Chatting · Reading Recs

Nonfiction Notes: Newsletter Ninja

Overall Impression:

4 out of 5 stars: This book is for any writer who wants to learn more about the marketing side of the industry. You don’t have to have a book out yet. In fact, you should be reading this and implementing the advice before you publish so you can reap the benefits of having a mailing list. But regardless of where you are, if the idea of self promotion makes you want to curl up in a ball and die, or you’re trying to promote yourself and it’s not sticking, this book has useful advice. There’s not a ton of business jargon, so it’s accessible and a relatively quick read. One star deducted because it’s easier said than done to execute some of these tips, and in my experience, mailing list success simply comes down to luck and previous existing visibility, but it’s still a solid primer.

Content Summary:

Why you need a mailing list and what it needs to accomplish: If you have spent any amount of time throwing your work into the void of the internet you’ll know that persuading people to read your work is difficult. Convincing them to buy it is harder. The world is already so inundated by advertisements that people don’t want to see one more annoying self-promo, but that’s what it takes for people to realize you even have a book in the first place. The point of a mailing list is to cut out the middleman of social media or advertisement services and talk directly to people who will hopefully become your fans. People also tend to check their emails, or at least take them more seriously than social media posts, depending on your target audience, so if you can persuade someone to add one more to the top of their teetering inbox, you’ve already won their loyalty and readership on some small level.

How to pick a provider and set up an onboarding sequence: There are about a million provides out there to collect and store email addresses, and send out automated welcome sequences and scheduled campaigns. This part of the book walks you through the strategy of how to pick one that works for you, and what first steps to walk new members through before adding them to your regular list.

How to choose your target audience and convince people to sign up (hint: the answer is bribery): The target audience for your books is hypothetically the target audience for your mailing list, but as I mentioned before, nobody wants more emails cluttering up their inbox unless they’re really worth something valuable. You have to decide what you’re going to give them that’s worth that sacrifice.

What makes a good bribe? For authors, this is usually a short story or some other bookish merch, but whatever you offer, it should be exclusive, free, completed, and related to your other work. This section of the book gives you some ideas of how to offer “cookies” that will entice the right readers to sign up and stay signed up.

How to get people engage or re engaged: What do you write about? How often do you send out the emails? What are you putting in your subject line? Do you include images or emojis? Whether it’s an art or a science, every line of the email can influence whether someone clicks the links you include, deletes it immediately, or hits the unsubscribe button.

Final Thoughts

I read this book when I was first starting my mailing list over a year ago. Upon rereading it, I realized I had so much missed potential in the automation and landing forms I originally had set up, and immediately rehauled my entire system. I’m still offering the same thing (new short stories every 3 months), but now the onboarding process should be a lot more informative and seamless than it was before. I can highly recommend this book to any author who’s looking to improve their marketing, regardless of if you think you know all the tricks already. If you want to sign up for my Fancy! New! Improved! mailing list to get an audio drama of “Edge of Infinity” next week, you can register with this link. You can find Tammi Labrecque’s other books on her Goodreads, including a sequel to Newsletter Ninja called “If you give a reader a cookie.”


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Chatting · Reading Recs

Book Review: The Stray Spirit by R.K. Ashwick

There are very few things in this world as satisfying as reading a book – A REAL ACTUAL PUBLISHED BOOK – by one of my writer friends. I am unbelievably proud of our very own, one and only, R.K. Ashwick for reaching this amazing milestone! I’ve been following its development through the taglist on tumblr for… I don’t know, maybe over a year now? It’s been truly gratifying to watch the characters and story grow (hah), and I am absolutely overjoyed that come August, I’ll be able to hold it in my hands. The following review is my honest opinion, which I promised to share after receiving an advanced reader copy of the book. I’m going to keep this mostly spoiler free because it hasn’t come out yet, though in the future I may write a spoilers-filled review as well, so I can freely dig into all the interesting bits of this book. So without further ado…

Overall Impression: 5/5, Next Book Now Please?

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Chatting · Reading Recs

Reading Rec: Survival Kit for Writers Who Don’t Write Right

Overall Impression

5/5 – Even though I’m absolutely not the target audience of this book, I still learned a lot.

Summary

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Chatting · Reading Recs

Book Review: 8 Steps to a Side Character

Overall Impression

5/5 craft book with an easily accessible style that gave my poor frazzled engineering brain a much needed break from academic drivel, extremely useful summaries that made writing his article about 1,000,000x easier, and rock solid advice I will immedietly be adapting into my ever-expanding Storge excel outline.

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Chatting · Reading Recs

Reading Rec: Terebinth Tree Chronicles

Hello everyone and welcome back to another reading rec! This month I want to talk about an author that I’ve enjoyed for quite a while now: Faye Fite. I found her blog back in high school when she still wrote under her other name, and the perspective she shared in her writing advice inspired me to get serious about my writing. Her books introduced me to the indie publishing space and the worlds of possibilities that open when you can control the content of your stories. Faye writes Christian speculative fiction that isn’t preachy and features badass disabled characters.

The Terebinth Tree Chronicles is a series of high fantasy short stories that share the backstories of Wanderer, Jayel, and Ailith – the future protagonists of an epic who are on a mission to assassinate the dark lord that’s plagued their world and ruined their families. Currently, three books have been released in this series: Colors of Fear, Flames of Courage, and Sounds of Deceit, but there are more on the way! Faye also has a few standalone books, including Skies of Dripping Gold, and So I Accidentally Killed the Chosen One, which are both part of the same expanded story-world as the Terebinth Tree Chronicles, called the “Torn Universe.” I’m not sure how they all connect yet, but it’s a really cool concept! Faye is also a member of the Phoenix Fiction Writers, and has published three short stories in their anthologies.

