The Everyday Author

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

Category: Guest Post (page 1 of 2)

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.

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!

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.

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.

Going big with your book launch with John L. Monk

The thing I like most about book launches is they’re one letter away from the word “lunches.” Other than that, there’s nothing at all that’s likable about them. All they do is disappoint … or at least that had been my experience writing four other books and selling them on Amazon.

The pattern is familiar:

  1. Cool idea.
  2. Tell our patient/suffering friends/family all about it while they smile and nod and tell us to keep our day jobs.
  3. We write the book.
  4. We launch it, and…
  5. It doesn’t sell. We keep our day job, and our friends/family pretend to ignore our brooding looks and streams of vile profanity.

All that changed when I launched “Hell’s Children.” Thank goodness for Chris Fox’s book “Launch To Market,” which I’d read late in May before my June launch. After reading it, I was able to incorporate a number of tips and tactics to sell my book well for going on three months.
Here were some of the things I did:

  1. I picked a type of book that people are actually looking for, in a definable genre with lots of readers. In my case: post-apocalyptic. Additionally, it’s a YA book, which people are also looking for. People type “post-apocalyptic” and “young adult” into Amazon’s search bar all the time. When I run my Amazon “Sponsored Product” ads, these keywords get the most hits.
  2. I got a great cover from a top cover designer, and didn’t break the bank doing it. $150 bucks from Yocla Designs. She’s usually backed up 3-4 months, so be prepared to wait. I started writing the book last December, so I had plenty of time.
  3. Title … hmm … ok, to be honest, I’ve never been very happy with my title. After struggling for several months, that’s the best I could come up with. “Hell’s Children.” I wanted something more grand like, “Children Of A Lesser God” or “Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil” or “The Sun Also Rises.” That said, “Hell’s Children” is sort of provocative. People have been clicking it. It’s doing its job.
  4. I asked 50 people from my mailing list if they’d like an Advanced Reading/Review Copy. About fifteen replied that they would. I also asked folks on Facebook in a post on my timeline, which got me about 20 responses (if I remember correctly). By the second day of my launch, I had 14 or so reviews.
  5. Following Chris Fox’s advice, I did a pre-order. Unlike Chris, I did mine over two weeks, and not one. The point was to generate “also-boughts” under other people’s books. This was to assist in building up my organic discoverability. People would look at other people’s books, scroll down, and then see mine there as something people had also-bought. The idea being they’d click my book and buy it.
  6. Still following Chris’s advice, I launched at 99 cents — in Kindle Unlimited. Chris jumped to 2.99 after a week, but I waited two weeks in order to accommodate an author friend who wanted to hit his list for me late in the second week (see below).
  7. Over the years, I’ve cultivated a lot of great friendships with other authors. For the most part, I’ve never asked any of them for anything. We just like each other’s cat videos or share information on cool authory things—podcasts we’ve heard, writing articles, etc. So it was with some trepidation that I actually asked some of them to read my book. Then, wonder of wonders, they all said yes. On top of that, many of them notified their mailing lists about the book, for the most part unasked for. This was some kind of crazy good fortune I’d never expected or even hoped for when I first reached out to all these great people, and I’ll forever be grateful to them for what they did. Having steady sales every day is what Amazon looks for when they decide to make your book “sticky” — keeping it visible to shoppers who type keywords into the search bar.
  8. Special point: one of my author friends — a top-tier sort of fellow — offered to boost a Facebook post to all his fans for me over a two day period. I paid him $50, which he applied in its entirety to the boosted post.These two days resulted in very high sales for me. About 145 on the first day, and around 120 the next day (going from memory — I may be off a little). So if you have any author friends with lots of fans (and your author friend likes your work), perhaps suggest paying him/her to boost your book. It’s a much easier ask than having someone hit their mailing list.
  9. Once folks started telling me they were hitting their lists, I created a spreadsheet and plotted out the first two weeks of my launch. I then took the dates they were going to hit their lists and plotted them into the little boxes under each day. For those days that were empty, I tried to do something. For example, I got a “Bargain Booksy” in one day. In another box, a friend talking about my book on Youtube. In another, Bookbub telling 80 people who followed my author profile (on their site) that I’d just released a book. In another box, I asked a top-tier author buddy if I could move his help to a different day, because he was doubled up with someone.The whole point of all this was to cover each day. I think when I was done, I had every day but one (a Sunday) covered in that spreadsheet.
  10. During the pre-order, I ran Facebook ads, which resulted in about 40 sales. Not that many, sure, and I spent about 5-10 dollars a day on it. But hey, it got me some also-boughts. That’s what I wanted. Next time, I’ll spend more.
  11. After my launch, I killed the Facebook ads after about the 2nd day — because my Amazon “Sponsored Product” ad had been approved!These ads rock. They don’t waste your money, and they move books. Also, they’re a great way to see what people are searching for, clicking on, and then buying. If your stuff isn’t selling and you don’t know why, create an Amazon ad (available to Kindle Unlimited members only, sadly). If you see 50 clicks on your ad and no buys, either your ad doesn’t match the product description, or the product description needs work. If you change one or the other and you suddenly start getting purchases, then you learned something very valuable.Note: be careful of the other ads — the “Product Display” ads. They’re more expensive, and they use up your money quicker. That said, they also sell books more quickly. They have their place, but they’re pricy. I like the idea of using them to fill holes in a launch, and that’s about it. I still have to experiment with them.

