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?  

 

 

 

How to write the perfect Amazon Book Description

Amazon is a powerful tool in the self publishers shed so it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make it work for you. Knowing how to market your work properly in this huge book paradise can get you noticed by your target audience and drive your sales higher. Today we are going to talk about the importance of the Book Description on your Amazon page and how to get your book to sell.

 What It’s NotNo No

The term ‘Book Description’ can be very misleading in what it’s actually asking for. It isn’t meant to be a comprehensive layout of your book, with all your cast of characters and exactly what happens. You don’t want to lay down a full synopsis where you tell the potential reader all of your highlights. Giving away too much of the story will annoy readers and end up turning them off purchasing it.

 What It Is

The best way to think of Amazon Book Descriptions is to consider it in the terms of an enhanced paperback cover blurb. You are writing advertising copy to attract interest and excitement in shoppers. The goal is to intrigue, entice and convince customers that they simply must know more.

Yes

How to Lay Out Your Amazon Book Description

There are many good marketing resources geared towards the perfect Book Description but all agree that the following layout, in genre focused variations, works the most effectively:

  1. Jump onto Amazon’s #100 Best Sellers in your genre and study how their book descriptions have been assembled. Like cover design there will be a distinct difference in how your genre is marketed compared to all the others. Study them, pick up tips and tailor your description to these specifications.
  1.  If you have won any awards or accolades put them first in your description e.g. New York Times Best Seller, No.1 Amazon Best Seller. If you do not have any awards you can always start with a positive quote from a reviewer. NOT YOUR MUM. Someone who is a professional reviewer such as Kirkus Reviews or Self Publishing Review.

A good review can go a long way in establishing your credibility as a writer and publisher.

  1. The first line of your description is the most important. Try to think of it as your sales hook. Don’t be nervous about referencing other well known authors here. If you wrote a book about a young pre-adolescent boy who learns magic it doesn’t do any harm to compare it to J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter or Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci.
  1. Your book description should cover these points:
    • Don’t be vague or boring
    • Keep it simple– don’t go into too much detail
    • Don’t give your story or plot lines away
    • Introduce the character in a single line
    • Focus on your characters, and their goals
    • Short, punchy, emotive sentences.
    • Deliver the conflict, make the reader beg to see if it is resolved.
  1.  Always leave the reader wanting more. Closing with particular questions is a good way to leave a description open ended. e.g. “Will Lassie get help in time? Or will little Tommy be left alone in the dark forever?” You can also use this as a tagline on your front cover to catch a reader’s attention.

These are but a few helpful ideas to get your thoughts of your own Book Description flowing. It can be painful and time consuming activity but it’s worth taking the time to get it right as this section is the first example of your writing that readers will encounter. You need to get them interested!

Writing Book Descriptions isn’t an exact science, there is no magic formula that will work every time, but using them as a marketing tool can help attract your readers. The most important thing to remember? You can always rewrite and change it up until you find what works for you and your story!

For more information on crafting Book Descriptions the below is some helpful links and testimonials:

http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/10/05/the-11-ingredients-of-a-sizzling-book-description/

http://thefutureofink.com/kindle-books-sales-tool/

https://www.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1462

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/best-practices-for-amazon-ebook-sales/

What have you found works well in a Books Description? As a reader and consumer what turns you off about Book Descriptions when you are shopping?

 

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?

10 Frequently Asked Questions About The Book Design Process (by authors I’ve worked with)

WFAQs from book cover designershen it comes to what author’s want to know there are some reoccurring themes. I’ll sum up the top 10 questions about the book cover design process that have been most asked by my clients so that you might have a bit of a head start when getting in touch with me, or another designer.

Disclaimer: These questions and answers come directly from my own experience and it may not be the same for other designers. Think of it more as a rough guide to other designers, and the definitive guide to working with Scarlett Rugers Design.

  1. What do you need from me?

    1. Your title
    2. Your name
    3. A synopsis of what your story is about. The general overtones.
    4. Any ideas you may have
    5. Any examples which support those ideas
  2. How long will it take?

