How to Make Your Book Free

I was asked by a blog reader a few weeks about how I made my independently published book free (Champagne and Lemon Drops). As in, free all the time. I replied to her, but got to thinking that this might be something others are wondering about–whether traditionally or independently published. (Even traditionals are using free books, samples, novellas, short stories tied in to their novels, etc., to help build a reader base these days.) So here is the scoop along with some sprinkles.

Why Do You Want Your eBook to Be Free

The power of free is greater than the power of $.99. So enough about 99 cents. Okay, okay… there are some variations between genres–ALWAYS check and see what is happening in your genre. A 99 cents novel in the literary fiction genre will find itself blacklisted because the assumption will be that it is no good. However in the YA world that 99 cent novel might get gobbled up.

Take away: Always do your homework. And that means legwork. If you are reading this blog post later than May 2014, sorry, but a lot of this will have changed to the point where this post could be useless in terms of the ‘how to go free’ aspect. Heck, these tips and suggestions and reasonings might be completely unvalid by the end of this month! We are in the midst of a revolution. A REVOLUTION my friends. What we are doing today is completely different than authors were doing ten years and ago and ten years into the future will be completely unrecognizable! (Well… maybe.) Back on track… legwork. That means read CURRENT blog posts on this topic. It also means going to the big vendors for your genre and seeing what the big sellers are doing. Is their book 99 cents? Is it $5.99? How did they get there? What path should you take? etc., etc. Don’t take someone’s old advice meant for 2011 and apply it today. Stay current. (Did I scare you? Sorry.)

Okay, back to why you might want your book to be free:

  • Good way to meet readers. Yes, sometimes there are people who only read free books and they won’t go on to buy your paid book. Get over it. These people have mouths–meaning they can tell others who DO buy books that they loved your book. That’s pretty cheap advertising. (And word of mouth is king in advertising. If you can get people talking about your book–gold!)
  • Great for the beginning of a series. You will often see the first book in an independently published series as free as it gets readers hooked into the stories, setting, characters, etc.
  • Risk free way for readers to try a new author, because face it, if you are an indie, you aren’t front and center in a bookstore.
  • Good for visibility. Free gets around. 😉
  • Cheap marketing. Yes, you put time and effort into this (and editing and cover art) but in the grand scheme of things it is pretty good.
  • Gets your name out there.
  • Gives you brand recognition.
  • There is a lot of advertising out there that is free for free ebooks. And yes, everyone was scared that with Amazon’s changes to their affiliate program that there would be fewer websites advertising free books, but there are still a TON of ways to get your book out there. Tons.
  • Mailing list! Your free book is a way to connect with readers. Start a mailing list. That’s a newsletter. And yes, if you wrote a book you DO have things to say in a newsletter. Heck, I had my readers name Mandy’s cat in the upcoming Blueberry Springs novel, Whiskey and Gumdrops! It was fun and I stayed connected with my readers and gave them something special–a way to be a part of the creation of my book. Win-win! How did I get these fine folks? I mentioned my mailing list at the back of my FREE book. (I mention it elsewhere too.) People sign up and then I can stay in touch and tell them about future books as well as other fun stuff.
  • There are free bestseller lists on Amazon. Not only is it good for the self-esteem to get on these lists, but it lends visibility to your OTHER books. Yes, to your other books.

Visibility in action. Keywords, free, downloads, categories, etc. has brought Champagne and Lemon Drops to the top of the search results for “contemporary fiction.” Free can equal more downloads which can improve your sales rank. (Free are not weighted as heavily in Amazon’s sales rank algorithm as a paid sale, but sometimes free really ‘pays.’)


What is Perma Free and What is KDP Select?

When you see books listed as free on Amazon it has happened in one of two ways.

Either it is free through their publisher program KDP Select where the author signs up to allow Amazon a 90 day period of exclusivity. In other words, their book will ONLY be available on Amazon and its sites for three months. Within that 90 days the author can set their book to be listed as free for 5 days. (That can be broken up–you don’t have to use them all at once.) This used to really benefit authors as there would be a significant sales bounce after free days, meaning the number of downloads on their free day would boost their rank–and thus their visibility–and increase their sales for quite a few days afterwards. However, there have been changes to the system and many authors are reporting that the sales bounce is negligible and not worth going exclusive. This likely varies by genre so again, do your legwork and talk to authors in your genre, stalk their books and watch their rank, etc.

