My 5 pieces of advice to get through trauma: For self-published authors and business owners

My first blog post in months. Things have changed dramatically for me this year, due to some very traumatic experiences that happened to me at the end of last year, and the beginning of this year. Events that changed the course of my life and changed me as a person.

This year the Agency had a really rough start. One of the worst 6-8 months I’ve experienced since this business came to life back in 2008. I’ve experienced mental illness to the point of paralysis, and being unable to work. And this week I have lost a dearest and darling family member, and my heart is broken again.

But instead of hiding my pain, I use it to teach myself lessons. I use my darkness to give me strength, I always have. And I have decided to write this blog in the hopes that other authors and business owners out there who feel the same pain, know that you will get through it.

So these are my top 5 pieces of advice for anyone out there trying to build a business for themselves (especially you self-published authors, because that’s what you’re doing) about getting through trauma, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel:

 

Accept your pain.

Our society teaches us that it’s better to get up, dust yourself off and move forward. They forget that we can’t exactly do that if we’ve broken a leg. If my experiences over the past year had displayed themselves physically, I would have been in the hospital under constant care, with bruises and broken bones and internal bleeding. I’m under no illusion about the severity of what I went through, but we are not taught to view our emotional and mental states in the same way.

It is important for you to recognize when you are in pain and need care. Accepting your hurt and pain paves the way for healing. You are allowed to hurt, you are allowed to feel all the emotions that are going on inside you. You don’t have to keep pushing them away and pretending they’re not there. You’re a human being and deserve great love and care, and the way you give that to yourself is by giving yourself permission to feel it, and heal.

 

Get people around you.

I am very used to isolating myself in crisis mode. I’m naturally an introverted homebody, and I love being on my own. But you need people around you. It is very easy to get swallowed up in your own self-criticism and punishment but you need people around you to tell you to stop doing that and that you’re being too hard on yourself (because you are). You need people to be your strength when you have none, to help you.

This year I have bonded more closely to my family than I ever imagined. They were at my door and calling me on my phone when the shit (repeatedly) hit the fan, and they have been there ever since. I have carved new intimate friendships with people in my life who I had no idea would ever become so important to me. I learned a new aspect of support, one I didn’t think was there and I didn’t understand how everyone else had people around them and I didn’t. But I did, and I do. And so do you.

But you have to ask for it. These people probably have no idea what you’re going through, or don’t know how to help you. You must ask for it. People want to help you, they often don’t know how. How many times have you seen a friend or family member go through something and felt totally helpless? Don’t be afraid to ask. There is no shame in asking, only love for yourself. Asking for help means you are taking action with trying to help yourself. You will be surprised at how willing the response will be.

 

Do things that make you happy.

When the storm clouds are above and the waves are crashing in upon our ship, we may forget that there are things out there that make us happy. Writing makes me happy. Playing Magic the Gathering makes me happy. Watching and analysing movies makes me happy. Learning about business makes me happy. Listening to music makes me happy. What makes you happy? When was the last time you gave yourself time to do those things, simply to be happy and enjoy it? Without any expectation of success, achievement, or improvement. Just… cos it makes you happy?

Actively find things in your life that will trigger that happiness part of your brain. The more that triggers, the bigger the ripple effect it will have in your life. These aren’t just temporary moments, but they are influencing how you feel the rest of the time. Piece by piece, feeling good about yourself will begin to chip away at the feeling bad about yourself. Give these moments to you, each day, to remind yourself what it feels like to be happy.

 

Recognize your strength

I’m not good enough. I can’t do this. I’m not capable.

Are these familiar thoughts? I have them every single day. But it’s thanks to #2 on this list (people) who remind me of how strong I am. That my recovery throughout this year has been far faster, and with greater emotional health, than normal. Others in my position would probably not have felt the way I do for another two years.

I lose perspective so easily. I forget how much I’ve been through and all that I’ve achieved through it. I tell myself “Anyone would have been able to do better than me,” but that’s total bullshit. They wouldn’t. And we don’t know these things because they’re private, we don’t hear about it except from the Fortune500 CEO’s who experienced these things ten years ago and became stronger for it. Whoop-de-do, but what about the people now? Where are the other people who are hurting as bad as I am? Everyone else seems to have a handle on life pretty goddamn well.

This is not true. Everyone is fighting a hard battle, and everyone has their ways of dealing with it. And most of us do it quietly, because we don’t want the world to see what’s really going on.

Everyone struggles and suffers in their own way. Including you.

It takes so much strength to overcome trauma. You can drown in a wave of doubt, guilt, and shame, collapse under the weight of helplessness and loss. Don’t be blind to how much strength it actually takes to sometimes get through the day. This is not you being weak, this is you being strong.

Look at the reality of your situation, of what you have been through. Pretend it had happened to a dear friend or family member, would you be so willing to tell them that they’re being weak? Or would you understand how hard it must be for them to get through what they’ve been through? You are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for, I think it’s about time you start believing it.

 

Hold space in your life for you

A lot of the damage I experienced this year was due to the fact I was putting others before me, when I needed to put me first. I was surrounded by people who wanted me to bow to them, to make sure they had enough before I had enough. This happened with relationships, with family, and with friends. I am naturally someone who puts others above myself, and I hit a breaking point. After everything I had already been through at the end of last year, they drained me of all I was. I was getting to the point where I was losing my own identity. I didn’t even matter anymore. And it took the support of others in my life to be able to step back and say no. To begin to rebuild the walls around me. To know that I matter.

The same can be said about business. I was brought up in a family that put work above myself. Work is more important than me. And so I worked and worked and worked when I shouldn’t have, and I was going through serious breakdowns, and again paralysis. Where was I in all of this? I didn’t matter.

