Home » writing community

Tag: writing community

Two questions to ask before you start a blog

In this highly digital world, authors are often pressured to have an online presence. One question new writers frequently ask is: do I need to start a blog?

Our answer: it depends.

Ask yourself these two questions before you start yours.

Two questions to ask before you start a blog

1. What is the purpose of my blog?

A blog can be about anything you want it to be. It can be full of random musings about your life, your family, and your cats. You may decide to write about your writing projects or make it a technical(ish) blog, like this one. It could be about books you’ve read, short fiction, or just pictures. The Internet is full of blogs, so what will make people want to read yours?

Tips:

 

  • If you’re planning to keep it mainly for friends and family, posts about your cat or dog or random musings about your life may be enough.
  • For fiction writers, snippets of your book, some short fiction and flash fiction, or updates on your writing projects may be the calling card you need to engage new and existing readership.
  • If you’re writing a non-fiction book, posting about your expertise could help increase your credibility and visibility. People who read your blog and find your posts useful may very well go on to buy your book!

You need to know why you want a blog before you start one. Otherwise, it will just be a lot of work for no reason. As a writer, your blog is a place that can help you promote your work but if your blog is only filled with “buy my book” posts, what’s the point?

Ultimately, your blog should be about whatever you want your readers to know about you.

 

 

2. How often am I able post?

Blogging is a very time-consuming task. As you can see from the (in)consistency of this blog, it’s a lot of work! (We’re trying to do better, promise!) Writing a post can take anywhere from 5 minutes to four hours, depending on what you decide to write about. Obviously, if you’re just posting cat pictures, that should take about 5 minutes… except that you need to take the perfect picture of your cat, and then you get distracted by cat memes and oh look at the time! You’ve been writing that one cat picture post for two hours.

You don’t need to blog every day. To help you decide how often you should post, estimate:

  • how much time you normally take to write a post, and
  • how much time you can spare to write posts.

You can then set a posting schedule that works for you, whether it’s once a day, once a week, once a month, or anything in between. Consistency is key, even if we’re not the best examples of that. Regular posts help readers know when to check your blog for your latest updates.

 

So should I blog or what?

If you’ve got answers for both questions, you should have a good feel of whether starting a blog is right for you. Don’t worry if it isn’t. Not everyone likes blogging and it’s best to not have one if you’re just going to hate doing it and then end up abandoning it anyway.

If you need help getting started, the upcoming Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April is a brilliant way to get organised. Whilst the schedule is gruelling at first, it’s a great way to fill your new blog with content and then ease down into a schedule that works for you once you’ve gotten into the habit of blogging. It also comes with an inbuilt community of supportive bloggers with whom you can network and find great support!

Organising an online book launch

In recent months, we’ve personally been getting several queries about book blog tours and online book launches. After typing up email summaries several times, we’ve decided to just compile all those emails into one post about organising an online book launch!

organising online book launches

There are several ways to do an online book tour, but most of them have to do with bloggers. Bloggers are your friends, if you still know anyone who blogs (you’ll probably find some on KLBAC).

Organising an online book tour/launch is as easy as asking all your family, friends, and random strangers on the internet to host you during launch week (or any random dates you think up). It’s also as difficult as planning launch materials, coordinating dates with the bloggers, or maybe hosting a live Facebook event. There’s a lot of coordinating and networking to do, so it may be best to leave it in the hands of the professionals!

If you’re considering an online book launch, here are several standard posts to consider.

The Cover Reveal

The cover reveal is like a pre-release drip, where you share the cover of the upcoming book plus basic details. This post works best if there are existing fans who are excited about the series, and if there is an ability to pre-order the book. At the bare minimum, post materials should include:

  1. the shiny new book cover (duh!),
  2. the book blurb/description,
  3. pre-order links (you gotta channel that excitement somewhere), and
  4. pre-order sales or promotional announcements (e.g. discounted price for pre-orders, exclusive goodies, additional bonus material, previews, etc)

The Launch Post

Usually posted on the day the book goes on sale, this is a general announcement to say hey the book is now out! Post materials usually include the following:

  1. the book cover,
  2. the book blurb/description,
  3. buy links,
  4. launch promo/sales announcements, if any (e.g if the launch price is only valid for a period before it goes up, discounts on earlier books, etc),
  5. author bio,
  6. author picture,
  7. tour graphics/banner, if any (mainly because pictures make it easier to share & garner interest), and
  8. an excerpt or preview (not too long, preferably an exciting hook from the book).

