Guest post by Alison Clarke from Juni Learning
Kids are some of the most creative people on the planet. You take their unbound optimism and imagination with an endless amount of energy, and kids can write up some really quirky ideas. However, it doesn’t hurt to give kids a bit of a head start with some creative writing prompts to get their mind palace brimming with great ideas. Today, let’s talk about some of those ideas, as well some other ways to get your kids to be better writers.
Before we get to the writing prompts, there are some basic pointers you should give your child to direct their writing. Don’t be too strict though, at this age especially. It’s better to let them run wild, then fix stuff up afterward.
Don’t criticize a child’s writing or just go “oh, that’s cute!”. Engage with the child and their work, because kids love answering questions. Well, maybe some don’t, but it doesn’t hurt to ask anyway. One of the best ways to boost creativity is through simple but effective questions like “why is this character like this” or “why did that happen to that” because it enables kids to think critically about the narratives they put on the page. Plus, it’s just fun.
Let Them Read It Aloud
It’s a great idea to have kids recite their stories to you out loud. Not only does it train their communication skills, but it’s also a brilliant way to bring their characters to life. Having your child act out dialogue gives them a better feel for how their story is going and whether or not they are happy with the characters as they are. Not to mention, it’s an interactive way to engage with your child’s story.
Lead and Guide As Necessary
As many online courses on storytelling will tell you, it’s important to keep the writer’s vision as close to their personal flair as possible. Let them lead the story, and guide them through any speedbumps. However, never railroad them into telling a story that you want to see. More than anything, a child needs to appreciate the happiness in completing a work of their own that they can proudly claim as theirs.
There are a ton of creative writing prompts, and the limit goes well past the sky and into outer space. However, if you’re having a bit of trouble settling on a writing idea, here are some of our own suggestions to get you started:
And so many, many more. These are only to get you started, but here are some more tips if you want to make your own original prompts.
Pull From Your Experiences
Prompts from your personal experience are an effective way to get prompts onto paper. After all, if it’s something that you’ve already gone through, it’s just a matter of recontextualizing it to fit a new cast of characters in a different setting. That’s how so many stories, as fantastical as they may get, always feature heroes that the reader can relate with.
Write Prompts Regularly
Whenever your child has a prompt idea, quickly write it down for the future. Prompts aren’t just one and done, they could really start forming a story once seen together. Prompts that might not work on their own could be greatly improved when combined with another. Not to mention, keeping track of your prompts lets you avoid repeating any and feeling burnout.
If you haven’t used Goodreads yet, it’s certainly worth looking at especially for authors, originally founded in 2006 and then launched in 2007 with an approximate 650,000 members, it was bought by Amazon in 2013 and has grown to over 120 million members to date.
Goodreads has become the largest site for connecting readers with the books they’ll love, giving recommendations and book reviews (which is what they’ve become known for), it’s also a great place to follow your favorite author and is free to use, you can even sign in using your Amazon account where you’ll see the books you’ve purchased.
There are a lot of features offered to the user, lists and groups you can join and even an ‘Ask the Author’ feature where you can submit questions (although these tend to be the bigger names within the publishing world).
But for most authors, it’s not so much about using the service as a reader, but as an author, so what do Goodreads have for you?
Goodreads have the ‘Goodreads Author Program’, it’s free to join and as long as you have an internet connection and a book that’s published (or about to be) you can create your own author profile page, then once your profile page has been verified by Goodreads, you’ll get their official badge which you can use to direct your own readers back to your Goodreads page.
Having your own Goodreads profile page will help you to tell readers more about you as an author, engage with your readers, promote your books with giveaways, advertising your book and it also gives access to some of their own marketing tools.
The Giveaways allow you to offer copies of your book for free to winning readers who enter your giveaway, it’s a good way of raising your book’s profile but you would still need to actively promote this via your own website or social media channels as well.
Having your own author page also gives you the blog feature, this is a great way of connecting with your readers and allows you to write as you would in a personal blog, the aim is in forming a connection and allowing your readers to get to know you as an author, remember, people buy from people they like.
