Monday, December 28, 2015

13 Tips to Write Faster

Do you want to write faster? Are you struggling with completing your novel, or are you working on the sequel and it's taking you twice as long as the first book to finish?

I'm always looking for ways to get more out of my writing time, and recently I discovered "13 Things I Learned About Writing Faster" by Veronica Sicoe. It's a great starting place.

What follows is her list shuffled into my order with a few additional thoughts added.

  • Make writing your Top Priority 
  • Writing first thing in the morning is HUGELY helpful
  • Life doesn’t care about your writing time
This doesn't mean shun your family. It does mean treating your writing like a business even if you have a regular 9 to 5 job. Set a schedule and do your best to stick with it, but be prepared for distractions.  The earlier in the day that you can start working toward your writing goal, the more likely you are to meet it.

  • Having a great outline is half the victory
  • Your first outline isn’t necessarily a great outline
  • Separating decision-making from typing does the trick
  • Conversational tone is the fastest to write and the easiest to read
Before you sit down and begin writing for the day, have an idea of where you want to end.  Work that out in your downtime between writing.  I start with a outline so basic that it hardly deserves to be called one. It just gives me a focus for the beginning, middle and ending of the story. As the story progresses, I flesh out each part.  It's like planning a trip to Disney World. You want to make all of the major decisions before the first day of vacation begins so that you can enjoy the trip.

Stick with what works best for you. Everyone has heard "Write what you know," and that applies here. If you are going to stretch your boundaries (and you should), do the research before you sit down to write.

  • [Placeholders] are your [friends]
  • Social media isn’t [your friend]
  • Perfectionism is the death of creativity
In the words of Gold Five from Star Wars, "Stay on target."  Your writing time is for writing, not for research, watching videos of cats or editing.  If you need to remind yourself to double check something later, then stick a placeholder in and leave a comment.  I use [XXX comment XXX], but you can use anything you want. Just make it unique enough that it is easy to search for.

  • What gets measured gets managed
  • Celebrating progress is VITAL 
  • Knowing “it can be done” is a great motivator
Record your progress each time you write. I like to track words and time spent. Some people prefer to track scenes. The key is to decide on a goal and then track whatever you need to measure to make sure you reach that goal. Commit to meeting those goals. Make yourself accountable if only to yourself.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to keep yourself motivated.  The first thing to remember is that it can be done.  There are authors with 9 to 5 jobs, who take care of their family and have a social life that can finish a couple of books a year. Once you start tracking your efforts, you'll see that you can do it too.

To see Veronica's original list, check out her post at

Monday, September 7, 2015

Critiquing the Critique Group

At some point in your writing career you'll probably end up in a critique group.  Whether the group meets at the local coffee shop where everyone knows each other on sight or is hosted on an online forum where you only know the others by their avatars they all have a similar goal: to help improve each others work.

Unfortunately, not all critique groups are created equally, and it's not always easy for a new writer approaching their first critique group to separate the helpful from the harmful.

A good place to start is to read Anne R Allen's Beware Groupthink: 10 Red Flags to Watch For When Choosing a Critique Group. I've listed the bullet items here.

10 Things that Can make a Critique Group go Sour
  1. Dogmatic PC/Religious Policepersons.
  2. Misinformed and outdated "writing rules"
  3. Unenforced Rules (or None) 
  4. No moderator (or a bad one.)
  5. The grammar militia
  6. Power-trippers and divas
  7. Praiseaholics.
  8. Co-Authors.
  9. Know-it-Alls (Who Don't)
  10. The Empathy-Challenged

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Kindle Unlimited - Royalty per Page

It's the middle of August and that means that the numbers for Amazon's Kindle Unlimited new royalty by the page count are in. Earlier in July I predicted that the rate would be around $0.0068, a far cry less than Amazon's $0.10 per page that they used in their promotional literature. 

Many optimistic writers were hoping the number would be around $0.05 a page. While that was about 9 times higher that my estimate, I was secretly cheering for that number too. Sadly, that didn't work out.

For the month of July the royalty per page worked out to $0.005779.  A little more than half a cent a page.

Amazon's royalty plan for Kindle Unlimited (KU) doesn't guarantee a fixed monthly number, but the trend for the last few months has been for Amazon to adjust the pool the pay authors to keep the average royalty per book at around $1.35.  While it is still early, we can expect that Amazon might do something similar with the royalty by page plan and that around a half cent per page might become the norm.

