Ask An Author

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The first Friday this month happens to fall on the first. It just so happens to also be time for another Ask the Author, the feature that puts the author in authoritative.


phpXT7GODPMMay’s featured author is none other than Charles E. Yallowitz, author of the Legends of Windemere. He also happens to be one of the first authors I followed when I started my blog back in 2013.

Back then he had two books published in his fantasy series. Now he’s up to number seven in just over two years! He makes it seem easy, doesn’t he, but planning and writing a series is hard work. Have no fear, because Charles has plenty of advice about planning, writing, and marketing a series whether your series consist of three or twenty books.


Creating and Marketing a Series

may5The Legends of Windemere series is a fantasy adventure that currently has 7 books out and is planned for 15 overall. I believe this is where people groan or run away because long series seem to scare many readers and writers. Well, they are a big challenge and I’m here to give some advice on how to create and market a long series.  (Note: All advice is personal opinion and can be discarded as the ravings of a madman that needs to get out more.)

Planning a Series

First, I’m going to talk a little about planning. I use a lot of notes and outlines to keep my series going smoothly. For Legends of Windemere, I’ve had all 15 books outlined since I finished writing the third one. This helps me create foreshadowing and get a sense of where I want the long term storylines to go. A full outline isn’t even necessary if you want to dive into the writing immediately. Maybe you only need a page of notes about what you want to happen later on or a few future events that you’re heading for. To be honest, mine tend to get changed as I go and I have to rewrite the next outline after every book I write. Still the meat of the story is there and that’s what I use to help me guide my characters to their various destinations. The truth is that every author has his or her own system of organization. Detailed outlines and character bios work for me, but there are those who create great stories out of a trio of Post-It notes.

One of the biggest challenges for a series author is continuity. You need to make sure the rules and details remain the same throughout the adventure. This is where character bios and outlines can come in handy. Even if you don’t do a full outline, future installments can be helped by jotting down important information as you move along. Take a little time to review what you wrote every night and list whatever you think you won’t remember. For example, I kept forgetting character eye colors early on and one of my heroes abruptly changed from green to blue for some reason. I had to keep a note by my laptop for a few chapters to make sure I remembered. Eventually, it locked in and then I did the genius maneuver of having something change his eye color to brown. Worked for the story, but it was one of the spontaneous decisions that caused a few stumbles in the next book. A common question in regards to planning a series is the following:

How Long Should Your Series Be?

The answer is as long as it has to be. You might be scared of readers dropping out before the end, but that happens with trilogies too. Yes, the longer the series, the higher the chance of a reader walking away. So the author has to decide if they’re writing to tell the story they want to tell or the story that they think will sell better. These are not always the same thing. I can only speak from my personal experience and I will say that I couldn’t do Legends of Windemere in less than 15 books. It used to be 12 and then I realized that there were characters whose stories weren’t being told. I write using an ensemble cast, which means I want each hero and villain to get a story to shine in. Many of them can do this within the original stories, but I had those that needed something more to evolve. Do I regret doing a series this long, which nets me a few complaints? No. I’m happy with the adventures I’m telling and that should be one of the author’s main goals. If you’re enjoying what you write then it will come through your words and draw in the reader.

Marketing a Series

A brief mention of marketing since this is an area that many authors are concerned with. I’ve found that later books in a lengthy series will not have the same impact as the earlier ones. Not unless you have a massive support system and fan following. The reason for this is because you have people going in and out of the series all the time. A person drops out after Book 3 while another picks up Book 1, but you only see how there are fewer sales for Book 4. It took me some time to realize this and then I aimed more for continuous sales across the board instead of major sales of the most recent. So I do the big marketing things on either most recent book or the first one, Beginning of a Hero. I try to do a little for the middle books too, but you’re going to see a wide variety of sale numbers in there. It’s the nature of the series beast and all you can do is keep pushing on.

Tweets, blogging, guest posts, interviews, various chat platforms, and helping to promote other authors are where you will find most of your marketing power. (Note on that last one: Reciprocation is a great thing. I’m a big believer of helping those who help me.)

All of what I said might seem like an overview and oddly brief considering a big series is a major undertaking. Well, you would be right because all another author needs in terms of advice here are the basics. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that every author, actually artist, has his or her own methods. My series is long because I focus a lot on character development, but it would be shorter if I was more concerned with the main plot. That’s just my way and it took quite a few years for me to realize that along with my specific style. So I give advice and add that this is my personal experience.

Now, is writing a long series a thing for everyone? No because it’s a lot of work and dedication with a high risk of writing yourself into a corner. Still I say follow the story and your gut. If it says a 10 book series then go along with it until you finish or find that it might work better as 5. You can always rewrite the outline.


