Categories
Authorship Writing

Write Your Memoir the Easy Way

The newest addition to the text gallery is our memoir designer.

This simple form takes you step-by-step through all the critical elements of constructing a memoir that readers will love. If you’ve ever considered sharing your life story with the world, the memoir designer is a great place to start. You can find it in the text gallery.

 

 

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In my experience helping people with their memoirs, there are a few key components that they leave out and a few odd things that they seem to think are really important. One of the easiest first steps to writing in any genre is to actually read books in that genre. It’s often obvious that people haven’t because their memoir is so disorganized and makes the mistakes mentioned below.

Dates and Names

I have been repeatedly amazed (I know, you think I’d be used to it by now!) by how many memoir manuscripts come to me filled to the brim with dates, streets, detailed estimates of the time of day that something took place, and the names of high schools or companies.

That’s not to say this information isn’t helpful for orienting a reader to time and place, but only when added to a more robust retelling of events in the person’s life that readers will care about and can relate to.

 

 



Here’s an example.

Version 1

I remember it was around 11:00 p.m. because my neighbor worked third shift and I had just heard him pull out of his garage in his yellow Toyota Camry. I used him as a timer to help myself go to bed at a decent hour on weekdays so I wouldn’t be so exhausted when it was time to get up and go to work. I was the shift supervisor at the Wriot Gear selling writing equipment like journals, whiteboards, and printers. It was the one in Atlantic Station next to the Publix. I lived on Fletcher at the time (in Mechanicsville) so I didn’t have to deal with Atlanta traffic too much.

I heard a weird noise outside, so I went to my front door. I had windows in the front but they were frosted glass so I couldn’t see anything out of them clearly, just shadows really. My father would replace those later with a wall of glass that made my living room blazing in the summer and freezing in the winter. I thought maybe my neighbor’s car was acting up. I thought that might be weird because I heard that Camrys (and most Toyotas) were reliable vehicles. When I get to the front door to look out, I saw a man walking up my driveway with a gun!


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I don’t know about you, but I’m practically asleep until the very last line. Look at all that wasted time and information. It’s like that key incident gets pushed to the back burner so the writer can insert a bunch of details that aren’t all that interesting or helpful. Now, let’s try this version on for size:

Version 2

I heard my neighbor pull out of his garage, heading to work to start his midnight shift. I closed my book and turned off whichever Vivaldi concerto I was listening to at the time. I didn’t want to be too drowsy to get up on time in the morning.

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“The hell is that?” I mumbled to myself.

The sound came from the driveway, so I went to check, wondering if my neighbor’s old Toyota had finally broken down on him in the middle of the street. But when I cracked my front door, I almost collapsed and instantly broke into a sweat. I hadn’t been this terrified since the war. It was my ex-husband, in his fatigues, walking up my driveway with an assault rifle.

 

See how much more quickly we got to the main event? If the crux of reading the memoir is because it’s about a life spent overcoming the aggression men have toward the writer, that’s where the focus should be. The reader picked the book up because they want to understand how the writer overcame those situations, not to learn where they worked and what street they lived on.


A Lack of Emotion

We feel emotions every day. Yet, when it comes to recalling traumatic or exciting things that happen to us, I find that a lot of writers gloss over this key component of telling their story. I’ve had people reduce rape attempts to two sentences, but spend three paragraphs on the architecture of their boyfriend’s house. Take a look at your manuscript to make sure you slow down at critical moments and recall the emotions involved. Adding the other senses doesn’t hurt either. What were you hearing, smelling, touching, etc.? Bring your reader back into the moment with you.


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Hops, Skips, and Jumps (in Time)

Some memoirs do slip back and forth a bit (that means only a little!) between distant past (childhood, early adulthood) and recent past (old age, in most cases). Skipping around frequently and without reason is a great way to confuse and frustrate your reader. Generally speaking, relaying your life events in chronological order is best. You can refer back to things that happened when you were younger in a sentence or two, but traveling back forty years to spend ten pages on a series of events isn’t always the best course of action.

 

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In the End

Ultimately, your developmental and line editors will help you work around these issues in your manuscript as long as you hire and listen to their guidance. However, if you’re going to be trying to produce your memoir on your own, a well-structured, easy-to-use guide like our Memoir Designer is going to be an essential tool for you to have on hand.

 

 

 

Categories
Authorship Writing

Why Should I Create an Audiobook?

Creating an audiobook for your latest work is key to helping boost your brand and your sales. Though it will take some time and effort, as detailed in ‘How Do I Create an Audiobook?‘, the investment is worth it for the vast majority of authors.

