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Messages - Brevoort

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Book trailers - Effective promotional tools?
« on: November 05, 2020, 09:09:39 am »
A good, solid advertising plan should be the foundation. Along with on-point covers, blurbs, and a good book, of course.

I think this approach is the single most important thing to come out of this thread so far.

There is no point in making videos, bookmarks, branded coffee cups, or elaborate Amazon ads unless you are working to a thoroughly integrated advertising and communications plan with a solid understanding of the buyer.

In my other life, I advise large international organizations on communications policy involving their work in war zones and disaster areas. I work closely with their communications/advertising departments. So while I am not an expert at all in advertising I am exposed to the best of the art.

I'd say that if you don't have a plan, but you do have some spare time, then by all means have fun and make some videos. But don't spend any real money on them.

With a plan, I would recommend building in the video medium as part of your positioning approach. That's where all that your advertising is doing is to remind people who and what you are; keeping the flag flying while you develop new books or new advertising campaigns.

Positioning is vital for building a type of familiarity with your product. It will just about never result in a sale. But, when you do run a sales campaign of the "Buy Now" form there is a much better chance that the casual buyer will recognize your brand or image from the positioning media and at least click on the ad.

This is why large corporations will have a whole sub-set of advertising materials involving everything from magazine ads, television spots, radio, conference banners, and those useless bookmarks, that say nothing more than the company's name, its logo, and a tag line. It's all so the next time a substantive campaign is run that company is not an ominous stranger popping out of an alley in front of a buyer.

There is no reason, if you have the time and enjoy it, why you shouldn't play around with video trailers on all the social media platforms. But just so you don't utterly waste your efforts, first devise a written and detailed marketing plan. There is a military adage that has several forms, but goes like this, "A day's reconnaissance is worth a week of pointless combat."

Given the spectacular rise of social media video, in all fields, I think that it is an area that should be looked at closely.

I haven't read Strunk & White in many years, but I recall it having some weirdness in among the good advice. Examples of "passive voice" that weren't actually passive? Something like that ...

I've just spent an entertaining hour and a half searching on terms such as, "Elements of Style criticism", "Elements of Style mistakes" and similar. If you do the same, don't miss the comments on the blog posts. The differences of opinion and the depth of feeling about the book, and about english in general, is the literary equivalent of TechniColor.

In the end I try to come down on the side of the reader and how they react. If someone complains that they are confused about a bit of writing, or don't understand it, then the fault lies with me the writer.  If you cannot get your point across to the reader then you have failed, no matter how grammatical the sentences might be.

As creative writers, we sometimes break the rules.  But, we should know the rules and why we break them before we do it.

S & W - a great resource.

While I recommend it highly to my clients and journalism students, and I use and admire it, I make it clear that the Elements of Style is about clarity and style in writing.

It is not a book of grammar rules.

As a style guide it is superb but it has been criticized for years, mostly unfairly, as being a dangerously prescriptive trap for the unwary. The authors of the book make mention that it is not a grammar rule book and shouldn't be used as such, but many people either never read that warning or don't understand what that means.

A brief web search will bring up a lot of these points but beware because emotions reach flame heat easily when talking about this book.

If you are looking for a style and grammar resource I recommend The Chicago Manual of Style. While aimed at the North American writing and publishing industry it is exemplary in pointing out how various points are treated differently in so-called British english. My recommendation is a personal one for the CMOS because I grew up through the North American journalism system. I tell people to buy the "stuff it in a back pocket" Elements of Style and then wander through a library checking out the various style and grammar guides until you find something you can live with.

And take to heart the adage that, "You can't go breaking the rules until you fully understand them."

One other point to remember. The quickest way to ruin friendships and relationships is to argue about grammar. Do not be a grammar nazi.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Blogging alternatives to the now-ruined Wordpress
« on: October 11, 2020, 08:40:13 am »
The Wordpress supported "Classic Editor" plugin turns everything back to the way it was.