Finally, as I began to emerge through the trauma (I still haven’t completely recovered, and it will take quite a while until I’m feeling 100% again), I started to put myself first. Because there is no life for me, without me in it. Not only that but if I continue to bow to the will of others in my life, who want me to sacrifice my entire self, happiness and life to make them happy, then I have no life at all.

Holding space in your life is you giving yourself permission to be who you are, to enjoy all the things you want to, to give yourself the time and space you need to in order to heal.

To hold space means you recognizing this is your life, and you are allowed to live within it. You are allowed to exist within your own moments. You are important.

And most of all, keep writing. Writing is our vice. Writing is our voice. You need to get the stuff inside you out. Seeing it outside of ourselves helps give us perspective, and something to reflect on. It’s also a record, so that in six months you can look back and realise how far you’ve actually come. And it is in your blood, as it is in mine. Writing is our calling, and we must continue to let it flow.

Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. And don’t take anyone in your life for granted. Go out today and tell your friends and family how much you love them, because they may not know. Treasure them. And treasure you.

Lesser Known Pieces Of Editing Advice From 14 Publishing Pros

In the spirit of helping you write the best book possible, we’ve gathered a list of lesser-known editing tips from 14 experienced editors and authors. Between them, these ladies and gents have been through the editing wringer hundreds of times, and house worlds of wisdom we should heed.

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Beth: BZHercules.com, a low-cost editing and consulting service

In short, don’t do it [editing your own work]! It is a huge mistake that can cost an author time and money, as well as cause some embarrassment. Whether the writer is seeking to publish traditionally or to self-publish, there are certain guidelines, rules of grammar, and formatting requirements that are best left to an experienced editor. For example, many of the smaller “boutique” publishers that have popped up on the Internet require use of Chicago Manual of Style formatting for submissions. Many authors do not know what to look for regarding this style (e.g., how to write numbers, titles, and abbreviations, or indent paragraphs) and should use an editor that is familiar with it. The placement of commas is another frequent issue for authors (The serial comma is a killer!), and don’t even get me started on semi-colons (Okay, I will get started—it is necessary punctuation and it cannot just be thrown out of writing because the author doesn’t believe in it! That is punctuation-discrimination at its worst.).

If an author is self-publishing, the risks associated with posting work that is riddled with errors on many of the outlets are actually higher than submitting to publishers. At least the publishers will be discerning. When posting to the DIY outlets, there is a low filter for screening errors until the work is already out there. Often, outlets such as iTunes and Smashwords will ticket submissions that have been reported as containing mistakes, and Kindle will pull them if the “right” complaint is given. Additionally, the reviewers are another source of misery for a self-publishing author who is trying to gain readers. Reviews regarding errors found in books are not always accurate, kind, or specific and giving critics fuel for the fire is never a good idea, possibly damaging an otherwise great piece of work.

My advice, then, is to find an editor with a track record of success. If you are an author who is new to publishing (You are obviously not new to writing, but that does not make your work showroom ready.), then your editor ideally is college-educated in a writing-related field (journalism, English, education, linguistics, communications), open to collaboration, and experienced at navigating through traditional and/or self-publishing (Most editors will provide a free sample edit of a few pages to you; do not, however, ask to see the edited work of others. That is confidential information and if it is provided to you, be wary of the ethics of that editor.). As the author, expect to pay for several passes through your work (one or two isn’t going to be enough if there are thousands of changes needed—although using a couple of editors isn’t a bad idea if they have similar editing philosophies. Again, ask for samples and compare the styles.), be open to criticism, and be cognizant of what you yourself are attempting to put out in the public eye. Every author needs another set of eyes that has an experienced view.

 

Meredith Efken: Fiction Fix-It Shop

Many writers tend to discount the importance of content editing. They focus on copy or line editing, and they either believe they don’t need content help or they fear a content editor will take over the story or change their voice. However, if a story fails, it’s not usually because of a couple of typos but because the story structure itself is weak or because the character development and portrayal doesn’t ring true on an emotional level. The biggest downfalls I see in many stories are:

  1. a lack of understanding of scene structure and a wobbly or disorganized story structure, and
  2. character emotions that are either too shallow or not psychologically accurate for what the character is facing.

A good content/substantive editor should be able to help spot these problems—and do so in a way that enhances the story and your voice. But if you’re not able to hire an editor, at least study some good how-to resources on those topics. My top recs are these: For story structure, Michael Hague at storymastery.com has an excellent seminar called The Hero’s Two Journeys that explains how the outer plot meshes with the character’s inner transformation. For character emotion, Margie Lawson at margielawson.com approaches character emotions from a psychological background and explains how to convey emotions in a fresh and authentic way. For scene structure, take a look at Randy Ingermanson’s article “Writing The Perfect Scene” which draws on the concepts taught by Dwight Swain in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer.

 

Helen Baggott: Editor

Many writers embark on the editing process and assume it’s all about trimming things down. Often it is, but it’s too easy to edit out a crucial element that causes the plot to crumble. And because you, the writer, have the complete manuscript – warts and all – in your mind, you can’t distinguish between something that is still in the book and something that’s just a memory from a previous version. If you do decide to go for the chop, make sure you look at the bigger picture and resolve any potential issues before moving on.

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C. S. Lakin: Author, Editor

Writers should consider getting a manuscript critique or evaluation before any line editing. Most books have a lot of structural flaws and weak components that the writer can’t see, and it helps to have a professional work with the author to strengthen or fix these weak areas. I always say that getting an edit done on a flawed manuscript is like putting pretty icing on a yucky-tasting cake. The book may look nicely edited, but it’s not going to hold up. So getting that critique done first, at any stage, is so helpful.

 

Kristen Weber: Freelance book editor, Co-founder of ShelfPleasure.com

Put your manuscript away for at least a couple of weeks. When you come back to it for editing, change the size of the font. You need to make it look different so you can actually see it. It’s like when a chair in your house accidentally gets moved – you won’t notice it until you trip over it! It is important to present your eyes with something different so you see what’s really there. And then once you think it’s perfect, give it to someone else to read – and they’ll find even more to fix!

