How To Survey Readers FREE

There are several authors who involve their readers through games and surveys. One author who stands out in my mind is Janet Evanovich. For the Stephanie Plum series, her readers are asked to submit their ideas for the name of the next book. Another successful author gives away free copies after a reader gives feedback.

I think this is brilliant marketing as well as a great way to involve your reader in future publications.

Every time an author (who by default is a marketer) faces the next stage of publication and distribution, a new era of learning presents itself. Having decided to give away a free copy of my first novel, The Supernatural Prodigy, to anyone who helps me out with a survey, I then had to learn the mechanics of such an endeavor.

Where do I get the surveys? How do I give away the book? How many completed surveys will I need?

Google came to my rescue once again. Not only do they have free surveys in Google Forms, but they also let you import pictures for each question. The survey I used is called “Customer Feedback.” A wonderful tool for anyone wanting to test a product.

Here are some of the amazing benefits of this survey:

  • Collects the email if you request it so you can send the person his/her reward or more information
  • Several options for the answers (short text, paragraph, multiple choice)
  • Make it a required question, or not
  • Add a progress bar so they know how close to the end they are
  • Add a picture (automatically formatted including size) as a header
  • Add a picture (product, book, etc.) on each question
  • Choose or upload a background picture
  • Choose the color of the invitation
  • Option for the answers to go directly to an excel sheet in Google Docs
  • Easy edit which is automatically saved
  • Easy setup with little to study
  • Did I say easy? Try SUPER EASY!
  • Links to Facebook, Twitter, email, embed code, or link for easy distribution
  • Includes a “Thank you” message (editable) for instant reward or redirect
  • Has an option for the person to see the real-time results
  • Oh, and I did mention it is COMPLETELY FREE!

Here are some examples of how the responses look:

To see my design, CLICK HERE. You don’t have to do the survey to see how professional Google makes them.

I recommend getting about 100 responses to find out what you want to know. If you have your book on Amazon, find the gift option and send it to your respondents. It’s that easy.

I highly recommend using this tool to find out what your public is thinking and what they want.

If you have other ideas for saving money or helping authors, please add them to the comments.

What is Linky Blog Hop?

I thought I’d try out this blog linking idea to see if it would actually link me up with other authors. It’s still being created, so we’ll see if it works out. You can add your own blog site by getting the code at the bottom.

Here’s the list so far…

Voice vs. Literary Laryngitis

Under the category of “writing,” I hoped to put together some awesome advice. Alas, my hopes are dashed, my dreams obliterated.

Why?

Advice has been a treacherous path for me, both given and received. I’ve seen wonderful stories never reach the light of day. I do not want to see that happen to you.

Let me explain…

When all is said and done, your voice is what counts.

Before you ask the question that takes you down a fateful path–“What makes a bestseller?”–let me tell you how I went numb and dumb.

The first draft is a delight to write. Your creative juices are flowing, you’re free to word it any way you want. All you’re trying to do is get the story down.

Then comes revision. Not so bad.

But, now, you’re up to the tiny details, people are reading it, giving opinions, you’re using software that underlines things… It’s like being nagged. Even as I write this, my writing aid program is correcting me, telling me I forgot an article, misspelled a word, need a comma. Arghhh! Shut up!

Then come the critiques, feedback, editing tips, requests for rewrite and revisions. “This chapter isn’t necessary,” “I was thrown out of the story here,” “I don’t think your character would say that.”

At a certain point, I closed my laptop and went out back, sat on my porch swing and watched the lizards crawl on the back wall, flirting with each other. They do that funny push up thing…

Anyway…

What is voice?

It’s you and the way you tell a story.

When someone hears a Michael Jackson song, they have no doubt who’s singing. Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley made Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby take a back row seat. You may be saying “Who?” but they were the top sellers of the time.

Do you know why?

First and foremost, they were original.

The first time Elvis Presley performed on TV (The Ed Sullivan Show September 9, 1956) it was shocking. After Elvis’s wiggly legs embarrassed everyone (except his screaming fans), the censors decided to keep the cameras above his waist during his second appearance. It’s mild for kids today, but back then, it earned him the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis.”

When Michael Jackson sang “Billie Jean” and moonwalked across the stage the first time, the crowd went wild. They knew the song from the first two notes and jumped to their feet.

