Microsoft Word for Writers: Setting Word Options

Hi Folks,

Options_240Here come your Word Options, and there are a ton of them. The good news is, setting them isn’t that difficult and many of them need to be set only once.

To access your options in Microsoft Word 2010, click File > Options. (Note: While the File menu is open your document will seem to disappear, but don’t be confused. It’s still there. To get it back, just click File again.)

Once you click Options, the following dialogue will appear. All dialogue boxes have an OK and Cancel button in the bottom right corner, but to save room I trimmed it off. The first screenshot contains your General Options:

11Figure 11

Look over each set of options carefully. For example, in this one you’ll note that I’ve unchecked the block that says Show Mini Toolbar on Selection. If this were checked, when you select a word or sentence or paragraph, a mini toolbar would pop up asking whether you want to cut, copy, paste, hyperlink, etc. the selected information. You might find that useful, but it drives me nuts, so I unchecked the box.

On the left pane in Figure 10 you can see each of the categories: General, Display, Proofing, Language and Advanced. The next several screenshots will illustrate those categories. We’ve already talked about customizing the Ribbon and the Quick Access Toolbar, and you can explore the Add-Ins and Trust Center on your own. They’re of no consequence to writers that I’ve ever seen.

Here’s the Display dialogue box:

12Figure 12

When you aren’t sure where your paragraph marks or tabs or extra spaces are, you can come to this dialogue box and select Show All Formatting Marks, then click OK at the bottom. When you return to your document, you’ll see all of the normally hidden formatting marks. This can be a very useful tool.

Here’s the Proofing dialogue box. Note that you can set your preferences for correcting and/or checking spelling and grammar. Be sure you check the Use Contextual Spelling option. Doing so will save you a lot of headaches later on:

13aFigure 13a

You’ll notice the AutoCorrect Options button in the upper right of Figure 13a. The following five screens illustrate the various settings you can affect when you click that button. The last one, Actions, is more for business use. I’ve never used it and can’t imagine a use for it in creative writing.

13bFigure 13b — AutoCorrect

13cFigure 13c — Math AutoCorrect

13dFigure 13d — AutoFormat As You Type

13eFigure 13e — AutoFormat

13fFigure 13f — Actions

Here’s the Save dialogue box. Usually, you can set this one once and forget it:

14Figure 14

Here’s the Language dialogue box. Again, it’s pretty much set and forget:

15Figure 15

Below is the Advanced Options dialogue box, albeit in three pieces.

16aFigure 16a

16bFigure 16b

16cFigure 16c

With the Advanced Options box, it’s best that you just get your beverage of choice, sit in a comfortable chair, relax, and go over the possible settings one at a time.

That’s it for this time! Next up, Find & Replace. For my money, it’s the most valuable tool in Word. Until then, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

Microsoft Word: Setting Up the Quick Access Toolbar

This is not some asinine April Fool’s joke, but an actual post. Enjoy!

Hi Folks,

Photo courtesy Can Stock Photo, www.canstockphoto.comTime really is money, and one way to save a great deal of time when using Microsoft Word is to set up your Quick Access Toolbar. Doing so will also give you more screen space, a bonus if you’ve had your eyes more than about 12 years.

We talked about the menu (also called the ribbon) last time, but the fact is, I actually use the tabbed menu items in the Ribbon very little.

For most of my writing and editing tasks, I use the Quick Access Toolbar instead. It takes a little getting used to, but there’s almost no learning curve and it’s much cleaner, quicker and easier once you get used to it.

The Quick Access Toolbar is the small gray horizontal area below the Ribbon and above the horizontal ruler. (If your ruler isn’t there, in the menu select View > Ruler.) Here’s mine:

7_870Figure 7

Whereas with the Ribbon, some commands have to be retained or removed in groups, it’s easy to truly customize the Quick Access Toolbar for your specific needs.

Left to right above are New Document, Save, Save As, Undo, Redo, Cut, Copy, Paste, Bold, Italic, Underline, Insert Page Break, and Left, Center, Right and Full Justified.

Then come some features useful in publishing or setting up ebooks. The little blue flag is a Bookmark symbol. I use that to create a table of contents when I’m publishing a new book. Then there are Remove Header and Remove Footer commands (ebooks don’t have headers and footers), then the Add Hyperlink and Remove Hyperlink commands. Next is the font face, size and color. Then comes the excellent editing (and revision) tool, Track Changes. Here’s the drop-down menu for Track Changes:

8Figure 8

When you click Change Tracking Options, you’ll get this dialogue box:

9Figure 9

When I’m working on an edit for someone else or a revision of my own work, I typically uncheck Track Moves and Track Formatting. The other setting in Figure 7, Change User Name, is self-explanatory.

