To celebrate the launch, I'm giving away a signed copy of the printed version of The Festival on Lyris Five, along with two copies of the downloadable (PDF) version for the runners-up.
To win, all you have to do is post the title and author of your favorite science fiction or fantasy book as a comment below, along with no more than 50 words about why you like it so much. I'm really hoping for some good recommendations for books to read myself in the coming months!
The contest is open to anyone in the world. The closing date is midnight GMT on Sunday 16 August. I will pick the winners at random from all qualifying entries, and announce the results on this blog on Monday 17 August. So you have just over a fortnight to get your entry in!
Good luck, and please do mention this contest to anyone else you think might like to enter.
Amanda interviewed me as part of the research she undertook for her new guide, and she was kind enough to send a review copy once it was published.
Additional Streams of Income for Writers is an 87-page e-book in the customary PDF format. Amanda has written it from the perspective that in these uncertain times authors need a range of income sources in addition to money generated directly by their writing.
Additional Streams of Income for Writers covers four potential income streams, all Internet-based. They are Google AdSense, paid blogging, paid content websites, and paid advertising. As Amanda says, for most of these you will need your own blog or website. The exception is paid content sites (e.g. Helium), where you simply upload your work to the site in question and collect a share of any advertising revenues generated.
Amanda has enjoyed success with all of these, especially paid content sites (she claims to have made $400 a month from Helium alone). She shares her experience of what works and what doesn't in a style that is easy to understand and assimilate (the odd typo aside!). Screenshots are used where appropriate to clarify points, but not excessively.
Although as an experienced online writer I was familiar with much of the guide's content, Additional Streams of Income for Writers opened my eyes to several additional earning possibilities. I was particularly interested to read the section about paid advertising networks. Although I've sold some advertising space on my websites directly, I've never properly investigated the services that match up web publishers with would-be advertisers. Based on Amanda's advice, I definitely plan to look into this in more detail in future.
Additional Streams of Income for Writers concludes with the thoughts of nine freelance writers (myself included) about multiple streams of income. It's fascinating to compare their replies and discover their attitudes towards paid blogging, content sites, and so on. I've also discovered writers listed in this section whose blogs and Twitter streams I'll be following in future.
In summary, if you're a writer looking to diversify your income online, Additional Streams of Income for Writers is well worth the small investment (it's currently selling at a special launch price of just $12). None of the methods mentioned is likely to make you a fortune, but they could certainly generate a very handy sideline income.
As regards the story, I can't really do better than quote my publisher's blurb:
Former Ten Stars combat pilot Rick Barrett is having a bad day. Not only is he jobless and broke, in a seedy spaceport bar he has just been forced into a winner-takes-all poker game with a homicidal cauliflower. Salvation is at hand in the shapely form of Irish redhead Julie Halloran, who has an unusual talent of her own. Julie has a proposition for Rick that could end his financial worries at a stroke, though it might also end up getting him killed. But is Julie keeping a few cards hidden herself?
The Festival on Lyris Five is a fast-moving, hilarious, science-fiction novella, where nothing is quite what it seems. The story by UK author Nick Daws is beautifully complemented by Louise Tolentino's wry illustrations.
If you'd like to know more, you can read an extract from the story by clicking on the BookBuzzr widget below...
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I'd just add that I wrote this story a few years ago, when I had a bit more time for fiction writing. It's proved quite difficult to place, as it's too short for a conventional novel yet too long for most short-story markets. I'm delighted to see it in print at last, much enhanced by Louise's illustrations. I make no claims for The Festival on Lyris Five as a work of literature, but I had a lot of fun writing it, and hope readers will share some of that enjoyment now.
Lastly, I'm planning to launch a competition to win a signed copy of The Festival on Lyris Five soon, so keep watching this blog for details!
Well, I've just finished reading it and uploaded my review to Amazon.co.uk. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so I thought I'd share my impressions with you here as well. Here's a slightly adapted version of my Amazon review...
Box of Tricks is difficult to categorize. It's part comedy, part nostalgia, part coming-of-age novel. But it also explores some deeper themes of freedom and responsibility, especially towards one's family.
The setting of the book - a British seaside town in the early 1960s - reflects a time when society was changing rapidly. Two of the younger characters - teenage tearaway Ray and aspiring model Julia - are enthusiastically embracing the new freedoms. The narrator, the slightly younger Eddie, finds himself torn between the old and the new.
Box of Tricks is beautifully written, in fluid, evocative prose. Yet though it is undoubtedly a literary novel, the author also weaves a deftly constructed plot, with some surprising twists and turns. Many of these centre on the eponymous back-street joke shop, which plays a pivotal role in the story.
