What's hundreds of years old, yet new and trendy again? The serial novel. Charles Dickens once held fans on two continents hypnotized by publishing one part of a novel each month. In 1996 Stephen King decided to revive the art form in The Green Mile. He proved that fans didn't need their books all in one large chunk; if the story was good, they'd buy each installment eagerly at the beginning of the week, and wait impatiently until the next one came out.
Today's serial novels are published online, in the form of short eBooks. It was revived again by Hugh Howey's Wool, a collection of five pieces that combine into one novel. Online publishing tends to be trendy, and a number of authors jumped on Howey's bandwagon. Serial novels are popular now in almost every genre, and can be a writer's best tool for increasing readership and income for self published authors.
It's all about timing and expectation. Think of it like movies vs. television series. People may watch commercials for a blockbuster movie, and even plan to see it. But once the film has shown and is out of the theaters, its impact is almost spent and the opportunity to grab new fans is tiny. Television shows, on the other hand, have new material shown every single week. They have the chance to convert new fans weekly while keeping the original fans constantly on the hook, wondering what comes next. The same concept holds for books. Publish a good novel, or even a great one, and your main exposure will last about 30 days. But if you publish a serial that the readers love, you'll have fresh exposure on a massive number of eyes for a lot longer, giving your book a much better chance of enticing someone new.
Serial vs. Series
As a self published author both concepts work, as long as you keep your readers' interest. Serial novels are those broken up into pieces, usually with cliffhangers in between. Think of them as chunks of two or three chapters published as small books that combine to make a novel. Series, on the other hand, are chains of related books all about the same main character. Thriller writers have been digging this gold mine for years. Think of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum or Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme. It goes back as far as Travis McGee and even Dorothy Gale and Oz. When fans love a character, they'll buy more books to see them again.
The Bottom Line
Why do it? Increased sales, in many different ways. Fans will pay a small amount for pieces of a serial that add up to much more than the price of a whole novel. While the serial or series is trending, your readership can increase, earning more income. Plus, once new fans discover you, either in the beginning or halfway through the series, they're more likely to look at your other books and buy them, too. More pieces out there with favorite characters will always equal more sales, and more money in your pocket. Now doesn't that make total sense?
Keep the faith and may the force be with you!
A Perfectly Acceptable Book Signing
Your first book signing is an exciting time to connect with your audience authenticity while author marketing. While the majority of book sales today take place online, book signings have an important place in your book marketing campaign and tour. When people hear you speak and enjoy the opportunity to ask you questions, they will be tempted to purchase your book for friends and family- the "motivate to purchase" implications can be very positive following a book signing! If it's your first time, don't worry, we've got tips to help you present as if you've been doing it for years.
1. Spread the word. Self publishing is all about being your own advocate. Several months before, post relevant links to social media channels. If Facebook is your main method of connecting to your audience, be sure to include the location, date and time. Follow up with Pinterest, Twitter and Google + using hashtags that relate to your event such as the name of the bookstore or city. Many bookstores post in the local newspaper, but you can pin to local community calendars online as well. Contact your chamber of commerce and ask them to list it on the community calendar.
2. Bring your own pen or magic marker. Never assume the location hosting will have exactly what you need. Be sure the pen you choose actually shows up legibly onto the type of paper your book is printed on. Tip: if the inside cover is dark, choose silver or gold marker to sign with. If you're thinking, "wait, I self-published an e-book or an audio book, how will I sign it?" No problem- prepare a book "plate." On thick cardstock print the title page of your book to sign for guests.
3. How to create your signature. A tip for author marketing- practice your signature beforehand to create a designated signing signature. When you become famous, some fan is going to try selling your signature! The signature you use to sign legal documents and checks should not be used!
4. Bring demo props when possible. If you've written a how-to or a cookbook, props that elicit relative usefulness are always well-received- especially if your self publishing experience is with audio books or e-books. If you're a vegan baker, bring special ingredients and talk about how versatile they are or if you're a cigar aficionado, bring cigars for the audience to pass around and smell. Sensory enticement beyond your verbal presentation is a favorite among book signing audiences.
5. Offer a gift. If you can offer sample sizes of something from your book that will give people a jumpstart or incentive to buy, you may lure in more buyers at the end of your signing. Take a signing by a writer who presented on cocktails recently. She developed samples of the signature syrup used for the recipes. With this in hand it excites audience members to take the next step to buy.