Back to the Quick Access Menu, the next item after Track Changes is the Replace feature. The Replace feature is so important that it has its own section later. Then comes the Insert Symbol function and the Change Case function (from All Uppercase to Capitalize Each Word, for example). Following that are a few admin functions: the Thesaurus, Spell Checker, Zoom and Word Count features, and then the Paragraph Formatting function. Again, this one is so important that it has its own section later.

Back to more editing and/or revision tools, we have the Accept Change dialogue and Reject Change dialogue. (These also are important for you if you’re having your manuscript edited by someone else who uses Track Changes.) Then comes the Insert Comment function, then Go To Previous Comment, Go To Next Comment, and the Delete Comment dialogue. Finally, near the end I added a highlighter. I don’t use it very often, but it’s off to the side when I need it. At the end (click the down arrow) is the Customize Quick Access Toolbar menu. If you select that and then click More Commands, you’ll see this dialogue box:

 10_750Figure 10

As you can see, in the left pane I’ve selected All Commands. That’s the best place to start. (If you want to choose from fewer commands, you can begin with Popular Commands.)

To add a command to the Quick Access Toolbar, simply select it in the left pane and click Add in the center. It will be added to the right pane. (Note too at the top of the right pane you can select a Quick Access Toolbar For All Documents or for the current document only.)

If you want to remove a command, select it in the right pane, then click Remove. Finally, to rearrange the order of the commands in the Quick Access Toolbar, select the command you want to move and use the up or down arrows to the right side of the dialogue box to move the command.

I encourage you to spend whatever time it takes to set up your Quick Access Toolbar exactly the way you want it. Once you’ve set it up, you’ll use the Ribbon Menu a lot less.

Finally, here’s an important public service announcement of interest to writers. I suspect many readers of this column have or will consider self-publishing through a subsidy POD publisher. Before you do, I urge you to read this article: P.O.D. Secrets Revealed: Ridiculous Contract Clauses!

Note: I recommend publishing your work yourself (You Can Get Help Here). I no longer recommend ANY subsidy publisher.

I recommend strongly against AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and IUniverse and any other POD publisher who wants to charge you thousands of dollars, no matter what “services” they claim to provide.

If the company you’re considering charges you any up front fees for formatting, cover, etc. AND splits the royalties with you, avoid them. Get a lot more advice in this free PDF guide.

Next up, Setting MS Word Options. Until then, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

To Be or Not To Be

Howdy folks,

This is yet another in the “out of the series” series of mid-term posts that might answer a few questions for some of you.

Recently a friend and fellow writer asked me for a recommendation of someone who could read his work. He explained that he wasn’t looking for an edit or even a proofread, but simply wanted someone to read it with an eye toward whether he should continue writing or shuck the whole thing as a horrible experiment gone wrong.

Okay, he wasn’t nearly that melodramatic, but you get the point. And you’ve probably asked a similar question at one time or another yourself. I know I did, many many many years ago.

We all want validation of our work, but you know that old saw about writing being a solitary endeavor? It’s true. And it should be true. If you’re submitting your work for critique to people who are no more experienced than you are, and if you’re listening to their recommendations, you’re writing by committee. And nothing—absolutely nothing EVER—good has come out of writing by committee. Just to get that out of the way early.

We used to get validation from a publisher. Many of you are still chasing traditional publishers and/or agents despite the fact that traditional publishing is currently issuing the worst contracts in the history of publishing. (Note: Don’t take my word for it. Ask your chosen agent or traditional publisher how soon, per their contract, all rights revert to the author after initial print publication of the book. The answer is simple: Never (or long enough that it might as well be never).

But even back in the bad old days when traditional publishers treated writers somewhat fairly and ruled the roost, what one publisher absolutely hated, another publisher loved. So your “validation” didn’t come necessarily as a result of your skill as a writer. It came as a result of having submitted your work to the right publisher.

Today is no different. Today we get our validation straight from the reader. If you write stuff that’s good, readers will like it, buy it, and tell other readers. If you don’t, well, leave it out there. Eventually the readers who like what you’ve written will surface for air.

Yeah, I know. That isn’t really what my friend was asking. He was asking whether I or someone I would recommend could read his work and then tell him, honestly and point blank, whether to keep his day job. Okay, first, if you have a day job and you’re writing around it, keep your day job. You might sell ten thousand copies of your novel this month and only six copies next month. Yes, it works like that.

Okay, this is “yeah I know,” part deaux. What my friend REALLY wanted to know is whether his work was worthwhile. And you know what? Nobody else can tell you that.

This isn’t a copout. Seriously, only YOU can prevent forest fires and only YOU can decide whether you should continue writing (and learning) and writing some more. Only you. Nobody else.

The Truth is, the only lasting worth that can ever be attached to writing (both the act and the product) is up to the writer himself or herself.

Basically, ask yourself this:

  1. Do you enjoy writing?
  2. Is writing a joyful thing for you?
  3. Is the pure unadulterated (or maybe adulterated, I don’t know) joy you derive from writing and stretching the truth and telling stories worth the time it takes to continue?

