Publishing Advice

VIDEO: Learn How to Add Soundtracks to Your Books with Booktrack

It's true! You can use Booktrack to add soundtracks to your books. Not only does this create a new and compelling way for readers to experience books, but gives authors another opportunity to connecting with readers in unique ways. Jason Hovey, VP at Booktrack, joined me online to give us an overview.

Watch the video to learn how you can use Booktrack to reach the 1.4 million readers on their platform.

Platform tip: One takeaway I pulled from Jason's talk that applies well to indie authors is to put up a free sample or first chapter of your book on Booktrack and then link to your site where interested readers may purchase the work in entirety.

Authors: Learn How to Add a Soundtrack to Your Book with Booktrack

Event-square_booktrackHow cool would it be if your readers could listen to thoughtfully crafted soundtrack perfectly aligned to your book as they read? Booktrack makes this possible!

Join me in a free webinar on October 9th to learn how you - and your readers - can create soundtracks for your favorite books with Booktrack. RSVP here.

What the heck is Booktrack?

Booktrack synchronizes soundtracks to eBooks creating a new medium for reading. With Booktrack, a unique soundtrack is paced to an individual's reading speed and synchronized to match the storyline while they read. Readers get instant free access to thousands of stories, from famous classics to contemporary titles, while authors easily create their own Booktrack titles by matching their stories to an extensive library of over 20,000 free-to-use high quality music and ambient audio tracks. Published Booktrack titles become instantly available to a global audience across Booktrack’s online service and mobile apps. Booktrack is delivering an innovative and engaging experience for today’s generation of digital readers, providing new ways for authors to evoke emotion and bring scenes to life, while additionally demonstrating proven learning benefits. Booktrack is seen as a disruptive force in the publishing and audio world, equivalent to how the introduction of sound changed the experience of watching film forever.

Want to win a video trailer of your book expertly crafted by the Booktrack team?

Enter the raffle below to win one of two free book trailers. Check out the ones they made for Hugh Howey's Sand and Pittacus Lore's Power of Six.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Two Contemporary Authors Helping Me Fall Back in Love with Science Fiction

in_love_with_science_fictionFunny how the science fiction writers of my youth are now classified as literary. I'm talking Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula K. LeGuin, Margaret Atwood and Madeline L'Engle. I love science fiction, particularly when authors choose to use creative strokes to illustrate a lesson in society or human behavior. I do believe that Kurt's Harrison Bergeron is the best short story ever written. When Ursula showed up in town to read from her new poetry (!) book, I brought my daughter along in the hopes that some of Ursula's powerful thinking would magically rub off on us. I named by first car "Ananda" based on a note that Madeline L'Engle scrawled in my copy of A Wind in the Door at a reading.

There came a point, however, when the genre exploded in a great and terrible way. Writers pumped out books faster than boobie-ful space explorer covers could be painted. Plot lines featured more violence and war than thoughtful exploration of society through artful prose. I thought to myself, these books are not for me. I lost interest in the genre and no longer visited that section of the bookstore.


That's me and kiddo hanging out with Ursula at Elliot Bay Books in Seattle.

How grateful I am that Hugh Howey came along. I first heard about Hugh through self-publishing world. He wrote and published his own books and they were wildly successful. This garnered some attention. I knew more about Hugh and his publishing process than I did about his actual books. One Friday evening, I decided I better read one and see what all the fuss was about. I downloaded Wool, the first book in his Silo Series and and stayed up until I finished it. I immediately bought the next, then the next. I spent my entire weekend sitting on the couch reading his books. These were days well-spent.

Reading Hugh's books taught me that there are still authors with interesting things to say publishing in the scifi genre. When Kindle released it's "unlimited" program, I decided to browse the best sellers in the dystopian section to see if there was something that caught my attention. I discovered Marcus Sakey's Brilliance series. The same thing happened. I read the first one in one sitting, read the next one the following day. How horrified I was to learn that the next book in the series won't be available for months. For the first time in a long time, I am anxiously awaiting the publication of a science fiction novel.

Aliens Killing Humans AGAIN? Memes in Science Fiction Writing

aliensThis is a guest post by award-winning author Terry Persun, who happens to be teaching a science fiction writing workshop next month.

I know that Stephen Hawking has been quoted saying he thinks that if aliens exist that mankind should avoid contact with them. He claims that aliens are most likely to treat us similar to how the Europeans treated the Native Americans. That they’d look to conquer or colonize our planet.