What is an Audiobook?


An audiobook is a recording of you or a voice actor reading your book. Instead of getting a paperback or hardcover copy of the book, or downloading the digital text version on to an e-reader, audiobooks allow people to listen to the book being read to them.


Who Uses Audiobooks?

Audiobooks are used by readers of all ages and genre affiliations. It’s difficult to make an audiobook for things like journals, workbooks, or books with lots of images (such as a children’s picture book), but every other kind of book is pretty much fair game. Audiobooks are also helpful for people who have problems reading small text, are legally blind, or who have trouble sitting still for extended periods of time. An audiobook can be listened to while engaging in another activity such as running, swimming, cleaning, or shopping.




When Should I Start Audiobook Production?

Depending upon the length of your book and how you plan on producing it as an audiobook, the answer to this can vary. If you want the audiobook to be available on the same day as your other formats (paperback, hardcover, ebook, loose-leaf, etc.), you’ll normally want to start the production process three to six months ahead of your proposed release date. Keep in mind that this means your text needs to have been written, edited, designed, and proofread in order to make sure your listeners are hearing the same version of the book that your readers are seeing. So, if you normally have a finalized version of the book ready six months before your release date, that’s when you would want to open auditions to find a voice actor/producer or start recording your own audio.



Why Should I Create an Audiobook?


Creating an audiobook has several benefits that can help you build your fan base and provide convenience for your fans.

As mentioned earlier, audiobooks are often the easiest way for someone with visual impairments of various kinds to consume your work. Each time you publish text-only versions of your book, you are missing out on engaging avid readers who just so happen to not be able to see (very well).

An audiobook provides a higher level of convenience for reviewers and busy readers. Reviewers often have dozens of books they have been asked and/or paid to read by authors and publishing companies (not to mention whatever they read for fun). So, being able to listen to a book while they drive their kids to school, vacuum the living room, or wash the puppy makes their lives a lot easier. Sometimes, offering an audio file that a reviewer can listen to may help move your book to the top of their list. The same benefits apply to friends, family, and other people who want to read and review your book in order to help support your authorship, but find they have a lot less time than they thought they did to sit down and read a book.

Being more accessible to more people can result in more sales, more reviews, and more fans—all of which help you grow your career as an author!


Should you create an audiobook for your work? The answer is ‘yes’ for the vast majority of pieces. If having the time and money to do it professionally on your own are a barrier, review my post on how to create an audiobook and learn more about how to do it for $0.00 and get it distributed on platforms like Audible and iTunes.

 

Happy writing!

Categories
Authorship Members Only

How Do I Create an Audiobook?

Creating an audiobook is easier than you may have assumed. This article will walk you through the basic steps of making an audio version of your work. First, I’ll focus on how to do it without any third-party sites, then we’ll go over how to use ACX.

Set Up Your Recording Area

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Look for a place in your home that is enclosed and relatively quiet (silent is best, of course). If you’ve got the funds, feel free to either install professional recording equipment or pay for studio time. Your basic needs will be:

  • A decent microphone (I use a Blue Snowball and love it!)
  • Editing software (Audacity is a common, straightforward program).

Consider printing or drawing signs that can be placed on the refrigerator, in the hallway, or on the door to your recording area so that people in other parts of your home know to keep noise to a minimum until you’ve finished your recording for the day.

Don’t forget to turn your phone, clocks, and other noise-making devices off before you begin each recording session.

Record Your File

Use your equipment and software to record yourself reading your book. Be sure to keep water on hand and take breaks as needed. Slow down and speak clearly. You only need to be within a foot (6 – 12 inches) of the microphone in most cases, so there’s no need to have your mouth touching or an inch aaway.

For each section (each chapter, in most cases), stop and listen to the recording from beginning to end. If you had to stop because a train passed nearby or your phone rang, that’s fine. You can simply cut that out in editing. However, if you skipped a word or mispronounced a word, you may need to rerecord that passage so that you’ll have a clean version of it that you can insert during the editing process.

Stopping to review a chapter at a time allows you to notice and fix problems early and often so that you don’t finish hours of recording and then have to go back and review hours of audio that then needs to be edited. Doing this can feel overwhelming and burdensome.

Edit the File

Now that you’ve gotten through recording the entire book, it’s time to tidy it up. Here is a list of common problems you’ll be looking out for and correcting:

  • Long pauses (cut and close the gap).
  • Interruptions (cut and close the gap, insert re-recorded clips if necessary).
  • Rushed speech (insert space between sentences).
  • Skipped words or segments (record a clip including the needed material and insert it where appropriate).