Only YOU know the answer. Just like you know that’s actually only one question. If the answer is yes, then write.

If the answer is no or nope or huhuh or nuhuh or hell no or areyoukiddin’me or anything else like that, then ohdeargawd by all means please find something to do that you actually enjoy doing and, you know, go do that.

There’s one other thing you can ask yourself, and for me personally this is a biggie. Is your goal to write, or is your goal to be published and make money?

If your goal is to write, then it’s all right to have those other goals too (publication and money). But if you think you’re gonna slap together a few short stories or even a few novels and find yourself rolling in it… well, you might be rolling in it, but it won’t be money.

I write what I want to read. As I write my short stories and novels, I’m constantly amazed at some of the things the characters say and some of the places they take me and some of the situations they get into. Not to mention how they get out of those situations. It’s an incredible experience, and I am awed by it.

Fortunately, I also find it a massive amount of fun. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be a writer. I’d do something I enjoy.

‘Til next time,

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

Microsoft Word for Writers: Setting Up the Menu

Hi Folks,

There are several items available for use in the Word menu (also called the Ribbon), and most of us use the Ribbon as-is out of the box. However, just in case you want to customize it, here are some brief instructions.

In this screenshot, the Ribbon is the horizontal white area that includes the menu tabs: File, Home, Insert, Page Layout, Review, and View. Other tabs are available (see Figure 5), but these are the only ones I use. The horizontal gray area just below the Ribbon is the Quick Access Toolbar.

1_800Figure 1

To set up the menu, place your cursor to the right side of the small down arrow on the Quick Access Toolbar and right click. This small drop-down menu will appear:

2Figure 2

When you click Customize the Ribbon, this dialogue box will open:

3_750Figure 3

You can see that Popular Commands are listed in the left pane and Main Tabs are listed in the right pane. To familiarize yourself with the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box, click the arrow to the right of Popular Commands. You’ll see another drop-down menu that looks like this:

4Figure 4

I recommend choosing from All Commands, but it’s less important in setting up the Ribbon (menu) than a bit later in setting up the Quick Access Toolbar. You’ll see a similar but much more extensive menu in that section a bit later. More important right now is the Main Tabs pane on the right. You can see my settings.

5Figure 5

Furthermore, you can click the little plus symbol in front of each checked item to add or remove menu items from that tab. For example, if you click the plus symbol before Home, you’ll probably see Clipboard, Font, Paragraph, Styles and Editing. In mine, I removed Styles because I don’t want the menu cluttered with them.

When I click my Home tab, it looks like this:

6Figure 6

If you intend to use Styles though, certainly you should leave them in place. You can easily customize the other tabs in the same way. Whatever you select during this process is what will appear in your Ribbon when you click a tabbed menu item. I encourage you to explore, but I also caution you not to delete a submenu item unless you’re certain you aren’t going to use it.

To add or remove tabs from the menu, simply check or uncheck the box that appears before each tabbed menu item (see Figure 5).

To remove a submenu item, click the plus symbol in front of the tabbed menu item. When the submenu items appear below it, click the submenu item you would like to remove. If Word will allow you to remove the item, the Remove button in the center of the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box will be illuminated. If not, it will be grayed-out (see Figure 3).

To add a submenu item, select the item from the left pane of the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box and click the Add button in the center. (There might be some further requirements. If so, Word will provide pop-up instructions.)

Until later, happy writing!

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

Defining “A Huge Amount of Time”

Hi Folks,

Well, here we are with another post that isn’t part of the usual series. Still, even with these that are not part of the normal series, I try to pass along what I’ve learned as a writer.

This post is the result of an email I received in response to a recent short story of the week. The respondent (also a writer) writes,

[H]ow do you manage to get all these  stories edited?  Congratulations on your many stories…wow, one a week- sort of takes a huge amount of time.

I didn’t respond to him as thoroughly as I wanted to or probably should have, but I’ve grown a bit gun shy recently.

What I did tell him is that I send the stories to a first reader and then publish them. I told him I follow Heinlein’s Rules and that I follow a process called Writing Into the Dark. I said like Bradbury, I believe “plot” is what the characters leave behind as they run through the story. And finally I said I write about 1000 words per hour so writing a short story per week really doesn’t take up all that much time.

Then I got to thinking, I kind of enjoy writing these little interim posts, the ones that appear between the posts in the normal ten-day rotation, so why not write one about this and expand on my answer to him? After all, if even one writer out there gets an aha moment from it, that will be great for that one writer.

For the majority, who will think this is all hooey or that Heinlein’s Rules can’t possibly work for anyone but SF writers or whatever, well, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything to help them anyway. They’ll have to just keep doing what they’re doing, and that’s fine with me.