Another great feature of Goodreads are their many lists, these are created by countless other authors and readers, you can vote on your favorite books and add yours to the relevant lists too, it’s worth noting that in some specific genres and categories, these lists can become incredibly long, so look for the niche ones as well, here you may have an easier job of standing out.
There are also quizzes and trivia pages where you can create your own, most of these quizzes are on best-selling books of course, but it still links back to your author page and as such can help in raising your profile.
Chargeable advertising on Goodreads is an option for authors, but the feedback from those who have used it is a mixed bag, some have had results and others lost money, Goodreads did stop its self-service for advertising recently and if you want to find out more you will need to apply for advertising for your book directly with them from your author’s page (so it’s not the most transparent when you compare it to other options), but with over 120 million members, it's worth considering.
Overall, Goodreads is a great place for readers and authors alike, if you’re not on there yet, you should be. Paying for advertising is still an option you may want to look into, but even if you don’t go with paid ads, you should definitely use the tools available for free and engage with your readers here on one of the world's largest platforms.
It’s been a long journey, countless hours of writing followed by edits, rewrites, more edits, further rewrites, formatting, cover design and finally… (drum roll please)… your book is now available to purchase on Amazon.
So, what now?
Well, unless you are a well-established author, simply uploading your book to KDP, IngramSpark, B&N etc. does not guarantee you any sales, once your book is published, the next stage in your journey as an author has just begun, this is the marketing and self-promotion stage.
If this is your first book (and in many cases, even if it’s your tenth), marketing a book can seem like a confusing uphill struggle, it’s easy to spend lots on advertising and many hours on social media shouting about your book to anyone who will listen.
So, what can you do to self-promote? Here are our tips on marketing a book as an indie author.
One – Social Media
An obvious place to start, but it is an important one. With social media the channels themselves may come and go in popularity (just look at the rise of TikTok and the slow decline that Facebook is currently going through), but these platforms are a great way to engage with potential readers, and also offer incredibly precise advertising options for running ads.
Firstly, with social media, make sure that you have dedicated pages/profiles as an author, try to keep away from using your own personal pages so that you can project a professional image across all of these channels. Also, make sure that they have some consistency, use the same profile image and banners, if you need inspiration, take a look at your favorite authors or check out some of these banner designs that will give you a good idea.
The key part of social media is in being social, engage with others and be polite (being a troll just makes you look like a moron in front of your audience), post often but don’t bombard your followers with only advertising, share things that you and your audience will find interesting and engaging.
Most social media is about the long term, it takes awhile to build up a genuine audience (and please, do NOT buy followers, they really don’t help).
Two – Social Media Advertising
Now that you have your social media channels set up, start to advertise with them. Channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer frighteningly precise advertising options, here you can set your budgets and target exactly who you would like your ads shown to.
If you are going to spend money on advertising your book this way, make sure that your ad looks professional and has a clear call to action, some of these ads you can create yourself on your home PC, but if you are not sure, many designers can create an effective and eye-catching banner ad for $30 - $50.
Three – Amazon
Amazon allows you to advertise your own products on their website, they have a pay per click service which will allow you to put your book in front of its intended audience, we have an article showing you how to set up an ad account with them and how to advertise with Amazon which is well worth checking out.
Four – An Author’s website
With the popularity of build-your-own website services, having your own website has never been easier, you don’t need to know anything about coding and most services are ‘drag and drop’, so designing your own site is a great deal easier than you may have imagined.
The key thing about having your own site is that it’s yours, so, you won’t get kicked off, or lose commission when a policy gets changed, you can sell your books directly, engage with your readers and build an email/subscriber list for future advertising.
But, in order to make a website successful you will have to put some work into it, SEO (search engine optimization) is something that will always be ongoing and require some dedication on your part, this is if you want people to find your site. The main things to remember, is to write great content which is relevant to your audience and update your site on a regular basis.
If you want to know more about setting up your own author website, we have an article on websites you should take a look at.
Five – Get reviews for your book
Whenever we look to buy something online, we inevitably look at the amount of stars it’s given when we weigh up the option of purchasing it, a low review and we’re more inclined to move on, a higher review and with more people contributing to it and it’s in our basket.
