50 Foolproof Writing Prompts That Will Motivate Anyone (Part 4)

I have designed these writing prompts for people like me who have the bare bones of a story or character and just need to get to know them better. Every week I will publish five more prompts that will help you see your character and novel in a new light.

 

16. Write a scene where your character goes into their favourite café/restaurant/diner and wants to be left alone, but the waiter/waitress keeps asking questions.

17. Describe your character’s favourite meal. Where are they? What are they eating? Who are they with?

18. What did your character’s childhood bedroom look like?

19. Is your character religious? Write a scene where they are invited to attend a service (at a mosque, church, temple etc). How do they feel?

20. How would your character paint a wall?

 

50 Foolproof Writing Prompts That Will Motivate Anyone (Part 3)

I have designed these writing prompts for people like me who have the bare bones of a story or character and just need to get to know them better. Every week I will publish five more prompts that will help you see your character and novel in a new light.

11. Where does your character live? Describe their home.

12. Write a letter from the school principal to your character’s parents explaining something good/bad your character did as a child, that shows a hidden side of them.

13. If your character could only save three items from a house fire that would destroy everything they owned, what would they be?

14. Tell the story of the time your character realised their favourite grandparent was going to die.

15. Tell a story about the time your character accidentally killed a baby kitten.

 

50 Foolproof Writing Prompts That Will Motivate Anyone (Part 2)

I have designed these writing prompts for people like me who have the bare bones of a story or character and just need to get to know them better. Every week I will publish five more prompts that will help you see your character and novel in a new light.

 

6. How did your character respond to their first kiss?

7. What is your character wearing right now, and why?

8. How would your character respond if suddenly a man wielding a large knife confronted them on a quiet street?

9. What is the biggest lie your character has ever told? Why did they do it? Do they regret it?

10. What does your character’s younger sister/brother think about them? Write a story about your character from the perspective of their sibling (or friend or neighbour).

 

50 Foolproof Writing Prompts That Will Motivate Anyone (Part 1)

I have designed these writing prompts for people like me who have the bare bones of a story or character and just need to get to know them better. Every week I will publish five more prompts that will help you see your character and novel in a new light.

 

  1. Tell the story of a particularly sad Christmas Day through the eyes of your protagonist.

 

  1. Pretend your character lives to seventy five and is able to go back in time to now (however old they are at the time of your story) – what would they say to their younger self? What would they warn themselves about? Would the older and younger even like or approve of each other?

 

  1. What does your character keep on top of their bedside table? What is hidden in the drawer?

 

  1. Tell the story of the time your character was six years old, and left alone by mistake.

 

  1. Tell the story about the time your character was forced to help someone they didn’t like.

Snubbed by a Plumber

Things have been falling apart in our house lately. First the kitchen sink started leaking. Then the toilet started leaking. Then another toilet decided to stop flushing altogether, which instantly brings you back into the middle-ages and reaffirms your love affair with modern plumbing and disappearing bodily waste.

So over the past few weeks I have been establishing a first-name basis relationship with the local plumber. Let’s call him Bob.

Bob is an older fellow, knowledgeable far beyond the physics of plumbing. Over his three recent visits we have talked about my writing, the perils of working from home, and the frustrations of parenting.

Yesterday in between plunging the precariously full bowl of my upstairs toilet and a gentle lecture on P bends and air flow in pipes, he asked me how my writing was going.

‘Oh well, I am pretty busy with the kids at the moment…’

‘I am struggling with my novel because I am more used to writing short-form articles…’

‘The school holidays are almost here…’

‘It’s hard to get adequate paid work…’

Bob straightened up and pointed the plunger at me.

‘You know what it sounds like to me, if you don’t mind me saying…’ he started to say.

I leaned forward – would he have the solution to my problems?

‘It sounds like a discipline problem to me.’ And he flushed the toilet and everything went away.

I was floored, but only because it was the simple truth. I have no obstacles to my writing, except myself. I have the same number of hours in my day as everyone else, and I probably have significantly fewer constraints than many others.