The Results:

After doing all this, for the first time in my author career (3 years and 5 books), I was able to stay in the top 1000 for the first month and a half, and I’ve stayed between 3000-4000 at the lowest as of the time of this article. It’s been great. The money came in at a very fortunate time. About a week after my launch, my wife was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus and needed a hysterectomy. We were caught flat-footed. The money really saved us, because the insurance didn’t cover it all. More good news: my wife is now totally cured. The doctor thinks he got it all. We’ll be going back every three months for the next two years to ensure that’s the case.

I hope your next launch is as good or better than mine. If you’re curious about writing to market, pick up Chris’s other book “Write To Market.” I hadn’t read it when I decided to switch genres to post-apocalyptic, but I wish I had. It’s filled with great advice on finding and locating genres that are underserved—that have lots of readers and not a lot of writers. Hopefully you actually like these genres. I love reading post-apocalyptic books, so it was an easy and pleasant experience writing one. But you won’t be finding any John L. Monk romance books any time soon. At least none you’d like to read!

The benefits of going wide as an author – Kevin Tumlinson, Draft2Digital

There are times when you might forget that there’s a world beyond Amazon.

It’s easy to do. The KDP Select Global Fund makes being exclusive to Amazon pretty attractive, after all. It eases some of the burden on an author’s shoulders—you can earn a little bit just for the pages that are read, so that even if a reader doesn’t like the book, you still get something in the transaction. And there are other perks, as well—some authors find their core audience in the Kindle Unlimited ecosystem.

But most authors (and believe me, I’ve talked to a lot of authors) didn’t get into this business thinking, “Gee, I can’t wait to only be read by people who own a Kindle!” Most saw themselves standing behind a podium, sharing the stage with the likes of Stephen King or Lee Child or John Grisham. Most saw themselves hitting the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers lists.

You don’t get to that level on one platform. Reaching that level of success means increasing your reach, making the effort to reach out on a global scale.

There are a number of benefits to ‘going wide’— branching out from Amazon.

 EMERGING MARKETS

Here’s an interesting tidbit: Africa largely skipped the desktop revolution.

While in the United States people were debating the merits of Mac versus PC, and computer manufacturing saw an explosion and a rapid evolution from desktop to laptop to mobile platforms, an enormous population in Africa had never even heard of computers. They had no notion of desktop publishing. No clue about the internet.

And then someone introduced the smartphone into the ecosystem.

Just like that, a revolution emerged. People who had limited access to water could now research how to drill for fresh groundwater and build windmills from bicycle parts, to power pumps and irrigation systems. And those who had no access to books suddenly had a virtual Library of Alexandria right in the palm of their hands.

