Category Archives: Writing

VidCon Australia 2017

Ticket Categories:
~Community
~Creator
~Industry

Cost: Community Ticket = AU $125.00
Duration: 08/09/2017 – 10/09/2017
Schedule: The Agenda

Community Events I’ve Attended:
Saturday 09/09/2017:
~Crafting a Community

Image Description: a large display screen with five circles featuring picture-icons, from left to right, Stephanie Patrick, Jake Bley, Matthew Patrick, Danielle Mansutti and Tyler Oakley

Crafting a Community

Image Description: a large display screen with five circles featuring picture-icons, from left to right: Stephanie Patrick, Jake Bley, Matthew Patrick, Danielle Mansutti and Tyler Oakley

Image Description: Matthew Patrick and Jake Bley sitting on a small black leather couch, Stephanie Patrick sitting in a single arm-chair

Crafting a Community

Image Description: from left to right, Matthew Patrick and Jake Bley sitting on a small black leather couch, a small white table, Stephanie Patrick sitting in a single arm-chair in the middle, another small white table, another small black leather couch with Tyler Oakley and Danielle Mansutti sitting on it.

What I Thought of the Event:
This panel was interesting and funny, however, having a group of people I’ve never heard from before giving me advice on how to build a community did feel a little weird, but I suppose it just highlighted how little I know about content creators on YouTube (definitely need to do some more research). For example: Tyler Oakley is super popular and has been involved with YouTube for about ten years now. As a result, Jake Bley and Matthew Patrick could play six degrees of separation with Tyler Oakley.

So while I don’t have an interest in Gaming, Journal Style YouTube Channels or Make-up Tutorials, I did get some advice on building a community (“It’s a conversation, not a one way street.” and “if you’re selling product, make it the best you can be, if you wouldn’t buy it, don’t sell it”), however, it didn’t feel like it was anything more than the generic advice I’d already heard. While Jake Bley and Danielle Mansutti were the only two Australians on the panel, it was good to see these two Australian YouTubers up there on equal footing with successful American YouTubers.

As a whole, I enjoyed the panel, and the panelists were all entertaining, however, I didn’t really connect with the panelists. Although, considering that nearly all the panelists have millions of subscribers, clearly they connect to other people (just not me) and I doubt they’re concerned.

~Hank, Grace & Mamrie Power Hour

Hank, Grace & Mamrie Power Hour

Image Description: a large display screen with the following text displayed: “What’s Next: 2:30 PM – Hank, Grace, and Mamrie Power Hour”. Beneath the text are three circles with pictures of (in order) Hank Green, Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart.

Hank, Grace & Mamrie Power Hour

Image Description: from left to right, Mamrie Hart sitting on a small black leather arm-chair, Hank Green sitting on a small black leather arm-chair (with his arm across his forehead to shield his eyes), and Grace Helbig sitting on a small black leather arm-chair.

What I Thought of the Event:
This event was super popular and I really enjoyed it. Hank, Mamrie, and Grace sat around and talked about their lives and answered questions and when Hank felt the crowd was getting too rowdy, he would unite us with the nationalistic chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie (Oi, Oi, Oi)”. Grace felt it got a little militaristic towards the end and, I must admit, she may have had a valid point there.

Hank seemed very confused at this, he was also confused by the fact that we all managed to stand up and sing the short version of our national anthem (seriously, that happened, not entirely sure why). But then again, this is the same gay who created songs such as I Fucking Love Science and Accio Deathly Hallows, so Hank really shouldn’t be that surprised that he has the capacity to inspire the audience to sing and chant upon request.

Grace and Mamrie were super funny together, I saw panels were they were separated and while they were good on their own, I felt that they were better together. I think the best kind of comedy is bouncing off people or people working as a team, although I’m sure other people will disagree. To be honest, I haven’t seen lot of My Drunk Kitchen, which is something I aim to rectify.

~Laugh It Up

Laugh It Up

Image Description: a large display screen with the following text displayed: “Laugh It Up” with five pictures in circles with names displayed beneath the corresponding picture. From left to right: Caris Bizzaca, Neel Kolhatkar, Tanya Hennessy, Ian Hecock, Grace Helbig.

What I Thought of the Event:
It was interesting to hear Tanya and Neel speak about how it was difficult to switch off, that nearly all social interactions were considered “I can use this for content”, however, it was a little depressing that both Tanya and Neel have to be involved in multiple projects (for example: Tanya has a show on Radio, she also does a separate podcast and does stuff on Facebook) in order to support themselves.

In saying that, I did find it interesting how Neel used a local pub as his feedback station/sounding board on which jokes worked or didn’t, regardless of the medium he used. On the other hand, Grace (while being very popular) said she had begun to feel less funny over time due to creative burn-out.

Unfortunately, Grace’s situation is becoming all too common in the creative arts community. It was a diverse group of people and they all brought something different to the table, so overall, while I wasn’t familiar with most of the panelist’s work, I enjoyed myself and took away some valuable advice.

Sunday 10/09/2017:
~Nerding Out

Nerding Out

Image Description: a large display screen displaying text reading “Nerding Out”, below the text is five circles featuring picture-icons with names, from left to right: Pamela Horton, Lee Naimo, Jayden Rodrigues, Stephanie Hames (SasEffects), and Louna Maroun.

Nerding Out

Image Description: five people sitting down in orange chairs in from a plain black table, from left to right: Pamela Horton, Stephanie Hames (SasEffects), Louna Maroun (wearing black cat-ears), Lee Naimo, and Jayden Rodrigues (cosplaying as Son Goku from Dragonball Z).

What I Thought of the Event:
Unfortunately this was another panel where I didn’t know a lot about the panelists attending, however, I would like to point out that the room was mostly filled, so clearly I’m in the minority here. The panel had a strong focus on gaming and conventions (Jayden Rodrigues is very passionate about cosplay) and while I don’t have a strong interest in Gaming, this panel was entertaining and engaging.

As I’m a big fan of the Axis of Awesome, it was great to hear about Lee and Jordan’s new project Insert Coin, it sounds like Lee and Jordan are having a blast working on it, I had to struggle to contain my urge to yell out “Read A Book!” when Lee mentioned Axis of Awesome’s song Rage of Thrones.

