April 2015.

How To Launch Your New Book: Everything I Know: Guest Blog, Luther M. Siler

NewRules1

(I’m going to be presenting these as Unquestionable Rules that Must be Followed.  Argue with me anyway.  Sometimes I’m very strident and wrong at the same time, especially if I think a general tone of Absolute Authority is funnier.  I am scheduling this to pop while I’m on the road, so feel free to yell at me in comments.)

So!

You have written a book.  Congratulations!  I am proud of you.  You have done something that you have probably wanted to do for a very long time and that many, many people have tried to do and failed.

Here is what to do next, so that when you publish your book, you have the greatest chance of your book making an impact.  Note my phrasing; it’s intentional: when YOU publish your book.  You’re not submitting your book to an agent or to a publishing company and waiting a year to get a quarter of a sheet of paper in an envelope as a rejection notice.  You’re going to do it yourself.

STEP ONE: THREE OR FOUR YEARS PRIOR TO PUBLICATION.

Have already written and published three other books.  At least.

That’s only sort of a joke.

Understand something: your first book?  No one has heard of you, and no one cares.  Your mom might buy a copy; she won’t read it.  Your dad will pretend to read your mom’s copy, and your little brother will openly laugh at the idea of reading your stupid little story.  Your friends will think you’re joking about this whole “author” thing.  You need to go into your first book expecting that it will sell ten copies and then no one will ever see it again.  Shoot for the stars, but plan to faceplant.  It’s okay if you do!  If I know one thing about writing beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is this:  do not expect instant success, and plan for the long game.  The trick is, once you have a handful of books out and you actually have some fans, the hope is that people will read your new book, like it, then go find the other ones.  Your first book, they read, enjoy, and then forget about you when it takes another six months for #2 to come out.

Alternatively, if this is the first book you’ve published, wait until you’re close to having a second one done before you publish the first, so that you can stagger them four to six months apart.  This doesn’t mean rush through something and make it garbage.  I am assuming you’re good at what you do; you want to give people something new from you without making them wait so long they forget who you are.  The good news about the first book is that no one will be yelling at you to get it finished.

STEP TWO: A YEAR OR SO PRIOR TO PUBLICATION.

Have a presence online.  Again, you want to be able to market to beyond your family and friends, because they don’t believe you yet.  Folk online didn’t know you when you were pooping yourself and have never held your hair back while you puked, so they are more likely to believe you when you give them your word-extrusions and tell them to pay you money for them.  There are a lot of people who will tell you that blogs and Twitter are useless for marketing; in the right circumstances, I’m even one of them.  They are useless for HAY BUY MY BOOK RIGHT NOW COMPLETE STRANGER PERSON.  That’s not going to work. They’re great for building relationships with people, who you can later convert into readers.  Also: Goodreads.  Get a Goodreads account, and start rating what you read.  You’ll need an author picture, too.  Resist the urge to post something from Facebook; if you don’t do an actual sitting for it, at least dress nice and have somebody else take a headshot.

You do read a lot, don’t you?  Start, if you don’t.

STEP THREE: IMMEDIATELY AFTER COMPLETING THE FIRST DRAFT, AT LEAST THREE MONTHS PRIOR TO PUBLICATION.

Find some alpha readers– at least three or four.  Do you have a blog?  Hit up your commenters, the people who seem to actually think you’re entertaining and smart for some reason.  Someone will probably bite.  Note that these folks are alpha readers.  Make sure that they are aware that they’re getting a first draft, and if you can, try and focus what they’re reading for.  In other words, if you want grammar help, mention it.  If you’re curious about whether a subplot is necessary, ask.

It is okay to think that a part of your book is broken and needs help at this point.  If that is the case, say to them “I think part of this book doesn’t work,” but don’t specify what that part is.  See if your readers tell you that that same bit is broken.

Give them at least a month to read through your book.  During that time, under no circumstances are you to read, edit, look at, or even think about your book.  In fact, work on something completely different.

When your alphas come back to you with comments, take them seriously.  Unless they are idiots, and then why did you ask them to be alpha readers?  That was dumb.

STEP FOUR: TWO MONTHS PRIOR TO PUBLICATION.

Get your cover nailed down.  Do not half-step on the cover.  At the very least, head yourself over to SelfPubBookCovers.com and see if something over there works for you.  I wrote an entire story in my first novella specifically so that I could use the cover I chose.  Entertainingly, people regularly tell me it’s their favorite story in the entire collection.

Very important:  Unless your job title is “graphic artist,” do not design your own cover.  You suck at cover design, goddammit, and if your cover sucks no one will read your book.  Get someone who knows what they are doing to design the cover, and yes, this will probably involve spending some money.  Bleed for your art, dammit.

(NOTE: I am literally in pain because of the effort it is taking me to link to terrible book covers by people who were presumably serious in wanting you to read their work.  I don’t want to call anyone out.  But please: don’t do your own cover unless someone else has paid you for graphic art work before.)

This goes for the text on the cover, too.  Shut up, you don’t know how to do it right and it’s going to look stupid.  Get someone who knows what they are doing.

Incidentally, you are getting the cover as early as you can so that you can do a cover reveal on your website or on Twitter, to drum up interest in your book.

STEP FIVE: RIGHT AFTER YOU GET THAT BOOK COVER.

Create a page on Goodreads for your book.  You already have an author account at Goodreads, right?  If not, do that first.  Once you have the cover and the page is done, start regularly pointing people at the page.  You want to get as many people as possible putting that book onto their bookshelves and, hopefully, talking about it.  Hopefully you’ve already got a presence over there and you’ve got people on your friends list.  Go ahead and “recommend” the book to them– but do not overuse this power.  Do it once, right after the book’s page is created, and maybe once more when the book is actually released.  No more than that.

