Adventures in Self-Publishing – Marketing 1.1

One of the primary skills needed to sell your book is marketing. Many people don’t like pushy sales people – so don’t be pushy. If little and often works then go for it but if someone doesn’t want to buy your book then, they don’t. Don’t pester folks.

  1. Marketing
  • Marketing (no one is going to buy your book if they don’t know it’s there. Many people don’t like the pushy salesperson (I certainly don’t), but there are ways and means. I took a course (Diploma in social media marketing) with Shaw Academy. This was a bargain – the course is usually a couple of hundred pounds but a friend put me onto Living Social which offers all sorts of stuff at real bargain prices. It has everything from weekend breaks, to courses, to laptops or whatever. As I understand it – they have a small amount at the low price and when they are gone they are gone.  Check out these bargain sites – you’d be surprised what you find.
  • Facebook – There are zillions of pages and groups on FB. Set up an author page (you can do this from your main account). If you have somehow managed to avoid FB then I’m sorry it’s a good idea to get an account. There are lots of groups devoted to blogging, genre books, author groups, writing groups, promo groups – you name it there will be  FB group for it. Join a few – and CHECK THE RULES. Some let you promo, some let you promo with restrictions (once a week/once a day), and some are non-promo but good for advice and networking. Facebook really wants you to spend your money and buy ads. I haven’t as yet – and I have heard mixed reviews on whether it’s useful. But I understand you can spend a small amount to have a small ad. You can promote in some groups for free – but the reach is limited. Prepare to spend a lot of time on social media…
  • Twitter/Tweetdeck – If you are going to use Twitter to promote then get Tweetdeck. It’s free and it makes managing your Tweets much easier. You can schedule tweets, add graphics, and see what you’ve booked in and when. You can attach more than one Twitter account to it.  Does Twitter help? Probably – there are a lot of cross-tweeting groups, and many people follow there.
  • Linked-in – This is more of a professional site – many employers look there. I’ve been contacted via LI more than once about jobs (all of which were utterly unsuitable), but it’s another forum. 
  • Pinterest – I love pinterest. I set up a page for all the interviews and promo from the blog, but mostly I use it for pics of animals, Phantom of the Opera, and random interesting stuff.  Again there are reader and author groups.

There are countless others but keep in mind how many sites you’re going to have to manage. Even with Hootsuite (for FB, Linked in, Tumblr and Twitter) and Tweetdeck it’s still a couple of hours a night for me. That’s two hours not writing…

You could ignore the marketing, do less than I do and it MIGHT work, but then again it might not. Promotion of your book will get you sales. No one knows it’s there – no one buys it. Simple as.

Blogging/Website. 

Set up an author website if you can – again if you aren’t very good at that kind of thing then look for a course or watch You-Tube. There is plenty of free/cheap advice about if you look. WordPress is fairly easy (and free for the basic package), Wix, Squarespace, Blogger etc are other options. Also, set up a blog. My website is the ‘official’ author site – it lists the books, about me and is updated when there is something new. The blog is more informal (and gets more traffic). You can blog about anything – books you’ve written, books you’ve read, your cat/dog/rabbit/degu, plants, recipes or whatever. It’s good writing practice – builds a network of followers who might check out your book(s) and it’s fun. I will say this – pick what you blog about carefully. If you want to go rant about some reviewer leaving your book a 1-star review on Amazon; politics; what someone famous has or hasn’t done then go ahead but keep in mind what goes on the internet stays on the internet. It’s easy for a reader to misunderstand a comment, and if you start bitching then someone will notice and it’s likely to end up with a slanging match – which is public. You’re the author, you’re the brand. Being a jerk can harm this brand. You can’t undo it. I’ve seen authors behave badly – slagging off readers who rated a book low, or making some derogatory comment about a reader’s opinion or intelligence. It didn’t end well.  You have been warned.

 

 

 

Writer Wednesdays – Guest Post – T. R. Robinson – Who Do Authors Write For?

Today we welcome Tanya Robinson – who discusses the following topic:

Who Do Authors Write For?

It would seem many authors and writers (authors to the extent they are authoring a product) forget they are not generally writing for themselves. Having said that, it has to be acknowledged there are a variety of different takes on the topic e.g. some feel it is only correct to write what they want without consideration of others; others say writing should be entirely geared toward the anticipated audience even compromising upon content to satisfy them; others suggest an amalgam of styles. Of course, in varying circumstances any of these, or a combination, may be appropriate. Nevertheless, this post is intended to be pragmatic and realistic.

