will be either gone entirely from the internet or will have limited access for a time. Plan things to do that have nothing to do with writing, promoting, or editing. Go experience life outside the writing cave. For a lot of people, this can revitalize their creative well and give them a much better outlook on what they are doing.

 

Next, decided if you are going “cold turkey” on book related things or are you going to be working a little bit. Prioritize what HAS to be done against what you’d like to do.

 

Say you are on a deadline, and the novel you are writing is due in 6 weeks, but you feel yourself stretched too thin. Drop the social media, the interviews, the promotion and finish the book. DO NOTHING ELSE. On the other hand, if you don’t have something pressing. Dropping off the face of the earth (not really) for a couple of weeks or month can be very refreshing.

 

Third, see if anyone can take over some duties, automate your promotion, or hire someone to take a load off.

 

If you really need a break, but find you just can’t let go of some of the duties, figure out a way to do them until you get back. Give someone admin rights to your professional page so that updates can be posted regularly. Use a social media manager program to automate promotional posts. Even better, hire someone to take over some of the duties you must have done while you are gone.

 

No matter how long you decide to be gone, it’s a good thing to notify your close friends, family, and professional contacts such as your editor and your publisher, that you will be gone for a little bit. This way, if something important comes up, they will either know how to contact you or will be able to handle things until you get back. A quick note on your website or professional pages will alert fans that you are unable to respond but will get back when you can. But don’t put out personal information such as where you’ll be, or if you will be gone from home. A quick note saying you are deep in the writing cave and unable to respond until project x is complete is fine.

 

Taking a break is necessary for everyone. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are weak or irresponsible for wanting to just drop everything and walk away. Everyone feels like that on occasion. Realize that breaks are healthy, especially for creatives who tend to overload themselves with various activities easily.

 

Take care of yourselves out there. Have some fun. Then, when your vacation’s over, get back to work refreshed and revived.

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Author Etiquette - Social Media: Whats, Whys, and Hows

by Jennifer 30. May 2017 12:11

Welcome back to another edition of Author Etiquette.

 

No one ever said being an author is easy. On the production side you need to come up with stories, edit them to the best of your abilities, cringe at what your beta readers tell you, edit again, and then try to find a publisher. If that isn’t enough, most authors have to gain the attention of readers in a way that will lead to sales and reviews.

 

While in person author-reader connections are awesome (and should never ever be discounted), a great deal of author-reader connections are online, namely social media. Social media are online platforms that people use to connect with each other. They can have a variety of features or be very simple. The most common are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. There’s also other platforms out there. Some are video based, some photo based, discussion based and so on and so forth.

 

The main reason for people to use these social media platforms is connection with people. Who hasn’t felt alone even in the middle of a crowd? Who would like to talk with people who share the same interests? Social media provides people with a way to connect with the gaming community, other writers and readers.

 

The Whats

As said above, social media platforms are used to connect with people, but each has it’s own way of doing things.

 

Facebook is the most used social media platform in the world. It allows people to post photos, carry on discussions, announce events and create business pages. By using professional pages, using your promotion wisely and growing a fanbase, many authors find Facebook to be a very useful tool.

 

Twitter is probably the second most used platform used by authors. Unlike FB, all posts are limited to 140 characters. This greatly limits (and challenges) the user. Ideas and discussions are possible, although it’s often broken up into several posts.

 

Instagram is a photo sharing platform. While you can manage Instagram on your computer, the program is optimized for phone and tablet use. Photos taken with smart devices can be directly posted and then sent to other platforms for sharing.

 

Pinterest is another image sharing program. Unlike Instagram, Pinterest allows you to post images (including photos and scanned or created images) to your account and place them on different walls. Authors sometimes use the pins for character or setting creation, research, or finding a great recipe for chocolate cake.

 

Lastly, Tumblr is another platform that like Facebook and Twitter, allow users to post ideas and brief discussions along with photos. Unlike the other two, Tumblr users often post short segments of what they are doing. It’s not uncommon for an artist or author to share a segment of what they are working on currently. It’s also a great place for a short serial.

 

The Whys

So now that you know a little about some of the social media platforms, next is reasons to use them. Some authors cry foul at being asked to promote their books. After all, they are too busy writing right? In this day and age, even large publishing companies require authors to do a certain amount of promotion.

 

Social media is an inexpensive, fairly easy way to promote your work. Most platforms offer free accounts. They provide a platform for your work. Many also give you the opportunity to run ads so that you can reach more people. You don’t have to go anywhere in particular to use the platforms—your only requirement is access to the internet. And, for some people this is really important, you don’t have to actually socialize.

 

Social media also allows you to find people who are interested in your work. Not everyone is able to go to conventions or able to make a trip to a bookstore across the country for a signing. Your book might not even be available in a brick and mortar store, which lessens the chance of people finding you. However, on social media, a user can run a search on space opera, or vampires or steampunk, and—if you’ve set up your pages right—find you.


That reason right there is worth the sometimes annoyance of having a social media account.

 

The Hows

Now that you know a little about some of the social media platforms and why they are useful, we now need to move to the how to use it category. Each social media platform has different rules. To learn them, either find a quick guide or look at other people’s feeds and see how they are using it. Pay attention to the professionals in your field. If they state that some behavior is inappropriate, LISTEN.