Think about that.

From zero to a million, with the swipe of a finger, and suddenly a new and voracious appetite for knowledge springs up.

Amazon doesn’t serve that particular market. There’s no real profit to draw them there, just yet. African villagers don’t tend to have much (or any) money, after all. But as they gain access to the internet, they also gain access to the free resources online that allow them to build businesses of their own, to crowd source startup funds using Patreon and Kickstarter campaigns, and to participate in a global economy, using their innate industriousness and their wealth of time to get up to speed quickly.

Annnnnd boom. A brand new market, eager for knowledge, for stories, for anything that can help them change and improve their lives, emerges on the world stage.

It would be insane to not want to reach out and tap into that live-wire current, with intellectual property that has virtually no overhead, but can bring in tiny trickles that lead to big streams.

In other words, charge 99 cents for your book, and sell it to a few hundred million people, and you’re going to do alright.

DIVERSIFICATION MAKES YOU BULLET PROOF

Business is a funny thing. Even the very best business can fall to pieces without much warning.

My wife and I are fans of British television, and we recently watched the series finale of “Mr. Selfridge.” If you’re not familiar with the story, the gist is that the real-world, American-born Mr. Selfridge was the creator of one of the most successful department stores in all of the UK. Despite huge opposition, Selfridge built his store to be a new model for the industry—he literally redefined certain aspects of the business, including such innovations as moving the perfume counter out onto the main floor of the store, and encouraging shoppers to browse rather than forcing them to either buy or get out.

Selfridge had a few personal problems that eventually led to his being ousted from his own business—a move that took him from industry leader to sideline spectator in a single afternoon. He never saw it coming. Neither he nor his most loyal employees ever even considered it.

Selfridge, who was a paragon of business savvy for most of his career, saw his empire wrested from him with the dashing of a signature, and he never recovered.

The interesting thing: Selfridge’s was a diversified storefront. It had tons of merchandise in a variety of categories. But Selfridge himself had all of his eggs in the department store basket (for the most part—there are nuanced exceptions). And that was what led to him being vulnerable, to losing his authority over his own business, and to be ousted while someone else got to carry on with his name and his life’s work.

So let’s look at Amazon for a moment:

Authors who are exclusive to Amazon are beholden to its rules. And they have absolutely zero control over those rules—Amazon can choose to change its terms of service (TOS) at any moment, without warning and without recourse on the part of the authors. It’s happened before.

Recently, Amazon decided to crack down on an oft-ignored rule in the TOS, which prohibited the use of affiliate links in email. For quite some time, Amazon had simply turned its gaze from violators of this rule, and in that time several small businesses emerged, helping readers discover new authors and new books. These companies built their revenue streams based on Amazon’s affiliate links, and they did rather well.

And then, without warning, Amazon decided to start enforcing the rule. And just like that, dozens of small businesses were no longer in business. They’re primary source of revenue dried up in an afternoon.

Amazon had allowed the infractions to keep building up, because these services were funneling customers their way. But the moment it was no longer strategically advantageous to allow it, Amazon put a cork in it.

And here’s the lesson we have to learn:

Amazon will do what’s in the best interest of Amazon, always.

For a brief time, that may line up with what’s best for you as an author, as well. Certainly, having access to the KDP Global Fund is a perk for authors. Many authors have businesses that rely on that income, even up to 100%. But the program itself is a loss leader—meaning that Amazon really doesn’t make any money directly from eBook sales. They use that business to keep funneling customers into their more profitable revenue silos. Eventually, however, that will stop.

I’m not Nostradamus. I’m not gazing into a crystal ball or reading tea leaves or consulting the spirits. I’m looking at Amazon’s history when it comes to businesses like this one, and I’m considering the fact that at a certain level there will, by necessity, be an equilibrium, and the bubble will burst. Overnight, those authors relying solely on Amazon will lose their primary revenue stream, and they’ll start right back at zero.

