Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Indie Author conference

Indie Author Hub



The Indie Author Hub writers group is putting on their first writers conference. June 7, 2014, Courtyard Marriott Hotel, 1600 N Freedom Blvd, Provo, Utah.

The Indie Author Hub is made up of many successful indie authors and hybrid authors.

Guest speakers include NY Times Bestselling indie author Amy Harmon, USA Today bestselling author Rachael Anderson, bestselling hybrid author Rachel Ann Nunes, and PEG's Heather B. Moore.

Workshops include classes on ebook creation, marketing, business, and the writing craft.

Registration information here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hitting the Top 100 Categories on Amazon


by Heather Moore

An alternate version of this post previously appeared on Eschler Editing Blog.


Once you have your most-excellent manuscript edited, cover designed, interior formatted into a mobi file, you are ready to upload to the Kindle platform on Amazon. When you load your book to Amazon, every word in your book becomes a searchable item. From the reviews, to the text, to the author bio. Also searchable is the book description and editorial reviews that can be added when you upload. This is why it’s important to select key words that will be repeated throughout each searchable entity. 

Before you choose your categories and key words, do some research on Amazon. Find out what categories bestselling books in your genre are listed under. Some will be very broad (fiction, romance, suspense), others will be very narrow (art, Italian hotel, Egyptian History). If you choose a narrow category, you’ll probably hit the Top 100 a day or two after your book is listed onto Amazon. With a broader category, you’ll be competing with other bestselling books in that same category.

This post will give you a quick overview of how metadata and categorizing works on Amazon, and how it can be a key sales tool for being a successful Amazon seller. Michael Alvear’s book is great at explaining how to use metadata effectively in the file creation process, and how to categorize in the upload process: Make A Killing On Kindle Without Blogging, Facebook Or Twitter: TheGuerilla Marketer's Guide To Selling Ebooks On Amazon.

In short:
What is Metadata: Metatags are search terms that readers use to find a book on a specific topic.

What is Categorizing: Done when the Kindle file is uploaded through KDP on Amazon. You can select 2 categories and 7 keywords that will help your book get categorized and positioned for selling on Amazon.

Do now: Put together a chart for your book as you research:
Example for my historical novel, ESTHER THE QUEEN:
Categories (Amazon allows 2 main categories. I prefer ‘non-fiction’ to capture Top 100. I might go in and tweak this from time to time as I watch sales.)
(I researched a similar genre book: The Red Tent)
*Religion—Ancient
*Biblical Studies—Old Testament
Genre(s) (Amazon gives you 7 categories to list. I may tweak this as well.)

Esther, Famous Queens, Adventure, Judaism, Biblical Fiction, Religious Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Metadata List

Action & Adventure; Religious Fiction; Queen Esther; King of Persia; Famous Queens; Biblical Queens; Famous Kings; Biblical Kings; Book of Esther; Judaism; Jewish Life; Jewish Exodus; Middle East; Biographical; The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran; Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff; The Red Tent by Anita Diamant; Biblical Fiction; Turkey; Mediterranean; Tombs

To explain the chart above. I looked for a bestselling Biblical novel to compare to mine. I found The Red Tent. These were the categories and rankings:
·  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A non-fiction book on Jewish Life:

I then went to Christian Books & Bibles, and checked out the books listed in the top 100. Then I clicked on those books to see what their rankings were. I slowly built a category list and decided where my book would best fit.

The Amazon page will also have “Other categories”

Look for Similar Items by Category


Other examples of books in Top 100 categories and their key words:

Sarah M. Eden’s, Seeking Persephone, with the $2.99 deal, its rank is here:
·  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,594 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Spring Vacation Anthology:
·  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,219 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Novella, Third Time’s the Charm:
·  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,931 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Heart of the Ocean:
·  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,775 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Other concepts recommended by Michael Alvear have to do with the Book Description and the Reviews. Every word in the description and a review becomes a searchable entity. In my Book Descriptions when I get a few great reviews, I’ll add them to the beginning of the description. Some recommend when you ask for a review to have the reviewer compare it to another best-selling book and use the Category words… this will become part of the Amazon algorithms.

Here is a Book Description example that uses key words in the description that will link the book to other authors and categories. I’ve bolded keywords that will help this book become categorized more effectively on Amazon. (Age, era, setting, genre, target audience, comparable authors, comparable books…)


Seven-year-old Helen Marie Heffner has a knack for getting into trouble, followed close behind by her older sister, Leona Mae. Whether it’s walking the barn beams like a tightrope, fooling the neighbor boys into thinking they’re being chased by a fiery jack-o-lantern, or making a mess rather than transferring a pattern for Mama’s Christmas surprise, Helen comes out the winner every time.