Box of Tricks starts off slowly, then picks up pace as the key characters find their lives changing forever. The novel moves towards a conclusion that is touching without being over-sentimental. It answers enough questions to leave readers satisfied, yet enough unsaid to resonate long after the book has been put down.
Overall, Box of Tricks gets my highest recommendation as an intelligent, thought-provoking, but above all hugely enjoyable read.
Obviously, I may be just a little biased as Jeff is an old friend of mine, but I do read a lot of fiction, and this is one of the books I have most enjoyed for a long time. I've always known that Jeff is a highly talented writer, and it's great to see his work at last achieving the recognition it deserves. If you'd like to know more about Box of Tricks, here is an image link to the book's page on Amazon.co.uk...
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Incidentally, Jeff was interviewed a while ago on WritersFM about his first novel, Painter Man. He is a thoughtful and engaging interviewee, and I recommend downloading the interview from the WritersFM podcasts page and giving it a listen. Jeff has a demanding full-time job as an architect, and it's particularly interesting to hear him discuss how he manages to find time for writing in his busy schedule.
I know from comments on my forum that many writers enjoy trying their hand at very short (sometimes called flash) fiction.
So I thought in this post I'd spotlight a couple of paying opportunities for this type of story I've come across recently.
The first is for stories of 25 words or less for an anthology of 'Hint Fiction', to be published by W.W. Norton later this year. If you're wondering what Hint Fiction might be, the guidelines include the following explanation:
What is Hint Fiction? It's a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story. The thesis of the anthology is to prove that a story 25 words or less can have as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer. The anthology will include between 100 and 150 stories. We want your best work.
It's possible to write a complete story in 25 words or less - a beginning, middle, end - but that's not Hint Fiction.
The very best Hint Fiction stories can be read many different ways.
We want stories we can read again and again and never tire of. Stories that don't pull any punches. Stories that make us think, that evoke some kind of emotional response.
The other opportunity I wanted to mention is for even shorter fiction - 140 characters or less. As you may perhaps have guessed, it's for short stories to be published on the micro-blogging service Twitter.
Tweet the Meat wants horror/weird/speculative fiction stories. They say: 'No serials. No unfinished stories. You must scare us in 140 characters or less. Are you up to the challenge?'
Someone asked me the other day how I get writing work in these recessionary times: is it through advertising, my website, my blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites..?
I think they were surprised by the answer I gave. Nowadays, by far the most important source of work for me is clients I have worked with in the past, often for many years. And the next most important is personal recommendations.
I do get work offers from the other sources mentioned, but it is much less significant in financial terms. Other than maintaining an online presence, I don't advertise my writing services at all.
It comes down to two things really: the first, of course, is delivering a good service to clients, so they want to hire you again. And the second is networking, by which I mean building and cultivating a network of contacts, both online and in the 'real world'.
One obvious method of networking is to build good relationships with the publishers and editors you write for, and other writers you meet and work with. This can pay off in all sorts of ways. First, if they like you and your work, there is every chance they will come back to you for more in future.
Here's an example. Over ten years ago I answered a newspaper ad for a short story writer. I sent in a sample story, which was accepted, and ended up writing 11 more for the novelty publishing house in question. Another editor in the company saw my stories and asked if I'd like to contribute to a project he was working on. The upshot is, for that one company I've written humorous recipe books, Internet guides, quiz books, party packs, 'Cyberbabe' and 'Cyberboyfriend' CD-ROMs, online games, tee-shirt and mug slogans, and many more - all stemming from that one 'little' job ten years ago.
What's more, editors move on to new jobs, and naturally they like to bring their favorite writers with them. An example again: years ago I wrote a series of articles on business-related matters for an editor I'll call Vanessa. That went pretty well, then she got a job as editor for a personal finance newsletter, and she asked me to write regular articles for that as well. This continued for some time, and I even carried on writing for the newsletter for several years after Vanessa moved on.
Then Vanessa went freelance, and one of the assignments she got was writing a series of travel books. While she was working on those, the publisher asked her if she knew any other writers who might be interested in writing a similar book, and she put my name forward. The result was that I ended up writing two books about living and working in Italy and Germany.
Of course, networking is a two-way thing, and it works best if you can reciprocate. So I was pleased to be able to put some work Vanessa's way later with another of the mail-order publishers I work for regularly.
And here's another - slightly strange - example of how networking can pay off for all concerned. Last month, I switched roles with a fellow writer/editor called John, whom I've known for many years. Here's how it happened...
For over ten years I've been editing a series of monthly updates on investment-related topics. Most of them were written by John, though occasionally I contributed one myself.
Anyway, the publishers decided that the series finally had to end, so I thought that was both me and John out a job. Then they got back to say they were launching a newsletter on a similar topic, and would I be interested in editing it for them?