It wasn’t that we hadn’t seen and heard someone do these things before. But Elvis and Michael had formed a unique personal combination, their own style.  They did what they loved, what energized them, then put it all together, tried it out on audiences, and perfected it through feedback.

As performers, they got the desired response from the audience.

And that’s what a writer has to do with a reader.

My favorite author, Charles Dickens, had a motto:

“Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait.”

If you write suspense, horror, or thrillers, you might have a motto of “Make them love, make them worry, make them scream.”

Whatever your motto, create an effect on your reader with your own voice.

With all the rules–grammar, punctuation, point of view, show-don’t-tell, ad nauseam–none of them take precedence over voice. You do need the rules as a means to create the effect. But, whatever you do, don’t sacrifice your style to please an editor, agent, or publisher.

The moment you take on someone else’s style, you lose your voice.

Be original, be you.

After all, it’s YOUR story.

I’d love to hear your opinions and feedback on this. Please leave your comment. Please use the form below.

Writing Prompts

Stuck for an idea for your story? Play with “writing prompts.”

You can search it online or on Pinterest. Writing prompts are great for practice, fun, and get the creative juices flowing.

Here’s an example, using a line from my book:

His mother appeared at the door. “Grab a shovel and meet me out back.”

What do you think happens next? Or maybe you’d like to think of what happened up to this point.

That’s what a writing prompt is. It prompts you to write.

One of the most used prompts is “What if…”

Neil Gaiman once said, in response to where he gets his ideas, that he thinks in “what ifs.” Like, if you become a vampire by being bitten, what if the vampire bites a frog?

Feel free to add your favorite writing prompts in the comments below.

Happy imagination…

The Blank Page

Does writing have to be an agonizing event of confronting a blank page?  Must we be the starving artist who, like Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) in the movie “Adaptation,” go to hell and back in our efforts just to begin?

Here’s what some successful writers have to say about facing the blank page…

The aspiring writer asks, “What to write?”  And the simple answer is:

“Find a subject you care about & which in your heart you feel others should care about.  It is the genuine caring… which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.”  –Kurt Vonnegut

There are many ways to get started but probably the easiest is to blog.  If your passion is the care and raising of dogs, for example, you can set up a blog and start writing blogs about what you know on this subject.

From there, you can learn about letting others know where to find this valuable information (marketing).  But, even if you never market your blog, you are still practicing writing.

Possibly your next step could be writing articles on a particular subject having to do with the care of dogs.  I recently had a question about what is okay for a dog to eat and found an excellent article that not only answered my question but also explained why each food was good or bad.

Then, compiling these writings into a pdf format, you could offer it as a free e-book to those who subscribe to your blog.  Now you’re building a community.

The point is, you don’t have to jump right into a novel.  You can start small, improve with practice, build your audience, and learn how to publish small.  By the time your book is written, you won’t have the slightest compunction about calling yourself a writer.

Hope that helps…

I would love to hear your feedback. Please use the box below.

Writing Tools

 

With almost seventy percent of Americans wanting to write, one would think there would be far more tools out there. It has taken some time for me to find them.  Let me save you some time and effort.

My first breakthrough in my quest to find economical sources for critiques and editing was Critique Circle.  My second breakthrough I found in their forum, ProWritingAid.  Here’s why you should use both of them:

  • You get both sides of the coin as a writer
  • You save a ton of money on editing

When you write, you may experience a cycle of content and discontent.  In other words, there may be times when you hate your work or get sick of it.  Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing, I love having written.”  It’s easy for a published author of several novels to say it’s a wonderful career.  He or she has completed their work and it was accepted.

But, when you’re in the middle of a novel and you’re running out of steam, you may need a break.  That’s when I head on over to Critique Circle and start reading someone else’s work.  It’s FREE but you can upgrade for more benefits.  The most that would cost is $10 for one month or less than $4 a month if you pay for the year.  Well worth it if you have an entire novel written.

