Social Networking

Tackling Common Issues That Can Overwhelm Writers

Lorna Faith invited me on to her podcast, Create a Story You Love, to discuss topics that we will most likely face at one time or another as writers.  Below I will hit on the highlights of the interview, but you can listen to it all by going to iTunes, her blog post, or by watching the You Tube video below.

I want to give a special thanks for Lorna Faith for having me on her podcast.  I know a lot of work went into it.

I’m going to highlight and embellish some of the interview below, but I’m not doing a word-by-word transcript of it.

Why write?

One of the best reasons to write is because you have a story you’re dying to read that hasn’t been done yet.  But, you might find opposition when you decide to pursue writing this story.  (Even if you have a backlist already, people in your circle might not be supportive of the story you have in mind.  My family still won’t touch my romances.)  I would advise you to write the story anyway.  No one but you can write your story.  You will bring your own unique voice and twists to it that no one else can do.  That’s one of the beauties of working in a creative field.  Your story is as unique as your fingerprint.

Working backwards to create a writing/publishing schedule.

I like to work backwards.  This is a method where you pick your release dates and then work your way back to what you need to do to get there.  One reason I love pre-orders is because it forces me to put down deadlines.  I estimate out three months longer for each book than I think it’ll actually take for me to get it done.

The further out you can set these deadlines, the better you can get organized on what you need to do.

For example, let’s say I put July 20 as a release date for a 60,000-word novel.

  1.  I figure it’ll take my editing team (two editors and 2-3 beta readers) a month to do their job.  So I have to have my book ready for my editing team on June 1.
  2. I contact my editors and cover artist to let them know my time frame for the book so they have enough time to pencil me into their schedules.  (The more advance notice you can give them, the smoother things are.)
  3. From there, I’ll count down how many words I need to write a day in that story in order to have it ready on June 1.  Today (as I’m writing this), it is Feb. 7.
  4. I write 5 days a week.  The 2 days off are either catch up days (say a kid gets sick and I can’t write) or it’s a day to take a break to avoid burnout.  Either way, I give myself 2 days a week to take a breather of some sort.  This way I don’t stress myself out.
  5. Counting back from May 31, I find I have 81 days of actual writing to get this book done as long as I start on Monday, Feb. 8.  (I like to work Monday through Friday when my kids are in school.)
  6. I divide the 81 days I have to write by the 60,000 word count goal.  This is 740.74.  Or 741 words a day I need to hit for each writing day.
  7. If I remove all the distractors (internet, TV, phone calls), I can write 741 words in 45 minutes, but I’ll allow myself an hour.
  8. If I’m overwhelmed by the thought of writing the 741 words on a certain day, I’ll start with a small goal of 250 words.  From there, I’ll add another 250 words.  Then I’ll add in the rest to finish up 741.  250 words is a lot less intimidating than a higher word count.
  9. When I get to chapter 10 in the story, I’ll start the initial round of edits.  I will edit 2 chapters a night. Doing this will ensure I have a second draft ready to go by the day I finish my book.  It takes me about an hour to edit 2 chapters.  I need it quiet and distraction-free when I do this.  I usually start while I brush my teeth and finish up in the bedroom while everyone else is in the living room.
  10. I hand in my second draft to my editing team at the same time.  (If I was a beginning writer, I would separate these out, but I have over 50 full-length books by now and am familiar with my process to make this work.  If you’re starting out, give yourself 3-4 months of edits so you can go and change things your editing team finds.)
  11. While the editing team is working on my book, I give it another read through, again doing this in the evenings.
  12. I give myself about 3 weeks for the finished version of the book to be uploaded via Smashords and Amazon to hit my pre-order date.  You can upload 10 days in advance and be fine, but I like to have it in for a longer period of time to play it safe.

Writing a character that is emotionally engaging.

The key to writing the emotionally engaging character is to write with our hearts instead of our head.  I have since done a couple of blog posts on this topic, so I’ll let you read those if interested.   Introduction to the Emotionally Engaging Character, Point of View, and A Deeper Look Into Point of View.