But life is not always fun and games in 1922 for this southern Indiana family. In the wake of the Depression of the previous two years, the girls and their mama are often left alone in Hancock’s Chapel while their papa travels to find work to keep the family finances alive. Lately, Mama’s been showing signs of not feeling well, and Helen is stuck at home, missing the entire school year while she recuperates from the rheumatic fever that struck her the year before. Mama fears the worst is about to happen. Everything from the barn owl, to the chicken thief, the stranger who passed by one evening to a poor neighbor-boy who falls into the ravine, all point to signs of trouble to come. And sure enough, it does.

Leona and Me, Helen Marie, a middle grade novel from A Small Town U.S.A. series, is hometown historical fiction in the style of Richard Peck (A Long Way from Chicago, The Teacher’s Funeral, Here Lies the Librarian) and Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie), with a touch of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie thrown in for good measure.

Categorizing is not a one-hit wonder method, but it’s an important marketing tool to use when selling on Amazon. You can change your categories and key words anytime, but know that it takes 2–3 days for them to become effective. When I change them, I wait a few weeks to see which lists are being hit. If I’m not happy with the results, then I can easily go back in and change them.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Novellas, Novelettes, & Short Stories: What’s the Difference?

by Annette Lyon

For about two years, I’ve been fortunate to be part of an anthology series. As of February 2014, we have put out six Timeless Romance Anthology collections, and will continue to do at least four a year. Each has been fun and challenging in its own way.

For those unfamiliar with the series, each collection has six stories, three by continuing contributors (PEG’s own Heather B. Moore, plus Sarah M. Eden, and yours truly). We select a theme and then look for three guest writers to join us who are established, published writers we know will produce a great story.

We have few rules, but the ones we have are written in stone: No story can go over 15,000 words, so the entire collection is no more than 90,000 words, not counting author bios and other back matter. Each anthology is roughly the length of a typical novel.

The other two rules: 
  • the stories must all follow the theme
  • they must all be sweet romances (read: clean romance, with nothing beyond kissing in them and no graphic violence, etc.).

 In today’s digital world, the experiment has proved to be a great success. We treat the collections as a professional endeavor, including hiring a talented graphic designer experienced in book covers. The stories all get professionally edited and formatted, and the final result has been fantastic—as has the response from readers, proving that there is indeed a market for sweet romance.

We recently made the first anthology (the WinterCollection, featuring historical stories set in the winter) available in paperback, and we’ll likely put more of the e-books into print as we move forward.

So why are am I talking about these stories? Because in today’s e-book world, we’re seeing the return of relics from the publishing past. There was a time—before the Internet and all of the many distractions it brings—when magazines and book publishers regularly published short stories, novelettes, and novellas.

Short stories lasted a bit longer than the other two, especially in magazines. I may be dating myself here, but I recall a time when teen magazines still included a short story in each issue. Novelettes and novellas pretty much went the way of the dinosaur decades ago, and a big part of the decline of those literary forms was the cost. With the printing, shipping, and other costs that mirror the costs of full-length novels, but with lower price points, novellas and novelettes simply couldn't make enough of a profit to stay viable. 

As for the space short stories used to take up in magazines: It was quickly replaced by other content, with the belief that "no one reads short stories anymore."

In the last few years, however, many people, from the Big 5 publishers in New York to self-published writers, have changed their tune. Formatting for e-books is inexpensive, and a lot of writers have learned to do it themselves. There are no costs for printing or shipping, and little to no cost for delivery. Plus, they can be produced far faster. In other words, they're profitable again.

As a result, many writers, including bestsellers, have contracts to write novellas, often as a prequel before a new book comes out, or to give hungry readers a taste as they wait a year between volumes in a series.

Anthologies are one the few places that never stopped publishing shorter fiction entirely. A lot of them were and are produced by fantasy or science fiction publishers, and getting into one was a great way for a writer hoping to publish novels to break into the market.

Anthologies are still a great way to get started and break in. At the 2013 League of UtahWriters conference, Paul Genesse taught a great class about short fiction. He's had success making a name for himself through contributing to many anthologies over the years, and while he’s admitted that you won’t get rich doing that, you will grow a readership and develop a name for yourself.

But before you attempt to submit to a collection, be sure you know the varying lengths of the different forms. Today's readers aren’t yet that familiar with the terms, so if you self-publish a shorter work, the technical term won't be nearly as important as if you plan to submit your work to a contest, publisher, or anthology.