 

While you may be eager to promote your book, don’t be in a hurry. Spamming, or posting mostly “BUY ME” posts, isn’t going to help move your books—most people will simply block you. The best thing for your promotional plan is to be you. What this means is post about your pets, interesting articles you’ve found, and ideas you want to share. Post only a promo once every 5-7 posts or 2-3 times a week.

 

Why? It’s simple. People are not on social media for advertisements. They are on those platforms to connect with people. They want to like you. Your books are just a bonus.

 

If you are new to social media, find one platform that you think you’d like to try. Make an account. Find people you know and begin gathering friends. Join some groups. Participate in discussions. Be you for a while before you start promoting. If you’d like, join a few other platforms and see if they fit you. You do not have to join everything (although it’s occasionally useful) or be active on every account.

 

I hope that you’ve found some insight on social media in this post. Remember that the most important thing is to be you, have fun, and don’t hurt other people.

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Author Etiquette - Professional Writer Organizations

by Jennifer 27. April 2017 08:39

Welcome authors, editors, and other publishing professionals to another Author Etiquette.

Beginning authors often concern themselves with putting their stories on the page, but as they grow and network, hopefully they begin to learn there’s more out there than just a bunch of writers struggling on their own.

Writer groups abound. You can find them online and even in your own home town. Some are simply loosely grouped people with the common goal of writing. But others are chapters of higher level organizations with rules, regulations and a hopeful roadmap that leads to the future.

Today, we are going to look at professional writer organizations, what they are and what they represent as well as how you can join them.

What is a Professional Writer Organization?

Professional Writer Organizations are groups that have clearly defined rules and regulations and are there to help authors of all types. They can be large or small and cater to a narrow band of authors or have a very general appeal. Many professional writer organization organize under the rules of not-for-profit status. This means that they have to follow a set of strict guidelines to keep their business license and follow certain guidelines.These guidelines provide the basic structure for organization, governance, and growth.

One of the most important guidelines of these organizations is to protect the interests of the profession (which would be writing), further the interests of those involved (authors) and connect with the public on behalf of the profession. This means that the goals of the organization is to promote conditions which is beneficial to authors, publishers, and to our readers.

They are often run by a governing body that can consist of boards and officers. While the governing body does make many decisions, they must still follow the rules and regulations, and the collective will of the membership. To become a member you must fill out an application and usually pay some sort of fee. Those fees then go into different services that help authors.

What does a Professional Writer Organization Do?

As said above, a Professional Writer Organization promotes conditions which is beneficial to authors, publishers and readers, but what does that mean?

Depending on the organization, a Professional Writer Organization can have many different responsibilities. Some promote a standard of pay for professional grade publications. Some provide educational opportunities. Still others provide guidelines for contracts. An organization can provide some or all of these and perhaps many more services to its members.

No matter the size of the organization they all provide a few basic things. First is a way for members to network. Being a member of a Professional Writer Organization opens up the opportunity to speak with other members, either through forums, emails, or face-to-face meetings at yearly events. This can allow authors to find mentors, get advice, and even coordinate on new projects. Networking usually helps increase exposure for your work. It can also open up opportunities that you might not otherwise have.

Another thing a Professional Writer Organization does is provide education. Education can be as simple as a column in the newsletter or it can be as complex as a week long seminar. The topics can range from publicity to contract negotiations. Organizations can even arrange online workshops for their members, or have specific speakers during conferences. Educational opportunities strengthen the membership and help promote better conditions for all authors, even if they are outside the organization.

And lastly, Professional Writer Organizations offer warnings about publishing gone wrong, and can help authors resolve issues. I’m sure that all of you have heard horror stories about authors who were trapped in contracts that were exploitive, or publishers who didn’t pay. These predatory practices harm all authors. Many Professional Writer Organizations have clear guidelines on the standards of qualifying markets. Those standards can include pay rates and other standards such as on time payment. If problems arise, then issues can be brought up for mediation, maybe saving both sides from lawsuits.

Oh, I almost forgot. What organizations would be complete without awards?  Many Professional Writer Organizations organize and coordinate some sort of award. Some are limited to members, but others people outside the organization can win. Watch for information throughout the year as the award cycles don’t always correspond to a certain time frame such as the beginning of the year.

How can You Join a Professional Writer Organization?

Depending on the organization you want to join, it could be as simple as filling out an application and paying your fees, or as difficult as proving you earned $X in the previous year on your writing. Different organizations have different guidelines on who can join. And almost always, there’s a fee involved.

 

Many Professional Writer Organizations have different levels of membership. The full members (sometimes called Active Members) are usually those who have met all of the qualifying criteria. It could be a number of short story sales to professional publications or that you sold your novel to a qualifying market. Some limit full membership to only professional markets while others welcome self published and indie market sales.

 

Other levels include Affiliate and Industry members. These are often members who have a professional involvement with authors. Affiliate members include publishers, editors, illustrators, and publicists. Industry membership covers libraries, schools, and film organizations. Often these members have less privileges than full members.

 

Most organizations also welcome family members and have special rates for seniors. For those who have served the organization for a number of years, lifetime memberships are also granted.

 

Professional Writer Organizations are essential to the world of publishing. Without them, professional standards of publication would not be possible. They provide the structure for much of our current market and push for improvements. They allow members to network and provide warnings if necessary. They educate not only authors but the public as well on many matters that face authors and publishers. They welcome a variety of industry professionals into their membership so that a wide range of ideas can be found.

