Back to the Beginning

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What’s worse than starting at the beginning? Starting all over again.

Beginnings are hard, usually because they start at the ending of something else.

This year marks the beginning of my 30’s and the end of my 20’s. My original goal was to publish a book by the time I turned 30, but alas, I am only starting–or rather starting over yet again.

How could I not finish a book in a decade? Well, I did, actually. I completed a draft for book one and two. I spent hours outlining, researching, writing, re-writing, falling in and filling in plotholes.

So why is there not a completed MS?

I believe your twenties are for discovery and learning.

What I discovered: There were a lot of plot holes in my writing.

What I learned: This story was good but it could be better. I also discovered that my major supporting character should really be my main character. That changes everything.

So after starting all over on the outline, yet again, I finally began the first chapter for hopefully the last time.

So I didn’t accomplish my original goal. I thought I’d be finished by now, not starting over. I didn’t publish, but I did accomplish something. With diligent research and outlining and planning, I think I will be able to write the best book I possibly can by the time I’m 40.

 

Are You Going to Read Go Set A Watchman?

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Harper Lee is no longer a one-hit wonder. Fifty years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, the long-anticipated sequel Go Set a Watchman is available in bookstores.

Was the fifty-year wait worth it? So far, the book has received mixed feelings from critics and readers alike.

The sequel has been labeled a poor stand-alone, that it would not have even been published if not for TKAM. On the flipside, it’s also been  praised for being more ambitious.

I’m not in a hurry to read it, but I want to know your thoughts. Please take the poll or comment below. Let me know what you think.

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.

So, Real World, We Meet Again

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I live in the real world: escape to imaginary ones–or at least that’s what it says on my twitter profile anyway. Recently I’ve spent more time in the real world than my imaginary one, which feels like being far from home. One world is filled with magic, suspense, romance, epicness, and awesomeness. The other . . . 40-hour work weeks, bills, lawyers, and other fun adult stuff. Guess which one I live in . . .

Due to the demands of the real world, I’ve either been too busy or too tired, or often a little of both to write. After working all day, running errands, paying bills, and dealing with lawyers, let’s just say I’m not in the mood to write–I could, however, go for a nap. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing with my free time which used to be writing time.

Life is hard, but you don’t have to adult hard. For the record, I’m not telling you to de-evolve into a state of pre-adolescence. I do not condone shirking duties, skipping work, or neglecting pets and children. Functioning in the real world is about finding things that help you cope with your problems, not finding ways to avoid them.

Writing is one way I escape from life, but since I’m not doing much of that, these are the ways I’ve been coping.

Adult like a Child

To clarify, there is a difference between being immature and childlike. I can watch cartoons while eating marshmallow cereal all I want as long as I complete my adult duties. I like to think I’m childlike because I’m positive, enjoy simple pleasures, and because I like things that are considered a little out of my age level. But I am unquestionably an adult. To be frank, I get shit done, but I make it as painless as possible.

  • I write grocery and to-do list on Frozen and Dr. Suess stationary with a pen shaped like a squirrel.
  • I store my documents for my lawyer in a folder with a picture of Tinker Bell and Periwinkle.
  • I have reusable grocery bags with Disney characters on them
  • I keep an owl stress ball that lights up at my desk
  • I mail bills with fun stamps and return address labels with flamingos on them.
  • I write “Lannisters always pay their debts” on all of my checks and money orders.
  • When I leave the office I leave a note on my desktop that says “I’m Going on an Adventure!”

Those are just some of the ways I take the edge off of doing adult task.

The Wonderful World of Disney

03bIf I can’t escape to the worlds I created, I’m going to escape to the wonderful world of Disney. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Disney movies. I grew up with these movies, but I never grew out of them.

Even if I didn’t have a six-year old son, I’d still go to the theaters with my sister to watch the latest movie. It’s not that I don’t like movies made for adults, I just don’t have the focus or energy to enjoy them or their real-world themes.

I don’t know if it’s the music or the colors, but I don’t think about my worries while I’m watching Disney movies. Not that animated characters don’t have their problems, but it’s pretty bad when you’re watching a movie and you’d trade your own problems for theirs. Save China, unite two nations, become king, free a genie, that’s nothing. Try getting my ex to pay child support.