Remember, relax, have fun and most of all, ! just be yourself. After all, the audience is there to see you
Now for Awesome!
I had the pleasure a few weeks ago to visit with one of our more adventurous and award winning authors Bob O'Connor. Based in West Virginia he is in the hub of civil war country. Several months ago (a lot of planning) Bob invited me to an event he had planned for his new book called "The Amazing Legacy of James E. Hanger, Civil War Soldier". Although Bob completes over 100 events per year to extol the virtues of his books he had never actually done a signing.
Bob has published 10 books with us and he is quite expert in writing civil war period historical novels. This new book was intriguing and painfully timely in that it covered the life of James E. Hanger the founder of the Hanger Corporation, one of the largest prosthetic manufacturers in the world. The book relives an amazing story where Mr. Hanger loses is leg to a canon ball and then proceeds to find innovative ways to help other soldiers who have lost their limbs.
A good book always helps, but Bob goes the extra mile with this signing to deliver more to his readers than expected. There is a reason Bob has sold over 10,000 books with us, he knows how to be relevant to his audience by thinking about what his readers want...in his books and now in his first signing.
What made Bob's signing extraordinary:
1. He held the signing in Harpers Ferry. Granted his home turf but certainly relevant to the period and story. This is important for either a launch or a signing to provide impact. A historical setting for a historical novel...makes sense.
2. The date just happened (wrong) to coincide with James Hanger's 171st birthday, for which he had a special cake made (picture above) with a canon on top! Also good fodder for the press/pictures. This cake was made by a local pastry chef who truly took pride in her work for the event.
3. Several guests were dressed in period garb which made the expereince more memorable. This was particularly meaningful for me when Bob was doing his readings, as it enhanced my ability to visualize the time and place.
4. One of Mr. Hangers distant relatives attended which really brought the Hanger story closer to the people at the signing. Having this person there to speak with about the family history and peripheral stories was a real treat for those that attended.
5. A representative from the Hanger corporation attended with a small booth to discuss the company and products. Good local relations for the company, they have over 700+ patient care clinics throughout the US. Good oopportunity for future marketing opportunities with the company to share his new book.
This was a book signing I will never forget and a book that really struck a chord as our country, soldiers and their families deal with the hardships of war.
Keep the faith and may the force be with you!
How do you get more eyes on your books, increase your mailing list, and cause your readers to talk about you? One of the best ways to do it is to run a raffle or giveaway, and Rafflecopter makes this a very simple process. You won't have to worry about all the bookkeeping details; just set the rules and decide the prizes, and your fans will take care of spreading the word.
What is Rafflecopter?
Rafflecopter is simply a program that allows self published authors to customize a giveaway contest and run it on your blog or Facebook fan page. It will create the form, collect the names and emails of all the entrants, randomly choose a winner, and let you know who's won. There are premium versions in which you can integrate the contest into Pinterest, or have a special Facebook ad, or add prize pictures into your contest form, but the basic program is free to use.
How to Set it Up
Go to the Rafflecopter site and sign up. Click on the page to customize your contest and fill out a few forms. Decide your prizes, the length of the contest, and where you're going to post the giveaway. Most people put it on their Facebook fan page, but if you've got a blog, add it there, too. Post your giveaway using the easy app on the site, and your contest is live, ready to draw in new readers.
What to Give Away
One of the most popular prizes for writers on Rafflecopter is ARCs of their next book. Giving out ARCs, or Advance Reader Copies, is a win/win situation between you and your readers. They'll get a chance to read a new book before anyone else does, and for a fan, that's priceless. You'll get more interest in your upcoming book, plus a good chance at a favorable review once the book goes live online. Even those fans who don't win will be more aware of the upcoming new book, just because they tried to win a copy.
Other popular prizes for giveaways have been bookmarks designed like a book cover, book-style jewelry, copies of older books in a catalog, and even Kindles and other eBook readers.
You'll get more out a Rafflecopter contest than even the cost of a premium promotion. Fans will tell their friends about the contest, spreading the word about your books. Total strangers will enter the contest out of curiosity, and may be converted into fans simply by reading your book blurbs. Best of all, you'll grab dozens or hundreds of new addresses for your mailing list, which is the best promotional tool you can have. Email every single one of these contestants every time you publish a new book or have news on a future book, and you'll turn casual lookers into devoted fans.
