Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Category: Adventures in Self-Publishing (Page 1 of 2)

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What You Need to Know About Instagram Stories

Today’s post is a bit different…

Instead of doing my usual, I’m going to look at a new tool we authors (and anyone) can use for marketing. It’s an expansion of one of the current marketing tools: Instagram.

Instagram is one of the hottest social media platforms, one used by more than 400 million people! With 60% of users logging onto Instagram daily, it’s a platform that guarantees a wide reach. Instagram–like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms–can be used to promote just about anything: products, services, events, and the list goes on. If you know how to use it correctly, it can be one of the most effective tools in your arsenal.

Now, Instagram has launched a new product that may make it an even more valuable tool. That’s right, we’re talking about Instagram Stories!

What is Instagram Stories?

Instagram “Stories” is a feature that allows Instagram users the ability to share updates–as many as you want. Instagram will stitch multiple photos and videos into a single slideshow. That “Story” is available for exactly 24 hours after sharing them.

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Instagram Stories vs. Snapchat

If Instagram Stories sounds so familiar, it’s because it’s pretty much exactly what Snapchat offers! It’s the same “disappearing content” model, one that promotes greater sharing among users.

The reason it’s so familiar is due to Snapchat’s success. Unlike the eternally available content on Instagram, Snapchat’s content disappears after a short amount of time once opened. This makes it easier for users to share all manner of content, secure in the knowledge that it will be erased from their history.

So why is Instagram Stories the better option? Well, if you look at Snapchat, you’ll find that it’s fairly limited. It can only access other Snapchat accounts, and it has no access to outside social media websites. You can’t post content from your Snapchat to your Facebook or Twitter, or vice versa.

But with Instagram, all of the platforms are integrated. Content from Instagram can be seamlessly posted to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other social media sites, and content from social media can be shared to Instagram easily. For people who share content across multiple media platforms, Instagram is the smarter of the two options. The fact that it’s as easy as clicking one button to share everything is one of the major perks of Instagram–and now Instagram Stories.

Another benefit of Instagram Stories is the fact that the app itself has been around for longer. While Snapchat has only become popular in the last couple of years, Instagram has been going strong since 2010. The year after being purchased by Facebook in 2012, it grew by a staggering 23%!

For those who use social media as a marketing/publicity tool, it’s very likely that your Instagram following is significantly larger than your Snapchat following. Most people are accustomed to regular interaction with their followers on Instagram, and their followers tend to be in all age ranges. Snapchat, on the other hand, is one of those apps used primarily by teenagers and young adults, so the audience reached is much younger.

Combine the wider audience range with the comfortable, familiar platform and greater interaction between social media platforms, and you can understand why Instagram is the better option. While Snapchat will remain a trendy app among the youth, the truth is that Instagram may have just taken over the Snapchat “sweet spot” by adding the Stories feature.

How You Can Use Instagram Stories

For years, you’ve been leveraging your social media accounts to promote events or book launches, so how can this latest Instagram update work in your favor?

The answer is simple: FOMO.

FOMO means “fear of missing out”, and it’s a fear that social media has only helped to increase! More and more, people are jumping on new bandwagons (apps, services, products) even if they don’t need them, simply because they see so many other people using them. They participate out of fear that they are missing out on something awesome. After all, if so many other people are doing it, it has to be great, right?

All of the content posted to Instagram Stories is ephemeral, and it will fade away after just 24 hours. Once the content is posted, people have a limited time to view it, else miss out altogether. This means they are far more likely to follow your content more closely just to be 100% certain they consume it before it disappears.

Let’s put feet to this concept:

You have an event (for example, my Lament of the Fallen Book Launch Party) coming up, but you want to add an element of “exclusivity” to it. All you have to do is post to your Facebook, Twitter, etc. a message saying, “Watch out for a Story with all the information you need to join the event”. If ONLY those who view your Story are able to attend, it will be a way to create that exclusive feel to your event. Plus, it will help to drive more people to your social media accounts, leading to growth in your audience and better engagement.