I can wholeheartedly recommend all of her writing, but today I especially want to focus on the characters in the Chronicles and how their arcs are set up to have satisfying conclusions within each backstory book, but leave enough open-ended questions for the rest of the series to continue building.

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Chatting · Reading Recs

Wonder and Wisdom: The Time Quintent

For a book that is included on every elementary recommended reading list and has been adapted into several feature-length films, I believe that A Wrinkle in Time is a criminally underrated book, and the rest of the series even more so. It’s difficult to explain my attachment to this series, but the unparalleled Madeline L’Engle created characters and a world in her works so interesting that I regularly reread and take inspiration from them to this day. So today, I want to write a tribute to my favorite children’s author. For readers, please take this as a wholehearted recommendation. For writers, this is my attempt to break down what makes L’Engle’s writing so impactful, so we can learn from her style and craft similarly beautiful works ourselves.

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Chatting · Reading Recs · Writing Advice

5 ways to Encourage Kids to Read

When he was ten, my little brother was not a “fan” of anything. He enjoyed certain tv shows, but never got invested in the story and rarely read voluntarily, much to our mother’s chagrin. Mostly, he hung out with his jock of an older brother who poked fun at the fandom and writerly shenanigans of my marvel-obsessed sister and I, the resident Nerd and Author who “Care Too Much” about fictional worlds. Today, my twelve-year-old brother finished a 12-page-long original story, and is working his way through Lord of the Rings.

Around the same time, at the start of 2020, I was in one of the worst reading slumps of my LIFE. High school literature classes and a busy college/work schedule took my reading habit from several books a week to 1 or 2 a year. Thanks to a few beloved friends’ encouragement, I started the Stormlight Archive, and bounced back to reading over 30 books by this past year.

I’m not a teacher, or a parent, but I have learned a few things from watching his development these past two years, and watching the tricks that my friends pulled on me. For anyone else who spends a lot of time with impressionable kids and wants to play the (incredibly fun) role of neighborhood eccentric that sends children on adventures, here are 5 ways to encourage them to read.

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Chatting · Reading Recs

Symbolism in Addie La Rue

I first encountered The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab on bookstagram where it seemed like everyone was discussing the story. This novel hit the NY Times Bestseller List for 37 weeks straight through July this year, and not without good reason. In my opinion, the story more than lives up to the hype, and it is so effectively compelling because of the symbolism Schwab weaves through the narrative. Today I want to discuss three of the most important motifs that make Addie’s story so memorable and how aspiring authors can learn from Schwab’s writing to create meaningful symbols of their own. This will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book yet, beware of that before reading.

Synopsis:

Adeline LaRue is a young woman living in the small town of Villon, France in 1741, who desperately wants to see more of the world. She feels trapped in an engagement she doesn’t want, and fears the headlong rushing of time, saying, “I don’t want to live and die in the same ten meter plot.” Her faith is torn between the Christian God of her parent’s and the old gods of her elder friend, Estele. On the night of her wedding, she flees into the woods and pleas for some higher power to save her from her fate, and the night answers. Despite Estele’s warnings to never pray to the gods who answer after dark, Adeline strikes a deal with him. At first, she offers a wooden ring, carved for her as a child by her father, but the god doesn’t deal in “trinkets.” They bargain, and draw their terms: immortality in exchange for her soul when she doesn’t want it anymore.

When she returns to the town, she finds that everyone she knew has forgotten her. She cannot remind them of her name, because every time she tries to speak the words, they get stuck in her throat. She cannot write or leave any permanent mark. Any interactions “reset” the curse. As soon as the other person walks away, they forget her again. However, she can steal. She takes some bare essentials and a wooden bird from her father’s workshop before fleeing the town. The story follows Addie – no longer Adeline – between her past through the centuries, and modern day NYC, as she navigates her curse and meets Henry Strauss, the first person in over 300 years who remembers her.

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Chatting · Reading Recs · Writing Advice

6 Types of Framing Structures

Framing Structures are a literary device used to add context to a story for the benefit of the audience’s understanding or deepening the experience. They’re everywhere in fiction, but how can you choose which one works best for your story? In my experience, they fit into one of the following six categories, which I’ve defined for you today! Each has different purposes, strengths, and weaknesses, and none is better than the others, so this article takes an analytical look at what makes them work well, and includes examples to illustrate. So let’s get into the trope talk, shall we?

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Chatting · Reading Recs

In the Dark – Dracula

Hello my friends, it has been a hot minute since I last shared a reading rec, but what better month to get back into it than October! Today I want to share my personal favorite classic horror novel, and break down what makes it work so well. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the characters of Dracula from pop-culture, but they’re often so far removed from the original context that the concepts lose their teeth (heh). To understand why Dracula became such a ubiquitous icon of the vampire horror genre, we need to revisit why people feared him in the first place. For this article, I’ll be referring to the book with italics, and the character in normal text, to avoid confusion. This will also include spoilers, since I stand by a copyright-spoiler expiration policy. If you want to read the book for free, a copy is available from Project Gutenberg (which is what I used to find my excerpts.)

I’d also like to preface this with a disclaimer that if you’ve read the SparkNotes summary, this article will have a much different analysis. In my opinion, the SparkNotes takes a bad-faith assumption that treats the male characters as sex-motivated repressed Victorians who ignore religion for scientific advancement and fear Strong Women ™. I disagree, but I encourage you to read the book and both analyses to form your own opinion. If you’ve read the book already, leave a comment to start a discussion!

Continue reading “In the Dark – Dracula”