Keep the faith and may the force be with you!
As a writer, your tribe is your core group of fans that buy every book you publish, spreading the word to friends and family and growing your reader base without you having to lift a finger. It's been said that if a writer has a tribe of 1,000 fans, he is set for life. Those thousand people will cause a ripple effect large enough to turn any book into a best seller.
The hardest part is finding those first tribe members and keeping them happy. The first step is writing great books, of course. Books that make readers ask for more, books that keep them up past their bedtimes, reading just one more chapter. This only goes so far, and you have to put your books in front of many eyes before some will look further. One of the best places to get those looks is Pinterest. It's visually based and its membership is rabidly loyal. Find a group on Pinterest and you'll have loyal fans who'll give your books every chance.
The First Steps
Whether you have a Pinterest account or not, you'll need to set up a new one just for your writing career. Once you have a new account, the key to the whole task is in what boards you create.
Think about your books, your main characters, your settings. What things to they have in common? If they're set on the Florida coast, start a Florida board, or a board for beaches. Does your main character live on a houseboat? Originally from Lansing, Michigan? Use these key phrases to create individual boards. Add a board titled Books Worth Reading or something similar, then start to populate your boards.
Fill Them Up
Type in each of your board titles into the search bar to find pins about your topic. Click on a few to pin them to your boards. Choose four or five this first time, just to start the process. In addition, when you find something online that fits, pin it to one of your boards. Fill your books board with current books in your genre, plus, of course, your own books. This will be a daily process, adding pins to your boards, but it should only take five minutes each day.
When you find pinners that post many pins that fit with your topics, follow their boards. You'll get all of their pins on your wall, and you may find more interesting pins that way as they grow their boards. Once again, look for 3-5 new boards each day, which should only take five minutes.
How Your Tribe Grows
Every time you pin or follow, the pinner gets an email with your board. This gives them a chance to check out your work, and look at your books. Every time you pin something new, it goes on every board that's following your board. It's a geometric progression that can grow fans with very little daily effort.
Keep the faith and may the force be with you!
While Twitter can be looked down upon by some writers as shameless self-promotion, a rising tide of self publishing authors are turning to the tweet to market their books, engage with readers, and put a human face on the scribe behind the book.
To Tweet or Not to Tweet?
It's easy for established writers with publishing contracts to scoff at the Twitterverse, but for self published writers without the might of an established house behind them, social media is a great way to gain 24 hour access to what the New Republic recently called the "world's greatest cocktail party." The key is to not only tweet for the purpose of book marketing, but to establish an authentic presence to interact with a growing community of readers and writers who are constantly seeking new connections and new favorite reads.
Build Authority AND Relatability
A powerful Twitter presence can simultaneously help you build authority as a trusted source on your subject matter, while also giving you a platform to speak more informally about books, writing, and your process. Many of the most popular self publishing authors on Twitter share a mix of formal book promotion updates along with one-liners and casual exchanges with fans and friends.
Ksenia Anske, a fantasy writer who has taken to Twitter to build a platform for her self published fantasy series, now boasts over 50,000 followers and updates regularly on everything from the perils of writer's block to the perfect cup of coffee. Anske's success is hardly random; she has clear intentions for the site and outlines several guidelines for aspiring self publishing authors interested in book marketing. Like several other self publishing successes, Anske stresses the importance of using the platform to encourage other writers as well and not just toot your own horn.
Before you start tweeting, be sure to create an attractive profile that includes an engaging, brief bio listing your book title and author website, if you have one. Get rid of the default "egg" photo as well, and upload an engaging photo so that potentially readers know you're a real person.
Don't Be a Wallflower!
If you're curious about promoting your book on Twitter but you're not sure where to get started, search for favorite authors and bloggers you enjoy, and begin following them. To join the conversation, try using reading related hashtags like #FridayReads or #AmReading to let the world know what books you love.
Don't be shy about praising other self published authors you admire, retweeting their links, and promoting books and articles you've read. Genuine, positive interactions can brand your online identity as an authentic, interesting author and can help you grow a community of supporters and, ideally, loyal readers.