 

Chandra Clarke: Editor

As everyone knows, the problem with editing your own work is that you’re too familiar with the material. My best tip for mitigating that is to change both the font type and the font size on the document. If you’re working in a serif font, change it to something sans serif or vice versa, and make it a bit bigger. This will change the way the text looks just enough to make it seem different, and that will force you to focus more on what it actually says, as opposed to what you think it should say.

 

Gary Gibson: Author

One of the best ways to learn how to edit your own writing is to edit someone else’s. I started writing paid critiques of unpublished novels more than five years ago, and I think it did a lot to improve my understanding of my own writing and in the process made me a much better writer. Before that, I’d been an on-off member of a writer’s group in my home city for more than twenty years.
Taking part in a writer’s group can be invaluable, because you have to think about why someone’s story or novel does or doesn’t work. Even better is when you get to tell them what you like or don’t like about their work – and explain why. Doing that gets you thinking about the process, and the how-to of writing, and how to apply it to your own work. It’s a bit like the old saying: if you want to master something, teach it.

Rebecca Horsfall: Author

We’re taught at school that good writing involves using adjectives liberally in our compositions. In truth this is just plain wrong. The use of many adjectives is a sure sign of immature writing. When editing our own work it’s important to notice where we’re peppering our prose with adjectives and prune away all but the essential ones. The same is true of similes; you remember them: “his joints were as creaky as the old barn door,” or “her sudden smile was like the sun appearing from behind a cloud.” Similes almost always seem clunky and immature in prose. Same goes, in fact, for all the elaborate metaphors and figurative language so beloved of our school teachers. The more simple and uncluttered our prose, the more mature it will feel to readers (and publishers!)

Laurence Daren King: Literary Consultant

Set up the word processor for writing a novel, not an essay or letter as seems to be the default. Increase the margin size or font size until you have about eleven words to a line. You will then get a realistic idea of paragraph length. So many authors have paragraphs that are far too long. They think: ‘It’s only three quarters of a page long, I see that in novels all the time’, but they have eighteen or twenty words to a line.

Tania Hershman: Author

Change the page from portrait to landscape and change the font, to try and see your writing with fresh eyes, as if you hadn’t written it.

 

Sam Jordison: Author, Founder of Galley Beggar Press

If you can, cut the first chapter. It’s almost certain to be your worst bit of writing.

 

Fay Sampson: Author

Even after you’ve edited your book to the highest standard you can, get it professionally copy-edited. Writing consultancies like the Writers’ Workshop can put you in touch with an editor who will bring your work up to a professional standard and save you embarrassment later.
If you’re adamant on editing your own work, these professional editing tips will serve you well. After all, having a great story interspersed with mistakes and plot holes is a sure-fire way to have critics pounce, and readers close the book.
What other editing tips do you have? What do you look out for when editing your own book? And what are your most common mistakes?

Gaining And Dealing With Book Reviews For Self-Published Authors

It’s well-known that self-published authors need reviews in order to be successful. These reviews activate algorithms on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, which in turn helps to get your book noticed. They also inform readers on what to expect, while using word-of-mouth marketing to increase your overall reach. Today, we’re going to look at the dos and donts of reviews for self-published authors.

How To Find Book Reviewers 

If you’re lucky enough to have an email list, this is a great way to ask for reviews. In her new release, How to Market a Book, Joanna Penn recommends a soft pitch to your readers with no pressure. Offer them a free digital copy of your book with a prompt to “please leave a review if you enjoyed the book”. Many of the places you can find reviewers can be found on our article about sending out Advanced Reading Copiesbut below is a bullet-point summary:

  • Email List
  • Social Media Pages
  • Kindle Boards/ Online Forums
  • Book Bloggers
  • Other writers

A Note On a Reviewer’s Obligation

 If people have been kind enough to say they will review a book for you, remember that they are in no way obligated to give you a positive review. Most people, especially if you send your book to a book blogger, are specific when they write a review. If they dont like it they will generally tell you why. This is why it’s so impotant to only publish a book you’re proud of. And you have to make sure you’re looking for honest reviews and not simply to have your ego stroked.

Benefits of a Bad Review

Trolls mouthing-off aside, there are – surprisingly – benefits to receiving a negative review. Some people just wont like your book. You have to accept that. But if more than one person is pointing out bad spelling, or inconsistent plots, then you need to take notice. This kind of dditing is something you can fix relatively easily. If you dont, it could well harm your credibility as a writer and as a publisher. The takeaway is, if you have the power to fix something, fix it.

Etiquette for Reviewers and Authors

If a book blogger or a reviewing company is kind enough to review your book, and you would like to quote that review, make sure you extended them the courtesy of linking it back to their website or social media pages, acknowledging them properly. Also, take the time to thank them in a message or an email. Manners cost nothing, while being polite will mean they will more likely consider reviewing your next book.

What NOT To Do

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A special warning should be issued to all writers in regards to responding to negative reviews on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon. It would seem that every couple of weeks an author goes into public meltdown over a bad review, engaging in a futile online battle with amateur reviewers.

This kind of behaviour will get you noticed for all of wrong reasons. Responding aggressively to a bad review will do nothing but churn the waters. Remember that the reviewers will never look like the bad guy in this situation no matter how abusive of inflammatory their remarks are. The author will always be made to look like a petulant jerk. If you receive a bad review release any anger or disappointment privately. Bad reviews can really suck, but you are a writer and a publisher, you need grow a thick skin to survive. You will never be able to please everyone.

Making The Most Of Your Book Reviews

Reviews can be a great tool to make you feel good about your novel as well as to help you to find where you could be falling down as a writer. Being polite and professional at all times will ensure that you grow your fan base and gain a reputation for being professional.