The block editor is probably a good thing but I can't be bothered learning since my needs are simple and either the plugin or the code editor is all I need.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Alphasmart
« on: September 29, 2020, 08:39:48 am »

I was wondering if any Neo 2 owners can comment on the reliability of this typing machine. I am most concerned about data loss. I have heard some horror stories about people losing data on the machine due to poor battery connections or data corruption.

I had a Neo and a Neo 2 for more than three years. They are used daily.

I've not had one problem with data loss. Nothing.

As long as the machine has batteries in it everything will be kept. If the batteries go dead, there is an internal standby battery.

If you buy an alphasmart neo you need to check that the internal back-up battery is still good. These machines are old and not a lot of people realize that there is an internal battery that will eventually need replacing.

It is a simple matter of removing the bottom cover and changing out the button CR2032, one of the most common button batteries out there.

Your hardest job will be tracking down the special Torx screwdriver(s) to get the case off. Some machines have one size of screw, others have two sizes.

Instructions are a google away, "How to replace the backup battery of an alphasmart neo" or some such.

By the way, I've just checked the battery level of my AA batteries and see that they still have tonnes of charge and were last replaced about a year ago. Again, as long as the main batteries have any charge at all the data will be safe even if the backup battery is dead.

It's not a word processor. It's more of an organizational tool with a built in text editor.

That also was the key insight for me. Once I realized the benefits of keeping everything, draft, research, notes to self, pictures, deleted scenes, etc and etc in one place where nothing can get lost (use the backup and snapshot features) I really took off with Scrivener. I also very much like the distraction free feature which I have modified to show yellow text on a deep blue background, reminiscent of the old Word and WordPerfect screens.

It can't be simpler. Open a project, create a new text, and just start writing. All else that you might like to do can be learned as you go. It's about as complicated at that stage as using a pointy stick on a lump of wet clay. That's how the Gilgamesh Epic was written and that was 4 thousand years ago.

In the early years, before it sank in, I had more than one crusty, raw, loud, and probably alcoholic, editor say stuff along the lines of . . .

"If you are fussing over finding the right typewriter, the right pen, the right chair and desk, and the right place to write, just realize that what you are really doing is running away from writing.
You are hiding.
Stop messing about and write."

Such sentiments would usually be delivered in a voice used by mad colonels and drill sergeants and well peppered with epithets.

I try very hard to remember what they used to yell when I catch myself doing something stupid like trying to find a better keyboard online, or wasting time looking for a bigger, better, faster computer which I do not need. Any old computer can emulate that lump of clay if I just stop hiding and get writing.

I had a knee jerk critical reaction to this proposal until I decided to check Vellum's licence.

The FAQ says that this is perfectly okay and that is more than good enough for me.

I will say that I was surprised at Vellum's liberal attitude about this until I reflected on how the company has dealt with customer queries, complaints, and suggestions over the years. Vellum, apart from being an outstanding and beautiful bit of software, is very much on the side of the customer. Rare I know, but most welcome.

That said. If someone has the means and the need to use Vellum more than a one-off I'd highly recommend supporting the company by buying a licence.

And to the Original Poster: I'd say, good on you for offering such a fair priced service and for supporting Vellum while doing so.

Writers' Cafe / Re: The danger of buying your own books.
« on: July 23, 2020, 08:47:32 am »

I am going with the Nielsen BookScan official statement as posted earlier today (Thursday) by Mark Dawson on his Twitter Account.

It reads in part, "We have spoken at length to all those involved and believe it to be an innocent error."

I really don't have the time to go into the epistemology of this issue so I will take the word of Nielsen and Dawson.

I will make one other point. During a couple of the SPF podcasts Mark Dawson and James Blatch discussed the idea of the promotion ahead of time and Dawson seemed to be at pains to say that he had made attempts to make sure that what he was going to do was proper. And, he had the backing of the bookseller in question.