Another excellent use of Instagram Stories is to share content of your event AS IT’S HAPPENING. Seeing as the content will only be available for 24 hours after it’s uploaded, people who want to avoid “fear of missing out” will stay glued to your Instagram feed to find out what’s going on. When they see just how much fun your event was, they’ll be much more engaged the next time you host an event.

The more people want to stay abreast of your disappearing content, the more they will access Instagram. This leads to better engagement with your audience, and greater visibility for your content. Even if there are no Stories to see, the followers will be on Instagram and thus have a better chance of seeing the content you are posting.

 

And yes, I WILL be posting a Story on the 18th, with exclusive content available ONLY to those who see it for the 24 hours it will be live. Definitely not something you want to miss out on…

A Handy Guide to Self-Publishing

If you are a n00b in the world of publishing and self-publishing, have I got a treat for you!

At the beginning of the year, I had just finished writing my first novel, In the Days. It was sitting on my computer, all shiny and read to go somewhere. A friend of mine recommended that I self-publish it, which meant…what?

As a total newbie, I had no idea what to do to self-publish my work. I’m a writer, plain and simple. All of the other aspects of publishing a book beyond typing it out was–and still is–a bit beyond me.

I turned to the one thing that has rarely let me down: my good friend Google. Typing in “how to self-publish a novel” led me to all kinds of interesting resources, particularly a book called Let’s Get Digital.

Published by David Gaughran, this book is stuffed with pretty much everything you’ll need to know to self-publish your own book. You’ll find that it’s got a TON of valuable information, and it will basically walk you through the process of writing, editing, and publishing your book.

Here’s some of the stuff you’ll find in the e-book, which is totally free on David Gaughran’s website:

  • Why you should self-publish (Hint: The royalties are much higher if you can get your book to sell)
  • How to produce a professional-looking manuscript
  • How to format the book so it can be uploaded to Amazon and the other online book retailers
  • How to set up your own blog or website to start getting your name out there
  • How to figure out the price for your book
  • The importance of finding an editor and beta readers(a term I had never heard before)
  • Why it’s so essential to have a professionally designed book cover (thank you Marie Story for mine!)
  • How social networks and online networking can help you sell more books, meet more people, and expand your author base

Basically, it’s an ABC of self-publishing, and it was supremely helpful to get me started. Sure, there’s a lot more you’ll need to learn, but it’s definitely going to help any new author figure out what they need to do to get their work “on the line”.

The link above will send you directly to the ebook, and there’s another link below for your convenience:

http://davidgaughran.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/lets-get-digital-by-david-gaughran-free-pdf-edition.pdf

(Disclaimer: I’m in no way affiliated with David Gaughran, and am not receiving any compensation for this post. It’s just so darn useful I had to share it with everyone.)

 

What My Life Looks Like These Days

Things are pretty hectic for me, and they look to stay that way for the foreseeable future. It’s both awesome and awful.

A quick summation of the last few months:

In the Days launched on Amazon near the end of May. It has performed about as well as could be expected considering it’s my first work.

– I attended my very first Comic Con in Anaheim, and had a blast. Turns out I’m pretty darn great at selling comic books, especially if they’re the high quality books Rothic and Co produce.

– Clients have come and gone, and the freelance writing work  has been a bit unstable. That is the way of things, but it’s always very unnerving for me. I prefer to have a much more reliable, predictable income, as I need my routines.

It has been a busy year so far, and things are only going to get busier.

Here’s what the next few months are going to look like for me:

The Hunter: Blade of the Destroyer is the new work in progress, and I’m working on it as quickly as I can. However, I’m going to go about this book a bit differently, including not rushing to finish it. If it doesn’t come out for a few more months, that’s just my way of doing my best to ensure that it is AWESOME when it finally does come out.

For my comics, the future is looking pretty bright. I hope to attend San Diego Comic Con with the Rothic crew, and I have officially been contracted as a writer. Here’s hoping we can get something published before the end of the year!

I have also been contacted by a number of other people interested in comic book/video scripts. No spoilers, but I will definitely keep you updated as things come out.

I’m going to invest more time into reaching out and finding new clients for my freelance writing services. I’d love to spend all of my time writing fiction, but it doesn’t quite pay the bills yet. As soon as it does, I’ll be able to make the transition properly, but for now I’m stuck with the ol’ schnoz on the grindstone.