A Review Post

Reviews would usually be posted on or about the launch week/month. If they’re posted before the launch, resharing these posts will help you build more organic buzz as this is what others are saying about the book instead of you just announcing BUY MY BOOK. Reviews have the most impact 2 weeks before (if you take pre-orders) and 6 weeks after the actual release date (crunch time for a new release).

Review posts are slightly trickier because you need to send a review copy (digital or otherwise) to the reviewer hopefully one to two months before the launch so that they have the time to read and write the review. It’s also tricky because there’s always the chance that the reviewer might not like the book! If you can, politely request the reviewer to also post their reviews to Amazon & Goodreads when your book is available.

Post materials should include:

  1. a review copy to be sent to the reviewer/blogger 1 – 2 months before launch (they shouldn’t be sharing this with anyone else), and
  2. Everything from the launch post (the blogger can then decide what they want to add to the post)

Guest Posts

A guest post is usually an opportunity for you to talk about your writing and/or your book. Some bloggers have a theme for their blog, others keep it open to the authors. If a blogger offers/agrees to host you, check with them if they have a specific topic in mind and if they have word count limits. Post materials would generally include:

  1. A guest post of about 500 – 800 words, and
  2. Everything from the launch post (the blogger can then decide what they want to add to the post)

Author/Character Interviews

This is just a bit of fun to get to know the author better. You can predraft a generic interview with FAQ-type things, but most bloggers would have their own questions to ask the author. Just make sure you have everything from the launch post on hand (especially your book cover and buy links)!

Facebook Live Events

Got a Facebook Page? Schedule a launch event where you invite all the fans on your page, and your newsletter, and random Facebook strangers to listen to you ramble about your book! Some launches use the live facebook video (which can be a scary thing) whilst others use frequent posts concentrated around a few hours on the web. This is a great way to interact with fans (and friends), give out some freebies, or con them into buying your book.

 

Book launches and blog tours can be exciting things… or they can be super dead. It really depends on who’s on your team and who’s excited enough to share your books (and about you) on social media! It’s also really cheap to organise if you’ve already organised your materials, can work out some graphics on Canva, and can work out a simple spreadsheet to coordinate who’s posting what when. Make sure you also share their posts on YOUR social media!

 

Critique Groups: Workshopping your novel

You’ve finished your novel, and you’re at the stage where you don’t know whether it’s good or bad or… meh. What do you do next? You could send it off to a publisher and see whether they like it or not. Or you could workshop it with a group of fellow writers (whether online or off) in what’s sometimes called a critique group.

Critique

What’s a critique group?

A critique group is a place for writers to get and give feedback on their current work. Some of it can be guided, where the group has a list of things to check off or that needs to be addressed, or non-guided, where everything is quite free-flow. These groups can also be online via email or private groups, or in-person meetings, like the ones they have monthly at MYWriters Penang.

How does a critique work?

Each person submits a piece of their work, usually within a set word count, to the group. Then they read the pieces that other people in the group have submitted and give their opinions on it. Some of these can be very structured, but at the least, they should cover points like:

  • What’s your overall impression of the piece?
  • Was it confusing? If yes, why?
  • Did anything stick out to you (whether good or bad)?
  • What caught your attention?

The main things to remember in giving a critique are:

  • Be honest … but kind and tactful
  • Don’t bash people or genres
  • Don’t pick fights
  • Don’t forget to praise the good stuff
  • Remember, your opinion is just that: your opinion.

The main things to remember about receiving a critique are:

  • Listen, but remember that their opinion is just that: their opinion
  • Consider each suggestion at least briefly
  • Decide what’s best for your work

How does a critique really help me?

The reason critiques help is that they provide you with a fresh set of eyes on your work. The questions your peers ask or points they raise can help you figure out the problem areas in your story, highlight potential areas of confusion, or simply let you know where you did something well. Critiquing someone else’s work also helps you think more critically about the writing process and how your own writing may come across to readers.