Exclusivity with Amazon is a nice revenue booster. No question. But while you’re building that business, you’re not building the backup you’re going to need. Authors who have been in the Amazon ecosystem for years have spent zero time building up a presence and a platform outside of that ecosystem. So when it crashes, it’s game over.

The smarter play is to think in terms of the long game.

If you leave KDP Select, you will reduce the level of income you’re getting, no doubt. It’s going to take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get back to that level in the ‘outside world.’ But what you’ll build, by going wide, will be much more stable, much tougher, and much less prone to collapse than relying on Amazon alone.

The smarter business decision is to go wide.

YOU CAN EARN MORE MONEY

There, I said it.

Being in the Kindle Unlimited library has a huge perk: More money, faster.

I’ve been there. I’ve seen my revenue quadruple in a month, because I pulled titles from other storefronts and went exclusive. But I also saw a lot of my readers—subscribers on my mailing list who were loyal and trusted me to provide great stories—write to tell me that they were incredibly frustrated that all of my new books were only on Amazon, which meant they couldn’t read them.

Bad press. Bad reputation. It made me suddenly very small.

Like a lot of authors, I got into this business to go big. I wanted name recognition. I wanted invitations to speak at conventions and banquets and award ceremonies. And now, as a KDP Select author, I was doing alright financially, but not meeting any of my other life goals.

I was still a nobody on the global scene.

I’m not exactly Lee Child now, but I can say that my platform is a bit more diverse, and my reach is a bit longer. I have readers in hundreds of different countries now, including several that Amazon hasn’t yet touched. And as my work trickles and crawls and spreads, the cumulative effect starts to make a big difference in my income.

Ultimately, there’s a bit of a ceiling on the number of readers you can reach, in a given amount of time, on Amazon’s platform. And that’s because, unlike out in the ‘wild,’ when you’re locked into one ecosystem you inevitably face competition.

I tell authors every day that there’s no such thing as competition in the publishing industry. If someone picks up the latest book by James Rollins, they aren’t choosing his book instead of mine. They’re choosing his book for now. I still have a shot at capturing that reader, who may enjoy reading both Rollins and Tumlinson.

There’s no competition, because reading books isn’t a zero sum game. If a reader chooses one book, it doesn’t destroy all the other books, so that they are never an option.

If there’s competition for anything in publishing, it’s competition for attention. And on that playing field, ‘clever and creative’ can put you on equal ground with ‘spends the most money.’

So on the whole, there’s no real competition in the publishing industry in general. But in any given specific ecosystem, competition is a natural byproduct of exclusivity.

In biology, all life forms in a closed system compete for resources. That’s the nature of a closed system. It’s inevitable that I will compete against another author for placement, for attention, for the limited time and limited money that a reader has to spend. And where I could be on more or less equal footing out in the ‘wild,’ due mostly to the diversity of readers, when I’m in an aquarium I’m limited to only what Amazon is willing to feed me.

Give me wide open spaces.

A wider pool of potential readers means far more opportunities to capture interest. There are fewer limitations, and more avenues for revenue.

To put it bluntly: The world outside Amazon is much, much bigger than the world inside Amazon.

By it’s very nature, going wide offers more revenue potential than exclusivity—given time.

That’s the thing that really sticks a lot of authors. There’s simply no denying that the way to fast income is through Amazon. You’re marketing efforts will gain much bigger returns in a shorter timeframe. That’s really attractive.

The only promise that can be made, however, is that given enough time your global distribution can outpace that exclusivity. If you can be patient, and use that time to build your platform (including your mailing list, your ad campaigns, and any other resources that let you talk to your audience), you’ll eventually net returns that make it all worthwhile.

PRO TIP: Use the time to write and publish as many books as possible. Even without any other marketing, having a huge library of books available will help you increase your income—first incrementally, and then exponentially.

The more you know.

YOU CAN STILL BE EXCLUSIVE

For those of us who built our revenue streams on the back of Amazon, it looks kind of bleak when we consider moving. But there’s a way to do this strategically that will help ease the pain while still protecting you as you grow your platform.