Review the entire file from beginning to end to listen for any problems that may have slipped past you. If you have a fellow writer who’s willing, ask them to listen to it for you as well and give you their notes.

Upload the File

If your website has a shop with the ability to sell digital products, you should be able to simply attach the edited audio file to the product description in your shop.

That’s it! It’s time to start promoting and selling! If you want to go beyond selling your audiobook directly, read on to find out how to sell your audiobook on ACX.com (Audible, Amazon, and iTunes).

 

Publish Your Book

ACX can pull from books available for sale or pre-order on Amazon. So be sure to upload your book there first.

 

Create an ACX Account

Audible books are born on ACX.com in order to be sold through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes directly. Go there and open your account as an author.

Sign up for an ACX.com account.

Answer all the registration questions and confirm your email so you can move forward.

Pick Your Book

 

 

 

A list of books the system thinks belongs to you will appear based on your account details. If not, you can find your book using your author name/pen name, title, ASIN, or ISBN. Even if your book is in the pre-order phase on Amazon, you should be able to find it.

It’s helpful at this point to start creating the audiobook version of your cover. ACX will attempt to squish your portrait-style image into a square one and that looks awkward, so I encourage you to design your own. It won’t differ much from your ebook cover. The two major changes are:

  1. Adding the name of the person performing the book (i.e., “As read by Jayn Doh”). If this is you, or you’re certain who you’re going to hire for this, you can add this information to the cover image now. However, keep in mind that the best-laid plans can come undone. So, until the person you plan on hiring has actually completed the project, it might be better to hold off on including their name on the cover. They could quit the project, get sick, die, etc.
  2. Changing the aspect ratio to 1:1. This means creating a square cover image instead of a rectangular one.writerwerx university online writing courses

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Open Auditions

 

Consider what you want to pay for someone to complete your book. Audible will provide you an estimate of how long your audiobook will be based on the length of your paperback / ebook. Remember that your producer will be reading the entire book, listening to the entire book, and editing the entire book (almost like three different jobs!), so do your best to come up with a price that is fair based on how much work they’ll have to do. Once you settle on a price, this will be what you’ll pay the producer that you end up choosing based on their audition. You’ll pay their fee one time in advance and then all royalties from the book will go to you.

Another option is to do a royalty split with the producer. In this arrangement, you agree to split the royalties evenly with them for a span of seven years. The major upside of this arrangement is that it costs you nothing up front. You can get started and get your book produced for $0 and earn royalties on the back end.

Choose whichever payment option works best for your goals and budget.

 

The Script

Audible will allow you to include specific text that you would like for the auditioning producer to read. This will help you get a feel for how they sound reading various pieces of your work. The word count is limited, so I’ve found it helpful to do a “spot check” version of the book, not just start from the beginning. Here are my suggestions for segments of your book you might want to include:

  • The opening passage
  • A scene with multiple character, especially if there is a rapid back-and-forth (such as a heated argument).
  • A high-tension, dramatic scene.
  • A funny scene.

Put one or all of these into a single document that you can attach so that producers can review it and use it to audition for you. Having them show off their skills for each of these different kinds of scenes so you have a more robust idea of what their overall performance will be like.

 

Review Entries

Set up a rating list on a piece of paper, a Google Doc, a whiteboard, etc.

As entries come in, write the name of the voice actor and how you would rate their audition. It doesn’t really matter what rating scale you use, so long as it’s consistently applied to each submission (letter grades, low-medium-high, one through ten, etc.).

Once you’ve closed auditions (I usually leave them open for about two weeks), it’s time to finishing listening to them and rating them. Review all the ratings and choose the one that rates highest. This is your audiobook producer!

Contact them to review and finalize pricing for the project. Here are a few things it’s helpful to let them know before they start working on the audiobook:

  • How to pronounce certain words like names and cities. A common one for me is “Louisville” because most narrator’s I’ve run into want to say loo-is-vill 😖 which sounds to any Louisvillian like nails on a chalkboard. So I always let them know that I prefer loo-uh-vul or even loo-ee-vill.
  • How to denote certain visual cues in the audio. For example, how will a listener know that a character is thinking something, versus saying it? They can’t see that the text is italicized. They also can’t see things like images and footnotes.
  • That you want regular submissions. Getting a huge batch of audio files dumped on you all at once can be overwhelming. It’s helpful to let your producer know that you’d prefer that they submit each chapter as it’s completed. This will also help you catch problems early instead of letting them seep into the remainder of the chapters.
  • How you would like the intro and outro stated or what you want them to include. Grab any audiobook from the big girls like Hachette or Simon & Schuster and you’ll notice that they start with a brief intro letting you know some of the same information included in the frontmatter of a printed or digital book (i.e., the title and author, the publisher, the copyright date, etc.).

