Becoming an Author: What I Have Learned with Clayton Paul Thomas

I could probably write another book on what I have learned about being a self-published author. Instead, I’m going to knock it down to three things.

There are three things a self-published author has to really focus on. Those things are writing, editing, and marketing. An author who wants to earn any money really has to write well and target their book effectively to their audience. You may have a great book, but people are not going to (generally) buy it unless they obviously know about it and other people are talking about it.

I have learned that there are not enough hours in the day to promote my book while being a stay at home father. Time management is critical. I am a big sports fan. Regardless, I had to give up watching a lot of football and basketball games in order to complete the book. Even now, I don’t watch a lot of TV unless it’s a kids show or if I am spending some time with my wife. In order to write a book and market it, an author really has to prioritize their time.

It is important to be as visible as possible in order to sell your book. Facebook (claytonpaulthomas), Twitter (claylauren2001), and LinkedIn (clayandlauren) are three of the forums I use. You should also have a polished website for people to browse as well.

In saying this, the internet alone will not sell your book. It is important for any aspiring author to leave their home and get involved in their community. Not only will you be a benefit to those around you, natural marketing opportunities are sure to spring up.

Writing a book isn’t easy and there will be many pitfalls along the way. It is important though to stay focused.

I invite you to buy my parenting book in order to take the next step with your kids in terms of discipline, education, and self reliance. Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures can be purchased at http://www.lulu.com. I also invite you to take a look at my website in order to see some parenting blogs I've written and to see a design which may give you some ideas on what you’d like to do with your book promoting website. http://www.claytonpaulthomas.com

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3 Keywords Needed to Create an Effective Website

All writers need a website; it’s just the nature of the writing business these days. But, just throwing a website up won’t cut it. You need to create an effective, engaging, and appealing website.

According to a number of marketers, the most essential words on your site are: SIGN UP.
These two little words are the building blocks of your empire. They are the link to developing a relationship with the visitors to your site.

With attention spans dwindling and competition increasing, the main goal of your website is to get email addresses that convert into sales. During an initial visit, your visitor may not have the time to spend browsing your site for information to entice him to make the decision to purchase your book or product. This is where those two little words come in; it takes less than a minute to type in a name and email address. And, if you have a FREE GIFT offer for signing up, you’ve made the sign up decision even easier.

While it’s important to offer that Free gift, which is considered an ethical bribe, if it’s of no value to the visitor, he probably won’t bother signing up. So, how do you decide if your gift is valuable enough to grab that email address?

The answer to this question is easy: you know who your target buyers are. Think about it . . . what do they want? What would you want? If your site and product is about writing, guess what…your visitors would probably appreciate an e-book on that topic, maybe a how to write guide. Or, if you’re into marketing…offer an e-book of marketing tips and guidance. If your site is about cooking, offer recipes, or an instructional cooking e-book. The idea is to establish yourself as an expert…as someone your reader wants to learn from. They need to want what you’re offering, whether it’s for instructional value, information, entertainment, or other

So, that’s pretty easy, right?

But, a word of caution here: make sure your new subscriber is able to get his free gift. There are a couple of sites I’ve signed up to because I wanted the free offers. When I received the link to the offer, either the link didn’t work, or I couldn’t download the gift. Either way, I unsubscribe to the sites. I have on occasion sent an email to the site owner and ended up receiving the gift, but most often I don’t, and I’m sure others don’t, have the time to do this.

Just a quick note here: you need an opt-in box in order to acquire those email addresses. Services such as Icontact, GetResponse, and ConstantContact offer this service.

The next two words that are essential to every website that is selling a book or other product are, BUY NOW, or some other call-to-action. The call-to-action words or button needs to be visible and near the top of your home page. It should also be throughout your site on the sidebar. It’s been said over and over that only 1% of first time visitors will buy a product. It’s usually after developing a relationship through your newsletter, information, and offers that your potential customer or client will click on the BUY NOW button!