Perma Free, on the other hand, is free all the time, everywhere. For as long as you like. That easy. (Not really. There are glitches, etc.) To go free you basically game the system in a few places. For example, to list a book as free on Barnes and Noble you have to use Smashwords (possibly others–I used SW though) as your distributor (they are seen as a ‘publisher’ through B&N whereas doing it yourself… not so much). Everywhere else you can list your book as free. Except Amazon. So publish your book everywhere as free. Then once you have those links to your free book on the big vendors, go to Amazon and find your book’s page. Scroll down below your rank and look for ‘lower price.’ Click.

Click “Tell us about a lower price”

Fill in this box:

Fill in. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Use the ‘big’ vendor links to your free book as well as some smaller ones. Big ones include Kobo, B&N, iTunes. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. (Report frequently! Like a couple times a day!) Usually it takes about ten days for Amazon to price match although sometimes it takes longer and sometimes less time. You can do this for other Amazon sites as well–like .ca, etc.

Now… if you have read Amazon’s terms of service (which I highly recommend. It is a business contract after all and you need to know what you are agreeing to. For example, a promo on another site could end up with your book being free on Amazon without your consent. It’s always nice to know that–because in the ToS you DID give consent.) you will find that they mention listing your book as free. It sounds like that is a no-no. However, it also says that they have the right to price match, etc., etc. Author David Gaughran, in his book Let’s Get Visible, mentions that he talked to Amazon about this contradiction and all is well. So for now, you are okay doing this. For now. Remember–we’re in a revolution and things constantly change! 😀

P.S. You might find your perma free book bumps back to paid every once in awhile. That’s okay. It happens. Just go back and report it again–usually within 48 hours it will be back to free.

P.P.S. You may find you still get ‘sales’ for your book even though it is free. Basically, that is someone from out of territory finding your book and it not being free for them because of where they live and they just went ahead and bought it! WOOT! I’ve made about a hundred bucks on my free book. Go figure, eh? A nice little perk that helps pay for the cover art, and some of the editing.

In the end…

Popularity lists on Amazon (I’m using Amazon a lot as they tend to sell the most books–tend to!) are based on a 30 day average. So a short sales bump due to a temporary price lowering may not be as effective as a long-term bump in terms of visibility on those lists. In other words, a permanent book continues to get more downloads over a longer period of time which results in greater visibility. And more downloads. And more readers. And more reviews.

In the end, a lot of it is luck. And timing. And a cover that works for the reader. And… you get the point. But using free might help you gain precious visibility and traction for a new series.

Good luck my friends! I hope this post was helpful.

If you have any questions, suggestions, tips, etc., feel free to mention them in the comment area. Thanks for reading.

*Tweet this post and help another writer make their book go free.*

Posted in book marketing and publicity Tagged with: , , , , ,

Editoral Confusion: Kinds of Editors and What Editors Do

Raise your hand if you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between different kinds of editors. <Puts up hand>

I thought about tackling this topic myself but quickly realized I was in over my head. Therefore I turned to the lovely, talented, author, friend, and EDITOR T.J. Loveless who works for Cliffhanger Editing. They are always posting amazingly helpful editing tips on their Facebook page and T.J. has graciously provided the lowdown on the different types of editors out there as well as what editors do. (Who knew there were so many kinds?)

Over to T.J.:

Editorial Confusion

*Don’t worry – we all have it*

Bring out the champagne, you’ve finished your book! Woohoo! Matter of fact, you’ve gone so far as to edit and revise it multiple times over the past few months, and managed to retain some kind of sanity. *Please note: I envy anyone who can remain sane during this time.*

Now comes the real fun, prepping your work to go out into the world – whether traditional, small publisher, or DIY. Finding the right fit for editing is a daunting task if you aren’t sure what you need, who you need, or what they do. I can help you at least untangle some of the confusion.

