Archive for the 'Technical Advice' Category

Apr 30 2016

A professional side-project!

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

I’ve designed a website for a PPC company. PPC Seven is a Chicago agency that manages pay-per-click advertising.

One response so far

Jan 07 2012

How to Make Chapters for a Novel Manuscript in Microsoft Word 2010 (Windows/PC or Mac)

Published by under Microsoft Word Tips

Instead of having a separate Word document for each of your chapters, I would highly recommend instead writing your manuscript as a single Word document with chapter breaks.  Otherwise, changing even the smallest details will be a nightmare.  (For example, if you want to change a character’s name, you’d probably have to Find-Replace every chapter).  That’s a huge waste of time, particularly since most novel manuscripts undergo hundreds of changes. If your chapters are in a single document, you just have to Ctrl+F once.


Fortunately, Word makes it extremely easy to break your novel manuscript into easily navigable chapters.  Once you’ve gotten the hang of how to add chapters in Word, this should take fewer than 10 seconds a chapter.


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46 responses so far

Sep 04 2011

Is Your Authorial Photograph Effective?

I was reading through the website of Michael Hyatt, the chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  Besides his marketing director’s advice on how to promote fiction, one thing that really thing that caught my eye was a particularly effective photograph of the author.  A lot of authors have a photograph on their website and/or inside their books (sometimes even on the front cover in non-fiction), but a lot of these shots are not terribly effective.  Here are some tips that might help you do it better.

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7 responses so far

Oct 04 2010

Does paid advertising work for small-time novelists?

Published by under Marketing,Online Novel

Probably not.

A professionally-published novelist usually makes only $1 in royalties per paperback sale.  Typically, I’d guess that a well-tailored cost-per-click Adwords campaign could get the costs per incoming reader to somewhere between $.05-.20.

If you’re selling a single book, you almost certainly can’t break even with ads*. If you spend $20 on cost-per-click advertising, you have something somewhere between 100-400 prospective customers and need to get 20 sales to break even.  That almost certainly will not happen.  If your material is good, I think you’d probably convert 1-3% of your readers into buyers.  So attracting 400 readers would probably generate between 1-12 customers.  You probably couldn’t break even with that.

However, there are several situations that might shift the numbers in your favor.

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2 responses so far

Aug 14 2010

What Authors Should Know About Copyright (and Defeating Plagiarists)

1.  What do I need to do to copyright my work?
Nothing, if you’re an American, Australian, BrazilianBritish, Canadian or Irish author. Your work is automatically protected by copyright as soon as you write it. You don’t need to register your work or do anything else to copyright it.


However, if you wish to sue somebody for copyright infringement, you’ll probably need to pay a small fee to register your copyright with your national copyright office first ($35 in the United States).  I’d recommend leaving that to your publisher, because suing somebody is almost always impractical before you get published.  There are more cost-effective ways of defending your work and/or dealing with plagiarism than spending thousands of dollars on a lawyer.

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5 responses so far

Jun 24 2010

Free Webinar: The Science of Facebook Marketing

If you have a spare hour from 1-2 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) on Tuesday, June 29, register for Dan Zarrella’s free webinar about marketing on Facebook. Here are some of the topics he will discuss.

  • The behavior of demographic groups on Facebook
  • The sociology of the Facebook community
  • The difference between men’s and women’s interactions on Facebook
  • How to get your content shared on Facebook

One thing that I find both interesting and scary about Facebook is that its audience isn’t gathered around a single interest (like a political site) or even a group of interests (like DeviantArt).  If you’re interested in marketing a book online but aren’t web-savvy enough to make your own site, I’d highly recommend giving this a look.

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Apr 22 2010

Superhero Nation: The Documentary

Published by under SEO

An independent filmmaker is raising funds for a documentary about American comic book culture.  Superhero Nation: The Documentary is not affiliated with me or this website in any way, but if you’re interested in this sort of cultural work, please feel free to donate here.  ($2 gets you a shout-out on Twitter).

Also, one brief note on titles…  When you pick a title for your project, I’d recommend taking something that isn’t already being used as a URL. It’ll make it easier to place high on Google searches for variations on your name.

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Mar 04 2010

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has a book trailer!

Published by under Book Trailers

I was sort of expecting Abe to win the fight by staking the vampire with a flagpole, but maybe that would have been too over-the-top.

7 responses so far

Jan 31 2010

Ready to query? Get an e-mail address just for your writing work

Published by under Technical Advice

When you send out queries asking agents or editors to look at your work, it may help to have an e-mail address devoted to your writing career.