 

If you would like to know more about some of these organizations, please feel free to look at the links below.

And there’s many many more.

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Author Etiquette - Keep the Professional and Personal Separate

by Jennifer 29. March 2017 08:34

Welcome again to another Author Etiquette. We created this series to help authors navigate the highs and lows of the publishing journey. There’s lots of pitfalls, and we’d like you to survive and thrive.


Being an author is tough. There’s way too many things you never knew you needed to learn.The instruction book that gets you from the bottom of the slush pile to the best seller list somehow got lost in the mail. If you want to get noticed, you will have to do some promotion on your own. Any advice that you get, you need to have second and third thoughts about because, while it might work for one author, it might not work for you. Add the need to keep the professional and personal sides of your personality separate in correspondence, and things can become a mess.


Wait...What? Keep your professional and personal separate? That’s a thing?


Yes. Keeping professional conversations separate from personal ones is important. Whether it’s email, phone, voice, or video conversations, it should be clear who and what position you are talking from. This way, things don’t get confused and streams don’t cross.


Now for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain.


When you email someone, you are either speaking as an individual (YOUR NAME) or as (YOUR NAME) author/editor/creative. And while most of the time these things go hand in hand, when it comes to business, you might have to set one part aside for a bit.


It’s easy to make great friends in the speculative fiction community. There’s a lot of great people out there who are friendly, smart, and charismatic. They are easy to be friends with. These are the people you share their posts, and congratulate them when they receive a sale, or something good happens. They often return the favor.


However, many of these people also wear other hats. They may also be an editor or a publisher or artist. They might have to make decisions based not on you but your work. It might not always be in your favor. (Please, please realize that rejections and business decisions do not always correlate to you as a person.)


For instance, when you as an author talk to your publisher about your contract, no matter how much you like the person, sometimes you will have to make decisions that makes sense for you as an author. This is a professional decision and all discussion in an email or on the phone should reflect that.


On the other hand if you are talking to the same person about cats, then those discussions are personal. You and the other person are no longer speaking about business--unless it happens to include cats--and have stepped into a personal discussion. 


See, professional and personal conversations. Everyone following? Good!


The biggest issue is keeping it separate


We are human, and we don’t always keep things separated like we should. When we don’t, it can lead to confusing situations such as an author giving the impression they are speaking for a publication, or miscommunicating important information. Things like that can get messy quickly.


How do you keep professional and personal conversations separate?


We’ll discuss emails first, then go to phone and voice/video conversations next.


Emails. When you receive an email from a person who could be wearing either a personal or professional hat, first decide what the email is about. Is the email discussing a story, edits, submissions, or other professional items? Or, is it a friendly email on personal issues? Or, is it both?


If it is a professional email, then answer or discuss the matter, but keep the discussion on topic. If there’s something else to discuss that isn’t professional—meaning pertaining to some sort of business—then make a note to start another email.


Yes, start another email with the personal discussion or opinion.


The same with a personal email. Keep the email in the personal sphere. If things drift towards professional or business make a note and again start another email.


If the email you receive is both, inform the other person that you will be separating the business and personal that way things don’t get confused.


A mixed email could look something like this:


Dear Jane,

Would you mind changing the main character of your story into a toad?

Also, I was thinking of getting a dog and your little precious is so cute. Could you tell me more about this breed?

Sincerely,

Publisher


Jane would be very smart to reply to this email and separate the professional conversation—changing the main character to a toad—and the personal conversation—talking about dogs—into two separate emails.


Making distinct separations in emails helps you in a number of ways. First, you will be able to search out that email (or file it) in relation to what is being discussed. Second, there is no confusion as to who you are speaking as. Whether it be (YOUR NAME) or as an author, editor, or artist. Third, there’s no confusion in the conversation. There is no crossover of personal conversations and business matters.


Phone, video, and voice chats are a little different.


There’s a flow to a conversation where you hear someone else’s voice and it’s a lot easier to change gears from professional to personal. Unlike emails though, you don’t want to end a conversation and then call back. You can continue the conversation; however, you should always be aware and make sure all other parties are aware of the change.


Most of the time, once pleasantries are out of the way (this is the hello portion btw) most conversations move on to business first. It could be a long or a short discussion depending on the subject. Once all of that is out of the way, then the conversation can move to personal topics. Simple phrases such as, “Now that business is taken care of,” or “Now on to personal matters,” signify the change in mode. No matter what signal you use, always remember: make sure that all parties are aware that the professional or personal discussion is over. If it happens to switch again, (which hopefully it won’t) again be sure that all parties are aware of what is happening.


Remember, it’s in your best interest to keep personal and professional matters separate. It makes things easier to track and helps keep you out of some sticky situations. Don’t cross the streams!

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Author Etiquette - Rolling the Dice: Taking Chances and Improving Your Odds

by Jennifer 28. February 2017 10:58

Hello again and welcome to another Author Etiquette.


Being an author is never easy. First you have to learn the rulesyou know those pesky things like grammar, punctuation, and spelling that (hopefully) you learned in school. Then you have to understand things like plot arcs, the difference between a protagonist, antagonist and anti-hero, why subplots don’t usually work in a short story and how to tie everything up at the end. And only when you finally understand all of that, you must learn to break the rules, but do it in a way that makes sense in the story you are writing. And all along there’s pressure to be published.


