Scott Marlowe
Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Favorite Reads of 2013

Carrying on the tradition of listing out my favorites reads of the year (here are my favorite reads of 2010 and 2011; apparently I skipped 2013—some tradition, huh?), I give you the books I found most enjoyable in 2013.

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You can see all of the books I read in 2013 on Goodreads.

Other "Best Of" Lists

10 Ways Readers Can Help Authors

Indie writers like myself have a huge problem. That problem is obscurity.

We combat it via promotion. But there's only so much promotion one can do without coming across as bossy, spammy, or just plain desperate. Also, whenever a message is received from a person with a financial interest in the success of that message, then there are going to be skeptics. I don't blame them. No matter how great I may tell readers my books are, it means a lot more coming from an independent third party.

Independent third parties being, of course, readers.

Below are some ways readers can help all authors out, but especially indie authors. These methods are not entirely selfish as I think the reader/author relationship is a symbiotic one. By helping your favorite author and contributing to his or her success, you're increasing the possibility that he or she will continue writing the kind of books you enjoy. While making a living from writing isn't feasible for most of us, it helps a lot just knowing someone is out there reading our stuff.

Another point about indie authors: We satisfy a price niche the traditional publishers hereto have been reluctant to enter into. Readers will continue to pay $9.99 or more for traditional authors they know, but I think they're far more likely to try out someone new at the $2.99 price point than they are at some of the ridiculous prices the traditional publishers charge for eBooks (I make that comment as a reader myself). Also, for prolific readers, lower price points are much easier on the wallet. It's to readers' benefit that they support indie writers, especially those they like.

How Readers Can Help

1. Buy the book

Pretty simple, right? Buying the book puts a little money in the author's pocket and also helps move the title up in the retailer's rankings. Enough purchases will push the book up into the Top 100 lists, increase general exposure on the retailer's site, and, for Amazon, get the book into the "Customers Also Bought" lists.

2. Leave a review where you bought the book

Again, kind of a no-brainer. Reviews help fellow readers find great, new reads while also letting the author know he or she is doing something right or wrong. As long as they are genuine, they help no matter what.

3. Leave a review not only where you bought it but other places as well

This is one where some readers truly don't realize the impact. I've had reviewers tell me, "Oh, I forgot all about Smashwords", for example, where a review at Smashwords really helps move a title up because there are far fewer reviews out there than somewhere like Amazon.

If you bought a book at Amazon, by all means leave a review there. But why not also leave it at Smashwords, Goodreads, and maybe even Barnes & Noble? I have links to all of the retailers that carry my titles on my novels page, so it's easy to find the listings.

Last, why not post the review to your blog or web site?

4. "Like" the book at your favorite retailer

Retailers like Amazon have a "Like" button next to the title. Click it. I don't know how much it helps, but it makes an author feel good to know that someone made that little bit of extra effort to show their appreciation.

5. Spread the word on social media

Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, maybe even Google+ (if anyone is using it). These are great places to give a shout-out to an author while letting your friends and followers know about their work.

6. Goodreads

Mention the book in one of Goodreads' forums, add it to a shelf, or nominate it for a poll. All good ways to help increase exposure.

7. Goodreads updates

As you're reading a book, give periodic updates that are more than just the page count. If you find a scene particular moving or interesting in some way, say so. These updates show up in your friends' streams and might intrigue them enough to add the book to their own 'to read' list.

8. Highlight your favorite quote or passage on your eReader

This highlights eventually appear inside the book or on the retailer's web site once enough people make the same selection. This is just another way to increase the surface area of exposure for an author.

9. If possible, "up" vote helpful reviews

This pushes the 'best' reviews to the top and, in theory, puts the least useful to the bottom.

10. Contact the author and tell him or her what you liked or didn't

This can be via their web site or somewhere like Goodreads. I like getting feedback from people, especially if it's via a personal email or message.

Conclusion

Hopefully as a reader you're already doing some of these things. Bottom line is that by helping an author whose work you like, you're helping to ensure that author can continue to produce content. This is especially helpful for indie writers like myself because we tend to reciprocate by selling our books for much cheaper prices than those of the traditional guys.