 For further reading the below titles come highly recommend:

As a reader do you buy books based their reviews or do you ignore them? Which approaches have you used for gaining honest reviews?

Image Credits: ANGRY-ANN by Josh Jansenn (Flickr)

8 Things You Should Know About CreateSpace

There’s a lot of information out there regarding the popularity and ease of Print on Demand publishing. None is more easily accessible than Amazons’s CreateSpace. This article will highlight 8 things you should know about CreateSpace

1. Online Checking- Proofing on a Budget

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After loading all of your files into CreateSpace and their team has checked their compatibility, you have the option to order a paperback proof copy. Proofing is an extremely important step in the publishing journey, but if you’re operating from overseas you might not have the time or the money to order a paperback.

CreateSpace now have the option of an online checking system, as well as the opportunity to download a PDF version. Writers have the chance to review their books in their manuscript layout and ensure all of their formatting, margins, title pages etc. are correct. If they download the PDF, they can spend as much time as they like checking over it.

2. Extended Distribution- A Word of Caution

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CreateSpace has an option to offer your book out for Extended Distribution. This allows online stores, like The Book Depository, and independent booksellers to add your book to their catalogues. This can be a great opportunity for writers; but be careful. This option will drive the price of your book up not only to your retailers but on Amazon as well.

A 500 page novel that’s usually $15 USD can end up costing upward of $30-$40 with your royalties staying relatively low. Often times it is cheaper for independent booksellers to buy directly from you. This allows prices stay low enough that the exchange rate doesn’t dissuade your potential customers.

3. Higher Royalties through the CreateSpace Store

via GIPHY

The Amazon sites offer a lot of exposure for your new book, but as a writer you will earn higher royalties if you direct your readers to buy directly from CreateSpace store. If you’re advertising or adding links on social media, or on your web site, don’t forget to add a link to CreateSpace as well.

4. Shipping Overseas

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CreateSpace is an American Publisher and Distributer so it is important to note that you have to account for shipping times and prices. If you are lucky enough to have an independent bookseller willing to stock your book, make sure that you are adding the shipping costs into your per-book price while negotiating, or charge separately for the freight. If you don’t, you could end up short changing yourself and irritating your supplier.

When preparing a launch make sure you allow 4-6 weeks for your paperbacks to arrive at your door, this way you will not be left apologizing to suppliers and readers if your freight is late.

5. Free Resources

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CreateSpace has excellent free resources and information about all aspects of self-publishing. They have their own blog and forum for their authors to connect, support, and share tips with each other. They also have some great interviews with bestselling CreateSpace authors who speak of their writing journey.

Writing can be a lonely business, so take advantage of the site to gain knowledge, and to network with other authors.

6. Marketing Packages

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CreateSpace offer a variety of services and resources, but their Marketing Packages (helping to market your book on their platform) aren’t really offering any information you can’t find yourself elsewhere. They offer a basic biography, description and keywords based on information you provide: they don’t actually read your book.

Do your research and write copy yourself that’s going to be just as effective. After all, keywords and descriptions are largely trial and error. Sometimes you’ll have to rewrite both a few times to find what’s going to work best. To learn how to write a great book description, check out our article here. Save your money and put it into cost-per-click advertising, where it’ll likely be more useful.

7. Royalties

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Like its Kindle Direct counterpart, CreatSpace will only pay your royalties in $100 blocks. If you aren’t a U.S. citizen, they’ll send you a cheque through the mailing system. This can be frustrating for some writers, so know that you could have a few months to wait before you see any royalties coming in.

8. Book Descriptions and Amazon Author

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CreateSpace and KDP both give you a product description to complete that will appear on your Amazon product page. If you are using Amazon Author (and you should be) and you happen to change your book description on the Author book page, it will automatically override whatever description you have put into CreateSpace.

To be sure that your changes are correct on all pages, make sure that you update all platforms with the same one. You don’t want your ebook description to be different to your paperback – it will look sloppy and unprofessional.

CreateSpace is a great platform to get your paperback into the hands of your readers and onto shelves but it’s important to know the hidden pro’s and con’s before pressing publish.

What other great tips do you have for using CreateSpace?

 

Image Credits: Editing for the 2nd edition of How To Love Your Job or Find A New One by Joanna Penn (Flickr), Distributed Religion by The Art Gallery of Knoxville (Flickr), B767 by Bernal Saborio (Flickr), Free Daddy and His Little Shadow Girls at The Skate Park Creative Commons by Pink Sherbert Photography (Flickr), Design Blog Sociale – 23 June 2008 – Vitamin Packaging by Robert Ferrell D by SocialIsBetter (Flick), Money by PicturesOfMoney (Flickr), I accidentally brought money to a book sale. by Brittany Stevens (Flickr).

How To Run a Successful Goodreads Ad Campaign

Goodreads is a revolutionary platform for book-lovers to meet, write reviews, and connect with their favorite authors. On top of this, their Cost-per-Click Advertising system is an excellent, cost-effective way to find your readers and drive sales. This article offers some helpful tips on how to run a successful Goodreads campaign, while getting discovered by people who love your genre.

Before you begin.

Make sure that you’re fully set up as an Author in Goodreads, and that each of your books are available before you even look into Marketing.

Using your Goodreads account, you can login to their advertising site here. 

Goodreads

The above image is what you can expect to see when setting up your campaign. Find your book by searching for its ISBN. This will double check that you’re advertising the right novel.

