The following tools will make staying organized easier and more efficient.
Bookfunnel is a website that lets you create landing pages with download links for various uses.
You can use it to distribute free promotional stories, ARCs, and even a free copy of your work. They make it easy for both you and your readers. No more lost emails or other weirdness.
For example, use it to easily (and attractively):
- Distribute advanced reader copies (ARCs) to people you specify.
- Give out a free copy of your work in exchange for signing up for your newsletter.
- Setting up sales link pages that you can share with limited or broad audiences so people purchase your book. (A great alternative to making your own web pages for each book.)
- Providing an e-copy to reviewers.
- Viewing tracking data for the page, so you can see exactly how many people have downloaded the work.
You can view an example page for one of my freebie short stories. This one requires an email sign-up, but you can also set it up so it doesn’t require anything.
It does many other things as well, including:
- Connecting you with other genre-specific writers for promotional events, giveaways, and newsletter swaps.
- Posting a sample of your audiobook so you can easily share it with your readers in your newsletter or elsewhere. Great for pre-launch promotion teasers.
- Have your ARC readers sign up, and Bookfunnel will send them your ARC with a unique link that only works for them. They will then track whether the ARC was downloaded or not for you.
Bookfunnel is extremely affordable relative to the great service it provides. At the time of this writing, the most basic account is only $20/year, which is less than $2/month. To get all the features I mention above, it’s $100/year (less than $9/month).
Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to do a walk-through video of Bookfunnel for you.
from Wily Writer Loren Rhoads
I am a planner junkie. For years, I kept searching for a system that would help me organize all the information I need, track all my submissions, make space for my to-do lists, and keep my calendar. I would hear one of my writer friends rave about a system they were excited to try or see an ad that promised to get me organized and snatch it up. I ended up with a cupboard full of half-used planners.I am also an inveterate list-maker. Often, when I sit down with my notebook for a day’s writing, I begin with a to-do list to clear my head. I had to-dos in my in-box, my notebook, my diary, on scraps of paper on my desk, in my unanswered emails. I had folders full of notes from conferences, tear sheets from writer’s magazines, articles I’d printed out from the internet. The weight of everything I thought I should do made me freeze.
Last year, when all my anchors were suddenly gone—no more writing in the cafe after dropping my kid off at school, no more writing in the car before I picked her up in the afternoon—I really struggled to focus and get anything done. What saved me was my planner stash. I took the planners apart and pulled out all my favorite charts: what were my goals for the year? What writing projects had I started and drifted away from? What markets did I want to pitch articles to? When were my favorite magazines open for story submissions?
Armed with that information, I made a master to-do list. Everything went on it, no matter how big or small. Which social media did I enjoy using and what was my theory behind my presence there? What were my goals for my newsletter and how could I better connect with my readers there? Since I couldn’t attend the conventions I’d looked forward to, how else could I get my books into the hands of readers?
Once I finally had EVERYTHING noted down, I could see that it was clearly too much for one person to accomplish RIGHT NOW. I used my planner sheets to pull out the little things that I could finish easily. Once I crossed those off my list, I got a jolt of pride that carried me forward to tackle bigger projects.
I made writing dates with friends over Zoom. A writer I knew set up a Tuesday morning chat for her writer friends. I joined Shut Up & Write sessions. I organized Happy Hours and went to writer’s group meetings online. Slowly, my weeks took on some structure. I needed a calendar to keep track of when everything was happening.
I’d published a novel in February (then saw all the conventions I’d planned to attend get postponed or canceled), so with my planner’s help, I managed to put together a blog tour and list of reviewers. After I attended the Bram Stoker Awards online, I was inspired to assemble a collection of my short stories, using what I’d learned from the first blog tour to promote it. Cross that goal off my list!
Inspired by my planner, I also did some major reorganization projects in my office, emptying all my file drawers and consolidating my research. I (finally!) assembled a binder of all the contracts I’d signed over my writing career. I made another binder of unfinished stories, so I could see the work ahead of me.
Having projects waiting for my attention made it much easier to deal with the discovery that the nonfiction book I’d been researching didn’t match the book the publisher wanted, one I was unable to write because of a previous contractual obligation. In another time, I would have been spun by the rejection. I would have been lost for months. Instead, because I’d been doing all this work on goals, I quickly shifted gears and began work on what became the third book I published last year. It’s no exaggeration to say that my cobbled-together planner was a lifesaver.