When anyone writes, author or not, it is usually for others to read whether it be a book, letter, article, post etc. Consequently, authors/writers need to consider, phrase and frame their writing from the readers’ perspective. It is very easy for them to get so caught up in what they are doing as to forget who they are putting pen to paper/fingers to keyboard for. This, for the readers at least, can often lead to uninteresting, dry and irrelevant narrative, commentary and dialogue which will do no one any favours. Fundamental to authorship, which is what is primarily being discussed here, is the desire for others to read the end product. The author who writes purely for their own entertainment is truly a rarity, an inspiration and a challenge to most.

Despite the above comments and observations, when it comes to books, though other forms of writing may be included, all should, at least in principle, be writing because it is what they want to do and not because they seek fame or wealth. Naturally most authors would love their books to become bestsellers but to only write with that motivation can lead to distorted, poor quality publications. Make no mistake, readers, on the whole, are not ignorant, foolish people; they will quickly note when something is below par. Nevertheless, despite all that has been said, it must be acknowledged, as a general rule, authors want their books to sell; scriptwriters want agents, producers and directors to take up their ideas; newspaper and magazine columnists want their articles read; letter writers want the recipient to comprehend all they have to say; etc. Consequently, though they may be writing out of a genuine desire to do so, most will also, inevitably, seek to formulate their writing to achieve their aim.

Regrettably there are books where it is clear the author has got caught up in their own thoughts. They understand what they are writing and expect their readers to have the same comprehension without giving thought to whether they have the same background knowledge or experience. It is really easy for authors to fall into this trap; to get carried away with what they know forgetting others will be approaching the work with different perspectives, knowledge and experience. People’s comprehension of a phrase, idea, concept or word is frequently subject to their background; social, cultural, national, religious. However, it would be a minefield to try and take in all the various possibilities. Overall, authors and writers should constrain themselves to writing within their own national understanding. It is more than likely, if a reader has chosen their book, they are either from the same national or cultural background or have a good comprehension of it.

Now to the nitty-gritty of the subject. It is not easy for an author to step back from their ‘baby’ and view it from an others perspective. Most just want to get on with ‘their’ writing and not be bothered by such distractions. Some may even be so arrogant as to consider the requirement to consider others, primarily the reader, trivial; hopefully those who think like that are a minority.

So what does it take to write for readers?

  • Research what readers want, whether it be in books, films, blogs or even letters.
  • Consider the reader’s background, if possible.
  • Authors should be aware of how things they read impact upon them; what they like and what they do not and why. They need to learn from this.
  • Erase or limit superfluous words, phrases and descriptions, which may make sense to them and their circle of acquaintances but are not in wide popular use.
  • Treat readers with respect: give them credit for being intelligent individuals.
  • If the writing is specific, bear in mind the age, and as far as they can know it, the knowledge and experience of the people they are writing for.
  • Avoid narrative or dialogue that talks ‘down’ to the reader.

These are just a few thoughts. No doubt readers of this post will think of other aspects that should or need to be considered.

One observation, regarding fictional works in particular, though the point may be extended to other genres. A book will distinctly benefit if the author is able to view the story as a film in their head. Characters, dialogue, scenery, etc. can all be based upon what they see and as a consequence may be more discernible for the reader. This is not something all writers find easy, though most, if they relax, are able to gain something from such vibrant imaginings.

The crux of the matter is simple: authors and writers should make time to stand back from their writing and take an objective view, endeavouring to see it as a reader will. If they really find they cannot do this, they should get a friend, acquaintance, editor (if they have one) or a reader to have a look. If they do not have anyone they could try asking their ‘friends’ and contacts on social media, perhaps somewhere like Goodreads. There are usually several people willing to participate in, and assist with, such ‘beta’ reading i.e. this is similar to testing  new on-line sites and systems but of course, in this instance limited to reading.

Naturally, as with anything, there are exceptions to the general rule. Some tales and stories need to be told in the author’s own style. The work may not become popular but it has to be acknowledged many interesting works would have been missed if some authors had not the courage and determination to write in the style they considered most suited their work e.g. James Joyce; William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac; etc. Sometimes a story has to be told in an individual style.

Whatever the circumstance, and no matter the style adopted, authors need to remember who they are writing for. They must avoid tunnel vision and accept, in most cases, they are not primarily writing for themselves.

