6 iPad Apps for Writers

If you got a shiny new iPad for Christmas, you’re probably looking for some writer-type apps. Here are several that I use. Click on the app’s name to learn more:

CleanWriter – I’m big on distraction-free environments when I’m trying to pound out words. This little app gives you a clean writing environment. Turn on the Hacker theme and you get the old school green-screen word processor feel.

Notability – this is the end-all be-all of note taking apps. It lets you handwrite notes, type, take audio recordings, insert drawings or photos and more. Perfect for your story bible or research notebook.

OneNote – If you’re a Microsoft Office 2010 user and OneNote is your story bible/research notebook of choice, you can’t go wrong with this one. It’ll synch with the OneNote notebooks on your PC so your data will always stay current.

Storyist – The closest thing to Scrivener that I can find for the iPad. Storyist gives you the ability to create notecard-based outlines and then write out the text of your manuscript. It also has templates for character sheets, settings and more.

DropBox – This is essentially a folder out in cyberspace where you can toss your files and then access them from any device. So write some notes in Notability or jot off a scene in CleanWriter and then send it off your PC or Mac via DropBox. All the apps listed above have an option to sync with DropBox (except for OneNote, which uses SkyDrive from Microsoft). This’ll also backup your files to the could automatically, in case your iPad has an unfortunate encounter with your toddler.

Pandora – I usually don’t listen to music when I write, but I know there are a ton of people who do. Pandora gives you a personalized, streaming radio station tailored to your unique musical tastes.

Are there other iPad apps you use when writing? Sound off in the comments.

5 Free Apps for Writers

If you or a writer in your life is considering a New Year’s Resolution to write more, or be more disciplined about writing, here are 5 free programs that can help you.

1 – Q10
This is a bare-bones editor that looks and feels like an old school word processor, green screen and all. It has no formatting capabilities, no bells or whistles and is absolutely perfect when you just want to sit down and pound out 2,000 words. I wrote the majority of IMPERIUM using Q10, and heartily recommend it. www.baara.com/q10.

2 – DropBox
Backing up your files is a lot like flossing. Everyone knows they’re supposed to do it, but your dentist will tell you that not everyone does it enough. Seriously, ask your dentist and he/she’ll tell you you aren’t backing up enough. To help with that, there’s DropBox. This is essentially a folder out in cyberspace where you can toss your files and then access them from any device. It’s ridiculously easy to set up, and any files you put in that folder are automatically backed up. Quick and easy. Your dentist will be proud of you. www.dropbox.com.

3 – Calibre
If you’re tech savvy, it’s easy enough to create a .mobi file of your novel. However, there are a bunch of other formats out there (epub, pdf, etc) and taking the time to create each individual file is a colossal PITA. Enter Calibre. Among other things, this tool allows you to convert files from one format to another and then preview them to ensure they look good. http://calibre-ebook.com.

4 – PureText
Sometimes when you’re researching, you’ll copy a big chunk of text off the web and then paste it into your story bible. Then you spend 5 minutes cleaning up any screwball formatting issues that came through (why the hell is the left margin set to 5″?). For those moments, there’s PureText. Just press Windows+V and your text gets dropped into the current document, sans any formatting. www.stevemiller.net/puretext.

5 – Paint.NET
For the do-it-yourself cover artist on a budget, Paint.NET is a fantastic tool. It has many of the same features you know and love from tools like Photoshop, but without the hefty price tag. www.getpaint.net.

Any other tools you’d recommend? Sound off in the comments.

On Reading Your Work Aloud

Sooner or later, all writers are told that it’s a good idea to read your work aloud; it makes it easier to pick up on overused phrases and find sentences that are clunky. What’s even better is to have someone read your work to you. However, not everyone has their own own personal book reader at their beck and call. So the next best thing is to have your computer or Kindle read to you.

I started using the Text To Speech feature on my Kindle for this very reason. It sounds terrible, but it forces you to hear every word. And unlike reading it aloud yourself, the Kindle will never insert a word you’ve forgotten. Case in point, I’d written the sentence “the device was size of a paperback book.” I’d proofed the draft several times, but my brain always stuck the word “the” in there for me between “was” and “size”. When the Kindle read the sentence, I realized I’d missed the word and was able to fix it.

Granted, the Text To Speech feature sounds like an old fashioned Speak and Spell, so I just pretend that Stephen Hawking agreed to narrate my work. 🙂

How about you? Any other proofreading tips you’ve discovered? Sound off in the comments.

Thoughts on Getting Reviews

OK, so you’ve finished your novel. You’ve polished it until it gleams. You’ve had it professionally edited. You sprung for professional artwork. You’ve just posted it to Amazon. And now…

Now your book is up there with hundreds of thousands of others, and no one knows about it.

There are a bunch of things you can do to market your book, but one of the most effective is getting a review on a book blogger’s site. That puts you smack dab in front of your target audience and encourages them to buy your book. So here are some tips to land that review.

1 – Locate your target blogs. I used the Book Blogger Directory to find as many urban fantasy blogs as I could. Once you’ve found a bunch of sites, move on to step 2.