First, let’s go over the different types of editors, and editing. Followed by what you need to ask, and the kind of editing you are likely looking for. Ready?

Acquisition Editor

Most of you already know, or at least heard of, the AE. Generally, they are the ones picking up the books for a publisher, and the go-to for the author while prepping a book for publication.

Developmental Editor

Used by big publishing houses, and often ghost writers. You can find a few freelancing DEs. They are best with non-fiction writing, but can be hired by fiction writers. Their primary function is to ensure a book moves in a forward motion, watching plot and characterization. Think writing coach.

Content Editor

The very big publishing houses have Content Editors, the one overlooking all the plot, characterization, voice, and setting.

Copy Editor

The copy editor specializes in grammar, punctualization, fact-checking, spelling, and formatting. The Copy Editor is used most often in journalism publications, but utilized by some smaller publishers.

Line Editor

Also known as a Copy/Content Editor, often employed by the small – medium publishers, and self-published authors. They do it all – grammar, fact-checking, spelling, formatting, plot, sentences, characterization, setting, punctualization, and voice. They go through every inch of an MS, word by word, line by line.


Many get a proofreader and an editor confused. A proofreader is the one who goes over your MS after an editor. They look for the glaring mistakes missed, generally in punctuation, spelling, and formatting. They look for the glaring mistakes that may have been missed during edits.

Critique Partner

We have all at least heard of a CP. I show mine plenty of love. A CP isn’t an editor, but often another writer, helping an author develop their work to a higher level, pointing out issues the author normally wouldn’t see.

Beta Reader

The BR should be someone who isn’t in the publishing business. It’s best to have some kind of questionnaire ready, and let them give honest reviews of your work. Avid readers in your genre are the best.

What do you need? Should everyone hire an editor?

For the author going the traditional route, I recommend having a great group of CPs. No really! They can generally find the issues that should be sniffed out and zapped before querying agents or submitting to small publishers. If you’d really like an editor to also go over your work, request a partial by a Line Editor. Usually the first fifty pages and you’ll see all the things you may need to work on to really polish the book. If you want someone to quickly go over your MS, find a good Proofreader after you’ve been through your CPs and BRs. I’ve heard agents lament about a lot of little mistakes missed during revisions/edits.

For the DIY Author, find a good Line Editor, one professionally trained and experienced as an editor in publishing. An untrained editor, who may be a fantastic CP, can do more harm than good. Get recommendations and check out their work. Keep in mind, the author may have ignored some of the suggestions, but you can get an overall feel.

Before you hire an editor, know what you need. Asking for a beta read, but meaning a line edit, will cause confusion and hard feelings. In today’s self-published market, DIY Authors are scrutinized more than traditionally published, fair or not. I’ve seen NYT Bestselling authors publish bad rough drafts without so much as a word, yet a DIY Author is blasted for a misspelled word.

Be specific. Talk about what you want, what is expected, and what you, the author, will receive. Ask about their experience and training, and what they specialize in. Some love Romance, others Speculative Fiction, and a few specialize in YA or MG. Every editor has a preference, so find the one who loves the genre you write. A Technical Copy Editor is different from one trained as a Line Editor in fiction. Sometimes you hit gold and find an editor who is cross trained.

Don’t forget to ask about cost. Many charge by the word, some by the number of pages, and all have package deals if you do second edits and proofreading. Know your budget, and get the costs up front. Get it all in writing before handing over your MS.

I do hope I was able to help with the confusion. Don’t let the different terms slow you down, it only takes a little research, and you’ll find an editor to fit your needs in no time!

~ ~ ~

Thank you so much T.J.!

Cliffhanger Editing

You can learn more about T.J.’s editing services, Cliffhanger Editing by liking them on Facebook: Be sure to interact with their page by commenting and liking posts when you like their page so more of their content shows up in your newsfeed. Otherwise you’ll miss their great tidbits. And trust me, there is some good stuff in there. And the best part is that they answer back if you have questions!

