Freelancer Or Entrepreneur?

This Friday I recommend the first episode of Seth Godin's Startup School: Freelancer or Entrepreneur? The entire series of 15 episodes is worth listening to for insights on starting a business regardless what you plan to do with your writing. But this first one is particularly eye opening for someone like me, who has one profession (law) where I typically charge an hourly rate and one (writing) where I earn money selling products I create.

Before listening to this podcast, I didn't quite grasp why some of what I learned starting my own law firm, which I thought made me an entrepreneur, didn't quite translate to the business side of my writing. Now I know that as a solo lawyer, though it was my name on the door, I was still much more like a freelancer than an entrepreneur. For one thing, I still mainly sold my time and expertise. That's not bad, but it does explain why I ultimately found the experience less satisfying than I expected. I'd kept the same model I had at the large law firm–the reward for good work is more work. That's good for the short-term bottom line in a financial sense. But in the long run, you never get off the treadmill.

Whether you are paid now by the hour or not, I think you'll find this discussion of being a freelancer versus an entrepreneur both enlightening and practical.

Please let me know what you think!

Until Sunday, when I'll write about doing-it-yourself versus hiring freelancers–


L.M. Lilly

Your Book Will Be Judged By Its Cover

After you finish a book, you probably don't decide whether you liked it or not based on its cover. But when deciding whether to buy a book, especially by an unknown author, most of us do judge by the cover.

In some ways that’s unfair, but there’s not a lot else to go on. There is a book description. But odds are if you don't like the cover, you won't ever pick up (or click on) a book to read the description.

The cover should tell you as the reader about the book, including:

  • Is this the type of book you like to read? Whether you like or dislike romances, for example, you can probably pick one out immediately by the cover.
  • Does the tone of the book match what you like? I love mysteries, but I’m not a fan of satire, farce, or cute stories. So if I see a cartoon-like illustration or a cat on the cover of a mystery, I pass. Someone else, though, would grab the same book in an instant.
  • Is the book likely to be well-written and edited? A confusing or sloppy-looking cover suggests the writing will follow suit.

If you're publishing your own work, the great news is you get to decide what your cover looks like. The bad news is, that’s not always easy, and it usually costs money.

Custom Designs

The most expensive approach, and most effective, is to contract with a professional graphic designer who has a lot of experience in your particular genre and with ebooks if you are publishing in ebook format. This can cost anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars, though you can get really nice covers for under $500.

The difference in price in part has to do with how in demand a designer is. But more of the price difference is how much you hire the designer to do.

If you want someone experienced to create original illustrations, you’ll need to pay at the high end of the range. If you want the designer to use stock photographs (you can find those at istock or similar sites), that will cost a little less.

One way to lower costs and still get a professional design is for the design to be based on a single photo. I had two covers designed this way at cost of a little over $110 each.

For the first, When Darkness Falls, a supernatural suspense novel, I chose a stock photo and sought the designer’s input on whether it was a good one. She said it would work, and she then modified the colors and heightened certain aspects to fit the genre before adding the title and author.

For the second, a collection of short horror stories, I told the designer I wanted to use a photo of the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower). I pointed her to a few I liked, but I left it to her which one to choose.

My favorite designs came about when I found I really loved their sample covers. I showed the designer assigned to me my first three covers for the Awakening series, gave her information about the story for the fourth book and samples of the covers I liked by other authors, and left the rest to her.

She came up with the concept, offered me several choices, took a different approach based on my feedback, and offered me more choices. Below is the one I settled on.

I liked it so much I asked her to go back and redesign my previous covers. The four Awakening covers cost me nearly $500 each, but I think it was worth it. These are my best sellers, and sales increased dramatically with the new covers.


Design For A Lower Budget

Another option if you’re on budget is to use a premade cover. Many designers have covers they created for various types of books. If you like one, you pay for it, and the designer inserts your title and author name. You can look at those covers on the designers' websites. For instance, the designer who did The Tower Formerly Known As Sears has premade covers here. These are $85 right now, but I've seen premade covers on other sites for as low as $35.

