The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Guest Post: 2018 Author Marketing Tactics (Facebook, AMS, email, etc.)


Note from D-Sidd: I stumbled across the post below from Matthew Kadish in the 20Booksto50K Facebook group. It’s PACKED with fantastic information that anyone can apply immediately to improve your 2018 author marketing. I wanted to make sure this great advice got out to a wider audience, so I messaged Matt and he was kind enough to let us run it here on Everyday Author. This is one you’ll want to bookmark!

2018 Author Marketing Tactics

Hi everyone. I know we recently had a lot of people post their end of the year income figures here and sometimes newbies can find those big numbers intimidating. After all, when you’re only making a couple bucks compared to other authors who make six-figures, it can make you envious and/or frustrated.

I make 5 figures a year off my books, which isn’t up there with the “big names” but I also only have like 6 books out which allow me to earn a full-time living. So if I had a catalog of 20+ books like most of these rich indy authors do, I’d probably be making a healthy 6 figure income as well.

The reason I’m able to make 5 figures a year off of only 5-6 books is due to my marketing efforts. Things like building an email list and driving converting traffic to my series’ Amazon pages are a big factor in having success with few novels. So if you’re an author who only has less than 3 books out, or are only making a few hundred bucks a month, then I guess this post is geared toward you.

Here are some of the marketing tips that served me best through 2017. I hope by sharing them I can help others get started in the new year on that path to making 5 figures or more off their writing.

#1. Always have a marketing plan. Too many authors just start throwing money at marketing but they don’t have any plan behind doing so. This is a great way to burn through cash and see little to no return. You always want to have some sort of strategy when spending cash for marketing purposes. It could be as simple as “make 10 sales a day” or “earn $10 a day in profit” or even “get below $0.10 clicks on my ad.” Whatever it is, you need to have a clear set of marketing goals before you start throwing money at something. When you know what you want to achieve, your marketing dollar goes way further.

#2. Allocate your marketing dollars wisely. 2017 was the year I completely gave up on Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) ads. I spent months testing the service, crafting all types of ads, and found the following to be true: AMS is too saturated. It’s too hard to scale. It’s too difficult to accurately track your ad spend and conversions. In short, I determined that AMS is a poor use of marketing dollars and a waste of my time. That’s not to say they can’t work, but I feel that money is better spent on a more robust ad platform such as Facebook. AMS is easy to do, which is why pretty much EVERY author uses it. Not every author uses Facebook, though, which makes Facebook way more responsive. Plus, their statistics are more recent and complete, so you know how best to adjust your campaigns and maximize your ad spend. If you’re doing AMS and it’s working for you, that’s great. But if you’re not doing any marketing, I’d recommend focusing on Facebook before you spend money on AMS.

#3. Focus on building your email list until you have more than 3 books out. Spending money promoting your books can be a losing endeavor until you have enough of a back catalog to pay for your advertising. If you only have 1-3 books out, I’d recommend your focus be on building an email list from your marketing efforts rather than getting sales. The reason for this is because an email list builds value over time and allows you to market to those people for free at any point in the future. In short, email lists make your marketing dollar go further. Once you have enough books published to make direct ad traffic profitable, only then would I recommend sending traffic directly to your Amazon page. You can build your list through mailing swaps with other authors, putting your opt-in information in the front and back matter of your books, and by sending ad traffic directly to a sign-up page (something which you can now create in Mailchimp so its super easy to do).

#4. Advertise globally. I think a lot of people get so focused on getting ad traffic from their own country that they forget there are lots more people in the world. I recently expanded my geo-targeting for my Facebook ads to group together the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (basically the English speaking countries) and found this dramatically increased my sales than targeting these countries separately. The reason for this is because I learned that all the customers in these countries tend to use the main site instead of their country-specific stores. So I can send all this traffic to the same destination URL in my ads, which greatly increases the audience size my ads can reach. And as a benefit, I get “run off” sales in the Canadian and Australian Amazon stores. I also break out the UK into its own individual campaign since UK customers tend to buy from the Amazon UK store. The UK is now my second largest source of sales.

#5. Publish across multiple formats. What I mean by this is don’t limit yourself JUST to digital ebooks. Take the time to also publish paperback versions of your work as well as audiobook versions. I don’t make a lot off my paperback sales, but I do pull in a couple hundred bucks a month from them for no extra work or expense. If you don’t have a lot of books published, take what you already have and multiply it to try and pull out more profit. This year I plan to focus on creating audiobooks and I’ll see how much that will pull in monthly (I know it’s a growing market). But since I already put in the effort to write the books, it doesn’t take that much more effort to convert them to other formats.

#6. Be an Amazon Associate. Sign up for Amazon’s affiliate program and use Amazon affiliate links in your ads. This helps to generate extra income off of ad clicks because you also get credit for all purchases one makes after clicking an ad. You won’t be able to retire off the money you make as an associate, but every little bit helps.

#7. Treat men readers and women readers differently. Believe it or not, men and women do not respond to the same marketing material in the same way. I found I was able to get much cheaper clicks and conversions when I broke the genders up into their own campaigns and tailored them to the specific genders. So if your marketing budget is $10 a day, serve up $5 to a “men only” campaign and $5 to a “women only” campaign, and make sure you optimize your ads for them accordingly instead of just serving a single ad to both sexes. You’ll be amazed when you see the different things men and women respond positively and negatively to.

#8. Split test all aspects of your ad at least once. Facebook now allows you to run split tests within its ad manager. This was a HUGE benefit for me in 2017 because it allowed me to optimize my FB ads like never before. Instead of getting between $0.30-$0.50 a click, I now average between $0.05-$0.08 a click, all because I took the time to test out all aspects of my ads. So you’ll want to split test: Ad image, ad text, headline, article text, and the call to action button at least once. This will give you the best possible converting ad to run. When you only have $5 or $10 a day to spend on advertising, you get WAY more bang for your marketing dollar when your ad costs $0.05 a click as opposed to $0.30.

#9. Use Facebook Ads to optimize your Amazon landing page. Though Amazon doesn’t give us conversion data, you can actually use Facebook Ads to optimize your book’s Amazon product page to try and get the conversion of your books higher. You can do this by split testing your book’s cover, headline, title, and blurb in a Facebook ad. You’ll be surprised to find how many more books you sell when you take the time to optimize your Amazon page. I tested out 5 different blurbs in a FB ad for the first book in my series, and used the one that performed best from my ad, and saw an instant increase in sales from doing so. The logic here is that if people like it in an ad, they’ll like it on your sales page. So if you’re having trouble making sales, try this method out and see if you can’t increase the response rate of your Amazon product page. (Note: This works for other storefronts too!)

#10. Be patient. Sometimes we can get wrapped up in finding the quickest way to make more sales or make more money. But when playing the marketing game, remember it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. If you have a monthly marketing budget, stick to that and don’t burn through it in the hopes that you’ll make money faster. After a book is completed, it’s available to be sold for all eternity. This means you have plenty of time to market it and try new things. The worst thing you can do is become impatient and burn through your budget by experimenting with stuff that isn’t guaranteed to work. If you do want to experiment, do so little by little. Over time, you’ll find out what works and what doesn’t. When that happens, you’ll be able to focus more on what actually works and get more value from doing so.

#11. Don’t compete with other authors. I know it’s tempting to brag about rankings in the book lists, launch day income, or to talk about how you’re able to write 100,000 words a day and publish a billion books a year, etc. But remember – this is about YOUR success, not other people’s. Don’t get wrapped up in what someone else is doing, just focus on doing the best YOU can do. With me, I simply focused on optimizing my advertising campaigns and marketing funnels while continuing to write new books. I kept my head down and didn’t get wrapped up in competition or getting jealous/envious of other authors. Know that eventually, success will come if you continue to work at it. You don’t have to be making “Michael Anderle” money to be a successful author. Don’t get discouraged when you see other authors making more money or being more popular than you. In time, you can achieve that as well. Use other people’s success as inspiration to keep trying to succeed, rather than as a call to compete.

#12. Take the time to set up your marketing after you finish a new book. I know a ton of authors who could be making SO MUCH MORE money than they currently are if they just took a little bit of time to set up their marketing systems before they dive into writing another novel. I know the key to making six figures as an indy author is to publish more, but I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a week or two off of writing to focus on marketing. After all, marketing is what allows you to make huge profits! And once you get your marketing set up, it takes hardly any time to manage it. Because marketing is so important, you shouldn’t neglect it – especially if you dislike doing it or don’t understand how! It’s like the difference between being given a fish and learning to fish. Learning to fish will feed you the rest of your life as opposed to that one time you were given a fish. Learning to market will extend the life and profit value of each book you publish, so take the time to not only lean how to do it, but to set it up between writing new works and let it work for you.

As an extension of this tip, don’t simply hire someone to handle your marketing for you. Take the time to learn how to market on your own before you take such a step. The reason for this is that you need a frame of reference to judge whether or not the person you hire to market your work is actually doing their job correctly. All too often, hiring a “marketing manager” is a waste of money, because they will do the bare minimum and often do it incorrectly in exchange for their cut of the ad spend. Don’t fall for this trap! It’s always cheaper and more effective when you market your own work.

#13. Don’t spend money boosting Facebook posts unless you have a healthy Facebook Page following. I know some people confuse “Facebook Ads” with “Boosted Posts,” and they really are two different things. Unless you have an active Facebook page with a large and active following, boosting Facebook posts is a waste of money. Creating a Facebook Ad, however, allows you to target people who aren’t already aware of you, and funnel them toward a specific goal, like a newsletter opt in page or your Amazon product page. People who get frustrated with Facebook often tend to waste money on something like boosted posts and then complain “Facebook advertising didn’t work for me.” Don’t fall into this trap. Always remember to spend your marketing dollar wisely and learn the ad platform you use backwards-and-forwards.

#14. Don’t get wrapped up too heavily in social media. Though I enjoy social media a great deal and love interacting with fans and fellow authors, I’ve found that efforts to market through social media for free is way too time intensive to be worth the results. If you can afford to pay for advertising, do that instead. The time it takes to post to twitter and facebook regularly enough to gain a following isn’t worth it when you could be using that time and effort to write a new book. If you enjoy doing social media casually, by all means, do so. But for marketing purposes, it’s far more efficient and profitable to simply pay to do so. (The one exception to this may be Instagram, but I’ve yet to test it enough to be sure.)

#15. Be diligent in stopping what isn’t working. An easy trap to fall into when marketing is to spend money on things that don’t work and to keep spending money on such things. Always find ways to cut marketing costs if you can and be ruthless in judging what wasn’t working and STOP DOING IT. An example of this is I found that women under the age of 35 cost the most to target and made the least amount of sales. So I adjusted my ads to only target women age 35 and above, and instantly, my cost per click dropped and my sales increased just by optimizing my ad spend to focus on the demographic that actually converted. Another example of this was I was using Twitter ads to drive traffic to my series and was spending about $100 a month to do so. Not a whole lot of money, but I was getting zero sales and zero newsletter signups from it. So I stopped advertising there and used that $100 to increase my Facebook ad spend. It’s easy to get lazy and just ignore the different ways you can waste money while marketing. You gotta pay attention and be diligent about protecting your ad dollar.

#16. Email your mailing list regularly – at least one a month. I know many authors only email their lists about new releases, or don’t know what to send their list so they just let it sit dormant. But it’s SO IMPORTANT that your list hears from you on a regular basis. Not only does this help create a relationship between you and your subscribers, but it also increases the response rate and decreases the unsubscribe rate of your email lists. Most of my newsletters don’t even sell anything. I’ll just send out one a month telling my subscribers what I’m up to and encouraging them to interact with me through email or Facebook. It’s helped me to create a very responsive mailing list.

#17. Manage your email list. This is very important, especially if you’re spending money to build that list. By managing your list, I mean actively separate the people who open and read your emails from those who never open them. In Mailchimp I have a separate list for “responsives” and “unresponsives.” This is important because not only can I get better responses to new releases this way, but I can also save money in Mailchimp by deleting my unresponsives from my account (after backing them up on my hard drive, of course). I also use my unresponsive lists to create lookalike lists in Facebook to target ads to, so they’re not completely useless.

#18. Educate your readers on how to read your books! What I mean by this is that I’m all-in on Amazon, but I always get asked by people who use iBooks or Google Play or Kobo how they can read my books. So I added an automatic email to my newsletter sign-up that teaches them how to download the Kindle app to their preferred device and read my books on it. You’d be amazed how many Apple and Android users didn’t know about the Kindle app! They just used the default book store on their devices – iBooks and Google Play. But with just 1 automatic email, I’m able to get more sales by educating my potential readers on all the different ways to read my Amazon-only ebooks.

#19. If you don’t have the money to buy ads, put in the effort to market them for free. When I worked in Hollywood, I discovered the concept of the “Production Triangle.” This says that you can have something cheap, fast, or good, but you can only ever have just 2 of these things for any one project. That means if you want something fast and cheap, it won’t be good. If you want something good and fast, it won’t be cheap. And if you want something good and cheap, it won’t be fast. Well, if you don’t have money to market, you have to go with the “good and cheap” method, which means it won’t be fast. You’ll have to spend a lot of time and effort promoting your work on social media, finagling email swaps with other authors, doing guest blog posts, and any number of other free publicity methods. But you MUST set aside time to do so until you are making enough to afford to market your work.

Always reinvest your profits in yourself. Whatever money you make off your books, keep pumping it back into your marketing until such time as you have maximized your marketing spend without losing money. Don’t pocket cash you can use for marketing if you don’t have to. Think of it as investing in yourself. To do this, you have to be willing to forego short term profits to build your business, but don’t be afraid to do so. If you still have a day job, keep doing that job until such time as you’ve achieved marketing optimization and are making profits off your books. Authors who don’t invest in themselves and their work quickly get overwhelmed with the lack of progress and can give up. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t be afraid to spend any profits you make on growing your business.

Okay, wow, this is a long post! I could probably go on, but I’ve wasted enough of your time by now. I hope you guys got something out of this novel-length post. Happy new year, and here’s to a prosperous 2018 for everyone!

State of the Author 2017 (& lessons learned from four years as an author)

And we all thought 2016 was crazy, eh? Visiting the Everyday Author in preparation for the post I was surprised to find our last piece of content here was back in April. That’s a pretty good microcosm for how the year went: fast. (If you want to check out my 2018 Author Resolutions you can find them here)

I’ll go into more details later on but for now, just know we’ve got a full slate of new Everyday Author content on the way! And now that the Gryphon Riders Trilogy is out in the world, I’ll be wrapping up the Bestseller Quest series as well.

It’s been a whirlwind. Looking back, I’m still a little surprised at everything I was able to squeeze in. I find it hard to believe that it’s been just a year since Undaunted released the Lone Wolf Anthology and I sat down to finish up the outlines on the Gryphon Riders Trilogy. I’m immensely glad I did it but not sure I’d want to do it all over again (at least not right away).

2017 quick recap

I wrote last year about taking a break from crazy production schedules to hone in on some other areas. Well, 2017 was back to the old grindstone BUT with the added benefit of bringing everything I learned in 2016 to bear. I successfully wrote, revised and published all three books of the Gryphon Riders Trilogy and they were BY FAR my best launches to date. All three earned back their production costs AND — I haven’t drilled this down to the dollar yet but it’s looking pretty good — helped me cross the threshold overall into profit for the first time in my author career.

I learned I could accomplish more than I would have thought possible before (it didn’t kill me but it was definitely touch-and-go at times). This year wrung me dry and I’m still recovering. Maybe I pushed a little too hard but if you don’t test your limits, how do you ever improve?

2017 by the numbers

  • Estimated rough draft words written (books only): 215,000+
  • Estimated words published: 319,000
  • Estimated words revised: 225,000+
  • Books published: 4
    – Lone Wolf Anthology
    – Windsworn
    – Windswept
    – Windbreak
  • KU Pages Read: 892,794
  • Giveaways (free books downloaded): 10,000+
  • Books sold: 2,130+
  • Yearly earnings: $9,800+

What went well


I’m lumping a lot of things together in this section because my production model as a whole took a huge leap forward in 2017. Without the team I had, there’s no way the Gryphon Riders Trilogy would have been released (mostly) on schedule and the overall quality of the books would have suffered as well. My process is to write the rough draft and then usually take a breather by moving on to the next book. By the time I go back to do the second draft I’ve had a decent break to let things marinate. I do a second pass and then send the book along to my production team: 2-3 fellow authors who give it a read, fix basic typos and point out any areas or confusing parts. After their changes, the book goes to another reader for final proofing (who also has editing expertise and gives it a final polish. Once I deliver the book to the production team, it’s usually ready to publish within 10-14 days but we could get it down to a week if time got tight.


I was able to get through quite a few more books this year — audiobook, ebook and print. Having a book going in each format helped me read more and mix things up. I could listen to audio in the car, read ebooks on break at work or in small bites here and there and still sit down with a paperback in the evening to unwind. To tie in both this section and the one above about production, I highly recommend the book Creativity Inc. by Pixar Founder Ed Catmull.

What didn’t go well

Staying on track with revising

Pretty sure I’ve talked about how much I despise revising books. I think I’m better at knowing how to polish a book to reach its potential but I’m still not any faster at it. Luckily my production team (mentioned above) really helped carry me here as I only had to do one and a half passes for each Gryphon Riders book (a second draft and then final edits based on their feedback). Windswept had a few areas I had to rewrite but it still shouldn’t have taken me three months (August – October) to polish 60k words. I also got down to crunch time with Windswept and Windbreak which meant that the latter parts of each book were rushed to meet the deadlines.


It’s become a theme to talk about biting off more than I can chew every year in these posts. This year, however, I took a different (although doubtfully better) approach. Once I got in the zone writing and later revising Gryphon Riders, everything else pretty much fell by the wayside. The good news was I was able to really hone in on finishing the books and setting up successful launches,. The bad news was Book Review 22 and Everyday Author suffered from my lack of attention. Next year I

4 lessons learned from 4 years as an author

I originally called this section “lessons learned from four years in self-publishing” but then I realized that I really don’t consider myself a self-published author anymore. Although I’m still an indie, I’ve started thinking of myself more as just an author in general. Overall, I think this mindset has been adopted by many authors in the indie space. We’re evolving past “self-publishing” especially when you consider many of us have production teams (see above) and are collaborating more than ever to meet reader demand (see below in 2018 predictions).

1. If your book isn’t selling, the reason probably isn’t that complicated

Assuming this is a new-ish title, it really comes down to one of four things: your cover, your description, your other marketing efforts or your writing itself. If sales aren’t where you want them to be, take an objective approach (this is a lot harder than it sounds but you’ve got to take off the rose-colored glasses). Pick the one you think is the weakest. Maybe your cover doesn’t fit your genre or maybe it’s not up to professional standards. Maybe your description just isn’t converting readers. Maybe your book isn’t in the correct sub-genre or you could find a new category where the competition is easier. There’s also a chance you just need to level up your writing with more practice or by employing a trusted developmental editor. Or maybe you just need to give it another polish.

If you’re not sure where to start, try to figure out where you’re losing readers at. When you run a promotion or ad if you’re not getting downloads or purchases, check the front door: the cover, description and price. If people are downloading the book but not buying the next in the trilogy, or if they’re not leaving reviews or leaving poor reviews it might be a case of the wrong category or the writing itself.

It’s not easy to sell books but it is relatively simple when you break it down into these elements. If you’re looking to do a relaunch of an old title, I highly recommend Relaunch Your Novel, by Chris Fox (affiliate link).

2. There’s room for everyone

When you take a look at the fan bases and platforms of the uber-successful authors out there, it might feel like you’ll never get a piece of the pie. Here’s a secret: readers read. The ones Michael Anderle calls “whale readers” read a lot. Here’s another secret: readers read faster than writers write. If you’ve got an all-around quality book (remember, be objective and don’t kid yourself here) you can find an audience. When you check out the Top 100 books in your category, you’re not looking at the competition, you’re looking at your allies. Reach out to those authors. Ask how YOU can help THEM. See if they’re interested in a cross-promotion of some kind or just get to know them. What you might consider a competitor could, in fact, be the person who helps you take your author career to the next level. Avoid a scarcity mentality.

3. It can be done (be patient)

  • I published my first book and a short story in November 2013. It took me — I don’t even know for sure — eight years or something to write and a year to revise. I made $26.87 in the last two months of that year.
  • Year one: I spent most of 2014 writing the second book in the series and revising the first. I didn’t publish any new fiction. I made $33.95 that year.
  • Year two (2015): I published Return to Shadow (book two in my Teutevar Saga) as three books. Then I combined them into one later that year because sales sucked anyway. I made $60.46
  • Year three (2016): I published a prequel novella to Teutevar Saga, wrote a separate standalone book with another author and released an anthology. I made $105.24. I had listened to the podcasts. I’d been to the conferences. I read the books. I knew I had to change something or I was going to burn out and call it quits.
  • Year four (2017): I produced faster and released tighter, simpler stories (they were also my best-written work). I followed the rules of the indie author “elite” to prove once and for all if it was possible for some regular dude to find real success. As I reported earlier, I made over $9,800.


Am I quitting my day job and going full-time? No. But 10xing my income is a pretty awesome personal victory. Now I have the experience and a real foundation to build on. Better yet, I’m finally in the black overall for my author career, production costs and all. Going forward I’ll be able to use actual profits to expand into audio and higher quality covers.

Trust me, if I can do it, you can too. Just hang in there.

4. Pace yourself and stay focused

This goes hand in hand with being patient. It’s easy to look around at the lightning-fast pace some authors are cranking out books and feel overwhelmed/discouraged. On the flip side, it’s extremely hard to just do you and stay at your own pace. But that’s what it takes. Learn what you can from others but ignore their specific circumstances. You do you. If you’re serious about being an author, you’re in this for the long haul, not 2, 5 or even 10 years. You’ll accomplish more than you think if you put your head down and do the work. I’m always striving (and often failing) to find balance. You can’t go nonstop forever and the faster you’re going, the harder it’s going to be to recover when you hit that wall.

On the flip side, it’s hard to make meaningful progress when you don’t stay focused. Chasing new ideas is a major reason why I struggled so much in my first three years as an author. Here’s a short list of “side gigs” I dove into without thinking it through. Some are still going but many fell by the wayside. None have netted as much money as writing books

– Founded a publishing company which has now morphed in a production studio/author co-op but is still going
– Started this blog (Everyday Author). It fell by the wayside this year but I’m sticking with it.
– (Briefly) started a book recommendation site with a fellow author
– Launched a movie review blog with a friend (still going)
– Launched a t-shirt company with a couple other friends (sucked a bunch of time and never amount to much of anything)
– Found a publicity company for indie authors called Book Review 22 (the second best venture)

Too. Many. Directions. Most are way out in left field, too. The ones I’m sticking with (Undaunted Publishing, Everyday Author, Book Review 22 and Flick Hit), I’m doing so for very specific, strategic reasons. My writing projects are much more intentional now, too. Be patient and keep your eye on the real prize.

2018 predictions


Successful indie authors have always gone against the publishing norms but now companies like Sterling and Stone and Michael Anderle’s LMBPN Publishing are creating a whole new production model focused on collaboration. For the vast majority of authors, the only way to release multiple books per year, including a book every 3-5 weeks, is through collaboration. It’s the only sustainable way to keep up that insane pace. In 2018, I believe more and more authors will start coming together in these cooperatives and publishing groups to share a larger piece of the pie. But not just authors. Editors, proofreaders, cover designers and marketers will be integral parts of this collaborative movement as well. Forming a collaborative production team was a major reason for my success in 2017

Next big indie steps (film, tv & more)

It began with The Martian and snowballs every year. With so many entertainment outlets, more indies with established audiences will get deals to make movie and television adaptations of their works. Down the road, I can see this spilling into video games, virtual reality and… (cue mystical voice) beyond.

More authors leave Amazon’s exclusivity

Whether we’re talking about rank-stripping, smaller page-reads payouts or Amazon favoring their own books over others, more authors are going to get fed up of the might Zon and go wide. On the flip side, the authors who stay (and manage to avoid the numerous rapids in the world’s mightiest store/river) will continue to make more $$$ in the short term. Decisions, decisions…

Your First Six-Figure Launch review

Note: The Everyday Author team was not provided any compensation by the course owner for this review.

Are you ready to share your product, book, or idea with the world, but unsure of exactly how to do just that?

Nick Stephenson (known for the book Reader Magnets and the Your First 10k Readers program) outlines his method of launching your book or product in his course, “Your First Six-Figure Launch”. This detailed course breaks up your launch sequence into three simple phases: Pre-Launch, Launch, and Post Launch.

When thinking about launching your book, it’s common to solely focus on the Launch phase as this is where the majority of sales come from. However, many people forget the importance of the Pre-Launch and Post-Launch phases, which can more than double your sales, according to Stephenson.

Let’s take a look at each of these phases.


The Pre-Launch phase prepares people to buy your book. As 90% of customers are not ready to buy the moment you decide to launch, a sudden mass Facebook post that your “Techno-Thriller comes out TODAY!” will not entice as many to purchase your book as giving them a heads up before it launches.

This stage of the launch sequence is all about leading people up the mountain to get them from where they currently are (not ready to buy) to where you want them to be (ready to buy). Your audience should want to learn more about your book before you ever give them a price or information about where to buy.

Stephenson gives a few tips on how we can create interest among our audiences.

  • Identify your customer’s pain points. What is your product or book going to fix? Will it entertain, inspire, motivate? Why would people buy it?
  • Acknowledge your customer’s “as-is” state. What negative factors are they currently facing in their lives?
  • Demonstrate their “after” state by showing them it is possible to get away from their negative “as-is” state.
  • Show them how your book can fill their knowledge gap between where they currently are and where they want to be.
  • Share “The Hero’s Journey”. Tell your customers your story – how what they’re facing was a problem for you too, but how you overcame it.
  • Prime the sale. Don’t tell people specifically what your product is, but mention that there is going to be a product on the way that helped you (your story) and will help other people get from the before to the after.
  • Overcome objections before your customers know they have them.

All of the above information can be shared with your audience in a variety of ways: a series of blog posts, podcasts, video training (which can be super effective for non-fiction), Facebook ads or any other medium that resonates with your audience.

If done properly, the Pre-Launch phase can help you connect on an emotional level to your audience as you tell YOUR story. It also helps to prove your expertise, to teach your audience how to get from where they are now to where they want to be, and, ultimately, to prime the sale.


The next phase is your actual launch.

Stephenson describes two types of launches: the Private Launch and the JV Launch. The Private Launch is the best option for your first ever launch as it will only go to your email lists. On the other hand, the JV (or affiliate) Launch will put you in front of affiliate’s email lists. The JV Launch is reserved for after you have already proven that you have a winning formula or product that is perfect for your affiliate’s audience.

Regardless of which type of launch you use, it’s important to send out multiple messages during your launch so that your audience has ample opportunity to consume your pre-launch process and to get all of the information. Each message should be valuable, inspiring, and teach the reader something so they value receiving the messages rather than tire of them.

The Launch phase helps you get your audience to the top of the mountain (where you want them to be). This phase:

  • Outlines your promise of how your product will solve your audience’s problem.
  • Removes risk from purchases by offering money back guarantees and support systems such as forums or community groups.
  • Combats procrastination by noting “limited time availability”, bonuses, and discounts to show scarcity of the product during the launch and promote early sales.
  • Reveals the price after (and only after) your audience understands the value of the messages shared in the Pre-Launch phase.


The Post Launch phase is often forgotten after all of the hard work put into the Pre-Launch and Launch; however, your launch does not end with your launch deadline. After all, you do want to keep the new customers you worked so hard to get (as they are 10x more likely to purchase from you in the future) and continue to reach out to those who just weren’t ready to buy yet.

After the launch deadline, those who purchased your product enter a “buyer’s sequence” where you follow up with them, make sure they’re happy and ultimately can send information about future products.

Those who didn’t purchase your product enter an alternate sequence where they receive other content (articles, blog posts, etc.) to keep them engaged with you and your product. At a later date, you can invite them to join a webinar where they receive the offer again.

The Post-Launch phase helps to reduce refunds from buyers suddenly having buyer’s remorse and encourages advocacy in you and your product as well as assisting customers to spread your product by word of mouth. Most importantly, the Post-Launch gives non-buyers another chance to buy later.

The Perpetual Launch

Once you have your first launch under your belt, you can relaunch your product again and again to new people completely on autopilot – what Stephenson calls the “Perpetual Launch”.  The Perpetual Launch is advanced but allows each person who opts into your sequence to automatically receive the pre-launch content (videos, blog posts, etc.) and be sent the offer with a countdown timer for availability. Those who purchase enter the same “buyer’s sequence” that everybody else did.

The bottom line

Writing a book that readers will enjoy or derive value from is less than half the battle. No matter how or who you learn it from, marketing is a vital step to advance your author career.

Launching your book or product is simple with Stephenson’s course which includes detailed, transparent information full of examples, timelines, and resources that he actually used during his launch. At this time, “Your Six-Figure Launch” is not open for enrollment, but authors looking to learn more about Stephenson’s marketing strategies (and receive notifications when this course opens again) should sign up for his mailing list at Your First 10k Readers.

Guest Post: 7 Priceless Content Marketing Tips for eBook Promotion

Book promotion involves more than landing interviews with authorities in your niche. Today, content is king. 70% of marketing professionals plan to create more content this year than last; this is because it’s the least expensive, most effective promotional method.

So, if you ever want to be able to quit your day job, you need to create a content marketing strategy. Here are seven tips to formulate a plan that will optimize your ebook sales this year.

1. Know Your Target Reader

The first and most important action to take when brainstorming is to get to know your target reader – truly understand them. Note that your target readers are not likely other authors, so writing for this market isn’t going to provide much in the way of establishing a fanbase. Instead, zero-in your efforts on a group of people who are likely to go bananas over your work and focus on them.

Once you have an idea who to target, find out where these readers hang out online. After you discover where they are, join them. You are there to interact naturally as well as find out what their pain points are. By solving their problems with your online content (blog, YouTube videos, etc.), you will provide value and draw positive attention to yourself.

2. Set Realistic, Measurable Goals

Once you know the pain points of your readers (these are the topics you want to cover in your content), set your objectives that you can measure. Every promotional strategy has goals – you use them to stay on point and measure the effectiveness of your overall strategy.  

3. Leverage Social Media to Promote Everything

If you create a new video, send it out across Facebook and twitter. When you post an infographic on your blog, share it on Pinterest as well. You want all of your content to be seen across the web, in as many places as possible. The trick is to direct people to your content online, then have a trail that they can follow to discover your ebook.

4. Brand Your Images and Infographics

Your ebooks and website are branded, right? Well, all of your promotional materials should be. This doesn’t mean that you need to include your logo on every single blog image. You should use a color-scheme, fonts, and image filters that are in alignment with your brand. As followers get to know you, they will recognize your brand in a sea of information, bringing you one step closer to a successful career as an author.

5. Host Your eBook on the Right Platform

If you’re planning on leveraging the millions of members on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or NOOK press, then you already trust that these sites are setup for ecommerce – it’s all they do. But you may have been building a following with your Blogger or WordPress account, until this point. If that’s the case, and you plan to host your ebook on your own website, use a platform that’s designed for ebook sales. This will save you a ton of effort later, and you can easily import all of your old blog posts and images.

6. Utilize Email Marketing

If you’re not already using email marketing, that may signal that you’re not interested in creating a weekly or monthly newsletter. That’s fine; though it’s helpful, you don’t have to. Technology allows you to automate your email marketing to become a nearly hands-off tactic for building relationships with your fans. Even free and inexpensive email marketing platforms allow you to create RSS campaigns that automatically send subscribers your new blog posts.

7. Be Prepared to Alter Your Plan

If I’ve learned anything working in the marketing industry, it’s that testing your promotional tactics is critical for success. Sometimes, something as seemingly trivial as the color of you call to action buttons will improve book sales. So, take some time, every couple weeks or so, to measure your campaigns and see if you’re close to meeting your goals or not. If not, adjust your tactics until you find what works.


Now you have a small arsenal of knowledge to help power your ebook promotional strategy online. Learn everything you can about your target reader and set goals that help you solve their problems. Use social media to promote your ebook with recognizable, branded content. Make sure your website is set up for book sales and generate leads while you build relationships through email marketing. Make changes to your plan as needed. What other content marketing tips have you used to promote your work? Share your experience in the comments.

Ashley Kimler is a full-time communications specialist and content marketing dynamo at Heroic Search. She is also a part-time, aspiring authorpreneur with one children’s picture book title currently available on Amazon KDP. Follow @ashleykimler on Twitter to see what she and her team get into next.

Bestseller Quest Part V: Market Research

Welcome back to another entry into Bestseller Quest! If you’d like to check out the full series, go here. Or, if you just want to freshen up on the previous entry, go here.

Now that we’ve got the process mapped out, it’s time to delve into market research. Much of the information in this post is stuff I learned from reading Chris Fox’s book, Write to Market (affiliate link). If you haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest doing so.  You can also listen to Chris explain the basic principles in this Self Publishing Podcast episode if you want a preview first. To bring you up to speed for our purposes, here’s the basic premise:

  1. Find a genre and sub-genre you enjoy writing in that is underserved (Chris explains in detail how to identify these in his book, but basically you look at the balance between the top 100 books in that category compared to their overall sales ranking on Amazon).
  2. Identify the tropes in said genre and include a number of these tropes in your book. (This doesn’t mean you still don’t include our own flavor and spin on things, just that you choose and follow some conventions as well).

Obviously, there’s more to it than that, but that will get us started.

Actually, let me emphasize something: it’s vital to choose a genre you’ll actually enjoy writing in (surprise, surprise). Chasing what’s hot just for the money is a bad idea. If you don’t know/enjoy the genre you’re writing in and it will show in the quality of your book.

My focus for this project will be New Adult Fantasy, while also including elements of Young Adult Fantasy and “Dragon” books. Now, full disclosure upfront: since I started this project, New Adult Fantasy has grown until it definitely isn’t undeserved anymore. That being said, I believe my premise of gryphon riders also fits well into dragon books, specifically those about dragon riders (The Inheritance Cycle, Dragonriders of Pern, etc.) which is a much smaller niche that I can take advantage of. My launch time tactics will focus heavily on marketing to fans of dragon books.

YA Fantasy and Coming of Age fantasy obviously aren’t underserved markets (Harry Potter or Hunger Games?) BUT I believe that my books will also sell well there, even if they aren’t as competitive in the rankings. Here’s a few points that will aid in the crossover:

  • The trilogy begins with my protagonist at 17 and then progresses to her in her early 20s. I chose 17 because it places our heroine at a sort of crossover age between being a teen and adult. I wanted to capture the younger audience while still satisfying the conventions of New Adult later on, which is why she’ll end the trilogy at 20-21.
  • There is a small romance in the story. It’s definitely a subplot, but still important. Many New Adult Fantasy books ARE romances, but that’s not me. I recognized, however, that I couldn’t omit romance and worked to include it throughout the trilogy outline in a small capacity.
  • Thematically, the heroine deals with New Adult issues such as understanding and progressing into adulthood, navigating through relationships and increased responsibilities and answered the question of “who am I and what do I stand for?” She also is faced with YA themes earlier on like fitting in, succeeding in school-type environment, etc.

With my genre in mind, I began my research by reading books in said genres and getting lost in the equally wonderful and infinite TV Tropes website. (BEWARE: TV Tropes is the ultimate rabbit hole. One wrong step and you’ll find yourself sucked into the void for hours, nay — years! When I finally extracted myself, here were some of the big takeaways:

When I started reading, I chose a mix of both YA and New Adult titles. In addition to books I was already familiar with, I used the KindleSpy tool to take a look at several fantasy sub-genres, providing me information on how many copies each book is selling as well as some category information and rough sales numbers. Here’s a sample screenshot taken from New Adult & College Fantasy Top 20 list  to show what this looks like:

Here’s a short sampling, including the specific reason why I chose THAT book:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (link goes to TV tropes page): I will be using a similar structure to kick off book one: regular girl learns she is part of a special community, leaves her homes to train and become a part of this community.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (link goes to the TV Tropes page): Tied in with why I read Sorcerer’s Stone, but the main reason for this was to examine how Rowling handled the darker issues found in Chamber of Secrets and to also study how she deftly recaps the previous book in the series without losing reader interest.
  • There’s one other reason I studied the early Harry Potter books: Rowling’s masterful use of foreshadowing and seeding future plot points. Since I’m writing all three books at once, I wanted to take extensive advantage of this. Here’s a huge list of examples in the Harry Potter series, also known as the Chekhovs Gun device.
  • The Shattered Sea Trilogy: I am a huge fan of Joe Abercrombie and love his author voice. I chose this series because of the diverse YA/NA characters. Abercrombie also presents his characters with real-life adult issues — nothing sugar coated. This was the sort of tone I aimed for with Gryphon Riders: hold back the language and sex, but throw in all the challenges readers in these age groups face.
  • Enchantress: This is a constant bestseller on Amazon in the NA and YA genres. I studied this for character but also to see how the author developed a high-concept magic system that plays a heavy part throughout the book/series. James Maxwell nails the tropes.

UP NEXT: Part VI – With a foundation down, I actually had to arrange all of these tropes into a familiar yet unique story.

Guest Post: Making the most of Amazon Author Central – Dave Chesson, Kindlepreneur

The pressure of working a day job alongside a fledgling writing career causes many authors to overlook great opportunities to establish their brand and reach more readers.

Because it can be such a challenge to find hours in the day to give writing projects the attention they deserve, any available time is often spent solely on writing, and not on a long-term approach to building an author platform.

Due to these time pressures, it’s essential to focus on the marketing activities that will provide the most benefit for the least effort.

Amazon Author Central is a perfect example. Once you take the time to establish an Author Central page, you have a valuable marketing asset located directly on the world’s busiest book retailing platform.

When it comes to Author Central, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Apply the following ideas to your own page to create something that will truly benefit you in the long-term.

Carefully Customize Your Author Bio

Many writers find creating their author bio to be far more difficult than expected.

It’s often assumed that writers have no trouble describing themselves in the right way for their readers. However, ask around and you’ll soon see that many do struggle to find the right tone and wording.

It’s generally a good idea to keep your author bio between 100-150 words long. It’s far better to have a succinct, effective bio than a lengthy manuscript that bores and repels.

Aside from the length of your bio, it’s important to use appropriate language for your intended readership. If your books are serious and academic, your bio should match this tone. If you write for a particular demographic, made sure the language used is appropriate for them. If you’re not exactly sure, look at some author bio examples from other writers in the same genre.

The reward for crafting a careful bio is the chance to form a connection with readers. People are far more likely to take a long-term interest in your work if they relate to who you are as well as what you write.

Match Your Photos To Your Audience

While a picture may not be worth a thousand words, it’s definitely more attractive and attention-grabbing to have one than a plain text page alone.

Similarly to your author bio, your author photo is something which should be chosen with your audience in mind. When you create a book cover, you probably do so in a way which you feel is right for your audience. You want your book cover to communicate the genre and feel of your work.

Your author photo works in much the same way. If you write about serious subjects, such as history, a lighthearted, fun photo will probably feel incongruous to readers. Conversely, if you write children’s books, you won’t want to have a serious, solemn picture.

You might instinctively know the type of photo which will best connect with your readers. If not, take some time to browse around authors you admire with a similar body of work to your own. You may notice some trends or commonalities between photos which inspire your own choice of picture.

Add Editorial Reviews

One of the trickiest, but most important, aspects of success for new authors is taking the right approach to reviews.

Getting readers to leave an honest and informative review is an important way to set your books on the path to success. However, Amazon reviews are far from simple. Sometimes, competitors may attempt to sabotage your book by leaving malicious, false reviews. In the case of positive reviews, some customers assume they are fake and don’t put much weight in their opinion.

Amazon Author Central offers a valuable way around this problem. After you create your Amazon author page, you have the option to add editorial reviews to your profile. A review from a trusted, authoritative editorial source is worth its weight in gold.

Adding editorial reviews to your Author Central page is also a way to use your time more efficiently. If you publish a book with a solid set of editorial reviews, you are less at the mercy of the whims of Amazon customers and potentially malicious competitors. This means you have to invest less effort in sourcing reviews as the editorial reviews do the heavy lifting for you.

Consider International Opportunities

International book marketing isn’t right for every author, but it’s definitely worth considering.

International stores on Amazon have two major advantages – there is less competition, and they are often growing at a fast rate.

If you decide that you want to try and reach an international audience, crafting a customized Author Central page for that particular market is a great way to go. For example, you may wish to use alternative book covers that are more in line with the national expectations of a particular market. You could also alter your bio to make sure that the language used is unambiguous for readers in foreign markets.

Help Your Content Reach A Wider Audience

If you create content, such as blog posts or videos, related to your writing, Author Central can help that content have a wider reach.

Author Central allows you to link blog posts and add video content directly to your page. This allows browsers to explore your ideas without having to leave the Amazon platform.

Sharing your external content in this way allows you to form a deeper connection with readers than through an author bio and photo alone. This leads to buyers becoming fans and long-term admirers of your work.

Author Central Recap

To make the most of the opportunity offered by Author Central, ensure that:

  • Your author bio is succinct and suitable
  • Your visual content is congruent with your author brand
  • You consider Amazon’s international reach as part of your marketing strategy

In terms of return on effort invested, Amazon Author Central is one of the best ways to form a connection with readers for time-stretched authors. It can form a valuable part of your wider book marketing efforts.

It’s your chance to show readers the person behind the books. Make the most of it!

A Kindlepreneur is a self publishing entrepreneur that is ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work marketing their creation. Ready to take action and promote their works, they are writers, marketers, designers, and strategists all combined in one. Want to learn more about how you can become a Kindlepreneur? Need help in taking the next big step in becoming a true Kindlepreneur? Then check us out!

Author Origins: Michael Anderle

Note from D_Sidd: Michael Anderle exploded onto the indie author scene with a fast-paced, no holds barred approaching to publishing. Calling him an overnight success wouldn’t do justice to the sheer amount of work he’s put in, but Michael has made a lot of progress over a short period of time because he’s not afraid to revolutionize and think outside the box. In addition to this interview, I highly recommend checking out his 20BooksTo50K Facebook group.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

I started publishing for 2 reasons.  Half to know how to do it, and share it with my eldest son, Joshua.  Half because (as a huge reader my whole life) it became a bucket list item after having read other Indie Authors (John Conroe, PS Powers, Laurence Dahners) and figured, I can do this as well.

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job? What is the hardest thing about writing for a living now?

I had a small consulting company which was in between projects during my first three books.  Due to this, I had more time than most.  I would write like crazy, even on the plane or in an airport.  Whatever it took.  Having been a programmer earlier in my career (I am late 40’s at this time) I have learned how to type well, structure my thoughts (on the fly) in a logical fashion and understand the logical progression of steps to accomplish step one to step ten.

This has been beneficial for anything like how to kill seven Nosferatu, to making sure I provide enough in between steps for a character to get off the couch to make it up to their room for a reader.

Presently, my challenges are building my publishing company while I write, and juggle family.

Tell us about your schedule and habits back before you made the move to full-time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

Because I had my own company, my time had been my own to manage.  I just took time away from (say reading) and applied it to writing.  Moving time spent studying some new sales & marketing technology into studying our profession.

It was a conscious decision to forego moving my Digital Sales & Marketing company forward, and take that time and move it towards Indie Publishing. 

Remember, writers write. Writers who publish have a product to sell.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

Published 3 books Nov 2015, 1 in Dec and then about 11 books + 2 Novellas in 2016.

I grossed about $430 in November 2015, about $3,000 in December 2015 and $10,000+ in January 2016 (5 books at this time).

I went all in with Amazon as a business decision.  I didn’t feel I had the time to commit to figuring out how to go wide at the time, and since I was a HUGE Kindle Unlimited fan, it was easy for me to make the decision to trust Amazon.

At what point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

Once I had passed my consulting income, I never looked back.  By March I was 2x my consulting income and I felt I had enough of an understanding of my options that I started releasing clients and moving their responsibilities to others.

Do you support yourself completely from writing books or through a variety of work? If so, what else do you do to pay the bills?

My ebook income covers the bills.

Was there ever a point when you felt like quitting writing or didn’t think you’d ever become a full-time author?

I had a 2-year plan to become a full time author, it just hit in 5 months instead of 2 years.  I persevered through a burn-out time (about 2.5 months) and understood how to handle the emotional challenges that were thrown my way (this was late summer 2016).

I still completed and published 2 books during this time.

Starting out, what were some misconceptions you had of life as a full-time author? Were there any unexpected challenges you never realized before you got to that point in your career?

No, since I had a consulting company, I was better equipped to handle the working while alone or keeping myself on task (versus allowing bosses or others to help keep me on task).

I had no misconceptions since I knew nothing about the field before I started (I hadn’t written anything in 30 years, and the last thing was in High School (very poorly received, too)).

What’s one thing about your author career that not many people know?

With as many podcast(s) as I have been on, it’s hard to figure out what I haven’t told people.  I would say that many of the tweaks to my career, have come about by being involved in the fan base, and allowing them to help steer the direction of the stories.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet?

Know what your mountain is and whether your goal (the mountain you are climbing) will even support you full time.

For example, if you are dead-set on going trad-pub, the chances of you making enough money in the beginning is fairly remote.  Even if you receive a large advance (call it $20,000) it doesn’t come in one chunk, and there are tax issues with it, as well.

If you are literary minded, and desire the prestige of writing awards? Most often, these books perform – on the whole – poorly in sales.  So, know what your goal is.

My goal was income and having fans that loved the stories enough that they would re-read them.

And they do.

What should they be focusing on?

Knowing what their goal really is.  Don’t have conflicting goals.

For example, I want to make a lot of money AND write literary Super-hero books…  Those are almost mutually exclusive.  Possible? Sure, but that will be a LOT of effort to find out you aren’t the person who will make it happen. 

Then again, never say never…

Just don’t bet the farm.

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?

Know where those who are giving advice are coming from (know what THEIR mountain is).  My advice, while well-intentioned, won’t be appropriate for some readers since we don’t share the same mountain.

Know if you are a writer only, or are willing to put in the effort to publish (and learn it) as well.  If not?  You are going to be SUPER-challenged in this endeavor.

Bestseller Quest Part IV: The Gameplan

Welcome back to another entry into Bestseller Quest! If you’d like to check out the full series, go here. Or, if you just want to freshen up on the previous entry, go here.

This week, I’m going to gather you all into a huddle to check out the game plan. This is the entire project outline. Welcome to the big show.


  • September 2016 Market research: In which I determined the genre and sub-genre I wanted to write in, according to parameters set up in Write to Market (more on this in the next installment). This is also where I research and establish key tropes for my genre as well as obligatory scenes, a rough sketch of the main character, etc.
  • October 2016, mostly in December 2016 — Outlining: I throw all of the above information into a pot, dump it on a table and being shaping the massless sludge of story-putty. When I originally came up with my concept and did the initial research, I wrote a rough outline of all three books in the trilogy. In December, I broke that down into a chapter-by-chapter outline, building off of the obligatory scenes of the book to flesh things out.
  • January 9, 2017 – April 24. 2017 — Where I’m at now: Ye olde first draft. I write. And write. And write. As I’ve mentioned before, my daily goal is 2,500 words per day, Mon-Fri with Saturdays used to catch up on days I didn’t hit the 2,500. I may be done sooner than April 24, but won’t know for sure until I get into the writing. I’m shooting for somewhere around 180k words for the entire trilogy. I’ll also be working with my cover designer during this time (which we’ll talk about in a separate post).
  • May 1 — The cursed and dreaded second draft revisions begin. As I’ve mentioned before, I have love/hate relationship with revisions. Sometimes they’re awesome and other times it’s like playing whack-a-mole with your own fingers as the moles. Revising is the slowest part of the process for me.
  • June – August As I finish the second draft of each book, I’ll shoot them off to some alpha readers who will provide me with general story feedback and point out any pesky typos I undoubtedly will miss. I’m giving them 3-4 weeks to do this, knowing I can rely on them to meet the deadline.
  • June 3 — Second draft of Book 1 due
  • July 9 — Second draft of Book 2 due
  • July 10 — Book 1 due to editor
  • August 12 — Second draft of Book 3 due
  • August 15 — Book 2 due to editor
  • September 10 — Book 3 due to editor
  • September 15-20 — Publication of Book 1
  • October 20-25 — Publication of Book 2
  • November 25-30 — Publication of Book 3

Whew! That’s making me stressed/excited just thinking about it. As of now (February), the publication dates aren’t set in stone. I may very well hold the books until January and begin launching then, just because I want to do my best work with my editor’s feedback. Depending on how the editing process goes, I would rather hold off a couple of months than attempt to juggle book launches with revising (a mistake I’ve made in the past).

And that’s about it! Short and sweet this week (I’ve used up most of my word-power barfing out the rough draft).

UP NEXT: Part V – Market research to select a sub-genre

Guest Post: A Ticking Plot by Jacqueline Garlick

So, it’s a new year and you’ve decided this is the year you’re going to write a book. Or, perhaps you’ve already written a book, but you’re not satisfied with it. According to Beta readers, your manuscript has missed the mark completely, and you have no idea how to fix it. The more you work on the manuscript, the worse it seems to get. You’ve somehow gotten lost in your own manuscript.

I sympathize with you, my friend. Been there. Done that. Several times.

I was so lost in a manuscript once; I wanted to set it on fire. I had an agent at the time, who was awaiting a new project from me, but I just couldn’t finish. For some reason, the manuscript wasn’t working, but I had no idea why. For weeks, I moved things, cut things, shuffled paragraphs around, then shuffled them back. It was tantamount to playing a game of never-ending, progress-less chess. The end result was a lacklustre compilation of meaningless words. I felt sick to my stomach. This was my big chance. My agent had gone out on a limb and sent the first few pages of my manuscript to a number of bigtime editors, who had expressed genuine interest in it. I was in way over my head.

I was soon to learn that plotting was not about writing out every word of your potential story in sequential order. It was about exploring your potential story in an orderly fashion.

It was right about then, I attended a story development course that would change my writing life forever. I’d been a Pantser up until that point (not that there’s anything wrong with that) with two feet firmly planted against the notion of ever becoming a Plotter. I hated the idea of writing out all the important parts of my book, only to write them again. I was sure it was going to kill my creative process. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was soon to learn that plotting was not about writing out every word of your potential story in sequential order. It was about exploring your potential story in an orderly fashion. (Huge difference!) I further came to learn that A) plotting could be an incredibly useful, time-saving, aggravation-squashing tool, and B) it would not destroy, but rather enhance my creativity— taking it to greater heights than I’d ever imagined.

As a result, I found myself more at ease with the process of plotting, and more creatively jazzed than ever.

Plotting (if approached advantageously) is about planning out the story path you’d like to pursue, by identifying or pin-pointing (and securing), a selection of pivotal story elements (or major plot points), in advance of starting the writing journey. By outlining these basic plot points, and working through them (loosely, of course), figuring out where and when they should occur (ie: solidifying the character’s basic trajectory, or arc) my mind was then freed up to concentrate on other things— like fleshing out the rest of the story, and the creation of poetic prose. Essentially, now that I knew where I was going, I was better able to take in the scenery. As a result, I found myself more at ease with the process of plotting, and more creatively jazzed than ever.

Since, in my opinion, story should flow from to beginning to end in one continuous circle, (instead of up and down, as I was forced to teach to students when I was a teacher), I’d always thought of my stories as a circle. Knowing that story follows Shakespeare’s three Act formula, with act two lasting twice the length of one and three, divided in the middle by the highest (or lowest) point of (emotional) action, it occurred to me that plotting stories on a circle might work. Even better, plotting stories on the four quadrants of a clock face would really be helpful.

I fell back into my pillow, amazed. I had accomplished all that in a fraction of the time, with half the frustration. I’d created a story map of my entire novel in less than two hours, and I hadn’t lost my mind over it.

I quickly revised my circle into a clock and began meticulously plotting. Discoveries began to flow. I soon found that the precipice of act one (where act one ends and the reader is launched into act two—that moment where a character enters their new world, or new circumstance, or sets out onto a new journey) fell splendidly at 3 o’clock on the clock face. Correspondingly, 6 o’clock (exactly, half way between through act 2!) became the hour when my character suffered his/her highest (or should I say, lowest) degree of emotional tragedy (ie: the most intense point of action— essentially, the point where he/she faces his/her greatest challenge/fear.) I continued working through my planned story elements, plotting them onto the clock face, and by 9 o’clock CHARGE! my character was launched into battle (ie: beginning of act three.) He/she had discovered the answers to long-sought after questions, and was off to fight for the kingdom, over throw the bad guy, or win back the girl! (whichever fits your manuscript.) By 11 o’clock, the battle was won, with enough time left over to show readers a little Afterglow (ie: the state of the character’s world after the fact, what was gained/lost or achieved, a snapshot of what life now looks like.)

I fell back into my pillow, amazed. I had accomplished all that in a fraction of the time, with half the frustration. I’d created a story map of my entire novel in less than two hours, and I hadn’t lost my mind over it. I had a (loose) story plan, outlining the pertinent events of my novel (the essential story beats), all affixed to a clock face by sticky note! I could now see where my novel had too many events happening, and where it didn’t have enough. I could fix stuff before I started! (Another benefit of the Tick-Tock Plot strategy—balance.) Sure, it took some time to figure out the plot points, but it was a lot less time than I’d spend rewriting scenes. I felt like I had unlocked Pandora’s secret box for writers, and unearthed the treasure within!

TickTockPlotNEWFINAL-2I was so excited about what I’d discovered, I started to share it with anyone who would listen. I later went on to teach—the Tick-Tock Plot strategy—at various conferences and workshops. The more I used it, the stronger a plotter I became. Friends started noticing that I was an excellent story puzzler and wanted to know what I was doing. I was becoming somewhat of a story plot guru, able to identify problem spots in others manuscripts quickly and help them work out solutions. After having so many writers ask me to help them plot, I decided it was time to write my strategy down. So, I created the eBook Tick-Tock Plot: How To Speed-Write Your Next Blockbuster eBook. Inside, I include loads of visuals, as well as a working example, using a well-known, modern day, popular book, to help readers better understand how to apply my method. I include a second example, for those interested in signing up to my Exclusive Reader’s List, on my website. It’s nice to be able to help other authors. I love that I’ve been able to share a useful tool that makes the writing journey a little easier.

PS: In case you’re dying to know the course that changed my writing life (*insert shameless plug here à*), the course is called StoryMasters . (*they can thank me later*) If you get the chance to attend. Do it. You won’t regret it. (PS: If you’re Canadian, I hear they are coming to Toronto this May!)

IMG_4124For more about Jacqueline Garlick, her writing, and her books, or to receive advanced notification of upcoming releases, specifically the Tick-Tock Plot for Writer’s Series, sign up to be a part of her Exclusive Reader’s Group at Tick-Tock Plot: How to Speed-Write the Next Blockbuster eBook is available on Amazon. (Now available in paperback, too.) Also, check out Tick-Tock Edits: How To Edit Your Own Writing: Ten Quick and Easy Tips To Strengthen Any Manuscript, Jacqueline’s second book in the Tick-Tock Plot for Writer’s Series, also on Amazon. Pre-Order her third book, Tick-Tock Character-OZ-ation: Developing Unforgettable Characters, coming soon. Jacqueline’s award-winning Illumination Paradox Series, can also be found on Amazon. Contact Jacqueline on Facebook, Twitter, website, email.

Bestseller Quest Part III: Writing process

Welcome back to another entry into Bestseller Quest! If you’d like to check out the full series, go here. Or, if you just want to freshen up on the previous entry, go here.

Now that we’ve talked about everything in my life BESIDES writing, let’s get into the process itself: my system and the tools I use.

Everyone has their own way of writing — the time, place, program, speed, etc. This post isn’t about figuring out what works for you. It’s about what I prefer and what I’ll be using throughout the Bestseller Quest to get words on the screen. There are a couple of nifty tools I think every writer could benefit from if you’re not already using them. The following are resources I’ve come to rely on to get my writing done:


Straight Outta Scrivener

Scrivener is awesome. It’s what I’m writing this blog post with. It’s what I write all of my books with now and pretty much anything else I can think of. If you STILL haven’t checked it out, here’s the link . You can also get a free, thirty-day trial to test it out. (And those are 30 days of use — by not closing the program or turning off my computer as much as I probably should, I wrote an entire 165k book using the trial version. Of course, I bought the program anyway but just saying).

During the first draft stage, I’ll be writing the entire trilogy within the same Scrivener project, judiciously backed up, of course. One of Scrivener’s most important features, when I start crapping out letters is the ability to see my word count. I track this every time I write, which brings us to our next handy-dandy tool.

The 5k Words per Hour app

This tracker/timer was developed by Chris Fox (we’ll talk more about him later) to track his writing speed. [Insert motivational quote about not being able to improve what you don’t record here]. The free version is great, but you get some advanced features with the paid version in exchange for a couple bucks. Check it out here.

I absolutely recommend using the 5KWPH app. It helped me improve my writing speed from about 1k/hour to around 3k/ when I’m really in the zone and in tip-top writing form. Basically, what you do is set a timer and write until the voice of Chris’ girlfriend-now-wife tells you Wahoo! Sprint complete. Then you look at your word count in Scrivener and enter it in to see how many words you’re averaging per hour. You can also set up projects to see how much longer you have to type to finish that first draft.

This app is fantastic, trust me. No matter what your writing style is, give it a try.

Put it together and what do ya got?

Okay, now we combine the wondrous powers of Scrivener and the 5KWPH app into a super-writer serum that will turn this everyday author into a word count vomiting machine. Important note: I have no plans of using dictation during the Bestseller Quest.

Do you even write, bro-

My daily word count goal is 2500k words. How did I reach this number? I have a rough estimate that this entire trilogy will be around 180k words — we’ll talk about why that is in future posts). This means if I start writing on January 9th and want to be done the week before the Smarter Artist Summit at the end of April, I need to produce 2500 words per day for 5 days/ week, plus whatever I have to make up on Saturday

Knowing that life will happen on certain days, not allowing me to reach my goal, I’m planning on doing short sessions Saturday mornings. I will recharge the batteries on Sunday. Once I get back in writing shape (I haven’t done sprint-writing in a few months) I can do 2500 words in an hour, no problem.


One thing I want to make clear: For those of you who aren’t familiar with the 5KWPH writing sprint, it means you type as fast as you reasonably can, without pausing to read/edit what you’ve just done or make any typo corrections. A writing sprint is about going balls to the walls for X amount of time and telling your inner editor to shut up and hold on. (Trust me, until you get the hang of it, he’s going to scream bloody murder and tell you to slow down).

The majority of writing will take place in the mornings. I’ve got a 30-45 minute block for this and I could get most of my writing done, outside of 500 words or less, once I’m back at top speed (which will probably take a week or two).

If mornings and Saturdays aren’t enough, additional writing will be done 2-3 days/week on my lunch break at work. I’m not huge on the idea of taking my personal computer back and forth to the office throughout the week, but you gotta do what you gotta do, I guess. This time will be between 15-25 minutes most days.

Depending on how much I’ve slacked/fallen behind during the week, my Saturday writing sessions should NEVER be more than an hour, tops. That being said, I have to hit 12,500 words per week, minimum, so I don’t fall behind.

And that’s about it! This entry is shorter for a reason — no matter how or what you write, it’s all really about one thing: getting those words on a page. It doesn’t matter how fancy and complex you make your system if you aren’t producing!

UP NEXT: Part IV, The Gameplan

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