Let’s break it down into easy steps:

  • Determine your 80/20—You may be familiar with this phrase, but just in case, what you want to figure out is what 20% of your books is bringing in 80% of your revenue. If you don’t happen to have multiple books, the answer is “my book.” And it’s more of a 100/100 rule at that point. But that’s ok … this plan is still going to work for you, with slight modification.
  • Move the other 80%—You know what makes you the most money, so let’s keep that 20% of your work right where it is. Keep the marketing going, and keep the revenue coming. Take your less productive books out of exclusivity, though, and move them into a broad solution. Now you have a body of work out there for people to discover, at least, and that’s a start.
  • Write more books—This is just the Prime Directive for authors, frankly. Write more books. Then write more. And finally, write more books. But now, as you publish, put those books into your broad solution, again and again. And if you only had one book at the beginning of this, all you’re really doing is skipping the second step. More books means more revenue opportunities, so keep it coming.
  • Promote your new platform—Place Facebook ads, share Universal Book Links (UBLs) on social media, go on podcasts, do guest blog posts—do all the things you can think to do to tell the world your work exists, and encourage everyone to go read it. The best marketing advice you’ll ever get is “go to where your customer lives,” which means “focus all your effort on reaching your customer/reader where they spend the most time.” Do that. Over and over.
  • As wide revenue increases, move the rest of your books—Do it one at a time. As you replace the monthly income of one book, move it to wide distribution. And keep doing that until all of your books are wide.
  • Use exclusivity as part of a strategy, not as your business model—You can launch a book as exclusive to Amazon, and utilize their promotional tools. You can benefit from page reads, and garner tons of reviews. But use that exclusivity like a surgical instrument. Just like any good marketing campaign or product development strategy, you should plan for obsolescence. Use exclusivity as a tool for making more money faster, and then get your book out of that small pond and into the greater ocean as soon as you can.

And that’s it. That’s how you use Amazon exclusivity to your advantage, while continuing to build a wider, more stable, global platform for your work.

It won’t be as easy, I’ll admit. It will feel frustrating, as you see other authors making a lot more money, a lot faster. But in the end, you’re trading in short term gain for long term success, and that has always been a winning strategy for any business.

DRAFT2DIGITAL CAN MAKE THIS EASIER

I’ve specifically avoided mentioned Draft2Digitial to this point, because all the advice above is completely unbiased, and unaffected by this little ‘pitch’ at the end. You can stop reading right up to this header, and you’ll have gotten some world-class advice for phenomenal author success.

Go ahead … go … it’s ok. I still love you.

But if you want make this whole thing a lot easier, then stick around for a second.

Draft2Digital helps you go wide by making it ridiculously easy. Upload your manuscript and your cover file, enter a bit of information, and hit ‘publish.’ And the world belongs to you.

When I was invited to become the Director of Marketing for D2D, I already knew all of this about the company. They have set up this business specifically to help authors to overcome some of the biggest, gnarliest pain points around. And they do a phenomenal job of it. I was a fanboy for years before I became part of the team.

Recently we introduced Universal Book Links, or UBLs. These are available free of charge at books2read.com, and they give you some nice perks, including:

  • The ability to create a unique, customized URL that leads readers to every online storefront that carries your book. One link for you, every store online for them.
  • The ability to see data about how well your links perform, including the stores that more of your readers prefer.
  • The ability to instantly update your existing links with brand new storefronts, so that your links never expire. Use them on everything from email campaigns to printed materials, without worrying that they’ll one day stop working.

There are more benefits, and more uses, but you can already see how handy these things are.

And they are FREE. Always. Even when you register for an account, they’re free. Just like that.

So check out Draft2Digital for the ability to instantly go wide with your books, and check out Books2Read to start creating Universal Book Links (or UBLS as we call them) for promoting your work and making yourself more discoverable. These are some of the best decisions you’ll ever make for your author business.

But regardless of whatever else you do, start making plans to go wide and exist the exclusivity of the KDP ecosystem. Trade short-term, limited success for long-term, unlimited growth, and you’ll find that you’re in a better place than you could ever have imagined. And short of a global boycott on eBooks, you’ll  never have to worry about waking up to the nightmare of your business being shut down by the whims of someone else.