You can also follow them on Twitter: @cliffhangeredit

Learn more about their editing services:

Author T.J. Loveless


And of course, check out T.J.! She’s written a great novella Lucky Number Six which is FREE! It’s a funny read about a psychologist, a unicorn, and a fairy godmother. What isn’t to love?

You can also find T.J. bouncing around in her padded room (a blog with many great goodies) at

You can also add this fun book to your shelves on Goodreads by clicking here.

Go check her out!

How about you, readers? What did you learn in this post? Tell us in the comments.

And as always, help out another writer by clicking here to tweet this post and share the knowledge.

Posted in editing tips Tagged with: author T.J. Loveless, Cliffhanger Editing, different types of editors, , editor tips, , kinds of editors, what editors do

5 Redundancies Hiding in Your Writing

We love our words. We love to use the right ones in the right places. And sometimes we get a little Dickenish and babble on, not realizing we are redundant.

Here are five ways redundancy might be sneaking into your writing, slowing you down and bogging your readers.

Stating the Obvious

This is the sneakiest, most devious way redundancies sneak into our writing and can be the hardest to catch because it sounds fine. And sometimes, the redundancy works for slowing the pace of a sentence and creating an image But sometimes it just bogs things.

Outside, rain fell in sheets against the roof and front windows making the building sound like it was being run through a car wash.

Where else would the rain be falling?

Change to:

Rain fell in sheets against the roof and front windows making the building sound like it was being run through a car wash.

Simple. Effective.

Another example would be:

She nodded her head and smiled.

What else is she going to nod? Her hands? Cut to:

She nodded and smiled.


He tried to ease himself past her.

Implied. And awkward. What else is he going to ease past her? And yes, he could try to ease his car past her… but then it wouldn’t be redundant because we would be mentioning the car and not himself. 😉

Redundant Dialogue Tags

This, sadly, can be a mark of an amateur–even if you aren’t. They can particularly sneak into first drafts when you are still figuring out who is saying what and how. That’s fine! Just be sure you remove them by the time you hand it off to someone else.

For example:

“Trouble in paradise?? Ethan asked.
“Shut up!? she snapped.

The ‘she snapped’ above is fine. However, it is somewhat obvious (especially if you read the scene leading up to this) that she is not a happy camper at this point. A simple “Shut up!” with the exclamation mark shows that there is emotion behind this statement. As well, by not saying ‘snapped’ or ‘shouted’ or ‘grumbled’ it allows the reader to put their own spin on how she says it and they can line it up with how THEY see this character. Now, if this was the first few chapters, I might put a tag in there to help the reader build the character in the mind of the reader and teach them how this character reacts to things like her brother poking at her after she’s had a fight with her love interest. But by the second half of the novel, it is no longer necessary and becomes… you got it… redundant. It also slows things down–especially as this is the end of a scene. You want to end those with snap to keep the reader in the middle of the action and needing to turn the page even though they promised themselves when they reached the end of the chapter that they would turn off the light.

Another killer (in the bad sense of the word) dialogue tag is ‘questioned.’ If you have to add ‘she questioned’ as a dialogue tag you have two possible issues. One you aren’t giving the reader enough credit and assume they can’t figure it out. OR your dialogue needs strengthening because it isn’t obvious that the speaker is asking a question/questioning the other character.

If it saves time and is effective, it ain’t redundant. (Those are combines cutting wheat, by the way. A whole lot of combines!)

Say it Again

I know I have to watch for extra ‘his’ and ‘her’ and all that kind of jazz in my sentences. I say it again, and again.


She glowered at him and blocked his way.

Unless she is glowering at someone else, the ‘at him’ can be cut due to the context making it:

She glowered and blocked his way.

Simple. Effective. Packed between other sentences it is nice and fast and it gives the reader some credit to fill in who or what she is glowering at. Look at all that action!

Telling the Reader

Basically, telling instead of showing the reader can end up feeling redundant as well as pushing the reader further from the story (because they don’t get a chance to join in and enjoy the smells, sounds, etc., themselves).

Let’s see if you can find it in the example below:

To her right, through the slats in the side of the tunnel, she could see dirty snow and trees whirl and plummet over the side of the shed.