    First concepts take 7-10 working days to develop. Once I send them over I then make changes and adjustments within 24-48 hours (normally within a day). From there it really depends on your own schedule. Some authors like to take an hour to respond with their feedback, some like to take a week. Sometimes real life gets in the way and you have to go on hiatus. I have some book covers that are wrapped up in two weeks, some that take five months. Book cover design is not supposed to be rushed. It is an art form and needs time, patience and dedication.

  3. Will you read my book? Will you give me a review/your opinion on it?

    shutterstock_94351819_400

    So long as you send it to me, yes I will read it. I need a couple of weeks to read it over, as I will be working through your MS as well as many others in preparation of their book cover design launch.
    Will I give my opinion and/or a review? No. To keep things as professional as possible I do not share my personal opinion of you work. I use it as a tool to guide me in the right direction but I will not share with you or publicly what I think of your book. It just comes down to a conflict of interest, and respecting the bond between designer and author.

  4. Do you think this is the right title?

    I might seem like the right person to discuss if it’s the right title for you, because I deal with them so often, but I’m not.

    1. Title comes under copy, and I deal with design, not copy. Although I, myself, am an experienced writer my practised skills and expertise are in a visual field, not a text field.
    2. A title is also an incredibly personal thing, and it is your most dedicated readers and close writers who should share their opinions with you.
    3. I’m not your demographic. If you are publishing a heavy science-fiction novel, you wouldn’t ask a reader of romance their thoughts on the title, and vice-versa.

  1. Can you please tell me what you think of the blurb?

    Please re-read point 4. Your editor is the best person to talk through this with you as they know your book as well as you do, but can come at it from a 3rd party POV.

  2. When do I make the payment?

    It is a 50% deposit up front, and then 50% at the end of the project before the final transfer of files.

  3. I don’t know my final page count yet, and I won’t know it for a while, is that a problem?

    That’s very normal, especially if you’re looking to do an eBook release prior to the paperback. I can use a .5″ spine until you give me the final page count.

  4. How quickly do you need feedback from me?

    I don’t work with any deadlines, so I’m very flexible. Book cover design is not a rush job, and sometimes it can take a long time. Getting feedback from outside sources, getting polled responses, sharing it with beta readers, sharing it with your family, working through your editing, marketing and planning for the initial release… all of this takes time. You take as long as you need to, to send me your feedback.

  5. Can you make it look exactly like this book cover on someone else’s book? Or even like this, but with some flying monkeys, some romance, and I want it to show action and I want it to show my characters exactly as I imagine them, and there’s also a death in there so add that in too.

    This is where I come in. I read your book, analyse your brief, hear your ideas, and tell you when there’s too much/too little/too conflicting and realign ourselves with the true purpose of your book cover. This may mean working with your ideas, it may mean refining them into something that will work magic.

  6. What do you need for the promotional extras that come along with my book cover package?

    They’re promotional extras which you’ve going to scatter throughout the internet. The standard extras my packages come with are:

    1. Facebook cover
    2. Web banner
    3. A3 poster
    4. Bookmarks
    5. Your choice (if those 4 aren’t what you need)

    So you have to ask yourself, “When am I going to be using these?” Are you running a promotion, where you need to add a date/location? Do you want your website address on there? Do you need a block of room where you can put in your own copy, and chop and change it whenever you need to?

What additional questions would you add to the list? Do you have anything that you’ve wanted to ask a designer but haven’t had the chance?

An Interview With Chris Dietzel: Writing, Cover Design, and Being an Author…

Chris Dietzel

I’m so excited to have Chris Dietzel agree to answer a few questions on writing, cover design, and
being an author here on the blog!

As a short bio: Chris graduated from Western Maryland College (McDaniel College). He currently lives outside Washington D.C. His short stories have been published in Temenos, Foliate Oak, and Down in the Dirt. His first novel, THE MAN WHO WATCHED THE WORLD END, was featured on The Science Fiction Spotlight and was voted as one of GoodReads top 10 “Most Interesting Reads of 2013.” His next novel, A DIFFERENT ALCHEMY, will be released in January, 2014. For more information, go to: http://www.chrisdietzel.com

 

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your writing career?

