The Everyday Author

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

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.

Pre-Launch

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.

Launch

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.

Post-Launch

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.

Conclusion

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.

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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 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 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.

g1orc

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.

5uzv8x

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

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