Power Nap

catI’ve always thought the term power nap was an oxymoron. There is nothing powerful about napping. You just lay there like road kill or a potato. I’m not gonna lie, right now I need about two to three naps a day. I can’t say that I feel more rested, but I do feel less stressed, especially since I don’t nap alone. It doesn’t matter when or how often I sleep, this cat always sleeps with me, beside me, on me, under the covers, on my pillow, but always with me like a stuffed animal or a possessive boyfriend.

Music, Music, Music

frozen-meme13-1I love music. I find singing and listening to music in general to be very therapeutic. In my office, while I’m marketing, during the drive to and from work, and while I’m writing, I listen to music. My favorite music source is Pandora. My favorite stations right now are my Irish music stations, my Ellie Goulding station, and not one, but two Disney stations. Yes, I’m a little obsessed with Disney if you haven’t gathered.

Singing is stress relieving, and it’s ten times more fun when you’re belting out “Let it Go” or “I’ll make a man out of you.” Since I grew up watching these movies, I know the words by heart. It’s super nostalgic to sing “Colors of the Wind” remembering when I used to sing it while running barefoot in my back yard. Life was simpler then.

Speaking of Letting it Go . . .

Part of being an adult is making your own choices and forming your own identity. I use to worry about being judged, and so I hid a lot about what made me well, me. Elsa-image-elsa-36809047-160-200

  • Don’t tell people you like Tolkien and fantasy. They’ll think you’re a nerd.
  • Don’t tell people you write. They’ll think you’re weird.
  • Don’t buy that Frozen merchandise. It’s for kids.
  • Don’t decorate your bathroom in owls. It’s not sophisticated.
  • Don’t put toys on your workstation. It’s not professional.

Now I don’t care what others think. I don’t have time for that. I’m 28 years old, and I have a lego Legolas at my work desk, tons of Frozen stuff (I have Frozen fever), I eat Disney princess gummies and children’s cereal, and watch cartoons. I’m not immature. On the contrary, I’m a very responsible adult. I take care of my son and help out my mom, I pay all of my bills on time, and I work hard at my job. So if I come home and snuggle with a cat on a bed that has owl pillows, that’s my prerogative.

I think we all hit this point from time to time, where our real life demands as much if not more from us than our writing. I’ve got a lot to get done before I can give my full attention to writing. Of course, I’m dreading starting again after a lapse; however, I will get back in the saddle–or for those of you who have never fallen off a horse–back on the bike. I guess my advice is don’t lose connection with the real world, but likewise, don’t lose connection with the ones you create.

And speaking of losing connection, I don’t want to lose contact with my wonderful followers. Tell me, how do you cope with the real world?

Ask An Author

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If you have a question about writing, the right person to ask is another writer. It’s March already, which means it’s time for Ask an Author: the guest feature that puts the author in authoritative.


54d25dc9b6577.image March’s featured author is Kylie Betzner, author of comedic fantasy, reader, blogger, coffee lover, and my very own twin sister. For the record, I’m not featuring her because she’s family. I like to consider myself more objective than that. My sister and I give each other advice on everything: hair, clothes, dating, etc. It just so happens, she also has a lot of advice about writing, mainly how to work on multiple projects simultaneously. If I were to consult anyone on this subject, it would be her. While she worked on her debut novel, “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other.” she was also drafting books one, two, and three of her upcoming fantasy parody (tentative release in 2015). I like to think of balancing writing projects as cooking food on multiple burners, but she has her own spin. Enjoy!


The Book Factory: How to Manage Multiple Writing Projects

huge_7_36918Writers often have more than one writing project going on at once, whether we plan to or not. It can’t be helped. Our busy minds are constantly churning out new ideas and finding inspiration just about anywhere. And sometimes we just can’t wait to finish one project before tinkering with the next. I know I’m guilty of it. I’m sure you are as well. I’m not here to tell you to stop. I’m here to give you some advice on how to successfully manage multiple writing projects.

Now before we start, I just want to make one thing clear: I am not an expert; I’m a published author. I’m only sharing with you a system that works for me and some advice to make it your own. Take or leave what you will. Keep in mind the purpose of Ask and Author is for authors to share their best practices with their fellow writers. And because juggling multiple projects is something I do well, my sister requested for me to speak on this subject.