On the weekend I went to a Writers’ Convention and my first session was Overcoming Obstacles to Writing by the amazing Annabel Smith. She too (in a more roundabout way and with significantly less raw sewage) came to the same conclusion.

And so I am breathing life back into this blog, not (only) as a way to procrastinate, but I find that any form of creative writing is like mental exercise for me, a way to start jogging before the marathon of the novel.

And even though Bob farewelled me with the comment ‘Well I hope I don’t have to see you again anytime soon’ (and I am sure he meant that in the nicest possible way), I am hoping that the next time our paths (or plungers) cross, I will have a much better response when he asks me how my writing is going – with no more excuses.

How to Market Yourself as a Writer

hello postcard

As a writer it is a comforting delusion that if you write well, people will simply flock to you, and fame and fortune will eventually find you.

Reality is a little more brutal, especially since we are competing with over 150 million blogs plus the many hundreds of thousands of journalists around the world.

The simple truth, is that as writers we must market ourselves if we want to get our names – and our words – known by those who will read us, and those who will pay us.

This year, I have pushed myself to the limits in the ways I am brazenly marketing myself and my work as a writer.

These are some of the ways I have been marketing myself this year:

  • Emailing businesses directly: in seeking advertisers for my new fundraising site (Fundraising Mums) I have been emailing companies directly and introducing myself. The primary purpose is to get my name out there, while also directly mentioning that I am offering advertising on the site.
  • I printed postcards with all my blog details, making them relevant to both readers and advertisers, and am in the process of posting them out – the old fashioned way. So much correspondence comes through the inbox these days, my postcards are sure to be noticed simply because they are competing with a smaller amount of mail. There is a considerable cost associated with snail-mail these days, especially if you want to send hundreds of post-cards, but if you design your cards well and send them to the right people, it might be an effective use of your advertising budget.
  • I also carry postcards with me and place them on community boards at local shopping centres. I always attach at least four or five (space allowing) as they are very visually effective when placed en masse, and it also means that people can take one home with them.
  • Contact local and state newspapers – many newspapers have direct emails where you can send story ideas. If you think you could be a useful source on a particular topic, or might be seen as an ‘expert’ in the field, contact them and give them your details. They may not reply straight away, but if a story in the area comes up, there is a chance they will remember your name.
  • Join Source Bottle – I receive daily emails from Source Bottle from other writers looking for sources and stories, and where I think I have something to contribute, I make contact. Even if it means I am a participant in someone else’s story (for example, I will be quoted in the January 2016 edition of the Coles Mother and Baby magazine about something completely unrelated to blogging or fundraising) it is still a way to get your name out there.
  • Creating links with other people on Facebook: using my Fundraising Mums page I have ‘liked’ other businesses and people who are either in the same field as me, or are possible customers and readers. I have also made sure I am following media outlets and big-name bloggers so if they post something about fundraising or ask a question I can answer, I will be ready to respond quickly. Don’t limit yourself to what you naturally see as your own community. Look for business groups, local groups, women’s groups (if applicable) and other communities who might benefit from your work, as well as groups who see as potential customers/readers/sources. Think outside the box.
  • For Fundraising Mums I have been writing articles about businesses and products I think are interesting and unusual. Sometimes I contact the business in advance, sometimes not. Either way, I have realised that I shouldn’t be backward in sending them an email with the article link and asking them to share it on their social media. I have also been doing this for reviews I have written on WeekendNotes – considering the time I take to write articles, it isn’t much more to send off a quick email alerting them to the fact it exists. Some businesses have put my articles and reviews directly on their website others mention them on their Facebook pages.
  • I have been experimenting with paid advertising on Facebook – always with a pre-set budget of around $15-20. I have found that I have gotten the best response for articles/adverts which advertise the site generally, rather than promote a particular article or post.
  • In my email signature (for my personal and business-related email addresses) I have links to all of my blogs. I even mention that I have a book available for sale on Amazon.
  • My next plan is to update my CV and send letters of introduction to all the local and national publications I would like to write for.

 

What are some of the ways you market your work as a writer?