Just as all of the panellists were united in their mutual interest of Gaming, there was some division of experience between Pamela, Stephanie, and Louna in comparison to Lee and Jayden. Pamela, Stephanie, and Louna often felt as though they constantly had to prove their “Nerd Credentials” and Expert Status in a way that their male colleagues never have to.

For example, Pamela was often interviewed (or interrogated) by gaming magazines, who asked questions about obscure video games. Pamela, as a well-informed expert in her field, could answer the questions, but it was obvious that she shouldn’t have had to answer them in the first place.

Stephanie, a special effects make-up artist specialising in Horror, was often questioned on the basis that as girl it was “unusual” for her to like horror at all, and was often asked what her favourite horror movie was. The problem with questions like “what’s you’re favourite horror movie?” is that there aren’t any right answers, so Stephanie felt she was always being set up to fail regardless of what movie she said she enjoyed.

I think it’s also important to point out that Lee and Jayden, while confessing that they didn’t have similar experiences, never dismissed the other ladies on the panel and they were quick to offer their support and sympathies for such unacceptable behaviour.

~How Do You EDU?

How Do You EDU?

Image Description: a large display screen with five circles featuring picture-icons, from left to right: Jessica Holdman (Study With Jess), Hank Green, Armando Hasudungan, Dagogo Altraide (Cold Fusion), and Kati Morton.

How Do You EDU?

Image Description: five people sitting in orange seats at a plain black table, from left to right: Jessica Holdman (Study With Jess), Kati Morton, Dagogo Altraide (Cold Fusion), Armando Hasudungan, and Hank Green.

What I Thought of the Event:
One of the few panels were I actually knew who the panelists were, as a result, I really enjoyed this panel, it was entertaining, and I found it helpful with regards to helping me construct my next big project (although it still has a long way to go). The great thing about this panel was hearing about how all the panelists were passionate about their subject of choice, and how they originally created their channels.

Kati Morton created her channel because there was a gap between Mental Health services that were provided at institutionalised clinics (like a rehab centre or an eating disorder clinic) and services available to the public outside the confines of these clinics.Kati created her videos to act a free resource for those who may not be able to afford access to Mental Health services in the USA, and she created videos specifically for parents so that they could have a better understanding of the struggles that people with mental illness face.

Jessica Holdman and Armando Hasudungan are similar in that both created their channels as a way of helping themselves to study and to remember important information regarding their area of expertise, however, these videos also ended up helping other people as well.

Hank Green and Dagogo Altraide are similar in that they both possess an interest in a subject (Dagogo is interested in learning about new technology, while Hank is more orientated towards learning about science-based subjects), they have the desire to research it, and then share it with the rest of us.

In all cases, there was a subject of interest, there was a gap in the access to knowledge on said interest, and these people figured out how to fill that gap. It’s super impressive to be honest, although, Hank was quick to point out that a big part of why projects like Crash Course has been so successful was because YouTube gave them the money and the opportunity to help them embark on this particular project. Unfortunately, money is one of many big factors that can stand in way of a creator making good content.

~Out Online

Out Online

Image Description: a large display screen displaying text reading “Out Online”, below the text is five circles featuring picture-icons with names, from left to right: Rohan Salmond, Patrick Starrr, Damian Parker, Jake Bley, and AJ Clementine.

Out Online

Image Description: from left to right: Jake Bley and Patrick Starrr sitting on a small black couch, Rohan Salmond is sitting in a small black arm-chair in the middle, and AJ Clementine and Damian Parker sitting on a small black couch on the right.

What I Thought of the Event:
Yet another panel where I have no idea who the people are, with the exception of AJ Clementine because I researched them in connection to the Mental Health panel, however, I’m glad I attended. Patrick Starrr gave excellent advice for people wanting to be media creators, “Everybody says just be yourself, and that’s great but, you also need to make some friends, make some connections.”.

Even though I don’t have an interest in YouTube Channels that focuses on make-up (like Patrick’s does), I enjoyed his advice (“Be gentle, Be kind, Make friends”), I also admired how confident he was, and how he encouraged the audience to work with their strengths when it came to content creating (“are you a writer or a talker? I’m a talker.”).

Unlike with other panels, most of the panelists were Australian, it was great to see Australian representation, a result of this was that a large portion of the session was dedicated to talking about Marriage Equality debate in Australia and how to handle it with family members.

Jake was also passionate about how the LGBTQIA+ community needs to come together to support themselves and to protect themselves from outside forces. That we all need to be paying attention and become more active with regards to civil rights movement and civil rights protest-marches (if possible). Jake Bley was very passionate about the civil rights movement and civil rights protests, he encouraged audience members to go out and vote and to get involved.

I liked how AJ Clementine encouraged people to take their time to get to know themselves and that the only one had the right to label you, was you. In fact, AJ was very much against labels, unless they were helpful for your journey and growth.

~Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Image Description: a large display screen displaying text reading “Let’s Talk About Mental Health”, below the text is five circles featuring picture-icons with names, from left to right: Kati Morton, Nathan ZedJessica Holdman (Study With Jess), AJ Clementine, Dodie, and Annika Victoria

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Image Description: From left to right: Annika Victoria and Jessica Holdman (Study With Jess) sitting on small black couch,  Kati Morton and Dodie sitting on a small black couch in the middle, and AJ Clementine and Nathan Zed sitting on a small black couch on the right.

What I Thought of the Event:
This was the event I have been looking forward to for months. I know it will sound strange but I was nervous, anxious and excited all at once. I mean, it was a huge room and I was a distance from the stage, but it was thrilling to see Kati Morton, a person I had only watched within the safe confines of my living room, talk about Mental Health issues with other people.

I know it will sound silly, but the undeniable proof that Kati is a real person and had come all the way to Australia talk about this super important topic, it was a little overwhelming. Which is why I found it difficult to take notes, and thus remember what happened in detail, but I’ll give it a go.

Nathan Zed, being a person of colour and a man, spoke of how he felt the stigma and pressure not to talk about Mental Health problems and how he did want to be seen as a racial ambassador for mental health or that mental health was the only thing he was able to talk about. But Nathan did mention that once he did start talking about his mental illness struggles with his family, it gave his father permission to speak of his own struggles with mental illness.