All this to say, I’m going to fight to keep posting regularly to the blog, social media, and sending emails to friends and family. However, if I’m incommunicado, my sincerest apologies. It’s just tough to fit everything into 16-hour days.

Writing Mistakes: Weakness in Writing

When we write, we tend to put our thoughts on paper in the same way as they come out of our mouths. Unfortunately, this is a terrible habit of which writers need to cure themselves immediately.

How many times in your conversation do you use words such as “like”. “It was, like, so awesome when we went there. We saw, like, a thousand birds who were, like…” and so on.

The words that come out of your mouth may sound fine, but putting them down on paper will make your writing read poorly. It’s time to cure yourself of words that make your writing–and your speech–weak.

Was

This word is evidently the bane of many readers’ existence. It’s called passive voice, and it basically describes things that happened in the past instead of telling them how they are happening NOW.

For example:

Wrong: “Harvard was slammed into the wall by the angry gorilla.”

Right: “The angry gorilla slammed Harvard into the wall.”

The first tells you what happened, but in the past. The second tells you what is happening right now, and paints a picture that you can envision as you read.

DITCH “WAS” FROM YOUR WRITING!

It

Pronouns are often thrown around liberally, and none more so than “it”.

“It” can describe any number of things, from “cheesecake” to “octopus semen”, but how you use “It” is important.

For example:

Wrong: Barbara slid her hand along the bannister. IT was hard and wooden.

Right: Barbara slid her hang along the hard, wooden bannister.

Often you can combine the two clauses into one, simply eliminating “it” and making your writing stronger.

It Was

Bam! Two weaknesses in one! “It was a cold and stormy night…” is the classic way to start a horror tale, but it’s poor writing that shows weakness. This horrible phrase is both passive (was) and a vague use of (it).

Instead, try to start the sentence with something stronger.

Wrong: It was a chilly winter…

Right: A chill hung in the winter air…

Was (Verb)-ing

Using “was (verb)-ing” (example: was fornicating) is weak sauce!

It uses the passive form of past continuous, which in itself is already weaker than the simple past tense.

Wrong: Jane was dancing on Arlo’s grave all night long.

Right: Jane danced a jig on Arlo’s grave all night long.

Had Had

There are almost NO instances when you should be using “had had”. It may crop up once every 200,000 words or so, but try to avoid it even then.

Wrong: William had had enough of Fallow’s ejaculations.

Right: William had grown weary of Fallow’s ejaculations.

Multiple Prepositions

Can you put something “down on” a surface? Sure you can, but wouldn’t it be better to just put it “on” the surface?

Once again, there may be the occasional exception to this very solid rule, but NEVER use two prepositions together.

Wrong: Carly spiked Bob’s head up over the volleyball net.

Right: Carly spiked Bob’s head over the volleyball net.

Redundancies

This is a tough one to deal with, and I’m finding myself having a hard time with it.

Basically, some explanations just aren’t necessary. For example, “he shrugged his shoulders”. What else could be he shrugging? Can you shrug knees, hands, or eyeballs? Doubtful.

Try to avoid explaining things when they’re unnecessary.

Wrong: Janet slipped on a banana peel in the darkness of the night.

Right:  Janet slipped on a banana peel in the darkness.

Multi-Word Verbs

This is a pet peeve of mine, but it’s not one that’s strictly right or wrong. It goes along the line of adverbs, or “Running quickly” when you should be saying “dashed or sprinted”.

Multi-word verbs include winners such as:

  • Cut down
  • Turn down
  • Look after
  • Came up with

All or most phrasal (multi-word) verbs can and should be replaced with single word verbs.

 

Writing Mistakes: The Famous Adverb

A wise man once said:

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” –Stephen King

The adverb modifies your verb. It’s what ensures that you run “quickly”, you smile “happily”, and you roll down the stairs “jokingly”.

Why is the adverb a writing mistake? Well, technically it’s not. It’s actually an important part of speech in many cases, but it may need to be removed from creative writing as much as possible.

