Writing the death of a much-loved character can be demanding and can leave you emotionally wiped out.
Did you know that there is another literary situation which can be just as challenging and one which can cast a nasty gloom over your writing life – deleting a character from your story.
I am not talking about deleting a random minor character; a fictional person who you created one day after too much coffee and inserted into the middle of your novel, just to beef it out (technical literary term) and then deleted them the following day after realising your stupidity. Sigh
No. I am talking about those major changes to a draft which result in you deciding to get rid of a key character.
I guarantee this fictional person will have been with you since the start of your story and someone who you have history with. You and this character will have been through some stuff; your rocky first draft, that dreadful second draft which no one liked, your third draft where you felt all hope was lost and the fourth draft which resulted in you wondering why the hell you had ever taken up writing.
You and this character will have shared story in-jokes. They will have been there for you during the bad times. You know them inside out and they are like a good friend.
The awful thing is that you know a change like this needs to happen.
As the Guardian and Science News report, the Icelandic sagas – oral histories written down hundreds of years later – tell of a leader named Leif Erikson. The recent finding corroborates two Icelandic sagas – the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red – that recorded attempts to establish a settlement in Vinland. Also known as Leif the Lucky, he was the son of Erik the Red, who was the founder of the first Norse settlements in Greenland. According to the Saga of the Icelanders, Leif established a Norse settlement at Vinland, which is usually interpreted as being coastal North America, though speculation remains over whether this is actually the L’Anse aux Meadows settlement.
However, while it is known that the Norse landed in Canada, it’s been unclear exactly when they set up camp to become the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic, thus marking the moment when the globe was first known to have been encircled by humans.
Readers rarely pay much attention to the names of most book characters. Names tend to fall into the category of necessary detail. But authors have to put a lot of work into making sure those details don’t spoil the whole book.
Naming characters can be great fun. There are just a few little things to watch out for…
Characters with similar names
It’s easy to mix up characters with similar names. Having characters named Judy and Julie in the same book is a recipe for confusion.
Sometimes shortened names are absolutely fine. But sometimes it isn’t. This one needs thinking through for two reasons.
If the full name and abbreviated name are not similar enough, readers may think they are two separate characters.
If the abbreviated name is too similar to another character’s name, readers may think two different characters are the same person.
Alex Reubert wants fiction that includes debuts, stories of love, family epics, and coming-of-age, at any age. He loves world literature and wants to see more books published in the U.S. that are not set in the U.S. He is eager to read and represent voices that have been historically de-centered. Thrillers and speculative stories that skew literary are welcome, as is any narrator looking back and trying to make sense of their life.
Tia Ikemoto is looking for middle grade, young adult, adult fiction and select nonfiction that speaks to a wide audience, upmarket & book club fiction, psychological and literary thrillers, women’s fiction, updated rom coms, blockbuster or high concept commercial fiction, and historical fiction that takes us somewhere else or teaches us something new. Nonfiction: Pop culture, narrative nonfiction, journalism, of-the-moment essay collections, and the occasional experience-driven memoir.
Mariah Stovall is actively seeking writers with strong voices and intersectional and interdisciplinary perspectives. She works on adult literary and upmarket fiction, narrative nonfiction, essay collections and memoir. She’s most passionate about music, mental health/illness, Black America, linguistics, histories of objects and ideas, pop science, and deep dives into subcultures and social movements.
Natalie Edwards is seeking commercial, upmarket, and literary titles both contemporary and historical: stories of queerness and diaspora, hidden histories, workplace satires/sendups of #girlbosses, and anything that offers biting social commentary and disrupts conventional wisdom.
Always check the agency website and agent bio before submitting. Agents can switch agencies or close their lists, and submission requirements can change.
NOTE: Don’t submit to two agents at the same agency simultaneously. If one rejects you, you may then submit to another.
Self-promotion isn’t the most famous naughty s-word, but it can still feel like a bad word to today’s authors. I hate self-promotion, you might say. I’m so sick of talking about myself on social media.With more and more options to reach readers directly comes an expectation that authors will do more and more to reach those readers themselves, often without publisher assistance.
So! How do you sell books without a single self-promotional tweet, post, or video?
Simple. In most cases, you actually shouldn’t be promoting yourself. If the goal is to sell books — or at least make people you don’t know personally curious enough about your book(s) to take action — you are not the product. “Buy my book!” doesn’t work if the reader doesn’t know you or know anything about the book in question.
Instead of self-promotion, think of the path to getting your book in front of readers on social media as a railroad track, with two parallel rails: be yourself, and take yourself out of the equation.