STEP SIX: ONE MONTH AFTER SENDING THE BOOK TO ALPHA READERS.

Reread your book.  Do not read the comments yet.  Just reread your book, taking notes as necessary.

STEP SEVEN: RIGHT AFTER YOU FINISH THAT REREAD.

Read their comments.  Take them seriously.  And take one month to fix the book, based on your own notes and their comments.  Now, this commandment is one that’s going to get me flak because a lot of people’s Process simply doesn’t work like this, but to my mind the second draft should take much less time than the first.  If you need to take longer, fine; adjust the other timeframes as necessary here.  My second drafts are generally lightning quick even when school is in session, so a month is enough time for me.  Your mileage may vary.

STEP EIGHT: ONE MONTH PRIOR TO PUBLICATION.

Send the book to your beta readers.  Ideally, you have a handful more beta readers than you did alphas.  Betas can be the same people as your alphas, but it’s useful to have a few who were not alpha readers.  Make something clear to these people: by this point, the book is done.  They are not reading it to provide you with commentary.  They are there so that there are reviews available on Amazon and on Goodreads for your book on the day of release.  Writing that review– and, critically, being honest about it— is their job.  They are not to point out problems with the book unless it’s something 1) easily fixable and 2) egregious, like, say, claiming that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Tarzan.  (Sigh.)

Make it clear to your beta readers that you want honest reviews– but keep in mind that you get to pick these folk, so choosing people you think are likely to enjoy your work is probably a good idea.  Folk can smell fluff reviews a mile away, and they won’t do you any good at all.

(Note: again, this is variable due to your own process.  I’ve never written anything that needed more than two full drafts.  There are plenty of people massively more successful than me who use many more drafts than that.  Again, adjust other dates as needed.)

(Note also: every ebook should have a page at the back with links to your blog, your Twitter page, and every other book you’ve ever published ever.  Be careful with this, and don’t link to Amazon versions on the edition you’re sending to Smashwords– you can also link to the page on your website that you created for your other books, which is probably safer.)

STEP NINE: TWO WEEKS PRIOR TO PUBLICATION.

Submit your book to Amazon, and to any other service that you can that allows pre-orders.  Amazon, I know, will allow you to set up pre-orders for your book so long as they actually have an uploaded manuscript file for it.  I don’t know off the top of my head if Smashwords does.  Note that you’ll probably need two separate properly formatted files because Smashwords has a couple of specific requirements to them.  KDP Select may also be an option for you if you want your book Amazon-exclusive; that’s up to you.

STEP TEN: DURING THE TWO WEEKS PRIOR TO PUBLICATION.

Several things:

  • Stay in touch with your beta readers.  You want those reviews up and readable by the day the book launches, if not a day or two in advance.
  • Do you have friends who write for different circles of folk than you do?  See if you can get them to interview you about your book on their website.
  • Create a separate page on your site for your book.  Include at least your short pitch and the cover and a link to the pre-order page.
  • Post an excerpt or two.  Note that it’s possible that Amazon might squawk that they found a portion of your book somewhere on the Internet– but when they do this, they seem to be amenable to the answer “Yes, I posted an excerpt to this site.”
  • If you’ve got a blog or a Facebook page, change your header image to part of the cover.  Make sure to include the name of the book, the release date, and where it’s available– and if you can make it a clickable image, that’s good too.
  • Push the pre-orders.  Amazon counts all pre-orders and all first-day sales as sales on the first day, and the higher your search ranking goes on Day 1 the better job Amazon’s algorithms will do in pushing you even higher.  Every pre-sale counts.
  • Work on something else.  Resist the temptation to change the release date because it’s done and you want it out now now now.  That temptation is stupid.   Squash it.
  • Threaten to abandon everyone you’ve ever known and everyone who loves you if they don’t both buy your book and convince a stranger to buy it.
  • How close are you with your local bookstore owner or comic shop?  See if they’ll let you run a little promotion or a flyer or something like that.
  • If you have the resources for print ads of some sort, do it.  Do not pay anyone on Twitter for anything.  Or Facebook.  Facebook advertising is completely useless.

STEP ELEVEN: THE DAY OF PUBLICATION.

Reload the KDP Reports page, over and over, every five minutes, and spend the day crying, giggling maniacally, or both.  Note that it is okay to be a spamming Twitter monster on the day your book is published.   Update folks on sales every hour if you want.  People will forgive you.  Just don’t expect it to last too long.

STEP TWELVE: THE DAY AFTER PUBLICATION.

Continue promotion efforts, but keep in mind that vomiting onto Twitter going ARGLE BLARGLE BLAAH BUY MY BOOK won’t work very often.

And start working on the next book.

The end.

 

twitter

I started using Twitter about a year and a half ago, and at first it was a major learning curve. I’m only allowed 140 characters? What’s a hashtag, and how do you use it? Why would I want to make a list? These were just a few of the questions I had. Now that I’ve been on Twitter for a while, I’ve learned what a valuable tool it can be for self-promotion as an author. So, I’ve made a list of a few tips that have helped me navigate the fast paced world of tweeting.