Why is this? Let’s take a look at a simple sentence with an adverb in it:

Jane ran quickly through the park.

Nothing wrong with that sentence, right? It implies speed, haste, and moving at high speeds.  But why not try:

Jane (sprinted, dashed, raced, tore, hustled) through the park.

Shorter, less wordy, and actually brings to mind an action.

Verbs are strong words. They convey action or a state of being, but in this case we’re talking action. When you think of the words “sprint”, “dash”, or “race”, you immediately picture a sprinter like Usain Bolt or Maurice Greene tearing down a track.

On the other hand, when you hear the word “run”, you think of a much slower pace, probably closer to jogging than sprinting. Adding “quickly” on the end doesn’t really do much for your mental image, just adds another word to the mix.

And that, dear friends and fellow readers/writers, is why the adverb is a weak word nine times out of ten.

I’m sure that we can all come up with sentences where words ending in “-ly” help to make the writing stronger, and if so, good for you! (Imagine me patting you on the head.) But, for the most part, using adverbs just makes the writing weaker and wordier.

Adverbs are like the “passive voice” of writing–using “Bob was listening” instead of “Bob listened”. There’s something wishy-washy about passive voice (something I’m still learning the hard way), so it’s time to trim it from your writing.

Is it really so hard to eliminate all or most “-ly” adverbs from your writing? Truth be told, it’s not as difficult as you might think.

“Bob raced quickly” is actually just “Bob raced” (using quickly is unnecessary thanks to the word “raced”)

“Wilhelmina Hamburger smiled happily” is actually just “W.H. smiled”

Let’s get a bit more complicated:

“He smiled sadly” could be changed to “His was a sad smile”

“He struck the ground forcefully” could be “He pounded his fist into the hard earth”

And so on, and so forth…

In your writing, cut the fluff as much as you can. Adverbs are fluff in most situation, so use your Wolverine Claws of Editing Might to slice them out!

 

Taking Rejection Like a Man

Today I got my first rejection letter–of sorts.

I had sent a message to an admired member of a forum I frequent, asking her to review my book. Of course, I did it with the hope that she’d honestly like it and have good things to say about my maiden effort. With her “stamp of approval”, the other members on the site might say, “Ah, that looks interesting. If she likes it, it’s probably pretty decent.”

Huzzah me, right?

Unfortunately, this is what she sent me:

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I can’t give it a good review.

There is a lot wrong with it still and a bad review would hurt your blossoming career. I do not want to do that to you. I know how hard you’ve worked.

Might I suggest getting a really good editor to give it a go over? The bones are there they are just buried under some issues that someone with an eye for literary detail can sort out fairly easily.

I’m more than happy to reread it after it has been re-edited either by you or someone with a little more experience in that department. At which point I’d be happy to give an honest review.

Ouch!

I have no idea what mistakes are in my book–whether grammar, punctuation, style, or plot–but I thought I went over it pretty well and did all the editing? Does that mean that my writing itself is the mistake, or did I miss something?

Pretty stinging for the first rejection. Hard to hear from someone like that that my first attempt at being a novelist fell a bit flat.

So how did I handle it? Surprisingly, I handled it pretty well.

Thanks for being honest and telling me that it needs work. I totally understand that it may not be your thing, and that there are parts of it that aren’t as good as they could be.

I’d have to say that I handled this rejection better than I handled the last one–someone telling me that the entire prologue was written in a style that so annoyed them that they couldn’t even read past the first half.

That doesn’t make the rejection any less tough, but I think I’m getting thicker skin. It’s always hard to get that first “No”, but now I have, and I’m ready to move on to the next ones. Here’s hoping that they’re few and far between!

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Writing Mistakes: Silly Slip-Ups

We all make mistakes, but some of them are just plain ridiculous!

Like a part in my novel where I typed “the wound had head” instead of “the wound had healed”. Or where I accidentally wrote about the “top water PIMP supplier” where I should have said “top water PUMP supplier”.