Kevin TumlinsonKevin Tumlinson is a self-published author with more than 30 novels, novellas, and non-fiction books in his catalog. He is also the Director of Marketing for Draft2Digital—a company absolutely bent on author success. Find out more about Kevin and his work, plus get three of his best books for FREE when you register at KevinTumlinson.com, and get a start on going wide with your own work at Draft2Digital.com.

Guest Post: 7 tips for killer book cover design

Intro from D_Sidd: Like it or not, readers judge books by their covers. A cover is the first thing a reader sees and if yours isn’t up to snuff, odds are they’re going to pass your book by. Quality book cover design doesn’t come cheap and the last thing you want to do is write a check for a cover that’s less than stellar. Here’s a few tips to keep in mind from Domi at Inspired Cover Designs.

Right fit for the genre

A lot of authors want to make their cover different from others in the genre, they want something unique. But there are major reasons to stick with genre conventions. If your potential readers don’t immediately recognize the genre of your book by looking at your cover, they will just look somewhere else. This doesn’t mean that your cover can‘t stand out. Take a look at the most successful books on Amazon in your category – what do they have in common, what makes them the right fit for the genre? If you are working with a graphic designer, he will be able to help identify these elements, and work them into your cover. Your cover can still be unique and there are plenty of ways to work with these graphic elements to create an interesting cover.

Less is more

A book cover is packaging, and just like any other packaging, it’s there to grab a potential customer’s attention and tell them what they are buying. Some authors want their cover to show the exact places, objects and characters they created in their book. This can result in a cluttered design which is not effective. Everything which is not necessary to make your customers buy your book must go.

Focus on people

If you don’t know where to start, try focusing on some basic graphic elements which are proven to work. People are drawn to the images of people, which is why they are so often present on book covers. A popular design choice is to leave readers some room for imagination and show characters as silhouettes, or with their faces partially cut out.

Fonts

When deciding the right fonts for your cover, you should consider what is common in your genre. Generally, you can combine one complicated font with one simple font and you should avoid using more than three different fonts on one cover. Contrasting color between the text and the background helps your text stand out.

You may also be unsure about the sizing of the title and your author name. This is a controversial topic. If you are not recognized as an author yet, you will probably want to emphasize the title of your book rather than your author name. However, some authors argue that you should make your author name large anyway, because it gives the impression that you are already successful, and must be worth reading.

Stock photos

You might sometimes see that somebody has used the same stock image as someone else (you might even see many appearances of the same stock image). Don’t worry about using this image if it’s perfect for your book. All you need to do in this situation is to make sure that your book cover looks better and more professional than the other ones using the same stock photo. That way everyone will assume that you were the first one using the image… even if you weren’t.

Productive collaboration with your graphic designer

It’s definitely worth it to spend some time thinking about your book cover before you ask your designer to start working. You should be able to answer questions like:

  • What are the dominant themes of my book?
  • Who is my ideal reader?
  • What is the mood of my book?
  • What existing covers do I like in this genre and why?

These are questions similar to those that a designer will ask when you start working with them. Being able to confidently answer these questions will ensure that your designer is going the same direction as you are.

Promotion

You should think about other ways you can use your book cover to promote the book. You might promote your book on social media, on your personal website, or somewhere else entirely. In all these cases the consistency is the key. The banners you use for promotion should include graphic elements from your cover. That way the readers will know exactly what they’re looking for when they visit your author page on Amazon or elsewhere.

Domi lives in Prague where beer is cheaper than water. She is a graphic designer who spends her days reading, drinking coffee and designing book covers. She enjoys the creative collaboration with authors that creates a beautiful book cover. Domi has her Masters degree in economics and has previously worked in marketing. She also understands the need for solid book promotion and offers promotional graphics to help authors grow their businesses on her website: http://inspiredcoverdesigns.com.