According to both Paul Genesse and SFWA, the following word counts are pretty standard in the industry: 

Short Fiction Word Counts
Short Story: under 7,500 words
Novelette: 7,500 words – 17,500 words
Novella: 17,500 words – 40,000 words

A few things to keep in mind with those numbers:

Middle-grade and early chapter books often fall below 40,000 words but don’t get the novella label, even though they're in that range. 

Word count is a far better guide to story length than page count, especially in fiction. Why? Word count per page can vary widely. For example, a page with mostly description will have many more words than a page with a lot of dialog, where a new paragraph starts every couple of lines, creating a lot of white space.

For example, the Timeless Romance Anthology stories, which typically run 13,000 to 15,000 words, will take up from 45 to 60 pages double-spaced in Word. That's a pretty broad page count for stories roughly the same word length.

As you can tell by the guidelines above, the TRA collections are technically made up of six novelettes per collection, yet in our book descriptions, we still call them novellas, because that’s the term readers are most familiar with. As novelette becomes a more familiar term to readers, we may use it.

So, you want to publish a novella/novelette/short story?
As with any potential market, be sure to research the submission guidelines and follow them exactly. Thinking you're the exception to the rule only shows you aren't a professional taking the job seriously.  

If it’s a contest, submit by the deadline or even before. Follow the format required. And, of course, know in advance if the market is open to submissions at all. (The Timeless Romance Anthologies are invitation only, for example.)

How do you write short fiction, anyway?
Actually writing short fiction is a very different animal from writing a full-length novel. For me, at least, it's been a wild but awesome ride learning how to create a good story in a small space. 

For that matter, it's a topic worthy of its own post another time.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

This Year, Go Big or Go Home

by Annette Lyon

Last month, as I have for well over a decade, I attended another Christmas dance recital to watch my daughter light up on stage. As usual, her grace performing (this time ballet) didn't disappoint.

A different dance number jumped out at me for a different reason, however. Most likely, it jumped out at every member of the audience: a hip-hop piece. The number was well choreographed, and the star dancer, a sixth grade black boy, stayed front and center, and for good reason. He was nothing short of jaw-droppingly amazing.

Every move he made was powerful and precise. He exuded joy and energy and attitude and got the audience excited, returning his energy a thousand-fold.

The few times my eyes strayed from him, I regretted it.

Why? The other hip-hop dancers on stage with him weren't anywhere in the realm of his league, for starters. But that in and of itself wasn't the problem. The real problem was that the other dancers didn't seem to be trying at all

In dance speak, they were marking the routine rather than dancing full out, as if they were afraid of looking stupid doing the moves, so, hey, I'll do them small and weak, and maybe no one will notice.

To be honest, the other dancers looked almost embarrassed to be up there. Surely they knew they weren't as good as the star, but by not doing their best, by not going full out, they looked even worse. Their movements looked sloppy and weak. They looked unsure and had so little energy that as an audience member, I found watching them to be total yawn fest. At least, when I wasn't cringing.

Worst of all, I made the discovery that when hip hop is performed halfway, it does look really, really silly, which I can almost guarantee was the dancers' (and, I'd wager, every artist's) worst fear. Do it halfway, and you'll look ridiculous. Do it full-out, and you're on to something.

As I sat in the audience, it dawned on me that writing is somewhat the same way.

Writing and putting your work out for an audience can be downright terrifying. But you can't play into that fear. If a writer backs away from being as strong and powerful and in control of their work as they can and should be, that is the moment when the work looks sloppy, weak, and chaotic. It's as if the writer wasn't at the helm, had no idea what to do next, and simply hoped no one noticed the missteps.

And yes, there will be times a writer is unsure. We have all taken risks in our work (or we should have). We all have grown, so we've all had our weaker moments, and will continue as we (hopefully) keep growing. The risks that have the best shot of working are the ones we commit to: the ones we write full-out. The minute we start marking a risk or a new technique, hoping no one will notice we're unsure and scared? That is the moment our work looks sloppy and weak.

Watching that hip-hop routine, I thought back to times where I've seen writers who have poured their souls into their work, even into a first draft, when maybe they weren't entirely at the skill level they wanted to be at. But they were trying with everything in their souls. The result: riveting and exciting writing anyway. As a reader, I find myself forgiving errors or weak spots because I see the passion and power that lies behind the writing. On the flip side, I'm far more likely to give up on prose that happens to be free of typos but lacks any heart.

So however you write, whether it's sitting at the keyboard or curling up with a notebook and pen, don't hold back. Yes, you may have some missteps along the way; that's to be expected. Maybe you aren't (yet) as good as other writers you're "on stage" with.

But chances are, if you hold back, your work will only draw negative attention to itself, and you won't grow. You'll never reach that glorious point where the eyes are all on you, where people's jaws drop in awe and admiration at the feats you just pulled off.