Those little mistakes are so annoyingly hard to spot, but they’re the ones that stand out the most to readers. Here are a few of the more common slip-ups that you’ll find in writing that could stand to be improved:

Too many commas — That, to be certain, is one of my biggest weaknesses in my writing. It’s hard to know when and when not to use commas, even if you’re a professional. Want to avoid this silly mistake? Check out Purdue’s Guide to Commas for even the most punctuation-impaired! Too many is just as bad as too few.

Etc. — Try to avoid the use of etcetera as much as possible. Instead of saying “apples, oranges, etc.”, just say “fruits”. Using etc. means you’ve run out of something to say, and you never want to convey that as a writer!

Over-descriptions — Do you really need to say that the man “sprinted quickly” when the word “sprint” already denotes running very fast? If the sky is blue, do you have to write it? Trim down those descriptions as much as possible.

Less vs Fewer — Use “fewer” when the noun is listable, finite. For example, “Bob has FEWER apples than Jane.” Use “less” when it’s indefinable, like “Bob has LESS intelligence than Haskell.”

Prevaricating — Prevaricating (saying, “I think”, “I believe”,  “I am of the opinion”, etc.) makes you look hesitant and weak. Don’t be spineless, but say it with conviction!

Affect and Effect —  Tough one, this. Affect and effect are both nouns and verbs.

  • To affect (verb) is to change
  • An affect (noun) is an act or artificial pretense.
  • To effect (verb) means to make something happen.
  • An effect (noun) is a result.

Than and Then — This is an easy one. “THAN” is used to compare two items (Bob is bigger THAN Earl), while THEN is used to describe sequence (Amy ate lunch THEN murdered her coworkers).

Could of — NEVER, EVER SAY COULD OF!! That’s just noob writing AND speaking, and it makes you look like an idiot. It’s “could have” or “could’ve”.

That — I was told THAT there were too many occurrences of the word “that” in it. Simple rule of thumb: if it can be said without “that”, remove it. For example, “Bob said THAT Jane was uglier than a pig on a spit” could be better written as “Bob said Jane was uglier than…” etc.

 

Simple, easy to make mistakes, but they definitely stand out in your writing.

 

 

 

 

Book Cover - New

In the Days by Andy Peloquin FREE on Amazon

Prepare yourself for an epic adventure set in a land forgotten by time: the mythical realm of Atlantis.

Book Cover - New

The Empire of Atlantis is the most powerful nation in the world. Peace reigns across the continent, and an age of prosperity and enlightenment has made the Empire the center of the globe.

Empress Tatho reigns, with her Historian and Chancellor Deucalion by her side. Their world is rocked when a mysterious figure predicts doom and destruction. Can they avert the disaster that is soon to strike, or will they be destroyed along with the rest of the continent.

To complicate matters, assassins hired by a mysterious hooded figure plague their steps. Hoping to avoid a knife in the dark, the Empress and her most trusted travel to discover the secrets of an outpost in the middle of the barren, desolate Province of Bermuda. Could it lead to their deaths, or will they uncover a secret that many have died to protect?

They hoped to escape the threat, but it follows them on their journey. Will they return to the Capital City in one piece? Can they escape the plots that promise only death?

Coming Sunday, April 13th, In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent is FREE. Get your hands on it while you can, and let your friends know about this glimpse into what could have been the end of days for the civilization of Atlantis. The epic fantasy thriller is one you cannot miss!

 

Click here to check out the book on Amazon

 

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Words that Make Your Writing Weaker

No matter what you write, you want it to be strong. It’s how you get your point across in emails, make friends on social media, or share your thoughts via a blog. Strong writing is the opposite of the crap you see on Twitter, Facebook, and all those other sites where “ppl rite like ths”.

Want to tighten up your writing and make it stronger? Ditch these words:

  • Just. Very rarely will you need to use it. Unless you “just” returned from the moon, you can ditch the word.
  • Very. Is it “very” important? It sounds good when spoken, but it’s weak when written.
  • Really. Same rules apply as with very. It doesn’t add anything to your text.
  • Perhaps. Unless you’re writing a conversation between two people, don’t use perhaps or maybe. They’re weak words, and they show your uncertainty.
  • Amazing.  There are lots of awesome words, but amazing isn’t one of them. It dilutes the “amazing-ness” of your writing.
  • Quite. This word is total writing fluff. It’s quite useless to add it to sentences.
  • Got. Have you got the time, or do you have the time? Which sounds better?
  • Literally. Even if something literally is what you’re saying it is, you don’t need to use the word.
  • Things.  Stuff and things are two words to always stay away from, no matter what you’re writing about. They’re just too generic and casual.

