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.”


Thanks for reading! Do you have a newsletter? If so, drop a link in the comments and I’ll join up! If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip on my Kofi or donating using the secure box below. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!

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Chatting · Writing Advice

What I’ve Learned Writing Short Stories

Since launching my website, getting involved with the writeblr community, and starting my newsletter, I’ve tried my hand at quite a few short stories. They’re a completely different beast from novels, much less a series, and utilize a completely distinct skill set of storytelling tools. Today I’m sharing some of the tricks I’ve learned in my experience!

You can still outline – It just looks like a list of bullet points or one paragraph instead of a spreadsheet and a wall full of sticky notes. I find it useful to still have a plan going into the story, so even the bare bones of a character objective and obstacle can help structure the plot and keep it from running off an extra 3000 words, or running into the ground after two paragraphs.

Choose one thing to improve or experiment – In each of my stories, I’ve taken the opportunity to mess around with a particular aspect of the story, be it a strange POV, changing the tense, turning it to script form, playing with the alightment, color, font, and format of the text, or other such shenanigans. The nice thing about a short story is that you only have to commit to the bit for a few thousand words, rather than an entire book, and it takes a lot less time to revise. It’s like doing figure studies in art, or scales in music.

You often start In Medias Res – In short stories, there is rarely page-time for backstory or build-up. It’s crucial to jump straight into the action, and keep the narrative running at a steady pace. It’s a different story structure than you often find in full-length books, and so it’s interesting to explore a unique process of plot beats that might not line up with what you’re used to writing.

Explore different elements of your world – If you’re stuck with the plot of your main WIP, short stories are like writing fanfiction for your own book. Explore “deleted scenes” that you might not expect to make it into the final cut of the draft. Switch POV for a scene to a side character who doesn’t often get the spotlight. Explore an alternate universe to see if changing the setting leads to more interesting conflict. This is what I’ve been doing with the Runaways universe, to share lore about Seelie the girls don’t get to see.

Finishing smaller projects is a confidence booster – When you slog away at a giant WIP for years it can be easy to get discouraged and feel like you’ll never finish. If you’re anything like me, checking things off a list is supremely satisfying, and tinkering away can get exhausting when you look ahead and see no end in sight. Bashing through small works is a great way to revive motivation when you can see the checkmark within a week or two of setting out. Accumulating a nice backlog of works also means you have them to pull out and share at a moment’s notice, which is also great for getting immediate feedback, since people are more likely to read and finish a short story.

Treat it like a low-budget theater production – We don’t have time for set dressing! That costs words! You’re reusing the blue curtains whether you like it or not! What do you mean three side characters? Can’t we get away with Joe in a funny hat? Graphic descriptions of props and macguffins? That’s a nerf gun covered in masking tape and paint. It doesn’t need backstory. LIGHTS CAMERA ACTION!


Thank you for reading! Next week I’ll be sharing a review of Newsletter Ninja, so be sure to check back for that, or to leave a writing prompt in the comments. If you feel so generously inclined, you can support my writing by leaving me a tip on my Kofi or donating using the secure box below. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy writing!

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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

Continue reading “Reading Rec: Survival Kit for Writers Who Don’t Write Right”
Chatting · Writing Advice

How to Finish What You Start

This video by Thomas Frank inspired this blog post. I highly recommend checking it out if you have the time! It’s generalized to any creative process, but I want to offer resources and exercises for authors to do to help us finish our WIPs! Many of these are tried-and-true methods for beating writer’s block, so let me know if you’ve tried them before, and how they work for you!

The Problem: Paralysis of Choice

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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.

Continue reading “Book Review: 8 Steps to a Side Character”
Chatting · Writing Advice

6 Ways DnD Has Made Me A Better Writer

This is a random topic compared to my usual posts, but it’s one that’s been knocking around in my brain for a while. I’m currently in five campaigns (that meet with varying degrees of regularity), I’ve finished several one-shots and two long-running games, and have two more on deck for the summer, so I’ve had plenty of experience coming up with whacky characters and navigating the dilemmas that the DMs throw at as. I’ve only DMed a few times myself, but I am always in storytelling mode, so this was really just the natural result of exposure to the clicky-clacky-math-rocks. This is less focused on mechanics, and more geared toward player dynamics and character creation, but I hope you find it useful!

Continue reading “6 Ways DnD Has Made Me A Better Writer”
Chatting · Writing Advice

How To Write Siblings

(This is a republished version of a guide I wrote on Tumblr a while ago that many people seemed to write. I’m posting it here for the benefit of the wider blogging community and for ease of searching because tumblr’s tagging system is notoriously trash.)

There are a few key aspects of the family dynamic you’ll want to keep in mind that will influence how the different relationships form! Siblings can have such a complex relationship that becomes fascinating to see in larger families: they can be best friends and worst enemies, and it’s a criminally underrated dynamic in fiction. Speaking as someone with 4 younger siblings, I’m here today to show you how to build accurate and compelling relationships for your characters.

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Chatting · Writing Advice

Free Templates: Outline and Edit Sheet

Hello my friends, and Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate! I had meant to share with you today an excerpt from Store, which explains the yellow rose symbol you can see around my blog and social media. This scene comes from chapter 12, and I had left off editing several months ago on chapter 10. Since I took a hiatus to work on Runaways, I needed to reread much of what I already completed in order to figure out what to do next. In the process, I started experimenting with a new method to stay organized. Storge is a hugely complicated read: painfully over-ambitious story, with 3 (and a half) subplots (if you count the Avian drama), and eight POVs, so I needed a new way to keep all the details straight and my old word doc list method didn’t cut it. I’m quite pleased with how my new spreadsheet works, but got so carried away in my analysis, and midterms, and hosting our family’s feast, that I never finished the scene.

But I’ve been talking about this incessantly on tumblr, so I’m not wholly without content for you today. I’ve created a blank version of my sheet, which is available here for you to copy and use for your own stories! I also created a blank version of the outline I use for brainstorming my stories. Both of these documents are shared by clicking on the links, and you will have editing privileges. Kindly don’t write in this document, make a copy, then leave the original blank for others to use! I explained how I use my brainstorming documents in this post and broke down the editing process from first read-through to final draft in this post. With the links out of the way, the rest of this entry will is an updated version of Step 3 in the editing process: the Developmental Edits.

Continue reading “Free Templates: Outline and Edit Sheet”
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 · Writing Advice

How To Write Impactful Symbols

Hello my friends, today we’re covering every English teacher’s favorite subject! (cue collective eye roll). Take it from someone who started an engineering major specifically to avoid taking Lit classes: Symbols can actually be a fascinating and extremely effective technique to elicit emotional reactions from your characters and your audience. It’s one of my favorite, but poorly understood, rhetorical tools in a storyteller’s arsenal, so today I wanted to break down the topic and discuss how to write symbols that work.

Continue reading “How To Write Impactful Symbols”