Friday, October 30, 2015

Protect your Self-published Writing from Online Theft

Hey writers, do you hesitate to release your self-published writing because you’re afraid the content could be stolen? I hate to say your fear is well founded but it happens to so many writers these days.

Wait, that’s not what you wanted to hear, right? You want to hear that trolls and criminals have been sent to idiot island where there’s no internet access and everyone can live happily ever after, right?

Sadly, that’s not the case. But, I’m here to assure you that your self-published writing can be protected. After reading this article you’ll be in the know about how to put the smack-down on those nasty thieves and come out the other side smiling because your work is finally seeing the light of day!

DMCA takedown notice: If you share your work, fiction or non-fiction, on a blog, there’s a possibility it could be swiped and re-posted. I’ve had this happen but knew just what to do about it and the problem was solved swiftly. DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act and is something every writer should know about. A DMCA notice is sent to the host of the site with the copyright-infringed material in order to have it removed. When I sent my notices, not only was my copyrighted work taken down, the entire site was brought down both times! Most of what they had on their sites was ripped off material from other writers and the DMCA meant the site host had to investigate and take proper action.

Copyright office of the United States: As a self-published writer living and releasing work in the good old U.S. of A. I take full advantage of submitting my work to For fiction works it costs $35 to upload a deposit (your book). You’ll have a much easier time in court if you already applied for legally binding copyright status. Yes, your copyright is yours the moment you put “pen to paper” but that fact will be much easier to prove when you have a big government entity standing behind you with the proof.

Creative Commons licenses: There’s a fine line between being ripped off and having someone share your work in today’s world. If someone copies your work then pastes on their own blog but links back to your site, there’s not much you can do. Most bloggers and writers would be fine with that type of share because the link back is a good thing. But here’s the rub. Google doesn’t like the exact same content in multiple places. When a site gets pinged to be removed from Google indexing, 9 times out of 10 it will be your website! Uncool. Tell people how much they’re allowed to share by placing a CC on your site. Then, if they go outside the parameters of the license you provide, loop back to that DMCA.

So how can you find out if your work has been swiped?

I do the following things every time I release any kind of self-published writing:

1. Set up a Google alert. If the work in question is a blog I generally set up 2 alerts – one on the title, another on the keyword I built the post around. For books, I set one on the title. It can get cumbersome to have all those alerts show up in email, but I’d rather scroll for ten seconds every day to make sure nobody is trying to steal and re-publish my work as their own than have someone else profiting off of my hard work!

2. Share the link everywhere. This might sound strange but it works. The more of your networks and followers who see the content of your self-published writing, the more who could recognize it if it shows up somewhere else. When your “street team” sees the stolen work, they’ll let you know and you can get with the takedown.

3. Consider launching an LLC. When I first started blogging it was just me and my thoughts. Intellectual property, sure, but I didn’t consider it self-published writing (even though it is!). Once I started writing books I knew I wanted protection from weird people who will stop at nothing to take down a little old indie author like me. So I contacted an intellectual property attorney and created my LLC. The LLC covers my micro-press (I self-publish under my own house, Writesy Press) and all my DBAs (Copywrite That for freelancing, Jenn Flynn-Shon for bloggers, etc.).

Protecting your self-published writing can be a bit of work for those of us running a business all on our own, but in the end it is so worth the extra effort just knowing our words are protected. Now, put fear aside, get out there and get publishing!

Have you ever been robbed without proper credit? How did you fix it? Share in the comments!

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Friday, September 25, 2015

My Boss is Kind of Crazy but in a Good Way

We’ve all been there. We get to work and immediately encounter a boss who makes almost impossible seeming demands of our time, talent and resources. We come home at the end of the day exhausted, wondering if this is really what we should be doing with our life.

So what happens when you work for yourself? Do you tell your boss she’s crazy for the schedule she wants you to keep, or do you blindly follow everything she wants you to do in order to run a successful business?

As self-employed people we have a great responsibility resting on our shoulders. We’re everything in a company from intern to owner and sometimes it’s really tough to keep at it day in and day out.

And, if I’m being truly honest here, that dedication can be more intense for a writer running a self-publishing business. Why? I think this quote pretty well sums it up:

Because it can take years, decades even, to become a writer who starts making a steady income stream from their words.

If at all.


We can type, scrawl and scribble for years and never make any headway at being able to do it full-time. Hell, I wrote fiction since I was 14 but didn’t even publish my first blog until I was 34. The books came later and the income? Well, that’s an entirely different issue.