But for that one guy, that one woman, for whom the little light might come on, here’s what I should have written in response to the gentleman’s email:

I don’t have the stories edited, per se. I do have a first reader (and copy editor) read over them and look for inconsistencies, wrong words (e.g. waist vs. waste), etc. but nothing else. The cost of the copy edit, like the cost of the cover and the time involved in writing the story, is an investment. Whatever that total cost is, that’s all I’m ever going to put into it. Yet the story will earn income for me and my heirs from the time I publish it until 70 years after I die.

If it costs you $150 (time writing plus cover plus edit) to publish a story, and you make only $15 per year on that story from all sales venues, that’s a ten percent Return On Investment. Not too shabby. And if you’re smart you publish every short story on its own plus in a five-story collection plus in a ten-story collection. So for every story I write, I have three streams of revenue.

So here’s what I do. Per Heinlein’s Rules,

  1. You must write. (I write.)
  2. You must finish what you write. (I finish what I write.)
  3. You must not rewrite except to editorial order, and then only if you agree. (I don’t rewrite.)
  4. You must put your work on the market. (I publish what I write so readers can buy it.)
  5. You must keep your work on the market. (I keep it published so more writers can buy it.)

Writing a short story per week isn’t a problem for me because I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Does it take some time? Yes. About one hour per 1000 words plus an hour to design a cover and publish it. But what else am I gonna do? I’m a writer. Writers write.

Would you say to a mechanic, “Man, you put in one carburetor per week? That must sort of take a huge amount of time.” If he’s a mechanic, what else is he gonna do?

As I also told my respondent, writing a story per week isn’t a problem. The problem is having to stop working on the current novel to write the story. Over the first 15 days of March 2015, I wrote 30,852 new words of fiction. That’s only a little over 2000 words per day, so right at 2 hours per day.

From January 1, 2015 through March 15, 2015 (so 74 days), I’ve written 172,354 words of new fiction. Still, that’s only 2329 words per day. That’s less than 3 hours per day. I’m currently working on two novels. For those of you who have read the Wes Crowley series (Leaving Amarillo, Longing for Mexico, and South to Mexico), I’m currently writing a prequel to Leaving Amarillo and a sequel to South to Mexico. It’s absolutely the greatest fun I’ve ever had.

I mentioned earlier I write about 1000 words per hour. If that seems like a lot, divide it by 60. You’ll find that 1000 words per hour is only 17 words per minute. Can you write 17 words in a minute?

Now, my respondent was impressed that I write a short story per week. He said it “sort of takes a huge amount of time.” But I’m a writer. Why do folks—and especially other writers—find it unusual that I want to (or can) Just Do My Job (write) three or four or five hours per day? Is that really “a huge amount of time”? Not if you’re a writer.

Life is all about priorities, and we each set our own. I mean, if you have other things in your life that are more important to you than writing, then spending three hours per day writing probably would seem like a lot of time to you. But to me, walking along the beach for three hours would seem a horrible waste of time. Watching TV for more than about an hour per day would be excruciating.

I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else than writing, because I’m a writer and writing is my priority.

Ray Bradbury once wrote, “I love to write. It’s all I do.” I can relate. At one point during his career, Bradbury was writing a short story every day.

More than one time during his long career, Harlan Ellison set up a small desk and a chair and typewriter in the display window of a department store and wrote stories “live.” As he rolled a completed sheet of paper out of the typewriter, he’d tape it to the window so people outside could read the story as he was writing it.

Writers write. That’s all. Writers write.

If you want to be a prolific writer (if you want to make your living as a writer) you don’t have to write  garbage, and you don’t have to be a “hack” writer. You just have to put the hours in the chair.

What you do have to do is stop rewriting and polishing your original voice off everything you write. Follow Heinlein’s Rules. And instead of being the great Writer God On High directing the little characters, step down off your pedestal and run through the story WITH them. Enjoy.

I promise, it will be the most fun you’ve ever had.

Harvey

PS: If you’d like to learn some of these techniques and you live in or near Tucson, I’m teaching what will probably be the final presentation of Writing the Character Driven Story in Tucson on Saturday, March 28. We’ll begin at 9 a.m. and go all day. If you want in, email me pronto and I’ll send the rest of the info. I have only a couple of slots left.

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

Microsoft Word for Writers: Introduction

Hi Folks,

This post and the next seven are excerpted and expanded from a seminar I put together awhile back titled “Microsoft Word for Writers.” I also posted this series before, a couple years ago, on this blog. However, I have updated the information where necessary.

I encourage you to comment and share new information, but please question, comment or expand only on the topic of the current post. Today’s post briefly introduces Microsoft Word and offers other valuable resources, including alternatives to Microsoft Word and where to purchase it if you don’t already have it.