  1. If you want people to take interest in what you are doing, take interest in what they’re doing. Simple, right? You never know what interesting things you might find of Twitter if you just pay attention.
  2. Don’t spam! (Maybe this should have been my number one point.) Nobody likes the same ‘pitchy’ blurb or ad thrown at them every five minutes. So don’t do it!
  3. Be active. Be interactive. Actually talk to people on Twitter! Most of them are just like you, trying to get their words out there.
  4. Find creative ways to collaborate with people via Twitter. I networked with people to find indie authors/bloggers to guest blog on my website www.katherinedell.com. I sent out a schedule of who and when posts were happening, and in return we all, tweet, retweet and favor each other’s posts. Social networking/Indie author support at it finest!
  5. Use the list function in Twitter. The feed of all the people you follow can get overwhelming. When you make a lists in Twitter, you can categorize the people you follow. For example, I have lists for my guest bloggers, book promoters, etc.
  6. Learn the Twitter language. Use all the @’s, #’s, and shortened url’s to their full potential. You only get 140 characters to get your message out there, so type wisely.
  7. As much as you can, say thank you on Twitter… without it being a canned response. A ‘thanks’ could be one of many things, a follow back, favoring a tweets, or tweeting out something positive about them. Be creative.
  8. Favor, re-tweet and follow back, BUT be selective. My goal is to build a fan base that will buy my book. So I follow back people who write, publish, love to read… you see where I’m going with this. Be consistent.
  9. Set goals. Why are you on Twitter? Are you trying to create a fan base, find a publisher, boosting sales? Create a Twitter strategy that fits your goals.
  10. When your number of Twitter followers gets large, you may want to get an app to help you manage your account. I use Crowdfire. (Previously justunfollow). It allows you to see who unfollows you, who isn’t active, and much more.
  11. Let’s not forget… Tweet something interesting to your readers. This can be difficult to figure out. It took me a while to find my niche.
  12. AND, last but not least… Be genuine. There’s enough fake people in this world, don’t be one of them.

Happy Tweeting Everyone.

Katherine

 

Red dice and playing cards on a casino table

Book Promotion – The Gambler’s Dilemma

I just did a book promotion. I had my book listed in several newsletters. I had some sales, not what I’d hoped, and I saw my book rise to #3 in YA Steampunk and I think #14 in Fairy Tale. The experience was interesting, and I found myself going through some of the thoughts below. The more I thought about it, and had people asking me about how my promo was going, sharing their experiences, the more I realized that there was something I needed to call out, to blog about.

We’ve all heard about the fabled people who made THOUSANDS from a great newsletter. They make it sound like it was simple. I actually know a guy, and I’ve spoken with him face to face and I believe him, who made $18k. It’s not a joke, it’s not an exaggeration, he did. Thing is, it was about a year and a half ago which is eons ago in online marketing terms. Second thing, he’d also sold 90k books over a few years so he had a bit of a name.

There’s a real dark side to all the indie book promo stuff, a dark side that uses our fear of doing something wrong, our hope to succeed and then, our fear of shame, against us. There’s an enormous industry out there that all it does is feed off of prospective writers and indie authors.

“Hey buddy, you got a book? How’d you like to be rich? All you got to do is this…”

Red dice and playing cards on a casino tableWhere we start

You want to promote your book. Maybe you can get on BookBub, the most famous of the newsletters? You look at their website and your imagination goes wild over the stats they have that say how many copies the average book in a particular genre newsletter usually sells. If you got only half of that, or a quarter, you’d be laughing. Before you consider submitting for it, you’ve got to think about price.

First there’s the question of whether or not you offer your book for free or for $0.99, or maybe for $1.99. Sales have crawled to a stop where there seem to be more and more days between them. You’ve got two books, so maybe you decide to go free for one, hoping that the other one will get followup sales. There are a lot of blogs out there that say this is the thing to do. But on the other hand, there are the blogs that say you’ll get a lot of free-hogs, coming in to download your book ONLY because it’s free and not doing anything other than raising your hopes, or potentially leaving you terrible reviews because they didn’t like that your book about fairies had, you know, fairies in it.

You decide that you only people who are willing to actually buy something, to have a level of commitment, and so you set the price at $0.99. You decide to use Amazon Countdown deals, even though that will isolate anyone not in the US or UK because Amazon doesn’t support it. Amazon makes it sound like when you do a Countdown deal that readers are somehow going to be able to find it, that you’ll get some exposure, but you doubt that’s true and yet, even though, you hope. Alternatively, you could go to all the sites you have your book on and set the price to $0.99. It takes some planning and work down ahead of time, and everything’s set.

freshicon_393The Newsletters

You start with the best, BookBub. You fill in the online form and submit your book’s promo. You should get in, you’ve learned since last time, but when the email comes in, they haven’t accepted you. There’s no rhyme or reason given, you’re just not in. That’s okay, there’s a lot of others out there.

You sign up for 8 free newsletters and stop yourself, as you find the audiences are getting smaller and smaller. The last one you filled in had 3000 people and you wonder, from the 1997-esque type of website, really how many of them read it. None of these guys have data to show like BookBub.

You sign up for two paid ones. One’s $10 and the other’s $20. Then there’s that new book startup you heard about on Twitter. You check them out. They want $40 to get into their newsletter, discounted (supposedly) from $100. They have 75k people on their newsletter. Okay, it sounds worthwhile. Then you discover on KBoards that an author you really admire has his pet list of newsletters, and you’re only on one of them. You sign up for them too, another $50.

You realize that you’d planned to spend $50, but now you’re $120. You do the math and figure out how many books you need to sell to break even. It’s more than you’ve ever sold, but it’s okay. It’s possible. All you’d need is 5% of the readers of all these newsletters to buy your book.

Then a website you subscribed to offers ads at a discount, FIFTY PERCENT OFF! You know enough about marketing to know that people usually need to see something several times over before they commit to a buy. The ad’s only $40 and it’s for a whole month. They will have you on their sidebar, shining nice and all pretty for their users. Heck, their name even has Kindle in it, and they seem to have their marketing act together. Okay, feeling a bit guilty, you’re in. $160 spent, but all in all, you figure if you don’t sell, at least you’ll get good exposure.

vector-t-shirt-design-with-dice-on-fire_fJDAYb__The roll of the dice

The date comes up and everything starts. Like an addict, you’re refreshing the stats on Amazon KDP’s site and others to see how the sales are doing. There’s nothing at first, and you realize that everyone’s at work. You’re being an idiot, you need to chill out. You remember that podcast where they said not to do what your doing.