Disheartened yet? Thinking of quitting? Believe me, I’ve been there.

But bear with me and hopefully you’ll see why:

Quitting is the last thing you should do!

Last fall something amazing happened and not only did I blow my own mind but I completely changed the way I looked at my writing. It’s made all the difference in my dedication level to running this thing I call a business and I actually can see an income stream beginning to grow. Yes, as a fiction author!

Want to know what happened?

It was two-fold.

First, I fractured my wrist in early October last year. I’d love to tell you I was doing something super cool like playing hockey but not so much. Drunken patio yoga did me in for almost 2 full months. Sigh. What can I say, I’m human. AKA: sometimes a freaking idiot.

But, second, and this is actually where my mind-shift began, I had to do that to myself. Because, in the end, it led to my ah-ha moment. It was imperative I allowed myself to go through the physical and mental pain of that injury because it solidified my thoughts from the entire prior year.

So let me back up and give you a bit of that story.

Will write for pay

I was freelancing for a couple years ghost-writing/tweeting, blogging, writing web copy and other marketing pieces for clients. It was okay. I was pretty good at it. I made money. That’s where my love for it ended, however.

Because I didn’t want to do that shit for someone else. I wanted to do it for myself. I just struggled to see how all that blog, tweet, newsletter writing could lead into anything for my company.

My flailing, sinking, haven’t-released-a-book-in-3-years company.

If I could just figure out how to write blogs and tweets for my readers, I could probably re-launch Writesy Press, LLC.

Fucking lightbulb.

All the work I’d been producing for clients for two years was my training. I learned how to write to entice. To write marketing stuff and keep it going consistently by establishing a schedule.

And I had all of this old work (fiction and reference) just sitting around doing nothing. Like I had been doing for 8 weeks with a broken bone. We both needed to get back in the game.

I bought voice-to-text software immediately.

No way was my stupid identified drunken injury going to keep me from doing my job anymore!

And at that moment, my job was all about getting my real message weeded out, shared, and to start connecting with people. Helping other writers who might be struggling with writing their first book.

Because I was a fiction author at heart, not a freelancer. I’d already written 3 books, released 2, and it was the only job I ever did as a writer that brought me joy and income (regardless of how small that number was to start).

Once I started dropping freelance clients I simply replaced the hours I worked for them with doing the same thing for my company. Blog client gone? I write blogs for my readers. Web copy client gone? Time to start that newsletter I’d been mulling over. You get the point.

When the last client dropped off, I knew the time was there to get back to writing my books too. So I started and in the process lost sight of all the other stuff – blog, newsletter, twitter – making real connections.

Enter Oktoberfest and broken wrist

Isn’t it Murphy’s Law that as we get ahead we fall behind? Well, after a few weeks of introspection & lack of activity due to pain (Hallmark movies rule!), I turned it into a sign to get my shit together before trying to move forward.

During my downtime I handwrote a lot of the book Reckless Hearts (broke left wrist & I’m a righty) and started getting my marketing materials in check:

  • First and foremost, wrote a business plan.
  • Second, wrote and implemented a marketing plan.
  • Blogs that furthered my message were left alone.
  • Blogs that didn’t were deleted or moved.
  • Created shortened links to remaining posts.
  • Developing a spreadsheet to track/organize/manage tweets.
  • Researched hashtags for writers.
  • Started a tweet database with hashtags & links.
  • Opened a hootsuite account so I could schedule my tweets (AKA: free up time for fiction).
  • Created a newsletter template.
  • Established a monthly schedule for work days and days off (very important!)

And within three months not only was I following the schedule, I was crushing it! Why? Because I birthed a viable monthly schedule out of 2 of my darkest months ever.

What’s that quote about doors and windows opening and closing?

If I never got hurt I wonder if I even would have finished Reckless Hearts, not to mention seven months of consistent tweeting/connecting and a second title this year – Creative Writing Kickstart. That title is a culmination of six months of writing prompts, plus a lot of new ones, that I shared with my fiction writer following.

Holy shit!

Even writing it out I’m amazed I was able to pull it together to write a business plan but it was that very document, coupled with my marketing plan, that forced me to evaluate in total honesty where I came from, where I was and where I wanted my business to be.

From misery came determination and if I learned anything on that journey it was this:

When you want to give up is when you’re most honest, your emotions are raw and that truth is going to come through in every word you write.

Use it as fuel to stoke the fires of your business building and you’ll never look at your boss as the crazy person ever again. Instead, you’ll build a business you can be proud of, high-fiveing yourself for being the best boss you’ve ever had!