Keep the faith and may the force be with you!
Writing and self publishing a book is a huge deal, but don't stop there! Boost your cred with shorter clips to generate interest for your work, establish an online presence for your readers, and connect with powerful opportunities. These are some of the more popular dishes!
1. Go On a Blog Diet
Starting your own blog and working to make it popular can be a great way to ultimately market your book and grow your author clips, but you can also try pitching a fellow blogger's site to write guest posts in order to test the waters before diving all the way in. Don't shy from jumping on controversial topics; by contributing your voice to the trending conversation of the day, you can make your views, and writing, known to a wider audience. One per day!
2. Local News Will Eat it Up
While we'd all love for our first published clip to be in a major national magazine, your local paper or weekly culture and arts circular can be a great way to break into the world of print publishing. If you already have a self-published title under your belt, use this to your advantage and pitch the appropriate editor of the paper with a story that falls within your expertise. Most papers will allow a short bio to be published with your byline, so be sure to include the name of your most recently released title so readers can find you, and your work.
3. Book Reviews are Matter of Taste
Book reviewing is becoming a huge part of the book marketing game for self published authors. While netting a positive review for your own book is obviously a huge boon, you should consider writing reviews for your fellow authors to position yourself as a supportive team player in your publishing community. Seek out websites that publish well-written reviews; these sites are usually in need of quality reviewers to help them cover as many books as possible. Trying out your reviewing skills on GoodReads or Amazon is fine for a warm-up round, but a full-length review on a legitimate website will make a much better clip than a review you upload yourself.
4. Interviews Provide a New Flavor for Your Work
Similarly, you can interview authors you admire and publish the finished product on your own blog or a publishing website. Ask exciting, engaging questions to ensure unique, readable interviews that will bring the both of you plenty of traffic and attention.
5. Feature Articles are a Main Course
Finally, once you've got a few high-quality pieces out there in cyberspace or print, you're ready to pitch a full-length feature article for a newspaper, magazine, or website. High-traffic sites like Salon or Huffington Post accept pitches from writers; be sure to have a clear idea and a few clips to show before trying these major outlets.
Start small to begin building your portfolio of author clips, and use each published piece as a stepping stone to the next. You may have to try a few times before snagging a big feature assignment that leads to helpful connections, but once you have a feature clip in your file, you'll be on your way to building a strong platform to showcase your writing.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be With You!
In today’s virtual world, self published authors can take their promotion on the road without ever leaving home. Book tours are a keystone of a book marketing strategy. Going from city to city, authors shake hands and sign copies of their latest masterpiece to create a buzz. It is a process that takes months of planning, not to mention the travel time.
An Internet blog tour allows you to take your book out on the "virtual highway" and reach an expanded and more diverse audience. Promote your work, reinforce your brand and sell more books with a well planned blog book tour.
What is a Blog Tour?
A blog tour is a series of features that puts the spotlight on your book – a guest blog post, a book review, a free excerpt. The goal is to get people talking about your work.
- Reinforce your brand
- Build a fan base
- Get media attention
A blog tour creates impact, and impact creates sales.
Put the Right Tools in your Toolbox
Before you even start querying potential tour sites, you need to get all your tools together. A website, preferably with that goldmine blog, is an absolute necessity. Set up a page that contains marketing material for your book.
- Plot summary
- Author bio and picture
- Book cover graphic
This is the link you will provide in queries. Put the money out for a domain name too, even if you opt for a free hosting site like Wix or Blogger.
Now, about that Book Blog Tour
It starts with you creating a list of blogs and websites you wish to query and to be featured on. Google offers a handy blog search option that will help you pinpoint possible tour sites. Try a variety of search strings when creating the list.
- “Blog tour”
- “Book review”
- “Author guest posts”
- “Featured authors”
- “Featured books”
The more targeted the site, the better. If you write children’s books, look for websites that focus on that genre. Pick a host with a fair amount of traffic, as well. There is no point in guest posting on a website that gets only two hits a month.
Now, start pitching. Like any good pitch, you want a hook – something catchy that makes them want more. It might be a tag line from the book or a blurb about the advantages of featuring you. Play up what makes you desirable.
"International best-selling author looking for blog tour hosts for his new book."