And, of course, most movies and television shows indicate that aliens are strong and healthy, they have poisonous claws or teeth, and we look like food to them. A lot of scientists think that aliens would show up to mine Earth of its minerals and that maybe we’d become their slaves in doing so. (Why they wouldn’t just use their superior intellect to create a machine for that purpose is beyond me.)

So, yeah, I’m a science fiction author (part of the time), but even if I have criminals in my fiction, it doesn’t mean that I think every human on Earth is a criminal. So, just because some of my aliens are bad…come to think of it, many of the aliens I write about haven’t tried to take over the Earth at all. In fact, some are just trying to protect themselves against us, and some are (hold it, I don’t want to give this away)… My novel, BACKYARD ALIENS just came out and it doesn’t have that type of alien in it—pretty much, anyway.

I like to think that perhaps the aliens who find us (if they do) are the Greenpeace type of aliens. They’re out to protect us, not exploit or eat us. They are out to learn from us. Perhaps even share what they’ve learned, have philosophical dialogs, explore ideas on the meaning of life in the universe. Why not? If I were to answer that question, there would be more than one answer, as you probably know by now.

If I were to write about aliens again, perhaps I’d explore the ones out to do us harm in some way, whether they think so or not. Perhaps the aliens would come here to help us and in trying would kill us anyway. Perhaps the aliens might want to work with us, learn from us, and we wouldn’t have any of it. Our fear and mistrust would have us fighting back even though we wouldn’t have to. (Anyone out there read Arthur C. Clarke’s CHILDHOOD’S END?)

The truth is, as a writer, I like to explore ideas that might be different than the norm, but they still have to be interesting ideas, and the stories have to have some action, and be fun to read. So, if I were a lazy writer, I might have only the monster-type aliens, the bad ones. But, let’s think outside the box. Let’s explore all the options. Writing isn’t only entertainment, it’s intelligent entertainment (much of the time), and can help us to see the world differently—even a world with alien invasions.


Would you like to write a science fiction novel?

Join us for a memoir workshop this October taught by award winning author Terry Persun, Develop and Write Your Science Fiction Novel. You can get $25 off the lowest registration rate when you use the code get25.

Take this webinar if you’re ready to tackle that science fiction novel you’ve been thinking about, or if you’ve already written it and want to understand the genre better for your rewrite. More details here.

Terry Persun holds a Bachelor’s of Science as well as an MA in Creative Writing. He has worked as an engineer, has been the Editor-in-Chief of several technology journals, and is now marketing consultant for technical and manufacturing companies. Over a dozen of his novels have been published. His science fiction novel “Cathedral of Dreams” won a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist Award, and his historical novel, “Sweet Song” won a Silver IPPY Award. His latest science fiction space opera, “Hear No Evil” was a finalist in the International Book Awards this past year. His sci-fi and fantasy novels have been on the top 100 (sci-fi categories) on Amazon several times in the past year.


Six Lessons about Memoir Writing

lessons_about_memoir_writingThis is a guest post by bestselling memoirist and friend Abigail Carter.

Abigail attended a writing workshop in Sonoma hosted by Theo Nestor, author of Writing Is My DrinkWhat follows are the lessons she learned about memoir writing at this retreat.

1. Ask the questions

One of the things I was reminded about in the workshop, and the reason I was there in the first place, was to formulate the basis for the book. It really comes down to a couple of pointed questions. The tip that Theo provided was to “adopt the attitude that your life is important and ask the question, “If you were really important, what would you be writing about?” What is the most essential thing you need to share through your story?

When I think about what I should be writing about in relation to the house, I think about what it is the house means to me, which I can more or less summarize in one word:


I get lost in another time reading Betty’s books and visiting her house (weirdly, I still think of it as her house and not mine) provides me with a similar escape. The moment I enter the house, it’s as if I have opened the door of the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, into a whole different world. I can physically feel myself relax. I get excited about cooking, and writing (with pen and paper), about curling up on the couch to read a real book.

In my regular life, I spend hours behind my computer only to stand up after hours of addictive-like behavior feeling dazed and foggy, and my only reprieve comes in the form of a small dog who incessantly leaves her toy at my feet for me to throw.

I refuse to hook up Internet access at the house because I know the moment I do, its magic will be lost. I need Vashon to remain my escape from a plugged-in world into a time where life was simpler, or at least lived in real time.