You also can hire someone to design a cover off the website Fiverr for as little as $5.  I have not done this myself, but I know that some authors use this option.

Doing It Yourself

You can put together your own cover. I did this for a nonfiction book I just released. How The Virgin Mary Influenced the United States Supreme Court is based on a paper I wrote for a seminar I took called Reason and Religion. Enough people were interested in the topic that I rewrote it and published it as a Kindle ebook.

People generally buy non-fiction by topic rather than by author or by cover, so the goal is to get the topic across, which mainly means your title being clear. This topic is geared toward a limited number of people, and I don’t expect to earn a lot, so I figured I’d try creating a cover myself.

I did this one on You can set up an account for free. Canva has ebook layouts already available and also has access to stock photos. Many are free, some are available for a low fee. The above cover cost me $35 total, as I needed to pay for a couple of the photos in the background.

The cover below, for a book on plot structure I’ll be releasing next month, cost nothing, as the background photo was free:

Actually, it’s not true that the cover “cost nothing.” Both these covers cost me time. I had to learn Canva, play with font sizes, photos, and colors, and experiment. But I felt it was worth it because I plan to release several non-fiction books on writing this year, as well as a book of essays. If these covers work (as in, if sales are what I hope), I can use them as templates. If not, I’ll need to decide how much I want to invest in my non-fiction catalogue.

In summary, while I'm willing to try creating my own covers for non-fiction, for fiction, I recommend a designer because it's so vital to convey the genre and tone of the book via its cover.

If you have questions about covers or would like to share your experiences, please add a comment. I'd love to hear what you've been doing with your books.

Until Friday-


L.M. Lilly

Lowering Stress And Anxiety

When I'm juggling too many responsibilities and start feeling anxious, I often end my day by reading a page or two of Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff..and it's all small stuff: Simple Ways To Keep The Little Things From Taking Over Your Life.

I heard of the book long before I read it, but avoided it because the title made me think it was about learning to be a slacker. It's not. It's about how to be relaxed and happy while still working hard and achieving goals, something that I'd thought impossible. Successful people are supposed to be super-stressed, right?

It takes only a few minutes to read one of the short, quick sections. You can go through the whole book in order or skip around. Some great parts include Be Flexible With Changes In Your Plans and If Someone Throws You A Ball, You Don't Have To Catch It.

If you're struggling with too much to do, too little time, too much stress, or all three, a few minutes a day with this book can make a huge difference.

Until Sunday–


L.M. Lilly


The Cost To Create An Audiobook Edition Of Your Book

Releasing an audiobook edition of your novel or other book is one way to earn more income from a manuscript you've already written. Those of you who know the story of how The Martian sold know that's a big part of its success. 

One question I get a lot is how much it costs to have an audiobook edition of your book produced. 

Just as there are traditional publishers for print and ebooks, there are companies who will produce your audiobook. Podium is the one that produced The Martian. Just as with traditional print publishing, the publisher, not the author, pays the up front cost.

You can also create and release your novel as an audiobook yourself, in partnership with a narrator/producer. That what I did.

Doing It Yourself

So far, I’ve used ACX for my audiobooks. ACX is an Amazon company. It operates as an exchange where authors and audiobook narrators/producers connect with one another. The author supplies the manuscript and the narrator/producer records and produces the audio and uploads it to ACX.

Shiromi Arserio produced the second and third books in my Awakening series, and is currently working on the fourth. Here is her recording studio modeled after the Tardis on Dr. Who:

Different narrators have different sounds and styles. For a good example of two different professional narrators in the same genre, you can listen to Shiromi in the sample for The Unbelievers and to Jewel Greenberg, who narrated The Awakening.

Your audiobook, once finished, will be available through Amazon and iTunes. (And any other platform ACX publishes on. As with other terms, this can change, so you need to check the terms on ACX when you’re ready.)