The upshot of this is: there are many planners for writers out there. Some focus on logging your daily word count. Others track the business aspects of being a writer: your income and expenses. Still others concentrate on calculating your available writing time and how to make best use of it. Some combine inspiration with goal-setting. Finding the right planner for yourself may take a couple of tries, but if you find a planner that supports the kind of writer you are and the work you want to do, it can change your life. It is definitely worth the effort.
Check out the Spooky Writer’s Planner that Loren designed with the help of artist EMZ Rich, available through the Wily Writers Gift Shop.
It’s not immediately obvious how to add more information to your Wily member profile, so I’ve put together some instructions.
Updating your profile allows other members to see who you are and what you’ve done. We can all get to know one another.
To find the extended information on your profile:
- Make sure you’re logged in.
- Click on Members.
- Click on your own name.
- Click on “Profile”.
- Here, you can add a profile banner and photo.
- Click on “Edit”. This page will take you to a list of fields and questions about yourself. Fill in as many as you’d like!
- Tip: You can control who sees certain parts of your profile by clicking on “Change” next to “This field may be seen by: “.
- You can clear the Genres and Media you chose by clicking on “Clear” below that box.
- Don’t forget to click “Save Changes” at the bottom.
Stuck or just want to use Google Sheets or Excel with greater effectiveness? Browse these tips.
- Sort the data in your spreadsheet for easier reading.
- More coming soon…
Practice these six hacks at night, and your mornings will go much more smoothly. Morning You will be grateful.
- Wash your dishes before you go to bed, especially the coffee pot. It’s no fun, but it’s worth it. In the morning, it’s too easy to get distracted by a dirty kitchen instead of getting straight to writing. Set yourself up for greatness.
- Make a 3-item to-do list for tomorrow. Only the three most important things you must do. Commit to doing these three things before you get on social media, answer email, or any other distraction-risky activities. Once you’ve completed them, your day is yours to do with as you please. Feels so good!
- Shut down your computer at the end of your workday. This makes it more daunting to turn it back on. After you finish work, stay off the computer.
- Especially email! Make it a rule. Tomorrow morning is soon enough to check for the acceptance/rejection email.
- If you have an idea, write it in a notebook by hand. Don’t be tempted to get back on the computer.
- Remember, you haven’t stopped working on your book just because you’re offline. You’re giving your subconscious time to take the reins and your conscious mind a much-needed rest.
- Do easy stretches before bed. Five minutes spent doing the most basic stretches will work out all the kinks you acquired in your office chair, and you’ll sleep better. You can even do this while watching television or reading a book. (great examples)
- Once you’re in bed, let your mind reminisce about the story you’re writing. Hold it in your mind as you fall asleep. Your subconscious will chew on it all night long, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get dreams and/or new ideas from it! Great ideas often come in the morning, when you first wake up or are in the shower. This is thanks to your subconscious that was working hard while you slept.
- Pay attention to what wakes you up and take charge of defending against it. Partner snores? Invest in earplugs. Cat wakes you up to be fed? Give them extra food or use a time-release feeder. Too hot or too cold? Fan or extra blanket handy. Light wakes you up? Buy a good eye mask or darkening curtains. The quality of your sleep matters far more than the quantity, and waking up when your body is ready is critical.
I (Angel McCoy) personally use these products and find they work for me. Let us know in the comments if you’ve had experience with them (what’d you think?) or a similar product that you’d recommend.
- CALM, magnesium powder. Note: be careful with magnesium because it can also loosen bowels (not always a bad thing). Start small and build as you learn your body’s tolerance for it.
- Sleepytime Extra tea. This is my go-to if I’m experiencing insomnia. Look for a caffeine-free herbal tea with chamomile and valerian in it. The valerian is what makes it “extra.”
- Silk Sleep Mask. I couldn’t find the exact mask I have, but this is basically it. I love that it covers my ears completely (helps reduce noise and also air blowing across my ear from the fan). It’s so soft I don’t notice it at all. It blocks the light completely.