51WkCW8ZDoL__UY250_To connect with Charles and to learn more about the world of Windemere, check out his author website and blog.

You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Check out his Amazon author page here to purchase his current novels as well as learn about future projects.

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

Ask an Author Call Out

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Attention all writers,

Are you interested in sharing your writing wisdom with others?

Would you like free promotion for your books?

If you haven’t already, check out Ask an Author, the monthly guest feature that puts the author in authoritative.

Jan

Feb

March’s featured author will be Kylie Betzner, author of “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other.”

I still have many openings for the rest of the year, and I’d love to feature you.

What is Ask an Author, and Who can be Featured?

I am looking for published authors (Indie or traditional) who are interested in being interviewed. Ask an Author is sort of like an author interview, only instead of a list of questions, you only answer one, which will be tailored to your particular strengths or interest as a writer.

What will the Feature Include

  • a brief bio
  • the question
  • photos and/or videos
  • links to author websites, social media platforms, Amazon and other sites where your book can be purchased, etc.

How to be Featured

  • email me at tbetzner@outlook.com
  • include your name, genre you write, titles of books you’ve written, a brief bio, and links to your blog, social media platforms, author site, and where your books can be purchased.

I will try to get back with you within 24 hours. From there, we’ll communicate via email unless you have a preferred means. Once I have all the information I need, I’ll let you know what month you will be featured.

Ask an Author

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If you have a question about writing, the right person to ask is another writer. Once a month I’ll be featuring writers who put the author in authoritative.


book-photo-nr-500My first author is writer, avid reader, and blogger Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series, and children’s books, all of which have repeatedly reached #1 on Amazon. : )

My sister and I have asked Nicholas for advice many times, so naturally he was the first person I contacted to share advice with my readers.

Nicholas is an author who is always eager to give free advice, encouragement, and books–that’s right books. I noticed Nicholas has a lot of success with giveaways and special offers, so I asked him to share the benefits of giving away books for free.


Just Give it Away: Does Free Work?

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

From timashton.org.uk

I keep reading contradictory information on this. One of my blogging friends, Jack Eason, complains that it attracts trolls. Effrosyni Moschoudi – and many others – have told me that free doesn’t work – in the sense that it fails to generate subsequent sales.

So, does free work?

Quick answer: yes and no. It does as part of an overall strategy, and it can do wonders to put a new author on the map. However, it can be ineffective or even counterproductive if not used properly.

For New Authors

As I explain on my A-Z guide: How both my books reached #1 on Amazon, free books can be used to build a fan base. New authors keen to build their brand have used free to great effect. This can be done in innovative ways, like Matt Mason did with Pirate’s Dilemma, which he distributed via BitTorrent. As he puts it, getting your book in front of 160 million users is usually a good thing.

It has also been used in extremely creative ways by authors like Ksenia Anske, author of the Siren Suicides. Readers are encouraged to pay through a virtual tip jar if they enjoyed the book. In a fascinating recent blog post titled I give my books away for free: here are my sales numbers, she announced that she has made $4,000 in little over six months that way. Her books were downloaded 1,600 times within the last 6 weeks. She also used her newly found fame as an author to raise money through Kickstarter, raising an extra $3,000.

What about the Rest of us?

I was reading a great post on how to monetize free, at the Author Marketing Experts blog. Penny, its author, was explaining how free stuff can help you sell more of the paid merchandise, but you have to be careful, because some people just want freebies. That’s fine, of course, but they are not your customers. She offers some helpful tips to help us maximize the use of free:

  • Why free? You need to be clear as to why you are doing this. Unless you’re a charity, free content should be offered to make sales down the line. This can be done by helping build an email list, raise awareness, build your brand, or get new people into your marketing funnel.
From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