At first glance, it would seem that books less than 240 pages in length will make less under the new KU plan, and books over 240 pages will make more.

But... And there is always a but, the royalty per page is based on the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC) which is often much higher than your physical page count. My first novel, Shaper of Stone, came in at 183 physical pages.  Based on that number of pages, I would make less per borrow under the new KU plan (183 x .005779 = $1.06), but that isn't what happened.  Shaper of Stone has a KENPC of 371 pages, and that works out to a little over $2.14 per borrow.  My second novel, Shaper of Air has a KENPC of 682 pages which results in a $3.94 royalty per borrow.  Considering the retail price for both books is $2.99, I'm very pleased with the new royalty plan.

Of course to earn that royalty readers need to read the entire story.  If they stop reading after 10 pages and never go back, the royalty is only for those 10 pages. That's OK. Getting the reader to finish the story is our job.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Discrepancies in KENPC - Are They Real?

There has been a lot of discussion about the method used by Amazon to calculate the number of pages in a book.  That number is what Amazon has dubbed the KENPC or Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count.

There has been a lot of discussion, and most of it is wrong.

As writers, we often measure the length of our book by the word count then we estimate the word count by doing a little math. If I wrote 60,000 words and I expect to have 300 words per page, then I have a book around 200 pages.

The problem with that math is that your pages don't have 300 words (or whatever number you pick). The actual number of pages for a 60,000 word book will seldom work out that easily, and it will vary from writer to writer and from book to book.

Many authors are trying to apply the word count method to figure out how Amazon is getting the page number, and they haven't been able to come up with a number that works the same every time. They assume there must be some error on Amazon's part.

There might very well be errors in Amazon's calculation (it is at version 1.0 after all), but this isn't one of them.

Amazon is not calculating the KENPC based on word count.  Efforts to apply a word count based calculation are going to produce discrepancies. This method doesn't work for print books. Why would it work for an ebook any better?

According to Amazon's own website, "We calculate KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and we use KENPC to measure the number of pages customers read in your book, starting with the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book. Amazon typically sets SRL at chapter 1 so readers can start reading the core content of your book as soon as they open it."

At this time we don't know what the font is, how big the font is, how much space will be used between each line or paragraph, or even how big a page is.  Our best estimates are just guesses. As guesses they might be in the right ball park, but they are just as likely to be wrong as they are right in any given situation.

What seems reasonable based on Amazon's claim to using line height and line spacing in the calculation is that how your words lay out on the page mean as much as the actual number of words.

Let's look at two examples.

Example  1
This is a short sentence on one line. This is a second sentence.

Example 2
This is a short sentence on one line.
This is a second sentence.

In the first example everything fit on one line. In the second, I started a new paragraph, forcing a second line.  The number of words didn't change in the examples, but the space needed doubled in Example 2.

How many paragraphs do you fit onto a page? Are all of your paragraphs the same length? The more paragraphs you have on a page, the less words you'll have on it. The less words you have on a page, the more pages you'll need.

It's easy to see how your writing style can impact the KENPC of your book.

If you have two 60,000 word books and one comes in with a KENPC of 280 and the other comes in with a page count of 300, it probably isn't something to get too worked up about.

On the other hand if you have two 60,000 word books and one comes in with a KENPC of 280 and the other comes in with a KENPC of 10, then you should immediately contact KDP Support.

You can use the Contact US button at the bottom left of the KDP Help Page.  The odds are the Start Reading Location (SRL) is not being set correctly.  This happened to me and after two emails back and forth the issue was resolved in just a few hours.

Don't be surprised if the first email is the canned text about how KENPC is calculated. When you get that, calmly and politely explain why you think you have a problem. Provide examples if you can. The quickest way to get your issue ignored is to be rude to the person who is trying to help you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Checking Your Amazon KENPC

KENPC is the acronym for the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count. It is the way that Amazon will be determining the number of pages in an ebook included in one of the Kindle borrow programs. (KOLL - Kindle Owners' Lending Library or KU - Kindle Unlimited)

To check your page count do the following:
  • Go to your Bookshelf
  • Click on the Promote and Advertise link next to your book. This link will only be available if you are included in one of the borrow programs which happens automatically when you join the Kindle Select program.
  • Look for the box titled "Earn royalties from the KDP Select Global Fund". Your page count will be displayed at the bottom of that box.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Amazon Borrows by the Page

What's Going On

On June 15th, Amazon announced a change to how the KDP Select Global Fund will work. 