- The Psychology of the To Do List: Why Your Brain Loves Ordered Tasks
- 10 Stretches to Do Before Bed to Improve Your Sleep
- Stretching Before Bed
- Should You Turn Your Computer Off at Night? We Asked an Expert
- 5 Reasons NOT to Check Your Email at Night
- Interrupted Sleep
- Why Interrupted Sleep is Worse Than Short Sleep
There’s never enough time in a day to do all the things we want to do. We can get help for cheap, however. Fiverr.com is a website where freelancers offer to do odd jobs for a one-time fee.
- Free up your time and eliminate stress.
- Pass on the tasks you dislike or don’t do well.
- The professionals on Fiverr may have suggestions for the job that you didn’t consider, thus raising the quality bar.
Sample Fiverr Freelancers a Dark Fiction Writer Might Hire
- Horror Podcast Cover Art
- Horror Soundtrack for Podcast, Promo Video, Website, etc.
- Audio Voiceover for Dark Projects
- Book Trailer Production
- Design Social Media Banners, Headers, Ads, etc.
- Go to Fiverr.com and “Join.” It’s free to join. Fiverr takes a commission on any work you actually hire someone to do.
- Fill out all the information they request once you’re sure you want to use it. They are secure and well-established. You can use Paypal or input a credit card.
- Browse the freelancers and find one that does what you need. See the tips below for how to pick a good freelancer.
- Fiverr holds your payment in escrow while your freelancer does the job.
- The freelancer alerts you when the job is done, and you approve the payment.
Choosing a Freelancer
Be somewhat discriminating when you choose your freelancer.
- Start by mousing over the menu bar at the top of the page. You’ll get dropdowns of all the types of freelancers you can hire. Look for the type that best suits your need.
- Look under the heading “Business” for the most useful freelancers. This is where you’ll find virtual assistants, for example.
- In the list, pay attention to the number and quality of reviews a freelancer has received.
- Click on the freelancer to go to their profile. On the profile, look for the following clues:
- How many likes/hearts do they have?
- Do they have any orders in their queue? A lot could mean they’re overwhelmed. A few is okay. If they have any here, make sure you get an estimate on how long they think your job will take when you contact them.
- Make sure their description of what they do matches what you need. Query if in doubt.
- Notice the levels of service near the top/right. Basic, Standard, and Premium. Look at each of them. This will give you a better idea of how much they charge. Your project may require more than just Basic-level service.
- Look at the general level of their English. They don’t need to be fluent, but they do need to have the ability to communicate in English. Many freelancers live in countries other than the United States. This is not a problem unless they don’t speak English well.
- Scroll down the page to see reviews and to learn more about how this freelancer does business.
- Remember, once you’ve decided on a freelancer, don’t book them (“Continue” button). Message them (“Contact Seller” button).
Tips & Best Practices
- You have the option to give a tip once a job is completed. Don’t feel obligated. It’s not required, but it is a nice thing to do.
- Write a review of the freelancer’s work. Bad reviews can damage a freelancer’s rating on the site, so it’s in their best interest to give you excellent service. Good reviews boost their rating and help their credibility.
- It’s important that you contact the freelancer before booking, explain your job, and ask if they’re interested. Let them send you a job proposal so you get an accurate quote for the work. If you don’t like the quote, reject the job.
- Once you find a great freelancer, you can use them again and begin to build a relationship of trust with them. They’ll learn more about your jobs, and you won’t have to micromanage them.
- You’re the boss, and this is a business relationship. Be professional, communicate your needs clearly, give feedback in a professional manner, and be grateful for a job well done.
Did this inspire any ideas? Share them in a comment.
Many email providers let you create and save email templates for those emails you send over and over again.
- It saves time!
- They are excellent for query letters and interview requests, for example. Whenever you find yourself writing the same email over and over, consider creating a template.
- You can always customize it before you send it.
- It raises the professionalism of your emails by reducing the number of typos and other mistakes that sneak into them. Eliminate the need to re-read and edit every time.
- You don’t have to “rethink” what you’ll say every time. This lowers the risk that you’ll leave out a critical or clever element by mistake.
To set up templates in Gmail, you have to first turn them on, then create and save one. Then, you can use it as often as you need.