Not believing in myself when I was younger. In college, I didn’t even take a creative writing class for fiction because I thought the idea of becoming a novelist was outlandish. If I had confidence in myself sooner, I could have started working toward my dream earlier in life.

What’s in your ‘must have’ writers bag, every time you sit down to write a story?

It absolutely must have a fascinating story/premise. I was raised on Star Wars, where there was a new alien or cool special effect in every scene, so I’m always trying to find ways to keep readers’ imaginations engaged as I tell a story.

What do you hate seeing on book covers?

I can’t stand a book cover with an unclear title or an image that’s too busy or jumbled. It sounds obvious that a good book cover should have a title and author’s name that are easy to read and should have a clear subject, so it’s amazing how many, even by big name authors, don’t have that.

Do you think it’s better for author’s to hire a designer, or to try designing their book cover themselves? Explain.

Authors do themselves a huge disservice if they try to design their own cover. The cover is the first impression a book makes on potential readers. Why would an author want to take a short cut and try to design the face of their product themselves when they could have a professional do it?

Have you ever designed your own book cover? What were the pros/cons? Would you do it again?

I have ideas of what I want my book covers to be like, sometimes quite specific, but that’s vastly different from actually designing them myself. I would never jeopardize the success of my novel by trying to create my own cover. I’ve spent years and years learning how to tell a good story. I’ll leave the cover to someone who has spent years learning graphic design.

The Man Who Watched The World End - eBook CoverWhat’s one of your best skills as a writer?

One of my strong suits as a writer is blending a vivid imagination with honest story-telling. My first two books are both about the end of mankind. Part of telling that type of story is mentioning all the fascinating aspects of the human race slowly becoming extinct. It’s a subject that could turn into a story full of gunfights and explosions, but that isn’t honest. Instead, I focus on the loneliness and regret, the things that make it a book that everyone can relate to.

What/where is your fantasy/favourite writing place? What surrounds you, what smells are in the air, what can you hear and see?

My office is my favorite, and only, place that I write. It’s quiet, which I absolutely need. I have bookshelves in front of me that are filled with the types of stories I want to write about. My cat visits me periodically to see what I’m doing. I couldn’t ask for a better writing environment.

Do you think being able to read the title and name of your book cover at thumbnail format (normally on Amazon) is important, even though the title and name of the book is normally to the right of the cover anyway?

It’s absolutely critical. My biggest requirement when working with a designer is that the cover, including the title, must be clear as a thumbnail. There are only a few authors who are household names and whose books will sell no matter what. For everyone else, the cover can make or break the book before anyone ever even reads the story. If someone hasn’t heard of you or your book, you better hope your cover can grab their attention so they want to find out more about it.

Do you consider yourself a hobbyist, or a professional as an author?

Definitely a professional. When something is important enough that you consider it your life’s dream, I don’t think you can try and take it on as a hobby. I devote all of my time and energy to writing, and I plan on creating interesting stories for a very long time.

What was something you thought you were 100% sure on, that has since changed? A habit, a technique, a piece of knowledge, an emotion?

I used to be sure that being a writer was a silly goal, one that I could never achieve. Now, I’m sure I can accomplish all of my dreams if I just keep working toward them. When you surround yourself with positive thinkers and goal-oriented friends, you can’t help but have that mindset rub off on you.

Are you a one-manuscript-at-a-time author, or do you have several on the go at once?

I’m a one-at-a-time author in terms of how many I’m actively typing. But at any given moment, I’m writing additional stories in my head, working on specific scenes and conversations in future novels. I always have much more to write than I have time to write it. I almost always have two additional books completed in my head before I ever start typing them out on a computer.

Tagline or no tagline… should there be one on a book cover?

Personally, I don’t think so. I judge everything by the industry standard. I don’t see books in bookstores with tag lines on the covers, so I don’t include them on mine.

 

A huge thanks to Chris for agreeing to answer these questions for me! Don’t forget to check our Chris’ next novel- A Different Alchemy- due to be released in January 2014 over at: http://www.chrisdietzel.com