Critiques shouldn’t be mean-spirited, but be an open way to share your work and grow together with fellow writers. You’ll find that both JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis came out of the same writing group known as the Inklings. Here’s a list of famous writing groups.

If you’re still looking for a writing community, we’ve found most of our writing friends mainly from MYWriters and NaNoWriMo, because there’s nothing like a unified goal to help bring people together.

Remember, you can always quote your MYWriters member ID to get 10% off all services at Teaspoon Publishing. Register today!

MYWriters: The Writing Community for Malaysians

Our last post talked about NaNoWriMo and how having a group of writing friends can help spur on your writing—and make you a better writer. But if you’ve just started on your writing journey, how do you find such friends?

Introducing MYWriters

MYWriters banner

One resource you can look at is the Malaysian Writers Society, fondly known as MYWriters, which was established in September 2016. An inclusive and non-profit initiative, MYWriters facilitates activities and programmes related to Malaysian writing and publishing that transcends genre, language, function, medium, and experience levels.

MYWriters runs on two levels:

The online community

The Facebook group, founded by Tina Isaacs in October 2014, provides a place for interaction amongst writers of all stripes in Malaysia. This is a closed group, with posts only visible to approved members, so that writers can have a safe place to discuss writing and publishing matters in private. The only criteria to be a member of the online group is an interest in writing!

Members regularly post calls for submissions, writing and publishing articles, and have discussions about their work. Write-in sessions and chit chat sessions are also organised on a regular basis.

Join the MYWriters Community here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/malaysianwriters/

Members located in Penang also have a MYWriters Penang group to discuss Penang-related matters. Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MyWritersPenang/

The Society

Official membership in the society provides benefits that aren’t available to the members of the facebook group. This includes discounts on society events, book sales and publication opportunities.

Some of the additional benefits to come include publishing advice, mentorship programmes, an industry rate card, and representation at international book fairs. See the full list here: http://malaysianwriterssociety.org/member-application/members-benefits/

Did you know that as a member of the Malaysian Writers Society, you get 10% off all services and publishing hub packages here at Teaspoon Publishing?

Sign up for Malaysian Writers Society here: http://malaysianwriterssociety.org/member-application/

And follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/malaysianwriterssociety/

Write-ins

If you’re looking for company as you write, check out the following venues:

KL:

CBTL NuSentral: Saturdays, 8.30am to 1pm (weekly; check Facebook for updates).

Old Town Bandar Kinrara, Puchong: Sundays, 3pm – 5pm (check Facebook for updates).

Penang:

LUMA, Hin Bus Depot, George Town: Mondays, 7pm – 11pm (weekly).

 

MYWriters AGM

The Malaysian Writers Society is holding their second AGM on 10 November 2018 (Saturday) at the GerakBudaya Hall, Petaling Jaya. If you’re already a member and are interested to find out more about the society or would like to get involved in this young vibrant society, do attend the AGM.

For more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/695054964201548/permalink/695056687534709/

Malaysian writers, are you geared up for NaNoWriMo?

It’s the middle of October and we’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo. Are you?

What’s NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo logo
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Participants are challenged to finish a 50,000-word novel in the 30 days of November, writing 1,667 words a day. Founded in 1999 by Chris Baty, it started off as a tiny group of writers in the San Francisco Bay Area who challenged themselves to write a novel in a month. 19 years later, NaNoWriMo now boasts more than 400,000 participants worldwide and hosts a Young Writers Programme in November to encourage creative writing in schools.

Whilst it may sound like ridiculous hype, great things have come out of NaNoWriMo, including Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, Marissa Meyer’s Cinder and Anna Tan’s Dongeng. Why not add your novel to that list?

 

50,000 words? In one month? That’s crazy!

Sometimes the problem with writing is… actually writing. Life gets in the way. School gets in the way. Work gets in the way. And then a new year rolls around and you’re still on page one of your novel. (At least, we hope you’ve started page one.) What NaNoWriMo does is add a little bit of challenge (and discipline) to your writing life.

