Sunday, September 30, 2012


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhiteTwitterific is a compilation of all the writing links I shared the previous week.

The links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 18,000 free articles on writing-related topics. Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.

Try “My WKB”--a way for you to list and sort articles, view your read articles, and see your search history. Read more about it here: The free My WKB page is here:

Have a great week!

Bad Habits of Good Writers (Beyond Coffee): @TheresaStevens @Porter_Anderson

Examples of childhood memories as plot elements in crime fiction: @mkinberg

Why writing with a book deal is a whole different game: @internspills

3 Tips for Writing When Life is Chaotic and Crazy: @jodyhedlund

"Mirror scenes" and how to avoid them: @juliettewade

Self-Publishing Basics: Where to Publish: @susankayequinn

The challenge of discoverabilty in a flooded ebook market (DBW con report): @Porter_Anderson @richfahle @rickjoyce @clintonk

A Writer's Reasons For Falling In Love: @mooderino

What You Need To Know About Writing Video Games: @booklifenow

When to Hire a Freelance Editor: @womenwriters

Characterization Skills and Sources:

Alcohol and the Creative Process: @sianbeilock

6 tips for successful networking: @rachellegardner

It's Not Just about the Writing: @4YALit

Writing Mistake: Are Your Characters Invincible? @ava_jae

Ch. 1 Analyses: @mooderino

Creative Power Tool: Words: @diymfa

How To Create A Writing Schedule That Works For You: @authormedia

Full-service publishers are rethinking what they can offer: @passivevoiceblg

7 Freelance Writing Scams and How to Fight Them: @victoriastrauss @patrickicasas

7 Steps to Get Your Groove Back When You've Lost Your Writing Rhythm: @originalimpulse

Watching out for the "wrong" emotion in a secondary world: @juliettewade

7 More Ways to Prepare for NaNoWriMo: @PYOEbooks

Automated grammar programs: @TheresaStevens

The Sensual Writer - Sight:

10 Tips for Getting a Staff Writing Job: @writing_tips

How not to get an agent:

25 Apps to Help You Hack Productivity: @lifehackorg

Phases of editing during book production: @bigblackcat97

Juicing (fraud in book reviewing):

Sidekicks do NOT need their own stupid sidekicks: @speechwriterguy

10 Most Epic Love Stories in All of Science Fiction: @i09

Make your stress work for you: @rachellegardner

A writer vows never to read a 5-star ebook again: @BarrBielinski

5 Creepy Social Media Marketing Tactics: @KristenLambTX

Keeping Characters True to Themselves: @stdennard @4YALit

Social Media Will Not Sell Your Book: @hilarydavidson

15 grammatical errors to avoid: @bubblecow

What moves you to write?

The Influence Of History On Epic Fantasy: @fantasybookcrit

How to Overcome Distractions: @lifehackorg

Write big or go home: @4YALit @nikkiloftin

Create your own writing retreat:

History as Mystery: @livewritethrive

How to Become A Literary Agent in 2 Easy Steps: @mandyhubbard

Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV: @JillElizNelson

3 Free Photo Tools for Author Bloggers: @jfbookman

Elements of Fantasy: Zombies: @fantasyfaction

Using religion to add depth to your fiction:

"Setting" the Stage for Storytelling: @novelrocket

A writer talks about his experience dealing with depression: @chrisbrogan

Changing senses: @emergentpublish

Working with Startups: 5 Tips for Publishers: @pubperspectives

Using hooks for your scene breaks: @KMWeiland

Places for finding character names: @karencv

Why Amazon Must Light a Fire Under the Kindle Fire: @passivevoiceblg

Subjects you might have avoided in school that could be useful to your writing now: @BTMargins @gripemaster