Dodie talked about her struggles with derealisation and depersonalisation, depression, and anxiety. Something that makes Dodie feel better or bring herself back to her body is comforting physical contact, which is why Kati was occasionally patting Dodie on the back through out the panel. Dodie spoke about her busy schedule and how going on tour and to so many public events like VidCon within the year had taken a big toll on her mental health. Self-care was super important as well as being able to recognise when she was falling back into her depressive cycles and her bad habit of over-sharing.

Annika Victoria, a vlogger with a primary focus on sewing and DIY sewing projects, spoke about her chronic illness and the consequential mental health issues that arose from her chronic illness. Originally, Annika didn’t want to talk about her chronic illness and mental illness problems, she avoided talking about them on her YouTube channel until it was no longer possible to pretend the situation wasn’t occurring. Annika spoke of how important it was to take care of one’s mental health, alongside one’s physical health, and that talking to a therapist was not just a good idea but essential. Annika also spoke of the difficulties that people had with displaying empathy with regards to mental health and invisible disabilities.

AJ Clementine and Jessica Holdman spoke of their issues regarding anxiety, but, in all honesty, I can’t remember much. AJ spoke about how they felt mental illness wasn’t taken seriously enough and how people struggled display empathy and accept the situation. I vaguely remember that Jessica hesitantly spoke of her issues with anxiety (at first) and used her videos of a way of explaining the problem to her friends and family without having to discuss the situation face-to-face. Jessica also spoke of how common mental illness was and that Jessica made the videos she wished she had been able watch when she was a student.

~Sisters Doin’ It for Themselves

Sisters Doin’ It for Themselves

Image Description: a large display screen displaying text reading “Sister’s Doin’ It For Themselves”, below the text is five circles featuring picture-icons with names, from left to right: Erin May Henry, Kiana Jones (FreakMo), Damielou Shavelle, Danielle Mansutti, and Mamrie Hart.

Sisters Doin’ It for Themselves

Image Description: five people sitting in orange chairs at a plain black table, from left to right: Erin May Henry, Damielou Shavelle, Kiana Jones (she is holding up a fake hand to display to the audience), Mamrie Hart, and Danielle Mansutti.

What I Thought of the Event: 
This was the last panel of VidCon, so the panel members were distracted and tired (which was understandable), and it resulted in an awkward pauses and short answers to questions. Mamrie Hart, as a more experienced and perhaps more successful vlogger (in comparison to the other ladies on the panel), took the lead on most of the questions and set the tone for the panel.

Mamrie Hart’s experience was that YouTube was a platform that allowed women to be on equal footing and she believed that she wasn’t treated worse because she was a woman online. Although Mamrie did acknowledge the presence of trolls and gross commentators, however, she did not dwell or expand on this. She truly felt that women may even have the advantage with regards to platforms such as YouTube. This felt rather contrary to what the Ladies on the “Nerding Out” panel had discussed, who felt they often had to prove themselves as “Real Nerds” to other men in order to be taken seriously.

The idea that gender might not be a big of a factor as I first thought sounded too good to be true. Just because sexism on YouTube (or harassment in general) doesn’t occur on one particular channel or a specific online community, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen at all.

Kiana Jones did speak of how within the industry, the special-effects make-up artists were mostly female, but the managers were mostly male or that men owned a lot of the special-effects companies. There were occasionally moments where female make-up artists were hired for dubious reasons, such as objectification purposes, rather than for their artistry skills.

Danielle Mansutti handled audience questions really well and, with Mamrie’s assistance, advised an audience member on how to not feel jealous or envious of other people’s success and how you should use those moments to inspire yourself to create better content. Danielle also recommended making the best videos you can make, but also acknowledged that the videos she was most passionate about (like her compilation video A Day With You) wouldn’t necessarily be popular with her audience.

All the ladies on the panel encouraged audience members to embrace their creativity, they encouraged the “Do it Today, Not Tomorrow” attitude, the only problem with this is that the “Just Do It” method is what I have been doing my entire life and it hasn’t been that successful thus far. If anything, VidCon had proven to me that I have a lot more research to do and a lot more planning to put in place.

Writing Update: A Request for Beta Readers

Image Description: a vertical pile of leather-bound hardback books with differently coloured leather jackets.

I’m going to be honest, my writing isn’t doing well these days, I just… feel really lost and meh about pretty much everything related to Novel Writing. I’m considering taking Canis Major down from Smashwords, I probably should have done this already, but everything feels overwhelmingly difficult right now. The idea of committing to another novel project at this point in time just feels draining and I seriously lacking in motivation. I suspect this is largely to due to the fact that Canis Major feels largely unfinished, which has resulted in a lack of feedback from Readers.

I have requested people I know to read Canis Major and give me some feedback on it, but thus far, they have all failed to respond. So, I’ve decided to branch out and ask people on The Internets if they can help me out. I’d like to put out a request for Beta Readers and, before you all rush out and volunteer, here are the terms and conditions.

~Condition One: Time. I know we’re all busy, I know we all have lives, we all have commitments and obligations, but there’s no point volunteering to go through my book with me, chapter by chapter, if you don’t have the time to do so. And this is fine, there’s no judgement in that, but I will judge you on the inside if you say can and then fail to follow through (most writers are going to do this), please don’t waste my time.

~Condition Two: Interaction and Interviewing. The Beta Reader process will be something along these lines – Beta Reader reads chapter, Beta Reader informs me they have finished reading the chapter, I will ask the Beta Readers lots of questions and I’ll need the responses to be more than “it’s nice” or “it was good”. On the other hand, statements like “I don’t have an opinion about this” or “I don’t feel anything for this character” are legitimate answers.

~Condition Three: Genre. The Pushing Boundaries trilogy belongs in the Contemporary Crime genre, at this stage, Canis Major is more Contemporary than Crime, but the Crime elements are going to be more prominent in Orion. While you don’t need to be an expert on the Crime genre, if you don’t have an interest in Contemporary or Crime novels, you’re probably not going to enjoy Canis Major.