ACX pays a percentage of the sale price as a royalty. This, too, can change, and it has gone down since ACX began. This is part of why some authors are now using Author Republic. I haven't tried that platform, so for now I can only tell you my experience with ACX.

Paying Your Narrator/Producer

There are three ways to pay your narrator. The first is to pay per finished hour (PFH) of audio. The second is a royalty-share deal. The third is a hybrid option.

Paying up front means that once you as the author pay the narrator/producer PFH, the royalties you get through ACX are all yours. 

To give you an idea what the cost might be, my second novel (a supernatural thriller), The Unbelievers, was 84,400 words, which resulted in 9.1 finished hours of audiobook. If a narrator charged $300 PFH, that would be $2,730. Some narrators charge less than that, and some more.

With the royalty-share deal, you pay nothing up front as the author. But when the audiobook sells, ACX pays you half the royalty and the narrator half the royalty.

A hybrid deal is where the author pays less–usually around $100 PFH–toward editing, proofing and mastering costs, but royalties are still shared. It's a great way to attract good narrators if you can't afford their usual PFH rate.

Which Way Is Best?

Deciding which to do depends on your budget, your long-terms goals, and on what terms the narrator you want is willing to work.

Pluses to paying full price up front include:

  • Long-term, if your book sells well, you will earn more because you won’t need to split the royalties.
  • It may be easier to find a good producer/narrator because you won’t be asking that person to bet a lot of time and expertise on your novel, you’ll be paying up front. For royalty-share, you need to sell the potential narrator on the value of your work, usually by showing a track record of good print or ebook sales, or best seller rankings.

The minuses are what you’d expect:

  • Not everyone has the funds to pay up front for an audiobook, and even if you do, you might want to invest those dollars some other way.
  • You don’t know how long it will take to earn that money back.

The positives for authors of royalty-share deals:

  • No up front money to invest.
  • The narrator/producer has a lot of incentive to help promote the audiobook so she or he gets paid.
  • You may be more motivated to promote knowing someone else has taken a chance on your work.

Minuses of royalty-share for authors:

  • If the book really takes off, you will be splitting the royalties with your narrator for a long time, so you may spend much more than you would have had you paid up front.
  • The narrator you most want to work with may not be willing to do a royalty-share deal.
  • To do royalty-share, you’ll need to agree to keep the book with ACX and that narrator for a number of years (check ACX for exact terms). 

The hybrid deal threads the needle. You'll still need to pay some up front costs, but it's a lower investment. For my 9.1-hour book, that would be $910 instead of $2,730. While you'll still be sharing royalties, a good narrator/producer makes a tremendous difference. Poor sound quality or an unprofessional narrator can mean that no one buys your book at all, as most people listen to the sample before buying. In my view, better to have a good narrator with whom you share royalties than no royalties at all.

Other Costs

In addition to the dollars you spend, whether up front or through splitting royalties, you’ll also need to invest time. Your narrator will spend the most time producing each hour of audio, but you’ll need to listen to it and check to see if it is accurate and sounds good.

Though I didn’t track the hours, my best guess is I spent at least 15 hours listening, taking notes, and corresponding with the narrator on the 9.1-hour Unbelievers recording. And I had a fantastic, super-competent narrator who rarely made errors and whose production quality was excellent. In the long run, that is not a lot of time, but I mention it so you know it's not as simple as just handing over your manuscript and watching royalties roll in. 

You'll also need an audiobook cover. You can start with your ebook or paperback images, but the covers on Audible are square, so at the very least, you'll need to resize your current book cover. It's best to pay a designer to do this, because she or he can make sure the quality of the image remains and rearrange the elements so they are balanced for the square size.

Other Benefits

Not only will you have another edition of your book to sell, you’ll learn a lot by hearing your book read aloud by a professional. With my first supernatural thriller, The Awakening, I discovered there were words I overused in my writing. Despite that I’d read much of it aloud to myself when proofreading, I simply didn’t hear that until I heard a narrator read it. Other people tell me they don't notice, but it jumped out at me.