It’s no wonder that people feel like imposters and talk about writer’s block. There’s just so much to this business, that it often overwhelms you. This is why sometimes you need to change gears.


You write stories, send them out, collect a pile of rejections. Then suddenly, you realize you are stuck. Your stories are dull and read like a checklist. Your protagonists are very much the same type. Even your villains seem lack luster.


Or maybe you are doing well in your writing field but want to write something different. Thoughts of how your fans will take the news of you changing gears keeps you up at night. After all, they’re the ones buying your books right?


Perhaps you aren’t worried about those things but want to try something else. Your fondest desire is to work in the gaming industry or write a tie-in book for your favorite TV show. Your focus wanders more and more into a world that isn’t your own.


It may be time to roll the dice and take a really big chance.


Taking a chance is scary. Even established authors are a bit nervous about taking the plunge into a new venue. Whether it’s a new series, working in a different field or working in a different format, everyone gets the jitters, especially when it’s not a sure thing. But there are things you can do to reduce your risks.


Research

First of all research your new venture. Don’t jump in blind. If you are changing gears from writing hard science fiction to romance, reading that genre would be a great idea. If you want to get into the gaming industry, play some of the games that you’d like to write for. The same with writing tie-in. Watch the programs and get familiar with the world.


These things give you a basis in the worlds you are going to write in. Familiarize yourself with the common tropes and stereotypes. Learn about the fans and what they like or dislike about the genre. Learn more about the companies that produce such works.


Talk With An Author

It’s not difficult to find an author that writes in the field you want to take a chance on and most of them are pretty open about the work they do. They may not be able to talk about specifics (non-disclosure agreements), but they might be able to give you some advice.


Advice from an established author could be insight on the market or what they think the “next big trend” will be. They could drop information on who to work for or not work for and even introduce you to others in the industry. Having an established author vouch for you can sometimes lift your name to the top of a very long list.


Do Your Homework

After you’ve researched and talked with a few authors in the field you want to try out, next you explore the possibilities and find out what the submission requirements are. Changing genres means you need to write a few things in the new genre you are exploring. For game writing you might need to write up a Curriculum Vitæ (CV) to show your writing experience. Tie-in markets might want to see writing samples and question you on how well you know the series.


Seek out several companies and publishers and compare guidelines. Some are by invitation only while others welcome new authors. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to get your foot in the door by doing smaller works before you can move on to larger ones.


Follow the Instructions

This is perhaps the most important step in any writing submission. READ and FOLLOW the instructions. Your submission, CV or writing sample is the only opportunity for you to show editors that you are a professional and can work to specifications. A sloppy submission or writing sample with lots of errors, won’t give you a vote of confidence. Neither will a CV with very little writing experience. Make sure you have the right experiences for the job or are at least heading in the right direction.


Double check your work. Have a fellow author look at what you want to submit. Remember that you won’t catch all of your mistakes, having another set of eyes could catch something embarrassing. Before you submit, recheck to be sure you have included everything requested in your packet. And just to be sure, check it all again before you hit send.


Be Patient

Like everything in publishing, hearing back from your submission could take a while. Your best bet is to continue writing, researching other venues and sending out more work. This will help keep your mind off of decisions you aren’t involved with. Not all companies will have a response time listed so it could be months (if ever) before you hear back. For the most part, don’t send out queries unless you’ve been instructed to.


Don’t Be Angry If You Aren’t Chosen

Even if you’ve done everything right, you might not get accepted. That’s a fact of publishing. Perhaps your work is too similar to someone they’ve already hired. Maybe they’ve filled their writing stable for now. Whatever the reason, don’t be angry about it.

 

Don’t give up either. There’s plenty of time to learn and grow as a writer. Another company might have an opening that’s perfect for you. Heck, that story you’ve worked on for the past year might be the thing that opens up the doors that seem closed right now.

 

Every author has at some point taken the plunge and tried something new. Sometimes it’s successful, and sometimes it’s not. But research, following the instructions, and being patient can improve your chances in gaining a spot in another writing field.

 

Wishing you all the luck in your next venture.

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Author Etiquette - Your Stories Matter

by Jennifer 31. January 2017 08:53

I had to think long and hard about writing this, but with the current events unfolding, it’s more important than ever to say it.


Write your story; the story only you can tell.

Edit it to the best of your ability and get it out there.

Then start another, something better.

 

We’ve arrived in a new round of turbulence. It’s a growing pain of sorts, where we can either set back the clock 50 years or once more progress. It takes energy, protests and force to push through the darkness that has descended. Every day might seem darker, the oppression more solid, but there are others out there fighting with you.


Not everyone can be on the front lines. Major protests happen in larger cities, it’s often a long drive for many. Phone calls (most effective) and emails only take a few minutes. Donations take even less. I do cheer at those taking steps in becoming elected officials, but that’s not for everyone.


Then what do you do with your time? Fret over the latest kerflunkle? Watch newsfeeds explode with more bad news?


Or do you focus that anger, insecurity and tension into something else. Something constructive. Something that could either give comfort or entertainment or plant seeds that changes someone’s mind.