This goes for buying books, and every good author understands this too, the more good reviews you can get, the better your chances of making further sales, so getting your book rated is important. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do, from giving out free eBook versions to sending paperback editions to influential people, with some creativity you can get the reviews needed to make your book shine to an audience. We have listed lots of these options in this article on reviews which will help.
Six – Goodreads
Most authors know about or use Goodreads, it’s a website dedicated to showing what you are reading, reviewing books and to help others find books that they will love. So as an author this is a perfect channel to connect with your readers, gain reviews and advertising your book directly to people who are specifically looking for something to read.
Seven – Guest post & Blog
Another way to reach an audience is to guest post on other websites within a subject/topic relevant to yourself, this could be a horror fiction site if this is your own genre for example. Reach out to the website you’re interested in and simply ask, be polite and follow their guidelines for submission, most people/businesses who run a website are happy to have guest posts from time to time (as long as it fits and is professional).
Eight – Be a podcast guest
Podcasts are massive and cover every genre, sub-genre and niche you could possibly think of, and they normally need great guests to talk to, so why not contact one to talk about your genre or niche as an author? They normally have a strong presence on social media along with their own websites, so getting in touch with a relevant podcaster is easier than you might have thought, just be polite and try to offer them something that would be relevant to their audience.
Nine – Use book promotional sites
There are plenty of these out on the internet and are still worth engaging in, I’m not too sure about spending a fortune on these but even if you don’t, there are plenty of free options which are worth using all the same, we have a list websites to promote your book you may find helpful.
Ten – Enter competitions
One thing about the literary world is that there are plenty of competitions for authors, the great things about these is that if you win something, you normally get a badge/seal to add to the cover of your book and it gets promoted via the competition’s website and social media channels too.
However, you will need a thick skin and patience, there are a lot of other authors doing the same thing as you, so keep at it and keep sending your book off to competitions.
Doing anything creative is (and should always be) a pure joy to the person who is engaged in it, and for those of us working in a creative field such as writing or book cover design, it makes the project you’re working on that much more enjoyable.
But creativity, to some degree, is like a muscle, the more you use it, the better/stronger it becomes. So, the key in growing your creativity is in using it more, sound easy right?
Okay, but what about those who suffer from writer’s block? They are trying to use their creativity but harder they try the further away it seems to get, sitting at a laptop for hours without anything to show is no fun.
However, there are things you can do to try and get your creative flow back and beat blocks you may have, here are some ideas that can help.
1 – Relax
The worst thing about any block is focusing on it, the more you think of how much you can’t do something the more stress you place upon yourself and the less likely you are to be able to overcome it. So, if you are not feeling creative right now, don’t panic, take a break from it and get some distance from the process, if you need to put it to one side for a couple of days, do just that.
2 – Relax even more
Say the word meditation and many people think of monks with shaved heads, sitting in the Lotus position, saying ‘ohmmmnnn’ repeatedly, and all while sat on a mountain top in Tibet, but for most people who do meditate this is very far from reality.
Meditation is something that anyone can do and has proven benefits to both health and creativity, it helps to relax, destress and boost your creativity, you don’t have to spend hours each day doing it (as little as 15 mins per day will help) and there are no side-effects.
Even if you are skeptical, try it for a week and be open, there are no costs involved and it really doesn't take up much of your time either, the hardest part is in sitting still for a while and trying to clear your mind of any thought, as I said, it’s really not that taxing.
However, if you have never done it before, here’s a very simple guide.
Only start to meditate when it is completely safe for you to do so, when it is, either sit or lie down and completely relax your body, next, focus on your breathing, count to four on each inward breath and then count to four on each breath out, the focus should be on your breathing (this is done in order for you to clear your mind), keep focusing on you breathing and when a thought does pop in to your mind (as it will), acknowledge it and simply let it go, then refocus on your breathing once more. It’s best to start of meditating for 5 mins, then gradually work up to 10min, 15min, 30min (start off slowly as this should not feel like a chore). If it helps, you can also find lots of guided meditations on YouTube that are really helpful too.
