Tag: publishing advice

3 Clever Tips for Self-Publishing on a Budget

on August 27, 2016 in Publishing Advice with 1 comment by

Tself publishing on a budgethinking about self-publishing but worried about the cost?

Very few of us have the resources to compete with the big five publishers. Even if we aim to publish the highest quality book possible, we must watch our spending very carefully.

Publishing budgets vary wildly. I’ve heard some authors bragging that they spent nothing on their books – which frankly makes me regard their books a bit dubiously. I’ve seen beautiful, well-edited indie books published for between $1,000 and $3,000. And of course, I’ve seen jaw-droppingly gorgeous books produced for many times that amount.

Do you want to limit how much money you spend on self-publishing your book?

Here are 3 clever tips for self-publishing on a budget:

1. Use free eBook formatting software. If your book has already been professionally edited and you are not looking for custom design, you can use free tools to create high-quality book interiors. Personally, I’ve been very impressed with the Reedsy Book Editor. I also am a big fan of Vellum – which isn’t free, but allows you to create lovely books without a designer.

2. Scrappy cover design. A poorly-designed cover will repel readers. A custom cover by a professional designer can cost upwards of $800. Before you spend the big bucks, check out alternative cover sources. Use Fiverr for $5 prototypes. Contact artists directly on Deviant Art, Renderosity or Epilogue to request custom art or use of work already created. Use a service like 99Designs to run a cover design contest for $299.

3. Skill share. First, sort everything that needs to be done into three categories – things you can do yourself (at a professional level), things you need to pay someone else to do, and things you can barter with friends. Most of the writers I know have other professional skills. For example, you may be a top artist and perfectly capable of designing your own cover, while a friend of yours may be an eagle-eyed editor. Work together! Trade a cover design for a copy edit.

Would you like more information on how to get all your editing, formatting and design done on a tight budget? Sign up for my online class How to Self-Publish Your First Book. You’ll gain a wealth of resources for your indie publishing projects – plus tools to help you set and manage your budget.

Save $150 when you join during this weekend preview special.
(Ends tomorrow!)

Do you know any other great sources for budget-minded authors? Hit reply and let me know! I’d love to share them with my students.

Checklist: How do you know if your book is ready to publish?

on July 18, 2016 in Publishing Advice with 1 comment by

Uncertain if you book is ready to be released into the wild? You want to publish your best book possible. It can be challenging to know if your manuscript has any weak areas, or if it’s been properly edited.

If doesn’t matter whether you intend to self-publish, or send your manuscript off to agents and publishers. Taking the time to work through these stages drastically improves your manuscript and your ability to realize your publishing goals.

While not every book goes through each of these steps (or needs to), each action adds value and refines the final book you will offer up to readers. While it’s easy to make big changes in the development stage, these changes become more and more emotionally difficult later on. Here’s a quick manuscript editing checklist to help guide you.

Stage one: Development 

  1. Outline plot points.
  2. Workshop with peers.
  3. Revise, cut and expand on authorly authority.
  4. Share with “beta” or “review” readers.
  5. Revise and rewrite based on input.

Stage two: Editing

  1. Self-edit for basic grammar and spelling errors.
  2. Read aloud to catch clarity issues.
  3. Developmental edit (pro) – Chapter-level. Focuses on story development, character, pacing, etc.
  4. Copyedit (pro) – Sentence and paragraph level. Focuses on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style.
  5. Consistency in tone and style. Clarity.
  6. Manuscript review (pro) – Review of entire manuscript with notes provided. May focus on content, improvements and marketability.

Stage three: Final Review

  1. Run spell check and read through out loud once more. (Not, not kidding about spell check!)
  2. Double check table of contents, chapter titles and section headings.
  3. Final proofread (pro) – Focus on grammar, spelling and basic formatting.

Get the manuscript editing checklist (PDF) > >

Are you making this mistake with your Facebook ads?

on March 28, 2016 in Publishing Advice with no comments by

Wmail image YouTube facebook

 

One of the biggest complaints I heard from the authors who completed my 2016 Book Marketing Challenges survey was how easy it is to waste money on advertising.

Luckily, I’ve tested strategies and practices that remarkably improve ad results. This means that I’ve also paid good money for ads that were complete flops. Painful! These failed ads taught me very important lessons. I am happy to share my experiences so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.

Here is a quick 2-minute video lesson that shows how a specific change I made to my Facebook ads TRIPLED my book sales.