As artists, we have a very unique power. We are the things that people fall back on. When they need a rest, they may pick up a HEA (happily ever after) book such as a romance. When they need to see the possibility of what’s to come, they may pick up an apocalyptic horror. And when they need to find the strength to carry on the fight, they might look for a fantasy or science fiction book that features heroines and heroes fighting back against injustice.


These stories don’t just come from thin air. They come from from what’s inside. That fear you have about clean water in the future? That’s a SF novel set on another world where industry is poisoning everything. Problematic legislature? There’s a fantasy short story that involves a council judging someone unfairly. Alternative history? Well there’s too many current things to point out.


Write the story then edit it

I know it’s hard. The fear and frustration that twists your gut and makes you want to run screaming out of the country is difficult to get control over. It kills your desire to write. But you can fight through it. You can focus. Take it a few words at a time. It gets easier.


Sure it might be a hot mess of a first draft. But once it’s on the page, you can fix what’s wrong. You can make it better. You can select words to clarify what you mean. Eventually you’ll have a story you can be proud of. It’s ready for the rest of the world, if you want to share it.


Submit that story

If you do decide to send it out into the world, you will probably find writing may not be the hardest part. Sending it out is possibly even scarier. But that’s where you have to stand true. Find markets that are open to your particular genre and style. Research, follow guidelines and then submit. If you get rejected, find another market. Keep sending it out.


Beware of fallout

Authors introduce things through a non-confrontational media to anyone who reads or looks at our work. With a book or poem, there’s no one to immediately argue with. This is why at some points in history artists of all types were regarded as dangerous. Art challenges and changes ideas. Not everyone likes having their ideas challenged.


I won’t lie, it’s very possible that people will post negative reviews, try to discredit you, make you afraid. However, you won’t be alone. There are other authors right now, writing these types of stories. Right now there are people getting threats because they wrote something that challenges someone’s worldview. You might feel alone, but you aren't.


Is it political?

Currently there’s a lot of discussion about whether certain subjects are political in writing. Women’s rights, QUITLBAG characters, environmental changes and more mirror concerns in our current society. Your story may not be about politics but if they contain certain views, there could be push back.


Accept that writing about these things IS political, even if you feel as though it shouldn’t be. It’s going to be clear from your work that you support progressive or conservatives causes. And that’s fine. Your stories are your world. Not everyone is going to agree.


Stand together

Other authors are already putting their emotions to good use. Their work is out there but it can’t just be one story out there that begins the process of changing people’s minds, it has to be many. I’ve been seeing the movement for a while now, more inclusiveness of QUILTBAG characters and main characters with mental illness and disabilities. I’ve found more stories that aren’t set in European settings. More foreign stories.


Each one opens up our world to new and unique ideas. And those ideas eventually changes the worldview of our readers. Changing the worldview changes the world. Hopefully, making it better for everyone.


Don’t worry about the genre. We all need a HEA at times. Sometimes a grand long adventure. Other times, a dose of horror to put things into perspective. Just write it. Help change the world, one reader at a time.


So take a few hours.

Write the story.  No excuses.

Edit it to the best of your ability.

Send it out.

Write another.

~The Shadow Minion

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Author Etiquette - It’s Okay to be a Weird Kind of You

by Jennifer 29. December 2016 09:43

“Today you are You,

that is truer than true.

There is no one alive

who is Youer than You.”

- Dr. Seuss

 

I love that I can look on my Facebook wall and see a variety of posts from all of my friends. I see artwork, thoughtful discussions, silly posts and questions on various topics. Photos range from beadwork, to book covers, what’s for lunch and cat photos. Everyone has a unique personality, style and tone. Some can be a bit harsh but the topics they touch on are the ones that really open my eyes.

 

And even though I see all of these people owning what and who they are, there’s still hesitation on my part to open up that weird sideyou know the one who geeks out about science, and brightly colored beads, and (insert favorite author)’s new book. It’s not because I’m secretive but because I want to feel normal, like I belong. It’s sometimes hard to do that when you feel more like a square peg.

 

I know, it’s a silly thing. Our genre is full of people who have learned to speak Klingon, dress up as their favorite video game character, or spends a weekend on a single D&D campaign. Geekiness is our calling. We love the weird and call it wonderful.

 

But there’s always this voice that says loving (insert character) is a bit over the top, because most people like this other character so much. Or maybe you might seem suspicious if you talk about the blood splatter patterns you researched for eight hours to get a writing scene just right. (not that I’d ever do that…) There’s always this fear that our (or at least my) geeky tendencies are a little too weird even for the speculative fiction community.

 

But there’s one thing that I am learning. We all have that hesitation. Whether it’s hiding the fact that you spend a few minutes a day looking at the model data for the future weather forecast, or found some vintage toy you played with as a kid at a thrift shop, it’s always a toss up on whether you are going to have a good or negative experience when you reveal your geekery. There’s always some arsehole who is going to try to toss a wrench into what makes you happy.

 

Why? Hell if I know and, truthfully, I don’t want to.

 

I won’t make excuses for people who don’t accept that there are all sorts of people with all sorts of views. So long as it’s harmless to everyone else, who cares. I’ll like the photos you took of alien encounter sites on your vacation. If you post a photo of a bug or a bird I might just know what it is. And as to crime scene investigation, I’ll probably read every post with rapt fascination. I’ll be happy that you are happy, so long as you can accept my own weird little quirks.