Bonus: Adverbs. Stephen King tries to use as few adverbs as possible, and look how his writing comes out. According to a Stony Brook University Study, books that have a lot of adverbs sell poorly. It’s the books with strong nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and determiners that do best. If someone is “walking silently”, couldn’t they be “ghosting, sneaking, or prowling”? Ditch adverbs to tighten up your writing!

Thanks to: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229369

discouraging-days

Discouraging or Revealing?

This weekend was the launch of my book, a moment I have been looking forward to for weeks now. It’s finally time that my name goes public, time for the world to see what I can do. I’m out there, and it feels great.

So, it was a bit of a blow when I went to check the numbers on my book sales and found them far, FAR lower than I had expected. I definitely wasn’t planning on being the next Scott Lynch or Brandon Sanderson, but I was kind of counting on a few more book sales than I had. The number of books sold almost looked like a cruel joke to me. My stomach sank, and I felt a twinge of discouragement.

What a great way to start a career as a fiction writer, right?! Truth be told, I’ve been struggling to stay positive since the weekend, but it turns out that this apparent “flop” is actually quite revealing!

Here’s what I’ve discovered thanks to my “unsuccessful” book launch:

  1. It’s a tough industry. With more than 300,000 Kindle eBooks sold on Amazon alone, who was I to think that my debut novel was going to make more than a ripple in the massive ocean that is book sales?
  2. It’s going to take A LOT of work. That’s right, I’m going to have to go about working hard just to sell enough books to break even. I’m nowhere near my goal of 120 books sold, and it’s going to take a lot of work to reach that goal. A LOT more than I was expecting to.
  3. Life doesn’t hand things to you just for being awesome. No matter how great I think my book is, there are probably many out there that are better. I could have “won the lottery” with this novel, but it’s not likely.
  4. It’s better not to “win the lottery”. Imagine what would have happened if I would have magically sold thousands of books in the first weekend? I would probably think that every word dripping from my pen is as gold and gems, and I’d definitely overestimate my value as a writer. I may be good, but I’m not THAT GOOD! It’s better that I work hard to build my platform and personal brand, as that will force me to spend time doing the little things that will make me successful as an author.
  5. It’s going to take A LOT of work. I repeat myself, but the truth is that I now have to go about building a platform of readers from the ground up. That means reaching out to new people, chatting and making friends, trying to get people to like me as a person before telling them about my book, and expanding my online personality the slow way. It’s much more work, but I think it will be better for me to do it this way.
  6. I’m going to have to be better. If this book is good enough to sell, that means I’m going to have to up the quality of any future books. I don’t even know if this book is good enough to sell, because everyone that bought my book did so because they know me and like me enough to throw me the proverbial bone. Anyone who buys my book from now on will probably be doing so because I made friends with them, they read a good review from a third party, or stumbled across it and bought it on the virtue of the book alone.
  7. I’m going to need to learn a lot more. I love to learn new things, so I’m approaching this as a challenge. If I can learn what it takes to become a writer that has a following and people that buy my books, I will have acquired a new skill–and not one that came naturally to me like writing did. It’s going to help me be better for the next time around, and I may even be able to help someone else find their own success!

Yes, it’s definitely a bit discouraging to realize that this is going to come a lot harder than I had originally planned, but I’m choosing to take away the lessons from it rather than putting away my pen and quitting. It’s a long, tough road ahead just to reach that goal of 120 books sold, but I’m going to keep pushing until I do.

Can you help me keep pushing? Drop me an email telling me to get working, or help me expand my reader base by signing up for my email list. Take a look at the book and give me feedback on the chapters you can find on my Books page, or just shoot up good thoughts for me.

The most important thing is that I keep working on it on my end, and I’m making this promise to whoever reads this post: I’m going to do it, no matter how long it takes!

 

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