Well, because of all my other work, I didn't want to take on another major monthly commitment. But it occurred to me that John would be ideal for the role, so I recommended him to my client. The result is that John has just been appointed editor, and has asked me to write articles for him every month. So, as I say, we've swapped roles, but otherwise it's business as usual!
These things happen regularly in the writing world. In my view, delivering a good service and building up a network of fellow authors, editors and other publishing industry professionals are the two most important things any writer can do to ensure a long and successful career in this field.
The $365K Blog Traffic Formula is a PDF manual which aims to show you how to attract 365,000 visitors to your blog in the coming year. The $365,000 earnings figure is based on the average potential value of each visitor being $1 (this might perhaps be slightly optimistic in the case of a writing blog!).
The manual comprises in-depth interviews with seven highly successful bloggers (there is also a fast-action bonus report with two more). The bloggers revealing their secrets are Chris Garrett, Daniel Scocco, Darren Rowse, Jack Humphrey, Jason Katzenback, Matt Garrett, Yaro Starek, and in the bonus report J.D. Roth and Tom Kuhlmann. Chances are, if you know anything at all about blogging, you'll recognise at least some of these names.
All of the bloggers are asked pretty much the same questions. They include:
* If you have to bring instant visitors to your blog in the next 30 minutes, what steps will you follow?
* Most bloggers like to get passive traffic... What are the one time actions we can do which will keep on bringing traffic without any effort after that?
* What's your most effective traffic generating strategy which works every time for you and gives the best return in terms of traffic regarding to your time spent?
* What are your top 3 traffic sources and how exactly do you attract traffic from each of those sources?
* Let's say you lose your name, contacts and everything. You have to start from scratch as a "nobody". What will you do then for the next 30 days so that your blog will start getting 1000 unique visitors each and every day?
Perhaps inevitably, there is some overlap between the bloggers' replies, and some of the advice is a bit predictable, but there are plenty of top-notch ideas and insights as well. I thought the last of the questions listed above, about how to get a blog up to 1000 visitors in 30 days, produced some particularly interesting answers. Matt Garrett, for example, set out a 13-point plan for achieving this goal, with some very clever tactics I may well be adopting myself in future!
The $365K Blog Traffic Formula is well written (a few excusable quirks aside) and neatly presented. Some of the interviews also include good-sized screengrabs to illustrate the points made. (As a side thought, I think one of the best reasons for buying e-books rather than printed books is that screengrabs tend to be far more readable in e-books, and you can even magnify them if you need to.)
There are many hints, tips and strategies here any blogger could put to good use to build traffic to his or her blog, regardless of its subject matter. As most of the contributors point out, however, there is no 'magic bullet' for generating huge numbers of readers overnight. Doing this does require some time and effort, but if you're willing to put these in, The $365K Blog Traffic Formula will give you plenty of powerful traffic-building ideas and strategies to apply.
I've reviewed a few paid-for writing products recently, so I thought today I'd feature a free service.
VocabGrabber is a web-based tool for writers and editors. It aims to help you identify words that are over-used in a piece of text and suggests possible alternatives for them.
VocabGrabber is free to use, although it also links to ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus, which is a paid-for service. Using it is simplicity itself. Just copy and paste your text for analysis (up to a hefty 200,000 characters) into the box and click on Grab Vocabulary.
You can change the display to a list if you prefer by clicking on the 'List View' icon on the left of the VocabGrabber screen. This will produce a list of all 'Relevant' words found in the document, along with the number of times they are found. ('Relevant' words are words less commonly used in English that are likely to be of particular relevance to that document, excluding common words like 'and' or 'then'.)
The list shows the number of times each word is repeated. Highlighting any word ('software' in the example) will bring up a dictionary definition, a diagram showing words of similar meaning, and copies of usages from the text itself. If you click on any item in the list, it will take you to a more detailed page showing related words from the ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus. As mentioned, the latter service is not free, but you do get a few free trials to see how it works.
As the screengrab above shows, VocabGrabber found a lot of uses of the words 'document' (11) and 'software' (8). There isn't really much alternative to 'document' in the post concerned, but if I was editing it now, I might try to use another word in place of some of those 'software' usages ('program', for example).
Overall, VocabGrabber offers a handy service for writers and editors. It's useful for identifying any words that may be over-used in a document (making it read poorly and look amateurish). The alternate suggestions from the free service are a bit limited, so if you find the site helpful you might perhaps want to consider subscribing to the companion Visual Thesaurus service (which is reasonably priced at $19.95 a year for the online version).
Even if you don't want to part with any money, however, VocabGrabber is worth a place on your Favorites list as a quick tool for checking you're not over-using certain words and expressions without realising it.