It’s a pretty straightforward system, but there are few things that will help you make the most of it. First, decide how much you are willing to spend on your overall campaign, and how much you are willing to spend per click, then consider doing the following:

Running a Successful Campaign

1. Schedule Two or More Ads At The Same Time

Unlike its cousin Amazon Marketing, you can use the same budget split across multiple ads in Goodreads. That means you can pay $30 for a campaign which has several ads running considerably. This is a great technique to to target different audiences and track which group performs the best. It also widens your net considerably, giving your ads far wider reach for the same cost. It’s also usefult to know that while Amazon has a $100 minimum campaign fee, but Goodreads does not!. So, it’s a pretty good marketing option for authors that don’t have the biggest budget set aside for marketing.

2. Target Multiple Authors for One Half of Your Ads

Take the time to research the bestsellers in your genre. Using a websites like Amazon can be extremely good for researching what is selling, and to what audience. Make note of the bestsellers’ names and their book titles.

While setting up your Targeting on your Goodreads campaign, take advantage of this bestseller list and make sure to include these authors’ names. Your ad will be targeted at their readers, and will hopefully gain you some readers of your own.

In saying that, however, don’t mislead your readers. If you haven’t written something like the next Go Set A Watchman, don’t advertise that you have. Readers will call you on your dishonesty, and like most online platforms it can turn nasty.

3. Target Multiple Genres for the Second Half of Your Ads

Make sure you know where your genre sits, and use Goodreads to target people who read those genres. If your book is Young Adult Romantic Fantasy, you can add all of that in one ad target, or you can split them up. If, like the Divergent series, your Young Adult book can appeal to adult readers as well, don’t forget to target the Sci Fi Dystopian Fiction audience as well as Young Adult.

The above warning remains however; select only the genres that your book actually falls in. Don’t try and sell something as Historical Romance if it’s Horror.

4. Try Multiple Taglines

Use multiple taglines for each advertisement. Mix it up because some people won’t necessary click on a title if you add that its only 99c, while others will, for example. Using a question such as, “Will Lassie Reach Tommy in time?” can intrigue readers to want to know more.

Taglines are great, and each audience will have something that will attract them specifically. Have fun with it, and see what makes readers click.

5. Promote Give Aways

Ads are a great way to promote your Goodreads Giveaways. This will give you double the exposure you would normally receive from a normal giveaway. If you are a new author, giveaways can help you receive reviews, as well as encourage people to talk about your book. Don’t forget to advertise your those giveaways on your social media pages, too!

6. Use a Call to Action

Use a call-to-action (CTA) on your ad such as “Add to Your Shelf.” When readers add a book to their shelf, for instance,  this action is displayed on their own profile, to all of their followers and sometimes to their Facebook timeline, too. This spreads the ad further than the one platform, and also encourages friends to discuss new books they have found with each other.

7. Clever Linking

You have the option in your ads to link to your book’s Goodreads page or any outside website. The above advice of splitting half your ads to link to its Goodreads page and the other half to your Amazon page can work to achieve two different ends. First, linking to a Goodreads page will help create a viral effect of adding books to shelves and sharing with friends and on Facebook. Second,  if you link to your Amazon page, this is more likely to result in an immediate purchase.

As you can see, Goodreads is a great advertising tool that lacks some of the restrictions of other Cost-Per-Click advertising (especially Amazon). Using the above tips will help readers find your work, while offering you value for your marketing budget, and hopefully driving higher sales.

For a more detailed explanation about setting up and running your Goodreads campaign, this is a useful video to watch:

What’s your favorite thing about Goodreads? What inspires you to click? Have you tried Goodreads advertising yourself?

 

 

What Are Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs), And How Do They work?

ARC is a commonly used acronym in the publishing industry that stands for Advanced Reading Copy. Here, we’ll go into some more detail about ARCs and why they can be a useful marketing tool for self publishers.

What are they?

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Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) are a preview of a writers upcoming release. ARCs are not always perfect copy, and they usually have a variant of the final cover, and are stamped with wording identifying it as an advanced copy.

They may also differ from the final published work if any additional editing is needed prior to publication. In general, ARCs will be sent out by publishers to reviewers, critics, magazines etc. before the launch date.

When should they get sent out?

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Three to six months used to be the official lead time for ARCs to be sent out by publishers. Yet thanks to e-reader technology, the distribution of ARCs has become a lot easier and less expensive.

Ideally as a writer you want to give your readers a chance to read your work and hopefully put together a review. This means a 6-8 week lead time is a good period. Don’t forget, it doesn’t have to be a perfect copy, or include a final cover, but it at least has to be edited.

These advanced readers will not only be able to offer you genuine feedback, but you’ll also come across as a a professional who really knows what they’re doing in the publishing world.

How do you find advance readers?

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If you’re lucky enough to already have an email list, this is generally a good place to start. These are the people that are already interested in your work and would jump at the chance to read a new book before everyone else.

If you don’t have an email list, put the call out on your social media pages. People love free stuff and, like your email list, if they are following your social media, they are (hopefully) interested in your writing.

Another option is to ask other writer friends to offer you feedback in exchange for reviewing their work in future. If you’re using Kindle Boards or other forums you could advertise with a new post, but don’t be offended if people are too busy working on their own books!

Benefits of ARCs for independent publishers

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ARCs can provide authors with valuable feedback for the work they wish to release. Remember, reader feedback is different from the feedback you’ll receive from an editor.

Readers will be able to tell you how they connected with your protagonist (or didn’t) and will be the first to tell you their emotional response to it. Sometimes people just won’t like your story, but if the feedback is consistent with a problem such as grammar or spelling, this is something you need to adjust before your final release.

Reviews received from ARCs also generate interest on sites such as Good Reads and Amazon. So, having some ready before your official launch date can help to drive sales. A good technique is to make your new release free on its first day to allow Advanced Readers to download a final version, adding the important Verified Purchase label for when they lodge their reviews.

Final tip

Be honest and don’t mislead your Advanced Readers about what your book is about. The last thing you want are for people who love romance to get a horror story that they will hate. You want people who understand and enjoy the genre you are writing. They will be able to identify holes within your story that unfamiliar readers may not notice.