In true internet fashion, this has created panic in some corners and wild speculation in others.

Starting on July 1st, authors with books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited (KU) or Kindle On-Line Lending Library (KOLL) will no longer receive a flat fee for each book read past 10%. In July the amount paid to the author will be based on the number of pages read. You can see the original announcement at or here

Here is the example from the post
For simplicity, assume the fund is $10M and that 100,000,000 total pages were read in the month:

The author of a 100 page book which was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

The author of a 200 page book which was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $2,000 ($10 million multiplied by 20,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

The author of a 200 page book which was borrowed 100 times but only read half way through on average would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).

It sounds great. $1,000 in additional royalties, but as many people have pointed out those numbers are not exactly realistic.

Time for Some Wild Speculation

Let’s look at the numbers a little differently.

Currently the KU/KOLL program has been running around $1.35 per borrow. Some months have been better and some worse, but for a ball park figure I’m going to stick with $1.35 per borrow.

At the end of each month Amazon has adjusted the fund amount to keep the royalty per borrow around that level. They start with some fixed amount (like $3M) and then add in some bonus amount at the end of the month to reach their target payout number.

From that, I think it’s safe to say that Amazon has decided what they think a fair royalty for a borrow is, and they make the math work out each month.

I’m going to assume that Amazon wants to keep that target number going forward, but now they want to calculate it a by page instead of by book.

Let’s say that the Amazon has decided that a “standard” book size is 200 pages. By standard I mean that if the book has 200 pages and all 200 pages are read, then the author would earn the standard royalty rate of $1.35 per book. If your books are smaller, you’ll make less and if your book is larger you’ll make more.

That works out to $0.00675 per page. Yep, that’s a little more than half a penny per page read.

That’s probably a much more realistic example than the $0.10 a page that Amazon uses in their example. That $2.000 per month in their example suddenly dropped to $135.00 per month, which is what the author would have made in the old model for 100 borrows.

What does this really mean?

All the math above is just a guess. Only the folks at Amazon know what the actual calculations are and it will be a few months before we’ll have enough information to do any real analysis of the numbers.

It is safe to assume that if your books are smaller, you’ll make less money in royalties from borrows. If your book are larger, you’ll make more. The problem is knowing what smaller or larger is relative too.

But, that isn’t the real take away from this. This is an excellent example of one of the risks of independent publishing as opposed to going with a traditional contract. Once you sign a traditional contract with a publisher you know what the rules are. When you self-publish through, the only thing that you can count on is that the rules will change, and your option is to accept the new terms or to move on.

As an independent writer the choice is up to you. When Amazon first started the Kindle On-Line Lending Library (KOLL) some authors split their larger length novels into a collection of smaller books released as a series. Others decide to focus on short stories that they could release quickly. A few pulled their books off of Amazon in protest. More just road it out.

What should you do?

First, and always, write what you want to write. If you don’t enjoy it why bother?

Second, avoid the hype, but be realistic. If 100% of your monthly income is coming for short story borrows on Amazon, you are going to encounter some rough months ahead.

Third, explore other options. Amazon is not the only method of distribution out there. The more you know about what your choices are, the better you’ll feel about the choice you do make.

Finally, don’t worry about beating the system. The system will change. You can’t control that part of the process. Focus on what you can control - writing a great story. If you are just starting a novel today, the odds are that by the time you are ready for publishing the rules will have changed again.

What do you think?

Amazon thinks this will be better for the readers. That it will put author's goals in line with reader's expectations.

Will it make a difference? Are writers just writing for the system or are they already writing for their audience?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

31 Steps to a Better Novel

Sometimes you just aren't sure of what to do next. Your first draft is done, but you are nervous about passing it on to a reader or editor or even a family member.  Janice Hardy's Ficton University has a multi-step process that will help you get the most out of your novel so that you can move on with confidence.

At-Home Workshop: Revise Your Novel in 31 Days

Don't let the name on the link scare you off. No one is timing you.

Take as long as you need.  Writing isn't a race, although sometimes it may feel like that.  The goal is to reach the end and this process is a decent road map to get you started.