So, just in case you’re not familiar with what Canis Major is all about, here’s some basic information about it.
Word Count: 46,610
Blurb:
“James McKenzie, a computer programmer and karate enthusiast, with the help of his best friend and private investigator, Justine Jones, is tracking down local corrupt police officers. Together, they convinced the Gangs and Organised Crime Unit of Specialist Crime & Operations that the Acker family are worth investigating. With a little luck, James and Justine may meet their goal for an arrest and conviction.

Except there has been a snag. James’s grandmother Rosemary decided to lease out their spare room in a university exchange student program, and there’s a possibility that the student may be caught in the crossfire.

Beth Smith, a future primary school teacher, is travelling to the UK for the first time. She just wants to leave her family drama back home in Australia, especially since her family has only a theoretical concept of personal boundaries. She wants nothing to do with James’ complicated family drama or his and Justine’s under-cover drug investigation.

Nobody knows the Ackers like James and, in his experience, bullies don’t go down without a fight and he’s not convinced that it isn’t going to go horribly wrong. After all, it isn’t paranoia if everyone really is out to get you.”

Here’s a Link to Smashwords – you can download a sample from there.
Here’s a Link to the Canis Major Prologue – you can read it and leave a comment if you want to

If you’re a fellow indie author like myself, we may be able to exchange Beta Reader feedback, leave a link to your book in the comment section below and I’ll check it out (although I recommend indie authors check out my book review policy first before offering). So, if you’re interested in volunteering your time as a Beta Reader for my novel, let me know in the comments section below and you can also email me brkyle.author@gmail.com

PSA For Indie Authors – Part 3: Genres and Cover-art

Image Description: a picture of a wooden table with (from left to right in a clock-wise circle) a piece of paper, a pair of thick-framed black glasses, a pine cone, a dusty green-leather bound book, a green vintage type-writer, an open blank notebook, a wooden stick, a small tan-coloured rectangle with black writing on it and an empty glass ink-well.
This post is about self-promotion and marketing for Beginner Writers who want to write Genre Fiction or Genre novels, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, fair enough, feel free to pass on this post. This post will be covering basic tips and advice so this post may come across as stating the obvious, however, we all have to start somewhere.

I would recommend watching these YouTube Videos by Jenna Moreci
~How to Choose a Genre for your Book
~Marketing Basics for Writers
~Skills You Never Thought You’d Need as a Writer

I think one of the most important elements of writing is figuring out what type of book you’re writing, as the genre of your book will determine a lot about what type of book-marketing you’ll be engaging in, and which agents and/or publishers you plan to pitch to. Like Publishing houses, Literary Agents will usually have submission guidelines on available on their websites, so you should check those out first before you contact them.

One of the things that Literary Agents advise is to investigate the genre of books an Author is writing in. This is where the advice “read widely within your genre” comes into play, you need to read the good and bad books within your genre, and you need to be informed of the visual art-style that is associated with your genre.

For example: My Work-In-Progress novel series Pushing Boundaries comes under a hybrid category of Genre, it fits into the Contemporary Crime genre, so lets break those categories down and have a look at what type of Cover-art Style is involved in the Crime, Mystery and Contemporary genres.

~Goodreads: Crime

~Goodreads: Mystery

~Goodreads: Contemporary

When you examine certain genres, especially Crime and Mystery together, there’s a distinct trend of book-cover art displayed on the most popular novels. For example:

Crime:
~a vague silhouette of a person, usually from a distance
~empty wide-shot landscape pictures with One Point Perspective
~Large, bold, and brightly coloured book-title and author title
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.

Mystery:
~There’s a lot of overlap between Crime and Mystery, but Mystery covers tend to be more colourful in design, Crime tends to be a dark/bland cover with colourful text displayed on it to act as contrast.
~Partially obscured faces
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.

Contemporary:
~There’s strong and liberal use of colours to make the covers pop-out, the cover and title text are usually bright contrasting colours
~Models on covers are predominately female-coded or a cishet-coded male and female couple.
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.
~The predominate sub-genre of Contemporary is Young Adult, so the use of live models on covers are of 14-18 age-group.

Personally, I dislike the popular book-cover designs of Crime and Mystery, I think the Contemporary covers are much more eye-catching and engaging. In saying that, I have no idea what to make in the rising trend of displaying the back of a woman’s head, I have no idea how that could possibly convey to the reader what that particular book is about. I can only presume that The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Goddesses, and Everything We Keep are all very different books.

Now, it could be argued that best-selling authors like Chris Brookmyre and James Patterson can get away with unappealing book covers involving shadowy silhouettes, people are going to buy their books regardless, unfortunately not all aspiring writers will achieve James Patterson-level of success, so I would recommend putting some effort into the thought-process behind what the book cover should look like.

I’ll use my book-cover for Canis Major as a case-study (Kim made this for me, aren’t they amazing? Of course they’re amazing! You should check out their stuff).

Image Description: book cover of Canis Major - Volume I of the Pushing Boundaries series. The cover is picture of the constellation of Canis Major, as depicted in the Southern Hemisphere (the nose of Canis Major is positioned in a downward direction).

Canis Major:
~Point One: The design is a simple black and white colour scheme, easy for the reader to look at and comprehend

~Point Two: I’ve chosen the constellation of Canis Major (the Great Dog) for multiple reasons. Constellations are seasonal, so the constellation of Canis Major will look different in Southern Hemisphere countries, like Australia, than in comparison to Northern Hemisphere countries like the UK.

~Point Three: James, one of the main characters of my novel, has a special interest in Astronomy, he shares this special interest with his step-father Robert, it’s a bonding thing they have.

~Point Four: Another reason for the choice of Canis Major is because a big inspiration for writing this book was to address a lot of the problems and objections I had with the novel The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-time by Mark Haddon (here’s a review by Disability in Kidlit that goes into why this book is super problematic).

~Point Five: The theme of Constellations as book-cover art will apply to all the books in the Pushing Boundaries series, Volume II will be Orion (the constellation of Orion is right next to the constellation Canis Major) and Volume III will be Scorpius. I plan for Pushing Boundaries to be a trilogy but I’m aware that every time an Author declares their project a trilogy, it somehow turns into a trilogy of four.