Offer your Advanced Readers a free copy of your final work, by using Free Day technique or emailing it out to them. This is a thank you for their help and will hopefully encourage them to rleave you an (honest) review in the future.

What are your personal experience with distributing ARCS? What do you look for as an Advanced Reader?

 

Image Credits: Reading by Moyan Brenn, Calendar* by Dafne Cholet, Reading by Pedro Ribeiro Simões,  black & white Glasses & Book – exhausting read by photosteve101

How to Publish Stress Free with Kindle Direct Publishing

When Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), the way an author delivered their work to their audience changed forever. This week we’re going to give you a crash course in KDP publishing, to help make your experience as stress free as possible.

Let’s Begin!

Log into KDP using your Amazon account, or create a whole new one if you wish. When setting up your account you’ll need to add your Address, Tax details and Bank Account. This is so that Amazon can pay you directly. Be aware that you will only receive your royalties from your home country direct debited into your account. Overseas royalties are still paid via cheque.

A special note about Tax

Australian KDP users should be aware that Australia has a Tax Agreement with the US so that we can earn royalties without having to get hold of an American IRS number or lodge a US Tax Return (hooray!). We can use our Australian Tax File number, but the IRS withholds 5% of royalties (as you can see below).

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Creating Your Book

Once all of your account details are completed, click on “Bookshelf” on the top menu.

Click on “Create New Title” so you can begin to add your new book details. Most of this section is relatively straight forward but there are a few things you should have ready.

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KDP Select and Exclusivity

The first thing that KDP asks is whether or not you want to be enrolled in their KDP Select Program. KDP Select is about making your title exclusive to Amazon and Kindle which means, legally, you cannot publish your ebook on iTunes or any other digital book store not owned by Amazon.

It is a contract that you enter into 90 days at a time that allows you multiple benefits. Some of these include free book promotions, higher royalties and a cut of their Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) revenues.

At the end of the 90 days you can opt out or stay in, but you must wait the full 90 days if you choose to be in the program. KDP Select and its effectiveness is controversial, but like any contract read the fine print so you know what you’re agreeing to.

Your book description is what’s going to appear on your book’s sale page. If you haven’t read our blog on How to Write An Effective Amazon Book Description, I recommend you do that before you start.

Note: Do you have an ISBN? While technically you don’t need one to publish your boo,k it is important to have one as it can help book distributers and customers locate your title.

Pick your Categories with Care

Do you know where your book sits in the genre world? One of the most important things you need to get right is your categories. I’d recommend thinking of categories like you would think of good to think of sections in a book store. This is where your target audience will go hang out and peruse the shelves. If your book isn’t there, they won’t be able to discover you.

One great thing about KDP is that it gives you the chance to have two separate lots of category options, as you can see below. This allows you to reach more customers that wouldn’t have found you if you were only listed in one category.

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KDP also lets you have seven different key words of your choice that will link Amazon’s search results to your book. The flexibility of KDP means that you can change these up at any time if you find that they aren’t effective. It’s important to note that all changes have an average turn-around of approxmately 12 hours.

Uploading your Files

When it comes to uploading your cover and manuscript files, you must remember that KDP has formatting rules and regulations. If you haven’t gone through a designer that has already formatted your cover to correct specifications take the time to read the “Cover Guidelines.” The same applies for uploading your manuscript.
KDP also have a handy automatic spell check that will scan your book once it’s loaded. If it flags any errors, do take the time to check them to ensure there aren’t simple error’s that you can fix before the final upload. If you have lots of errors, then you aren’t ready to publish. You are a professional and you should see your book as a representation of you and your brand. You want people to buy it and enjoy it, not place it down and leave bad reviews because of sloppy grammar.

DRM

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. This is a digital lock that you can place on your ebook so that no one can convert it from the Amazon .mobi files to other formats that can be used on multiple devices. Like KDP Select, there are many conflicting views on whether or not DRM is a good thing, but be warned, once you publish your book you can’t change your DRM setting.

Preview your Book

This is a fantastic perk put in by KDP that simulates how your book will look on a Kindle screen. It gives you a chance to really pick up any formatting errors that you may have overlooked.

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Setting your Territories and Prices

If you hold worldwide rights for your book select this option so Amazon can make it available to all possible countries. If you don’t hold world wide rights (you should already know your rights before you get this far) only select the countries for ones that you do.
The pricing table you’ll be able to see allows you to enter potential sale amounts, and view the royalties that you’ll earn. Read KDP’s “Pricing Page” if you find the royalty rates confusing. Also note that you are restricted on how low or high you can price your book depending on whether you select the 35% or 70% royalties option. The 35% royalty rates mean you can sell your books cheaper, but if you go for the 70% royalties, the cheapest you can sell your book for $2.99.

Once you’ve selected (and double checked) all of your details and agreed to the Terms and Conditions, you can now press the “Save and Publish” Button. Your book and all of its details will now be reviewed by the KDP team. This can take up to 48 hours.

In Summary

KDP is a great publishing program, but make sure your cover all your bases and know what you are agreeing to, like in any other business venture. Make your publishing experience far more pleasant by being prepared before you begin.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you have all of your bank account and tax details?
  • Do you have a cover that will meet KDP Standards?
  • Is your manuscript correctly formatted?
  • Do you have an ISBN?
  • Have you written an enticing book description?
  • Do you know your genre, and have you picked your key words?
  • Do you know which countries you hold rights for?

If you answered no to any of the above, take the time to do your research, ensuring you place your most professional publishing step forward.

How Authors Can Beat the Post-Publication Slump

Writers love to read about how famous writers failed before they became famous. Hundreds of articles and anecdotes abound on the Internet about how Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected thirty times. And about how J.K Rowling was told “not to quit her day job.”