If you don’t have time to watch the video, here’s the big lesson I reveal.

Don’t direct your ad directly to your Amazon book page. Instead, offer an easier “next step” such as downloading a sample of your book for free.

Insider tip: This lesson is a free preview of my Online Marketing Masterclass for authors that will be released to the public later this week.


 

Get more help with Facebook Ads:
Facebook Ads Workshop – Thursday, March 31st at noon PT >> RSVP TODAY

Join me in a free Google hangout this Thursday at noon PT to workshop your Facebook ads. We’ll review best practices and troubleshoot common issues. We will use YOUR ads and books as examples. We’ll discuss content and design, audience and targeting, and conversion optimization.

Submit your ads or books to be reviewed in the workshop here.

 

2016 Book Marketing Survey Results: 6 Complaints

on March 24, 2016 in Publishing Advice, Writer's Life with 1 comment by

Book_Marketing_Survey_1

Do you struggle with the same book marketing challenges as other authors in your field?

I released a book marketing challenges survey earlier in the year and received responses from 93 authors. Some authors were just starting out self-publishing their books, others have published traditionally for years and years. Despite the wide range of experiences, there were a few themes that kept coming up.

Here are the most-reported book marketing complaints:

  • Difficulty getting attention or being discovered in a crowded market.
  • Ineffective marketing tactics – lack of results for efforts.
  • Struggles with social media.
  • Time management issues and information overwhelm.
  • Discomfort with (and outright loathing of) self-promotion.
  • Not enough money or resources.

Scroll down to read actual quotes pulled from the survey. But first, here are the numbers:

Primary income sources: 93 authors completed the survey. 10 of these authors make most of their income from book sales. The other 83 authors have another source of income.

primary

Publishing cost: While many authors spent none of their own money publishing their books, others spent over $20,000.

money spent on publishing

 

Marketing budget: While most authors spent less than $500 marketing their books, many more invested thousands of dollars into their book marketing efforts.

marketing budget

Stage of career: Authors that answered the book marketing survey were in all kinds of stages of their writing career. Some were very well established, others were just starting out.

established

 

And now, in your own words…


Issue: Getting Attention in a Crowded Market

“My main problem is getting interest in my books.”

“I feel like I’m not reaching the folks who would buy my books if they knew about them.”

“I don’t know how to stand out in all the noise.”

“I thought i had a decent fan base but with a new book out this doesn’t seem to be reflected in sales or reviews. There’s so much online noise out there, how does one stand out? How do I make the most user of my time?”

“I don’t know which market or platform is the best for my books.”

“I don’t get noticed among the hundred and thousands of other releases. My blog is… a waste of time. No one visits except writer friends and colleagues.”


Issue: Ineffective Marketing

“I don’t want or need marketing tips that are fast and easy. What I want is marketing that is EFFECTIVE.

“Despite having consistent and topical blog posts, I also rarely saw a return on the effort, and I’m burned out!”

“Instead of wasting my time say buying useless adspace or sending free copies of my book to a website with only 3 visitors, I want to know where I should focus my energies to find people who want to read my books.”

“I have worked hard cold-calling book bloggers for reviews, sending personalized review requests, and soliciting free newsletters to promote price-reduction sales, and looking for guests posts for an author who neither will promote nor spend any money to promote. I have failed in both reviews and sales garnered.”

“I will probably do a guerilla marketing campaign, dropping cards and stuff. But I don’t know if that will help at all. I feel like such a noob.”

“I can promote until I’m blue in the face, but the only thing that seems to get results is giving away my books, something I am loathe to do on anything other than a one-time, limited basis.”


Issue: Social Media Struggles

“Posts that I make are not always seen. I don’t know how many times to make a post or know when to make to reach my audience.”

“I deactivated my Facebook account a few years back primarily for lack of understanding. Although I have a Twitter account I have not taken the time to make it truly viable as a tool.”

“Social media seems like one massive endless swap and shop; people do stop to browse yet after piles of junk mail and slightly damaged articles offered as a real deal, they peruse seemingly legitimate offers warily.”

“I have trouble getting people to click through to blog posts and engage on topics surrounding the books. People are happy to approach and say that the books sound really interesting, but getting the clicks and better numbers is difficult.”

“I’m clueless when it comes to the internet. I’m sure I’m not using it properly to maximize sales.”