 

I’ve become more accepting of my own geeky delights because of my kids. One is an artist with a strong sense of justice. I’m proud that his artwork features odd characters with their own little geeky quirks. My youngest is the musician and muscle car fanatic. He’s got his own style and lots of dreams. Both of them have helped me see how important those little geeky loves are for everyone.

 

I’m going to try to let more of my geek out this year. I’ve got my eye on some hoodies and t-shirts that endorse some of my current interests. Maybe talk a little more about some other interests on my blog. Make more art and, gasp, maybe even try my hand at some fan fiction. I’ll find out more about some other things that have tickled my interest of late.

 

And I encourage you to do it too. After all, the world would be a very boring place if everything was the same right? Let’s celebrate the things we love, and try to make the world better.

Be the youest you.
~Shadow Minion

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Author Etiquette - Promotion in Times of Turmoil

by Jennifer 29. November 2016 09:20

Welcome again to another Author Etiquette. We are glad you have joined us. Author Etiquette is a column where we discuss various things that come up in publishing. We started this little series because we love authorswe wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t. But authors are human. Sometimes they make mistakes. Whether you are a new author or a seasoned pro, we hope this column will give you some perspective on issues and help keep you out of trouble.


As we’ve said many times before, very little in publishing moves quickly. Publishers plan things months and sometimes years ahead of time. Book launches, membership drives, and big publishing events take lots of preparation, work, and coordination. For the most part, things run on schedule and things are successful. But you can’t always count on long terms plans when turmoil arises.


Turmoil, whether it’s a natural disaster, sudden illness or death, or other upheaval, isn’t something most publishers plan on. No one looks at a calendar for the upcoming year and says, “I think I’ll wait to launch (NEW BOOK) for another month because there’ll be (insert your favorite flavor of chaos).” Instead, a publisher selects a launch date by making sure a new acquisition has plenty of time for edits, formatting and cover art adjustments. Authors try to start a crowdfunding project at a time when they can dedicate time and effort into the project. Conventions and subscription drives are usually the same time every year.


And yet, no matter how hard you plan and how ready you are for a project, there’s always a chance that chaos can arise. And when it does, authors and publishers are caught in the middle of a sticky situation.


The question then becomes what do you do? Can you suspend a book launch or crowdfunding project? What do you do if you can’t?  What do you do?


No one wants a project to fail. Launching a book, crowdfunding project, or a subscription drive during turmoil will often negatively affect your success. There are some steps you can take to help minimize the damage and even turn it around into a bigger success.


First of all, be realistic.

Being realistic means that you are aware that the turmoil going on will have an effect on sales and participation. It might be lower than expected or not succeed at all. Disappointing as it may be, people’s attention will be focused on the situation, not on your book.


Suspend your promotions.

The first 24 hours of a disaster is critical for several reasons. Many people use social media to contact friends and family or spread information about what’s happening. Attention is going to be focused on whatever turmoil is going on. Whatever promotions you have, delay or suspend them for those critical hours. People appreciate a feed free of promotion when they are hurting, scared or just trying to figure out what’s going on.


Be an ally.

Being an ally means that you are signal boosting verified information, support and understanding. If you’ve got a large public following, the messages you send will go farther and reach more people. Do check what you are sending out though. Misinformation can be as harmful as whatever is going on.


Delay or suspend a launch.

We know you’ve worked hard to make sure your book is ready for the masses, but when turmoil strikes, not everyone is going to be in the mood for your new book. Talk to your publisher about what options you can use. While you might not be able to delay the launch, you might be able to take advantage of a soft launch.


You can use the soft launch approachwhich means pushing back your main promotions for short time. This allows some time for things to get back to normal before you push your book. A week or two should long enough for things to settle down.


If you have a launch party scheduled, speak with your guests on how to proceed. They might agree to push the date back, use the party as a signal boost platform, or have connections on pairing up with an organization involved that needs a platform.


If you have a crowdfunding project launching or about to launch, see if you can delay it for a few days. Trying to compete with turmoil will not help your project and a successful launch needs a lot of attention in the first few days. If your project has already launched, try to be low-key for a couple of days. If it’s ending soon, try not to jam up the feeds if possible.


Don’t be “THAT” guy/gal.

Two things that will get you muted or unfriended on lots of social media feeds. First, if you hop on and begin blasting promotional material when most people are focused on a disaster. Second, go on other people’s feeds and try to argue with them. Neither of these are going to gain you any friends or support of a project. In fact, it could very well have a negative effect with future projects.


And PLEASE don’t use the turmoil to boost your promotions. Having a “Fire Sale” during wide scale wildfires is crude at best.

Even though disasters strike, it doesn’t mean that everything has to stop. You can promote your book/event/whatever, but do be subtle. Here are some tips to help you promote your work in times of turmoil


Pair up with support organizations.

Pairing up with an organization that assists those affected by the turmoil helps both parties. Having profits go to one of these organizations on any sales helps you and them. It also allows people to do something to help, and get something in return. Just make sure that the organization you pair up with is legit and you hold up your end of the bargain.


Subtle and quiet is best.