1.  It reduces the odds that you’ll lose crucial e-mails. Don’t let an agent’s request to see your manuscript get lost in a torrent of spam!


2. It’ll be easier for you to find old e-mails.  For example, you might need to check which agents you’ve already submitted to.  That will be much harder if you have to sift through hundreds of unrelated e-mails.


3.  Your default e-mail address might not be professional enough for business use. No offense, “SuperheroBoi24,” but “JohnBryant” will raise fewer eyebrows in the editor’s office.  Also, it makes it much easier for me to tell at a glance whose email is whose.  As a rule of thumb, your work e-mail address should be based on your first and last name (or possibly your pen-name).


4.  You can give out your writing e-mail address to strangers without compromising your privacy. If you have a website, that will help keep you accessible to your readers without making your default e-mail address public.  For example, you can contact me at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com.


5. It’ll reduce confusion if you use a pen-name. 

12 responses so far

Oct 11 2009

Website Review: Mike Angley

Today I came across Mike Angley’s website— Mike Angley is an OSI veteran (hu-ah!) that writes paranormal military fiction.  This review will help you design and write an effective website to market your writing.    

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No responses yet

Jul 12 2009

This is a cool concept…

Asaya’s Blog: How to Write and Draw the Supernatural is a blog similar to this one.  It offers writing advice focused on supernatural fiction.  Quick question.  What kind of stories would you consider to be supernatural fiction?  It strikes me as a slightly more open-ended category than, say, “superhero stories.”

18 responses so far

Jul 10 2009

Website Advice: How to Deal with the Summer Slump

Published by under Website Design

Here are a few trends about the “summer slump” in internet use.  (Well, when it’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway).

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No responses yet

Jun 13 2009

Sequential Chicago…

Published by under Website Design

Both Chicago and comic books are pretty awesome.  Hence Sequential Chicago, for all of your Chicago comic book needs.  Hmm.  Is this a half-baked idea or a well-targeted niche?  What do you think?

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May 04 2009

How to Design Your Blog’s Front Page

Published by under Blogging,Website Design

1.  Make it clear what you offer and why readers should stick around. For example, if you wandered across Superhero Nation, you might stick around because you wanted superhero writing advice or because you want my observations about writing.  The trick is to make this as blatant as possible:  for example, I repeat myself in the title, in the header art, in the page headings, in the side-bar, etc.  Everyone focuses on different elements of the page, so it pays to be redundant.

2.  Stay away from adspeak and flowery language. For example, our title includes the phrase “how to write superhero novels and comic books.”  That’s much more user-friendly than something like “superhero writing insights.”  What’s an insight?  Don’t make readers struggle to translate what you’ve written.

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17 responses so far

Mar 25 2009

How to Select Successful Moderators

Published by under Technical Advice

Here are some tips for webmasters that want to add moderators.

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7 responses so far

Mar 24 2009

Tips for Writers That Want to Blog

Over two years, several hundred thousand page-views and 750 posts, I’ve accumulated some thoughts on what makes a blog successful.

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70 responses so far

Mar 13 2009

Site Tweak of the Week

Site titles play an important role in search engine optimization.  A site named “Superhero Nation: a writing advice site” has a much better chance to place for a search like superhero writing advice than a site named just “Superhero Nation.”  Site titles also helps draw people into your website by explaining what viewers will get out of your website.

For example, check out how a typical search for Superhero Nation appears on Google.  The site name plays more prominently than the name of the article does.

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2 responses so far

Jan 24 2009

What is the appeal of three-column websites?

Just wondering.

(We’ve also considered the appeal of Twilight and The Hulk).

3 responses so far

Nov 19 2008

We’ve Updated Our Sidebar

We’re mostly satisfied with our header, so now on a monthly basis we experiment with major site-design changes.  I’ll let you know what happens in a month.

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2 responses so far

Oct 23 2008

The “Recent Comments” Widget Works!

In the four weeks since we’ve added the Recent Comments widget, our comment-traffic is up about 800%.

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2 responses so far

Oct 10 2008

Sizing a Comic Book Page

We’ve slapped together a mock page to help show about how much text a comic book can fit in a frame full of important scenery.

We could have squeezed maybe another three lines into the opening paragraph.  In all, I think 50-60 words for a large frame is pushing it.