Did you find it? She could see. It can now become (allowing the reader to see instead of the character–and letting them into the story):

To her right, through the slats in the side of the tunnel, dirty snow and trees whirled and plummeted over the side of the shed.

If we wanted to be even fussier we could do more by fixing the bolded redundancy (tunnel and shed are both referring to an avalanche shelter here):

To her right, through the slats in the side of the tunnel, dirty snow and trees whirled and plummeted over the side of the shed.

In essence words like ‘felt,’ ‘saw,’ ‘heard,’ ‘tasted,’ are signs that you might be describing/telling the reader something and working as a filter instead of letting them dive into the story.


Basically this is a sneaky one that slows down your writing by going on and on about one thing in our effort to really give the reader a sense of an event or a place. And so we over-describe. Instead of finding one or two great things to mention about a place to give the reader a feeling and a sense and allow them to fill in the rest based on what they’d like to see in such a setting, we go on. And on. We think we are doing them a favour by writing all these great descriptions, but the fact is that we butt them out of the way and say and then there was a tree over here that looks like a ghost in the pale moonlight and its where Jess had her first kiss and then over here is grass of a variety that is almost extinct and then over here… So what’s important? What impression are we trying to create? What do we want the reader to build off of?

The other problem with over-describing is that we tend to remind the reader over and over again about certain details like the rust on the car fenders or trust issues between lovers. If you’ve just spent a paragraph talking about how decrepit and rusty this car is (or how two soon-to-be-lovers have trust issues), the next paragraph doesn’t need to mention it again. Hints later in the story to remind the reader and to build a picture are fine. Ex. She slammed the door, sending flakes of rusted body fluttering to the ground.

(The examples in the first four tips are ones I came across in my book Whiskey and Gumdrops (due out October 2013) as I was editing it so you know I am guilty of writing in redundancies!)

What do you think? What are your worst redundancies? Do you have tips or stories to tell about saying it twice? Let me know in the comment section and thanks for reading.

Oh yeah! Help another writer and tweet this stuff out! Clicky-click, my friend.

Posted in writing tips Tagged with: , , , redundancies in writing, , , ,

The Value of a Writing / Reading Community: For Authors and Writers

Last week I talked about writing cheerleaders and specific people that can support you in your writing. Cheerleaders are great, but you also (in my opinion) need a community. So… who is your community?

Your writing community can be cheerleaders, professional contacts, editors, readers, or other writers. Basically, it is a professional support system that can fill various roles from someone to cry on to helping shape your work or getting your work out there in front of readers.

But first I am going to make some assumptions. I am going to assume you are a writer / author and that you want to produce work that is strong as possible and find ways to get your book out into the world in effective, efficient ways that help bring about success.

From there, I am going to talk about two different communities.

Community One: Your author/writer community

Community Two: Your reader/fan/audience community (This is labeled 2 only because it usually comes second in terms of community development.)

Writing Communities

Writing a good book by yourself is hard. Selling that book by yourself is hard. And by writing a book alone I mean no critique partners, no mentors, no editors. Nothing. Alone. All you from start to finish. And yes, some people can and have done it. But if you look deep inside some of the big successes out there they have community. Their acknowledgements page reads like a roll call in an overstuffed classroom. Their fan base is avid — promoting them far and wide. And it looks easy for them. (You don’t usually see the hard work.) This is the work of communities.

What is a Writing Community

What is a writer/author community? It can be a real life writing club/group where you meet and swap chapters regularly. It can be an online critique group. It can be a hired editor. It can be beta readers. It can be a group of people sharing ideas about what has worked for them and what hasn’t. It can even be a chatroom full of writers swapping tips.

Good writing communities are warm, accepting, helpful, and should give you energy and inspire you. While the members are trusted enough to give you the lowdown, the group should let you go away feeling inspired to make the changes identified. If your writing community doesn’t highlight things you can improve and doesn’t pump you up to go make those improvements then your writing community needs work–or possibly it isn’t the right one for you. Unhealthy writing communities can be deadly. And they are out there. (If you feel like crap and like you can’t do it and you are the worst ever after hanging out with a writing community MOVE ON. Do not pass go. Hell, barely even say goodbye over your shoulder as you hoof it out of there. You DON’T NEED crap.)