And remember: Every time a writer steps on stage, he or she is writing all by themselves. We must write full out, every single time.

Is baring your soul, pouring your all into your work, easy? No. Unequivocally no. But I'm convinced that doing so is the only way to ever be great.

So for this new year, here's my challenge for a resolution:

Get in the game, all the way. Write full-out every time. Leave the fear on the wings of the stage.

When you write, be that amazing kid in the front who made the dance look cool and amazing and awesome instead of the ones in the back who made it look, well, silly.

In other words, go all the way. Go big, or go home.

(I don't really want you to go home. Just decide to go big!)


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Good Writers Use . . .

By Julie Wright

Good writers use pens. That's the advice from my tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Cowden. I know I shred this man a lot due to the fact that he singlehandedly tried to put a stop to the writing career dreams of my youth. But I thought of something he'd said all those years ago that struck me as weird today while I edited over some of the new pages I'd written. He said something to the effect of: "Good writers always write in pen because it shows they have the confidence and education to know that they will get it right the first time."
I wanted to be a confident and educated writer. I wanted to be a *good* writer most of all. I wrote with a pen from then on. My first three and a half books were written by hand and all in pen. I have a dozen notebooks filled with pen-scrawled words (and scratched out words and even scratched out pages). It's been years since my handwritten manuscript days, years since a pen was used for anything more than signing a book.
The computer is my new pen. Bless the smart people who created word processing.
Today, I deleted a whole lot. The deletes made the dialogue smooth, the narrative stronger. And I thought back to that day with Mr. Cowden. I thought back to how on some level I must have respected him as a teacher--must have believed his declaration that good writers use pens. Why else would I write with such an instrument for so many years after his class?
I declare my independence from such bad advice.
Why use a pen when a pencil is so obviously superior? A pencil comes with an editing device called an eraser. Good writers should use pencils. Because good writers know the importance of a good edit. It isn't about being arrogant the first time you put an idea down. It's about getting it right.
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Friday, September 20, 2013

Self Diagnosis - Outliner or Panster?

By Josi S. Kilpack

At first glance this seems easy to determine about yourself, but put off making the determination until you answer a few questions.

First, let's define the two terms:

Outliner: This is a writer who spends a relatively significant amount of time planning out their book in its entirety before sitting down to a blank page and beginning the actual writing process. A true outline consists of knowing the beginning, middle, and, especially, the end of your project.

Panster: This is a writer who's 'swinging by the seat of your pants.' This means that the author has no written plan when they start their project, but rather they let the story unfold for them as it will unfold for their reader.

So, here are the questions to ask yourself:

1) Do your stories typically begin (as in very first thought about it) with a character or a storyline?

2) When you sit down to write, do you have a pretty good idea of what you will be writing?

3) Do you have a set goal when you sit down? (# of words, specific scene)

4) Would you say your strength is in drafting or revising?

5) Have you ever written with an outline, if so, what percentage of your story stayed exact to the outline you began with?

6) Have you ever completely free-written a project with no written outline to follow?

7) Do you find yourself bored with your story if you know what is going to happen next?


Now, look at the answers you gave to these questions. Go back to the definitions of outliner or panser and see which one better suits you. You may very well find yourself straddling both places--that's actually pretty normal. Most of us are hybrids, but we tend to lean one way or another. Here's how I answered these questions:

1) My stories start with character--most pansters are the same way. However, I am currently writing a series that uses the same character over and over again. Because my character is established, I have to focus more on plot when a story gets going for me. I also have to be aware of plot elements, motivations, settings, themes, and methods of murder used in the earlier books. I've found that my panster ways are seriously impeded by the considerations I HAVE to make. Amid this series I've done a co-authored series as well and it has been much more in tune with my panster ways, and yet I've had to be considerate of the other stories in the series. It hasn't been as difficult as in my mysteries, but I've had to have some written plans, and especially, coordination with my co-authors

2) As a panster, I usually know what my writing for that day will 'start' with, but I don't know where it will end which I think is pretty typical for us panster types. When I'm using an outline, I find it's pretty much the same thing except I have a bit more direction because it's written down. Regardless of which 'mode' I'm in, I almost always go back and read/revise what I wrote the last time I sat down to write before I start new writing. This catches me up to my story and reminds me where I am.

