Websites for Writers: Writer Beware and more

Websites for Writers: Writer Beware

Writer Beware logoWriter Beware is a blog that alerts writers to scams, and possible scams. In some respects it is like a consumer organisation for writers. For example, it will bring to its readers’ attention dreadful terms and conditions embedded in a publisher’s small print, and horror tales of writers who have found themselves tied up in a contract that pays nothing but which they cannot extract themselves from.

It is based in America, where its main focus lies. However, I find it useful in two ways.

First, many of the principles it covers are universal in nature.

Second, some of the scams are potentially of interest to writers anywhere. For example, one of its most recent stories is about how some freelance writers are having their identity stolen. What seems to be happening is that people are going to writers’ websites, grabbing their photos, making a note of their credentials, and then presenting themselves to companies looking for freelancers to do some work for them.

(If you are the victim of such a scam, as well as being economically damaging, in that someone else could be getting work that you might have enjoyed, there is the likely reputational damage too. If that person delivers poor copy, it is your reputation on the line, not theirs. My solution is to be constantly on the lookout for my name being mentioned, so I can respond quickly where necessary. I use Google Alerts for this purpose. To read more about this form of identity theft, look at Scam Warnings For Freelancers.)

Link: Writer Beware Blog


Handwriting fonts revisited

I wrote this note in a "stickie", then took a screenshot!While I was writing the blog post entitled Handwriting on the Web, I was quite surprised that the typeface appeared as it was intended to: I’d assumed I’d have to take a screenshot of it to make it appear properly in a web browser. As it turns out, my original instincts were correct.

Or, possibly, partially correct. On some computers it looks the way I intended, and on others it looks like an ordinary sans serif font.

So, here is the typeface as I saw it in my blog editor:

To show this, I took a screenshot in my blog editor

My conclusion: handwriting fonts are best used in small doses, and displayed as a graphic, i.e. a screenshot, rather than text.


Handwriting on the web

So, you’d like to use a handwriting font on your website or blog? It’s pretty easy, but you ought to think about the impression you want to create. And perhaps use it sparingly, unlke in this article.

elikan Souverän M600: Handwriting Sample, by DragonLord878

As it happens, I didn’t think about this at all until I came across the “Dating fails” blog posts by Timothy Goodman. I say “came across”: they landed in my email inbox courtesy of an Adobe newsletter. Those articles, autobiographical notes about how he fared in the girl-boy game, clearly lend themselves to a handwriting font approach. Unlike the article you’re reading now, I think!

To find handwriting fonts, just do a search on “handwriting fonts for websites”. I found a particularly useful site: 75 Free Handwriting Fonts for Designers. The one I’m using here is Austie Bost Marketplace.

An article I think you will find especially useful is this one: Tips in Using Handwriting Fonts for Stunning Web Designs.

Well that's enough on this subject for now. Normal fonts will be resumed as soon as possible!




Victorian Humour

Victorian humour? A contradiction in terms, surely? Not according to Bob Nicholson, a lecturer in history who is on a mission to make Victorian jokes funny again (which presupposes they were funny in the first place, of course, but one assumes they were!).

Now, you may think this has nothing to do with writing, but it has. Bob is using a computing technique known as “text mining” to trawl through loads of Victorian publications held by the British Library, and extract jokes.

The next stage is to extract what is known as the “meta-data”, and example of which is shown in the illustration below. The<j> and </j> tags indicate that the enclosed text is a joke (as opposed to a news item, say), while the “t” tags refer to the title of the joke as it originally appeared in a publication.

It's all in the tags

Next, Bob aims to superimpose the jokes onto Victorian illustrations, in the form of speech bubbles. Here’s an example, taken from a photo of one of Bob’s slides. The woman is asking how much the lawyer charges for a divorce, and he replies “$100 or 6 for $500”. You can add to the humour by contextualising the exchange in an illustration.


A joke superimposed on different illustrations

You can view much clearer examples by scrolling own the article entitled Introducing… the Victorian Meme Machine!

So why should any of this be of interest to the writer? I think there are two reasons.

First, the sort of text mining techniques that Bob is using could one day be applied to our work. It’s reassuring, to me at any rate, that even if one is not a big name author one can still achieve a certain kind of immortality, or be of interest to some future historian.

Second, if you have a particular interest in Victoriana, this project certainly will shed some new light on the subject.

If you are so inclined, you can follow Victorian Humour on Twitter and, in due course, receive an automatically generated Victorian joke every day.

In the meantime, listen to Bob explaining what he’s doing:


Current reading: Books for Authors

In this article I look briefly at the Indie Author Powerpack and Business for Authors

At any one time I’m usually reading several books. It means, of course, that it takes me a long time to finish any one of them, but I find that reading several books in parallel works for me.

Reading habits would be a good topic for an article but for now I just wanted to bring to your attention a couple of publications you may find useful. These are not reviews as such, but (I hope) useful information.

The first is The Indie Author Powerpack: How to Write, Publish and Market Your Book.

This comprises three books:

  • WRITE. PUBLISH. REPEAT.: The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success - Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant
  • LET'S GET DIGITAL: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should - David Gaughran
  • HOW TO MARKET A BOOK - Joanna Penn

Unusually for me, I am mentioning this even though I haven’t actually opened it yet. A supreme act of faith? Perhaps, but one that is based on experience.

I’ve read some of Johnny B. Truant’s stuff and found it useful despite the fact that I don’t care for his writing style that much. But my main point of reference is the (updated) How to Market a Book, by Joanna Penn.

I have a few of her books, including the first edition of How to Market a Book, and find them very useful indeed: full of good advice and plenty of links. What I especially like about her books is their honesty: “I tried this and lost a load of money” (I’m paraphrasing), and the fact that she never says, as far as I know, “Do this and in six weeks you’ll be a millionaire”.

I aim to review this fully as soon as possible, but at the moment the whole pack, comprising all three books, is available for £0.77, so you have almost nothing to lose.

The other book I wanted to mention is Business for Authors, also by Joanna Penn.

Again, I haven’t finished reading it, so this isn’t a full review. So far, I’m impressed. I’ve read loads of books on making money as a writer, and they tend to go into things like finding work and pitching for big money clients. What I like about this book though is its clear guidance on the nitty-gritty of running a business as a writer.

For example, she talks about the different kinds of income streams you can start to enjoy. Other authors mention this in an airy-fairy kind of way, but this book gives concrete examples, with links and other information (such as how to turn your book into an audio book).

Well worth buying – there are e-book versions too if you prefer.


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