How to Write a Short Story No One Else Can Write: @d_lazarin @joebunting

Character Development: Exploiting Weaknesses: @ava_jae

The 5 Key Personality Traits of Successful Indie Authors: @duolit

Ebook Formatting - The Easy Way: @susankayequinn

Step by Step Guide to Building an Ebook with Calibre: @howtowriteshop

How to Keep The Reader Hooked: The Dan Brown Secret: @yeomanis

3 Reasons Why Coercing Readers Into Newsletter Subscriptions Is a Bad Idea: @roniloren

The Writing Life: The point of the long and winding sentence: @LATimes

Animating Songwriting: Making Music That Moves: @usasong

Can Our Social Media Behaviors Destroy Our Social Environment? @kristenlambTX

Screenwriting--there's no right way to write: @gits

Email accounts for your identity as a writer: @kit_lit

How caffeine affects your creativity: @tannerc

Thoughts and Tips for Writing About Sex: @wickerkat

Would You Let Readers Watch as You Write Your Book? @galleycat

Should you write with a collaborator? @nickdaws

Does Publishing A Novel Change Your Life? @NicholeBernier

Horror--the era of the found footage horror film:

A Writing Taboo: Never Begin Your Story With Weather: @woodwardkaren

Why Creativity Blocks Happen (and How to Overcome Them): @lifehacker

How to speak publisher: E is for editor: @annerooney

Pros and cons of pen names: @deanwesleysmith

James Bond and the Perils of Product Placement: @davidgaughran

The elements of a successful pitch: @novelrocket

10 non-writing-related ways to become a better writer: @rachellegardner

10 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Fight Settings: @lbgale

What to Do When People Don't Get Your Story: @jodyhedlund

How to Show (Not Tell) Paranoia, Hope, and Other Moods: @joebunting

Explaining your story's world… and avoiding exposition: @dirtywhitecandy

Use Setting and Background to Meet Reader Expectations: @beth_barany

Ebook Formatting - The Hard Way: @susankayequinn

6 Essential Tips for Getting Your Guest Posts Accepted:

Horror in video games:

Konrath's Self-Pub Sales Report: @jakonrath

The Death Of Genre: Drifting Toward A Post-Genre Future: @chuckwendig

The business-savvy writer has a good offense: @kristinerusch

How Many Spaces After a Period? @writersdigest

Using folklore to create a story: @genelempp

TMI Sentences: @aliciarasley

Writing Tip: Action! @threekingsbooks

Have writer's block? Try something different: @emergentpublish

Should You Use A Pen Name? @woodwardkaren

Ethical Roulette: @JAKonrath

6 Necessities for Your Blogged Book: @ninaamir

How One Writer's Social Hestitations Led to Something Great: @khaledcallen

Advice on Writing Mentors:

How to write comics: agreements and collaboration: @79SemiFinalist

Serialising a novel--what to do when the show is over: @dirtywhitecandy

5 Things to Consider During Revisions:

Every Writer Needs a Bio: @novelrocket

Engaging Readers Using Social Commentary in Ebooks: @ddscottromcom

Intellectual Property Considerations for Writers: @thecreativepenn

Are You Making These 7 Book Marketing Mistakes? @JFBookman

10 Inspirational Disabled Characters From Sci-Fi And Fantasy: @sfxmagazine

How to Take on Writer's Block like a Pro: @emilywenstrom

How to Choose When to Use Dialogue (and What Kind) in Your Fiction and Nonfiction:

What's the best way to cover a speech? @michellerafter

Are "sock puppets" really that bad for the book business? @paidcontent

There's no right way to write: @gits

Less Distractions, More Writing:

Applying Picture Book Wisdom to Longer Fiction: @annastanisz

4 tips for writing your personal story: @rachellegardner

Self-Publishing Basics - Publishing to iTunes: @susankayequinn

Why Write Blog Posts Consistently? @ava_jae

5 Tips To Help Improve Your Story's Pacing:

Dominate Your Personal Brand On Google With This 14 Point Checklist:

10 Best Closing Lines Of Novels: @xymarla

Writers Be-Wary: Electronic Distribution and Control of Creative Material: @victoriastrauss

Writing in a child's voice: @SW_Messenger @angelaackerman

A legal blog for writers--publishing law and copyright counsel: @SheilaJLevine

When Do Writers Need Multiple Blogs? @kristenlambTX

An editor reviews common manuscript issues she comes across: @behlerpublish

YA readers tell authors what they like to read:

30 Synonyms for "Meeting": @writing_tips

The 11 Biggest Lies Ever Told By Favorite Heroes and Villains: @i09

Is Your Work Day Filled With Unwanted Obligation or a Burning Desire to Improve? @danblank

