Using MailChimp for your Author Newsletters

Most books on author blogs and book marketing urgently suggest that you have a newsletter. It’s a way to get in touch with the people who really like your writing— enough to sign up for your newsletter, anyway. And if your blog gets taken down and you are banned from your blogging service for no reason, you can use your newsletter to keep your true fans informed of your new blog.

Most newsletters use a service like MailChimp as their host. This way, you don’t have to manage the list, and people can subscribe and unsubscribe without the embarrassment of contacting you personally.

I once signed up for a newsletter that didn’t use a service. When I got the first newsletter, I thought it was a private email just for me. This was NOT a good thing. You want your newsletter to stand out from personal emails!

I am not great at doing newsletters. I have written and sent out ONE so far, and I had planned on doing it monthly. But I’m hoping to do better. I ordered a book about how to do author newsletters, and I finished writing the June newsletter and hope to send it out by this coming Monday.

So if you sign up for the newsletter before Monday, you will get the June newsletter. It’s not great, but it does have my recipe for keto/lowcarb hot chocolate in it— a super easy recipe, made in the mug.

Some people recommend offering a free ebook to get people to sign up for your newsletter. I suppose that would work if you can write an ebook on a topic of general interest, and write it well, and if you have the knowledge to write intelligently on that topic.

I don’t happen to have a free ebook to offer. And I’m not sure I like that approach. People who sign up for a newsletter to get a free ebook may not want the newsletter.

Sign up for the newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr

Have you done an author newsletter? How did it work out for you? What is your newsletter like? Are you still doing it?

Links:

I Need Coffee: How to Create an Author Newsletter that isn’t Terrible: https://medium.com/writers-on-writing/i-need-coffee-how-to-create-an-author-newsletter-that-isnt-terrible-650ecf37578

Jane Friedman: Email Newsletters for Authors: Get Started Guide: https://www.janefriedman.com/email-newsletters-for-authors/

KetoLife: You Need to Cook

One unpleasant fact of Keto living is that you need to do home-cooking. You can’t just go out for Keto food! Restaurants, especially fast-food ones, are notorious carb-pushers. Your burgers come with buns, and urgings to order fries and a sugary soft drink. Kentucky Fried no longer has the low carb roasted chicken, but the new menu looks to be rich in carbs, as well as requiring a biscuit. I think they made you pay for the biscuit whether you actually get the biscuit or not.

We have a societal inhibition about home cooking. Men don’t want to do it because it’s traditionally women’s work. Women don’t want to do it because we are brought up thinking we have to be good feminists and doing women’s work instead of delegating it to a man is bad feminism. But we have to man up (or woman up) and realize that eating the product of food processors every day is too bad for us to be sustainable. Do we want to be fat, diabetic and/or have Alzheimer’s disease?

To learn Keto (low-carb) cooking you need to have keto recipe books. Yes, actual books. Preferably NOT on Kindle, as you don’t want to spill low-carb gravy on your Kindle. Not every ‘low-carb’ cook book is good. I have one I bought on sale years ago that has not one recipe that is actually low-carb. It’s more of a ‘moderate carb’ approach.

The best book to start with is not a recipe book at all, but Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, which has recipes in the back. The advantage to this old book is that it came along before there were any low-carb specialty food in the stores. The problem with low-carb specialty foods is that the companies that make them go out of business whenever low-carb popularity dips, and so you are stuck finding substitutes for ‘Carb Countdown dairy beverage’ in your recipes.

Dr. Atkins’ first book came out before any of that (1972) and his patients had to get regular food ingredients from regular grocery stores. And the advantages of the recipes in that first book is that they are well known in the low-carb community. The trickiest recipe in the book is the Diet Revolution Rolls a bread substitute, which require separating eggs and whipping the egg whites. There are actual YouTube videos that show how to make Diet Revolution Rolls!

YouTube videos are actually a great way to improve your cooking/baking skills. You can also Google (or DuckDuckGo) any cut of meat you want to cook and get instructions. Don’t know how to make pork chops or a ribeye steak? Google! (Duck!) You can learn no matter how hopeless you are. And if you have no internet access, try your local library. My small-town library has internet connected computers you can use for free for a  hour.

Dr. Atkins also has a lot of recipe books out. The two I use most are the two earliest, Dr. Atkins Diet Cookbook (1974) and Dr. Atkins New Diet Cookbook (1994). The first contains a very simple recipe for ‘cream sauce’ (like white sauce) and ‘mushroom sauce’ (can sub for cream-of-mushroom soups). Later Atkins books often have recipes which call on ingredients that are specialty products from Atkins corporation that are no longer available.

When you are ready to go beyond Dr. Atkins approved recipes, we have two cookbook authors that are dedicated to low-carb/keto: Dana Carpender and Maria Emmerich. Both have co-written cookbooks with low-carb health podcaster Jimmy Moore, both have a number of cook books available. Look on Amazon.com or your favorite online book seller and pick one that sounds good.