2. Dance into your writing

Tanya Taylor Rubinstein was one of the day’s speakers and she speaks from the perspective of a solo performance artist. My favorite moment of her talk was when she began to wiggle around the stage, doing what a writer might call a “five minute write” but in oral story form as she waved her hands around and did a little twirl and a wiggle. “It’s a whole different way of coming at the story, and if you’re stuck it might help you.” She then had us find a partner, look them directly in the eyes and tell that partner a story about a moment that changed our life. To stay in the moment, I told my partner the moment I found the Vashon house and she shared with me a powerful story of the moment she discovered she had breast cancer. By the end of five minutes I knew I had made a new friend.

3. Be “Passionately Confused”

I also liked Theo’s idea that you must be “passionately confused” about your topic. Here the question is “what is the obsession that is imbedded in your story?” What are you curious about? It is this questioning that will make your memoir compelling because as you discover answers, your reader will as well. This is the crux of memoir, the transformation of the narrator. The narrator at the beginning of the story cannot be the same as the narrator at the end and you must be clear about what that shift is. Candace Walsh, another of the speakers backed this idea up when she advised to “live the questions now. Live your way into the answers.”

As Theo spoke and the other speakers, Candace Walsh and Tanya Taylor Rubinstein continued their workshops, I began jotting down ideas about what the themes in the book might be: slowing down, motherhood, spirituality, my relationship to money, healing, food, feeling overwhelmed by life, marriage, sex.

4. Let your subtitle frame your subject matter

Another of Theo’s points was that the subtitle of a book often frames the overall idea embedded within the book, kind of like a thesis statement in an essay. It sums up the essence of what a memoir is really about. Examples of this include: “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” and “Poser: My Life in 23 Poses.” I’ll be living my way into writing the subtitle too, it seems.

5. Fame/writing memoir won’t change you

The excitement of the day was a talk by Anne Lamott, who shared her own brand of wisdom. I have long admired her work – poignant, humorous, thoughtful, and slightly sarcastic, and maybe it was because she was recovering from the flu, or something else is going on with her, but I found her words to be threaded with sadness. She told us to not expect the writing to change us, or perhaps it was to not expect fame to change us, it wasn’t quite clear. I do believe that the process of writing memoir does change you. If you follow Theo’s wisdom on the matter, writing memoir is all about the transformation.

So perhaps it was the fame thing. I have never cared about fame, and if anything I shun it. What I seek is the change in a reader who has read my work. A transformation, a comfort, a healing. It struck me as I sat in that huge hotel ballroom how many stories were represented there – hundreds of big, tragic stories that each sought an outlet. To be a memoirist of Ann Lamott’s fame must take a certain amount of strength of spirit, a sense of responsibility to those stories. What came across to me was how fragile Anne Lamott is, and how fame must be debilitating to her in a lot of ways.

6. Carry a pen and paper at all times

I did like her advice to always carry a pen and paper wherever you go and was charmed by the idea that she writes on her hand and then “transcribes her hand” when she gets home. I am horrible with writing little things down, maybe too busy living in the moment, to remember to stop it and jot it down on a piece of paper and so I felt somewhat lacking without my Moleskin and Montblanc.  Still, I so admire her turns of phrases, her metaphors and no doubt, her jotting is where they come from. Time to get a notebook and a pen!

And so, I came away from Petaluma percolating with new ideas and resolutions to jot, which was my goal for the weekend. I also made some lovely new friends who I look forward getting to know, at least inside this screen, my little virtual 2014 world.



Fear, Loathing and Writing a Memoir

Perhaps you love to write. Perhaps you dream about writing a memoir. Before you begin, the fear sets in. What will my mother think? Like two writerly super heroes, Anne Lamott and Dorothy Allison swoop in to set you right.





You gather courage, pull up your writing britches and sit at your desk. Memories scroll through your mind like flickering images on a screen. You think, this is ridiculous. Who cares about my story? I am neither famous or mighty. What makes me think my story is worth telling?

In a great cacophony of noise all around you shout Maya Angelou, Annie Dillard, Thomas Cirignano and Saul Bellows.







You can no longer resist. At last you think yes, I will do this. You stare down at the blank page, take a deep breath, wonder where the courage will come from. Here is Stephen King, at your side.


And so you pick up your pen and begin. The gods of writing cheer.


start_writing_your_memoir_tinyAre you ready to start writing your memoir?

Bestselling memoirist Abigail Carter leads a workshop next month call "Start Writing Your Memoir." This is your sign.