One of the first writers I fell in love with was Edgar Allan Poe. His gothic horror latched on to my mind. I was powerless to save anyone from going over the precipice. He not only got into the heads of his characters but also into the heads of his readers.
Using psychological information to reach out and grab your audience can create unforgettable characters that burrow into the psyche. Questions you can answer to create memorable protagonists and antagonists include:
A common writing misconception is that conflict automatically means reader engagement. After all, story experts are always ringing the conflict bell (me included), telling writers to include lots of it to make sure things aren’t easy for your characters. And it’s true; we should have lots of meaningful conflict in the story to ensure they are challenged, stressed, and forced outside their comfort zone.
Every self-published author knows that getting your book out there isn’t actually the finish line; it’s really only reaching the three-quarters mark. The rest of the ride is all about making sure that the right people pick it up!
Without an established publisher, indie authors have to put in a little extra elbow grease — but that doesn’t mean the marketing journey has to be unpleasant. To help you out, here’s how to find new readers for your self-published book, and maybe even have some fun along the way.
1. Make sure your cover fits industry standards
We’re told not to judge books by their covers, but your cover is a crucial part of getting new readers to notice your work! In ebook stores, independent bookstores, Goodreads feeds, and more, your book will almost always be displayed alongside many other titles of the same genre… which means you’ll lean on your cover to help it stand out.
You want this cover to be professional and comparable to similar books, while remaining unique and eye-catching. At bare minimum, your cover should be professionally up to scratch — no clipart, no poorly formatted title text, etc. If it doesn’t appeal to readers in the first place, the following tips won’t be nearly as effective in getting them fully on board.
2. Choose your keywords wisely
On Amazon, you get to choose keywords for your book when you publish it. These are what readers will search up when they look for something, meaning that keywords are one of the most useful tools for directing your target audience toward your book.
Each book is allowed seven Amazon keywords, so do your research and pick those that have a decent amount of search volume, but aren’t too competitive; for example, a household-name bestseller on the first page usually means that keyword is difficult to rank for. And always choose keywords that represent your book — if your novel has no romance elements to it, for example, don’t select a romance-related keyword simply because the search volume is higher!
3. Discount and promote your book
The next thing that you can do to get more traction for your book on Amazon (and various other ebook publishing platforms) is to put it on sale. If any reader were on the fence about buying before, you knocking a few dollars off the price will certainly nudge them in the right direction.
Sales are also great for getting wider-scale promotion. Amazon already sends personalized emails about on-sale books to its customers, but what’s more exciting is that discounting your book can give you access to book promotion services.
Newsletter services like BookBub — which has millions of subscribers across multiple genres — are dedicated to spreading the word about book deals to readers. In other words, by cutting the price of your book by a little, you potentially open your doors to thousands of new readers!
So don’t be afraid to drop the price for a limited period. That said, the problem for many self-published authors often isn’t the money, but the accessibility of newsletter services that help make a discount work. Popular newsletters with huge mailing lists like BookBub and Freebooksy are very sought-after avenues, which means that the number of authors submitting their books far exceeds the slots available in the newsletter.
But all hope isn’t lost! There are plenty of promotion services out there, many of which are smaller but much less competitive — it’s definitely worth applying to a few of them to accumulate their effects.
4. Try a newsletter swap
Another way to access a new audience is to find another author who writes in the same genre as you and arrange a newsletter swap. This is pretty straightforward: in an upcoming newsletter, this author will promote your book to their subscribers, and you’ll do the same with their book.
This is why it’s best if the other author is someone with a similar follower base to yours — with a swap, each of you gets access to a new pool of highly relevant readers who might not have heard of you. Not to mention the added benefit of not costing a penny!
To be extra-effective, organize your swap around the time of your discount deals. We know that deals are a great promotional tool, and since you’ve already agreed to forgo some of your revenue anyway, why not make the most of this investment by compounding your sales boost with a newsletter swap?
In terms of finding a partner for this cross-promotion, you can discover plenty on Twitter’s #WritingCommunity, or simply by searching for books and authors in your genre. Remember to ask someone with roughly the same following as yours, and get to know them and their book first so that you can personalize your pitch to them.
If this swap goes well, you can carry on with other cross-promotions down the road — or maybe even work on a project together to pool your influences and increase visibility!
5. Reach out to “bookfluencers”
Another vital aspect to a book’s success is word of mouth; for most readers, nothing beats a wholehearted recommendation from a fellow bibliophile. Which is why you might also want to get in contact with the best-connected readers there are: Bookstagrammers, BookTubers, and yes, BookTokers.