So, I will walk away from the bonfire and get back to work.


- What about Canada? Do Canadians buy from the US store? (I see many Canada visits to my site, but see a disproportionally low purchase rates. Could it be that they buy on the US store and the purchase is mixed up?)

Kobo really has a good hold on the Canadian market because Amazon was very slow to set up ebook buying. Kobo also benefited from its corporate ties with the main bookselling chain, Chapters-Indigo. Now that Kobo is a separate company it holds onto quite a chunk of the domestic market.

I maintain my U-S Amazon account for ebooks because for the longest time not all books were available in the Canadian version of Amazon after they started selling ebooks.

I use a Kobo reader(s) because I can just bung any old epub book into it whereas I have to do a dance with Calibre to read them on my Kindle(s)

Writers' Cafe / Re: Do book trailers work?
« on: May 16, 2020, 09:50:50 am »
Wayne. Can I just say that your video for Rising Thunder is a terrific piece of work. The cinematography, the editing, and the flow were all of the highest order. On its own it tells an intriguing story.

Full marks and more to the production crew.



 My suspicion is the bricks and mortar book stores in Canada has a little bit too much of a monopoly...Chapters/Indigo is linked to Kobo. I could be totally wrong...

You could well be right but I think that Amazon ignored the Canadian ebook market for so long that it missed an opportunity. Until a few years ago Canadians could only buy Amazon ebooks from the .COM site. It was also impossible to buy Amazon Kindles at the .CA site for a long time.

Kobo was set up by Indigo Books in 2009. It really took off as a result of convenience and a determined drive by Chapters-Indigo to aggressively sell ebook readers using the epub format. By the time Amazon decided to move into the market Kobo was well and truly established.

Kobo Rakuten Inc. is a Canadian subsidiary of a Japanese corporation. Indigo sold its interest in Kobo about eight years ago.

I know a lot of people with epub readers who simply are not interested in also buying a Kindle just to read Amazon's format.


I haven't used it in anger yet but just the couple of hours I've messed around with it show that it could be a serious tool.

I was already greatly impressed with BookBrush but this addition takes everything much higher

... or could you all tell me about a speech to text tool through which i can type my entire manuscript easily?

I doubt that anyone would describe the process as easy. But fast? Yes.

I do the bulk of my raw drafting (fiction & business) with a voice recorder and then have Dragon V15 (personal individual) transcribe the text. It does a very good job although the developers of Dragon have never bothered to really finish the software after all these years. Still, it is pretty well the best out there.

However, I have been using the voice typing feature of Google Docs on my laptops and phones and I am well impressed. It does not feature any of the text correction tools of Dragon but it does an impressive job of voice recognition and is worth checking out. It does not respond to any text commands other than "Period" and "Next Paragraph" but that is pretty well all that I use in Dragon as well.

The huge advantage that speech to text has is in speed. I can generally type 1K to 1.5K words in an hour. With dictation I can easily output 4K and up. There are others who achieve much greater rates. However, that is raw output. By the time you have fed the recordings into Dragon and let it do its stuff, and then tidy up the text, those initial output rates will drop.

Occasionally, with all voice recognition tools, they run into words and phrases that confuse them badly. The resulting output can look like some bizarre drug land language and you can have a hell of a time recalling what you were really trying to say. That's where the ability to call up the original MP3 tape of the dictation becomes invaluable, but one can lose a great deal of time in some cases.

There are several good books about all this. Two that I would recommend are "The Writer's Guide to Training Your Dragon" by Scott Baker (excellent), For how one approaches writing and dictation, and on creating the best mental attitude for it; "On Being a Dictator: Using Dictation to Be a Better Writer" by Kevin J. Anderson and Martin L. Shoemaker. (Anderson has written dozens of first rate science & fantasy novels using dictation for many years, usually by hiking mountains.)