Promote and Publish

Now that you’ve had the audiobook produced and have reviewed the final product for accuracy, it’s time to submit it for a quality review that Audible conducts. Depending on how long the piece is, this process can take from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. In the meantime, start reminding people that the audiobook is being released soon.

Once your book had been approved, Audible will let you know and you can make it available for sale!

While creating your own audiobook does take time and effort, it’s not impossible and you can literally do it for $0.00 if you so choose. But even if you do decide to invest some money into getting it produced, the investment is likely to be worth it. Audiobooks open your work up to new swaths of the population that you would never reach with an ebook or a paperback.

Still have questions? Leave a comment below!

Categories
Authorship Writing

Is Premium Grammar Software Worth the Money?

A student’s question highlights a few important points about editing apps like Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid.

So, you’re using the free version of a program like Grammarly and you’re considering paying for the premium version. After all, there seem to be an awful lot of alerts that you’re missing out on because you’re not a paid user. But, is that really in your best interest?

“Is paying for premium versions of grammar software worth the investment?”

This question was brought up during my “How to Shop for Professionals” class, and we were specifically speaking about finding, vetting, and hiring literary professionals like editors and illustrators. Using a grammar checker to go through your 80,000-word science fiction novel is not something I would recommend for most authors. Since you’re going to hire a copy editor anyway, paying for the premium version of grammar software is just more money out of your pocket for the same service.

“But isn’t a computer algorithm more accurate than a human?”

Not in my experience. The problem with a lot of grammar apps is that the program just isn’t sophisticated enough to be able to make judgments about things like style and context (don’t even get me started on character dialogue!). This means that the program may highlight something as being incorrect when it’s really fine. For example, if you were to write ‘Dam,’ on a line by itself, your spellchecker might not alert you because it knows the word ‘dam’ and sees that it is spelled correctly. But if your intention was to have a character think ‘Damn!’ then the algorithm hasn’t helped you at all. Whereas, a human reading the context of the scene would immediately catch that this is the wrong word being used.

“Okay…but what if I’m not going to hire a copy editor for my book?”

Then, by all means, get every bit of help you can! If you don’t think you can afford a professional copy editor, paying for a program to help you out is still better than letting the grammar mistakes fall where they may.

Whether you are preparing to publish independently or to start sending your queries to agents or acquisitions editors, making sure your copy is clean is always a good idea. If you can afford to get a professional copy edit, that’s always best. But, if you can’t, algorithms are certainly better than nothing. When you get to the copy editing stage of your manuscript development, just make sure you make the decision that works best for you, your bank account, and your publication goals!

Resources

Get a free copy editing quote at Volo Press.

Start using Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid, or Hemingway.

See which live Writerwerx course is coming up next.

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Authorship Fiction Marketing Nonfiction Time Management Writing

Your Author Tool Kit

A collection of books to help you prep, begin, or enhance your writing project.


If you’re one of those people who has been talking about writing a book, but never started, there is a new collection available that’s got your name on it! This set of works can event guide you as you start or if you’re in the middle of your literary project.

The Author Tool Kit is a collection of works by experienced literary professionals like myself who want to help you transition into the world of being a writer as smoothly as possible. 

The main thing most new authors are lacking is knowledge. They have the desire, they have the drive, they’ll make the time, and they have the hardware (keyboard, laptop, tablet, etc.) and software (word processor) to get their book done. They just need the insights of someone who has been through it all before to help them with some of the details. 

Included in this collection: 

  • Ditch the Fear and Just Write It!
  • The Newbie’s Guide to Book Development
  • The Indie Writer’s Handbook
  • Do Less, Write More
  • Time Management for Writers
  • Top Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Creativity 
  • Writing as a Business: Production, Distribution, and Marketing
  • Pantsers Plotting and Planning Workbook
  • Writing Day In and Day Out
  • Write Like a Boss

and twelve more helpful pieces on everything from following the “show, don’t tell” rule to writing sex scenes. 

Take a look at the collection now and choose your buys based on where you are in your writing journey!