What Is an Author Platform?

what_is_an_author_platformSimply put, your author platform is your audience.

Your audience is composed of your social media networks, your email list, your professional contacts, the folks you know in real life, any groups where you speak or lead, etc.

There are as many ways to build an author platform as there are authors. A strong website can serve as an anchoring base, hosting a blog and promoting and new releases or events. Social media provides a fantastic way to connect with a large audience around specific topics of interest. In-person events such as speaking opportunities or conferences enable you to build visibility in your field and create new connections.

Do you need an author platform?

If you write only for the sheer joy of the experience and are satisfied with any readers luck sends your way, no. You do not need an author platform.

If you hope to build a readership, attract an agent or publisher, or sell books, yes. You need an author platform.

As Jane Friedman wrote, "Editors and agents are attracted to authors who have this thing called 'platform.' What editors and agents typically mean by platform They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience."

While your book may be brilliant, it will be difficult to sell if there isn't a built-in audience for your topic, or if you have no existing audience. Brook Warner of She Writes Press suggests that before you publish, you take the time to build your author platform.

Starting from scratch

Building an author platform with strong credibility, reach and authority takes time. However, there is much you can do in a short time to create your author platform base. Here's what I recommend to get started:

  1. Claim your name and create accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and any other networks of the moment
  2. Choose one or two social networks to experiment with and start building a following
  3. Create a professional website
  4. Start building your email list
  5. Become active in the communities surrounding your topics of interest and publication

Once you have a solid base established, every action you take will gradually build your author platform and increase your actual reach and audience.

Start building your platform on Twitter right now, with a little help.

Join my 3-day class on growing your Twitter following. The class is free and delivered instantly via email.

>> Get the first class here.

3 Things You Can Do This Week to Promote Your Book

Three_hings_promote_your_bookWhen I ask authors what they believe the hardest part about publishing is, they invariably say book marketing. You may be disheartened to see your wonderful book is not selling the way you imagined. It's very simple, readers won't buy your book if they don't know about it. If you aren't doing anything to get the word out, it's very likely no one else is either.

Have no fear! Here are three things you can do this week to help ramp up interest and sales.

1. Write a guest blog

One of the fastest ways to build your audience is to jump in front of someone else's. Identify a blog that has a good readership in your target audience. Reach out to the blogger and offer a guest post. You will have the greatest likelihood of acceptance if you offer content that the blog readers would enjoy. Don't simply offer a post about your book. That's boring. Instead, offer on-point content. For example, if you write science fiction, offer a science fiction blog an article on the top ten sci-fi books to restore faith in humanity. Or, if you write literary fiction, offer a blogger an article on the creative process.

Of course, for this to result in book sales, you'll need to link to your book somewhere. If appropriate, you can mention it in the article. Otherwise, make sure your bio for the article contains not only a link to your author website, but also a link to your most recent release.

2. Schedule a BookBub campaign

Hands down, Bookbub provides the best return on advertising spend I've seen. (With the exception of direct email campaigns.) Bookbub allows you to promote your book sale to their mailing list of readers. You must offer a deep discount (or free download) in order to be considered. The cost varies depending on which of their lists you decide to send to and the strength of your discount. You can view their pricing chart here. If you're clever, you'll understand that the volume of sales offset the discount you offer. As a bonus, your Amazon ranking will soar, allowing for an increase in sales even after your Bookbub campaign has ended.

3. Run a LibraryThing review campaign

LibraryThing is a wonderful site where readers catalog their book and reading collections. While similar to Goodreads, I find the users on LibraryThing to be serious, committed readers. LibraryThing puts less emphasis on social shares and community updates, and more focus on the indulgent science that is library cataloguing.

LibraryThing provides a way for authors to offer review copies to readers. I prefer their system over the Goodreads system in that you actually receive the full contact information of the readers who request your books. You are able (and required) to communicate directly with your readers. Amazing! You can learn more about offer review copies on LibraryThing here.

You are your book's greatest advocate. While it would be perfectly lovely to launch a book out into the world and let the publishing Gods take over, the reality is that you need to put effort into getting the word out. Small, consistent efforts pay off over the long run. Do what you can to publicize your book. Your new readers will thank you.

Want more help? I'm hosting a BOOK MARKETING Q&A tomorrow, Wednesday August 20th at noon (PST). >> RSVP here.