How to Self-Publish an eBook on Amazon

You may be familiar with my story about a post I wrote a few years ago: The Brutal Truth About the Third Child. It has been republished on a number of other sites, much bigger than my own, and as such – has always done a lot better for them, than it ever did for me.

Recently, I wanted to see if I could cash in on my own success, so I decided to turn The Brutal Truth, and a number of other posts about The Third Child, into a book which I self-published on Amazon.

The Brutal Truth About the Third Child by Shannon Meyerkort

The process was amazingly simple, and I am sharing it here – partly so I can remember it next time – but also for anyone who is considering self-publishing a book.

This is a really basic guide, and I do not pretend to be an expert. My book was text heavy with hardly any formatting and only one photo. If you have a lot of fancy formatting and pictures (such as a cook book) then I strongly suggest you head over to Kindle Direct and follow their much more comprehensive guide.

Before you start

When browsing on Amazon, readers can view the first 10% of your book free of charge. Therefore it is vital that you don’t waffle in your opening pages – move your acknowledgements to the back, don’t write a prologue about the time in Year 6 you decided you wanted to write a book. Put your best work upfront – this is what people will be basing their decision on.

Where should you start

Amazon supports uploading text in a number of formats, but for the sake of brevity, I am assuming you are writing your book in Word. Forgive me Mac users – I cannot help you today.

Make sure your text is 100% perfect. Find a professional editor or copyeditor if you can afford it, to ensure there are no typos or errors. That being said, one of the benefits of publishing an eBook is that you can easily ‘unpublish’ it, fix the mistake, and republish – and no one will probably even notice.

TIPS:

Do NOT add page numbers.

If you want chapters, then you must go into INSERT – PAGE BREAK.

If you want a contents page, then highlight

the name of each chapter and click on HEADING 1. Be consistent. All titles must be in the same style for the content page maker to recognise it. When you have highlighted all your chapter headings, go to REFERENCES – TABLE OF CONTENTS and it will automatically fill. Delete all the’ ……’ and page numbers. In the world of Kindle there are no page numbers (because every reader will choose a different font size to read in, each book becomes fluid and page numbers keep changing.)

Create an Amazon account

Create a Kindle Direct Publishing account.

You will need to complete all your normal personal details (name, address etc) as well as complete a section about tax and royalties. I won’t pretend it is easy, but even I managed to complete it (eventually). Keep in mind Amazon really tries to make the process as simple as possible for authors worldwide to do this, so don’t be put off when you initially see the tax interview section.

You will need to select which countries you want your book to be available in (there are at least a dozen different ‘Amazons’ worldwide) and nominate a bank account into which your millions of dollars (hopefully) will be paid.

Royalties are paid monthly – assuming you earn a certain amount. If you earn less than the set amount in a month, it simply accrues until you reach the minimum and your money (less tax) is deposited.

Upload your book details

Before you actually upload your finished manuscript you will be asked to upload certain details. Unlike the book itself, some things cannot be changed, so make sure you really think about the answers you give. Don’t rush this process in your eagerness to publish. It might be the difference in someone finding your book, and it sitting on the virtual bookshelf gathering dust.

You will be asked to give the book a title and subtitle (optional) and if it will be part of a series.

It will ask for a publisher (optional). Unless you are actually affiliated with a real publisher, leave this one blank, or make one up – such as (MMM Press) Meyerkort Magnificent Manuscripts.

The next section – description – is really important. This is the text that will appear on your book’s sale page – and will be the first thing (apart from the cover) that potential readers will see. This is no time to be modest. I trawled back through my blog and found some comments on my original Brutal Truth post by big-name bloggers. I then contacted them and asked if I could quote them (most responded, and all who did, agreed). My biggest tip here is to pretend you are a publicist rather than the author – write about yourself in the third person (or ask someone else to write it for you).

The next section is contributors – usually just a single author, but it also allows you to give credit to illustrators, editors, narrators, translators or if someone wrote the introduction or forward.

Verifying your publishing rights is straightforward: if it is an original text that you wrote yourself, then click the box that says you hold the necessary rights.

Target your book

You are only allowed TWO categories by which to classify your book, so you need to be very precise and honest. This is how people will find your book when they are browsing.