Guest Post: There and Back Again — Michael Fletcher

It’s the oldest story in the world, boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy gets a book published with a Big-5 publisher, publisher decides to pass on the sequel, girl tells boy maybe it’s time he got a job.

Maybe I should back up.

Back in 2014 Harper Voyager bought my dark fantasy novel, Beyond Redemption . It came with a fairly sweet advance (at least for an unknown author) and the book went on to sell translation rights to German, Polish, and Russian publishers. While I certainly wasn’t rolling in money, the book made enough that I could afford to work part-time and focus on my writing. As Beyond Redemption was bringing in amazing reviews (starred and boxed review from Publishers Weekly, rave reviews from BookList, the Library Journal, and a host of indie book reviewers) I decided to gamble and write the sequel.

In a twelve month period I wrote and edited two novels totalling over 270,000 words. The first was a direct sequel to Beyond Redemption, the second an unrelated story taking place in the same world. With all the amazing reviews I was confident the publisher would pick up both novels and I looked forward to another year of part-time work and more writing. In fact, if the advances on these two novels were the same as the first and both sold translation rights, it was entirely possible I wouldn’t need a day job at all. Things were tight but I had a plan and my amazing wife supported me chasing my dreams.

And then in late October I heard from the publisher that sales of Beyond Redemption were far lower than expected and at that time they were unwilling to make an offer on the next books.

F@*!

Let’s talk numbers. The book was published June 16th, 2015. Between then and late October the book sold ~750 copies. The publisher wanted to see sales closer to 2,500 copies. Clearly I was well short of that. Harper Voyager suggested we reconvene in the new year and see how sales were then. At that point I went on a mad publicity drive doing guest posts, interviews, and Q&As anywhere that would have me. I’ve talked about this elsewhere so I’ll cut it short. When we talked again in January the sales were sitting around 1,700. While my publicity push had definitely helped, the sales were still well below what HV wanted. They passed on the two books I’d spent the last year writing, wished me the best of luck, and said they would be very interested in seeing more work from me (unrelated to Beyond Redemption) in the future.

It was a kick in the gut. All of a sudden I was sitting there with two written books and no income beyond a part-time job that wasn’t making nearly enough to live off.

The first thing I did was get extremely drunk. For about a week. Maybe longer. I just know that there was an empty 40 oz Jameson bottle in the recycling box every week for a while alongside all the usual wine and beer empties. Ok. It might have been a month.

I might be ‘new’ at this, but what that means is that I’ve only been writing for seven years. And in seven years any serious writer amasses a truly staggering amount of rejection. I collected over one hundred rejection letters before I sold my first short story. It was two years of chasing agents and publishers before I landed a small Canadian publisher for my first novel, 88. Was I really going to let this stop me? Hell, I’d sold a book to a big-5 publisher! Beyond Redemption wound up on fifteen best-of-2015 lists! Apparently I could write at a professional level!

Putting away the whiskey I had a chat with my agent. She said that while the other big-5 publishers would pass on my novels for the same reason Harper Voyager passed, there were a number of excellent mid-level publishers who might be interested in a sequel to book that had by this point sold over 2,000 copies. We spent a two months writing and tweaking proposals, and now we’re shopping both books to a list of about a dozen publishers. It’s early days (it’s only been two weeks) so it’s too early to know if there will be interest. In the meantime I’ve begun work on another fantasy novel that has nothing to do with Beyond Redemption.

Things didn’t go the way I wanted, but no one ever said this was going to be easy. If you’re going to fold the first time shit goes sideways, you’re in the wrong biz. If the mid-level publishers don’t bite, I’ll self-publish which will be a whole new adventure, one I must say both terrifies and excites me.

If I may be so bold as to offer one piece of advice: Don’t write your sequel until there’s demand.

If you’re curious to hear the next chapter, I can check back in a few months with an update.

Cheers, folks!