These are just three of a number of items that your website will need, but they are three of the most important.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.
You can check out Karen’s e-classes through WOW! at:
http://www.articlewritingdoctor.com/content-marketing-tools/

And, she'd love to connect with you at:
Twitter
Facebook
Google+
LinkedIn
Pinterest

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How to become a novelist in 30 minutes

There are plenty of books on the market to teach you how to write a book in 30 days, or 3 weeks, or 12 months. That's not really what this article is about. This is an article for those of you who don't have 30 days to write a novel in. This is an article for those of you, like me, in the midst of life. Demanding wonderful families probably won't tell you to go off and do a couple of days of pure writing. Demanding wonderful bosses of well paid jobs won't tell you to take a sabbatical and go off to get your novel done in 30 days. In fact, no one will tell you to write this novel, except your own nagging conscience. And that voice will be increasingly dim in the face of all the other voices harassing you. Of course the title of this piece is facetious. You aren't going to actually write a novel in 30 minutes, just to commit, seriously, to doing it and layout out a roadmap.
What we won't be doing is writing the novel. That's the hard work that's left for you when we finish, and don't let anyone suggest it's anything other the most outrageously difficult thing to do. But it is do-able, no matter what your circumstances, and no matter how busy you are. You can still do it even if you only manage ten words a day (and believe me, you can manage that). And you can do it without quitting your day job, or setting your children up for years of therapy. You can do it secretly, hedging your bets, and still producing a wonderful, professional, exceptional book. I promise! So let's get started.

1. Why do you want to write the novel?

It's important to have a good understanding of where you're going if you're to get there, and understanding the reasons why - the reward you'll get - is an important motivating factor. If it's for financial reasons, you'd be better off stocking shelves at your local supermarket. I'm not trying to talk you out of it! There's almost nothing to compare with holding your beautiful finished book in your hands. But it's something wholly different from holding a pile of notes (or bills), and one doesn't necessarily lead to the other. For me, my key motivation was to be able to create something concrete, beautiful, and solid which would move other people; to share a fictive dream. I still get all shivery imagining someone in the solitude of their own room, being moved by my book. That visualisation is something which kept me going even when I flagged. You may have other reasons for wanting to write a novel - an image that will sustain you. But you need to be clear about it. So stop a moment and answer the question.

2. Putting it all together - the outside

Buy a looseleaf binder. One of those types with clear plastic sleeves at the front and back, and I mocked up a cover image, with title, image, your name of course along the bottom. It should look just like a book cover. Then write the kind of brief overview that you find on the back of most novels.

This is really important, because it will become your guiding principle. You can go back to this kind of positioning statement - what could be called an "elevator pitch" --again and again - while writing the book, and later, while pitching the book.

Under that, and more for fun than anything else, put a few glowing statements - what those in the industry call "puffs". Since this is for your benefit only, have fun with it. Give yourself great reviews. Seeing it will make you hungry.

3. The Three Pillars of Fiction: Plot, Setting, Characters

Of course this is not going to be a lesson on how to create great plot (that's a book or two), produce a wonderful setting (another book), or create great characters (surely there are three books in that topic). What I will tell you is that you can't really progress in your novel writing until you've got a reasonably in-depth handle on that. So at this stage of the game, you should also add some additional dividers into your book and call them Plot, Setting, and Characters - one for each. Then spend some time filling in each one. The more time you spend on doing this at the front end, the less time you'll spend with your novel trying to make it work - so don't skimp!

Plot

Begin by nutting out your plot - just do a brief outline - first this happens, then this, then this until you've got a reasonably clear structure. If you tend to think in diagrams, a flowchart is a really useful way of doing this. Another useful way of doing it is to use mindmap. All of these are just tools, and it's easy to get caught up in evaluating different ones and never actually getting to the writing, so pick one and stick with it. Whatever you end up using to structure your plot, make sure you do it before writing. That way, with only a few minutes a day, you can get straight into the plot and not waste time wondering what to write. The structure will also help your creativity as your unconscious mind moves across it, pulling the story together for you.