Chris Fox has just published a 20 minute video on youtube showing in high detail his income, expenses, and profit streams for last year. He has dramatically increased income but with a greatly increased ad spend.

There is a lot of good insight and value in the video.

I applaud him for being so open about his financials.

I do regret that he no longer contributes here but then again a lot of successful people have pulled back on participating in KBoards.

Has anyone here been successful applying Dean Wesley Smith's advice of 'writing into the dark' and 'no significant rewriting'?

Before this topic gets killed for toxicity, like it always does when the fast-writing vs quality comes up, let me just make a few points.

Dean Wesley Smith has a track record that comprises some two hundred novels over 40 years and whole cargo planes full of short stories. He knows craft and he shares what he knows.

As far as I know, he does not recommend that every writer jump over the edge and write into the dark, just the ones who feel they can trust their creative instincts. He does say, no rewriting except to editorial direction. That is from Robert Heinlein's 5 Rules for Writing.

Instead of brute force rewriting Smith uses a technique widely used by many writers of starting off a session by going back over previous writing (not from the beginning, just a few pages) and giving it a once over, and then launching into the dark.

This cycling back, rather than sitting down at page 1 and plowing ahead to the end rewriting and dickering, is common with many writers. Robert Heinlein used it, Wayne Stinnet here on these boards does this, and so does Lee Child of Jack Reacher fame.

Lee Child is perhaps the most successful dark dive writer. He has said many times that when September 1st of each year comes along and he starts a new Jack Reacher novel he has no idea whatsoever what the book will be about. And the same goes for just about every day when he starts a new writing session. There is independent proof of that statement from Andy Martin who wrote "Reacher Said Nothing" a book based on his experience sitting alongside Child for a year while he wrote "Make Me". And to head off the inevitable cry that the publisher is editing his work there is ample evidence that the publisher pretty well leaves Child's manuscripts alone and certainly does not request significant rewrites.

Smith has published a worthwhile book on this subject called "Writing Into the Dark." But you can get the same information from his webpage although it will be spread out over several blog posts.

It has been pointed out repeatedly here and elsewhere that there is no one way to write. If an approach is not comfortable or productive for you then don't sweat it. Find a way that works for you. The quality question will be determined by your readers.


Tell me I'm not alone.

Should I tell Scrivener? Should I keep both? I'm so confused!

I look on Google Docs as the always available, on any device, shock troops for Scrivener. I think of GDocs as an extension of Scrivener and these days I couldn't be without it.

Let me explain.

I travel on business to some rough and ready places (war zones etc) and I use Chromebooks because they are dead cheap, can be replaced easily and quickly, and all of my data and apps are backed up in the Cloud and can be restored to any Chromebook anywhere in about 5 minutes.

They do not run Scrivener and the Msword version available for them has never appealed.

But Google Docs works on-line or off-line, on the CBooks of course, but also on my phone and any other computing device available. The features are adequate for drafting and the voice recognition feature, while limited in capabilities, (won't do transcription) does a more than acceptable job of dictation with rudimentary punctuation. When I am back to somewhere with Scrivener it is a pretty trivial job to import my GDocs writing into Scrivener Projects, including the iOS version on an iPad Mini.

I tend to use GDocs pretty well for everything connected to my day job. But I use the Gdocs/Scrivener connection for fiction drafting and non-fiction.

In the past I would lug a MacBook and or my iPad into some shaky parts of the world and worry constantly about theft. Now, I have several refurbished Chromebooks bought cheaply and use them without a care.

I just consider Google Docs a down and dirty front line fighting writer's machine that is just a part of Scrivener.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Have You Posted to Your Blog Recently?
« on: November 18, 2019, 03:32:58 pm »

Cure Writer’s Block and Procrastination With a Slap In The Face

To the point writing advice from the television show Supernatural

Writers' Cafe / Re: Have You Posted to Your Blog Recently?
« on: November 16, 2019, 08:18:44 am »

What it is like to be bored in a War Zone.