With The Unbelievers, the second in my Awakening Series, I discovered nuances in the characters that helped me as I was writing the third.

The Tough Question — Profits

How much you’ll earn on an audiobook through ACX is hard to say. First, while you are paid a percentage of the sale price, the sale price varies, and it’s set by Audible, not you.

For example, right now, the regular price of The Unbelievers on Audible is $19.95. But an Audible member can buy the book using a credit, and typically members pay $14.95 a month to belong and get 1 credit per month (though sometimes Audible gives you extra credits).

A member also can buy the book for the purchase price, which might be $19.95, but other times is less. People who already own the Kindle version of the book can buy the audiobook on Amazon for $1.99. Also, sometimes the book is just priced at a sale price of $1.99.

You do get a bonus if a person signs up to Audible for the first time and chooses your book as a free download. That’s only happened three times with The Awakening.

As the author, you have limited ways of promoting the audiobook beyond telling your own email list about it and including it on your website and social media. Because you don’t set the sale price or know when it’ll be on sale, you can’t purchase listings anywhere featuring a sale.

Sometimes Audible includes your book in its own sales email. Once I saw The Unbelievers for $1.99 in an email with five other books. I was happy about that, but I had no control over it.

Sales of the ebook edition can help sell the audiobook, because of the low price for people who own the Kindle version. Lately, I’ve had a lot of audiobook sales of The Awakening because I’ve made the ebook version free to generate sales for the rest of the series. That means the buyers are likely getting the audiobook for $1.99.

That’s a worthwhile strategy when you have a series, as it usually prompts sales of the later books. But if you are selling only one audiobook, it will take a lot of those sales to generate much income.

The Bottom Line

An audiobook edition can definitely be a nice added source of income for a book you've already written. On a royalty-share deal, you’re investing only your time up front, but there are caveats, including that  you are tied to the narrator. If you like working with that person, as I do, that’s fantastic. If not, you will be less happy.

On the other hand, if you are paying up front, it might be quite a while before you recover the cost of your audiobook edition, so you’ll need to weigh whether you believe your book will sell well enough and for long enough to justify that.

I’ve been happy so far with my audiobooks and I think it's been worthwhile. If you decide to do one, or if you have experiences to share or other questions, please post in the comments.

Until Friday–

L.M. Lilly

P.S. 9/15/17 Update: KOBO is now offering audiobooks. If you're interested, check out Listening To Jim and Bryan Talk About KOBO And Audiobooks.

The Prosperous Writer’s Guide

This Friday, I'm recommending The Prosperous Writers Guide To Making More Money: Habits, Tactics, And Strategies For Making A Living As A Writer by Brian D. Meeks and Honorée Corder.

This book covers in a fun way why it's important to understand the numbers involved in selling books. Also, and more importantly, the authors show you how to use those numbers to increase your sales. Focusing mainly on Amazon, the book helps you figure out whether the cost of an ad is worth it, whether your book description and cover are helping you sell your novel or hurting your chances, and how to choose keywords that can get your novel in front of the new readers.

Even if you are not yet publishing, or if your novels are published by a publishing company, it’s worth reading this book to better understand the factors that affect sales and how visible your novel will be on Amazon.

Much of the The Prosperous Writer's Guide is helpful for other publishing platforms, too. The authors include tips on improving your book description and how to evaluate whether and how much overall sales have improved based on different ads or changes to your book description or cover.

I hope that's helpful.

Until Sunday, when I'll talk about the cost involved in creating an audiobook edition of your novel–


L.M. Lilly

Social Media For Authors

Figuring out when and how to use social media as a writer can be overwhelming. It's easy to while away hours checking Facebook or clicking on links to articles or videos and then feel guilty because we “should” be doing something else, like writing or promoting our writing.

Also, many people dislike everything about social media. It can seem like a place people go to toot to their own horns endlessly or tell everyone that they had eggs for breakfast, and who wants to be “that person”?