The remaining posts in this series, which will appear every ten days, are nuts and bolts stuff, and they will include screenshots for your convenience. If you have two computer screens, you will be able to read the blog post on one screen while practicing in Microsoft Word on the other. Of course you can also simply print out or otherwise save the blog post and practice later. The screenshots are sequentially numbered throughout the series:

  • Setting Up the Menu
  • Setting Up the Quick Access Toolbar
  • Setting Word Options
  • Find & Replace (The Most Valuable Tool in Word)
  • The Paragraph Formatting Tool (includes an overall example of the Find & Replace function used in conjunction with the font- and paragraph-formatting tools)
  • Odds & Ends
  • Styles

Introduction

Microsoft Word comes as part of the Microsoft Office package. Different versions of Word have different features, or the same features in different places. This series is based on Microsoft Word 2010. If you’re using an earlier version, your dialogue boxes might look slightly different from the screenshots in these blog posts. Any techniques I mention here will be essentially the same, although you might have to think a bit and alter the instruction to suit your version of Word.

To see which version you have, click Help and then About Microsoft Word. (In some versions, Help is a separate tab in the menu. In others, it’s located under the File tab in the menu or in the upper right corner of the Word screen as a white question mark in a blue circle.)

I work with a PC, but from what my Apple-oriented friends tell me, Microsoft Word for Mac is comparable. Thanks to Alison Holt, a dear friend and excellent author, for providing me with the location of this PC to Mac and Mac to PC Converter. It’s an excellent resource.

Where Can I Get MS Word Without Breaking the Bank?

Of course, it’s always better if you can go to Staples or your store of choice and purchase the full version of Microsoft Office outright, and that’s what I recommend if you can afford it. You can also purchase the military and student version on military bases at the base or post exchange if you have privileges (saves sales tax). However, in the real world, you can also visit eBay or Amazon. Key in “Microsoft Word 2010” or “Microsoft Office 2010” and see what pops up. Even if it’s used, if you receive the OEM (original) program on CD and the Product Key, you’ll be fine. Of course, I do not endorse piracy or purchasing or using products illegally.

If you want to purchase the newer Microsoft Office or Word, it’s available either as a subscription (Office 365) or as a dedicated program (Office 2013). I personally prefer Office (and Word) 2010 because it does everything I need it to do and it’s a dedicated program, meaning once I buy it, it’s installed on my computer (the license I bought is for up to 3 computers) and it doesn’t keep costing me in the future. With the subscription version (it’s called Office 365) the subscription is for one year (about $99) and for up to five computers.

Alternatives to Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office)

LibreOffice—This is a good alternative for Microsoft Word. Not quite as many bells and whistles, not quite as customizable as Word, but it’s free and it’s very intuitive. I used this one for a long time on the small laptop that is dedicated only to my writing. Like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. Get it at http://www.libreoffice.org/download/libreoffice-fresh/.

WPS Office— This is another good alternative for Microsoft Word, and again it’s free. Between this one and LibreOffice, I liked Libre more, but your results might vary. (grin) Again, like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. You can get WPS Office at http://www.wps.com/windows/.

Apache OpenOffice—This suite reportedly does everything Word can do, and it supposedly does it even more easily or more intuitively. You can get Apache OpenOffice 4.0 at http://www.openoffice.org/. According to the OpenOffice site, it’s easy to use, and best of all it’s both free and fully compatible with all versions of Microsoft Office. Similar to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice contains a word processor (called Writer instead of Word), a spreadsheet (Calc instead of Excel), a multimedia presentation program (Impress instead of PowerPoint), a drawing program (Draw—here it seems to me they’re taking a page from Corel), plus a database program (Base) and an equation editor (Math). I have not personally used OpenOffice, but I’ve heard nothing bad about it.

Jarte—This is basically a souped-up version of Microsoft’s WordPad. It has all the basic editing and formatting (both font and paragraph) functions, but it does not have the more advance features like Track Changes. Jarte is available at http://www.jarte.com/. I do have this program and I use it when I want to “just write” without being distracted with all the bells and whistles. Jarte is a free word processor, although you can pay a small fee to get the few extra bells and whistles of Jarte Plus. If you try and enjoy Jarte, I do recommend you upgrade to Jarte Plus just to help support the developers.

Writing Software

I do not recommend or endorse any so-called writing software, but some people swear by it. In case it’s something you would like to try, here are a couple:

yWriter5, for Windows PCs—This is billed at SpaceJock.com/yWriter5.html?yWriter5 as “novel writing software.” It’s a word processor that “breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. yWriter was designed by an author…. yWriter5 is free to download and use, but you’re encouraged to register your copy if you find it useful.”

Scrivener—This program used to be available only for Mac, but it’s now available for Windows PCs as well as Mac OSX. Visit the website at LiteratureAndLatte.com/scrivener.php. You can get a free trial (I don’t know what’s included in the free trial), and the cost for the full version is $40. The site includes video tutorials. Among other features, Scrivener enables you to edit multiple documents, store virtual index cards on a “corkboard,” outline your project, and create collections to help you keep track of notes, etc. If this is something that appeals to you, I encourage you to visit the site to see what Scrivener has to offer.