Issue: Time Management and Overwhelm

“With so many other novels flooding the market, it’s difficult for me to find the time and motivation to chase marketing avenues. Oh now I have to write a blog, oh now I have to tweet about this, oh now I have to make a Facebook page about that. “

“Marketing is a full time job but so is writing and I simply don’t have the time or the energy to do both.”

“I don’t have the time or energy to put as much into social media as authentic relationships would demand.”

“Can I do it all alone with no contacts, author involvement or budget?”

“Which social media sites have the potential to help you market and which are a waste of time and effort?”

“I’ve gone to conferences and read all the information but it’s not sinking in.”

“I have great ideas, but no time to implement them.”


Issue: Discomfort with Self-Promotion

“I struggle with being authentic while also promoting my book. I don’t want to be one of those authors who is always pushing a link to her book (and there are a lot of them!).”

“I don’t know what words to use to attract people without being cliché.”

“I hate being a salesman for myself. It feels awkward.”

“Plus, how do you promote yourself on social media without annoying people? I share when someone else says something positive about my work (through retweets, reposts, etc…) with a ‘thank you’ included, and I’m fine to share when my work is discounted, but otherwise, I don’t know how to promote my work without feeling like I’m being a slimy used car salesman.”

“I don’t like talking about my book or, worse, ‘selling’ people on my book. I just really hate being like ‘Buy my book! Buy my book!’ It is the worst.”


Issue: Lack of Money

“Can I do it all alone with no contacts, author involvement or budget?”

“I don’t have the resources to do anything that will make a big impact.”

“I want to hire a professional to help me, but I don’t know if it will be a good investment or not.”


Do any of these book marketing complaints sound familiar to you? Clearly, you are not alone. Authors work very hard to identify effective ways to promote their books, while salvaging some time to write and work on their craft.

I used the information in this survey to help craft some of the lessons in my upcoming audience building class for authors.

Did you find this survey interesting? Please share it using the buttons below. Thanks!

The give and take of social media marketing (Plus my golden rule of self-promotion.)

on March 16, 2016 in Publishing Advice with 2 comments by

giveandtakeofsocialmediaWant to avoid irritating the crap out of your Twitter followers, but still need to make sure the time you spend on the platform results in traffic and sales? Here’s my golden rule for self-promotion on Twitter:

Don’t exceed a 3:1 ratio of “gives” versus promotion.

What does this mean? This means for every single time I talk about myself, or my books, or classes, I talk about something completely unrelated to me at least three times.

Give. Give. Give. Take.

This 3:1 ratio is a bit high on the promotion side. I only talk about myself this much when I have something I am pushing hard. When I don’t have anything new, that ratio drops down to more like 10:1, or even 20:1.

Guy Kawasaki, who was my mentor and advisor during my Writer.ly years, told me his ratio might even be much higher on the “give” side. He manages aggregate news sites and tweets a huge volume of content. For mere mortals, the 10:1 or 3:1 goal is more achievable.

How does this play out? Let’s say I am promoting a new free class. Even though the class is technically a “give” as a free resource, it’s a “take” as I’m talking about myself and asking people to give me their emails when they sign up.

I know that to meet my signup goals, I need to tweet about the class about three times a day. I will use Hootsuite to schedule my tweets for prime times (early in the morning, one in the afternoon, one late in the evening). I make sure to change the tweets so that they don’t all say the same thing.

Once my promo tweets are scheduled, I fill up the space between with at least 3 high-interest “gives”.

What counts as a give? A give can be an article, a quote, a writing prompt, a recommendation, a joke, or links to other people’s events or books. As long as the gives are appropriate and interesting to my audience, no one seems to mind the tweets about my class. Most of my followers will miss them all, even though I spread them throughout the day.

The take is just as important as the give if you are on Twitter for business or audience purposes. If all you post are “gives”, then your efforts will not feed your email list or sales. If you have nothing in particular you are promoting, you can at least schedule out occasional tweets for people to come back and look at your most popular blog posts, or to sign up for your wonderful email newsletter.

It’s more of an art than a science. I break my own rules occasionally and do not always follow my own advice. Luckily, Twitter has a short term memory. It’s easy for my followers forgive my occasional over-excitement for my own projects thanks to the all the other wonderful content I curate for their benefit and enjoyment.

Do you need help using Twitter more effectively?

Sign up for my 3-Day course “How to Get More Followers on Twitter.” It’s free and delivered via email, so you can complete it on your own schedule.

>> Sign up here. <<

This is day three of my week of social savvy posts. Check back tomorrow to learn more about how to use Twitter to achieve your promotion goals.