Setting yourself an achievable goal of 1,667 words a day helps you to pace yourself—and before you know it, you’ll have completed the first draft of your novel! This kind of sustained, target-based writing exercise doesn’t work for everyone, so if you don’t hit the target, don’t worry. What you’ll have gained from attempting it is an achievement in itself, including:

  • Discovering that you are capable of writing more than you think.
  • Building more confidence in your writing and your writing process.
  • Gaining a new community of supportive writing friends.
  • Finding out if you’re a plotter (you need detailed outlines before writing) or a pantster (you write as the story comes to you without outlines or plots).
  • Working out if you prefer to word-vomit and edit later or if you need to scrutinise every word, sentence and paragraph as you write.
  • Writing more words than you had at the beginning of the month.

It’s a win-win situation!

3 Do’s for November:

  • DO enjoy yourself! Whilst it’s a competition (sorta?) the most you’ll win is a certificate, discounts, and bragging rights. If your participation is affecting your mental health, relationships, or life/work/school, take a step back and chill.
  • DO attempt to write every day. The point of NaNoWriMo is to help you get into a habit of writing regularly.
  • DO get involved in community. Writing is usually a very lonely endeavour. With a bunch of other crazy writers working towards the same goal in November, it’s the perfect time to find new writing friends (online and offline) for encouragement and solace.

How do I sign up?

Sign up at the website here: https://nanowrimo.org

If you’re looking for a community of Malaysian writers to join you on this crazy writing journey, join the NaNo Malaysia facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/257264007651665/ or join the regional forum: https://nanowrimo.org/regions/asia-malaysia. More participants are active on the FB group than on the forum, but you never know. Things may change year by year, depending on who’s signed up for the year.

Also look out for the occasional write-in posts—the KL group normally meets on Saturday evenings at various malls. If you’re based in Penang, the MYWriters Penang group has a weekly write-in at Luma every Monday evening from 7pm – 11pm. It’s not directly related to NaNoWriMo, but you’ll be in writing company!

Now I’ve signed up, how can I prepare?

  • Join a writing group in your area (whether face-to-face or virtual) for encouragement, writing tips, and to convince at least one of them to join you on this crazy journey!
  • Look out for any pre-NaNoWriMo meetups in your area (see above) or create one!
  • Prep your friends, writerly or not, to cheer you on (and provide tea, chocolate, and tissue paper).
  • If you’re a plotter, start outlining and collecting miscellaneous information so you’re ready to dive right in on Nov 1!
  • If you’re a pantster, clear up your writing space and remove distractions from your desk so you’re ready to dive right in on Nov 1!
  • Check out the NaNo Prep page for webcasts, tweet chats, events, and all the other stuff we’ve missed out.

See you in November!

How much does it cost to self-publish?

how much does it cost to self-publish?

Now that we’ve covered how long it takes to self-publish a book, how much does it actually cost?

Let’s take a look at the costs, based on the process that we’ve covered so far:

1. Writing

Unless you’re paying someone to ghostwrite for you, you shouldn’t have any expenditure here. Well, maybe about RM100 or so for paper, pens, and printer ink. But if you want to be that nit-picky, you can count the cost of electricity, internet, food, water, etc.

Expected cost: NIL

2. Editing

Editing costs depend on the type and level of editing required. Here are the various types of editing, in suggested sequence:

Developmental editing

This looks at the overall big picture of your novel. How strong is your plot? Is there a plot hole big enough to drive a car through? Is there enough tension? Are there any slow, boring parts? Does your story make sense? Is backstory a problem (either too much or too little)? How can we improve and polish this story until it’s not just ‘good’, but ‘exceptional’? It’s pretty hard to find developmental editing here in Malaysia, but the numbers we’re seeing online estimate anything from USD1,000–USD6,000.

What we do have in place of this, are writing mentors, foremost of which is Gina Yap Lai Yoong. Hang about the Malaysian Writers Community and/or Twitter to see when some of our writers are looking to pick up new mentees! Most of these come at no cost to you, other than putting in the hard work and probably belanja-ing your mentor to dinner once in a while. An alternative is to find a critique group or beta readers that have great story sense that you can trust to give you honest feedback.