You can find these and many more helpful links—including dictionaries and translators, various conversion engines, and a lot more—on my website at HarveyStanbrough.com/resources.

Next time, Setting Up the Menu. Until then happy writing!
Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

7 More Tips for Emarketing

Hey Folks,

As I mentioned last time, visitors on the web have literally thousands of choices when it comes to which websites they will visit and whether they will subscribe or bookmark those sites. Remember that it’s always more important to you that the visitor remains on or subscribes to your site or newsletter or blog post. Making it worth their while is never a waist of your time.

A few days after I received the request I wrote about last time, I received another one. A fellow literary laborer who asked me to visit her site and subscribe to her blog posts. She explained, “The subscription form is at the bottom of the page in the center.”

Okay, one, kudos to her for telling me where I could find the subscription form. But two, if I had been a casual browser who happened across her site, there’s an excellent chance I wouldn’t have found her subscription form.

Remember that people generally won’t work in order to do you a favor. I mean, if you’re trapped under a log or other inanimate object in your front yard, the person casually strolling by probably will be willing to invest considerable time and effort in freeing you. (Inanimate objects only, though. If you’re trapped under, say, a bear or a tiger or a massive lizard in your front yard, not so much, although the truly caring individual might bother to dial 911 or Animal Control or something.) But if doing you a favor falls under the category of doing a lot of mental calisthenics, again, not so much.

To maybe help you with the marketing aspects of your website, hear are a few more tips for emarketing:

1. If you want prospective readers to sign up for your newsletter or your blog posts, make it easy for them. Put a subscription form at the top of the sidebar on your home page. (Newspaper folks call this “above the fold.” In modern computerese, anything important should appear on the screen without the reader having to scroll down.)

2. It doesn’t hurt to put a “conversion bar”(a subscription bar that converts browsers into subscribers) across the top of your site too. For an excellent example, see the gold bar across the top of HarveyStanbrough.com.

3. Provide at least one call to action (urge to subscribe) in the body of your Welcome or About page, and again, this should appear above the fold. You want the offer to be available whenever the reader is in the mood to take you up on it. (The key to all marketing is to make the product available at the moment that the buyer wants it.)

4. Put at least one call to action in the body of each blog post or immediately after each blog post you write or newsletter you send out. Again, making it easy for the reader to become a subscriber is the key.

5. Offer an incentive for subscribing. For example, if you subscribe to HarveyStanbrough.com you get a free copy of the humorous and informative ebook, The Seven Writerly Sins. I offer that particular incentive because most of my readers are writers or are interested in writing.

6. Offer another incentive for reading the posts. Perhpas offer a free short story if the reader finds the intentional error (spelling or wrong word) and are the first to comment on it. (By the way, if you find the intentional error (spelling or wrong word) in this post and are one of the first few to comment on it in a comment posted on this site you will receive a freshly minted short story from yours truly or one of my alter egos. 🙂

7. Litter your posts and pages with Share buttons. If you look at the bottom of this post or scroll to the bottom of any page on my websites, you will see one-click buttons where the reader can share my post or the information on my page via Email, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and other venues. Go take a look; I’ll wait. I don’t have accounts with all those places, but why should I keep others from sharing where they have accounts?

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

A Bunch of New Stuff

Hi Folks,

Yeah, I know it isn’t the 10th or 20th or 30th, but then again this isn’t a normal blog post about writing. I mean, it’s about writing in a way, but first it’s about my website.

I’ve made a lot of changes to the site. The first is a general reorganization. I added a sidebar, made my new picture the subscription button, moved my Meet Harvey stuff (formerly Connect with Harvey) over under my picture, added some things I believe in and recent posts under that.

Over on the right side is an extremely important blogroll (especially the first link) if you are serious about Being A Writer. Below that are a series of links to writers’ resources. If you explore it, you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t… well, suffer. 🙂

The menu across the top of the page has changed too, with a couple of exciting additions. I changed the former Events tab to read Calendar. (By the way, my complete series of core seminars are scheduled now. Take a look so you don’t miss the ones you need.) On the far right end of the menu, you’ll see a Downloads tab. If you click that, you will find some valuable information, and it’s free. Click one or more of those links and you’ll see what I mean. I’ll be adding more information papers and documents and ebooks to the Downloads page as I think of new stuff to give away.

The next tab to the left is extremely exciting to me because it represents a new venture: if you click Lecture Series and read that page, you’ll see wheat I mean. In the coming weeks I’ll be recording video lectures on all of the topics and subtopics you see there. Once I get a few recorded and available, I’ll announce that through this blog. Then anyone who’s interested can sign up and begin viewing the ones they would like to view. If you prefer to simply revisit the page from time to time, as the lectures become available I’ll highlight the title in bold blue.