After that first 24 hours, you should get back into the promotional groove. But you don’t want to go full blast. A few posts, a blog update and background work should be the most you should send out for a few days. This gives people a gentle reminder that you have something going on, but you aren’t pushing them.


Delayed launches.

Even if your book launched, you can delay a celebration to a more appropriate time. A few weeks or even a month after is plenty of time for people to recover and appreciate your newest project. Plan some fun events and giveaways to help attract people to your event.


The biggest thing to remember when you are promoting a book, event or anything is to be aware of what is going on around you. If people are concerned with current events, they aren’t going to want to celebrate your newest work. Their brain power is going to be concentrated on friends, family, and information.

By freeing up the social media feeds you are allowing a distraction-free feed. And while most people won’t realize that you have cleared up this space in the virtual world, those of us who do know greatly appreciate it.

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Author Etiquette - Social Media Safety

by Jennifer 26. October 2016 09:06

For many of us, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are a part of our everyday routine. We use it to keep track of family and friends, publishers and co-workers along with submission calls and freelance opportunities. It’s made our lives easier, as we can visit one or two places and have much of what we need at our fingertips.


But even though it’s a relatively nice place, social media has its darker side.


How many of you have heard of this situation or had it happen to you?


You’ve had your Facebook page for quite a while and although you have a professional page you don’t have as many followers on there. So when you promote your work you simply post it first on your main page and then on your professional page when you get around to it.

One afternoon you open up your Facebook to check how your friends are doing and find that your account is locked. All because you unfriended someone and they took exception to your decision and decided to retaliate.


OR


You joined in a conversation on Twitter. At first, things seemed okay but as the conversation wound on, it became heated and you found yourself facing a wall of opposition. Soon after you start receiving one star reviews on your books and death threats in your inbox.


OR


You receive a message from one of the many friends you have on a certain media site. The message has a link. You click it thinking it’s a funny video of something. Instead it’s some news site. Later, you start receiving messages from close friends telling you your computer has been hacked.


In the past few weeks I’ve heard of actions similar to these used against authors and publishers and I’ve heard of and seen many more over the past few years. While these things were infrequent in the past, the weaponizing of social media has become much more common.


For some of us, our first experiences with social media were pleasant. MySpace and the very first versions of Facebook were new and exciting places. It was fun to chat with people miles away, exchanging experiences and building online communities. On occasion there were some creepy people, but they were far and few between and easily avoidable. Internet safety wasn’t a big thing as there was this assumption that most people were nice and harmless.


Over the years that has changed.  Hacking, spoofing, doxxing, and bullying are tools used by others to either gain access to accounts and data or disrupt businesses and personal lives. Over the past few years, threats online have become more common--especially against women, POC, and minorities. However, anyone can be a target.


While there’s lots of discussions as to why, we won’t go into that here. Instead we will touch on types of attacks,how to keep you and your accounts safer and what to do if it happens to you. Note, I did not say safe. Very little is safe when using the internet.


First, let’s look at some different types of social media weapons before we discuss how to protect yourself against them.


Spoofing

I’m sure you’ve seen other authors or artists warn people that a second account has shown up that doesn’t belong to them. This is called spoofing and it’s more of an annoyance than an actual attack. 


What happens is someone copies photos and information from your actual homepage and then creates a new account. Friend requests are sent from this new account. Unsuspecting people accept the request and are then usually bombarded with ads for sunglasses or are propositioned for personal information. Most of the time this is a sneaky ploy to gain access to the people you know; however, it could be a concealed plan for more active attacks.


Hacking

How many of you have seen a strange post on a friend’s wall or received a random link in a message. Hopefully you’ve not responded or clicked on those posts because more than likely that account has been hacked.


Hacking is a process where someone else gains control of another’s account. This can be done through various methods but the most common is a keylogger script that records what keys you touch when you log into an account or freely given because of an email scam. Your computer can be infected by visiting webpages that are infected with various viruses or those sneaky emails that look like something official from a website you frequently visit.


Hacking can cause you serious trouble. If you tend to use only a few passwords for all of your accounts, you could be open to more serious damage even if you don’t see it right away. It can even load various botware and viruses into your computer. Some of which may be activated much later.


Phishing

I know it’s fun to find out what your Halloween Monster name might be, but you might want to think twice about posting that information online. While some of those memes are harmless many are venues for information gathering. While using the letters of your first and last name might not amount to much, pair that with the street you grew up on, your first pet and what kind of car you drive (all security questions for other websites) you might open the door for hacking or worse. Tie up that information with a keylogger, your personal information could be compromised.


Cyberbullying

This is perhaps one of the most devastating attacks that can be launched on social media. Cyberbullying is the use of pressure, fear and manipulation against another individual online. It can start out small with one person but can then expand to include groups. It can also lead to other kinds of attacks such as doxxing (broadcasting personal information) and DOS (Denial of Service) attacks against websites and companies as well as threats of physical harm.


Mostly, cyberbullying occurs when someone displays an opinion or worldview that does not agree with another group. Attacks begin with just a few people, but because information spreads quickly, a cyberbullying attack could include thousands in just a few hours.


Many people who have come under attack have had to shut websites and social media accounts down. A few have even lost jobs, had to move or requested police protection. Cyberbullying can even push people to commit suicide.


Kind of scary isn’t it?