Novelists Seek Help Fighting Internet Addiction: @_thefix

What Should Indie Publishers Be Called? @deanwesleysmith

A closer look at new commercial models for publishing: @MikeShatzkin @Porter_Anderson

10 Excuses for Not Writing - and How to Smash Them: @KMWeiland

Fantasy Influences: Ancient Greek Mythology: @fantasyfaction

Thoughts on chapter breaks:

The Writer's Block Myth: @kkuseklewis

Chart a course to your dream: @sarahahoyt

Entries in the character trait thesaurus: just-- and modest-- @angelaackerman

Conflict is Key: @heidiwriter

5 Sentences That Should Save the Best Until Last: @writing_tips

Friday, September 28, 2012

Organizing a Book and a Time-Saving Technique for Editing

Everybody has a method for organizing a book.  It’s important to stick with whatever works for you. 

For me, the most important thing about organizing a book is that it’s got to be easy.  It can’t be time-consuming.  Because it would be incredibly tempting to sink your writing time into making the perfect, tabbed notebook with color-coded sections.  Believe me, I’d be totally pulled into that kind of time suck. 

I haven’t talked about my own method for organizing a book (and it’s pretty basic) for a while, so I thought I’d share it here. It does help me to work through a draft pretty quickly…and the edits, too.

I just finished writing a first draft. So, to help me keep all my documents straight, I have a folder in Word with the working title of the manuscript. Inside that folder, I have a character sheet with character names (full names) and short descriptions. I fill this out as I go so that I don’t have to look back in my document to try to remember character details (I have a lousy memory…)

Sometimes I’m writing on the go, so there will be scraps of paper in places like my car, my purse, etc.  Or I’ll wake up with an idea and scrawl an unintelligible note on some paper on my bedside table.

What I’ve learned I have to do, though, is to gather those papers together at the end of the day.  If one of the ideas is for later in the story, then I type it into an ideas document in the WiP’s folder on Word.  If it’s something related to my current spot in the story, then I add it in.

Keeping tabs on these scraps is important—frequently the ideas that suddenly hit me are better than the ones that I sit down and decide to have.  A few times I’ve finished a book, emailed the manuscript to my editor, and found a scrap of paper later that had a really cool twist on it.  Oh well!

I've seen other writers use different methods.  Some swear by Post-Its on a bulletin board/story board.  Some write everything in a spiral notebook, then they type it all onto the computer later. Another  way to organize a book is to use an online program designed specifically for writers. My friend, Mike Fleming’s, Hiveword, for example.  It sure makes it easier to find all the different components of your book. And helps avoid the sloppiness of Post-Its.

On to editing.

One thing that really helps me speed through a draft is the fact that  I don’t edit as I go…although I know plenty of writers who do, and it works well for them.

I, on the other hand, become a disaster when I edit as I go.  It messes up my creative flow by making me use a different part of my brain.  When my editor hat is on, I feel like my manuscript is a broken mess.  It might be, but it’s all fixable.  This is something that I don’t need to worry over while I’m drafting.

I do one time-saving thing that helps me organize my to-do list for editing the next draft.
I notice problems as I go.  I’ll either jot down a note on a separate document to remind myself to address it later, or make a comment to myself in Track Changes on Word.

If I stop to fix the problem, it just pulls me right out of the story. 

I’ll also have a document with extra bits of dialogue and ideas to be worked in later…or discarded.
And I have my list of things to edit after the first draft is done.  For mine now, the list is stuff that only I would understand:

Add Corrine’s reward
Short updates from Myrtle in the newspaper
Elaine’s photography
Freeze the ham.

So…you get the idea. I’m not writing a huge explanation when I jot these notes down. These are just brief reminders to help me remember things I need to add or adjust so that there won’t be continuity errors or plot holes.

That’s really it.  Simple stuff, but it helps me move quickly through drafting a manuscript and editing it.  How do you organize your writing and editing?

Image: Patricia Fortes, Morgue Files

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Save the Cat

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
Save the Cat--Blake SnyderI’ve been hearing about the book Save the Cat by Blake Snyder for a long time.  Probably the last few years, actually.

It was one of those things where I kept meaning to buy it, kept hearing about it, but I didn’t have a direct buy-link to the book.  (So…if you’re like me, here you are: Save the Cat Kindle, Save the Cat Nook, Save the Cat print.)