Finally, there will be other changes coming. I’ve decided to divest myself—albeit very slowly—of my publishing responsibilities at StoneThread. I won’t be entertaining any new submissions or extending any of the current contracts. If you know someone who would like to buy StoneThread, let me know. This change will enable me to return to my first love, Writing. Of course, I’ll still make my living as an editor, writing instructor, eformatter and ebook cover designer.

By the way, StoneThread is participating in Read an Ebook Week over at Smashwords. From now through March 8, all our ebooks are absolutely free. Just go to Smashwords Read an Ebook Week and enter coupon code RW100 during checkout to get your selections free of charge. Note: this is a Smashwords promotion, so it doesn’t work at Amazon or Apple or Barnes & Noble. If you poke around over there, you’ll find that a lot of my personal titles are free this week too. Same coupon code applies.

I think that’s it for this time. Oh, if you need the Microsoft Word Essentials for Writers seminar I’m teaching on March 15, you might want to check your calendar and sign up. It’s filling up fairly quickly.

‘Til next time, happy writing!
Harvey

 

6 Ways to Increase Book Sales (and Why They Work)

Hi Folks,

One of my StoneThread Publishing authors and I were discussing possibly giving away a “sampler” that contains, say, the first 20 pages or so of four different books. If I have 32 books, I’d create 8 samplers. The author originally was talking about creating printed samplers in POD. The discussion led from why I wouldn’t prepare printed samplers to what I could do and what the author could do. I decided it’s is an important enough topic that I wanted to share it in a blog post.

The thing is, if you give away free printed samples of you work, there is a relatively large overhead. (For example, even if you found someone who would do the print layout and cover free of charge, you’d have to buy the actual books to distribute). Secondly, of the printed sampers you purchase and give away, probably 99% of them will end up in the garbage, and probably a full two-thirds of those will end up in the garbage at the convention or conference or other venue where you handed them out. (And yes, the same thing happens with bookmarks and other printed items writers buy to use as giveaways.)

But the biggest problem with a printed sampler is this: even if the printed sampler does entice the reader to purchase the actual book, there is no way to insert a Buy Now link. The best you can do is add printed purchase links and hope the reader’s interest will not wane before he can get to a computer to order the book. And trust me, that’s a massive long shot. That’s why I won’t be creating printed samplers.

So how to entice more readers? Enter the ebook. If I do the same thing with an ebook sampler, I can add Buy Now at Amazon and Buy Now at Smashwords links in the middle and at the end of each book sample. So when the reader is most likely to be interested in buying, he’ll have a link right there. Desire meets opportunity, and a sale is made.

The writer also mentioned brainstorming new ways to sell books. I’m relatively new at publishing, but I’ve been writing and selling books, successfully, for a long time. I promise—one of the absolute best things you can do as an author to promote your books is TALK.

  • Schedule talks and/or presentations at local and regional writers’ groups and professional groups.
    • Consider, you’re a successful author, possibly an expert in your field, some of you are prolific, and a few are multi-genre authors. All of those things will recommend you to different audiences and venues.
    • At writers’ groups, address some aspect of how to write your particular genre.
    • At professional groups, address your field of expertise, of course tied in with your book(s).
  • Contact the Literature department of your alma mater and see whether they need speakers. (If they voted you Most Likely to Sack Seed, this would be a great opportunity to return as a published author.)
  • Contact local and regional high schools, junior colleges, colleges and universities. Offer to speak to campus writers’ groups, clubs, writing or literature classes, etc. They might even ask you to present a writing award to a deserving student. I was paid $1500 for 20 minutes doing exactly that one time, and my poetry collections are (or maybe were) in the literary canon of that university just outside of Dallas, Texas in Denton.
  • Schedule appearances on panels at specific and multi-genre conventions and conferences.
    • Okay, frankly, panels suck. They’re mostly boring for the participants and they’re only minimally informative for the attendees, but they get you face time in front of your fans (current and prospective) and they help establish you as an expert, which can lead to other appearances.
    • Mostly panels serve to allow attendees to see and hear their favorite authors speaking and otherwise acting as if they really are mere mortals.
    • Note: Unless you can legitimately teach some aspect of writing, always opt for conventions rather than writers’ conferences.
      • Fans and Readers attend conventions, and they want to buy your book.
      • Writers attend conferences; they want you to buy their book.
  • Attend (whether invited or paid) and be visible and available at conventions appropriate to what you write: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery, Horror, Romance, Multi-Genre, etc.
    • If you aren’t invited to present or sit on a panel, the attendance fee for most conventions is minimal anyway, often hovering around $25 for a three-day pass. The point is, you can’t be visible and available to attendees if you aren’t there at all.
    • The first time a fan walks up and says, “Hey, aren’t you…?” and you get to say something like “Yep, that’s me. I’m not presenting at this one because I applied late, but I thought I’d make time to come hang out anyway” you’ve just made a fan for life. And chances are, his or her friends and acquaintances will come along as well.
    • If you know far enough in advance about the convention, you might set up a book signing at the Barnes & Noble or whatever across the street.
  • Finally, when you’re at any of those events, be continually visible, friendly and available to pretty much anyone (most will be your fans or fans of the genre) who wants to talk with you about pretty much anything. Paste a smile on your mug and never let them see how tired you are. You can sleep when the convention or conference is over. Do this and you will sell more books than you thought possible.