These portmanteaus refer to influential readers on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok respectively. On such platforms, book lovers can display their books with style yet intimacy, which means that they’re incredibly popular and often trusted for recommendations… and one influencer’s TBR or book review will influence another, and another, and another. Done right, a bit of social media promotion can create a wave of enthusiasm for your book that just keeps rolling and rolling.
To promote your book, get in touch with some of these influencers — they often have a work email listed somewhere on their platform — and offer an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can also organize a giveaway with them, or suggest doing a live Q&A to show the friendly voice behind your book.
Hopefully these tips have given you a few solid ideas on how to market your self-published book and find new readers for it. It may take a lot of trial and error in order to find what works best for you, but just keep at it, and maybe one day your book will top the charts!
Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best resources and professionals. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.
You clicked the link in the email to reset your online banking password. But are you really sure that the bank security team sent that email? Too late. You just fell for a phishing email scam, and now your account data is compromised.
However, most phishing emails contain glaring red flags. You just didn’t spot them in time—but you can learn how to. Sometimes it’s still the most obvious tricks that catch people out, and phishing emails are a common example.
What exactly is phishing?
Phishing is a type of social engineering designed to manipulate you into giving up sensitive personal information like your passwords, credit card, or bank details, or installing malicious software on your device.
Phishing uses communication—usually in the form of emails or text messages—pretending to be from someone you trust, such as a company whose services you use. This is why you are willing to give your information to them.
Once an attacker has successfully duped you and has stolen your information or gained access to your device, they can log in to your accounts, change the password, and potentially access other linked accounts.
While it’s true that it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish a fake email from a legitimate one, most phishing emails still contain red flags that should make you suspicious—if you know what to look for.
So let’s take a look at an example of a phishing email and the red flags contained within.
1. The email was unsolicited
As a rule, most companies won’t send you unsolicited emails. So ask yourself, why should you have received this email at all? Attackers expect you to open these emails and click the links without verifying their authenticity.
2. A shouty subject line
Attackers know they’re competing for your attention in a crowded inbox. So a common tactic is to use shouty subject lines—in this case: “Important! Your Password will expire in 1 day(s).”
Such threats and a sense of urgency are designed to make you click suspicious links within the body of the email. This should put you on alert that something phishy might be going on.
3. Slightly misspelled email address or domain
If you’re suspicious about an email’s origins, check the sender. Scammers often use an email address that looks very close to a legitimate one. Close, but no cigar: and that difference is vital.
The sender name, “LegitBank Security Team,” sounds legit, right? But notice the two spelling errors in the email address: “email@example.com.”
A top tip is to type the company’s name in a search engine to see what email domain it uses, or by looking up an email you’ve previously received from them.
4. Unfamiliar or vague greeting
Organizations like your bank have personal details, including your name—so receiving an official-looking email with a vague greeting like “Dear LegitBank user” should put you on alert. If the tone of the rest of the email also sounds out of character, that’s another huge red flag.
5. Obvious spelling and grammar mistakes
Many phishing emails contain several spelling and grammar mistakes, which is uncommon from large, professional organizations like banks.
In this example, you can see the inconsistent capitalization of the subject line, the bad grammar in the email text (“Your account password is expire in 24 hours”), and even spelling mistakes in the link URL.
Don’t click suspicious links
If you’re suspicious about an email’s origins or intent, definitely don’t click any links within.
You can even see that the link in this phishing email has a spelling mistake in the URL (LegitBank is spelled with two “i”s). If you click on the link, you’ll be taken to a fake site that may look identical to the original, where you will be prompted to enter your login details or other sensitive information like payment details.
Sometimes, the fake site will even redirect you to the legitimate site, where you will log in again (this time for real). But it’s too late: Your logins are compromised, and the attacker can access your account. By the time you notice something amiss, they might have already changed the password and the email address for account recovery, locking you out.
Don’t click on suspicious attachments
Attackers need you to open malicious attachments, so will make them look as harmless as possible. The attachment on this phishing email appears harmless enough, instructions for updating your password—but if you’ve already spotted red flags elsewhere, think before you click.
Once opened, the harmless-looking ZIP file could spread malware onto your device (though a malicious PDF or DOC could be just as devastating), which may allow an attacker to log your keystrokes (capturing logins, passwords, email addresses, bank accounts) or install ransomware on your device, encrypting your documents to block access unless you pay a ransom. (Which is another good reason to back your data up regularly.)
Keep an eye out for things that just look odd
Did you notice that the copyright notice at the bottom of the email is out of date? It says “2011” instead of “2021”. Big corporations are unlikely not to have updated such details in over 10 years, so even small details could be red flags.
At the end of the day, attackers who send phishing emails are relying on you to drop your guard and trust that everything is normal. So always be on alert for glaring red flags that mean something phishing may be going on.
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