T. R. Robinson is the author of memoir and biographical fiction. More about her, her writing and life may be found at https://trrobinsonpublications.com

Writer Wednesdays – Tips for New Writers – revisited

This is a little cheeky as some of was taken from an old post (2013) – but have I changed my views? The origin post was written not that long after I started self-publishing.

So let’s revisit my old post – Old in RED, new comments in black.

Link to original post

Share your most helpful writing tips and advice. What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started writing?

New writers are given an awful lot of information, much of it contradictory and it is very difficult to know the good advice from the bad. Experience is a great teacher!

Yep – it’s still true there is information overload. There is some great advice, and some lousy advice. Working out which is which can be a challenge. Indie authors, in my experience, support each other, offer advice and suggestions and understand the challenges. Listen to the advice, good and bad. After all if it hasn’t worked for one person that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. The bloody awful advice will become self-apparent.  Free advice is always worth taking in. What you choose to do with it, that’s up to you.

Here are my top 6 tips:

1)    Keep writing. This is seems to be consistent advice from all the sources I have seen. A single book is great but it is hard to build a fan base with just one title and if readers like your work they may well look out for other articles and stories. I do as a reader. As your writing experience grows you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Write for anthologies, write for your blog or someone else’s or write for research. Yahoo Voices have many interesting blog-type articles and it is a way to build a fan base. Researching for your novel? Great, use that research to help others. There are lots of anthologies looking for submissions (see links below) and some pay, although some don’t. Even the free ones are useful in getting your name out there and are writing practice.

Yahoo Voices no longer exists, but there are thousands of blogs/e-zines and groups who will happily take guest posts. Writing for anthologies – yes, I’d say it was helpful but as you get more experienced then you can pick and choose. The first few I did didn’t pay – and that’s a good way to promote yourself initially – but of course, most authors want paying for their work. Free has its place – don’t get me wrong – but it’s good to be able to pick and choose. There is also the consideration – anthology stories are varied in quality, length and style. Try and read some of the other stories, if that’s possible, or check out the author’s work. I’ve read (and been in) anthos where some of the stories need….more work. Make sure your own entry is good, well presented and not riddled with errors. 

Research – yes, yes, yes. Post up on your blog, or share on forums.

2)    Have a thick skinyou will need it. There will ALWAYS be someone who doesn’t like your book, will be offended by it, hate the characters or simply not get it. We do not all like the same things, if we did the world would be boring indeed.  Bad reviews hurt, but most books have at least one and unless the reviewer has a personal issue with the author (which occasionally happens) then it is one opinion. Reviews are just that – opinions, which can be as varied as the books they discuss.

Still agree with this. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Shit happens. If you don’t want bad reviews – don’t publish. That said they can be helpful. Every writer thinks his or her work is the best thing ever. Usually it’s not (sorry – and I include myself in that). There is always something which doesn’t quite work, or could have been better – but that is generally true of life. And what that is depends on perspective. I like great world and character building, for example. I’ve read books with awesome reviews only to put them aside after three or four chapters because I didn’t give a damn about the characters. It’s a matter of opinion.

No writer likes to be told their book sucks and it can be hard to deal with. One of the best pieces of advice is ‘don’t comment’, or if you feel you must then be polite, thank the reviewer for their comments and move on. Commenting, especially negatively will do far more harm, go and rant to your best friend, yell at the wall, go for a walk and release that is one person’s opinion only. The next reviewer may love the book. Even negative reviews, except the spiteful ones, have useful advice.

Don’t comment on reviews. Really. Not ever. Don’t bitch, tell the reader they are wrong, or slag them off on social media. Just don’t. That will do your brand FAR more damage than a bad review.

It is hard to work out how much store readers put on reviews, many do look and most simply filter out those which either say nothing or the obviously spiteful or overly gushing ones, but in a couple of studies I have done reviews are surprisingly low on the scale. A good cover, a synopsis which pulls in the reader and recommendations from friends seem more important. If the book is selling don’t worry too much.

Agreed – to an extent. Personally, I don’t put that much store by book reviews – but I do write them. I’m odd like that. Partly I write them because I have a terrible memory and it’s a way to remind me of a book, but also because I like talking about books. People review for many, many reasons and in many many ways. All of them are right.

3)    Write the book you want to write. Now I am sure other writers might disagree with this tip but not all. Forcing a story to work, editing out important plot ideas or making characters do something they wouldn’t do may well make the story weaker. Write the book YOU want to read. Would you enjoy it? If the answer is yes then go with it. A forced plot will show itself to be just that.  It may depend on whether you are intending to self-publish or whether you are intending to submit to a publishing house of course and whether you intend to get an editor.