Guest Post: How Scrivener Changed My Writing Process

Note from D_Sidd: First of all, apologies for the awful (but still awesome) Scrivener meme above. When Matt told me he was writing a book about how to use Scrivener, the first thing I asked him was what I could to do help promote it. Scrivener has been an instrumental part of my growth and early success and as an author, much like it has with Matt. If Scrivener (and Matt’s book, Scrivener Superpowers) weren’t amazing tools to help you achieve your author goals, we wouldn’t waste your time talking about them. Now, here’s Matt!

We each experience a few moments in our lives where the precise details—the place and time, the physical sensations—are indelibly imprinted on our memories.

I’ve only had a a couple of those in my life as a writer. One was the moment I decided that I was going to become a writer (college, early morning, alone and cold in the big house on Broadway).

The other was when I discovered Scrivener.

The Moment Everything Changed

I was sitting on a leather couch in my studio apartment on the east side of Austin, TX. It was an unusually warm winter night in January, so I had the door propped open. With my Macbook Air in my lap, I agreed to a thirty-day free trial and launched Scrivener for the first time.

I remember that I was irritated because the material covering the couch cushions had begun to peel off. Little pieces of black pleather stuck to my skin. I also recall that my irritation vanished when the I opened the novel template that comes with Scrivener and saw how they broke a story out in the Binder so that each scene had its own document.

My heart began to race. I copy pasted in the short story I had been tinkering with, and separated each scene into its own document in the Manuscript folder. Then I did a simple task that changed how I approached writing forever: I added the missing scenes to the Binder.

From that moment forward, nothing was the same.

The Benefits of Scrivener

I finished that story then several more. The I wrote a novel.

I know there’s a lot more to good writing than using a piece of software. There’s also an understanding of craft, hard work, and relentless focus. But Scrivener changed my process so radically in such a short period of time that I still count is as a determining factor in my journey from wannabe writer to published author.

There’s a lot that’s great about the program. Here are the key advantages:

 

  • It’s versatile. Scrivener’s interface is so customizable that it works for writers all over the world with wildly different processes. No matter how you write — fast or slow, from start to finish or out of order, plotter or pantser—Scrivener has a set of features that will help you get your work done.
  • It helps you stay organized. Keep all your files, research, drafts, and notes in one place. I love the corkboard, which provides a digital storyboarding space. And the hierarchical Binder allows you to organize your documents into subfolders within a single Project.
  • It helps you structure. This is the part that made such a huge difference for me. Scrivener taught me how to structure a story by scene. And when I need to restructure a story, it’s as easy as drag and drop.
  • It compiles to digital formats. When you’re done writing, you can compile your manuscript to Microsoft Word, PDF (for print versions), or publishable ebooks with just a few clicks. For self-publishers, this alone is a game changer.

 

Scrivener Superpowers

Not everyone experiences a light bulb moment like I did. Some people come to Scrivener slowly, or with much resistance. Learning a new piece of software and changing your process can be hard.

That’s why I wrote Scrivener Superpowers, a guide to using Scrivener to take a manuscript from concept to completion. Not only do I show you the important features of the software using screenshots and simple instructions, but I’ll show you how to integrate those features into your creative writing process—whatever yours looks like.

The book also includes exclusive interviews with successful authors like Joanna Penn, Garrett Robinson, and Rachel Aaron, my own novel template, and a slew of other resources.

Head over to ScrivenerSuperpowers.com to learn more.

matt-baba-square-round-transparentMatthew Gilbert (MG) Herron writes nonfiction about the intersection of technology and creativity. He also writes science fiction thrillers. His first novel, The Auriga Project, was published in 2015. Matt has earned his bread as a river guide, pita roller, and digital project manager. These days, he makes a living as a content strategist consulting with tech startups and creative agencies across the United States. When he’s not bending words to his will, Matt organizes Indie Publishing Austin, a local Meetup for writers and authors. He also likes to climb mountains, throw a frisbee for his Boxer mutt, Elsa, and travel to expand his mind. He graduated from McMaster University in 2009 with a Bachelor of the Arts in English Literature. Now he lives in Austin, TX.

Website: mgherron.com
Twitter: @mgherron
Facebook: facebook.com/mgherronauthor
Email: matt@mgherron.com

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