So what makes me such a successful juggler? For starters, I’ve got this great metaphor that really helps me keep things in perspective. I refer to it as “the book factory.” I know what you’re thinking: that’s a cold comparison. But the end goal is the same—to put out a product that is suitable for public consumption. And in the same way that a product—say an automobile—is manufactured on the production line through a series of sequential operations, a novel undergoes the various stages of the writing process: planning, drafting, editing, and publishing. To keep all of my projects moving forward, I try to put one project on the belt at a time and let it reach the next stage before I start the next, and so on and so forth until I have a never-ending line of projects in the works.

The key is balance, and for me it’s keeping all projects at various stages. Think about it. You wouldn’t want to have two or three projects in the editing stages; your editors would kill you! And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how exhausting it is to draft more than one novel at the same time. What’s worked best for me is having one project in each stage. While I’m drafting one novel, I’m editing another, all while simultaneously planning the next. This keeps things moving forward, so when I finish the edits on one book and begin the publishing process, I’ve already got a finished draft ready to be edited and a new one to start.

Are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry, that’s normal when tackling multiple projects. Here’s some advice to make juggling multiple projects more doable:

Allot a Specific Block of Time for Each Project Every Day

For those of us with short attention spans or limited free time, this method works well. For example, I drive approximately one hour to and from work each day. I might allot this time to brainstorming my upcoming projects. I have a half hour lunch each day during which I could dedicate to drafting a scene from my work in progress. This would leave me several hours in the evening to complete edits on my most advanced project.

My suggestion if you choose to try this method: schedule the time slots according to your energy level. I am most alert in the evenings after a quick power nap. That’s why I tackle the most difficult tasks then. If you’re a morning person consider drafting or editing after breakfast.

You might also schedule at least an hour for each task but no more than two or three. It’s not about spending a lot of time on a task but making use of the time you have.

Schedule Each Project for a Different Day of the Week

 Instead of trying to tackle multiple projects every day try spreading them out throughout the week. For example, I have three projects going on right now: one in the editing phase, one in the drafting phase, and one in the planning phase. And might I add I have a published work that needs some attention in regards to marketing. You have to factor that in, too. So here’s an example of how my week might work: Monday and Wednesday I might devote some time to marketing my published work. Tuesday and Thursday I might work on drafting my novel. Saturdays and Sundays might be good editing days, while Fridays, being lazy days, might be ideal for brainstorming new ideas.

My suggestion would be to keep a calendar, whether on hand or electronically. Myself, I keep a Google calendar.

Work on One Project at a Time for a Fixed Number of Days

 For those of us who would prefer to focus on one project at a time, there’s an option. Choose your most pressing project to work on first and dedicate a certain number of days to work on it. Maybe one week, two weeks, an entire month, whatever works best for you and then spend a certain number of hours each day focusing solely on that project—no tinkering in other projects. Then, when that time is up move on to the next project. You don’t have to give each project the same amount of days. Planning a new project might only take a week while drafting and editing might require at least two. Don’t expect to finish each project during that time. And remember, you’re not giving up on it, you’re only setting it aside.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you stick to it. Falling behind on one or more projects is a good way to back up your line and ensure that none of your projects get done. And there’s no shame in reducing your work load if you discover it’s too much. One of the keys to successfully managing multiple projects is to be realistic about how many projects you can handle.


 

untitledFor more advice from my sister, or to learn more about her recent and upcoming projects, please visit her blog here.

or follow her on Twitter @kbbetzner

You can find her debut novel on Amazon. Also, don’t forget to stay tuned for news on her upcoming projects.

Join me again in April for another awesome author!


 

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.

Tuesday Tip

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Its vary important to spell write.

See what I did there?

I bet you can tell what today’s tip is about just from that example. You might think spell check has you covered, but it’s not full proof. Word processors can miss–even introduce–errors.

Identifying Airers Errors

The best way to identify spelling errors is the standard read-aloud method. That’s right, nothing fancy. Just read your manuscript very slowly and  highlight every word you aren’t sure of. It also helps to read backwards. Why? Because when you read, your brain will auto correct many errors. But if you read backwards, the sentence loses meaning, allowing you to notice mistakes.