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No responses yet

Oct 02 2008

Oblivion Society’s trailer was pretty smooth

This trailer sells an unusual premise effectively.  It also makes a skillful pitch to its target audience with reviews that specifically say that geeks will enjoy the book.  I found its comparisons to other works of geek-culture helpful.  However, I thought that its emotional cues were a bit mixed.  The book-cover makes this look like a light-hearted comedy, but but the only clear emotional image in the trailer is her sobbing as mushroom clouds loom in the background.  There isn’t very much in the trailer that suggests the book is actually funny, or what kind of humor it uses.  For example, if this is a dark comedy about the protagonist and her failure friend trying to survive, it might have helped to show us a glimpse of the comedic relationship between the two characters.

The cover-art was very eye-catching, even though it rips off a famous scene from Dr. Strangelove. My main question is that she appears to have wings on the cover, but the trailer doesn’t mention that strange detail at all.  (My guess is that it’s a nuclear mutation).

7 responses so far

Sep 28 2008

Make Your Life Easier with Microsoft Word’s Autocorrect

Microsoft Word automatically corrects common spelling mistakes. It also allows users to tell it which words should be autocorrected. Here are a few ways you can use autocorrect to make your life easier.

  1. If you use the same long phrases repeatedly, you can use autocorrect to create a macro. For example, our book repeats phrases like Agent Orange and the Office of Special Investigations, so we told autocorrect to turn the “word” [OJ] into Agent Orange and the “word” [OSI] into Office of Special investigations. When you set up macros, I recommend either using a combination of letters that will never come up naturally (like OJ) or a bracketed phrase. That way, you will reduce the odds of accidentally setting off your macro.
  2. If you change a character’s or location’s name, you can use autocorrect to help remind you not to use the original. If you change your hero’s name from Hiro to John, suddenly referring to him as Hiro will confuse readers. Autocorrect will help you from adding more mistaken references to Hiro. (However, it won’t fix instances of “Hiro” that are already in the work– use “Find and Replace” to hunt those down).
  3. This can help you maintain stylistic consistency. For example, sometimes authors forget how they spelled the names of minor characters. Mr. Merriman might become Mr. Merryman. Mrs. Busch might be married to Mr. Bush. If you notice that this is a problem, you can use autocorrect to prevent future occurrences by telling it to turn Merryman into Merriman.

No responses yet

Sep 05 2008

Destroying the Earth: A How-To Guide

This is a useful resource for anyone that might want to destroy the world.

One response so far

Sep 04 2008

If they play that ad again, I’m going to scream

Published by under Football,Marketing

“It’s the most heart-warming phone ad of the year!”  I’m not sure that heart-warming is the best fit for NFL Live.  I think that the average American man likes his humor a bit more robust and, umm, funny.

UPDATE: We’re in the second quarter now and the ad has played three five times.

SECOND UPDATE: The ad ended up playing nine times, by my count.

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Sep 01 2008

Does this writing site work?

The site is .  Anne is a friend of mine and I would really appreciate if you would check out her site, particularly if you’re a fan of real-world magic stories.  Does the site work?  It feels like there’s something not quite clicking, but I’m not sure what.

4 responses so far

Aug 28 2008

Mr. Buckell reports: the median advance on a first sci-fi or fantasy novel is $5000

Tobias Buckell gathered some data describing how much authors make on their first advance. The median author in SF or fantasy makes $5000. The average in both categories is slightly higher (about $6500), but that’s probably distorted by a few superstars that skewed the distribution curve.

He also broke the data down by agented vs. unagented submissions. The median advance for an unagented manuscript is $4000, compared to $5500 for an agented manuscript. You might think to yourself “aha! I will make more if I have a superior negotiator on my side!” That’s probably true, but please also consider that a novelist that is good enough to convince an agent to work with him is probably better-than-average to begin with. In addition to that selection bias, you’d also have to factor in the agent’s share of the advance.

That said, I think an agent can be a powerful ally and (all things considered) one that will probably pay for himself.

5 responses so far

Aug 23 2008

How can you make book trailers work?

Some authors are now marketing their books with videos (book trailers). Frequently they emphasize Hollywood-lite visuals over elements that would speak well of the book. For example, this one for Christine Feehan’s Dark Curse uses a live-action dragon and bats at a decent production level. But the trailer’s writing is atrocious. There’s no dialogue and the text that shows up on the screen is almost too bad to believe.








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34 responses so far

Aug 19 2008

How to Sell Freelance Art

Published by under Art,Technical Advice

B. Mac, a regular customer of freelance art, offers this article for freelance artists that want to maximize their sales.

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10 responses so far

Aug 14 2008

Book Cover Project

Published by under Art,Marketing

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No responses yet

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