At the end of the first night of the three days, you look at the total with disappointment. Four. Four? Really, four? Well, most of the newsletters are coming in tomorrow, and your books rankings have improved on a couple of sites. You start second guessing the synopsis you used for the ads, the timing. You started it during the week, you’re an idiot, right? Should have had it starting on Saturday, or should you? It’s too late now.

A new follower on Twitter is another newsletter. You can’t help yourself and you click on it. Their site is really good looking and they claim to have a serious number of readers. They also have a Twitter broadcasting service, and in desperation, you sign up for it. You know that you get most of your sales from there, so little extra help should work… though deep down you doubt it.

The second and third days do better, but you’re not near your breakeven mark. What’s worse, you have no way of knowing what newsletter was effective, or was it just you tweeting your heart out? You realized in the final hours that it was pointless posting to the Facebook book promotion groups because new posts show up within seconds of yours, stuffing it way down the list. It’s like zombies jumping on top of each other to get over a wall.

Girl With Her Head In Her Hands Sad And Unhappy About SomethingRemorse

The top spot you got for your book felt good, for a moment, but you slipped back down quickly. The fifty new readers you have will hopefully, one day, move on to your next book. You don’t want to discuss your experience with anyone, and wonder how many other authors feel the same, like there’s a dirty, dark secret to the whole indie thing that no one wants to share. Maybe there’s too much money to be made off of people like you for people to be honest. Maybe your synopsis wasn’t good, or maybe the day was wrong. Maybe you shouldn’t have done the Countdown deal because it was too confusing and none of the newsletters handled that properly, or maybe you went to broad and wide with where your book is. Maybe it was just a bad week, or maybe… maybe you didn’t have the right newsletter. Maybe you should have added those last two you found at the last minute who, for only an extra $10, could have added you in as a Featured Title.

My experience

I didn’t get into Bookbub, and I went with about eight newsletters. One of the newsletters was a startup company but I’d had several interactions with them and thought I’d try them out. All in all, I spent maybe about $90 bucks and sold about 70 copies at $0.99 and a few at the Amazon Countdown stepped up price of $1.99.

The thing is, I know that I had 725 clicks on my own Twitter and Facebook book links. I had pretty good retweet support, no sharing on FB but good sharing on Google+. So did anyone click on the newsletter links? I don’t know. Did I sell most of those or did a particular newsletter do that? I don’t know. All of the newsletters stripped the links I gave, or just asked for the ASIN of the book, so that they could wrap their own associates link around it (i.e. get a commission on any sales). None of them give me any data as to how many people opened the newsletter mine was in, how many clicked on my link. That would at least be something.

My book went up to #3 which was great to see, and because of its existing sales and continued trickle of sales, it’s hovering around #16, moving up and back down and then back up. Here’s the thing, that hope you have as you rocket to the top of a chart if it’ll suddenly catch fire, it didn’t happen. Does that type of thing happen anymore? I don’t know.

Did I make some tactical mistakes? Sure, but figuring out what they really were is something I’ll only figure out through further experimentation. Was an Amazon Countdown deal the right thing to do? I think not, because the newsletters have no support for the idea of price changes. Was it right to charge for my book, rather than give book 1 away for free? I think it was. Should I stay Amazon exclusive? I’ll be blogging about that.

I knew I’d done the wrong thing when I got talked into having some Tweet support for $25. I’d been talking with the owner of the author/reader site for a while and in a moment of weakness, he talked me into adding tweets to my campaign. Now, it wasn’t complete weakness. I paid a very discounted rate to be a member of their site almost a year ago. It was a final opportunity to show me some value, and it failed. Paying that $25 saved me more money.

When I realized I’d paid for the tweeter support, that’s when I started thinking about the whole gambler mentality. If you do nothing, nothing will happen. But if you do something, something will happen. If you do the right things, a LOT of good stuff is supposed to happen… right?

At the end of the day, nothing beats making direct connections with potential readers in social media and in real life. Can newsletters and promos be helpful? Sure, but which ones? And for which genres? And in which months? And… and… and… When is it just rolling the dice?

Check out my books on Amazon

10 Steps To Building And Creating A Following For Your Author Blog By B.K. Raine

Maybe you’ve been writing your blog so long you have weeks of content already planned out. Maybe the promotion is, at this point, practically on auto-pilot. But for those of you that are just getting started or that are struggling to get traction, I’m going to give you the skinny on the 10 things that are working for me.

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1) Take Your Time. Don’t jump the gun when choosing your design. In addition to getting your first blog post up for the world to see, create a few static pages for readers to peruse and learn more about you and your work. I started with About The Book, A Letter From The Author and my Blog. I spent hours making sure my header image displayed properly on every page, that the layout worked with my page titles and that I had three blog entries ready to go before making my site public. I have since added TeasersContact info, and even a Community Story.

2) Content Is King. This is such an oldie, but still a goodie. There is no gimmick or marketing strategy good enough to overcome a content deficit, so spend the time to create good content that will appeal to your target audience. This is an author blog for a dark urban fantasy novel, so my target audience includes other authors, potential readers, and fans of the genre. Therefore I blog about the writing process, marketing, and editing. I also post teasers for BLOOD TOY twice a week and typically one random blog per week about something meaningful to me.