Marketing for Introverts

  1.  Pick 2-3 social things you are interested in doing.  If you’re interested in it, chances are you’ll stick with it.
  2. Build relationships and get to know people.  Sometimes you can bounce ideas around for a future book and get an idea of what your audience wants.
  3. Use your profile to let people know you have books and where to find them.
  4. Build an email list.  (I use MailChimp.)
  5. Bookbub will let you create an author profile where you can list your books.  People can follow you and be notified when you have a new book out.
  6. Book Launch pages will let you link to all retailers where you have a book up for pre-order.  When your book is out, simply update the page.
  7. Use back matter in your book to advertise your next book and email list.

When things get tough, what can you do?

Focus on the positive feedback you’ve gotten in emails, in blog comments, on Facebook, and through other avenues.  Reminding yourself that people out there do like your work can really help you get through the rough patches of bad reviews and lack of sales.  If you have some writer friends you can talk to about the ups and downs of the business, you’ll remind yourself you’re not alone.  Sometimes it helps to know you’re not the only person going through the downside of this business.

Ultimately, though, it all boils down to whether you (as the writer) like the book?  Would you write the book again if given the chance?  If you enjoy the book, that book was worth writing, and it has value.

Categories: Book Promotion, Business Plan, Marketing & Promoting, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, Schedules & Routines, Social Networking | Tags: ,

My Thoughts on the Smashwords 2015 Survey

In case anyone doesn’t know, once a year, Mark Coker does a survey to track sales across their distribution channels to see what common things the bestselling self-published books have in common.

Here’s the link if you want to view the slideshow

I wanted to import the slideshow into this post, but my tech know-how isn’t all that wonderful.  So I opted to link to it for reference.

I thought some of the findings were worth discussing on this blog.  If anyone wants to add their thoughts in the comments below, please do.  There might be something I missed.

Observation #1: Authors who sell more books tend to be active online.

social media pic for writing post

ID 45771480 © Ayse Ezgi Icmeli | Dreamstime.com

This isn’t 100% true for all commercially successful authors, but overall, being involved online helps to sell your books.  When I say being active, I don’t mean these authors are going around posting tweets and Facebook updates with “Here’s my book and where you can buy it” all the time.  Those authors usually don’t sell well.

Having an online presence means you’re making it easy for people to find you and your books.  A website and/or blog is a great way to showcase your work.  I like to think of them as “home”.  It’s where you can put your books up and talk about them.  Now, what you choose to blog about can vary, but I do suggest having your books featured on pages within your blog, if you have one.

As for places like Twitter, Facebook, and Google +, the big thing is to be social.  Hang out.  Engage with others.  Be conversational.  You can have a link to your website/blog on your profile.  If someone takes an interest in something you say, they’re probably going to check your profile.  So make sure you build up those profile pages.  My advice is to let the profile pages do your marketing for you.  But when you’re engaging with people on these sites, don’t be there to sell your books.  (Now, I do recommend letting people know when the book is first put up on pre-order, if you have a cover reveal, or when it’s released, but keep the marketing to a minimum.  At least 80% should be social engagement that has nothing to do with your books.)

Observation #2: For fiction, price points $2.99, and $3.99 seem to be the best, with $3.99 having a slight more advantage.

pricing strategy

ID 45771480 © Ayse Ezgi Icmeli | Dreamstime.com

The $0.99 price point moves books, and I think it can be used for promotions and even as a loss leader to introduce people to your work.  But I do think if you are looking for profit, your best price points are in the $2.99-$3.99 range.

I suspect the sweet spot for pricing also varies with the genre you’re writing in fiction.  I mainly write romance.  I’ve heard romance readers watch their spending because they can go through a book or two a day.  I’ve also heard other genres (such as thrillers and science fiction) have readers who are more likely to pay a higher price for books than romance readers are.  These were not discussed in this Smashwords survey.  These are things I gathered from talking with other authors over the years.  So for me, I keep my books priced low ($0.99 or $2.99), though some romance authors do better at higher prices.

What seems to be clear from this survey and the one from 2014 is $1.99 is a horrible price for a book.  I would stay clear from that price point based on the findings.

Nonfiction can sell higher than fiction.  What the ideal price point for that is, I don’t know.