It’s nice when a writing community has people at all stages of the game so everyone can help each other in some way. Diversity is good. I should note that your writing community might not all meet together or know each other. I have people who are very supportive via email, others who are in an online group, some are simply commenters on this blog or Twitter friends. Different people for different needs. My writing community is from all over the world and has many different shapes and forms.

Why a Writing Community

-Support (Find people you can meet with who will support and cheer you on.)


-Others who understand what you are going through

-Provide tips, insights, and helpful advice from writing to the business side

-Knowledge base–this can be anyone who can help you out. Literary agents, people teaching you how to use social media or how to upload a book to book vendors, maybe it’s a good cover designer. Maybe it is someone who is helping you make your characters likeable. The list goes on! You may find people on this list help for a few minutes and move on–but they’ve changed you in some way and helped you along your way–and they are now part of your network.

-Group mind think. The group mind is a powerful thing and can solve complex issues because everyone brings something different to the table.

-Saves time. The other day I was thinking how to make a print on demand (print) version of my book Champagne and Lemon Drops and another author had some great blog post links. I was tweeting about making a POD and the idea came up for a program I could use (Scrivener). In the end, I saved a lot of time and headaches by chatting with my community.

-Saves money. Sometimes people in your writing community can help you out in a way that saves you money. Big time.

-Blunders. A community can help you recover from blunders as well as prevent them.

-Feedback. Writing can be isolatory. Feedback is good.

-Promotion. It’s nice if someone else gives you a shout out sometimes. It’s nice to band with someone else to help share the costs of a promotion. It’s nice to hear from others what is working and what isn’t.

In the end a writing community can be the difference between making it and not making it. Between being frustrated and not. Between being big and being midlist. Getting noticed and not.

Reading Communities

Now, I’m not talking Goodreads or LibraryThing here with reading communities even though your readers might go out there and add you to lists and review your books in these communities. What I mean is by reading community is: you and your readers interacting with each other. What is SO cool about the modern world is that readers can contact writers/authors. And when you email back they are so delighted! (And I’m delighted when they email me in the first place. Win-win!)

What is an Author’s Reading Community

Some authors have purposefully created a reading community for their work through a street team (a group of fans where the author offers them tidbits that are exclusive like sneak peeks or giveaways and the group helps the author with some promotion type things whether it is offering a review on a book vending site, sharing the book with friends, or something bigger. Read this great article on street teams by Cassandra Carr.) Their reading community could also be something as simple as a special forum on their author website or a fan page on Facebook. Either way, it is a way for readers/fans to meet each other in a safe environment as well as have contact with the author.

Why Reading Communities Matter to Authors

You may feel shy. You may wonder why anyone would want to join your community. You may even worry that someone may join the community to sabotage you or tell you how awful your book is. Or that nobody will show up.

The author communities I’ve seen have been AMAZING, warm, welcoming groups that are not to be messed with. They are like a big cozy group of wonderful fans who would seriously act like a bodyguard if need be! They are wonderful, wonderful people! And they are HAPPY to help out their beloved authors. (Note: the authors are kind and generous to their fans and do not abuse them by expecting too much from them, etc. The group is a reward for EVERYone.) Think of your favourite author. You’d likely be more than happy to leave a review on a website for them if they asked! There is power in a reading community.

Reader communities also have the power to make or break an author.

10 Big Rules of Reading Communities

1. Be nice.

2. Be kind.

3. Be welcoming.

4. Remember you are their celebrity and everything you do is helping them form an opinion about you.

5. Be generous.

6. Be real.

7. Be genuine.

8. Don’t be promo-annoying. Yes, these are your customers, but they don’t want to hear “BUY BUY BUY” all the time or “ME ME ME!”

9. Small things do matter.

10. Make it easy! I considered one author’s street team but it was a lot of bloody freaking work. Like seriously. Is ANYone on her street team? Yes, you want fans. You don’t want people who are out for freebies, but yeesh. Make it attainable folks!