At one time, while writing my own stuff and editing for others, I was making as many as 18 writers’ conferences per year. Had I limited myself to conventions (where you aren’t glued into giving several presentations over the whole three or four days), I could have made a lot more. I don’t expect you to do that, but this is something all of you can do to some degree. It’s all a matter of priorities.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

PS: If you’re reading this in an email and you’d like to comment (please do) just visit http://harveystanbrough.com/blog, scroll to the end of the current post and comment.

Notes on Being a Professional Writer

Hi Folks,

Yeah that's me. The guy with the beard.
Yeah that’s me. The guy with the beard.

When I was first learning to play the guitar at the age of 14, I was frustrated. Even after I learned to chord cleanly, nothing ever sounded quite the way it had when I’d heard it on the radio or when my uncle or others had played it. I checked and double-checked my chording, the progressions and timing between chords, and even how I was holding the guitar. Nothing seemed to make a difference. When I played for others, if anything it actually sounded worse than when I played alone.

I finally I asked my uncle (the guy I’m looking at in the pic), “When will I be able to play like you do?”

He just grinned and pointed at my guitar. “When you stop thinking of that thing as just another toy.”

He was right. When I began to respect my guitar and the discipline, I learned quickly. Like any other craft, it took respect, diligence and practice. Talent doesn’t hurt anything either, as evidenced by the existence of folks like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Duane Allman, Jimmy Page, Chet Atkins, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Eric Clapton and many more. But there are a lot of great guitarists who make money at their craft but have never gotten famous.

Writing is no different. Although some writers are profound enough or prolific enough to achieve fame, many make a living with their craft without ever becoming household names. But “craft” is the key word. Writing is a craft, and to master it, the writer must study and practice, always striving for perfection. The fact is, great writers never stop learning.

The others, those who will never become great writers, fall into two general categories. The first group consists of those who believe the ability to use two long lines and a short one to create a capital letter A renders them able to write. Their motto is The reader will know what I mean, which in my experience as an editor equates to I can’t be bothered to do the actual work. The second group consists of those whose work has been published (self-published or otherwise) and they’ve taken that as a signal that they can learn nothing more. Ten minutes browsing in a bookstore or reading excerpts online will tell you that simply isn’t so.

If you want to be a successful fictionist—by which I mean a writer of short stories, novellas, novels, memoir and creative nonfiction—you need a driving desire to Get It Right. That’s what separates professional writers from those who just “kind’a sort’a think it might be neat to knock out” a few short stories or a novel.

For a professional writer, the first draft is for himself; everything else is for the reader.

Believe me, I understand the frustrations of trying to get a sentence or paragraph or passage Just Right, but the difficulty inherent in creating something brand new is the joy that enables the writer to keep breathing. There’s a great deal more to it than simply putting in the time. As Hemingway wrote, “Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done.” Most days he wrote only 400 to 600 words, but those words comprised a finished, polished passage. Some writers “just write” then go back and polish later in a second or third draft. But regardless of the individual writer’s ritual or technique, I’ve never known a successful professional writer who would risk anything short of making his or her writing as perfect as possible.

But won’t a really strong story carry weak writing? Generally, no. Consider, even though your overall story might well be wonderful, if any part of it confuses a reader or makes the reader wonder about inconsistencies or stops the reader cold, that story is not ready for publication. The writer should polish endlessly to get those glitches out, not because he can actually achieve perfection but because he should be embarrassed to present such work to the public. In the publishing world more than anywhere else, you truly do get only one chance to make a first impression. “Good enough” simply isn’t.

The point is, it isn’t the reader’s job to decipher your writing. The first time or two that most readers encounter confusing passages or egregious errors, they will simply toss the work aside and vow never to buy anything else by that author. So even though the writing might well improve later, fewer readers will take a chance on it. And why would they buy that author’s work again? The fictionist’s job is to entertain the reader. The reader’s job is to be entertained.

By the way, if you’re interested in becoming a professional writer, I’m offering a free introductory seminar on February 15 entitled “Taking Your Writing to the Next Level.” I’ll conduct the seminar in south Tucson. If you want to earn a regular income from your writing, if you strive for perfection in your craft and want your work to outshine all the other submissions in the publisher’s in box, these seminars are must-have. For information, email me at h_stanbrough@yahoo.com.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

PS: If you’re reading this in an email and you’d like to comment (please do) just visit http://harveystanbrough.com/blog, scroll to the end of the current post and comment.