It’s a helpful book.  I can definitely see what all the hoopla is about.  It’s written by a screenwriter for screenwriters—but the methods are applicable for novelists.

I think another reason I resisted buying this book is because I have my writing method fairly well-developed for my series.  I know how I structure a traditional mystery. 

The book does offer help for structuring a novel.  But the thing I found the most helpful was a very short section where Blake Snyder actually brought up the “save the cat” approach that the title alludes to.

Snyder said that it was incredibly important for your audience (he, naturally, means filmgoers, but it works for readers) to like or at least pull for your protagonist.  He casually mentions the importance of making your protagonist do something likeable in one of the first scenes of your film/novel.

This sounds incredibly simple (and is incredibly simple), but I’d never thought of it in such a concrete or deliberate way before.

One of my series, the Myrtle Clover mysteries, has a…well, let’s call Myrtle difficult.  She’s a difficult octogenarian sleuth.  I love Myrtle.  Many readers love Myrtle and write to me about Myrtle and ask me when the next Myrtle book is coming out.

Some readers think Myrtle should be locked in a retirement home and have the key thrown away. They don’t hesitate to let me know this in the reviews.  :)

So…you love her or you hate her.  I understand this.  There are people I know who are similar to Myrtle.

But you want readers to at least pull for your character.  You don’t want them to give up on your book.  So,  Snyder’s advice is to throw in a scene that displays the protagonist in a good light….early

So, when readers are trying to decide if they want to invest their hard-earned free time with your character for the next few days or week, we’re giving them a reason to stick with them.

Before reading this book, I’d definitely thrown in a scene or two with a softer Myrtle at some point in the mystery. But usually it wasn’t near the start of the story.

Myrtle will continue being difficult, past her Save-the-Cat scene.  But I’ll be interested in seeing if she has more converts with this approach. 

How do you soften your difficult characters?  Have you read Save the Cat?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Discovering What Deights--Reader Feedback

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Photo by AcrylicArtist
Sometimes it takes other people to point out something special.

My daughter recently had a friend over, and I was making the girls some snacks.  Our kitchen adjoins an eating area with a bay window that overlooks our backyard.

We have six bird feeders that we keep filled.  One, a hummingbird feeder, attaches to the bay window and provides endless entertainment for our cats.  The hummingbirds are fun to watch--feisty, fast, voracious.  The cats forget the screens are in and try to catch them, leaping at the screens with paws outstretched.  We see the birds from early April through October before they fly off to Mexico for the winter.

Much as they entertain us, after a while, they do fade to the background...just like the rest of the backyard. Basically, they become just an attractive wallpaper. 

They weren't wallpaper for my daughter's friend.

I was shaking popcorn into bowls when the little girl gasped.  "Mrs. Craig! Mrs. Craig!" she ran over to me, wide-eyed with excitement. She grabbed my arm.  "Look!"

I figured there must be a large snake outside, so I didn't even glance in the direction of the feeder.  "No, look!" she said, pointing to the hummingbirds.

Through her eyes, I saw the wonder of the amazing little creatures again. 

Of course I told her how glad I was she thought they were special.  I explained what they were and gave a little information about hummingbirds.  She avidly watched them for a long while.

Sometimes we lose perspective with our stories, too.  The plot and the characters become wallpaper to us.  We know we need an extra set of eyes to find the problems with our book--the plot holes, the echoes of repeated words, the loose ends we forget to tie up.

But it's just as important to have that extra set of eyes to find what's right with our story--what's special.  A turn of phrase, a genuine character, a well-drawn villain. The hours of editing can make us lose perspective on the good parts, too.  We need to know what works so that we can provide more of it.

What are the hummingbirds in your story?

Sunday, September 23, 2012


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific is a compilation of all the writing links I shared the previous week.

The links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 18,000 free articles on writing-related topics. Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.

Try “My WKB”--a way for you to list and sort articles, view your read articles, and see your search history. Read more about it here: The free My WKB page is here:

Have a great week!