Having Fun And Being Who You Are

Over the coming weeks I'll offer some tips on social media. Today I'll share a bit about how I use social media as an author (and a person).

My main rule for myself on social media is that I need to enjoy what I'm doing and genuinely want to connect with the other people there. Which I guess is two rules. If you follow those two, you'll have a happier life and be less likely to come off as, or to be, that person who's just there to try to sell people things or say how great you are.

As part of that approach, I stick with a few social media platforms I like and use for reasons other than my writing. I do sometimes make a few of them do double duty, which is a good way to get a little bit more exposure without more effort.


I got on Facebook in the first place because my nieces and nephews lived in other states. I liked being able to occasionally see a post about how they were doing and see photos of them, and they were nice enough to accept my friend requests.

After I started publishing my writing, I  started posting about it occasionally on my personal Facebook page. I try to share only big news or something particularly exciting. Recently, I shared that the first book in my Awakening series, which is temporarily free to publicize the series, reached number five on the Amazon Best Seller List for free books. I figured that qualified as pretty cool, and my friends were excited for me.

I also post articles on my Facebook page that I think might interest my friends or anyone else who stops by my page. My Instagram account (more on that below) also links to Facebook, so if I post a photo of my parakeet on Instagram it also shows up on Facebook.

I also periodically update a separate author page. There, I am more apt to list day-to-day developments in my writing.

When I use Facebook, I rarely read the newsfeed. Instead, I look at Pages of people I want to keep up with. That limits my time on Facebook and ensures that I enjoy it.


As you probably know, Twitter allows you to post very short comments (which is called tweeting) as well as photos. I love Twitter for connecting with other writers and people who share my interests.

This is the banner I use on both Twitter and Facebook.

I have occasionally bought or sold e-books through Twitter, but mostly I like it for the people and for finding articles on helpful topics. I met the producer/narrator who later went on to produce the audiobook editions of the last three books in my Awakening series on Twitter.

I also started learning about self-publishing there, as I searched for #self-publishing and found tweets and articles by authors Joanna Penn and Melissa Foster. Neither was very well-known at the time and both were generous about sharing what they learned as their author businesses grew. Now I tweet about the articles on this website, as well as about what I'm reading or watching. I still connect with and learn from other writers on Twitter.


Pinterest has online bulletin boards where you can tack photos virtually. I used it quite a bit for a year or two. I have several boards, including one for whenever I finally decide to remodel my bathroom and one of fictional female heroes.

I still visit For When I Remodel My Bathroom as I try to decide what to do and when. I haven't been to the other boards very much lately because I have stepped up my writing schedule and that's the social media platform that fell by the wayside. I still like it though and I'm sure I'll go back at some point.

Pinterest posts can be linked to Facebook and other social media, so if you like it, it's a good way to post on multiple platforms at once.


As I wrote about Friday when I recommended Goodreads For Authors, I love this social media platform. As a reader, I use it to track books I want to read and to review books or place them on my virtual shelves by category. I have an author biography there and I've made sure my books are listed.

As an author, I like reading the reviews of my books by Goodreads users. They generally include a lot more information about why they rated the book as they did and what they think about it. I've also done giveaways of paperback editions through Goodreads, I created an author blog, and when I review books, I include a paragraph at the end for other writers talking about what they might learn about fiction writing through reading that particular book.

Goodreads also can link to Twitter and Facebook, so every review I do also is posted on those social media platforms, which is nice. Reviews can be automatically posted to the author blog on Goodreads. So, it's another nice way to do one thing and have it appear in multiple places.


Wattpad is a writing social media platform. Many people write chapter-by-chapter and post as they go. Others post finished work one part at a time, which I've been doing with The Awakening since last summer.

I also really enjoy seeing what other writers are doing. The platform skews younger, so for me there's an added advantage in seeing what's engaging to readers and writers in a different age range.