Start with the major headings and work your way down until you find the two categories that best suit your manuscript.

You can also nominate the age and reading levels that are appropriate/necessary for readers (or just leave this area blank). Unless it is full of sex and rude words, then perhaps put a minimum age limit on it.

The last vital section is to nominate 7 key words – again this is how potential readers will find your book. Choose wisely.

Upload a cover

Your book will need an eye-catching cover and you have a number of options. KDP offer the use of Cover Creator so you can design your own. You can also make your own in programs such as Canva, or you can engage a professional designer, or crowd source one (designcrowd.com; fiverr etc).

Be warned though there are a number of guidelines you must follow – I had my cover designed through designcrowd, and once I had chosen a winner, I still had at least three revisions afterwards getting the exact dimensions and approved colours right before Amazon would approve it.

You can upload a new cover at any time.

Upload your manuscript

It’s practically the last thing you do, but eventually you are asked to upload your book. It only takes a few minutes depending on how long your book it. Here is a tip – make sure you preview your book before you hit ‘save and publish’. The publish option may be given to you before your book is fully uploaded, but the preview option only appears when it is fully loaded. Do NOT hit save and publish until you are happy with how it looks (trust me, I made this mistake and had to wait three days for it to be approved and hit the shelves, before I quickly took it down again and checked the formatting). You may need to separately download the online previewer to do this.

Despite your best efforts, the formatting of the uploaded text may not be what you expected.

I think I uploaded and deleted the book a dozen times before I was happy with the layout. Little things like single lines to a page, a rogue hyperlink that somehow didn’t get deleted, a heading I forgot to highlight – all these changes needed to be made in the original Word document before re-uploading it to Amazon, and checking out the preview.

Once you publish, it can take up to 72 hours for Amazon to approve it and for the book to go live.

Choose a price and royalty

There are hundreds of blogs on what is the best price to sell your book at and you may have a specific figure in mind already, but you can either offer it for free, 99c or between $2.99 and $9.99 (or higher).

If you sell for 99c you can only get 35% royalty.

If you sell for between $2.99 and $10.99 (US Dollars) you choose either a 35% royalty and a 70% royalty.

You set the price in US dollars but it will automatically change with currency conversions to a different amount in other countries. For example I selected $US2.99 but it sells for $AU3.99.

(There is a lot more to the royalty issue, but one of the main issues is whether you are offering the book for sale elsewhere. If you are selling copies on your own blog, you will only ever be eligible for 35%. I advertise my book all over my blog but the link always sends people to Amazon to buy it from them.)

Claim your author page

Once your book is published you can claim your author page here.

The bio you create here will appear at the bottom of your book sale pages on Amazon, and you can also link to blogs and other sites.

Consider Kindle Select

This is such a big and subjective topic I will only touch on it – but if you enrol your book in Kindle Select, it means that your book becomes available FREE to the millions of Amazon Prime customers. But don’t worry about lost royalties, because for every page of your book that a Prime customer reads, you are will be paid a certain amount from the monthly pool. In June the pool was $13,000,000. Some authors make more from ‘lending’ their books to Prime customers than they ever do selling them to paying customers. Learn more here.

It also allows you to do certain ‘deals’ such as offering your book for free for up to five days each period (three months). It might sound counter-intuitive to offer your book for free, but I trialed it for two days, and saw the number of readers increase ten-fold. Sure, I didn’t receive any money but it pushed my book up the best seller lists for a while, and when the price returned, it was in a slightly better position than it had been before. And with any luck, all the people who read it for free might have mention it to a friend who will buy or borrow it.

Sit back and wait for the money to roll in

The Brutal Truth About the Third Child is currently ranked #68,794 in the Australian overall best seller lists, hardly a mentionable achievement. But it is also #33 in the Humour/Parenting and Families best seller lists, up against some awesome books like Darth Vader and Son and Go the F*ck to Sleep.

I won’t be paying off the mortgage any time soon, but it’s out there now and it’s certainly made me want to do it again.

 

 

Have you ever published an eBook? What advice would you give to people considering self-publishing for the first time?