3) Spread The Love. If you write, it is a safe bet you do a lot of reading. If you blog, it is a safe bet you read a lot of other blogs. Those blogs are bound to inspire some of your content and admiration. When that happens, quote (with permission) and/or include a hyperlink within your own posts to the blog that inspired you. Then, and this is the important part, let the author of that blog know you’ve given them a shout-out. At the very least, they will probably wander over to read what you’ve written. If they like, they just might return the favor.

Guest posts are also great way to spread the love. Katherine Dell first reached out to me about guest posts, so I have to give her credit for this idea! I didn’t even know it was a thing, but this is how it works: you reach out to bloggers you like and ask to re-post their content with links back to their site, and offer to let them re-post any of your content they like on their blog. Reblogging gives you access to some great content you didn’t have to agonize over creating and may attract some new followers to your site, while giving the guest blogger access to all of your following. Mutually beneficial. Some bloggers even make it easy with a reblog button on their posts (like the one at the bottom of this one—wink, wink).

4) Be An Extrovert. I know this is not an author’s natural state, but it is essential to getting read. Make sure your sharing settings allow people to like, comment, reblog, and share your posts. Likewise, make sure you site is configured to connect with all of your social media platforms so blogs are auto posted to your Facebook wall, Twitter feed, etc.

5) Be Visual. Include a picture on every blog post. Like a book cover, a picture helps the potential reader decide if they want to read your blog. Be sure you have permission to use every photo and that you provide attribution or image credits if required. This blog has a great list of sites for obtaining pictures and even more recommendations in the comments section. I have it pinned on my bookmarks bar and refer to it frequently. My favorite sites for free pics are morgueFile and Wikipedia Commons but, for cheap stock photos, I use photodune. Note: you will have to manually add pictures to your Twitter posts, but tweets with pics are many more times likely to be re-tweeted ,so its worth the effort.

6) Follow, Follow, Follow. There is no magic metric I know of to build a following. You create a following by being a follower. Just be sure to follow the people you want to follow you—other authors, particularly others in your genre, book bloggers and fans of your genre, popular personalities and the people who follow them. PS.  I wrote at length in this post about how each of the social media platforms (Twitter, FB, etc.) stack up for me in terms of engagement, that is how many of my followers will actually read the stuff I post.

7) Talk To People Not At Them. If you take the time to follow people—especially if they take the time to follow you back—then also take the time to reply, retweet, comment, like their posts. This is especially true on forums. Goodreads.com—especially this group—is a great resource to connect and brainstorm and support other indie authors. But don’t expect to just spam the “Introduce Yourself” thread on a dozen groups and win any friends. Jump into the conversation with a useful opinion, a question, a congratulations, etc. The occasional relevant URL is fine, but no one will thank you for spam.

8) DON’T SPAM. If I see your book promo with the same (expletive deleted) cover and the same (expletive deleted) Amazon link and the same (expletive deleted) 140 character teaser text that was witty the first 150 times I read it, but now makes me want to puke…if I see that one more time, I swear I’m gonna unfriend you. That crap isn’t making anyone want to buy your book. You want to know what makes me want to buy your book?  Besides having a good cover and blurb and being of a subject matter I like to read? Actually liking your spammy *ss. Yeah, if I think you’re cool, then I am likely to think your book might be cool. Spamming the same promo ten times an hour is NOT COOL.

By all means, mention your book in your blogs. I’ve mentioned BLOOD TOY twice in this blog. People that read me know I have a vampire novel called BLOOD TOY coming out this summer. See here, did it again. It’s expected you will make sure people know what the heck you’re building your platform to do, put up some teasers and share your excitement, but beating me over the head with your book promo a couple hundred times a day is not going to sell your book. I promise.

9) Be Authentic. I do marketing and advertising for a living. My day job is why I have a pen name, but it is also why I feel comfortable and qualified to offer advice on those subjects. I have also been writing for a really long time. I have read just about every book there is on self-editing, and I have worked with numerous professional editors both personally (with my writing) and professionally (with my day job), so I feel comfortable and qualified to be offering writerly wisdom as well. I am a mother. I am an adoptive parent. I write vampire novels. I love bad guys and sexual tension. I read a heck of a lot of urban fantasy and erotica. I am therefore comfortable blogging about all of these things. They are authentic to me.

On the other hand, I have a very dear friend who just started out blogging. Her personal experience is very different from mine, but she is working on her debut novel—a psychological thriller that has amazing potential—and has just started building her online presence to promote it. My advice to her was to share feelings and experiences authentic to her on her blog. She has some pretty significant stage fright when it comes to the whole self-publishing process, and rather than pretending they don’t exist, I suggested she embrace them. Her fears make her relatable, someone her readers are going to root for and want to see succeed. I know I do.

10) So above all, whatever you, do BE YOU.

 

Still Alice

Book Review – Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

This book is an amazing work of fiction, depicting the life of a Harvard psychology professor who’s diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The main character, Alice Howland has built up an impressive career for herself, she’s written books, been a keynote speaker at countless events and has mentored many in her field.

I loved the fact that the story was written from the prospective of Alice. It makes the journey from a fully functioning brain to full onset Alzheimer’s that much more vivid. The way Alice describes the daily happenings in her life is spot on to how the disease takes its toll.

This book stirred up some questions in my own life. Such as, if you could be tested for the genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer’s, would you? Two of Alice’s children got the test done, one did not. I think I would group myself with the child who did not get the test. For many reasons, I don’t would not want to know.

I fully understand the ravages of this disease, having seen both my grandfather and father cecum to it. As of yet, there is no cure for it. So I consciously try to live my best life being as healthy and happy as I can, hoping Alzheimer’s is not in my future.

I’m not sure I would recommend this book to a reader who has someone with Alzheimer’s disease in their life. This story is a very real portrayal of the disease. I had to stop reading a few times because it was just so sad.

