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!


 

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.

Does Social Media Sell? Take the Poll

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Writers are told they need social media to sell books; however, they are also told they won’t sell books directly from social media or blogs.

Sounds rather counterproductive doesn’t it?

I guess the key word there is directly. Meaning, I suppose, that no one actually purchases your books by clicking on the links you provide in tweets or post.

I am a writer, so I believe other writers when they tell me they don’t see a lot of sales from their post or tweets.

I’m also a reader, and as one, I purchased ten e-books last year–all of which I found either from a tweet or blog post. That’s the only way I learn about new books. I don’t have time to browse Amazon–and Goodreads won’t even give me recommendations until I review a few more books.

That being said, I want to hear from the rest of you. How do you find your books? Do you respond to posts from twitter, Facebook, or WordPress? Please answer the poll below. If you don’t see your answer, please respond in the comment section below.

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.