Whether Wattpad helps sales is hard to say, but I don't see much downside to doing it. Once I spent a couple hours setting up my bio and learning the platform, the time commitment became minimal. It takes me only about 10 minutes to post a chapter each week. I usually spend another 10 minutes or so looking around the site and answering any messages.


Instagram is pure fun for me. So far as I know, nothing I do there helps me sell books. I mostly connect with people I already know personally or have met through Facebook.

My oldest niece, who told me about Instagram, once said that she loves it because everyone's happy there. People typically post photos that make them feel good, and there is relatively little in the way of political commentary. I most often post photos of my parakeet or of really nice sunrises or sunsets or beautiful photos of Chicago streets and buildings.

You can put links to websites or products on Instagram and you can buy advertising, but I haven't looked into doing either one. I like having a platform that is just fun.

Instagram does also link to other platforms, so mine was linked to Facebook and Twitter. Recently, though, I had to update my passwords and I actually haven't figured out to how to make that connect again with Facebook and Twitter. Once I do, my Facebook page will have a lot more photos.

I hope this overview has been helpful. Please share in the comments what social media you like and whether you use any platforms I've missed.

Until Friday-


L.M. Lilly

Goodreads For Authors by Michelle Campbell-Scott

This Friday I recommend Goodreads for Authors, a book by Michelle Campbell-Scott. I love Goodreads as both a reader and author because it is all about books and is designed for, and filled with, readers. Step-by-step, Campbell-Scott walks you through how to use the social media platform.

The book tells you how to sign up on Goodreads, add or start a blog there, claim your author profile, review books, meet people, and set up ads, among many other things. If you're already familiar with Goodreads, as I was when I read the book, you can easily skip to the parts you still need to learn. I encourage you not to do that, though, and instead to read the entire book. It's a fast read, and Campbell-Scott is very thorough, so you may discover facets of the platform you missed on your own.

I listened to Goodreads for Authors on Audible. While that worked fine, I wished I'd bought the book instead so I could more easily flip or scroll to review certain sections. Also, there are links and checklists in the book that I would have found easier to use in ebook or paper form. If you're too busy to read another book, though, and might be able to fit it in on audio, definitely do so. You'll still get a lot out of it.

Until Sunday, when I'll do an overview of how I interact on social media as an author–


L. M. Lilly


To Be or To Do: The Oscars, Writing, and Active v. Passive Voice

Last Sunday, I wrote about how vital conflict is to story, and how lack of conflict is usually the reason a novel lags, if it does, or a reader loses interest.

Today, let's talk about keeping your writing interesting on a line-by-line basis. One of the best ways to do that is to use active rather than passive voice.

Here's a quick comparison:

“An evaluation of pluses and minuses was made.”

Puts you to sleep, right? Even though it's only eight words. That's passive voice.

“We weighed the pluses and minuses.”

That's active voice, and it sounds a lot more interesting.

Why is active voice more engaging?

The second sentence, written in active voice, is stronger and more engaging. Here are a few reasons why:

  • People:

Most readers would rather read about people than abstract concepts like “an evaluation.” Even in types of fiction that are about new concepts or advances in technology or dystopian societies, readers choose fiction rather than non-fiction because they want to immerse themselves in stories about people, not simply about a new machine, an evil empire, or a medical advance.

That's why active voice is stronger than passive–it keeps the focus on the actor, making it more personal. If you won an award or a race, don’t you want people to know you won it? And be excited about it?

“I won the race” sounds a lot more exciting than “A race was won” or even “A race was won by me.”

  • Action:

We like to read about people doing something, not sitting there. “An evaluation was made” calls to mind a bunch of businessmen in gray suits boring each other to death around a conference table. I've attended that type of meeting many times and have no desire to sit in on a fictional one.

“We weighed the pluses and minuses” isn't exactly “We saved the world from killer cyborgs,” but it sounds like these people are doing something, not merely sitting. Waving their arms as they argue, maybe, or drawing circles and arrows on white boards, or pulling out a scale. Something.