7 Rules of Picking Names for Fictional Characters:

Resist Giving Characters A Helping Hand:

5 Ways You're Preventing Readers From Suspending Disbelief:

Pacing for Power--Increasing Tension & Suspense:

An Author’s 3rd Option: The Rogue Reader: @Porter_Anderson

Rejection vs. failure: @AimeeLSalter

The Practice of Writing:

Should You Preschedule Tweets?

Why wasting time helps you stay sane and productive:

5 lessons about the writing community:

How Having Kids Can Change Your Reading Life:

How to Create Conflict in a One Character Scene:

Writing lessons learned from "Where it Began":

"Sparkle", From Movie to Book: @MyBrownBaby

Should You Sell Books from Your Author Website?

How To Make Writing A Habit Using Rituals:

Heightening emotional impact:

Staying Balanced in the Confusing Modern Publishing Industry:

4 Lessons Authors Can Learn from Obama's Fake Twitter Followers:

Top 10 WordPress Security Myths:

One Simple and Incredibly Painful Way to Fix Your Novel Draft:

How To Read Amazon Review Graphs:

7 Questions Every Story Critique Should Answer:

How to Use Brainstorming to Edit:

Are Amazon reader reviews killing off the critic?

Why Kindle Direct Publishing Will Transform Indian Self-Publishing: @VinuthaMallya

How to Find Your Character's Voice:

7 Essential Elements of Scene + Scene Structure Exercise:

Keeping Characters True to Themselves: @4YALit

10 Creative Writing Ideas for Teens:

Make your bookshelf searchable by taking a picture with Evernote:

What good dialogue should accomplish:

5 Things You DON'T Need to Become a Successful Freelance Writer:

Finding Your Novel's Theme and Your Universal Theme:

A 5-Step Plan to Improve Every Blog Post You Write: @aliventures

Whose Story is This Anyway? @querytracker

The Art of Subtlety in Fiction:

The DNA of a successful ebook:

A look at character development arcs:

A writer shares what's she's learned so far: @janice_hardy

Five Creepy Social Media Marketing Tactics:

How to Read Your Writing in Public:

A Refresher Course On Sentence Types:

Competing Goals in Our Story:

What to Put Above the Fold on Your Blog, And Why:

What to include on your freelance writing resume:

Being a Pro: One Often Overlooked Issue:

3 Fiction Tips from Stephanie Vaughn's "Dog Heaven":

A closer look at the Amazon review bar graph:

The Good, The Bad, and The Sadly Deluded: Actors Who Write:

Fake market or not? How to tell:

12 Writing Prompts/Situations:

Keeping Up with Your Blog for the Long Haul:

The Editorial Process, Step by Step:

Identifying your genre: @museinks

Ebooks For Libraries: @JAKonrath

A Warning To All Writers Who Need Help Indie Publishing:

What the Romance Genre Can Teach Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers: @lbgale

Should you always list writing credits in your cover letter?

5 Dialogue Basics: @marcykennedy

How To Enjoy Critical Reviews of Your Own Work:

How to Prepare For a Book Launch:

How do authors benefit from agents:

5 Questions Indie Authors Should Always Ask An Agent:

The 6 Magic Words That Always Get Clicks:

Tips for 1st time ebook writers:

Author Solutions' Misleading PR Strategies:

Classic Female Fantasy Writers:

From last resort to new career--how 1 writer self-published:

What's so funny? Humor in nonfiction writing:

Writing Through a Rough Patch of Life:

The Myth of Giving Away 15% Ownership in Your Work:

The Publishing Process in GIF Form:

Writing: Why Your Third Grade Teacher Was Wrong:

5 tips for creating self-pub success:

When Should You Write Full-Time? @highervis

How Clich├ęs Can Help You Create Great Characters:

How to build a readership for your blog and books:

Using Screenplay Techniques in Novel-Writing:

Writing secret: all you need is curiosity and surprise:

Lessons from a Copywriter for Better Fiction:

How (Not) to Be a Brilliant Writer:

The Tools Needed to Make a Living as a Writer:

How to Edit Your Book in 4 Steps:

Self-Publishing and The Midlist:

Narcotics in Science Fiction & Fantasy:

Advice from Mark Twain on the Art and Craft of Writing:

Use Character Quirks to Grab Readers' Attention:

How to Focus Your Blog or Blogged Book on a Topic:

How to avoid negativity online:

How To Work On More Than One Book At A Time:

Ideas to rethink during this digital revolution:

Getting lost in historical fiction:

Where Genres Come From and How to Stitch Them Together:

Against Acknowledgments:

Maturity–The Difference Between the Amateur and the Professional: @kristenlambTX

Social Media Will Not Sell Your Book:

The Last Word: 9 Famous Authors' Epitaphs:

Top 10 Reasons People Use To Justify Pirating Digital Content (And Why They're Wrong): @robwhart

The Square-One Story Killer: @storyfix

5 Lessons Learned From Writing 3 Novels:

Tips for successful book marketing:

Meet Mr Fifty Shades: EL James's husband speaks out:

How Affordable Color POD Could Change the Comics Industry:

KDP freebies--a look at the numbers: @dvinjamuri

Indie Authors: Your Copyright Page Needs Work:

Why genre fiction is an e-reader's best friend:

Charge Your Writing Batteries: @noveleditor

Falling in love with fictional characters--a reader's tribute to "Eloise": @junglereds

25 Synonyms for "Delete":

Genre Blending: @fantasyfaction

Top 3 Reasons to Give Away Your Book:

Tips for creating complex villains:

15 grammatical errors to avoid:

Outlining Backwards:

How to Slam Dunk Your 90-Second Pitch:

How To Protect Your Writing Time:

3 Writing Commandments:

Tips for combatting paid reviews:

Amazon in the UK: Worries About Waterstones: @Porter_Anderson

7 tips for keeping your motivation as a writer:

3 ways to end your book...that you should reconsider:

Writing the Perfect Pitch:

An apostrophe review:

Ways to Become an Insecure Writer:

5 Smarter Habits of Great Writers:

Beat the Bestsellers--the Other Way to the Top:

Writing in a second language:

Re-releasing print books as ebooks:

An important quality of a charismatic male character:

A review of commas, dashes, and colons:

99 Ways to Tell a Story: @sophie_novak

Agency Pricing in Europe? No. @PublishersLunch

Selling Literary Fiction: @tglong

Making the Most of Writers' Conferences:

The perils of paid-for reviews:

The elephant in the writing room:

Overcoming Writing Challenges:

Approaching Top Reviewers on Amazon: @Porter_Anderson

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beat the Bestsellers - The Other Way to the Top—Guest Post by Nick Thacker

by Nick Thacker @NickThacker

nickthackerIf you're like any other author (or person, for that matter), you probably hold a book with the words "New York Times Bestselling Author" on it in much higher esteem than others. Authors, for as long as "The Lists" have been out, have tried to find the "magic bullet" method of getting their book placed side-by-side with the likes of Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling, and Robert Ludlum. Their reasoning, while implausible, is sound: "if my book can get on that list, I'll be set. I won't have to work another day in my life!" clip_image001Ok, well maybe it's not that extreme, but it's not too far off. Heck, I tend to daydream about landing a huge publishing deal that'll send me a half-million-dollar advance, and a spot beside the next in the Bourne saga. But truthfully, my expectations--and yours, if you're a writer--should be a little lower.

It's a well-known fact that the bestseller lists (NYT, Book Review; pick one) are just proprietary algorithms that would make Google proud, that select and churn out "bestsellers" left and right--sometimes before the book even hits the shelves.

It's even been rumored that these lists are contrived forms of propaganda intended to keep the "establishment media" agencies ahead of the game.

Big-name authors like the aforementioned reap some of the benefits of being on these lists, no doubt (as do the publishing companies that push them!). But the bottom line for the rest of us new or even mid-list authors is that we don't have the choice to get to The Lists. We can try--by writing more and better and for longer periods of time--but there's never a guarantee. Success at that level is at best as elusive as it is esteemed.

No, we humble wordsmiths are resigned to the closets of our one-bedroom apartments in the suburbs, wrenching and prying out words that might never be read by anyone other than our devoted spouses and fan (yes, that's singular...). It's easier to complain, blaming the system and politicians and publishing companies and agents and...

There is another way.

Yes, that's right. There's another way to "the top." While it isn't via "traditional" channels like landing on a well-respected list or having a daytime spot on Oprah, but it's a just as--or perhaps more--satisfying way to achieve success in the scary world of books: making a ton of money and attracting a bunch of new readers without the strings, constraints, and conditions of big publishing.