Setting

So where is your novel set? You should be really clear about it. I'm not naturally good at this, so in the end I have to literally create my places by making my own little map. In the case of Sleep Before Evening, the settings were real ones. I had Long Beach, Long Island (which I fictionalised slightly and called Seahaven) , and New York City, so there were maps I could use, but I still had to customise them for my own specific places, and I had to take them back to 1982, which wasn't all that straightforward. If you aren't clear about setting your reader won't be, so you need to get each street right - to know exactly where your character is walking, visiting, and so on. Details are key to creating the fictive dream, and the more detailed and clear your maps are, the more powerful your writing will be, so this is a step to take some time over.

Characters

Ah, characters. I'm a little biased here, as I'm a character focused writer and reader, but I don't think that there is anything as important to fiction than character. If you don't know your characters as well as your real friends and family, they won't be real to your reader. You should create a list of key characters - protagonist, antagonist, important ancillary characters, and minor characters and flesh each of them out in as much detail as you can stand. You don't need to use it all, but it will make a huge difference in the ease of writing and the overall impact that your characters have on the reader.
Some of the many aspects of character you should cover include physical appearance, profession, backstory, emotional issues, strengths, weaknesses, what they crave, what they are grateful for, who they love, and maybe above all, what they are afraid of.  Try and get at least a couple of pages, but the more the better, for each character before you start writing the book.

Novel writing is a large commitment and it's easy to lose your way. If you spend a reasonable amount of time (it doesn't have to all happen at once either - See "Getting On" below) setting the work up, you can chip at it little by little later. But get the bones in place first - your work will be better for it, and the whole process will be significantly easier.

Getting On: How Do You Eat an Elephant

The plot is outlined, the characters are well detailed and your book is looking pretty nifty, even if it hasn't really been written yet. So what's next?

What's next is you put your bottom on the seat and get to work! It sounds so simple. You know where you're going and the only way to get there is to move forward. But life is so busy - the kids need you to take them to their activities, your partner wants your attention, your day job is howling for results and the house is a mess and...you can't let everyone down. I know, I know. I've been there. I'm there now. My daughter is pulling on my shirt even as I type this. But with your roadmap in place you just have to use standard time management techniques. Schedule in the writing - plan to do a certain amount each day. It doesn't have to be a lot. It can be as small as a few minutes and a single word a day. But when you're on a roll, you'll probably do a lot more. Don't let a day go by (or at least many days if things are bad - kids are sick - pressure is high), without opening your work and doing a little on it. Move your protagonist's hair out of her eyes, have her talk to the person sitting next to her. Write a scene. Just keep working on it.

What you'll find is that, with every bit of work you do, your brain will keep working on it as you do other things, and the regular dipping in, however small, will keep your work current and your writing sessions effective. If you push the novel to the backburner, your brain will move away from it and it won't progress. You've got to keep the voices in the novel up front with all the rest of the voices in your life. That's the secret. Then just keep at it. Keep chunking. Keep writing. Give it as much or as little time as you can, but give every day. In the end, you'll finish it, and you'll find, as I found, that the closer you get, the faster the work will move.
No one will care if the work took you one year or ten. You'll still be an "overnight success" and it will still look quick and easy to those who haven't been there with you while you worked. So, go and do your daily bit now.

5. Revising and Rewriting

I can remember clearly the day that I finished my first draft. I was so excited. I stopped typing, went to get a much needed glass of water, and spent the rest of the day in a wonderful fug of delight. I told my son when I picked him up - "I finished the novel." I kept saying it to myself. "I've written a novel. I'm a novelist now, for real." But the sad truth was that the novel was years off being finished. I wasn't even close. The first draft is just the beginning. Don't let that put you off. You shouldn't even be reading this yet. Go back and write and forget you saw this!