~Point Six: My novel is a Contemporary Crime novel, so just like with a crime, you have to put together all the small points in order to see the bigger picture. See? It’s Deep and Meaningful.

Here’s the thing though, while I think this cover is great and it’s exactly what I wanted, is this particular book-cover design marketable? It’s generally recommended that authors get feedback from their target audience, which was something I didn’t do. Another element to consider is that, while I think Kim did a great job, I do need to acknowledge that Kim doesn’t specialise in Graphic Design, and that it’s generally recommended to authors that they hire a professional (here’s a list of book cover designers via The Creative Penn).

So, authors need to figure out what their genre is and research what books within that particular genre look like, however, just because a visual idea is popular within a particular genre, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good. Get some feed-back from your target audience and be willing to shell out some money for a professional book-cover designer.

If you’re an indie-author and you’ve got a .jpeg of a book cover, drop a link to the book-cover image in the comments section below and we can have a chat about the pros and cons of visual design.

Links:
~9 Tips to Building the Book Cover Design You Always Wanted by Jane Friedman

The Beautiful Books #27: August 2017

Image Description: The Beautiful People for Writers - Writing Goals

It’s time for another edition of The Beautiful Books, where I write a blog-post discussing how little progress I’ve made on my WIP Novel Project, Orion – Volume II of the Pushing Boundaries series, YAY! Let’s begin with some writing advice, if you need some, check out the links bellow:

Jenna Moreci:
~Tips For Writers

Katytastic:
~WRITING / OUTLINING / REVISING

For this post, I’ll be focusing on Beth and James, hopefully that will make things easier. On with the Questions!

What are they addicted to/can’t live without?
Beth: Caffeine (tea and energy drinks). Beth has a stress-eating problem, but she’s more inclined towards cheese and biscuits, or say, having and enormous tub of Greek yogurt and eating it with savoy-biscuits like dip (IDK, honestly, straight Greek yogurt tastes super weird to me).

James: sweet treats and desserts. James (like Beth) has a stress-eating problem, James will stand in the kitchen and just eat a whole packet of dark-chocolate digestive biscuits without thinking about it.

Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.
Beth:
01. Positive – Beth is helpful, she’s willing to help volunteer her time (sometimes overly so) if she perceives someone else needs it.
02. Positive – It takes Beth a while to get attached to people, but when Beth cares about a character, she really cares and they’re willing to do a lot for other people.
03. Positive – Beth is eager to learn new things.
04. Negative – Beth can be overly helpful, sometimes giving too much of her time (not being able to see that a project is doomed to fail or being taking advantage of), sometimes taking over a situation completely without asking, she can also come across bossy because of this.
05. Negative – Beth is introverted to a socially awkward level, it can make her insecure and prone to negative thinking.
06. Negative – Beth doesn’t really know what she wants and she’s incisive about things that should be easy to figure out, which is a difficult thing for her to admit to.

James:
01. Positive – James is honest, sometimes too honest, but I consider it a positive thing.
02. Positive – Like Beth, it takes James a while to get attached to people, but when he cares about a character, he really cares and they’re willing to do a lot for other people.
03. Positive – He’s very protective of his younger siblings, sometimes a little too overprotective, he really does care about them, but he finds it easier to display it with action rather than say
04. Negative – James can be super controlling about stuff, like his food and his environment, it’s bad coping mechanism and I’m hoping (over the course of the series) to help him grow out this behaviour and be able to let some things slide.
05. Negative – James can be petty about stuff.
06. Negative – James tries not to to be, but he does get jealous of Dominic, mostly because it seems like Dominic has all the things James has always wanted (a stable job, family acceptance and his own place), I’d like to write a chapter where James eventually resolves his perceived issues with Dominic.

Are they holding onto something they should get rid of?
Beth: Emotional Baggage with both her parents

James: Emotional Baggage with his parents and some guilt/resentment issues with Mac (with what Mac has become and the way Mac is not-dealing with the situation). James also has problems with the way his mother refuses to not-deal with Mac, despite the fact that his mother is the exact opposite with him (his mother is nosy and tends to pry a bit with regards to James).

If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where do they fall on the scale?
Beth: Beth is more of a 5 or 6, she’s naturally a messy person, but she tries really hard to be neat and organised
James: James is more of a 8, he’s organised but it’s also part of a coping mechanism and is connected to his anxiety, so it’s not a natural thing.

What most frustrates them about the world they live in?
Beth: Beth gets frustrated by a lack of empathy or not noticing (or refusing to acknowledge) a problem, the more obvious the problem more irritating it is.

James: Communication with Neurotypical people. They don’t mean what they say and the don’t say what they mean. Conversation is where casual ableism usually shows up as well.

How would they dress for a night out? How would they dress for a night in?
Beth: Out = pretty vintage style dresses Mary has made for her, In = casual wear (like tracky-dacks and a t-shirt)

James: Out = overly formal, In = overly casual (track-pants, t-shirt, fluffy robe, thick slippers). James does wear a binder during the week when he’s at work.

How many shoes do they own, and what kind?
Beth: an excessive amount of shoes, wide variety of types, but Beth is prone to gravitate towards brightly coloured shoes.

James: a nice pair of black lace-up shoes for formal events, a pair of nice business shoes for work, a couple of pairs of running shoes, and a couple of pairs of work-boots (one for the farm, one for home).

Do they have any pets? What pet do they WISH they had?
Beth: Beth tends to gravitate more towards dogs than cats, but she doesn’t mind either.
James: he has a calico cat named Sarah Jane

Is there something or someone that they resent? Why and what happened?
Beth: Her mother Claire, for being an alcoholic and being an abusive parent, as a result of Claire’s abusive behaviour, Beth has nothing to do with her. Beth also resents her father because, at the time, Isaac came across as taking her mother’s side, so there’s this unspoken resentment between them.

James: James does harbour some resentment towards his mother, he lives with his grandmother instead of her and he feels she should have made more of an effort in getting Robert’s half of the family to accept him as he is. *Upcoming spoilers* James’s biological father dies in a car-accident and James resents how he has to navigate all the complicated social conventions and social rituals for a person who pretty much abandoned him at five-years of age.