A final note: how many recipes do you, personally, need? My aunt Pat who loves to try new recipes all the time would need a lot. My mother tends to stick with a smaller number of ‘tried-and-true’ recipes. I myself prefer to be in a rut, making the same few meals most of the time. How many good keto recipes do you need? Don’t settle for the first few you try if you only eat them because they are ‘diet’ food and you are on a ‘diet.’ Keto/low-carb food should taste great! Try new recipes until you find ones you like.

What Writers Know that Isn’t So

Writers face a problem that, now in the Internet age, is worse than ever— what we know about writing that just isn’t so. Rumors run through the would-be writer community. The Internet makes them spread faster, and self-publishing makes it possible for even the horribly ignorant to write how-to-write books that contain this misinformation.

These false ideas cover many things. ‘Writing rules’ that just make you more inhibited about writing, since you can’t possibly remember all these arbitrary rules. Bad ideas on how to approach a potential agent, or how to promote your self-published book. Even the idea that you can use a pen name that makes you seem to be another, famous writer.

Where do you go to get more accurate ideas? How-to-write books are not all helpful, especially now that anyone can self-publish one. I find that Writer’s Digest Books publishes how-to-write books that are at least free from the worst howlers. The authors they publish are not all at the same level, however. They may throw out ideas at random that will lead you astray, even if the core message of their books is sound.

Lawrence Block, a mystery writer who also wrote articles on fiction writing for Writer’s Digest magazine and who also wrote how-to-write books, is a sound source on writing information, though dated. He got his start writing short stories for the ‘pulps,’ which no longer exist. But he was for many years a nationally known mystery author and some of his books have been made into movies. Any of his books is a good place to start your quest for writing knowledge.

James Scott Bell is an Evangelical Christian writer, also in the mystery genre, who took Lawrence Block’s place at Writer’s Digest magazine in the fiction writing area. He has written many how-to-write books as well, both from Writer’s Digest Books, and self-published. He gives out a lot of useful information to writers, and is, obviously, not biased against Christians like so many people are today.

Stephen King is a popular Left-Wing horror writer who wrote a book, On Writing. I was at one time a massive Stephen King fan, but I found the book a disappointment. I learned a lot about King’s life, but little about writing lore I didn’t already know. I do know of people who found his book helpful, and I’d imagine you might find a second-hand copy if you look for one.

Jerry B. Jenkins is famous as the author of the Left Behind series (LaHaye was just the theology consultant) and he wrote a book ‘Writing for the Soul’ which is helpful, and not only for writers who, like Jenkins, are Evangelical Christians. Even the most secular of secular writers can find something useful in this book, the same way I, as a Catholic writer, might consult books by secular writers like Lawrence Block.

To evaluate writing books in general, look at the author’s name. Have you ever heard of that author as a fiction writer? If you have, the book is probably worth reading at least once. Famous writing agents and writing teachers who are respected by ‘real’ writers can also contribute to your fund of knowledge.

After you have a fund of writing knowledge from good sources, you can expand your hunt. Even self-published how-to-write authors are not off limits then, because you will be able to discern which advice is good and which is likely to be bunk, or self-serving.

One reason that it’s important to get more writing knowledge is that there are plenty of con artist out there who prey on struggling writers. Google the term ‘vanity press’ to learn more about one of the schemes to make money off of writing ignorance.

Yesterday I discovered that the left-wing social medium Pinterest has chosen to classify prolife material as ‘nudity’ or porn. I have a Pinterest account which I haven’t used in years. I now use it exclusively to post prolife graphics. Find me at: https://www.pinterest.com/nissalovescats/ on Pinterest until they ban me!

 

#FixThatBlog – Should you blog about your current WIP?

When you are considering what to blog about, things from your current work-in-progress may jump into mind. You may think of posting your worldbuilding notes, or character sketches, or that super-duper scene you just wrote. That will get people all excited about your coming book, right?

Wrong. If people read your blog post and do have a little interest in your story, the first thing they will discover is that your book not only isn’t available for sale yet, it isn’t even finished! Books can take YEARS to get the first draft finished, and then there are other drafts, and the process of finding a traditional publisher or going through a hired editor to make your book ready for self-publishing. Even if you personally write quite quickly, the casual readers who find your blog may assume your book is something that will happen far in the future. They will be disappointed. They are not going to keep checking back with your blog to see if it’s published yet.

Also, if you post things about your WIP while writing, you are restricting yourself. That brilliant idea you had today may not work out a few chapters down the line. When you keep your first draft private, you can change everything around without worry. Put the story in a whole new setting, eliminate your main character and elevate a minor character into that place, do what you think works best.

If you have been sharing your WIP as you compose the first draft, you are inhibited. If you published your character sketch of Jakko as your main character, you worry that your blog readers will not like it if you make Heino your main character instead. And you will get feedback that may inhibit your first draft progress. They may dislike your characters or your storyline. Or they may love you character but assume she’s going to be a feminist heroine and that not only isn’t your intention, it’s something you don’t want to do.