As self publishers, getting past the gate keepers is no longer the problem. For the self-publishing crowd, the biggest hit you can receive to your ego is right after you press that almighty PUBLISH button.

This article is going to deal with that post-pub slump and how to move your focus off your stats and back onto your writing.

You’re Published! So Why Aren’t You Excited?

Getting to the point where you press the publish button is a BIG deal. You’ve probably worked years towards this moment; writing your manuscript, sourcing professional editors, cover designers and formatters. It is a big journey only made possible through hard work and tenacity. The rush of the moment is there and you celebrate in whatever way you like. But then, The Slump may hit hard. This generally happens for the below reasons:

  • You’ve been working your guts out to produce your book and your body collapses from sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Well hello, burnout!
  • You realise you’re a very small fish in a very large pond.
  • You’re suddenly very aware that your difficult self-promoting and marketing journey has only just begun.
  • You start obsessing over your reviews and sale stats.

The majority of writers have impressive, yet grim stories of self-doubt that they try and keep hidden. It takes focused courage to put yourself out there, open yourself up to an audience you don’t know, and to receive criticism. This does not mean you have to dwell on it and allow it to cause you to question your writing ability or style.

What Should You Do About It?

First things first; remind yourself of your massive achievement and give yourself a pat on the back. Then consider the following alternatives to slumping:

  • Take a few days to relax, binge watch a favourite tv show or read something you have been waiting for. Let your body rest and catch up (sleep and real food is good.)
  • Create a marketing and promotional plan that fits with your budget (if you don’t already have one). Allocate a few promotional ideas each month. Remember, self-publishing is marathon, not a sprint (more on this in a moment).
  • Only permit yourself to check reviews and stats once a day, maximum. Take a moment to savour the good and the bad, then let it go. There’s more to life than analytics.
  • Get focussed on planning and writing your next project. Don’t just hitch your hopes and dreams to one horse. You are a writer so get writing!

A Reminder About Trad vs Self Frameworks

Before you crawl into your sulking comfort hole with chocolate and whiskey, remember this important fact – self publishing is the art of delayed gratification.

The traditionally published writers receive their royalty cheque with instant gratification and recognition. The traditional marketing platform works to produce and sell as many books as they possibly can in order to cover their investments and the writers royalty cheque. As time passes, the marketing efforts will fade away leaving the author to wait for their 2.5 % royalty cheque to come in (sometimes months or years later depending how well the book went).

The self publishing marketing framework is a different beast. You’re building your business from scratch. More often than not, when you hear about a successful self-publisher, it’s because they have been working at it for 5-7 years, have multiple titles and are now collecting their 70% royalty reward.

How To Keep At It Without Going Crazy

Firstly, try and think of yourself as having two separate creative personas. One is the writer and the other is the publisher. As such you need to consider these things:

  • You must allocate time for writing and time for publishing. Do not cross them over.
  • If you’ve already written a few books, or have some planned, write up a release guide for the next 5 years (or as long as possible).
  • Keep in mind your goal; whether that’s to be no.1 on The New York Times best seller list or to be able to quit your day job, it doesn’t matter.
  • Remind yourself of why you chose to self-publish in the first place. If you aren’t willing to learn about the business and acquire multiple skills (or network to find people with those skills), then it may not be for you.
  • Learn as much as you can about the industry, read about the ones who were successful and find out the marketing techniques they used. Not everything will work for you, but you don’t know until you try.

Publishing is a tough industry whether you’re traditionally- or self-published. As writers we have more options and opportunities than ever before, but self-doubt will always be there. Having goals, being even more guarded with your writing time, and remembering why you wanted to be in the business in the first place will ensure that you are too focussed to give self-doubt the time of day.

What do you do once you press publish? How do you stay focused on you end goal?

Image Credit: Diary Writing by Fredrik Rubensson (Flickr)

The Top 5 To-Dos Of Successful Self-Published Authors

Today we are going to discuss the Top 5 things you need to do in order to work smarter and become a successful self-published author. There is a school of thought out there, an incorrect one, that says choosing the self published road is the ‘easy’ way to get a book out there and claim you are a WRITER. For those who are self publishing, and who are taking it seriously, you know that there is nothing easy about it.

The self publishing success stories you hear about- those in the Joanna Penn, Hugh Howie and Mark Dawson categories- you will find common habits and themes that ensured their success. They wrote amazing books because they also got into a strict routine that worked for them and they stuck to it. These are 5 things that will help you kick self-publishing ass:

200Back It Up

Okay, this one should be a no brainer in any business, and yet every writer has experienced it. My big number is 10,000 words but I know others who have lost 250k+. Writers live on their computers, we pour hours of love and blood into our works. The rule: Have one back up locally, and one back up off base (in case your house burns down).

With all of the Dropboxs, iClouds, USB hard drives and multiple server technology there is no excuse not to save your work in a secure location. If you are sticking to a writing goal everyday (as you should be) than the very last thing you want to have to do is fall to weeping in front of an IT guru when he tells you that your hard drive could not be saved.

Take the time, back it up so that you don’t have to do it all again.

Recommended back up platforms for writers:

Writing Time Is Sacred

Life is busy for everyone. Talk to any wanna-be-writer and the first excuse they will give you is “I would write but I just don’t seem to have the time.” If you want to be a writer you actually have to write. You have to carve out a space in the day that is for writing alone. Even if you sit there for an hour staring blankly at the screen you make that time yours. Know when your commitments are and when your optimal writing time is. Get up an hour earlier in the morning if you know you have stuff to do after work, utilise your lunch breaks, your commute home, the hour you get after you put the kids to bed. No excuses. Life will always be busy, there will always be something else that needs to be done. Find your time, dig your heels in and claim it for your writing everyday.