Line editing

A line editor goes into the nitty-gritty of the manuscript, focusing their red pen on everything from specific words, to sentences, to paragraphs, to chapters. They look at strengthening your work in terms of style, flow, structure, and readability, besides the usual correction for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other basic/common language mistakes. Do your sentences flow well? Is your POV consistent? Do you flop between tenses? They may also help pick up obvious continuity issues—do you say A in Chapter 1 but then change it to B in Chapter 8?—though they won’t be going into the plot development itself. Line editing for a 50,000-word novel would range between RM3,000 to RM5,000 here at Teaspoon Publishing.

Proofreading

This is your final line of defence! At this stage, you’re pretty much just catching typos, concentrating on spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as other basic/common language mistakes. Proofreading for a 50,000-word novel ranges from RM2,000 to RM4,000 here at Teaspoon Publishing.

Some people tend to skimp on editing and jump right into just a quick proofread or do nothing at all. This isn’t really advisable, even if you’re an editor yourself, because it’s hard to find your own mistakes. It’s also really, really hard to tell if there are continuity issues or if things are confusing in your own manuscript because you know everything in your head. However, what’s in your head may not have all made it out onto the page in a way that others can understand.

If you’re really cheapskate (or you have really good friends), one way to save on this is to do a barter trade with your writer/editor friends, like I’ll edit your manuscript if you’ll edit mine. The results may not be really the best unless both of you are professional editors.

Expected cost: RM2,000 – RM5,000

3. Cover Design

A premade cover sourced online could cost about USD40 – USD80. An original cover could cost between USD100 – USD500, or more. We’ve paid between RM400 – RM750 for our covers. We recommend looking up Charis Loke Illustration and Magpie Designs!

Expected cost: RM150 – RM750

4. Formatting

Frankly, it’s not that difficult to format your own books—but it IS time-consuming, time that could be better spent writing your new book or doing marketing (ha). At Teaspoon Publishing, formatting generally costs RM60 per ebook format and RM100 for print layout (text only).

Expected cost: RM60 – RM280

5. Publishing

a) Online/ebook

The various platforms/distributors mostly take a cut of sales, generally between 30% – 50%. At the $0.99 – $2.98 price point on Amazon, they take a cut of 65% (I.e. you get 35% royalties on sales).

Expected cost: NIL.

b) Print

Printing costs depend on bulk. If you’re only printing 100 – 200 copies, you might want to check out these print-on-demand (POD) and/or book printing services:

Please note that we have not dealt with these services personally, but they have been referred to us or recommended on forums.
The higher quantity you print, the cheaper it is per copy.

OR, you can skip doing a local print run altogether and do POD with Lulu / CreateSpace / Ingram Spark. With this service, readers around the world can buy a physical copy of your book and have it shipped directly to their doorstep. You won’t have to pay anything upfront – the printing cost is taken out of the sales price & royalty paid to you. You can also print small batches of your book at their author price (cost of book + small markup for the printer)—but shipping from overseas is often the expensive bit.

Expected cost: ???

6. Distribution (for print)

This doesn’t appear in the timeline for self-publishing, but it’s a cost that you might want to consider if you want wider distribution if you decide to print your book. Most independent bookstores will ask you for a 30% – 40% “discount” on your retail price. This means that for every book you sell at RM20, they’ll pay you RM14 (30% discount) or RM12 (40% discount). This is how bookshops make their profits.

However, getting into chain bookstores (MPH, Popular, Times, Kinokuniya, Borders) normally needs you to have a distributor/agent. The only options we’ve come across so far are Inspiration Hub (30% royalty) and GerakBudaya (approx 55% discount). You’ll have to decide for yourself if this is cost you’re ready and willing to bear.

Expected cost: ???

Total costs of self-publishing

All in all, self-publishing an ebook may cost you between RM2,200 – RM6,000—and that’s not even including print! Yet 90% of this cost is from that one step you really shouldn’t skip: editing.

 


 

At Teaspoon Publishing, we believe in empowering authors to take control of their career. If you need a boost on your journey, check out our Publishing Hub to see how we can help!