I’d rephrase this as write the book you want to READ. 

4)    Write the best book you can. No book is perfect. Even bestsellers have typos which slip through, weak plots or naff characters. However, if you are an indie the threshold seems to be higher…there are plenty of posts and threads berating indie self-published books as being substandard. In some cases this is true, we have all seen them but there are very many books which are great, yes some may be a little rough around the edges but the good stories and talent are out there. There are plenty of traditionally published books which are awful. That said releasing a book full of typos, terrible grammar and weak plot/characters is not advisable. Spellcheckers are useful but invest in a dictionary, a thesaurus and a writing guide. If you can find beta readers or critique groups then do so.

If you can afford an editor, then get one. Ask around, there are various authors who edit, or know them. I found a couple of free/cheap online writing courses. Write, write, write. 

If you decide to self-edit then put the manuscript aside for a while and write (or read) something new. You will see the work with fresher eyes. I know from experience I see what I think is there not what IS there. If you can afford an editor then it is advisable to consider it, but there are great books which have been self-edited. If you choose this route be thorough, it may take several passes through. Although earlier I said write the book YOU want you do need to be strict when editing. It is easy to get carried away and go off on a tangent. Does the scene add to the story/characterisation/world-building? No – then lose it.

5)    Research and plausibility. This is rather dependent on genre of course but willing suspension of disbelief only goes so far. Fantasy gives a lot of scope, especially magic but it still needs to be consistent. Research gives the writer credibility, if you say something works which we KNOW doesn’t work in that way then at the least back it up in the story with some plausibility, or better still find something which people know does work that way. Gravity is gravity. Research medieval battle, weapons and armour, field medicine, herb-lore and such like if you are planning a fight. Movie fight scenes look great visually but aren’t really that accurate. What damage DOES a long sword do? What IS the range of a longbow. You needn’t go into too much detail in the book, but knowing if your archer can hit that bad-guy lurking in the Dark-lord’s tower is helpful. Books can educate, and encourage people to research for themselves, especially if set in a certain time period but accuracy is the key. Of course, many readers won’t go on to research or have any interest in the origins of the longbow, the war horse but some might. Besides research is great, it is amazing what you can discover!

Yep, pretty much. I spent a while looking up ancient Greek curses the other day, and I’ve researched flora and fauna, weaponry and armour, the potential airworthiness of dragons, whether salamandars are edible, poisons and herblore, giantism and all sorts of other things.

6)    READ THE DAMN MANUAL! Really I mean it. Spend a bit of time not only reading writing guides but the FAQ of KDP, Smashwords, Lulu or wherever it is you choose to publish. It will make life a lot easier. There are several free books available – ‘Publish your work on Kindle’, ‘How to Publish on Smashwords’ for example. Most of the sites have extensive guidelines and forums. That is another thing most people have struggled with whatever it is you are struggling with so search the forums for answers. You are now a business person as well as a writer and it helps to know what to do.

What do I wish I had known at the beginning? Marketing is HARD. Where is the line between being a spammy needy author and promoting in such a way that people will check out your books and not be annoyed? Well that depends on who you ask…some people hate any mention of the product, some don’t mind a small amount and some say as much as you can do is the way to go. If I find the right level I will let you know.

World Building:

http://audenstreasury.blogspot.co.uk/p/writing-fight-scenes-resources.html?showComment=1369324942695

http://cbmccullough.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/domesticating/

http://mythicscribes.com/world-building/adding-depth-to-a-fantasy-world/

http://audenstreasury.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/dark-fantasy-world-building-names.html

http://profantasy.com/

Writing generally:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9764931/The-101-best-pieces-of-advice-ever-received.html

http://robbgrindstaff.com/2013/01/why-are-verbs-so-tense/

http://lissywrites.com/2013/06/28/back-cover-text-book-blurbs-and-other-fun-stuff/

http://venturegalleries.com/blog/writing-short-stories-for-anthologies/

http://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/tips-for-self-editing?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tips-for-self-editing

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/07/13/rethink-advice-to-writers/#more-41613

Writers Digest

Princess of the Light Blog

 

Writer Wednesdays – Debbie Mumford #WriterWednesday #Indies #Writing

Here is the first of the new 2018 Writer Wednesday posts. Today we welcome Debbie Mumford, a writer who has had a busy year in 2017. I have to say I’m envious, I plan to write far more than I do, and I have great respect for writers like Debbie who have the discipline to write as much as she does.