From adamhcohen.com

  • What sort of free? Once you’ve figured out why you want to give away something, you can choose the what. For years, I’ve been giving away my Greek translation of the Tao Te Ching. I set up a virtual tip jar and waited to see what would happen. Four years and 7,000 downloads later, only one person had tipped – 10 bucks. Only ten people had actually thanked me for my work, despite me having a link saying “if you don’t want to pay, that’s fine, a simple thank you would suffice.”Then, a few months ago I decided enough was enough, and set up a mechanism to ask for people’s emails before they can download the file. The book is still free, but I also link to a print version on Createspace. Downloads have plummeted from thirty a day to just a couple, but last month I made more from selling the print copy that I had from tips during the past four years. I also have collected hundreds of emails from people who are genuinely interested in my message.In my book (pun intended), that’s a win. 🙂
  • Make sure it’s really free and worthwhile: A lot of people have content that is purported to be free when it’s not really free. For example, they will give away only a portion of their book, but  you have to pay to read the juicy parts. This is a big no-no. If you give something away, make sure it’s something really valuable. Virtually any electronic product is easy to create and deliver, so put your best foot forward. After all, this is what you will judged by.
  • Take names: One thing I learnt from my Tao Te Ching experience: You should never give free away without asking for an email address. I see people do this all the time; they have a ton of free stuff but never collect emails. If that’s the case, the freebies you are offering may be of great value to your end user, but they won’t matter to your marketing. Get emails. Ask for reviews. It’s called an ethical bribe. You get something (their email) and give them something (the free stuff).
  • Make it easy to download: Don’t make free difficult. It should be easy to get your free stuff. If people have to jump through hoops, they won’t do it and the free stuff won’t matter. For example – put your free stuff on your home page. Add links to it on the sidebar. Remind people at the end of your posts.Accordingly, when you ask for people’s email, make it easy. A simple click or two is all it should take. Don’t ask for too much information. If you ask me for my address, birthday, and whatnot I doubt I will want your free stuff that badly. Shorten the staircase. If you make it complicated, it’s not really free, it’s bait. And people will call you out for it.
  • Make the free stuff work for you: If you give away something, make sure that it works for you. Add links to your other books. Ask for a review at the end. Encourage people to follow your blog, Facebook or twitterfeed. Every giveaway should include a call to action. You are collecting names and email addresses and building your list, and that’s great. But what do you really want people to do? Define what you want them to do, and then include your call to action in the free stuff. You can also offer specials and change these periodically in the giveaway.
  • Follow up! The best kind of free stuff is, as Penny points out, the gift that keeps giving. If you are collecting names and then never contacting your prospects again, what’s the point? People need to be reminded, and reminded again.The real key here is that free stuff can work well for you in so many ways, but free stuff without a goal is just free. Great to get free stuff, right? But then how is all of this hard work going to pay off for you?
  • Will it slow down my sales? This is probably the most common question I’m asked on the subject. On my blog, I link to the free copy of Pearseus: Schism on Goodreads. Surprisingly enough, sales of the book on Amazon have increased since doing this. So, in my experience, free does not slow down sales.

If you still aren’t a believer of free, try it for 90 days and see what happens. If you do it right, free can monetize your audience like nothing else will. The biggest reason is that in an age of pushing things on consumers, your audience really wants to sample what you have to offer before they buy. Free is a great way to do that. It’s also a great way to stay in front of your audience, build trust, and develop a loyal following. But it has to be planned carefully, or it will be an ineffective tool at best.


7182i2gWs2L__SL1500_Speaking of free, check out Nicholas’ children’s book, Runaway Smile on his blog or you can purchase it from Amazon. I’m definitely getting a copy for my son–this would be right up his alley.

If you liked his advice about book giveaways, there’s plenty more on his blog. You can connect with Nicholas here and learn more about Runaway Smile and his other books on Amazon.

Join me again in February for more awesome author advice!

Authors, be Featured on Write of Passage

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photo provided by flickr

photo provided by flickr

Attention all writers, I would like to promote you and your books.

Via Twitter and WordPress, I’ve met many wonderful writers. I tend to follow people who are engaged and offer writing and publishing advice. I’ve learned so much, and I’d like for you to share your writing wisdom with my readers. So I’m starting a new feature called, Ask an Author. Some of you may have already received a personal request in your email to take part in this feature. If you haven’t, don’t worry, it’s not that I don’t want to interview you, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Keeping track of over a thousand people can be challenging, if you know what I mean. I thought it might be easier to send a shout out.

What is Ask an Author, and Who can be Featured?

I am looking for published authors (Indie or traditional) who are interested in being interviewed. Ask an Author will be a monthly feature. It’s sort of like an author interview, only instead of a list of questions, you only answer one, which will be tailored to your particular strengths or interest as a writer. The goal of the question is for you to discuss something that you are an expert, or semi-expert, in order to help other writers. For example, if you’re social media savvy, your question would probably be social media related.

What will the Feature Include

  • a brief bio
  • the question
  • photos and/or videos
  • links to author websites, social media platforms, amazon and other sites where your book can be purchased, etc.

How to be Featured

  • email me at tbetzner@outlook.com
  • include your name, genre you write, titles of books you’ve written, a brief bio, and links to your blog, social media platforms, author site, and where your books can be purchased.

I will try to get back with you within 24 hours. From there, we’ll communicate via email unless you have a preferred means. Once I have all the information I need, I’ll let you know what month you will be featured.