- Gmail has done an excellent job with their template instructions, so I’m not going to repeat all that here. Plus, if they change, Google will keep it updated.
Tips & Best Practices
- You will always have the opportunity to edit your email before you send it, so don’t be afraid that it just goes. It doesn’t.
- You can save templates to create modular content and add more than one to your email (in Gmail / untested in Outlook——comment below if you know this is also possible in Outlook?). You could have a template for each of the following or whatever you can imagine:
- Name your template well so you can recognize it immediately as the one you need.
- You can edit your template at any time and update it whenever your information changes.
- If you don’t use Gmail or Outlook, do a search on your email provider’s site for “Email Templates” to find out whether they offer them or not.
- I like to use capital letters to call out where I might want to insert a word. For example: “Dear NAME”. This makes it less likely that I will leave the placeholder in when I send it.
- You can automate sending a template using Filters.
Did this inspire any ideas? Share them in a comment.
Images are your #1 resource for promoting your work. Here’s a little introductory tutorial to images.
Digital images are nothing more than a collection of colored pixels (tiny squares) all arranged to create the illusion of an image. This is why we measure images in pixels rather than inches. An image that is 800 x 1600 is 800 pixels wide and 1600 pixels tall. A pixel is a fairly standard unit of measure — more or less.
The image file contains all the information about where specific pixels go and how big they should be. It’s quite magical.
PNGs, JPGs, and GIFs, Oh my!
There are three primary types of image files that you need to know about. Each type has its own special properties. You can choose the type for your image in most graphic programs just by selecting a different file extension from the drop-down when you “Save As”. The program will do the translation for you.
- JPG or JPEG.
- Tend to be smaller and load faster than other types.
- You cannot make them bigger than they already are without losing clarity. You can make them smaller without worry, though this too has its limits.
- They turn transparent areas into white areas automatically. They do not do transparency.
- Tend to be bigger and load slower than other types.
- Resize better than JPGs, but even they have their limits and will get “pixelated” if you push them.
- They retain transparency. If you have transparency in your image, then you want to save-as with the .PNG file extension.
- Only used for animated images, usually ones that loop (start over and repeat automatically)
- These require some artistic savvy or a special program to create.
- Tend to be bigger and load slower than other types.
- If you have an image with animations, then you will probably save it as a GIF, if not an actual movie file.
At the most basic, you won’t ever have to do more than resize your images.
- You can find programs that will let you resize your images.
- If you’ve never used an art program before, start here. Adobe offers a free online app called Photoshop Express that is easy to use and gives you many options for resizing, customizing, and cropping your image. It’s fantastic for beginners.
- Gimp is free and a very popular one, especially among game designers. It has many of the features that you will find in a more advanced program like Adobe Photoshop.
- Windows comes with a free program called “Paint.” Simply open your start window and search for “Paint.” It’s basic, but it works great for simple tasks.
Tips & Best Practices
- Ask your publisher for a “high resolution” copy of any cover image they make for your book. They won’t mind providing you with one. Ask for it in PNG or JPG format.
- Immediately make a copy of the original and set the original aside in a folder so you always have it. Once an image has been edited and saved, you can’t revert it. Remember, you can always make an image smaller, but you can’t always make it bigger without losing resolution.
- Mouse over your image in the file folder, wait a moment, and a box will pop up with information on the type, dimensions (in pixels, width x height), and size (in kilobytes or megabytes [FYI, there are 1000 kilobytes in a megabyte.).
- If your image is more than 800 pixels wide, then you will probably want to resize it. Most places won’t need an image that big, and you’ll be saving them time if you resize it for them.
- If the image they gave you is the entire cover, front and back, you’ll want to create a version that is only the front. To do this, use one of the programs above to crop the image and save-as to a different file.
- I usually make 4 copies of the front cover, one at 800 pixels wide, one at 600 pixels wide, one at 400 pixels wide, and one at 200 pixels wide. If you have those on hand, then you can ask what size the publisher or website needs from you. NOTE: in any graphic program, you can set it so the height adjusts in proportion to whatever you set the width. No math required.
- Use one of these online sites to create polished, professional promotional images for your book. They’re easy to use and intuitive.
Did this inspire any ideas? Share them in a comment.