What’s usually in their fridge or pantry?
Beth: snacks, like yogurt and crackers and cheese. Beth likes to have dried pieces of fruits because she forgets to eat fresh fruit and it goes bad

James: James can be kind of anal with his food, so everything is in organised Tupperware containers with labels or ziplock bags with labels. His fridge is most likely to have vegetarian stuff in there but also stuff to make smoothies with. James will often have enormous container of carrot-sticks.

So yeah, let me know in the comment section if you’re working on a Novel Project, I’d love to hear about other people’s projects (that way I don’t have to think about mine).

PSA for Indie Authors – Part 2: Revision

Image Description: a picture of a wooden table with (from left to right in a clock-wise circle) a piece of paper, a pair of thick-framed black glasses, a pine cone, a dusty green-leather bound book, a green vintage type-writer, an open blank notebook, a wooden stick, a small tan-coloured rectangle with black writing on it and an empty glass ink-well.

This post is about self-promotion and marketing for Beginner Writers who want to write Genre Fiction or Genre novels, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, fair enough, feel free to pass on this post.

This post will be covering basic tips and advice so this post may come across as stating the obvious, however, we all have to start somewhere. I’m going to be talking about Beta Readers and Critique Partners, so here’s some videos by the wonderful Jenna Moreci on the subject:

Jenna Moreci:
~Writing Tips: What if No One Likes my Writing?
~Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Beta Readers
~Getting the Most Out of Your Beta Readers
~How to be a Good Beta Reader
~What is a Critique Partner?
~How to be a Good Critique Partner

I’ll make up a case study of the typical situation I get asked questions about.

Shannon has just finished writing and self-editing their latest Work-In-Progress Novel Project, they are super excited about it, they have put their manuscript up on Smashwords/CreateSpace/Amazon as soon as possible and then told all their friends and relatives that they’re a “REAL Writer” now (as opposed to those Fake Writers) and have published their book all by themselves. Then, after a few months or even years, they notice that they are not selling a lot of copies (perhaps four or five when they first released the book, but pretty much nothing since) and they don’t know what went wrong.

And that’s when I have to ask a huge laundry-list of questions:
~Did you have a critique partner look at it and give you constructive feedback on your novel?
Critique Partners are people who are Writers that have agreed to read your manuscript and give you feedback from the perspective of a writer, what works, what doesn’t, what a novelist did well, what a novelist needs improving on. If you are a person who can’t handle criticism or your highly sensitive towards your work, I think you need to consider the following: take a step back (mentally, physically, whatever), take a deep breath and ask yourself if you want to be a published writer or a good writer.

Because, quite frankly, Writers don’t improve unless they are willing to accept feedback and criticism and are willing to acknowledge these problems AND fix the problems pointed out to them. Wouldn’t you rather accept criticism now while you are still able to fix the problem?

In my view, a writer needs to have another pair of eyes look at their manuscript before they even consider sending their manuscript off to a professional editor, let alone publishing options. I recommend authors find and join a Writing Workshop group (or create one if you can’t find one) and workshop each member’s novel on a chapter-by-chapter basis.

Writing Workshop groups can be found on Facebook or Tumblr and my advice would be a writer who likes to read similar books to you but have a different writing style. For Example: Kim is an amazing Critique Partner (they deserve all the kudos) and we both enjoy fantasy books, however, Kim is a primary a character driven writer and is excellent at editing.

While I’m more a plot orientated writer and I am not skilled at editing. But because we both have different strengths and weaknesses, Kim can point out stuff to me that they felt was unclear/could be better written, like how it’s not always obvious what my characters are thinking or feeling at that specific moment.

~Did you have at least two Beta Readers look at it and give you constructive feedback?
A writer needs people who are not family members to read their work and give an objective view-point on whether or not their novel project is readable. You also need someone willing to review your book once it’s been read, websites like Goodreads and Amazon recommend books based their rating system, although I will acknowledge that the Goodreads review system is easier to understand than the Amazon one.

As an Indie Author, I understand what it feels like to yearn for people to read your book, you’ve worked so hard on your novel and you want to know what people’s reaction to it is. Does it make them think? Does it make them feel? Are they eager to read more?

But you need that Feedback BEFORE you publish, not AFTER (trust me, learn from my fail in this regard). Personally, I can’t stand it when my family and close friends tell me (after reading a small sample of my novel) that’s it’s “good” or “nice”, Writers need honest and constructive feedback and there’s nothing constructive about “nice” and “good”.

This is where a Beta Reader comes into play. A Beta Reader could be a fellow indie writer who is apart of your regular writing group/class. A Beta Reader could also be blogger like myself who reads and reviews books.

Some Book Reviewers only read and review books that are Traditionally Published, I know quite a few book-bloggers that refuse to review self-published books (due to quality control problems).Some Book Reviewers are happy to read self-published authors but won’t accept books in eBook format. Some reviewers will only read and review physical books.

Some Book Review blogs only review books in a certain genre, which has resulted in a large amount of Young Adult book-review blogs (there’s a big trend in Australian Publishing and Book-Blogging communities to use hash-tags like #LoveOZYA). It pays to do some research and to investigate what a book-blogger’s book review policy is (here’s a link to mine).

I think it also helps to check out the Categories section of book reviews, there’s no point asking a book-blogger who primarily reads science-fiction to read your historical romance novel. Also, don’t just bombard the book-blogger with a unsolicited requests to read your book, go through their blog-posts, check out book reviews they’ve written for books within your genre, perhaps leave a comment.

Mutual interest in each other’s work via engagement and building a connection is super important. I mean, you wouldn’t walk up to a random stranger in the street and ask them to read and review your book (or at least I hope you don’t do that, if so, please stop immediately), so don’t do that on the internet.

~Did you organise to have a professional editor look at it?
Okay, you’ve got feedback back from your Critique Partner and Beta Readers, you’ve even managed to acknowledge that maybe they made a few good points and, as a result, you’ve revised your manuscript and made some significant improvements.

What’s next?