How to use Twitter without embarrassing yourself.

on March 15, 2016 in Publishing Advice, Writer's Life with no comments by

HowtoUseTwitterPromoting your books does not need to be a painful exercise in narcissistic flailing and squandered efforts. Approached with the correct mindset, it might not only be very effective, but also fun! If you would like to know how to use Twitter without embarrassing yourself or wasting time, here is what you must keep top of mind. It’s the biggie…

Twitter is the place for first discovery, not the final sale.

If you have ever worked in sales or marketing, you may have heard of the sales funnel. As you can see in the illustration below, social media sites (such as Twitter) are at the very tippy top of the funnel. This is where you get your first introductions. Potential readers may see your clever tweet and discover for the first time that you even exist.

social media sales funnel for authors

 

This first discovery moment is not the time to ask for a book sale. Sure, if you ask 100 people, you might get one or two sales. Is that what you’re after, one or two sales? Is it worth annoying the 98 or 99 other people that didn’t take you up on your quick offer?

Use Twitter to entertain or inform your potential fans. Give them interesting content to earn their attention. Invite them to click through to your blogs, or freebies or collaborations.

Here’s an example of how I invite my Twitter followers to come visit my website:

Since my audience is full of writers, I offer the fun game as a way to interact (play!) and drive traffic back to my blog. It’s subtle and appreciated by those that participate. You’ll notice there is no sales push. I’m not selling anything with these games. I use the games as a way to move beyond introduction and discovery and give my audience a chance to get to know me.

More directly, you can offer information or freebies on Twitter. Here’s an example of just that:

This tweet really helps move potential fans through the funnel. Not only do we go past introduction to entice people back to the website, but we offer them something of high value for free. While they may watch the video right away, if they want the guide they need to provide their email address. Once we receive their email address, we have permission to continue building our relationship and provide them more offers leading to a single sale, or even a life of fandom. (So we hope!)

If you would like to know how to use Twitter without embarrassing yourself, just keep thinking of the network as a very first introduction to your potential readers. Give, give, give…. give resources, information or entertainment. Be yourself and don’t worry about “pushing” anything. Provide opportunities to invite your followers back to your website or to your events. Keep thinking about what you can offer to move your potential readers through the funnel and closer to fandom.

Do you need help using Twitter more effectively?

Sign up for my 3-Day course “How to Get More Followers on Twitter.” It’s free and delivered via email, so you can complete it on your own schedule.

>> Sign up here. <<

This is day two of my week of social savvy posts. Check back tomorrow to learn more about how to use Twitter to achieve your promotion goals.

Claim your name: First steps for authors on social media

on March 7, 2016 in Publishing Advice, Writer's Life with 5 comments by

claimYOURnameAuthors on social media often struggle in the beginning.

Aside from the fact that self-promotion seems daunting and distasteful, you must also contend with a vast number of social networks to choose from, each with their own best practices, unspoken rules and effectiveness. How can you possibly be expected to know where to start?

Good news! You don’t need to figure out everything right away. You have plenty of time to try out different platforms. You may explore each one-by-one if you wish, trying them on for audience, ease of use and enjoyment. This is my best piece of advice for authors on social media.

Do this right now:

Claim your name on all the major social media platforms.

What does this mean? This means creating an account on all the major social networks, as well as any niche networks you think might be a good match for your work and your readers. This does not mean that you need to start using all these accounts right now. This simply means that if you do decide to try them out in the future, you will not suffer the annoyance of discovering your name is already taken.

These are the social media networks I suggest for all authors. Do you already have your name claimed on these sites?

There are many other social media or community sites that may also be a good match for you. Check out:

There are a billion more. Ask your readers where they spend their time online and what sites they like. That’s where you need to be.

When you create your username, you will be very lucky if you can get your first name, or even your full name. Already taken? Don’t worry, there are many ways you can craft a well-branded, professional username that will likely work across platforms. Let’s say your name is Stephen King, you could try these public user names:

  1. Stephen
  2. StephenKing
  3. AuthorStephenKing
  4. StephenKing
  5. StephenWrites
  6. SKingAuthor
  7. theStephenKing
  8. RealStephen
  9. StephenSpeaks
  10. MeetStephen

If possible, you want to find a user name that you can use on as many social media platforms as possible. This will make it easier for people to find you.

Tip: DO NOT create profiles in the name of your book. You’re an author for life, right? You are going to write many books, yes? It will be a big pain to have to start over again every time you publish something new.