Why a Reader Community for Authors

-Support (It’s nice to feel loved. But… you can also gain support with things like them sharing upcoming giveaways)

-Promotion (Word of mouth is a powerful method of promotion and having fans who are loyal and loving can really help.)

-Self esteem (It’s gotta feel good to have fans, right?)

-Finger on the pulse (I’ve learned a lot from the street teams I’ve lurked in–with permission, of course). Authors can ask their audience what they like and don’t like. It’s like a focus group. AMAZING.

-It is WONDERFUL to give back to readers. They are our bread and butter.

Your takeaway this week: Find support and stay strong. Writing is a profession. You need professional help. Hm. That doesn’t sound right… but you know what I mean. 😉

What am I missing? What do you think about communities? Do you have one? I bet you do!

Posted in connecting with readers Tagged with: author communities, connecting with readers, reader communities, reading communities, street team tips, writing communities

Why Cheerleaders Rock the Writing World

Do you have a cheerleader in your life? Someone who is trustworthy and always on your team? Who always has encouragement and kind words? Who will bring you pieces of whatever it is you need? Someone who is intrigued by what you’re so pumped about that they go out and learn more about it so they can share in your joy and excitement? Someone who never says, “Stupid dreamer. There’s no way!”

Someone where if you told them you were building a ship to take you to the moon they would ask to come along and would supply the coffee and help you draw up the plans?

Someone who makes the ‘im’ out of impossible?

Someone who has your back?

Your rock to cling to in stormy seas?

The person who makes you look good and pumps you up when you are feeling that ‘im?’

It’s like having your own personal cheerleader and there is nothing like it.

I know it is exceedingly rare to find someone like this, but if you can find a cheerleader who fits the above description, hold on to them and don’t let go. Let them know how important they are in your life.

If we wanted to flip this around… are you a cheerleader? Is there someone in your world who needs you? Needs your unconditional support? Someone you can help? Someone you can pave the road for without taking over their project or dream? If so, what are you waiting for? And if you feel the need to naysay, hold your tongue. Help them overcome the obstacles and see a path around the potholes in their road–trust me, they can see those potholes.

Tell me… Who is your mentor or cheerleader?

My mom passed away two weeks ago after two years of trying to kick cancer’s ass. She was my cheerleader in life. I can’t recall a single time she told me I couldn’t accomplish anything. She’d simply help me find a way around the obstacles or brainstorm my way back to reality if need be. 😉 I’m grateful she got to see some of my writing success before she went and I’m also grateful that I could be with her during her final months and be her unconditional cheerleader. I could take the reins for her and be her advocate and whatever she needed. I swear she waited for me to be there before she took her final breath, to be there to cheer her on and let her know she was not alone and that everyone would be okay.

To change the subject… my dad said something interesting a few weeks ago. He said when you are doing your own thing and living with integrity (living your own life on your terms) friendships will ebb and flow. You may have friends who are there for you (supportive), but they might not be there with you (experiencing and understanding the same things you are going through). You may have to go it alone. And if you are okay with that, then you can go anywhere.

Okay, he may not have said that last sentence, but that’s how he make me feel–as though I could go anywhere. And with my biggest cheerleader gone, I go it alone. But not completely. Next week I’m going to talk about writing communities here on The Helpful Writer. And while nobody could replace the cheerleader my mom was for the past several decades, there are other important people out there helping me move forward with my writing career. I hope there are good people in your life to help you on your journey. And if not, come back next week when I’ll share some ideas on how to find great people.

Be strong my friends. And don’t forget to cherish those that are there for you even if they can’t be there with you.

Ellen Dick

Ellen Dick



Ellen Dick

August 9, 1944 – August 15, 2013







Posted in messages from Jean Tagged with: Ellen Dick, writing cherleaders,

13 Ways to Rock a Guest Blog Post

One of the things about blogging and being a writer is that sometimes you have the opportunity to write a guest post for someone else and expand your audience base by sharing your message with other readers.

But with anything in life, there are ways to screw up and there are ways to be a superstar. Today I share five things that have worked for me so far with either hosting or providing guest blog posts. I hope you enjoy them and will share your own tips and stories in the comment section.