An excerpt from The Disaster Tourist - Journalists and Relief Workers Searching for Beer in Disaster Areas (in pre-Production)

If you read the thread over there it's actually an extremely good discussion on the quantity vs. quality debate. There is a diversity of opinion and no one is jumping on anyone or levying personal attacks. There is a lot of good information, opinions and experiences being shared. It's just to KBoards' detriment that we can never have that kind of civil discourse here.

The post this responds to has been deleted. I'm leaving this one in as there's nothing wrong with it, and it was in turn responded to civilly. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

Agreed. It is a mature and reasoned series of arguments on both sides and a refreshing read. I don't care much for the instant carping and nastiness I see on this board and I am starting to understand why so many major contributors have either dropped out or just don't post anymore.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Dictation for writing
« on: October 26, 2019, 08:24:54 am »
What model microphone does everyone use? If I'm driving and want to dictate, I have to more or less scream to get the phone to it up.

Take a look at "lapel mikes" on amazon. In recent times there has been an explosion of different makes and models and prices can be quite low. I would recommend trying to buy something mid-range to see if the sound quality is good enough for you.

I use an expensive over the ear microphone only headset in the car but you can easily get by with a clip on lapel mike.

For in car recording you have to be aware that road noise can severely affect sound quality. Open windows and gravel roads will defeat any and all noise reduction.

If you buy one for your phone, make sure that the description mentions the microphone is for use with phones (Android/iPad - they're the same thing). A lapel mike, or any mike, made for use with phones usually will not work with handheld recorders, and vice-versa.


Today's SPF podcast has a long and detailed interview with Amanda Lee who hardly needs any introduction here.

The interview goes into some detail about how she is able to publish some 20 books a year by writing about 9 thousand and more words a day.

This link is to the podcast and the transcript

Writers' Cafe / Re: Dictation for writing
« on: October 13, 2019, 09:16:38 am »
Which version does?

Version 15 Professional Individual has batch transcription and an upgraded voice recognition engine that does an okay sort of job transcribing multiple speakers in the same recording. The problem with Dragon is that despite the number of years it has been around it has never hit the market with what one would call a polished version. There are quirks and oddities in the program that have never been addressed. And, in my personal opinion, the customer service is lacking to a large degree.

Other versions also have transcription features including some of the Version 13 releases that can be had for much much cheaper than the latest. But, as quirky and infuriating as I find Version 15 I must say that the voice recognition engine is very good. If you are looking at other versions than 15 then read the description very closely. The company has a bad habit of changing the names of its products and it is easy to end up with a version that does not handle transcription. Of course, if you have a lot of money you could buy the Medical or Legal versions but that is a pretty large purchase.

Scott Baker goes into the is issue pretty thoroughly in his ebook "The Writer's Guide to Training Your Dragon".

Writers' Cafe / Re: Dictation for writing
« on: October 11, 2019, 06:33:00 pm »
They dropped support for the Mac version, so desktop is best seen as PC only now.

I am running DNS Ver 15 quite nicely under Parallels on my MacBook. That's not a good solution for everyone because the emulation software costs and so does a licence for Win 10, but it works better than the Mac only version ever did.

I keep hoping that Google will ramp up its voice recognition capabilities to include transcription.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Dictation for writing
« on: October 11, 2019, 07:44:33 am »
So Chris Fox recommends using dictation as a way to increase your writing speed.  Does anyone here do that? 

A great many people use dictation for fiction/non-fiction, myself included.

I find that if I have a good idea of what I want to say, just a focus statement or a goal sentence that outlines where I will be going in the session, then I can quite easily hit 3,000 to 4,000 words a minute and sometimes more. If there is little wind or background noise in the recording then Dragon Premium Individual 15 can give me an accuracy rate close to 100% which cuts down on the editing cleanup time.