Block It Out

Once you have selected that time for writing, you have to block life’s distractions out. I use the Pomodoro method- work in 25 minute blocks with 5 minute breaks between. It’s been said that our attention spans can last around 2 hours. So 4 ‘pomodoro’s’ and then a half hour break. Because I have a dire Facebook habit, I use a Chrome plugin called Strict Workflow which blocks websites from me for 25 minutes- but only the ones choose. So if I need to research Wikipedia I won’t put that down.

This may mean turning your wifi off so you don’t check Facebook, getting your partner to take the kids for their daily walk to the park or closing the door to your flatmates and partner. The world has no place in your writing. Be selfish, use ear plugs or noise reducing headphones, whatever it takes for you to block it out and focus at the task at hand. You only have a certain amount of time allocated to writing don’t let yourself be distracted, the new episode of Game of Thrones can wait (ha ha).
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Read

To quote urban-fantasy writer Lev Grossman,

Read everything. If you haven’t read everything, you’ll never be able to write anything.”

He is hardly the first writer to present this sentiment because it is a universal truth, good readers make great writers. Reading as a writer feeds us, , you start to see the tricks and when you don’t see them immediately you go back and disseminate in order to find it. It is harder to pull a writer into a world without them turning over every rock. It is in the rock turning that we learn about our own writing and where it is lacking. Struggling with world building? Try Tolkien, the master world builder. Writing clever crime? Read Sherlock Holmes. Know what is out there and feed your own creativity, your work will thank you for it.

Check in with your Writer World

Writing is a solitary business. We are natural introverts but occasionally checking in with the real world can help refresh you and pull you out of a writing slump. Some writer’s really thrive in writing groups and for others they are the most destructive force. Writers need other writers. These are your people, your tribe, they understand your struggles, the one’s that won’t get offended when you bring out a notebook and pen at dinner. Writers brain storm you out of writers block, pour wine as you complain about character’s and plot holes and are the best resource when dealing with writer related questions. They give constructive feedback and encouragement when you need it most.

There is no secret formula for success in self-publishing. It is a job that takes a lot of work and commitment. The writer’s that have ‘made it’ are multitasking, writing entrepreneurial machines. What works for them may not work for you, but the things that all writer’s must do, the things that will give you a solid foundation in order to become successful, are the simple things. Tangible, every day things that have exponential returns.

So remember:

  1. Back up your work so you don’t lose it
  2. Carve out a writing time that is yours (and stick to it)
  3. Block out all the world’s distractions
  4. Reading is a writer’s water so drink deeply from multiple wells, and
  5. Make sure you touch base with other writers so that you don’t end up hanging around your gloomy writing cave like a starved, wordsmith Golum.

What are some of your tips to keep you writing focused?  

 

 

 

3 Reasons To Hire A Designer Instead of Buying a Premade Cover

As writers and readers we judge books by their covers and as a self-publisher choosing the right covers to represent your books is a major step towards getting sales and building your brand. This blog is going to provide you with 3 reasons why as a self-published author you should hire a designer instead of using a premade cover to represent your works.

07042015_scarlettrugers_thesacrifice_7001. Your cover will be about YOUR story

It’s the job of the designer to visually interpret your book. Designers at the very least will want details about the story including a synopsis, settings, main character descriptions and themes. Here at Scarlett Rugers we are unique in taking this process one step further and will read your manuscript so that we can gain an even clearer insight into your books style. Hiring a cover designer will ensure that your cover will be specifically accurate to your story and that it is presented in the best possible way.

Pre-made covers lack personal insight. They are often a generic representation of the style that is trending in that genre. In fact the chances of you finding a cover that says visually what you need it to is very slim. You will end up settling for a cover that may, almost, be right for your story but will most likely leave it wanting.

After working on a manuscript for years to have it reach perfection you have a book that is uniquely you, hiring a designer will ensure your cover reflects that in a way that a pre-made never will.

2. Your unique brand as a self-published author

The-Great-GatsbyThink about all the really great classic covers out there like “The Great Gatsby” and more recently “Twilight.” These covers are instantly recognizable because they are distinctive, memorable and are a visual brand for that author. Influential design work will assist in building an iconic style for your future books, like Josh Kirby’s amazing illustrated covers that established Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Working with a designer will always guarantee that your cover will stand out amongst its peers and build up an identifiable brand for your publications.

One of the major problems with pre-made covers is that they lack that certain something extra that will individualize your book or establish you as a professional author. The majority of them are made by stock images with typography applied to them. This can have a flattering effect, but the image used on that cover will also have been used on three other covers as well. They use the general mass market styles as a guide, selecting the most commonly occurring elements. Unfortunately your book will end up getting lost in the sea of similar covers and won’t define your brand in the future.

carpe-jugulum3. You get one-on-one advice through the project

Designers work closely with authors, consulting and advising them every step of the way. They will make sure that you end up with a cover that that blends your wishes with a professional, market standard design. Many pre-made covers are not made by qualified designers, and you don’t get much flexibility in what you can and can’t change. You only have to look at the quality between a professionally designed cover and a premade one to see the difference. You don’t have a say on what goes on it aside from your name and the title. That’s an important point you must remember, whatever cover you choose will be what is associated with your name. A badly designed cover could send the message to your audience that the writing is of the same quality and rob you of potential sales. I know there are exceptions and that some pre-made cover designers will alter elements on their cover to more suit your needs for a fee, but if you are willing to pay more money you are better off hiring a real designer to get what you want.

A book cover designer’s mission is to create works of art that sell. They won’t just copy what is already out there but will use their strong knowledge of the industry and through extensive discussions with you will design something one of a kind to establish you as a brand. Premade covers, while appealing as a cheaper option, may end up causing your work to be unnoticed and limit your sales. As publishers you need to think and invest like a business. You need to ask yourself what is going to be the best representation of you as a professional writer and publisher because it will be what your audience will immediately associate with you.

What are your thoughts on Premade covers? What kind of experiences have you had with designers or the premade option?