Here are the first five steps:
  • Day One: Analyze the Story Structure
  • Day Two: Analyze the Character Arcs
  • Day Three: Analyze the Scene Structure
  • Day Four: Clarify the Goals and Motivations
  • Day Five: Clarify the Conflict and Tension
From the site: "These steps are intended to guide you if you’re not sure where to start, motivate you on those days when writing is tough, and encourage you to keep writing by breaking the process into manageable pieces."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Authors Supporting Our Troops

This is a wonderful project organized by Armand Rosamilia to support the military personnel stationed away from home.  If you have a spare book or two lying around that you wrote, it would be awesome if you could autograph it and send it to the project.

  1. Author-signed books for the troops. The number coming in has slowed down a bit.
  2. Soldier addresses in remote areas willing to take in books and pass them out to their unit. We are down to our last couple right now.
  3. Donations for the massive shipping bill. I would appreciate it if you shared the latest ‪#‎ASOT2015‬ shirt, as all profit goes towards the shipping and you get something cool in return.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Leaving Tracks

Yeah! You've created a website at one of the managed sites like or blogger. Maybe you went the Facebook or Google route instead. Regardless of how you did it, you now have a presence on the internet where your readers can find you.


Then something happens. You want to move from wordpress to blogger, or maybe it’s time to host your own site on your own virtual server somewhere. What happens to the fans who have bookmarked your site?

You don't want to lose them, and you don't have to.

I’ll use The Independent Writer’s Support Group as an example. It has a blogger address of That address is a subdomain provided free from blogger. It also has the address of This one was purchased through a domain registrar. It costs a little bit each year, but it can be linked to any internet address I control. Today it points to the same address as

Now, whenever the address of this site is shared, I use the address. In fact, except for examples, I never use the address. Now if someone links to and later I move from blogspot to wordpress that link will still work. I can change it to point to the address of my new website. The address will still be pointing here, and that won’t be good if I no longer have access to this site.

Is it foolproof? Nope. You can have links to articles that might change, and if someone bookmarked that article they won’t find it. They will find your website though, and If they can find your website, they can find you.

There are a few other reasons why you should consider a custom domain.
  • It will probably be shorter, and therefore easier to remember.
  • It looks more professional.
  • When you include the address in the back of your book, you won’t have to change it later.
  • If you want to, you can set up email for your domain name. author@mywebsite looks better than author@hotmail (yahoo, gmail, or any of the other free email services)

There are lots of ways to get a custom domain. Google now offers them at You can also go through sites like or

I used Namecheap when I decided to get a custom domain for It has a good history of customer support with extensive on-line help. It would not only register my domain name, but I could host my website and manage my email all through the same management module. It worked well for me, but if you talk to five random people about the provider they went with, you are likely to get five different answers, and each of them will be happy with the results.

Do you have to get a custom domain? If you are serious about building an audience, then yes, you should.  But, you don't have to. J.A Konrath's A Newbies Guide to Publishing blog is a blogger site listed as He also has which is his main site, and from there he provides a link to his blog that points to the blogspot address.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The first bricks have been placed.

It's been a week since The Independent Writer's Support Group website went online with just a bare shell of a page.  Now that shell is starting to be filled in.

First we have a Resource link available which contains a list of reference sites that might be helpful to the independent writer. One of which is a quick start to setting up a website on Google's Blogger.  That seemed appropriate as we had just done that for this site.

One of the most important things that you can do as an independent writer, besides writing, is to have a web presence.  Even if you have a Facebook page, Google+ page, Amazon Author page and whatever else is out there, you should still have your own website.

It serves as a gathering place for the audience that you will be building. It is a place that you can point to, that anyone can get to.  You don't have to worry about someone saying they don't use Facebook or don't use Google or that they won't buy from Amazon. Anyone who spends time on the internet will be able to get to your site. They'll be able to find out about you and your work.

The getting started with Blogger article is only the first step in taking ownership of your web presence and your audience. Once you have a website, you will want to get a personalized domain. With a personalized domain you can move your website around, but your audience will always know where to find you.  That's why the URL for The Independent Writer's Support Group is and not just Today it is hosted on blogspot. Tomorrow, it could be somewhere else.

We'll be talking more about setting up a personalized domain name in the next post. If you can't wait, feel free to use the contact form on the right to ask for help.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Getting Started

Welcome to The Independent Writer's Support Group!

As you probably can tell, we are just beginning to set up the site, and there isn't a lot of content yet.  Don't worry. That will change.