Well I guess it depends on what kind of Writer you are. I’m a Writer that is not particularly skilled with the editing segment of writing, I’ve previously written about my experiences with the editing element of self-publishing, so go read that blog-post and then come back. I would also like to add that I’ve recently had some more Melbourne-based Editors recommended to me, here’s the link for them:
~Kathryn Moore
~AJ Collins

Have you researched and/or organised how you’re going to format your book?
Are you going to format the book yourself? Do you know how to do that? I’ve seen some self-published books lacking some standard formatting elements, such as not doing a page break for a new chapter. I prefer a new page for a new chapter, it looks nicer, it’s easier to read and it’s not hard to insert a simple page break.

I myself have difficulties with formatting and page-layout. The Table of Contents is more complicated than I first anticipated. I’ve invested in a copy of InDesign but I have yet to use it for anything, mostly because I have no idea what I’m doing with InDesign. This is why I’ve signed up for Skillshare classes and I’ll be looking into basic tutorials.

While All That Revision Is Going On…
What’s your social media marketing campaign look like? Have you been making sure to make regular blog-posts on your social media platform of choice? How big is your established audience exactly? What motivation does your Potential Audience have to buy your book?

Obscurity is the Enemy of the Author

If Potential Readers don’t know you exist, how can they possibly buy your book? Also, can readers purchase your book from your website? I’ve scrolled through a few Indie Author’s websites and I haven’t been able to purchase their books. Always make sure readers have access to your books, it’s not hard to set up a separate page on a WordPress Blog with links connecting to Amazon or Smashwords.

Do you have a fixed release date? Are you doing a give-away to celebrate the release of your book? I’m not saying you have to do a give-away, that’s entirely up to you and your monetary limitations. Would something like InstaFreebie appeal to you?

You don’t have to do all of these things, but you do need to know what it is that you are doing, you need a plan in place, the “Publish the book and Readers will Come” mentality just simply will not work for the majority of newbie authors (although I’m sure there are exceptions).

And you might be wondering, “But B.R. it’s not possible to do all that self-promotion stuff and work on my novel at the same time!”

Well… Maybe it’s not possible, you need to figure out what you can and cannot do, and then work within your limitations. Figure out a promotion plan that works best for you.

Perhaps you can send your novel out to your Beta Readers and Critique Partners, then start working on your promotional stuff. I recommend giving your manuscript some space before sending it off to be professionally edited, you don’t want to burn out (self-care is your highest priority). Perhaps you could put working on your novel aside for a few months before revising it.

Publishing a Book is a collaborative process and it takes a team effort in order to make a good book. Try not to rush it.

Links:
~Book Bloggers Australia
~The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

PSA For Indie Authors – Part 1: Questions

Image Description: a picture of a wooden table with (from left to right in a clock-wise circle) a piece of paper, a pair of thick-framed black glasses, a pine cone, a dusty green-leather bound book, a green vintage type-writer, an open blank notebook, a wooden stick, a small tan-coloured rectangle with black writing on it and an empty glass ink-well.

I don’t get a lot of contact from Indie Authors asking for help, however, I’ve recently been contacted by two very different Indie Authors requesting assistance with promoting their novel, while I don’t what to name the Indie Author involved, because this isn’t about shaming people for asking for help (even if they ask for help in the wrong way), however, I thought it might be prudent to write a blog-post about what they did wrong and how they should have done things differently and, perhaps, this post might help other Indie Authors from making the same mistakes.

I think the first thing to do, as an Indie Author engaging in Social Media Marketing, is perform some self-assessment and ask yourself the following questions:

How much do you know about Marketing and Self-Promotion?
Is this something you don’t know a lot about? Or have you done a lot of research? Perhaps try rating yourself from Newbie, Intermediate to Advanced. Knowing how much help you need is crucial and research is the key. You could watch some YouTube Videos or read some articles on Marketing For Writers, for example: Jenna Moreaci has a great video “Marketing Basics for Writers” (I highly recommend her channel) and Joanna Penn @ The Creative Penn has some great articles on Marketing For Writers (this is just a starting point, there’s heaps more information out there).

What kind of promotion are you interested in?
What is your overall objective? Do you want to get more Book Reviews for your novel on Amazon, Kobo or Miscellaneous Brand X Book Selling Platform? Or do you want more subscribers on your blog? I’m not saying you have to pick only one goal, you can have as many goals as you like, but you need to know what they are.

I recommend writing down all your marketing goals, just do a full brain-storming or mind-dump session and get it all out of your head and onto paper. If the problem is that you don’t know what your goals are or where to begin, and it’s okay if you don’t know what your goals are just yet, write that down too.

What kind of Social Media Platform are you interested in?
While this does go back to the question of, “how much do you know?” and “what type of learner are you?”. Are you a visual-learner or more of a text based-learner? Do you learn better by yourself or in a one-on-one type situation? Or do you learn better in a class/group situation? Some writers are visual learners and like to use Pinterest to make storyboards for their novels and share them.

I have mixed results with visual learning, I find Pinterest too distracting and it doesn’t work for me as a writing tool. I tend to work better with text based-learning which is why I’m more productive on WordPress and Tumblr, although (in my opinion) Tumblr isn’t great with large amounts of text, I’d honestly consider Tumblr to be more visual-orientated (your mileage may vary).

How familiar are you with social media platforms?
Do you already have a Blogger blog or a WordPress blog? Are you already active on Facebook or Twitter? What types of Media Content are you most comfortable with? What types of Media Content are you willing to research? How much instruction will you need? My friend Kim runs a Tumblr-Blog about reviewing Stim Toys, it’s very popular and Kim was eventually asked “How does one go about setting up a Stim Toy blog?”, here’s a link to the article:

~Stim Toy Box: An Essay on Blogging

As someone who puts little to no thought into how to go about setting up a blog or any other social media platform, I think it’s a great article (in fact I printed out a copy), I’m not saying you have to do all the things Kim suggests (do what works best for you), you don’t have set-up a review-style blog if you don’t want to, but Kim asks some good questions and it’s a great checklist to work from.

I also want to point out that, when I first started out as a Writer on social media, I tried to do ALL THE THINGS (as you do) but it took me longer than it should have to figure out that it wasn’t making me happy and I wasn’t getting enough in exchange to justify it.