BUT, for writing a compelling story that needed to be told, I give Still Alice 5 out of 5 stars. But be warned… This story might hit a little too close to home.

 

The Crucial Importance of “Candy Bar” Scenes in Your Writing

By Mike Wells

I recently read through a long thread of comments from a random group of authors talking about their writing process during NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month).  Many of them were lamenting about the same problem, how they had to “slog” or struggle through much of their story to reach those delicious candy bar scenes.

What is a so-called candy bar scene?  It’s not a scene that involves a Snickers or a Kit-Kat, if that’s what you’re thinking.  It’s a scene that “tastes” so good to you, the author, that you just can’t wait to reach that part of the story so you get it all written down.  It’s a juicy scene that you have been looking forward to sharing with readers perhaps ever since you had the idea for the book.

Well, I have some advice for you new writers out there.  EVERY SCENE in your book, from Page 1 to the very end of the story, should be a candy bar scene.

Now, before you raise your hands defensively and say, “No, Mike, that’s just not possible—there are great scenes in every book but there has to be some filler, too, all books have it…”

No, all books don’t have it.  I can open up any of my all-time favorite novels (I’m not going to name them) and turn to ANY page in the story and—voila—I’m smack in the middle in a candy bar scene!  Each and every scene is scrumptious and engaging.  There are no plodding, lackluster, or filler scenes.  This even includes flashbacks and simple scenes that at first glance do not even appear to advance the plot.

If you want to write a truly great book, you must do likewise.  During your writing process, you must, with great care and discipline, eliminate every non-candy bar scene from your story, whether that means cutting the scene out (often the case) or reworking the scene (even more often the case).  If it’s the former, simply muster up your courage and delete that scene.  If it’s the latter, put on your creative thinking cap and dig deeper.  Ask yourself:  why am I not as excited about the scene as I need to be in order to make this into a wonderful book?  Trust me.  If you are not in Candy Bar Mode when you’re writing a scene, the reader won’t be, either.  Your story will drag along at this point, and your reader will have exactly the same feeling of wanting to get past this part and move on to something more interesting as you do.

So, how can you jazz up humdrum scene so that you’re just as fired up about writing it as every other scene in the book?

Unfortunately, there is no simple formula for solving this problem—it’s a creative one.  But I can share a quick example from one of my books to show you how I do it.  In Lust, Money & Murder, there is a section of the story where my hero, Elaine Brogan, graduates from a conservative, all-girls high school and then wins a scholarship to a very liberal, coed college.  When she enters the college as a freshman, she is not only shy and self-conscious around boys, she’s a virgin.  All this makes her feel like a misfit, especially around her sexy, open-minded roommate.

In these pages of the story I decided to summarize, rather than dramatize, how she lost her virginity in a well planned-out way.  It was a few paragraphs long and rather boring to write.  I was clearly not in Candy Bar Mode.  But I went on writing the rest of the story, knowing I would fix it, somehow, on the second draft.

On the next read-through, it became even more obvious that I wasn’t nearly as enthused as I should have been when writing that part of the story—the narrative came across flat.  I thought something needed to be there but I wasn’t sure why.  I first simply decided to cut it, but when I studied the scenes that preceded and followed it, I realized that cutting it would leave a gap.  Many readers would wonder how Elaine made this difficult transition from a conservative, all-girl environment to the liberal, coed one.

I put on my thinking cap and started brainstorming.  I began to imagine, in great detail, how Elaine would lose her virginity…and I realized that this could be funny.  Poor Elaine feels like a social misfit and wants to escape this feeling as soon as possible.   She’s also very pragmatic, a problem-solver.   This was a chance to show more of her character, too.  I decided that she would go out and hunt down three different suitable-seeming guys, and the first two would be disasters but the third one would rise to the occasion, so to speak.  This triggered the analogy of Goldilocks and the Three Bears—the first guy would be too hot, the second guy would be too cold, and the third guy would be just right…or at least he would appear so at first.

Then I started creating these three characters, with the idea that the third and last one—Mr. Just Right (Almost)—would actually turn out to be a sports fanatic who was virtually “pickled in Viagra.”  When he’s on top of Elaine, going at it, he startles her by crying out “Go, Rodriguez, go!” At first she thinks he’s speaking to his own manhood, but she when opens her eyes she sees that he’s watching a basketball game on TV.

By the time I had visualized these few scenes I couldn’t wait to get in front of the computer and write them out.  They were funny and engaging to me.  I was clearly in Candy Bar Mode.  The three paragraphs were expanded to three pages.  It was a solid day’s work, but well worth the effort.  One of the most frequent comments I receive about that book on the social networks is “Go, Rodriguez, go!” with a smiley face tagged on the end.

So, if you want to write a great book, don’t let yourself get away with any non-candy bar scenes.  Be merciless with yourself.  If you’re not fully enthused about any part of your story—and I mean any part—go back and cut it or rework it until you are.

Now I think I’ll go have a Snickers.

I'll meet you there

I’ll Meet You There – By Heather Demetrios

Where do I start with this book? If I could give it more stars than 5 out of 5 I would. From the cover design to every emotion packed chapters, this booked had me up at the wee hours still reading. Now that I have discovered Heather Demetrios writing style, I’m eager to read more of her  books.

So… let me tell you about this book. The story stars off at a high school graduation party in Creek View, California. The typical Creek View girl would have a double wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and a dead end job at a fast food chain to look forward to after graduation but, not Skylar Evans. She has a 4.0 GPA and a full ride to art school come fall. The only thing separating her from her dream of art school, is her reality in Creek View.