Happy 2018! 

A Writer Welcomes the New Year – A Guest Post by Debbie Mumford

2017 was a good year for me. I achieved some goals and failed spectacularly at others, but all in all, when the year ended I was pleased to find that I’d failed forward!

A large part of that forward motion is due to my yearly review in late December and the goals I put in place for the coming year. Stretch goals, not easy ones. Goals I’ll have to work to achieve, but goals that will carry me forward even if I fail to meet all of them. And I’m realistic enough to know that some of them won’t be met.

An important part of this process is recognizing what is and is not a goal. I’m not talking about resolutions. Everyone makes those in early January … and most people have forgotten what they were by February or March. I’m talking about really, truly GOALS.

I like to use S.M.A.R.T. goals, which are, by definition:

  • Specific: Goals need to be specific, not some loose, vague, impossible to quantify statement. “I will write better this year″ is not a specific goal. “I will write 2 pages a day” qualifies.
  • Measurable: Goals need to be measurable. Again, a concrete goal is far better than an amorphous wish. You need to know whether or not you achieved it! “I will write for 45 minutes a day” is a measurable goal.
  • Achievable: Goals need to be reasonable and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by shooting for the moon. “I will complete the first draft of my 90,000 word novel in 6 months″ is much more achievable than “I will write a 90,000 word novel in January.” Also, as I mentioned above, make sure your goals are within your control. “I will write the first draft of my novel” is achievable and within your control. “I will become a NY Times bestselling author” is not.
  • Realistic: Goals need to be realistic. Evaluate your time and your lifestyle. Be honest with yourself. Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic for who you are and how you live.
  • Time-Bound: Goals need to have a time frame. Lots of people dream of writing a novel…someday. But without a deadline, a time pressure, there’s no reason to do anything today. Put a date on your goal and then get started on it today. When you reach the specified date, you’ll know whether or not you accomplished your goal.

One of my goals for 2017 was to publish 18 new titles. I write under two names for two very different audiences: Debbie Mumford writes speculative fiction, often with romantic elements, for grown-ups, and Deb Logan writes contemporary fantasy for middle grade and teen readers, so my actual goal read something like this: “During 2017 I will publish one title a month as Debbie Mumford and one title every other month as Deb Logan.“

That qualified as a SMART goal. It was specific – one title (short story, novella, novel, collection) for Debbie every single month and one for Deb every other month; it was measurable – at the end of the month, I knew whether or not I’d accomplished the task; it was achievable – I had a backlog of published stories where the rights had reverted to me plus a selection of new work that I was ready to release into the wild; it was realistic – I knew I could create the covers and run the manuscripts through Vellum (my formatting tool of choice) in a timely fashion; and it was time-bound – everything would happen in the 2017 calendar year.

I achieved that goal, plus a little bit more. The final breakdown for 2017 was 14 short stories (9 of Debbie’s + 5 of Deb’s), 3 collections (all Debbie’s) and 1 novelette (Deb’s) published digitally, plus 3 novels, 2 novellas, and 3 collections released in print. (The print titles were already available digitally, so they didn’t count toward the actual goal, but the print release was a task that needed to be accomplished.)

I also had a goal in place to grow my newsletter lists. I didn’t put a specific number on this goal, but I did record a starting number for each list and I had a plan in place as to how I would accomplish the task: by searching out and taking advantage of promotional opportunities on Kobo, Amazon, and Instafreebie. I’m pleased to say that I accomplished this goal as well – each list more than doubled in 2017.

Where I fell down, rather spectacularly, was in my production goals. I intended to write at least three novels in 2017 and as many short stories as I could squeeze in. Since I’m still working a full-time day job, this goal probably didn’t qualify as SMART – it failed the “realistic” test. Still, I managed to write a short story a month in addition to all the publishing and promoting, so I failed in the right direction.

So what’s in store for 2018? Recognizing that life happens and the day-job must be done, publishing will take a back seat to production this year. I’ll be published in 2018, but it will be in anthologies and magazines rather than under my own imprint … at least, that’s the plan!

How about you? Have you mapped out your intended journey for 2018? I hope your destination will be grand and glorious. I’m sure I won’t end up exactly where I’m planning to go, but I’m positive the journey will be amazing!

Links:

Debbie Mumford’s Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/a2q5l8

Deb Logan’s Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/s1c9o3

Websites:

http://debbiemumford.com/

http://wdmpublishing.com

https://deblogan.wordpress.com/