Observation #3: Pre-orders can help you sell more books.

preorder plan for writing post

ID 45771480 © Ayse Ezgi Icmeli | Dreamstime.com

In the survey, it seems a book that starts out as a pre-order will do 3.5 times better than a book that wasn’t.  Do authors who have a larger platform with a larger readership have a bigger advantage over those that don’t?  Of course.  But that is going to be normal even if there was no pre-order.

I love pre-orders, but I don’t see massive pre-orders on my books flooding in.  I don’t think it’s realistic to expect that.  You can increase your chances of hitting a bestselling list in your category at iBooks or Kobo the longer you have your book available as a pre-order.  iBooks and Kobo will accumulate the pre-orders, so when your book is released, you get credited for all those pre-orders as if you sold that many copies on that day.  I love that feature.  Amazon doesn’t do that, and I don’t think Barnes & Noble does either.

My thinking is, if you can give yourself an advantage, even if it’s a small one, why not take it?  Pre-orders are easy to do, and they help save time on release date since the book is already uploaded.  I wrote a post on ideas on promoting a pre-order.  (As always, if you can think of anything else to add, please do.  One person in the comments suggested a special promotional price during the pre-order period, which I thought was a good idea.  I might have to use that one in the future.)

Observation #4: Series where the first book is free sell 66% better than series where the first book has a price tag on it.

comic for writing blog post

ID 45771480 © Ayse Ezgi Icmeli | Dreamstime.com

This one surprised me the most.  The 66% trend was higher than I expected.  I have heard authors say putting the first book at free has helped sell the rest of the books in their series.  But I also know authors who have had their first book at free and didn’t see an increase in sales for the other books in the series.  I have priced the first book of every series I have at free.  Some series do better than others.  Overall, I have noticed the series does do better if the first book is free, even if it’s not a huge jump in sales.

I just listened to a podcast at The Creative Penn, and Dan Wood from Draft2Digital recommends using this strategy, too.  He found authors who do this sell 3 times as much as authors who don’t.  (As a side note, he recommends assetless pre-orders, too, which I just talked about above.)

***

Those are the takeaways I got from the Smashwords 2015 survey.  Does anyone have any other ones or have anything to add?  There might have been something I missed.

Categories: Marketing & Promoting, Pre-Order, Social Networking | Tags: ,

Places for Author Interviews

A great way to get exposure is to appear on other people’s blogs – but where do you find blogs to appear on? There are a lot of bloggers looking for authors to interview (or guest post), but as an author they’re sometimes oddly hard to find unless you know someone who knows someone…so I wanted to share a few that I know about and I ask that you do the same in the comments.

  • Simon Goodson’s The Seventh Question: Six Questions, with the seventh being a question you get to ask yourself. Open to all but he prefers sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction.
  • Dan Alatorre: Choose ten questions from a list of forty. Open to everyone.
  • BookGoodies: Fill out the online form including links and several questions. Open to everyone.
  • I Smell Sheep: Contact them about a guest post or interview. For paranormal/comics/sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction. (If there’s a hot dude in the story, even better!)
  • Awesome Gang: Fill out the online questions. Open to everyone.
  • Morgen with an E: There are a LOT of options here! The content that you submit must be PG (this does not mean your books, just what you write for her blog). Any genre authors welcome.
  • Wicca Witch: She’s on hiatus until January but when she’s back she does interviews and book reviews. Paranormal, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, speculative fiction, mysteries and thrillers preferred.
  • Zig Zag Timeline: Interviews, cover reveals, etc. All genres except erotica.
  • Sallie’s Book Reviews: She will send you the questions with your post date in an email. Cont. romance, paranormal, fantasy. mystery, poetry, historical romance and suspense.
  • Amaranthine Night: my own blog. I do author interviews or character interviews. All genres welcome.
  • The BIG List by Lisa Williams: Here is a list of 100 bloggers who do interviews. It opens as a google doc, but you can download it as a pdf etc.

Since the last link is a massive list, I’m going to stop here, but you shouldn’t! What interview opportunities do you know about? Please share them in the comments below!

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Categories: Author Platform & Branding, Social Networking | Tags: , , ,

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