Now, I’m regularly active on Twitter and Tumblr, I try to update my WordPress blog at least once a week, and that’s working okay thus far (it could be better but I’m trying to lower my expectations due to currently dealing with mental health problems *shrug*).

What kind of limitations do you have?
It’s important to know what it is you can do, it’s even more important to know what you can’t do, figuring out your limitations is super important. It’s all well and good to want to set up a YouTube Channel but that’s difficult to maintain if you have no experience or knowledge of how to make videos. YouTube is one of those complicated social media platforms, everyone does it so it’s common, but common and simple to use are not the same thing.

YouTube channels that started in the beginning of YouTube might not exist now or be successful ventures now because it’s been done before. I’m not saying people shouldn’t make videos on YouTube, I’m just recommending realistic expectations. Like, what’s your budget for recording equipment? What about editing software? Sometimes figuring out what you can’t do or don’t know is easier to figure out than what you can do.

And the most important question of all

How much time do you have available to promote your brand as a writer and to promote your novel/project?
Do you have a partner, children and other family obligations? Do you have a day-job? Do you have mental health problems like I do? Mental Health problems can seriously impact your ability to consistently create good quality content. The same can be said for physical health problems. Time is your most valuable resource and there is simply a finite number of hours in a day.

I’m afraid I tend to squander mine a lot due to procrastination and lack of focus and it’s sort of gotten to a point where I don’t think I can fix this problem and some days I ask myself why I even bother, and let me tell you, it’s a shitty mindscape to be in.

I’m not saying this to put you off writing, or perhaps bitch about my personal problems, I merely wish to convey that writing is something you have to make time for, it’s something you have to actively organise (it’s not just “going to happen” – trust me on this), it’s something you have to want above a lot of other seemingly important things.

This is because people are never going to stop making demands of your time and, with a few exceptions, most people aren’t going to respect or value your time unless you make them and establish boundaries on what you will and will not dedicate your time to.

I also mention my mental health problems because, for better or worse, creative people tend be associated with mental health problems and pretending that this is a problem that will never occur to you or someone you know isn’t going to help you.

I loath the idea of romanticising mental illness in association with the creative arts but the fact remains that Denial and Fear of the thing is more powerful than the thing itself. Acknowledging that this is a thing that might affect you or someone you know in your Art/Writing community is important.

I know this might seem ramble-like or irrelevant, but writers with mental health problems or physical health problems need to take the time to recover and a person’s recovery, health, and well-being is the higher priority.

I don’t care if you have to push back the release of your book, and I don’t care if you have to shut down your blog for an indeterminate amount of time, because your recovery, health, and well-being is the higher priority.

I still struggle with this myself on regular basis, I resent the fact that this short blog-post has taken me two days to write, but I have to accept it and let it go. I have to accept and resign myself to the fact that I will never be able to learn at the same speed other people do and projects are going to take longer for me to complete.

So, do readers have any tips or suggestions on marketing for writers? Perhaps recommend some online communities for writers? Let me know in the comment section below.

~Links:
~The Creative Penn: Tools And Resources For Authors And Writers
~The Creative Penn: Marketing Your Book
~DuoLit: 105 Author Blog Prompts: Banish Your Blank Blog!
~DuoLit: Free Writing & Self-Publishing Tools

The Beautiful Books #26 – The Author Writing Process Edition

Image Description: The Beautiful People for Writers - Writing Goals

How do you decide which project to work on?
I’m actually pretty terrible at focusing on a singular project and I’m often working on multiple projects at once.

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?
The Pushing Boundaries series is the only project thus far I’ve been able to focus on long-term. I wrote a rough draft for Canis Major – Volume I for NaNoWriMo 2015 (November) and had it edited and self-published by November 2016. I know a year doesn’t sound like a long time, but it felt like a long time because I was focusing on it for a core unit of my degree and needed the eBook published in order to graduate.

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?
No, unfortunately, although I am trying to organise myself into the ritual of getting a cup of tea and lighting some tea-candles and an essential oil burner before starting and seeing how that goes.
Image Description: from left to right, a triangle shaped tea-light candle holder with purple flowers painted on the front, a small glass tea-light candle holder, a white oil burner from Dusk with a tea-light candle inside and another small glass tea-light candle holder.

What time of day do you write best?
I generally struggle in the morning and tend to work better in the afternoon and evening

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?
As I’m an author who is just starting out, I have no idea, personally I think this is something you’d have to ask a reader rather than a writer.

Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?
Looking back, I began fan fiction writing as a coping strategy for dealing with… well, Life in general, I suppose, however, it also allowed me to experiment with writing possible narratives that could occur within that already structured world, most of these narrative possibilities contained the idea that the canon narrative could have gone in a different direction than the one the author chose. It’s a safe way to explore narratives and characters. But, eventually, the novelty of fan fiction (and the lack of quality control) made the cons of fan fiction out-weigh the pros.

I also realised that if I spent all my time playing around with other people’s narratives and characters, I was left with neither the time or mental capacity to work on my own narratives and characters (although characterisation is still an area I need to improve upon). The reason I keep writing, I guess, is because I’m constantly coming up with new ideas, which is kind of frustrating because I’d like to be able to work on the projects I’ve already started, but we all have our own creative processes.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?
During the editing process, I was trying to get my character Beth to convey some plot/character related information to another character Mac, in the original manuscript this took place over three chapters, however, with the assistance of my editor Kim, I managed to transfer this information in three lines of dialogue. It was so frustrating and annoying at the time but it was a good learning experience.

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?
probably my Lake of Tears project, which is a SFF (Science Fiction Fantasy) Dystopian cross-over involving elves, gods, mages, dragons and time-travel. I am nowhere near the level I need to be (as a writer) to write it, that and I need to do some more research into time-travel and paradoxes.

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?
I wanted to have written Orion – Volume II written, edited and self-published by the end of the year, but that goal has become laughably out of reach due to personal circumstances and issues with mental health.

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!
Image Description: a Labrador-dog, wearing a red tie, is sitting at desk with a laptop. It looks as though the dog is typing on the laptop. The picture is captioned with white capital text, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING.

%d bloggers like this: