The Everyday Author

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

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.

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  • 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 rough drafts this week).

UP NEXT: Part V

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 jacquelinegarlick.com. 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:

Scrivener

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.

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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

Bestseller Quest Part II: The Groundwork

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.

The Groundwork

Whether you’re making a story trilogy, cleaning an outhouse or slaying a dragon (bonus points if you know what they all have in common), you’ve got to start somewhere. Today, we’ll be talking about all of the foundational work I’ve started in preparation for my quest in 2017. I’m thinking of separating this into two parts: one that goes over lifestyle circumstances, necessary changes and time management and another that talks about research and planning, but we’ll see how it goes.

Circumstances and responsibilities.

First let me say that, as a single, healthy white dude in America, I’ve got it pretty good. Any complaining from here on out comes not from me thinking the cards are stacked against me, it’ll be about self-frustration for being human, wasting time and doing stupid stuff people do. But hopefully,j that doesn’t happen very often.

In addition to writing, I have a number of responsibilities and endeavors that I pursue. As any of you know that read the Everyday Author, I work a full-time job (Mon. – Fri. 8: 5:00) that obviously takes a large amount of my time. There is the potential that I could be called out to work overtime or on weekends, but (knock on wood) it hasn’t happened yet.

Jobs are good! In addition to a. Providing me with the funding to be an indie author, it also b. Gives me benefits (so my teeth stay purty and I can get treatment if I contract some deadly disease) and c. While this may not sound like a benefit, it forces me to use my free time wisely. I’ve had much more flexible 25-30 hours jobs in the past and I’m actually more productive and have a better schedule now than I did then.

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Outside of my job, I also help out on my family’s fourth-generation farm and ranch. This takes up most of the daylight hours on Saturdays and some holidays, in addition to regular chores that have to been done every night and morning, like feeding animals. As I write this (January) we’re right in the middle of sheep having lambs. This will take an extra 30-45 minutes out of each morning before work, meaning I’ll have to get up earlier if I want to get anything done. We’ll talk more about mornings a little later.

Like many creative minds and entrepreneurial-minded folks, my eyes are often bigger than my schedule. In addition to writing, a full-time job and farm work, I also have a couple other projects/side hustles. Before I go through the list, yes, I know that this is probably counter productive. (It’s like juggling flaming bowling pins — you don’t want to drop any and you also don’t want to let them catch you on fire.) It’s just how I am, though. Although these extra interests may take precious writing time, I like variety. Here’s the list and estimated times each take during the week:

Everyday Author
Time per week: 2-4 hours
Most of my time spent going forward with Everyday Author (at least for the next 9 months) will be writing these posts and also conducting outreach for guest interviews and posts. This usually amounts to one article per week when we’ve got a full editorial lineup and also a monthly newsletter, so nothing too serious.

Book Review 22
Time per week: 3-6 hours
I’m fortunate that we have an awesome team at BR 22 that helps with submissions, pitching, outreach and follow-up. Most of my work here involves helping out with support emails the others pass along and also drumming up new business (on both the author and reviewer side of things). Outside of writing, I’ve placed a big focus on expanding and improving this service in 2017.

The rest of my time

Mornings

I’ve heard good things about the Miracle Morning for a couple of years now, but filed it away in the back of my mind. When Miracle Morning for Writers recently came out, I knew it was time to buckle down and give it a try. I started the audiobook last week and, as I started writing this, had just finished day 5 (the first work week). I’m a HUGE fan already. I’ve been working on these posts in the mornings before I got to the office and am accomplishing more in 20-30 minutes before my day starts than I would in 1-2 hours in the evenings when my motivation tank is running on fumes. As I approach the start line for writing the first draft, I’m gradually getting up earlier. Still need to work on getting to bed in time for seven and a half hours, though! I highly recommend checking this book out.

Getting ripped

every-time-i-add-a-new-exercise-to-my-workout-91252

I’m fortunate that we have a decent one-room gym at my office and take lunch breaks to work out there 2-3 times per week, for 30-60 minutes. On the days I don’t work out, I’ll use my break time to write. I enjoy exercise, but like many people, I struggled setting specific times and days to do it. I’ll spare you going over my routine, but some apps/programs I’ve found effective are:

Commute

My drive to work is only about 20 minutes now, but I still use this time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I also play podcasts throughout the day, depending on what I’m working on and sometimes listen to audiobooks while I work out as well. I recommend and listen to a variety of writing and publishing podcasts. See a list here and here . Outside of the author industry, I also enjoy The Art of Charm, Unemployable and The #AskGaryVee Show.

Evenings

My time and energy in the evenings fluctuates, which is a big reason I’m working on my Miracle Morning. Mornings are much more consistent and reliable for me. Even so, there’s only so many hours in a day and I need to take advantage of as many as I can. Most evenings, I have a couple hours max to do stuff and my motivation often runs low by that point. It’s easier (at least in theory, still working to consistently bring it in to practice) to go to bed earlier when I’m already fried. Also, I’m a human, meaning I need social time with friends and family on nights and weekends — one of the biggest ways I unwind.

I don’t want to sound superhuman or like I’ve especially got it together because I don’t. I waste time, get discouraged and lose motivation just like everyone else. But hopefully, this paints an accurate picture of my circumstances and sets some parameters around how I structure my day.

UP NEXT: Part III, Writing Process

Guest post: Automating Twitter for authors by Tim Morgan

Getting the Word Out – And Still Having a Life

As indie authors, we fill many roles, especially when we’re first starting out. We are the marketing department; the quality control department; the design team; and most importantly, the content creator.

Once you finish that book and upload it to your outlet of choice, you’re going to need to tell the world about it. This is something I see newer authors balk at, maybe because they don’t understand social media and how it works. Some try, only to walk away feeling like a failure when it doesn’t work out.

In this post, I’m going to share my secrets – approaches and tools to help you automate your social networking. If you automate, you can do more in less time – freeing you up to create more.

Wasted Time = Lost Money

Many of us start as creatives because we enjoy it. The process of making something from nothing exhilarates us. We’re energized when we create something new and original. However, if you want to move beyond your art as a hobby, you need to view it as a business.

Whether you go indie or you publish through a traditional publisher, you’re going to be the one who needs to care most about promoting your work. Promoting on social media can be a time suck and it can take time to bear fruit, so many people throw their hands up and walk away.

There’s a saying that in business time is money. Every hour you spend on social media is an hour less you have for creating new work. If you learn effective ways to automate that, though, you can set things on auto-pilot for a while so you can get back to creating.

Which Social Network?

I don’t have the space to explore every social network, so I’m going to focus on Twitter. It’s where I spend most of my time and I’ve had the most success. Some of the concepts like hashtags are the same across different networks – but they’re all very different animals.

One of the things you need to consider while you’re planning your social media strategy is where is your target audience. A Google search can pull up relatively current metrics on who’s using which social media platform. I strongly recommend HubSpot, they offer lots of free reports and guides if you give them your email address. All are highly visual and easy to understand.

Your Primary Focus: Good, Relevant Content

I can’t say this enough. In order to get noticed on any social media, you need to send out good quality content that’s relevant to your target audience.

What’s good content? Things your audience finds valuable. An author you like is running a free promotion? That’s good content. New movie coming out by your favorite director? That’s great too. You’re going to a conference? Fantastic.

Do you see a pattern here? The secret here is most of your messages shouldn’t be about you, they should be supporting other people. Every once in a while, I see some statistic that 2 out of every 10 tweets need to be about you, everything else should be about other people.

In reality, there’s no Twitter cop coming to give you a ticket because you didn’t follow that convention – just know if you overdo it you’ll lose followers.

How Often?

Some people tweet two or three times a day, some several times an hour. Either approach can be effective if you do it right. It’s all about who you want to reach: the internet is an always available, global system; people are constantly coming and going.  Tweets have a very short lifespan.

If you’re targeting consumers, plan your tweets around commuting times and weekends. If you’re after businesses, most of them are on during business hours. But in the end I don’t think you can tweet too much.

You should probably repeat your messages since people are always coming or going; there’s no law, but a good balance for me seems to be repeating after 8-12 hours.

Funny true story – when I first started tweeting, I was getting all kinds of followers in the United Kingdom. For a while I thought maybe my work was more appealing to people over there; then I realized I was sending out most of my tweets during the business day in the US – but if you were in the UK, you saw my tweets as you were going home.

Start locally, but don’t be afraid to think globally.

Effective Hashtagging and Tagging

For the uninitiated, hashtags are those words with a pound sign in front of them (#tag). These are used to aid discovery – I think they started on Twitter, but now are supported on just about all social networks. These help people find you. If you use a hashtag make sure it’s related.

Use them judiciously: some posts need a hashtag or two, some don’t need one at all. If you use them don’t use more than three or you’ll look like a spammer. (Yeah, I’ve done that and I’m not proud of it. Mea culpa.)

You can also use a popular hashtag to bring followers over to your product. There are no rules against this and it can aid your exposure, as long as it’s relevant.

Tagging is when you use an at sign in front of a name (@name). This is mentioning someone and will alert the person you tagged. Use these carefully as well; if you mention someone too many times you’ll get unfollowed or blocked. Once or twice a day is probably enough.

The Tools

Most of these are websites where you can do research and automate your messaging. They all provide free basic options as well as paid subscriptions that offer more features. HootSuite and Dlvr.it both work across multiple social networks – paying for an account will get you access to more social networks along with other bonuses.

The Library – Core Strategy

When I started I kept trying to think of new tweets every week. It was tough and I often found myself blocked, and even worse – it ate up most of my Saturday mornings.

Inspiration struck when I heard Lynn Serafinn interviewed on The Author’s Marketing Podcast. Lynn talked about having a tweet library. I was thinking the same thing but thought it was nuts until I heard that interview.

Lynn created a library of tweets she uses for her messaging. She has a plan to rotate through them and had enough to not repeat a message for several weeks.

I went a little further: I use a spreadsheet of messages broken out by category (books, blog, film, screenwriting, etc). This way I can filter the sheet and pull up relevant messages. This simple method has saved me so much work and it cost nothing.

HootSuite – Schedule Your Messages

HootSuite is a web-based social message scheduler. It allows you to queue messages to be sent at a later time. Going to be signing at a bookstore? New book coming out? Review being published? If you know in advance you can time messages accordingly.

You can also set up messages that plug your books, other people’s books, or other things you find interesting.

HootSuite offers a free version with a limited number of social networks, with paid options that increase the number of networks you can manage.

http://www.hootsuite.com

Dlvr.it – Auto-Post Relevant Blogs

Who said you have to be the one coming up with all the content? Dlvr.it lets you ping that blog’s RSS feed on a regular basis, posting new items to your social networks.

Dlvr.it allows up to four blogs free.

http://dlvr.it

Hashtags.org – When is Your Audience Active

To maximize your chances of success, you need to figure out when people are talking about your topic. Hashtags.org lets you see a graph of hashtag mentions over time. In the free tool you can see the last 24 hours; paid options let you track this over time.

http://www.hashtags.org

Hashtagify – The Hashtag Thesaurus

Hashtagify is a visual representation of other hashtags related to a term you entered. If you enter the hashtag horror, for instance, Hashtagify will suggest other popular hashtags related to it. This is handy when you want to expand your reach but you’re stuck on new terms. A few minutes on here can free you up.

You can click on a related term and pull up other related hashtags as well.

http://www.hashtagify.com

The Result

At the time of this writing, I’ve been actively working with most of these tools for about four years. In the early days before automation, I was able to get a week’s worth of messages scheduled in about four hours on a Saturday morning.

After automating, I spend maybe an hour a week scheduling messages.

Don’t expect a big bang. It took a very long time for me to cross 900 followers; before that point things were really slow. After that things picked up significantly. I can’t tell you how long it will take; all I can say is it can take time. As you’re getting off the ground be patient, be persistent, and above all don’t give up.

Good luck, I’d love to hear if these tools help you, or if you have some I haven’t mentioned here.

Tim Morgan is a writer who masquerades as a software developer by day. He is the author of the novels WITCH CITY: CARDINAL, the launch of a paranormal detective series; THE TRIP, a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse; and IC9: A CYBERPUNK DETECTIVE STORY. Tim’s very active on Twitter (@tmorgan_2100) and he shares writing advice on his own blog.

You can find out more about Tim and what he’s up to at his web site: http://www.timmorgan.us

Guest Post: Adventures in Self-Publishing w/ Michael Fletcher

Note from D-Sidd: Michael first joined us for an Author Origins interview back in June of 2015.  He then returned in March of 2016 to give us a sobering update on his author career.  He’d just been dumped by his major publisher and was working on a sequel to his critically acclaimed dark fantasy/grimdark book, Beyond Redemption and wrote about it in this post. Since then, Michael turned to self-publishing for the sequel, The Mirror’s Truth. (FYI, the above picture is not Michael, but he lives in Canada so it’s not completely out of the question that it could be him)

Hey Folks,

Yep, it’s me sneaking in here again for an update on all things random and insane. There are a couple of earlier blog posts you can check out if you’d like some background, or I can just give it to you now in a trippy drug-fueled flashback.

Crap. I’m all out of mescaline. Awrighty. Here’s the fast version:

I wrote a book (Beyond Redemption), got an agent, and sold that book to Harper Voyager. The book received rave reviews and made over a dozen Best-of-2015 lists. Secure in the knowledge HV would want more of my madness, I wrote a sequel (The Mirror’s Truth) and another novel taking place in the same world but with new characters (Swarm and Steel). I then learned that reviews do not always equal sales, and HV passed on the next book without even looking at it. In their words, Beyond Redemption wasn’t selling enough to warrant investing in a sequel. Gut punch.

Okay. We’re kinda caught up.

After spending several weeks drunk and lying in a pool of my own tears, I finally picked myself up, dusted myself off (really needed to vacuum), and realized I still wanted to write.

But it turns out success is a sneaky bastard. And my decision not to self-publish, I later came to realize, was a trap.

Many years ago—back in 2008—I stated in no uncertain terms that I would never self-publish. The few self-published novels I’d read were garbage. I believed whole-heartedly that if my books weren’t good enough to sell to a publisher, they weren’t good enough to publish. That was how I defined success. Well, by that metric, in 2014 (when BR sold to HV) I became successful. But it turns out success is a sneaky bastard. And my decision not to self-publish, I later came to realize, was a trap.

It turns out publishers are not interested in a sequel to a book held by another publisher. No one wanted The Mirror’s Truth. Having sold a book to a Big 5 publisher I now felt fairly confident (well, as confident as a writer ever feels) that I could write at a professional level. I’d spent a lot of time on TMT, and while it was different that BR—more internally focused on the characters—I was pretty sure it was just as good. But it wouldn’t sell. I faced a choice: Self-publish it, or let it die.

I am so glad I chose to self-publish. The Mirror’s Truth has been out a little over a month, has already landed on several Best-of-2016 lists, and earned back what I spent publishing it.

I went in knowing nothing, made just about every mistake along the way, and learned some amazing lessons. Super fast summary, ‘cuz this post ain’t about those lessons: Hire a good artist. Hire a good typographer for the cover text. Hire a reputable editor. Understand your deadline is self-set and change it if you need to rather than rushing to meet it. Oh, and self-publishing costs money!

Swarm and Steel, on the other hand, was not a sequel. My agent found a home for it with Talos Press (an imprint of Skyhorse/Night Shade Books) and it’s being released in August of 2017.

So now we’re caught up with today.

What does life look like for me right now? Well, I have a job, a family, and have to sneak in the writing wherever I can.

“How do you do that?” you might ask.

I have never been a morning person. The first time I got up at 5 am I thought I was going to puke. But when you want something bad enough, you make it happen.

I realized right away I was too tired—too burned out—in the evenings to write. After work, there was cooking dinner, doing homework with my daughter, spending time with my wife, and of course, whiskey. The only time I might be able to write was early in the morning. So I changed my schedule around. I’m now up by 5 am every day, even on weekends. This gives me two solid hours of writing/editing time before everyone else rises and the day starts. At 7 am I get my daughter up, and at 7:30 am I leave for work. And yeah, I’m in bed before 10 pm most nights. I have never been a morning person. The first time I got up at 5 am I thought I was going to puke. But when you want something bad enough, you make it happen.

More recently I realized there were writing opportunities at work that I was missing. Breaks, lunch time, and the occasional slow-time when nothing is happening. This coincided nicely with my daughter jumping up and down on a cheap Acer tablet I’d bought her a while back. The screen cracked and I didn’t want her cutting herself, but it was still useable. After installing Dropbox and Word, I took the tablet to work. After two days I realized my plan was crap. The damned thing was an utter bastard to type on and kept creating “Conflicted Copies” in Dropbox. But as they say, peanut butter is the step-mother of adversity. Or something.

I couldn’t work on the novel I worked on each morning while at work. That sentence needs the word ‘work’ in it a few more times. But what if I worked (aigh!) on something different? For the last year or so I’d been thinking about experimenting with hand-writing a novel. I couldn’t ever quite bring myself to do it because I love the flexibility of digital and dread retyping the damned thing. But here was the perfect excuse/reason!

In the last week, I brought a binder, paper, and a lovely pen to my place of employment. I’ve started world-building a new project. Gods my writing is messy! I don’t care how long it takes, but I will finish this hand-written novel.

As writers we face adversity. It’s part of the business. But we’re like sharks: if we stop we drown. (Note: Yeah, yeah, apparently this isn’t true for all breeds of shark. Or might not be true at all. I write fiction. I’m allowed to make shit up!)

The future is less certain than a Terminator movie. I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow, never mind next year. Will I someday be able to quit my job and write full-time? Dunno. I hope so, but if not, it doesn’t really matter. I love what I’m doing.

And writing keeps me sane.

State of the Author: 2016 (plus 2017 publishing predictions)

2016.
2016.

Need I say more? I know many indie authors and creatives in general who are looking at the New Year with emotions ranging from trepidation to outright anxiety. No matter what your situation is now or what looms ahead, just remember this: you can only control you. As Chuck Wendig advised, write despite.

Focus on the things in your control — whatever else is going to happen will happen, whether you worry and let it affect your writing or not.

2016 quick recap

From the outside looking in, 2016 would appear to be a step backward. I haven’t published a book since July (Golden Mane) and my only other two titles were the Swords for Hire Anthology (which I edited and published through Undaunted, but only wrote a single, 12k short for) and Into Exile, a 35k novella I wrote and largely revised at the end of 2015 then published this March. That being said, I took a step back from hectic production in past years to hone the non-writing stuff like pre-production outlining, research and planning, book packaging, my overall author strategy and trajectory.

luke balance

Basically, this was the year I slogged through the swamps of Dagobah, doing flips and pull-ups, the muse manifest on my back in the form of a creepy little green dude. I’ve got a game plan and I’m ready to take names in 2017. If you’d like to follow the journey, I’ll be recording the Bestseller Quest here on the Everyday Author in written and possibly audio and video form.

2016 by the numbers

  • Estimated rough draft words (for books only): 100,000+
  • Words published: 105,000+
  • Words revised: 175,000+
  • Books published: 3

What went well

Mailing list growth

This could also be filed under delegation because the biggest thing I did was hand over the reins to Author Platform Rocket. I have nothing but good things to say — my mailing list has more than doubled and I’m getting almost 50% open rates on my emails. I didn’t stay on the Instafreebie train for long, but I also found results there and know many authors who swear by it.

Miracle Morning for Writers

I’ve only been doing it for a month, but it’s still one of the most important changes I made this year. I’m soooo much more productive. Read the book and follow its advice, people. It’s a game-changer.

Co-authoring

I took a swing at this with Golden Mane. Overall, it was a great experience ( I think my partner in crime, Joseph Medina would agree as well). Although it’s not something I’m ready to do on every book I write, I’ll definitely be collaboration on more books in the future.

Anthologies

Although it didn’t get much fanfare, releasing the Swords for Hire Anthology was an amazing experience. I’ve spent the last three months gearing up for our next one, the Lone Wolf Anthology, coming January 2017. Yet another great way to collaborate with other authors.

Permafree book

Into Exile is my best-written book to date…and I haven’t made a cent in sales from it. The verdict is still out over the value of permafree titles, but I welcome any way people can get into my funnel, even if some of them never turn into true fans or buying readers. Exposure is the name of the game!

Smarter Artist Summit

I can’t say enough good things about this event. The #1 best thing I did for my career in 2016. Cannot wait for the 2017 Summit in April. There’s nothing else like it, folks.

Balance

I’m getting regular exercise, clipping on with my author business and also seeing success with some other side hustles. There’s a LOT on my plate, but I’ve finally settled into a groove (knock on wood).

Book Review 22

I’m very proud of this service. We’ve delivered tons of great results for authors. I’ll be the first to admit we can do better, though. We’re constantly monitoring the numbers and tweaking things. One of my goals in the next two years is to make BR 22 one of the premiere author services out there.

Delegation

As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, you can either spend time or money. We’ve established a top-rate team for Book Review 22 and have also assembled a number of professional editors and designers to work with through Undaunted. I hope to continue growing the crew in 2017. Cutting out tasks has helped me focus on what I do best and I’m starting to see major headway in all my pursuits because of it. 80/20, 80/20…

What didn’t go well

Golden Mane: The collaboration end was great, but Golden Mane as a write to market project failed. We failed to find our audience, but the people who did read it thought it was awesome. Unfortunately, they were few and far between. It didn’t help that I fizzled out around the launch and ensuing promoting, either. If I had hustled harder, I think we could have made a serious splash with this title.

The Swords for Hire launch and promotions: Another case of publishing a book and then basically doing nothing around the launch. I plan to solve part of this problem in the future by not immediately jumping into the next writing project after hitting publish. Building a backlist is great, but consistently missing launch opportunities is killing my business growth

Sales: I’ve seen a small trickling increase on sales, part of which is from being all over the board in 2016. I think ongoing sales will be determined in part by bigger, better launches (see above).

Reader quality: I mentioned mailing list growth as a positive, but I’m having a hard time getting my list to take basic actions like leave reviews, engage with my emails, etc. I recognize part of this is a numbers game, but I feel I do quite a bit of giving and relatively small amounts of asking, so when I do make an ask, I’d like to see a few more readers return the favor.

Predictions

Audiobooks will continue to grow in popularity and become a larger income staple for authors.

Along with podcasts going mainstream and the audio-only version of Facebook Live coming next year, I expect audiobooks to take another leap forward. Average people just don’t have/make the time to sit down and read anymore and audio is easy to consume on the go. The cost of production will be a barrier for many authors, but those who bite the bullet will be glad they did a couple years down the line.

Foreign sales will become a larger income staple for authors.

And already are for authors like Joanna Penn. The ebook market in India is primed for an explosion and the German market is only a few years behind the U.S. in terms of size and growth. Like audiobooks, translations and foreign marketing will be a barrier to entry for many, but those authors who hop on board in the next couple of years can establish themselves early on with massive numbers of readers.

Authors writing shorter books on a faster production schedule will see increased success.

Say what you want, I think shorter books will become more popular across all genres (this is coming from someone who reads and writes fantasy, too). Aside from uber readers, people prefer content they can consume in smaller slots of time. There’s something about reading on a digital device that makes long books feel like they drag out — it’s just a different user experience. Reading time now competes with thousands of other entertainment options and people want to burn through their to-read piles without setting aside 2+ hours every day. I see trends shifting to shorter, punchier books in the 20-50k range that allow people to do what I’ve just described. (Speaking of 20to50k, if you don’t believe me, check out the success Michael Anderle has had with this model). Authors benefit because shorter books make the entire publishing process is quicker, meaning they can build up a backlist faster.

$4.99 will be the new $2.99.

In fact, I’d argue it already is. Indies are realizing they don’t have/want to charge $2.99 or less to sell books. As traditional publishing lowers prices of ebooks into the $5-9 range, indies who make their books look just like they belong in the big league will be able to charge these prices too. There will always be freebie seekers and bargain hunters, but building a career solely on these types of readers isn’t feasible.

Traditional publishing will reclaim more of the ebook market share.

According to the latest Author Earnings from October, they’re well on their way. (look up and verify) Scoff if you want, but I believe the big war machine is slowly churning to catch up with the times, as evidenced by the number of traditionally published books in Bookbub and the lower ebook prices of traditional titles. This doesn’t mean indies won’t be able to make a living, but the bottom-end authors will have to up their game. We also have the advantage of being infinitely more adaptable and savvy indies will always be at the forefront of publishing. Improving quality across the board is good in the long run. too.

The 2017 Smarter Artist Summit will establish itself as THE indie author conference to attend.

This isn’t just lip service. If you know anyone who attended the 2016 Summit, you’ve probably listened to them gush about it for past 9 months. In ten years, this could be the indie publishing version of Sundance.

Authors in KU will still be able to make loads of $$$.

I’m going to try very hard not to go on a rant here, but here’s how I see it: 1. You’re potentially missing out on a ton of money by not being in KU. 2. Ride the wave while it’s hot and save your money for when the so-called Amazon apocalypse comes. Don’t let fear be the reason you go wide. Strike while the iron is hot and get yours! 3. Saying that you distribute wide because you don’t want to rely on one income source is a little (cross this out) ridiculous. The book industry is one income source. Outlets are not industries. If book sales tank, they will across the board, not just for Amazon. I’m willing to bet if Amazon stops selling books for some reason, we’ll all have bigger worries, like World War III.

Amazon ads will be the new Facebook ads.

Meaning DROVES of authors will jump on them as a way to make money, most will waste their money and time and a few, savvy advertisers will make bank because they put in the time to learn the system. Amazon ads have the added advantage of being able to generate a positive ROI on individual titles, something that Facebook has been pretty awful for.

BONUS predictions that will most definitely come true:

Dave Wright moves to Austin and the Self-Publishing Podcast/ Smarter Artist community rejoices. Then he’ll promptly skip town to Alaska without telling anyone and break all the hearts.

Chris Fox begins experiments to assimilate his consciousness with AI. By 2020, his goals will switch from writing million-dollar books to world domination. As a side note, this will also be the year Platt/Truant announce their presidential campaign for 2024.

Joanna Penn is hired by Oculus Rift as a virtual storyteller. She then gets sucked into the Rift (was Chris Fox to blame?) and writes a bestselling Lit RPG book based on her experiences once she returns to reality.

New father Bryan Cohen sleeps through at least one Sell More Books Show episode then cancels the show due to broken heart when… Jim Kukral goes MIA in February and resurfaces in December as the Head of Publishing for Google Play, immediately declaring war on Kindle Direct Publishing.

Kevin Tumlinson becomes the first person to cross the Atlantic in an RV. He tragically strikes an iceberg on the return voyage but lives long enough to publish his memoir: Pants on the Ground.

Bestseller Quest Part I: Introduction

(Insert epic music here)

Welcome to Bestseller Quest, the live, real-time (if you’re reading this around January 2017) chronicle of my attempt to create a bestselling series. This will be my step-by-step process showing how I (hopefully) went from an indie author selling a handful of books per month to a bonafide bestseller with a foundation to begin making the transition from an everyday to full-time author. Let’s get started!

Throughout 2016, I’ve read a number of books and listened to several interviews with authors who finally cracked the self-publishing nut and are making solid incomes from their writing. I took notes and implemented some their strategies and tactics, but eventually came to the realization that if I wanted to truly test these methods for myself, if I really wanted to find out once and for all if this indie author game is more than just a lottery, I’d need to start from scratch. Bestseller Quest is intended to be my zero-to-hero journey you can follow step-by-step. Instead of showing my success at the end and talking in retrospect, I want everyone to see the blood, sweat and tears along the way, as they happen.

Here’s a quick origin story to set things up:

As many of you know (or can find out if you read the Everyday Author Archives) I started indie publishing in 2013. I had a helping hand from a number of authors but really didn’t know a whole lot about the world I’d just entered. Then, after Christmas 2013, I used an Amazon giftcard to buy a certain ebook on the Kindle app. It came courtesy of Amazon’s also-bought category, which I’ll forever owe the Amazon robots for. That book was Write. Publish. Repeat. 

Write. Publish. Repeat. (WPR) pulled back the curtains for me and showed me what it was really going to take to make it as an indie. Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and Dave Wright introduced me to a world I didn’t even realize I was part of when I published my first title. If I was Luke Skywalker, writing and self-publishing Out of Exile  was me chasing after R2-D2 in the desert. These guys were my Ben Kenobi who led me on my first steps into a larger world.

first step ben kenobi

Fast forward three years later, and I’m Luke on Hoth — I can pull my lightsaber out of the snow to save me from a Wampa, but I’m not a Jedi yet. Since November 2013, I’ve learned a metric crap-ton of stuff from a variety of podcasts, books and good, old-fashioned mistakes I’ve made. I’m a better writer and marketer now, which is why I’ve decided to take this challenge.

luke hoth cave

Teutevar Saga will always be dear to my heart and I intend to get back to the series in 2018, but I came to the realization I would need to build a new foundation for this experiment. Here’s why:

Out of Exile was the first book I published. Although it’s been revised and edited numerous times, it could probably use another polish, given what I’ve learned about story since I last revisited it — not ideal conditions for a written to market book. I want a stronger launching point.

The Teutevar Saga has three books remaining, each of which I anticipate will be at least 150k words long. Given my circumstances (day job and other responsibilities), it would take me almost an entire year to write 450k words. And that’s just the rough drafts!

The Teutevar Saga is definitely a medieval fantasy epic, but it’s not a perfect fit in some of the smaller sub-categories I can realistically compete in as an indie (as it stands, anyway). It’s technically not written to market. Furthermore, the first three books have been out since March 2016, May 2015 and November 2013. This limits the number of launch strategies I can use, especially with new releases. If I’d chosen to write books 3,4 and 5 for this challenge, I’d only be working with a small group of readers who are already invested in the series.

Nevertheless, I have a few advantages I will be bringing to the table.

What I’m bringing to the table

I have a small but growing mailing list of just under 500 readers. Since the new trilogy, I will be writing is also in a sub-genre of fantasy (more on this in the next post), I believe most of them will be interested in reading it.

I said small but growing mailing list — I’m currently using Author Platform Rocket to grow my list. I’ve done okay in the past with Facebook ads for this, but Author Platform Rocket gets better results for cheaper and it also allows me more writing time.

Experience. As I mentioned above, it’s difficult to make a new book in a long series a success if your entry hole at the beginning is so small. I won’t list out all the hard lessons I’ve learned in the past three years (we’ll cover many of them later, anyway) but it’s safe to say I have a much more specific and effective set of strategies and tactics for this experiment. (A particular set of skills, if you will).

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What I’m starting fresh with

A brand new trilogy, unrelated to my current series. Aside from a short story coming out as part of an anthology in January, there is absolutely nothing out there in this world. Could I have done a spinoff in the Teutevar Saga world? Probably, but my world building there didn’t allow for some of the tropes I’m using in this new trilogy.Mindset. I’m going into this with a professional mindset. In the past, I’ve cut a few corners in the writing, editing,

Mindset. I’m going into this with a professional mindset. In the past, I’ve cut a few corners in the writing, editing, publishing and marketing process, but everything is going to be by the book (we’ll talk about which books I’m using as a guide later). The strategies I’m using have been proven by more established authors, and if I can do it at this point in my career, anyone can.

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What’s in store

Although I’m also going to throw in some video and audio clips here and there, the real meat of everything I’m doing will be in written format. EVERYTHING related to this project will be documented and designed to be replicated.

UP NEXT:

I explain the groundwork I’ve already done and outline the roadmap of my Bestseller Quest!

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