3) I rarely have a set word count goal when I set down--when I am too invested in writing a set number of words, I get anxious. I will often have a goal regarding a scene to either write or revise. I try to keep my goals small enough that I KNOW I will meet it. If I have too big of expectations, I run a high risk of frustration. Often, a small goal will get me into a groove and I'll move on to the next scene without a problem. I actually have no idea if this is more typical of an outliner or a panster, I think it has more to do with anxiety issues :-)

4) My strength is definitely in revising. Most pansters are the same way--they draft to learn their story and then they revise to make it good. Outliners on the other hand are often very strong drafters and their first draft is quite solid and fleshed out because they developed a lot of the ideas prior to writing them.

5) I have attempted many outlines and, up until my most recent project, I would say I kept to about 25% of what I outlined. I therefore felt as though I had wasted the other 75% worth of effort. This isn't entirely fair because any amount of time spent planning and thinking through our story makes our end result better, if only because we reject something that doesn't work, but it still frustrates me. With my most recent project, however, I have done a very long and multifaceted outline. I spent a few weeks on it and used 90% of what I outlined. I am still pantsing a lot of the story and I've moved a lot of things around, but I feel as though I have well utilized the time I put into the outline, which is an exciting thing for me.

6) I have completely free-written many projects. I always have a second document for 'cuts' and have had up to 800 pages of cuts for one project. For me, the story does not develop fluidly so I often take tangents that result in 10, 40, 150 page cuts because what I've written turns out to be crap. I still have to be forgiving about it because it helps me learn my story, but it's a big reason why I want to learn to outline, so as to avoid so much cutting. I 'enjoy' freewritting more, however. Most pansters enjoy writing without knowing what's around the next corner.

7) I have never found myself bored with a story because I know what's going to happen next. Even if the story is fully developed in my mind, I know it's not 'real' until it's on the page. This leans more towards me being an outliner, as many pansters don't want to outline because it loses some of the magic of the story.

As my own self-diagnosis, I would call myself a panster. It's my natural inclination and my 'happy' place. However, as my writing has transitioned from a hobby, to an identity, to a career, I am developing into more of an outliner. The expectations of me require that I give summaries and even synopsis before a project is completed, so there is no option for me to free-write start to finish. I am, however, very happy with the experience so far. I'm learning a lot and growing and beyond wanting to write great books, learning and growing should be one of our top priorities as a writer. Perhaps the day will come where everything I write is brilliant and I can tell anyone who wants a summary of book not yet written to go to the devil and they will scurry away like mice, but that day hasn't come and if I ever want it to, I need to learn the skills that will take me there.

So, which side of the fence are you on, or like me, are your arms out to help maintain your balance between the two.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Next PEG Workshop: Indie Publishing (November 16, 2013)

Have you thought about Indie Publishing but don't know if your manuscript is ready? Or maybe you are a traditionally published author with a couple of niche projects sitting around, yet don't want the label of "self-published"? PEG is hosting the Indie Publishing Workshop to teach you how to build your professional indie team for editing, design, cover, ebook distribution and marketing, so that you are presenting a professional and competitive product.

We will be posting any updated on our PEG Workshop blog.

Workshop topics:
*The Hybrid Author: Pro's and Con's of Traditional Publishing vs Indie Publishing
*Stages of editing needed for a professional product
*Building Your Team & Managing the Money
*Author branding and platform
*Marketing, Pricing & Categorizing ebooks (or How to Hit Top 100 categories)


November 16, 2013
American Fork Library
64 South 100 East, American Fork, UT
Doors open: 10:00 a.m.
Workshop: 10:30 a.m. -- 4:30 p.m.

Includes one hour lunch break, lunch on your own

Registration deadline: November 13th

**Limited Space**

Payments to: www.paypal.com
Pay $45.00 to PayPal account: editor@precisioneditinggroup.com
**include "PEG Workshop" in the notes
**include your email address in the notes if different from your paypal address
(you don't need a PayPal account to do this)

Instructors include best-selling indie published authors:

Rachel Ann Nunes Rachel has been a bestselling author in the traditional market for many years, and she's also independently re-released older titles such as Bridge to Forever and This Time Forever, as well as helping other authors do the same.




Heather Horrocks Heather is the bestselling indie author of romantic comedies and cozy mysteries. With over 10 bestselling publications, Heather's latest release is Kissing Santa.


Rachael Anderson Rachael has been a bestseller on Amazon for over a year with her popular contemporary romances, including The Reluctant Bachelorette, Working It Out, and the All I Want anthology.

Heather B. Moore Heather indie publishes the popular Timeless Romance Anthology series, the Aliso Creek Novella series, and the historical romance, Heart of the Ocean.



Lu Ann Staheli Lu Ann has indie published award-winning Middle Grade, YA, and upcoming non-fiction. Recent titles include Just Like Elizabeth Taylor, Tides Across the Sea, and A Note Worth Taking.