3 – Read and get inspired
If you are trying to write a new book and a block is hampering you, read more of what you love (and make sure it’s from great authors), when you read well written books, you’ll find that they help with inspiration. It’s the same with art and design, look at your favorite artists/designers and lose yourself in their work, you will usually find inspiration.
4 – Get moving
Writing and most forms of art are created while sat down, or at least not moving very much at all, however, when you get your blood pumping and increase your rate of breathing, the rush of blood through your body helps to stimulate your brain and thinking process. If you are looking for a quick boost, getting some exercise really helps.
5 – Go for a walk
Not as energetic as running or most form of cardio, but a walk can have a massive impact for the better with your creativity. Even if it’s just a quick walk around your block or to the nearest park, it helps to clear the mind and refocus you. Personally, I find walking anywhere there is a lot of nature around me a huge boost to my creativity.
6 – Just create anything
For some, the hardest part is starting, so just start, it doesn't have to be good, you just need to do something. If you are writing, commit to a day or session where you just write anything that comes to mind, you won’t use it, but you’ll just write something. The same goes for anything artistic too, just create without intent to use, you’ll be surprised at how liberating it truly is.
7 – Grab your headphones
Music has given so much inspiration to so many people, it connects to something deep within us and helps to bring out that creativity we’re looking for. So, find the tracks that mean something to you and turn the volume up!
8 – Look with fresh eyes
One thing that artists do is in looking for the art within any given scene, so, right now look around the room you’re in and find the art, it could be the way the light is coming in through a window, or the way a lamp is positioned on a table, the options are truly endless, but only if you take time to look and be creative with the way you take in the scene.
If you are writing, then grab a dictionary or any other book, flick randomly through the pages and then stop, pick any random word or sentence and write something with it. The more you do this, the stronger your creative thinking becomes, it’s also amazing at just how much art and inspiration has been right in front of your eyes.
Along with having a good book cover for your work, authors should also think about the promotional designs they are going to need to help sell their book to a larger audience. When you look at current trends, self-publishing continues to grow and as such, every day there is more than 4,000 new indie books being released.
What this means for an individual self-publishing author is that you must do more to reach your audience.
To be fair, most authors appreciate this and have plans in place on how to reach readers once their book is live (and in many cases, prior to launch too). These plans may include building a website, starting social media campaigns, organizing advertising on Amazon and other book sellers, along with launch parties and book signings (however, the in-person events are a little quieter due to the pandemic).
So, what materials will you need?
Well apart from a JPEG of your book’s cover, 3D renderings are a good place to begin, these give a more tangible view of your book to an audience and allow you to place the image into a multitude of backgrounds (make sure you have a PNG version of your 3D image for this). You can use them in social media posts, upon your website and even in flyers or on printed bookmarks.
Next would be banners for your social media, for your profile pages they can project a consistent and professional image for you as an author. Most banners will either show just your current book, or if you have a series of books, they could show all of the titles you have. The main thing here is to keep them consistent, so that the banner you have for Facebook relates to the one you use on Twitter.
These banners for social media can also be adapted for use on your author website, the dimensions will need to be adjusted, but the layout and feel of the design can be similar, and again, it will give both a professional and consistent view.
Instagram is another very popular social media platform for authors and one which can really help you connect with new and existing readers. But as it is image based, you will need to have some good images to highlight your work. Using your 3D renderings here can be great and if you get creative with the backgrounds, you can really capture your reader’s imagination.
Along with standard banners you can also look at using a GIF, this is normally a banner with some animation to it which when posted upon your Facebook page or Twitter feed can really help your post to stand out among the constant stream of other posts. Leading on from GIFs would be author promotional video’s, these can also be a great way to get noticed, but they can be very expensive to have created.
If you are having a book signing or launch party, then having flyers, bookmarks, posters and even T-shirts and mugs created are great options, we have seen authors get very creative with where their book cover and details have been placed. Most printers such as Vista print, offer so much in the way of promotional designs that you can find a gimmick which will help you to stick out and get readers to remember you
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