If I don't have a mental outline of what I want to achieve in a dictation session then it becomes a peat bog of nonsense and huge waste of time.

I record into a handheld recorder (less than $100) and have Dragon transcribe it. Others will use a human transcription service, it's up to you.

Note: not all versions of Dragon Naturally Speaking (the company likes to keep changing the name) supports transcription. And, do not pay full price for Dragon. There are always good and legitimate deals and coupons on the web that can be hunted down.

For short emails, notes to self, writing ideas, I find the voice recognition software in Google Docs to be very good.

If I do not have my recorder with me when I am out and about, I use a voice recorder program in my Android phone that has the ability to automatically email my recordings to the cloud for later transcription. The quality, especially with a lapel microphone, is very good.

There are two books I recommend.

The newest is by Kevin J Anderson and Martin L Shoemaker called "On Being a Dictator". It does an excellent job of outlining how one should go about the mental process of telling story onto tape. It is more than worthwhile to pay attention to this book because Anderson dictates all of his science fiction and fantasy novels and has done so for years, while he heads off on monstrous mountain hikes. Anderson has published well more than a hundred books and has won several major science fiction awards including the Nebula and Locus.

The other book is "The Writer's Guide to Training Your Dragon" by Scott Baker. This is a must have because it solves all the abstruse technical difficulties of using Dragon and getting decent voice recognition rates. It is a superb book and goes way beyond the technicalities into the kind of attitude and approach one needs to bring to the process.

There are several others available, including "The Productive Author's Guide to Dictation" by Cindy Grigg, and "Dictate Your Book" by Monica Leonelle, both of which are very good.

And lastly, there is a huge twisting dragon's tale of a thread on this board called "1 Week Training My Dragon" that has been read 120 thousand times and which includes many many useful tips and techniques.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Business cards
« on: September 25, 2019, 08:44:13 am »

Other fields still use business cards. I don't think they'd do it if there wasn't some benefit to it.

I am glad this thread has popped up because it has spurred me to get up and do something about business cards for my writing.

There is no question in my mind that the demise of the business card has been greatly exaggerated.

In my other life I run a strategic and crisis communications consulting business active in war zones and humanitarian disasters (Afghanistan, Syria et al). I am also an Aboriginal issues consultant for large energy corporations in western Canada. Accordingly, I meet a great deal of people in the course of business and during things such as conferences and trade shows.

The number of times I get asked, "Do you have a card?" is beyond counting. Sure, people sometimes pull out their phones but they seem to have the card in their hands before transcribing the contact information into the device.

In addition to my contact details, the card contains a concise description of my services and points to my website. I consider the website as my brochure and often refer to it as such when talking with a potential client.

One of the major benefits of handing over a card, and it is usually a trade of cards with the other person, is that it forces a kind of conversation. Business hires for consultants often seem to have more to do with first impressions and personal connection than technical or academic achievements and those few short seconds are valuable.

I can think of no more amateurish thing in a business setting than to say, "Hang on a sec. Let me just scribble down my (illegible) email address on this bit of paper I've just torn out of a magazine." I have seen that sort of thing more times than I care for and it is just so self-sabotaging.

So, business cards matter, in business. Would they work for writers? I can't think why not. A nice card, possibly with an image of a book cover on one side and where to buy it etc on the other side would be quite useful.

I am ashamed to say that more than once when talking to someone about my work and they ask where they can get a copy I've had to say, "Oh, just go on Amazon, or Kobo, or the library." And in the act of saying that I know, and they know, that they will never remember the name of the book, or my name, or that they were ever interested.

In the scheme of business expenses, cards are dirt cheap so why not have them?

Oh, and by the way, the idea that younger, more modern, business people don't use cards is false as far as I am concerned. The youngest and hippest people I deal with are usually graphic designers and video producers. They appear grateful to get a card and they always make sure that I have their web address and email.

Again, thanks all for bring this up. I need to get onto this soonest.

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