Skylar Evens deals with the harsh realities of living below the poverty line, a mother that’s more like a child, a best friend with a baby, and falling in love with a boy who’s just as broken as she is. Through working at the aptly named Paradise Motel, Skyler meets Josh. Josh, has just returned for fighting in Afghanistan, missing a leg from an IED. His PTSD, and her troubles at home, put them both in an isolated state only the other is able to reach.

Their story is a powerful experience of the empathy felt for those we love.

I recommend this book to readers who also like the works of John Green as the style is very similar.

5 out of 5 stars!

 

 

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Walk Away, Cliché

By Christina McMullen

  We’ve all heard them, silly catchphrases, metaphors and old wives’ tales that are meant to make us stop and think. The early bird catches the worm. A penny saved is a penny earned. A stitch in time saves nine.
Okay, funny story about that last one. I never was very good at sewing, so I had no earthly idea what it meant. I thought a stitch in time literally meant a stitch in the fabric of space and time. What nine was it saving? Astronauts, of course. Nine astronauts were lost in space and about to fall into  a black hole,  but some benevolent being stitched it up. Seriously, I am sometimes literal to a fault.
And sometimes I stray off topic. The point is, these phrases are quick ways to convey a point without having to say much. But I think it is time to retire some. Mainly, the ones I hear over and over when I dare complain about writing. And complain I do. Ask my husband. Every book I write is ‘killing me’ or is the ‘absolute worst!’ Fortunately for me, he is a musician and understands where I am coming from. He would never say, for example…

Slow and steady wins the race
I hear this one occasionally when I get bogged down by the fact that I am a slow writer. Let me tell you something. Back in November, I did a 5k. It took me something like 43 minutes to complete. I was slow. I was steady. I did not win the race. In fact, I might have been dead last if it hadn’t been for the fact that there were young children in this race as well. The winner had a time of something obscene like, 17 minutes. As I was plodding along, thinking about the cupcakes* at the finish line, several of these winners ran past, screaming at us slowpokes to get the heck out of their way. By the way, this was, as many 5ks are, a charity event, which was supposed to be fun. Do you know what isn’t fun? Being knocked off course by someone who takes running too seriously.
So no, slow and steady does not win the race. Neither does the promise of cupcakes*. Months of training and a competitive spirit wins the race. I guess, in a way, this is a better phrase. Not for book writing, but marketing for sure. Not that I’m going to win that race either. But hey, cupcakes* are cheap enough that I don’t have to win. Speaking of races…

Life isn’t a race
Wait, what? You just gave me bad advice on how to win the race! As my father (and later Kurt Cobain) used to say, “take your time and hurry up!” Well, which is it? A race or not a race? Here’s the thing: we’re using this one all wrong. Death isn’t the finish line in the race of life. Early retirement? Now were getting a little bit closer. We are all racing toward success. The faster you get there, the faster you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Or cupcakes*, in my case.

Rome wasn’t built in a day
This irks me to no end. Aside from the ‘duh’ factor that any civilization built in a day is probably a cult and a poorly managed one at that, Rome was built by conquering other states and enslaving their people. Again, this one pertains to the speed of my writing, but also to the highs and lows of the book selling process. I realize that you can’t build a city in one day. And you can’t write a novel in one day. Well, I’m sure you could, but you shouldn’t. Not if you want it to be any good. And I certainly am not going to be a success in one day. But Rome wasn’t built by one person either, now was it? Books, especially indie books, are. I didn’t build the world I am writing in one day, but I built it. It is my world and I would like others to see my world and enjoy it. It’s okay to be a little impatient. Just don’t let it overtake you.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy
Okay, show of hands: How many of you just saw Jack Nicholson doing what Jack Nicholson does best?
Actually, there is nothing wrong with this proverb. Everyone needs to realize that sometimes it’s better to punch out and leave the project unfinished instead of wasting countless hours slamming your head against an immovable roadblock. Go home or go to happy hour, just don’t stay in the office, drooling on your keyboard as your brain turns to mush. Go win the race that isn’t life. There may even be cupcakes*.

*Why yes, I am starting my fall doctor’s visit diet. Why do you ask?

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-business-term-retro-typewriter-type-spelling-phrase-giving-vintage-great-concept-inspirational-sales-presentations-image33848211

 

 

 

 

 

The closer I get to publishing my novel, the more I realize how important it is to have a good marketing plan. Some very well written indie books never reach their target audience effectively because they are lacking just that. I’ve come up with a list of ideas to help me promote my book when it’s released. I hope it can be of some benefit to others struggling to get their self-published book out there.

Self-Pub Marketing Ideas:

  1. Word of mouth: Never under estimate this simple form of marketing. Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a book. That’s right, start talking about it when you’re not yet done. Create a buzz!
  2. Get on social medias: It’s never too early to start doing this. I’ve set up separate ‘writer-self’ accounts about a year ago. By the time my book comes out this fall I’ll have had the accounts just under two years, and will have built up an industry specific following. My favorite social medias are Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook. Be sure to research where your target audience spends the most of their time and learn to use their language effectively. Ie: Hashtags #.
  3. Consider writing a blog: The options for writing a blog are endless. You could blog on your own site or for someone else. Finding your blog niche can take a while, but stick with it and you’ll get noticed. Don’t forget to post your blogs via social medias!
  4. Review other indie author books: You review theirs, they might review yours… It’s just good karma. Post your reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Indigo/Chapters, Barnes and Nobel or anywhere books are sold. Don’t forget to link it back to social media or your website.
  5. Get a website: I had mine professional done. If you don’t have they capital for that there are many less expensive options.
  6. Join an online or face to face book club(s): Goodreads has many of these, some specific to indie authors.
  7. Do a blog tour: You can do it on your own blog or hire other blogs to spread the word that your book is out there. Even though I have my own blog, I’ll probably hire out for this. Blog tours that you can hire generally have a greater reach than you might be able to coordinate yourself.
  8. Go to your local libraries: Offer them a few books to put on their shelves. Ask if you could do a book signing. Basically, just talk to them. You might be surprised at the programs they have for Indie authors or just their willingness to help you out.
  9. Have a book launch party: I’m thinking of hosting one at my local community centre. Having it within a few weeks of your book release date will give people a chance to read it and keep the sales momentum going.
  10. Offer free books to reviewers: They’ll have to state on their reviews that they receive a free book for an honest review. The more positive reviews you get, the higher your ratings will get with on-line retailers.
  11. Do book signings: Depending on your budget and book popularity… the skies the limit.
  12. Pay for a professional book review: I’m told, the crème de la crème of book reviewers is Kirkus Reviews. If you want to take your book to the next level, here’s where to start.
  13. Farmer’s markets or craft sales: Depending on your book this might be an avenue for potential sales.
  14. Advertise in community publications: There are so many choices when it comes to advertising. Staying local might be a good advertising avenue for some.
  15. Talk to your local book stores: Not just about putting your book on the shelf, but other opportunities they might have for local authors.
  16. Author/writer events: There are a many of these events where I live that offer sales, networking, and learning opportunities for writers. When Words Collide and Wordfest are just some of the larger events in my area.

 

I hope this list of marketing ideas sparks a passion to tell the world about your book!

Good Luck and Good Writing.

 

Katherine Dell

 

Finish What You Start!

3 Big ‘Don’ts’ to ensure you DO finish your book!

(This post is one for my writer friends…)

Athletics_tracks_finish_line

1) Don’t spend your writing time reading your own work.

I played the piano when I was in middle school.  I never could get the hang of reading sheet music.  I compensated for my shortcoming by pecking my way through a note at a time—memorizing as I went—until I could play an entire song.  When I didn’t want to put myself through the grueling task of deciphering and memorizing a new song, I played one I already knew.  I once played “Für Elise” and “The Rose” every day for a solid week during my one hour allotted practice time. 

I don’t play the piano anymore.

I mention this because I got stuck in a rut a few years ago when I wasn’t quite sure how to end BLOOD TOY.  I didn’t exactly have writers block.  I just had a frayed mess of loose ends and no clue how to tie them up in neat bow by the end of the book.  To alleviate my frustration, I decided to read what I had written to see if inspiration struck.  When none did, I read it again.  And again. 

I told myself I was ‘editing.’  Nope.  I spent more time admiring what I had written than changing it.  I was in ‘reader’ mode.  Not ‘writer’ and certainly not ‘editor’ mode. 

Thankfully, I eventually got sick of reading my own book and starting scouring Amazon for one to help me get back to actually writing one.  That’s when I found 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, by Rachel Aaron. This is a terrific book.  I cannot recommend it enough for improving efficiency. 

My mistake all along was waiting for inspiration to strike me in the first place, when what I needed to do instead was to figure out how I was actually going to end the book, scene by scene, then put pen to paper.  I needed an outline.  A plan.  Sounds simple enough, right?  So why did it take me two years to figure it out? 

2) Don’t wait until your manuscript is perfect to let someone else read it.

While there are plenty of novice authors who have no problem baring their virgin manuscripts on wattpad.com and waiting for the praise (and maybe even those big six deals) to come in, there are many of us that fear letting a single typo out into the world.  So we hoard our story, rewriting, revising and tweaking until, if we are wise, we eventually let it find its way to beta readers, editors and fans.

There are two big risks in this practice.  The first is the very real possibility of spending so much time with your work before letting it go that you can no longer find fault in anything.  This will inevitably lead to heartache when your editor advises you to cut that favorite sentence or chapter.  Don’t even think it won’t happen to you.  When it comes to editing, nothing is sacred. I once had an editor mark out an entire chapter—one red line through the center of ten pages—with only this criticism for explanation: Well, Bippity Boppity Boo!

On the other hand, you just might, like me, fine tune your work to the point that you despise every single word of it, scrap it entirely, and start over.  I did that three times with BLOOD TOY.

3) Don’t put off writing any scene for later.

The first time I wrote BLOOD TOY, I immediately wrote the next three installments in the series, hoping to get them all finished before I started college.  I set a deadline for each book, and I meant to stick to the schedule.  When I got behind on the third, I skipped ahead to the fourth, meaning to make up some time and come back to it later. I was writing eighteen hours a day that summer, living off of Maxwell House and Jelly Bellies.  It wasn’t until I came to the missing chapters during self-edit (I had allowed myself a meager 5 days per book) that I realized I had not actually finished Book 3 at all. 

While you will probably never find yourself putting off—and then forgetting—entire chapters, procrastination on any scale is a bad idea.  Why you are procrastinating is probably the most important thing you can ask yourself.  In 2K to 10K., the author asserts that if you don’t want to write something, chances are your audience will not want to read it.  That concept was no less than an epiphany to me. 

I was once again putting off my last three chapters, this time not to satisfy some arbitrary timeline, but because 1) I did not have an outline to guide me through them—and there were frankly too many loose ends to tie up by the seat of my pants—and 2) the ending I was thinking of writing bored the crap out of me.  The solution was really very simple:  Stop putting off writing something I didn’t want to write, and start actually writing something I did. 

What came out of that resolution not only changed the ending to BLOOD TOY completely, but improved my whole novel from start to finish.  In order to make the new ending plausible, I had to revise Diane’s character arc throughout, creating a much stronger protagonist. 

Chances are if you are putting off writing something, you need to ask yourself a few tough questions before you write it anyway.

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