If you are already doing some of these things as I know of you are, then thank you. if you aren't, please keep some of these ideas in mind the next time you finish reading something you like.

Further Reading

Art Sites for Inspiration

I'm not an artist in the visual sense. I can imagine what my characters should look like. I can see scenery in my mind. I can play out a scene as if it were a movie. I can even relay these things to other people via the written word. But there's no way I can represent them via an illustration. A visual artist I am most certainly not.

While my desire to write came from reading, artwork has always been an inspiration as well. Fantastic artwork is part of what attracted me to, well, fantasy. The work of such luminaries as Boris Vallejo, Keith Parkinson (who unfortunately died of leukemia in 2005; he was always one of my favorites), Frank Frazetta, Larry Elmore, and others fed my imagination in ways mere words never could.

While I still look to those individuals for creative inspiration, the Internet has opened the field to a truly vast scale. Much like authors have been freed of the traditional publishing gatekeepers, anyone can upload a sketch or illustration to their blog, web site, or to one of the sites below. Quality varies as one would expect. But there's so much amazing artwork on these sites I wanted to share the ones I routinely check.

Keep in mind, of course, that content belongs to the creator unless you work out a license agreement. I do a lot of looking, but I never touch, so to speak. It's not OK to download and use someone's artwork without compensating them for it, same as writing. It's easy to work with most of these artists if you're interested in using one of their images for something. The illustration I use for the cover of The Hall of the Wood and as the header for this site was purchased from an artist on deviantart.com, for example, after I contacted him and we settled on a price. It was a win-win for both of us.

Here are the art sites I frequent. I know there are others. Please comment below with your own favorites.

1. Concept Ships

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2. It's Art

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3. Cool Vibe

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4. Art of Fantasy

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5. CG Hub

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6. Ninja Crunch

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7. Deviant Art

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8. Creature Spot

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Online References, Part 4: Style & Grammar

There are a lot of online reference resources out there. In this short series, I'm going to highlight just some of them. Here are the primary types I'll take a look at:

  1. Dictionaries
  2. Thesauri
  3. Quotations
  4. Style & Grammar (this post)
  5. Word of the Day
  6. Fun With Words

Web Sites

APA Style
APA Style was first developed 80 years ago by a group of social scientists who wished to establish sound standards of communication. Since that time, it has been adopted by leaders in many fields and has been used by writers around the world.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online
Not free, but one of the de facto standards.

Common Errors in English Usage
Lots and lots of common errors.

Daily Grammar
Daily Grammar is a fun, convenient way to learn grammar.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.
The book we all know and love, online.

Grammar Girl
One of the best resources for “quick and dirty” tips.

GrammarBook.com
Some online information or you can buy the full book, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.

Guide to Grammar and Style by Jack Lynch
Lots of advice here.

Lifehack Guide to Grammar and Writing
A collection of links from the Capital Community College Foundation.

Modern English Grammar
Advice from the College of DuPage.

The Slot
A spot for copyeditors (but I think they’ll let writers in, too).

UT Austin Writer’s Style Guide
Some style tips from UT.


@Twitter

Online References, Part 3: Quotations

There are a lot of online reference resources out there. In this short series, I'm going to highlight just some of them. Here are the primary types I'll take a look at:

  1. Dictionaries
  2. Thesauri
  3. Quotations (this post)
  4. Style & Grammar
  5. Word of the Day
  6. Fun With Words

Ancient Greek Quotes
Quotes from Ancient Greece.

Bartleby Dictionary of Quotations
From Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources.

Bartleby Familiar Quotations
A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to Their Sources in Ancient and Modern Literature.

BrainyQuote
Nicely indexed site for quotes.

Dictionary.com Quotes
Organized by subject and author.

FamousQuotes.com
A one quote per page sort of deal.

Goodreads Popular Quotes
Popular quotes based on member input.

LitQuotes
Quotes from literature.

The Quotations Page
Name kind of says it all.

QuotesDaddy.com
Kinda like a Sugar Daddy, except this is a Quotes Daddy.

Quotes from the Middle Ages
A list of sources for medieval quotations.

SearchQuotes.com
A scrolling list of quotes right in the middle of the page. Not a good design at all.

YourDictionary Quotes
These are YOUR quotations, my friends.