Share your writing with others. If you’re afraid of the shame and humiliation that comes with sharing your writing, imagine how much more humiliating it will be when readers, not beta readers, find errors after purchasing your book. If you think they’ll be understanding, read some reviews where readers have caught misspelled words. A simple human error can be jarring to a reader, causing them to question you as a writer or even leave a scathing review.

If you think I’m being dramatic, go check out some reviews. Some reviewers even list the page numbers where they found the mistakes. That’s just pretentious if you ask me.

Like spell check, people can introduce errors into your work as well. So why let others read it? It’s not that other people are necessarily better spellers than you. However, they aren’t as close to the work and therefore won’t be as likely to correct words in their heads. Trust me, they will do a better job than your handy-dandy spell check.

Online Spell Checkers

There are a lot of free spell checkers online. I’d include some links, but all you have to do is perform a Google search. Some of these even check for grammar.

Though not free, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Grammarly. Not only does it check for spelling errors, but it checks for plagiarism as well. To be honest, if you’re going to spend the money for an online grammar checker, you might as well hire an editor.

Spelling Names

Another reason not to rely solely on spell check: spell check will assume every name in your book is a misspelled word. If you write fantasy, you know what I’m talking about. Here are a list of names my spell checker flags: Bronwyn, Ashby, Gailodyn, Thaolas, and Thanduryn. Instead of clicking ignore over and over again while running spell check, add your names to your spell checker dictionary.

Before you do that you need to make sure you choose one spelling to adhere to. My sister is bad about this. She’ll dabble with the spelling of a name, changing it midway through her rough draft. Once you choose a name, you can use the search replace feature to correct the spelling.

Create a Style Guide

The easiest way to keep names straight is to keep a list. When I was a copy editor, I recorded every name that appeared in the story in an alphabetized list. Whenever the name appeared again, I checked it against the list to make sure it was spelled the same. If not, I asked the author which spelling they preferred.

Commonly Confused Words

Some spelling problems you’ll encounter in your WIP aren’t so much misspelled as misused. Has your character ever walked threw something he should have walked through or spoken allowd when he should have spoken aloud? Below are some commonly confused words.

  • accept/except
  • aloud/allowed
  • affect/effect
  • allusion/illusion
  • all ready/already
  • altogether/all together
  • capital/capitol
  • cite/sight/site
  • elicit/illicit
  • complement/compliment
  • lose/loose
  • past/passed
  • principal/principle
  • council/counsel
  • then/than
  • they’re/there/their
  • to/too/two
  • through/thorough/threw

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and happy editing.

How to REALLY Sell using Social Media

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I posted a poll last Friday to get some feedback on whether or not social media sells. I want to thank all of you who took the time to answer the poll and supply comments. You’ve really helped my little study.

The Results are In

After gathering, calculating, weighing, studying, and cross-examining the data and other scientific mumbo jumbo, I’ve found the following to be possible truths.

  • Social media has and can be used to make direct sales
  • People do purchase books directly from social media
  • Based on the poll, most books were purchased because of a blog post (whether an author’s own blog, guest blog, re-blog, or author interview)
  • Most sales made via Twitter were made from re-tweets or tweets made by those other than the author
  • Goodreads and Facebook ranked lowest on the poll
  • Readers are more likely to purchase a book if they know the author
  • Readers are more likely to purchase a book if it is referred to them in some way

What I’ve Concluded from this Study:

If authors need social media, but social media does not sell, perhaps the problem is not social media, but who we are trying to sell too and how we are trying to sell. Make sense? All I’m saying is the problem doesn’t seem to be the platform, but how we are using it. There are countless articles online that suggest social media is not a tool nor can it be used to make sales. This may or may not be true. Based on the information I’ve gathered, here’s my plan to increase sales using social media.

  • Gain a good following (quality over quantity)
  • Advertise wisely
  • Use news, not ads to promote books
  • Increase “word of mouth”
  • Make connections

 Gain a Good Following

How many followers should you have?

How many followers should you have?

What’s the ideal number of followers you should have? There really isn’t a magic number. It’s about how engaged you are with what you have. There really isn’t one strategy for gaining followers. Some authors follow everyone who follows them to increase their followers. Their logic is: the more followers they have the more books they will sell.

More people=more sales, right?

What I don’t like about this plan is that the emphasis is on numbers. We should be focused on who is following us, not how many. If people follow you to gain a follower, they aren’t likely to buy your book.

Why Numbers Don’t Matter

The person with 10,000 followers may only have 1,000 followers who are interested in them and their books.

Likewise, the person with 5,000 may have 3,000.

See what I’m saying?

Before you sell, make sure you are selling to the right people.

Look at your followers. Who are they?

  • friends
  • family
  • coworkers

How many are writers?

The problem with selling to writers is that they may be too busy #amwriting and not #amreading.

Now this is just an idea. I have no real proof, but writers may not be the best followers to make sales.

  • Many identify themselves as–even brag about being–nonreaders
  • They are too busy writing
  • They write a different genre than you (If they don’t write it, they probably won’t read it)
  • They have no money (sorry, it’s true in most cases)
  • They don’t use social media to connect, but to promote (it’s all about them)
  • They use auto tweets (if they aren’t tweeting, they aren’t reading tweets)
  • Your tweets get buried in their feed because they have thousands of followers to gain a following

Does this sound like your followers? Does this sound like you?

You’ve probably heard this advice a thousand times: Target your market.

You might ask, aren’t some writers your market?

My thought is yes. Before you start unfollowing everyone who identifies themselves as a writer, my advice is that you should follow them anyway–not just for sales. I follow other authors for advice, to follow trends in my genre and market, and because frankly I love connecting with other writers.

If you want to follow other writers, here’s my advice: follow writers of the same genre. For instance, I used to follow writers of romance, suspense, mystery, YA, etc. Now I mainly follow other fantasy writers.

Not only do I enjoy learning about them and their books, I also purchase their books. My logic is that this should work in the reverse order. Since they write fantasy, they may buy my books as well. Will the mystery writer buy your book if you’re a fantasy writer? Probably not. It has nothing to do with your advertising campaign, they just aren’t your market.

How to Gain Followers in Your Market

Easier said than done. This is why I like Twitter. You can use the search field to type in hashtags and keywords to find tweets and tweeps related to the topic. For instance, my sister writes fantasy parody. Ideally these are the words she should use to find potential readers.

  • fantasy
  • parody
  • comedy
  • Monty Python
  • Gerald Morris
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Hobbit
  • Harry Potter

Why these search terms? Because people who like those things will like her book.

Try this out right now. See how many people you find.

Ok, you’ve found the illusive reader. Do not go all crocodile hunter on them. This is no time to poke and get in their faces. Don’t start messaging them to BUY YOUR BOOK. Follow them and see if they follow you back. If they do, great. If they don’t, it’s not over. Whether they follow you or not, the next step is the same. Be interactive.

  • comment,
  • like
  • share their tweets
  • thank them for following, retweeting, sharing, etc

They will appreciate the interaction and possibly follow you back and/or check out your profile where they will see information about your books. This could potentially result in sales. TA-DA!

I made this sound easy, didn’t I? It’s not. It takes time, but it takes less time if you put your best foot forward. What do I mean by that?

People will make an instant and usually permanent decision whether to follow you or not. Your profile is a landing page. You don’t want to turn them away at base one.

  • Have a flattering, professional, and updated profile picture and header image
  • Use your real name
  • Have a detailed bio that includes professional, social, and recreational info (writer, teacher, reader, nerd, music lover, coffee junkie)
  • Create real and interesting tweets
  • Include a URL to your website or blog

 

Advertise Wise

Everyone tells you that you must advertise or no one will know you wrote a book. They also tell you advertising is bad and turns readers off. I’m so over the contradictory advice. So let’s end this conundrum once and for all.

You MUST advertise, but you have to advertise WISE.

When you must advertise–and you must–make your ads stand out. No, this does not mean typing in all bold in screaming font. Be creative. Check out my sister’s ads on Twitter.

Example: The Knight’s Who say Ni no longer desire a shrubbery. That was my idea. Hope you like it.

Use photos, phrases, and key words to entice your followers. You want to catch their eye, make them read it, click the link, and buy.

Why Aren’t Your Ads Selling?

  • Too vague (sometimes I don’t know what the title is, what it’s about, or what genre its in)
  • Boring (I see hundreds of ads that look alike every hour. Get creative. Draw my attention)
  • No photos
  • Inconstant (You shouldn’t post BUY MY BOOK all day long, but you need to more than once a day)
  • You repeat the same ad over and over

 

Think News not Ads

To be honest, advertising is a lazy way to promote your book. We’re writers, we’re supposed to be creative. Think outside of ads to entice people to buy your book.

Let’s break it down. What makes someone want to read your books?

Information: Genre, plot, characters, ratings, author info.

Tweet about your books, not just where you can buy them, but why they should buy. Tell them snippets about your plot, the writing process, your characters, and upcoming projects. Think NEWS not ADS. Do you have a cover reveal? A book launch? Plans for a sequel? A really good review? A sale? These are all ways to gain exposure for your books without using direct advertising.

So in theory: Indirect ads result in direct sales.

This is one of the reasons why blogs ranked so high in the poll. Readers get to learn about the author and the book, enticing them to learn more. They also give you a sample of the author’s writing style. Tweets and Facebook post don’t give you the wordcount to really delve into detail about how awesome you and your book are.


 

Word of Mouth

 

People always tell you social media doesn’t sell, word of mouth does. Social media is in its own right word of mouth. A book review, author interview, or a tweet are just digital ways of saying “Check out this awesome author or this awesome book.”

So why is word of mouth so important. Because word of mouth is an indirect ad. Remember how I said indirect ads result in direct sales?

In comments, many of you expressed how advertisements or promotional material from the authors themselves turned you off or didn’t result in you buying the book. It’s viewed as being “pushy” or “unreliable.” Of course the author is going to tell you they wrote a great book. They won’t tell you it sucks.

If I told you to  buy my awesome fantasy novel, would you buy it?

Do you trust me?

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What if I told you to buy a book by someone else. I bet I gain credibility. I also bet they gain a sale.

People are more likely to buy a book, it seems, if someone else tells them about, so how can you get others to talk about your books?

  • Ask them too
  • Offer a copy of your book for an honest review: encourage them to share their review on multiple platforms
  • Pay it forward. Don’t actually pay. You should never have to pay for promotion like that. If you support others, they are likely to support you back. Check out my advice about reciprocation from an earlier post.
  • Share your reviews. Don’t tell your readers what you think about your book. Tell them what someone else does.

So tell me, which tweet would you trust?

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Make Connections

So many of you expressed how important it is for you to know the author. While I don’t believe you should always have to or do have to know the author to buy their book (Sometimes a good cover or blurb will do it for me), this is a great way to increase sales.

How connections increase sales:

  • They like you: They hope they will like your book
  • They like you: They will buy it to support you
  • They like you: Whether they bought it or not, they will tell others to buy your book
  • They like you: They will interview you on their blog which will increase your exposure
  • They like you: They will share your tweets, post, promotions, etc

How do you make connections?

This isn’t hard, people. Simply say, Hello. You will probably have to be the instigator. Going back to how to gain followers. You want quality connections. These will be people who get to know you, support you, follow you, and tell others about you. You have to earn connections.

  • Reply to tweets and post (likes are great but comments are better)
  • Send real instead of automated messages to them
  • Share their content
  • Start a conversation
  • Join conversations in progress

 

We’ve all heard it said. You can’t make sales using social media. You can make sales, you just haven’t discovered the secret. You can, you’re just doing something wrong. Ignore the noise.

Why trust what others say?

This is my theory. I’m not guaranteeing I’m right or that my plan will work. I’m simply forming a plan based on all of your wonderful feedback. You never know unless you try. So I’m going to put my plan into practice now during the release of my sister’s debut novel. I hope it works for her. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Thanks again for all of your comments and for sharing my post. Speaking of sharing, don’t forget to share information about your favorite authors. Studies seem to show your support helps.

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!

The Search for the Ultimate Cache Scavenger Hunt! Rules, Prizes, and More Leading up to My Novel’s Debut!

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What better way to celebrate the debut of “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other” than with a search of our own. Like knights searching for the Holy Grail, join your fellow bloggers in a quest to win prizes and have fun. See details and contest rules.