The real work of novel writing is not in the first draft, muse whispering at your ear and the wind behind your hair (okay it's not really like that, but it sounds good). The real work is in the re-writing. So have a drink and celebrate. Then go back to work. It took me ten rewrites! That's full rewrites. Before I was really finished. I won a mentorship grant from my local writer's group and had 30 hours of one on one with an experienced editor, and that really opened my eyes. My mentor, Greg Bastian was superb, showing me all the holes in my manuscript that I was unable to see. After working with Greg, I also utilised the services of another excellent editor, paying for it myself this time. While Greg helped me pull apart and put my novel back together in a much better, more organised way, Logos Editing helped me polish the novel - fixing timing and space issues and dealing with things like dialogue and pace. A third editing called a line edit, was done by my publisher (I worked on that too). So three edits involving other people were necessary. In addition to that, I spent time listening to my novel and picking up on mistakes by using Acrobat's read aloud feature. It was easier to spot errors listening to someone else's voice than to my own. Then I went through the whole thing backwards. Then I enlisted 3 trusted proofreaders to work through it (each with his or her own strengths). And my publisher did the same. And still there were a few minor errors! Editing and proofreading are separate functions, and both critical. If you're lucky enough to be able to do this prior to submitting the novel to a publisher, you'll be way ahead of the game. Oh, and give yourself at least a month after completing the first draft (you deserve a good break!) before starting the revision process. You'll come to the work fresher and be able to accomplish a lot more.

In Closing

This article provides, of course, a brief, broad brush overview on a very big topic. I'm not suggesting that this is comprehensive, or that writing a novel is easy. In fact, I'm suggesting the opposite. It's hard. But what it comes down to isn't raw talent, inspiration, the muse, luck, or great potential. Those things don't mean anything against sheer tenacity. If you are committed to writing a novel, you can. And you will. Just keep at it, a little at a time.

Oh, and one more critical thing - the most critical of all. Start now. Don't wait until the children are grown, or until you finish that big project at work or until the kitchen shelves are organised. Just get on with it. I wish you great success, personal satisfaction, and deep joy.

Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. She is the author of the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, the novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future.

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The Ghostwriter

What’s the essential characteristic of a ghost? Invisibility. Well, that’s exactly what a ghostwriter is . . . invisible.

The ghostwriter is a powerful tool for people who have a story in them, but who can’t seem to get their ideas into posts, article content, or books. He is also a valuable tool for writers who don’t have the time to writer their own content, and for other people who don’t have the skill. He is also a essential tool for marketers and business owners who don’t have the time, or possibly the skill, to write their own articles or other needed marketing content.

Moving quietly behind the scenes, the ghostwriter can lift you up and help you create what you may not have the time, energy, or skill to do yourself. He can help turn dreams into reality.

Do you need to drive traffic to your site? Do you need an e-book written for a free giveaway? Do you want to create an e-book to offer for sale? No problem. Does your story need a makeover? Do you have an outline, but don’t know where to go from there? No problem. Fiction, nonfiction? Short story, long story? White pages? No problem.

Writing for others, he writes stories, articles, blogs, and a host of other forms of content. He is a modest guy and doesn’t need recognition for his feat. The individual who hires him gets all the credit for the finished product; the ghostwriter gets paid for his services.

The individual or company requesting the content may provide an idea, an outline, or he may need a piece rewritten; the ghostwriter does his homework and accomplishes what is requested.

It should be noted that in some instances ghostwriters do receive some recognition or credit; this is something the requester and writer decide upon. The cost of the project may be less if credit is given. But, most often the ghostwriter remains anonymous.

In other instances the ghostwriter may reduce his fee for a percentage of the profits from the finished product.

Is Ghostwriting Popular?

According to the article, “What is a Ghostwriter?” by Gary McLaren, “Statistics are hard to come by since many people don't want to reveal that their book is ghosted. Some industry estimates suggest that up to fifty percent of all non-fiction books are ghostwritten.”

Interestingly, what’s becoming very popular for ghostwriters is article writing. Marketers know the importance of posting valuable and well written content on their websites, on a regular basis. In these cases, the ghostwriter needs to know about SEO and keyword optimization.

A couple of famous ghostwriters are:

Barbara Feinman ghostwrote It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us by Hillary Clinton.

H.P. Lovecraft was a ghostwriter for Harry Houdini.

A.E. Hotchner ghostwrote the autobiographies for Doris Day and Sophie Loren

Obviously, it may be difficult for a ghostwriter to obtain testimonials from clients, so when looking for a ghostwriter, you should ask for samples of his writing.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

Check out the DIY Page while you're there!

And, get a copy of Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.