If you need a nudge at killing writers block and want some cool story starters check out my book Creative Writing Kickstart. With over 365 writing prompts you’re sure to find something that jumpstarts your fiction and career.

Because there’s no better way to shut up the boss than by doing your job, am I right?

Due to a severe spike in spam, I no longer accept comments from Anonymous users. All comments made on posts 3 days or older will be moderated. Spam will be deleted (it is up to the blog administrator to determine if a comment is spam). A new window opens when you click to comment.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Why Spellcheck Sucks

I love writing in a program that indicates my spelling and grammar mistakes. It helps when I’m on my seventh read-through of my own book and have to get through it even though I’ve all but glazed over at the jumble of my own words.

Google Docs will give me spelling advice, and I love to use it when working on project pieces with Kate for Blogging Your Book. But my go-to program is MS Word.

In lieu of having an editor on staff (because, well, I’m an indie author so let’s get real about the level of income that’s happening in this office, huh?) I can rely on Word to give me similar suggestions as an editor when I’m doing my first read-through.

Or can I?

Take, for example, the following sentence that I wrote for a personal blog post about 3 years ago:

“Regardless that Stephanie Meyer is a Phoenix based Author.”

Notice the spelling mistake? Yeah, well neither did Word. Or my brain while I was typing it or when I did my read-through after pasting the text into my blog post.

Because that line should read:

“Regardless that Stephenie Meyer is a Phoenix based Author.”

If you aren’t familiar with her work you might have done something similar to what I did and just typed her first name the way that name is generally spelled. I wasn’t really thinking, I was lost in a Twilight haze and since it was spelled “correctly”, Word didn’t flag it.

People have spelled my name wrong too. The most common is Jen because that’s the usual way people spell it, not with 2 n’s. But I’ve also seen Jenn Flynn-Shonn – 2 n’s for everyone!

It wasn’t until the post came out that I noticed my error, then made the necessary edit. Luckily, my blog wasn’t super popular so I’m pretty sure nobody noticed except me. Still, I was partially mortified. I mean, I’m an author too and it makes me cringe when people spell my name wrong so how could I get the name of a famous local author wrong?!

But these things happen, right?

Sure, and it’s why, as fiction writers, we need an editor!

Editors and proofreaders will help you to ensure as few spelling and grammar mistakes as possible. But they leave your voice alone. They still let you tell your story in your way, just, better. More polished.

And proofreaders will help you reign in where you typed ‘an’ instead of ‘and’, where you missed the word ‘to’ in the narrative, or when your character is ‘charging if the front door’.

These pros are an invaluable asset, especially for an indie who has probably read their own book so many times the prose is blurring together in one big glob of letters.

However, I’m sure you’ve noticed the myriad of these pros scattered about the internet and social media sites. So how can you know if the pro really is a pro, not just a fly-by-nighter trying to make a quick buck with no real experience behind them?

Here’s my criteria when looking for someone to help polish my books:

  • They must be a reader (bonus if they read my specific genre).
  • They must have a website.
  • That website must look and feel professional, and be easy to navigate.
  • It also shouldn’t have any spelling mistakes (hello, red flag!).
  • They have to understand modern fiction (because sometimes we have to dangle participles or end a sentence with a preposition in order to stay true to a character’s voice, but we also shouldn’t make a habit of it.)
  • Their fees should be reasonable (we’re talking Goldilocks Zone here, people – one cent per 100 words isn’t realistic but neither is $50 per page, for a 500 page book, as a proofreader).
  • At least one book in their portfolio (I don’t care if it was written by their BFF, mom, brother, I want references and examples of the kind of work they can do before I fork over my “baby” and all that moolah!)
  • They get back to me in a reasonable amount of time (because I don’t expect a response in 10 minutes but it should be less than 72 hours or I’ll question how much attention they can give their clients – fostering a relationship is key to repeat business).

Bottom line, don’t rely on spellcheck and grammar checks in programs to bring that finished quality to your fiction. Hire the right people and your investment will pay off in the professionalism of your work!

Do you have an editor or proofer you use on the regular? I’ll be looking for a new one for my next book and would love suggestions. Leave their twitter ID in the comments or come on over and connect with me on twitter

Due to a severe spike in spam, I no longer accept comments from Anonymous users. All comments made on posts 3 days or older will be moderated. Spam will be deleted (it is up to the blog administrator to determine if a comment is spam). A new window opens when you click to comment.