"Self-publishing" may still have a bit of a stigma, but it seems as though more and more, authors are expected to market themselves; either putting up the money for an advertising firm, or by going it alone. There's simply not as much money in the industry as there used to be (or, at least, it's not allocated the same way...).

Sure enough, authors--published or not--are finding new and untested ways to market, promote, and sell their books. Mailing lists, social networking, and special Kindle shenanigans come to mind, and all of these are great ways to market your stuff after it's written.

And that's just it -- the "new" method for long-term success in this world has little to do with "after the fact" marketing.

It's about writing more books.

Specifically, it's about publishing (however you want to define the word) more books.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and I can vouch for it. Over the past few months, I've studied just about every marketing tactic, promotional strategy, and book-selling trick known to the self-publishing world. Some worked, some didn't, but I discovered a truth that authors like J.A. Konrath and others have been preaching for awhile:

The more books you have available to be purchased, the more you will sell.

The problem facing any author is the delicate balance between "finishing" a book so that it's polished, edited, and basically perfect (which is probably impossible anyway), and just getting it out to market, flaws and all.

Since no one wants to embarrass themselves with a shoddy product, authors tend to lean toward the "waiting" side of things. But there really is another way:

I'm a big proponent of the "lean startup" method of launching a product, app, or business, and I've applied the approach to my books. Here is my process that's worked to provide me with a modest yet growing monthly income stream:

1. Write a lot of stuff.

I say "stuff" here because you don't have to publish super-long books on Amazon -- I have a line of "Dead-Simple Guides" that I market as "articles," even though they're on the longer side of that definition (around 10,000-20,000 words). I also have a manifesto, a couple full-length nonfiction books, and some guides.

The whole point is that I am constantly writing -- and publishing. It's building a backlist, sure, but it's also building a craft around what I like to write. However, none of this would be possible without the next steps...

2. Have a "pre-reading" plan in place.

I've started blogging and building a mailing list of possible readers that I "tap" whenever I'm about to release something -- I can send them a free copy of the book if they're willing to read through it and let me know what they think. This saves me from hiring a professional editor for everything I write (I still go with an editor for the longer stuff).

These beta readers vet out the typos, continuity errors, and generally anything they don't like -- allowing me to rewrite knowing that it'll be much better afterwards.

3. Shoot for digital first.

Digital is fast, immediately trackable, and adaptable. I don't want to wait around for an editor to find every single thing that's wrong with the book -- I can instead let the beta readers tear it up, rewrite it a few times, publish it, and make more minute changes as we go forward. If a particular book does really well one month, I might think about offering a special print version or something, but not usually from the very beginning.

This process is different, and it's not what a "major" house would probably recommend. But by doing it this way, I'm working to be a bestseller in a handful of sub-sub-sub-sub-categories, not the overall Nonfiction or Fiction categories. I don't expect to sell 10,000 copies of anything in the first week of a launch, and that's not the goal. The goal is to completely own a few of these smaller niche categories over time.

The process works because it's so much faster the "old" way.

Yes, you have to type fast and think fast and publish fast, but it's really not that bad. In fact, I can't imagine waiting a year or more to go from finished manuscript to print -- I usually go from concept to storefront in a little over a month -- and I'm working on numerous projects at once.

You can "beat" the bestsellers by doing it this way, but you have to make the commitment to building trust with some readers over time, and consistently provide them with something to read. I believe most people would prefer to read a full-length novel and a few shorts from a favorite author, putting up with the minor typo or error every now and then (that will eventually get fixed anyway), than wait for a typo-less, full-length novel only every year.

Get it? The point isn't to ignore mistakes and publish for the sake of making money -- it's to publish enough stuff that you're staying in front of people so they can't forget you, offering better and better stuff as the relationship grows.

As small business owners, our benefit is speed. Use it to your advantage, and you'll "win" this publishing game.

Welcome Home

Nick Thacker writes about writing, blogging, and publishing, and you can check him out on his blog. Be sure to grab his new book, Welcome Home: The Author’s Guide to Building A Marketing Home Base, and grab the newsletter!