2 – Run recon. Make sure that the site accepts self-published books. Look for a link on the site called Review Policy (sometimes it’s in the About section as well). The Review Policy tells you what sort of books the blogger likes, if there are any genres they’re not accepting, and if they take self-pubbed books. If they say they don’t accept self-pubbed novels, then move on. Do not be “That Guy” who thinks he’s special and the rules don’t apply to him. Trust me, they do. If the reviewer doesn’t specify whether or not they take self-pubbed books it’s probably safe to pitch them.

2a – Assuming the site takes self-published books, have a look at some of the reviews that have already been posted. You’re looking for two things here. First, does the blogger like authors who write with your particular style? For example, my novel IMPERIUM is a lot closer to Jim Butcher than it is to Stephenie Meyer. Make sure that the reviewer goes for your type of book. Second, do you like the reviewer’s style? Some reviewers give lots of spoilers, others speak in generalities. Make sure you’re comfortable with how they work.

3 – Send a polite note to the reviewer. Address them by name, provide them with your book’s blurb and ask if they’d be interested in reviewing your book. Also provide your email and website (or blog address). Erika over at Badass Book Reviews has an entire post dedicated to just this point.

4 – Wait patiently. Some bloggers say that if you haven’t heard back from them in a week, they aren’t interested. Respect that. If you get no response, let it go and move on.

Alright, so let’s say you hear back and the reviewer is interested in your book. Yay! But now there’s one last step. You have to be prepared for whatever rating the reviewer gives you. The reviewer may not like your book. They may think your precious novel is a steaming pile of dog feces. Or worse, they may brand your novel with the dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish). In that case, what do you do?

5 – Accept it. You don’t argue with the reviewer. You asked for their opinion, remember? It’s OK to be disappointed, upset or even mad. But you do that offline. Fire up an FPS and imagine fragging the reviewer. Take out your frustrations on a punching bag. Gripe to your significant other or your best friend, but do NOT do it in any kind of an online forum. Chalk it up to experience and move on.

However, assuming you have written a good book and you’ve done your homework so it’s in front of the right reviewer, you should receive a good review. And let me tell you, seeing 5 stars next to your book’s name is one heck of a feeling.

How to Put Your Book in a Sidebar

I was listening to Lindsay Buroker’s podcast on blogging the other day, and she suggested having your book displayed in a sidebar on your blog. I thought this was a great idea, and wanted to share how to set that up. The video below shows you how to do it. It’s really easy and only takes about a minute or two.

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Here’s the code for the sidebar. Just copy, paste & tweak it.

<a href=”YOUR BOOK PAGE URL HERE”>YOUR BOOK NAME</a><a href=”LINK TO BOOK PAGE HERE”><img src=”PATH TO YOUR BOOK COVER HERE” alt=”YOUR BOOK NAME eBook” width=”180″ /></a>

<center><a href=”LINK TO YOUR EXCERPT”>Read an Excerpt</a> Available from <a href=”AMAZON LINK”>Amazon</a> | <a href=”B&amp;N LINK”>B&amp;N</a> | <a href=”SMASHWORDS LINK”>Smashwords</a> | <a href=”CREATESPACE LINK”>Paperback</a></center>

And if you’re interested in using Notepad++, you can download that from here.

The Writer’s Media Kit

I’ve been doing a bunch of guest posts for IMPERIUM’s book tour, and I found I was emailing out the same information over and over again to each person on the tour. So I finally got smart and put all the commonly requested info into a zip file that I could just attach to an email.

Here’s what my kit includes:

  • Author bio (including website, Twitter handle and other social media info)
  • Author photo
  • Book cover art
  • Book excerpt
  • Book blurb
  • Links where people can buy the book

I took all those items and used 7-zip to create a zip file. You can use other tools, but I’ve found 7-zip gives the best compression. Plus it’s free, which is always a good thing.

Now, when a blogger or reviewer asks me for information around my book, I can just shoot off my trusty media kit and be confident that they’ve got all the info they’ll need.

If you’re a writer, what other bits of info do you include in your media kits? If you’re a reviewer or blogger, are there other things you often ask writers for? Sound off in the comments.

Tracking Clicks in Bitly

Everyone who has a website has a way to track the number of times a page was viewed. But what about those times when you link to something that’s not on your site? For example, when you direct folks to where you can buy your book on Amazon, B&N or Smashwords? I didn’t have a good way to track those sorts of things until I learned about bitly. Most of you are familiar with bitly as a URL shortener that’s used with Twitter. But you can make bitly links for anything, and once you’ve created a bitly link you can track how many times it’s been clicked.

All you need to do is take your original bitly URL and add a + to the end of it. For example, I use bitly links on my website & Twitter when I show folks where they can buy IMPERIUM. The bitly link for Amazon is http://bitly.com/jJnxM6. By typing http://bitly.com/jJnxM6+ into my browser’s address bar I get this page which shows me how often it’s been clicked and where the clicks are coming from.