Also, fictional stories may never be finished. Lawrence Block, famous author who also wrote how-to-write books, started a few novels he couldn’t finish. If you are just starting out in the writing game, you are even more likely to start something you can’t finish.

When I blog about a WIP that I later do not finish, it makes me feel I am exposing myself as an amateurish writer. And I don’t want to do that. I have had some writing success, including having my poetry published in a number of periodicals— which would have been more if I had been submitting more regularly. I used to think that talking about a WIP that I’m working on would make me more motivated to finish. Actually, I think it just made me dead-end sooner due to being self-conscious about the project.

Lawrence Block said that he didn’t talk about his WIP before he was done with the first draft. He was afraid that if he talked about it, he would be less motivated to actually write it. He called it ‘leaving your fight in the gym,’ which I think is a boxing metaphor.

The same rule goes for talking about your WIP on your blog or author page or an online forum. Your brain may interpret that talking as you doing the required writing work on that project. And then not give you the writing energy and motivation to make that WIP into something real.

When your WIP is a finished novel out on the market— even if it’s self-published— that is a time to blog about it. Talk about the characters in it or aspects of your worldbuilding. You could even publish the first chapter as a series of blog posts, with your notes about how you did it. But wait until your WIP is finished, please.

Have you ever thought about blogging about your current WIP? Did you ever do it? What were the results?

#IWSG – How to Find the Right Genre

Genre? What is a genre? Does ‘creepypasta’ count as a genre? It’s confusing, and that makes for writer insecurity.

This is a post for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Find Out More: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Let’s make things easy. A genre is a division in a real-world bookstore. They keep the mysteries in one place, romance in another, and the science fiction and fantasy genres lumped together in another place.

Genres like that are major genres. There are a lot of subgenres under each genre, but the important thing is the major genre. Some subgenres disappear— like the Gothic romance that had its own shelf in the bookstore in its heyday— but writers continue on in another subdivision of the major genre. Some Gothic romance writers just called their work ‘romantic suspense’ and kept on writing Gothics!

What genre is right for me? Because of having Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) I can generate infinite self-doubt about my genre choices. I can tell myself ‘you aren’t really good enough/original enough to write in that genre’ until the sheep come home. (I don’t own cows so can’t do anything until the cows come home.)

The first genre I really loved was science fiction, and that wasn’t because of books, but because of the original Star Trek series. As I grew old enough to obtain books on my own, I read Orson Scott Card and Mercedes Lackey and other authors, some of whom I no longer mention, as in the case of the Darkover authoress who ruined her own fiction by being a swine in real life.

What I really like is a subgenre which is sometimes called ‘planetary romance,’ which is a fantasy-like story which takes place on another planet and where the ‘magic’ tends to be based on science not yet understood in our own time. My current WIP is in this subgenre.

I also get writing ideas that are not ‘planetary romance’ but that fit into the science fiction and/or fantasy genre(s) in some way. Even my ideas for Westerns tend to have alien cowpokes in them. I think that is the key to determining a writing genre— not which you like to read the most, but which genre you constantly have ideas for.

Do you have a Facebook author page? Read: https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/2019/05/25/doing-facebook-author-pages-in-2019/ and add the link to your author page in a comment, and your author page will be added to my list! The list is here: https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/fb-author-pages/

Why Authors do Newsletters

Why do authors do newsletters as well as a blog? One reason, it is highly recommended. Your blog is at the mercy of your blog’s host or provider. They could take it down deliberately or it could come down through their error. This is not as common as having a Twitter account deleted or suspended, but it COULD happen. Having a newsletter— with the emails of your willing subscribers— can, in an emergency, make it possible for you to move to a new blog without losing all your fans.

Don’t try to write a newsletter using your own email program. A provider like MailChimp ensures that your newsletter recipients can easily cancel if it turns out they don’t want your newsletter. It is less socially awkward to cancel through MailChimp than to send a personal email to you.

Plus, you can get more information on your subscribers through MailChimp. And it gives you the chance to create something professional-looking for free. Yes, MailChimp can be free until you get to 2000 subscribers.

I haven’t sent out my newsletter in ages, but I’m working on a June edition. What is in it? I try to provide a short informative article along with some updates on my blog and writing life. If any of my books are at a lower price or free temporarily, I will let people know.

I don’t know whether my newsletter or any e-newsletter is all that exciting or worth reading. But I’m doing my best trying to make it a little special.

When people sign up for your newsletter, they are giving their permission for you to send them an email. Permission-based contact is the best. You can mention your books available for sale (no hard sell, please) and they can’t complain— they chose to sign up.

Of course, to show your gratitude, make sure that your newsletter is 90% good stuff and only 10% self-promotion. No one really likes advertising even if they have given their permission. But your newsletter is your best chance to connect up with the people who might become your fans.

It goes without saying that I would very much like it if you would sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr    It is planned to come out every month, and you can cancel easily at any time. Join just for this month if you like!