Guest Blog Post Writing Tips

1. Talk to the host about what they want–get specific. Yes, reading their blog is great, but sometimes a blog owner is looking to change their focus or start a new series so your assumptions based on older posts may be off base in terms of what they actually want from you. So ask your host what they’d like to see and what their audience would enjoy. This can be everything from format, content, language, etc. (If you are hosting–be sure to share these things with your potential guest.)

2. This might go without saying, but write for the blog you are on. Sometimes (particularly for my other non-writing blog) I get guest post requests that do not fit with the theme of my blog, or heck, even the topic! In fact, sometimes the message in the proposed post is the COMPLETE opposite of what I am ‘selling’ on my blog. So be sure your message is on target and save yourself some time and rejection.

3. Use original content. Nothing bothers me more than when I get a post from someone that has already been all over the Internet. Especially if they don’t tell me and I don’t find out until later!! I don’t care if they have used those same five tips somewhere else, but if it is verbatim, it actually LOWERS my SEO (search engine optimization) because search engines see it as duplicate content (and old content at that) compared to the previous sites which lowers my overall rank. (Tip: This kind of thing can also affect your site if you are reviewing books on your blog and then posting your same review on big sites like Goodreads and Amazon–or so I’ve been told.)

4. Make it easy for the blog owner. You being a guest post should save them time compared to them writing a post of their own. That means as a guest you should provide links, cover art, bio, etc., (proofread!). Don’t tell them to look it up. They are doing you a favour by sharing you with their audience and expanding your reach. And be kind, helpful, and accessible. Most people pay for direct marketing like this. They are putting you in front of their audience they have worked hard to build and are vouching for you. Don’t abuse it. It’s a privilege.

5. Don’t use your email address in your email signature–it’s a good way to get your email address in front of spam bots. Stay with me here, but if you paste your blog post in the body of your email and it is followed by your signature, chances are it will look like it is part of the post and get included. Even if you use different fonts for your signature, the end user’s email program may strip that different font making your signature look like it belongs at the end of the post. (Recently I’ve begun stripping my entire email signature from guest post emails–that person has already seen the signature anyway and this way it won’t be mistaken as part of the post and get pasted into the post.)

6. Sending images with your post? Be 100% positive you have the right to use the images. You don’t want to get the blog owner in trouble for copyright infringement.

7. Ask questions in your post. Give the proposed readers something to latch onto. If you engage readers and try and get some comment interaction you are likely to be invited back or at least recommended to others. And yes, it doesn’t always work–you are lucky if one out of a hundred readers leaves a comment, it seems, but asking a question (bottom of the post is good) gives them something to comment on.

8. Don’t use a billion links. Pick one or two things you want the reader to click on in your post. This might be your book buy link and your newsletter. Sure, at the end you can provide a bunch of links but if you have everything from Pinterest to LinkedIn to Twitter to Amazon to your newsletter to your website to your blog to your… you are actually reducing the chance of getting a click because you have provided too many choices. Pick two and make sure those ones share portals to other places online. (Sometimes I like to think about what the post’s purpose is and what I feel will fit best with the audience. Eg. If they are Facebook types, provide that link.)

9. Help promote the post. The blog host is helping you find new readers, so help them get new readers. And if you feel ashamed (or some other I-don’t-want-to-do-it type adjective) at the idea of sending people to their blog, then you shouldn’t be there.

10. Reply to comments. I don’t know how many people return to a post where they have commented to see if there is a reply, but I love it when someone replies to a comment I’ve made. And as you and your name grows you may find that replying means more to readers.

11. Don’t skimp out. If you don’t have time to do a proper job of a post right now, beg for an extension or when you say yes, give yourself some breathing room timewise. As well, do some post formatting if you can or leave the host notes.

12. Are you hosting? Read the guest post before publishing it. And read their notes, if any.

13. And of course deliver what you say, when you say you will. Be professional and have fun!

How about you? Do you have tips to share on writing or hosting guest blog posts? Share them in the comment section and help out other writers.

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