If you didn’t already know, sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit aren’t all unicorns and butterflies. Social media attacks happen every day, but there are ways to protect yourself from the worst of it.


Don’t get involved

For many people this is the go to option. It’s safe--for the most part--and easy to do. Posting and responding to vanilla discussions means you aren’t putting yourself at risk and making a target out of yourself.


A very limited social media presence can keep you safe from a lot of the attacks seen above. But it also limits your contact to family and friends.


Alerts

Setting up a Google Alert for your name, user names and company can help you track down conversations that mention you or your product. When a spoofed account on social media pops up, you could be immediately notified of a problem. Also, when your name comes up in conversations you might get a head’s up before a firestorm hits.


Password Protection

Many people do not use passwords that are secure enough to deter a hacker. Plus most people tend to use the same password for several sites or variations of the same password. It’s a potentially troubling scenario. If a hacker gets a hold of your info, you could spend a lot of time and money putting things right.


There are programs that manage your accounts and passwords. While this might seem like a bad idea (having all of your passwords in one place) these management systems are pretty secure. They can automatically change your passwords on any device they are connected to plus with a random generator, you aren’t relying on similar phrases which could get hacked.


Know What You are Clicking on

Social media is full of interesting things, articles and links to other sites. However, it’s also a hacker’s playground. Before you click on that link with the baity headline, look to see where it originated from. Could it be sent from a questionable site? Is this something that person would normally post?


Also, be wary of friend requests. The temptation to friend everyone and build your numbers is very strong, but you really don’t need to be friends with everyone. When you get a new friend request, check out the profile. See what they have up on their wall. If the account was activated yesterday or two years ago and it has only a few posts, there’s a good chance that account is a spoof or someone who’s going to be asking you for money or personal questions later.


Use Your Firewall and Virus Scan

Two things that can help protect you against hackers are your firewall and virus scan. Your firewall should always be on. It helps stop unwanted signals from reaching your computer. Your virus scan should be setup to automatically update and scan your computer at least once a week. Blocking, finding and destroying programs such as keyloggers and viruses help keep your information safe. Also backing up your data is really important.


Be Aware of Changes in Terms of Service

Social Media is an ever changing beast. As time goes on, many sites change focus, and changes in the Terms of Service shift. It’s why everyone needs to read through any changes in policy--especially if you are running a business (which being an author is.) For the uninformed, this could be used against you. A good example is Facebook’s name policy. Your primary account should be your name as written (or verified) on public documents. The account should not be shared. It should not be used as a primary promotion platform. (Authors, artists and publishers should have a business or fan page. Do promotions from there, then you can like and share posts on promotion to your main account.)


More than one person has had their account shut down because of these rules. It’s impossible to verify who flagged the account but usually there had been a disagreement with someone in the near past.


Unfortunately, even if you make yourself as safe as possible, you could still be a victim. A spoof account in your name pops up, someone hacks into your account, you are the target for cyberbullying. What do you do then?


Spoof Accounts

Spoof accounts can pop up at any time. All anyone has to do is copy photos and information from your account or website.If you are notified that a spoof account has been spotted, report it immediately. Different social media sites have different steps so be sure to do a bit of research on that first. Usually the account will be closed quickly.


Hacking

Even if you are careful, your account could still be hacked. Many times someone doesn’t realize they’ve been hacked until a friend or family member notifies them. Changing your password blocks the hacker from doing more harm but be sure it’s full of random letters, numbers and special characters. Write it down or use a password manager. Don’t use the same password for different sites. Run an update and scan your entire computer.


Cyberbullying

If you experience cyberbullying, first screenshot all conversations.  Many times those words on the screen will disappear or change. Secure the information on a flash drive or external hard drive. This way you can take it to the police if you have to make a report. If possible have someone else also screenshot the bullying.


Reports can be made to the social media platform, although it’s questionable as to what can be done. If the accounts that are harassing you dummy accounts they can be shut down.

Share what’s going on. The more people who know what’s going on the better. First of all you gain support from friends and family. Second of all, those people can become a buffer if they are so inclined.


If the bullying gets to the point where personal information is shared online and threats are made, the police should be notified. While these types of threats aren’t always deemed serious, new laws and procedures are on the way.


Sometimes you will need to back away from what is going on and let someone else handle it or even close your accounts for a short time. And other times, you might need to seek out legal help.


Everyone has probably experienced some sort of cyber attack on social media at some point or another. Mild ones can be frustrating but do little actual harm. However, always be aware that things can escalate. Caution is always your best option even when posting to friends and family.


Be safe out there folks.

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Praise for AIP's Non-fiction

by Jennifer 4. October 2016 11:02

Industry Talk by Jennifer Brozek
"This is a clear, informative, and insightful guide. I enjoyed the conversational tone and was reassured by its professionalism. Jennifer Brozek has a broad range of experience in a number of facets in the industry and she's packed a lot of wisdom into this collection of essays. It isn't going to tell you every little thing, but it does provide excellent points of focus."

Jay Lake's Process of Writing by Jay Lake
"There are so many fascinating details & process gems in Jay's writing book. I've seen a lot of this stuff in his blog over the years (it’s mostly composed of blog posts), but reading it all in one place is mind-blowing. It's an unconventional writing book, but definitely worthwhile to study the evolution of Jay's writing process and his various other ruminations on the subject. Write more!"

 

 

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