Here are a few of the benefits I’ve experienced:

  • I discovered I know stuff (grammar, spelling, punctuation)
  • It felt really good to help someone else do what I want to do
  • By critiquing as a reader, I learned more as a writer
  • I realized, as a writer, I’m not alone
  • The buddy system is almost like being in college
  • The two to one ratio of critique/getting critiqued kept me writing
  • I was compelled to be courageous and let someone else see my work
  • I found critiques from strangers far more honest than friends and family
  • I’ve saved time, money, and potential embarrassment

At Critique Circle (CC), they call critiquing “critting” — which would make us “critters,” I guess.  Here’s a video on how it works.

Before you post your blog, assignment, short story, poem, or chapter, head over to ProWritingAid.  “Critters” only have a certain amount of time and patience.  If the work is riddled with spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, the critiquer has little time to critique the story.  It’s a waste of the writer’s and reader’s time.  At ProWritingAid, you can copy-paste your work into their writing tool and fix the English.

They also have a plagiarism tool and a lot of other goodies but it’s only free for the first 500 words.  Premium is $40 for the year (or less if you buy two years and so on–pro-rated).  Consider the cost of editing (average of $35/hour) and you’ll see it’s worth it.

If you know about other economical tools and groups that have helped you as a writer, please share the information in the comments below.  You can also let me know what information you’d like to see in the next blog.

See you at Critique Circle.

The Writing Journey Begins

I would love to tell you that writing is fun, easy, rewarding, and everything you dreamed it would be.  For your sake, I won’t do that. It can be. But, you have to get through the rough patches as well.

When I decided I would write, the first thing I did was to change my identity.  No, I didn’t get an alias and forge a social security number.  I changed my “online presence.”

“How?” you might ask.

I took a picture that did not represent my family, my pets, my passion.  It was simply me, maybe a picture I wouldn’t mind seeing on a dust cover of a novel I’d written.  I found some wallpaper with quotes from famous authors.  Then I set to the task of changing the way I looked on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and my personal blog.

I did this for many reasons but the main ones are based on these facts:

  • Before you can do something, you have to be something
  • Before you can have something, you have to do something

So how do you BE a writer?

The best way to BE a writer is to say that’s what you are and write something.  It really is that simple.  You don’t have to be a great writer, a famous writer, or a rich writer.  Just BE a writer.  Probably the worst thing you can call yourself is an “aspiring writer” or say “I want to be a writer.”  You simply decide you ARE a writer and start writing.

Think about it.  How did you get to be anything professionally or otherwise?  Somebody handed you a piece of paper or said you were hired and there you were, telling people, “I’m a _____.”  Their next question isn’t usually, “Oh yeah?  Are you a good _____?”  They might if they happen to be your wise guy friend who can’t seem to take anything seriously.

The great thing about being a writer (author, copywriter, journalist, blogger, poet, etc.) is that you’re self-employed.  So HIRE YOURSELF.  Go ahead, look in the mirror and say, “You’re hired!  You’re a writer.”  That’s all there is to that.  Actually, you should probably do that several times until you believe it.

Next step is to DO writing.  This implies that you are going to write something that you exchange with someone else.  You exchange writing by publishing and that can be as simple as putting it online.  If you write for your own pleasure, you’re not really DOING writing.  If you write things that no one else sees, what you’re actually doing is PRACTICING.  Well, that’s okay but it also means you are not yet DOING writing.

So write an article, a song, a blog post, something, make it as error free as possible, and post it.  Now you’re a writer.  You have authored something and published it.

If you want to HAVE written, have the life and rewards of a writer, then you must DO the writing.  If you want to BE a writer, then you have to DO writing.

Some people say they are some title but they never do that job — so it’s a lie.

I heard a story once about a firefighter who would show up at the scene of a fire and start taking pictures.  He loved photography and it only took a minute or two to snap a picture so he didn’t see anything wrong with it.  Do you?

Imagine you own the house and the belongings that are burning.  You see the fire truck pull up and several of them jump off and quickly hook up the hoses and grab the fire extinguishers.  But this one guy, he takes some pictures first.  I think you would agree, he is not DOING firefighting and to that degree he is not BEING a firefighter.

So the point is, if you want to be a writer, BE one and DO writing.  Tell people you are a writer.  Their next question will usually be, “What do you write?”

Why?

Because what I’ve just told you are the natural parts of anything you want to be.  You are something, you do what that something does, then you have what that something would have.

Once you get started that way, the next step is to associate with like-minded people.  But that’s another article.

Hope this helps…here’s some more advice from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King.