PLUS, in honor of Writer Wednesday, I'm releasing a limited number of $99 registrations for my Author Platform webinar series. (Usually $229.) This deal ends at midnight on Wednesday 8/20! >> Learn more and register here. 

Top 10 Ways To Use Twitter to Sell Books

top-10-ways-to-use-twitter-to-sell-booksFirst, let me be clear. You are not going to sell a lot of books on Twitter alone. Unless you have hundreds of thousands of adoring followers, the likelihood that a stranger will go from seeing a tweet to immediately getting out their credit card and making a purchase are remarkably slim. Luckily, there are more effective ways to use Twitter to sell your books than the ubiquitous "Buy my book now plus link" approach. Professional salespeople use the concept of a funnel to illustrate the sales process.

Consider Twitter is the widest part of the funnel, where people first discover you. It's your job to get them to move down through the funnel to that glorious moment they click the "buy" button and transform from follower to reader. Here are my top ten ways to use Twitter to sell books.

This post has moved! Read the top twitter tips on Gutsy Creatives.

How I Got My Literary Agent to Notice Me

literary-agentBy building an author platform and getting my writing out into the world, I was able to attract a literary agent without writing a single query letter. I am now happily signed with Gordon Warnock of Foreword Literary.

Here are the exact steps my agent took before he decided to reach out to me.

1. He saw my Kickstarter campaign.

I funded my Book Lush project through Kickstarter. While researching another potential publishing project, Gordon stumbled across my Book Lush Campaign. I had a compelling video, professional graphics and a clear description of my book project. Also very important, my Kickstarter campaign contained links to my author website and social media networks.

Lesson learned: Just do it. If I never took a chance on crowdfunding, it's likely my agent would have never noticed me. If you have a project in mind and need funds to get it going, don't wait for a publisher or agent to approve it. Try using crowd funding platforms to raise the money and gain your first readers. I'm going to try Pubslush for my next campaign.

2. He visited my website.

Gordon clicked from my Kickstarter campaign over to my website. Using a custom wordpress template and my own graphics, I created a professional website presenting myself as an author. From here, Gordon was able to learn much about me. Amazingly, I only had my website up for about three months before Gordon found me.

Lesson learned: Don't wait until you're well-advanced in your author career to get your website set up. Do it now! Even if you have no books to promote, you can still host a blog and other samples of your writing.

3. He checked out my social media networks.

From my website, Gordon was able to click over and view my Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest accounts. These demonstrated that not only do I have an existing audience, but I am willing to use social media as an outreach tool.

Lesson learned: Start building your online community now! Consider it play and experiment with different networks and content strategies until you find what works best for you. Show that you will be a savvy marketing partner for your own books.

4. He bought my books on Amazon.

Just six months prior, I published my Breakup Girl collection of short stories on Amazon. Gordon was able to easily get a sample of my writing and see if my style and voice was a match for him.

Lesson learned: Get your writing out there! If your writing is ready for publishing, find a channel and send it out! A word of warning, some agents and publishers will not consider work that has already been self-published. If you have a novel you would like traditionally published, consider publishing a short story collection, or articles on various media sites, rather than the work you hope to get picked up.

5. He sent me a message through my site.

One of his first questions was something to the effect of, "Do you perchance have a novel as well?" Why, yes! I've been working on a novel for a good eight years (gasp) and am polishing up the final draft now.

Lesson learned: First, have an easy way for people to contact you through your website. I have a contact form. Second, always be planning and working on your next writing project. If you desire a writing career, rather than a single experience, you should have at least one more project to follow whatever you're working on now.

6. He gave me a call.

I got the first call from Gordon when I was on my drive home. I ended up sitting in my car in my driveway for about an hour talking to him about books, writing and publishing. We have the same beliefs about the pleasure that comes from books and the brave new world of publishing. We were clearly a match.

Lesson learned: Perhaps you don't have to like your agent for your books to be successfully published, but it sure makes the whole experience a lot more pleasurable if you do.

So what can you do now? If you haven't already, start building your author platform! Get your website up, start building your social networks and get your writing out to readers. There is no one way to publish or become an author. You have your own unique path. However, your path may well be very long and difficult if you do not get yourself and your writing out into the world where readers, agents and publishers may find you.

If you need help building your author platform, I'm leading a course called Small Town Writer, Big World Audience on Gutsy Creatives. If you enter the discount code BLOGGISH you'll get $25 off the cost of the full course. Click here to register.

You can even preview a sample lesson here!

Best of luck on your publishing journey!

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