  • Words (fewer of them):

Active voice also helps you get rid of words you don’t need, so it shortens sentences and makes them easier to read and understand.

The second sentence above is 6 words instead of 8, so it's three-quarters the length of the first. That doesn't seem like much of a difference when you look at one sentence, but it's the difference between an 80,000-word novel and a 60,000-word novel. 

The 60,000 word novel would move faster and provide a more exciting reader experience. Or you could use the extra 20,000 words to expand your plot, deepen your characters, or add a sub-plot.

When should you use passive voice?

There are times, however, when using passive voice is better.

  • Sometimes you want to be anonymous

When the wrong film was announced as the winner for Best Picture at this year's Academy Award ceremony, PricewaterhouseCoopers took responsibility, but used a bit of passive voice, which de-emphasized who made the error:

“We deeply regret the mistakes that were made during the presentation….”

President Ronald Reagan also famously used “mistakes were made” when talking about his role in the Iran-Contra affair.

Who made the mistakes? Perhaps no one will focus on that. Just ignore the man behind the curtain….

  • You don't know who did what

To be fair, PwC may have used the “mistakes were made” type of language in its initial statement out of uncertainty over who specifically caused the mix up. (And it did say “We regret,” which is active voice. Still, you can regret something happened that you had nothing to do with, so we're back to the passive “mistakes were made” phrasing.)

PwC's motives aside, passive voice works well when you don’t know who performed an action: “A tower had been built in the village” might be the only way you can frame a sentence if you don’t know who built the tower.

  • You want to emphasize the object of the sentence

Sometimes the object of the sentence is the point. Above I said “When the wrong film was announced…” to make “wrong film” the focus of the sentence. It didn't matter to me who made the announcement.

Similarly, if you and your friend love a certain dessert, you might say, “Flourless chocolate cake with pineapple sorbet will be served at nine.”

If you're me, you're showing up at nine regardless who is serving the cake.

  • You're not sure which pronoun to use

Sometimes writers use passive voice rather than “he” or “she” if they don't know the gender of the person involved:

“The store was robbed last night.”

You can often refashion the sentence to make it more active, though:

“A thief robbed the store last night.”

Spotting passive voice

The grammar check in whatever word processor you use may highlight passive voice for you. I've heard good things about the site Grammarly, too, though I haven't used it myself.

You can also use the Find function (or your own eyes) to search for “to be” words: was, were, is, are. The word “by” also often signals passive voice (think “was followed by” or “was loved by” or “was won by”).

The rule of thumb

A good rule is to phrase your sentences in active voice unless you have a strong reason to do otherwise. Try it with a chapter of your latest novel or your next email or article and see how much more compelling your writing becomes.

Let me know how it goes!

Until Friday–


L. M. Lilly



The Easy Way To Track Kindle Sales For The Life Of Your Books

This Friday's recommendation is Book Report. If you sell ebooks on Amazon, or you plan to do so, it's a simple way to track sales and earnings over the lifetime of each book.

Without it, you can still easily see 90 days of sales on the Kindle Direct Publishing Dashboard. But the only way to figure out sales and earnings over the entire life of your books is to manually open multiple reports and tally the numbers yourself.

Last October I did that for the first book in my supernatural thriller series, The Awakening. That was tedious and took a long time, though I was happy to learn that I'd sold nearly 10,000 copies. Had I had Book Report, I could have done it for Kindle sales just by clicking a button. Book Report also shows a piechart of sales and earnings per book and by Amazon company (US versus UK versus Canada, etc.).

Here's the pie chart and the percentages by store for my Kindle ebooks. (The Awakening, Book 1, which has been out the longest, is the biggest slice of pie.)

Book Report is available free to anyone earning less than $1,000 per month through KDP. If you earn more than that, first, kudos to you, and second, it will be only $10 a month, but you can try it free for two weeks–without needing to enter credit card information now. Click on this link if you'd like to try it.

I hope that's helpful.

Until Sunday-


L. M. Lilly