Are you 8 for 8 for claiming your name on the primary social media accounts I listed? Do you know more social sites for authors and artists that I may add to the secondary list? Let me know in the comments below.

Do you need help using Twitter more effectively?

Sign up for my 3-Day course “How to Get More Followers on Twitter.” It’s free and delivered via email, so you can complete it on your own schedule.

>> Sign up here. <<

How to Write a Query Letter That Will Have Agents Begging for More

on June 25, 2014 in Publishing Advice with no comments by

how-to-write-a-query-letterThis post was first published on Writer.ly.

Do you want to get a publisher to pick up your book? First, you likely need an agent. To get an agent, you’re going to have to write a query letter. I recently sat in on a PNWA presentation by Marilyn Allen, a respected agent and remarkably engaging person. Here’s what I learned from Marilyn on how to write a query letter that will have agents begging for more.

First impressions matter. The three most important things to include in your query letter are the hook, the book, and the cook.

  • The hook: Why would someone drive across to the city to buy this? Grab attention. Make the agent want to read more. This can be what you do for a living, an award, a creative line, or a scientific fact.
  • The book: Include a couple of lines about your book. Don’t write out your whole synopsis, just enough to get the agent interested. Show your passion and energy. If your book is fiction, write the setup, conflict, and resolution.
  • The cook: Tell them why you are the perfect person to write this book. What are your qualifications? What do you do for a living? Degrees? List the three to four most important things on your author platform. Bullet points work well here.

Double check for dumb mistakes. We are all overwhelmed with emails and submissions. You need to stand out and not give one reason for dismissal. As soon as an agent sees typos, attachments, or mistakes with her name, she moves on. Be smart and sharp.

Tell us about your platform. How will you help your publisher announce your book? Speeches? Organizations? Clubs? Start your own newsletter? Can you have 40,000 people on your newsletter?

Describe the audience. What is the age range? Gender? What kind of person would buy your book?

Provide smart comparisons. My book is like [INSERT SIMILAR, WELL-KNOWN BOOK NAME HERE]. Be careful here. Don’t be too ambitious or obscure.

Include genre and categories. Where does your book fit? Where will it be shelved? Have focus. Publishers want one proper home for your book. Understand the competition.

It’s a good idea to have your query letter reviewed before you send it out. Get a writerly friend (or five) to read it over and look for any mistakes you missed. Consider hiring a professional to critique your query and help you bring out the most compelling, salable aspects of your book.

VIDEO: 10 Things to Do before You Publish

on June 8, 2014 in Publishing Advice with no comments by

Recorded Webinar: 10 Things to Do Before You Publish

Want to know what you can do before publishing to improve your chances of success?

This one-hour recorded workshop teaches you ten things you can do before you send your book to an agent, or before you self-publish your book.

It doesn’t matter if you plan to publish independently or through a traditional publisher. To give your books the best chance for success, take the time to get your author platform in order, your community hopping and your identity as an author established.

Publishers and agents alike take a good look at an author’s online presence, social media and website, network and community when deciding to take a chance on a new author. Luckily, with all the free tools and resources out there, it isn’t hard to build a respectable author platform with minimal investment of money and time.

In this workshop, I walk your through ten things you must do before you publish your book to increase your odds of attracting an agent or reaching a big audience.

Starting from scratch? No problem! Let me illuminate a publishing path.

Already have an author platform established? You’re ahead of the game! Come to pick up some new tips on how to optimize your online presence and get the most out of your real-life community.

BONUS: I also share insights on how I was able to raise $9,800 on Kickstarter to fund my non-fiction book project and attract an agent at the same time.

VIDEO: How to Get Book Reviews

on June 4, 2014 in Publishing Advice with no comments by

Recorded webinar: How to get book reviews

Would you like more book reviews?

Reviews are crucial for building your book’s visibility and driving sales. Collecting reviews can be quite a challenge if you leave it to the fates. In this one-hour, recorded broadcast, I present many strategies for increasing your book review numbers such as:

  • Utilizing beta and early review readers
  • How to ask for reviews without harassing friends and family
  • New sites specifically made for authors to connect with reviewers
  • Paid and free options

TIP: I mention the partner program in the video between IBPA and NetGalley. Click here to read more about about the deal.

This recorded webinar will teach you how to get book reviews. Watch this category for more recorded webinars about publishing and book marketing coming soon!