Try to address the communication to someone specific to make it personal. Contact blog hosts about featuring you as a guest blogger or doing a review of the book. Offer to provide them with a free copy, either print or digital. Expect flat out refusals or to be ignored by quite a few. Only about a third of the queries will give a positive response. You just keep moving forward until you have a series of consecutive posts on your book. When you do get a hit, make sure to promote the posting on your blog and social media pages to build exposure.
When you self publish, you take charge of every aspect of the book development including the marketing plan. A blog tour is an effective book marketing strategy that puts you in the virtual spotlight.
Enduring rejection after rejection from agents and editors after you've worked so hard to polish and perfect your book can be demoralizing. Self-publishing stops the negative cycle and get you back on track to do more of what you value most: writing!
1. Increase the Positive Energy
One of the biggest reasons to stop submitting your work to publishing houses is to simply stop the negative feedback loop. YA self published author Rachel Higginson describes the intense struggle she faced to stay passionate in the face of literally hundreds of rejections. Higginson continued to work hard on her craft and ultimately turned to self-publishing in 2010 and is now able to make a living from her work and use her time to further explore her passion and write more fiction for her fans.
2. Sell More Books
While a publishing contract might seem like the answer to all of your most burning desires, the simple truth is that publishing houses don't have the resources they once did to market books by unknown writers. UK writer Tasha Harrison reports that while she had some interest from a literary agent early in her career, she was unable to get a manuscript sold and was also told she might not sell more than 100 books. Harrison turned to self-publishing and moved more than 1,500 copies of her book during her first year, and more than 2,000 during the first half of 2013 alone.
3. Stigma? What Stigma?
At one point in time, self-publishing was a kind of redheaded stepchild, but with more and more authors from all walks of life taking control of the publishing process, the stigma has finally begun to lift. Established author Steve Almond recently self-published a collection of stories, after having published works by major houses in the past. Almond was fed up with publishing, and decided to take a page from his favorite musicians and sell his book DIY style at live readings and events. By printing on demand, Almond reports that he sells out at nearly every reading, and that the excitement of only being able to get a book right there at a live event has engaged his readers. While this model isn't sustainable for every self publishing author out there, a diverse range of book marketing approaches can help give new authors dynamic models to use for their own projects.
4. Total Control
Finally, self publishing puts you in the driver's seat of your own work. From writing the thing to finding an audience, self published authors control their own publishing destiny. This work can be challenging, but more and more resources are available to assist writers with the work of design, production, and book marketing. Besides, hard work beats sitting around waiting for another rejection slip any day.
We have been saying many of these things for years and the bottom-line is this...it has been and always be all about you! You have to believe that you have the power to achieve your vision and it starts and finishes with a decision to take action...consistently. More on this later.
Keep the faith and may the force be with you!
A self published writer's productive work time is almost always shorter than he'd like. When he does manage to carve out a regular working period from his daily life, distractions and road blocks stick in the way. From removing tempting distractions to focusing attention, developers offer apps and gadgets for your computer that eliminate many of your worst writing time problems and allow you to make the most efficient use of the time that you have.
From Facebook and Pinterest to your latest favorite blog, the odds are good that you have a list of sites you love to visit. If you're stuck on a phrase or can't get your writing moving, it's easy to try checking out your favorite sites for five minutes, just to clear your mind. In reality, five minutes turns into half an hour and you've missed out on hundreds of words you could have written. Website blockers eliminate this problem by not allowing you to click on designated pages during chosen times in the day. If you're running Firefox, LeechBlock works, Chrome Nanny does the same for Chrome, and SelfControl covers Mac users. Each of them allows the user to choose the sites to block and the hours to block them, eliminating the temptation to check just "one more tweet."
Lack of Motivation
Every writer gets into a slump, but the best way to get through it is to just sit down and write. The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity practice that gets you moving again by taking small steps. The technique as originally written advises writing for 25 minutes straight, then taking a break no matter where you are in your story. After the break, work for another 25 minutes. You can find timers online that beep or pop up in your face every time a segment is finished, and you can adjust the chunks of writing and break time until you find the most efficient one for your writing style.
Every writer should back up his files, but not every writer remembers every day. Even if you back up your work, your hard drive can crash, erasing everything. Flash drives are a good option, but for something as important as your book, another backup system is always a good thing. Dropbox is a free cloud storage system that allows you to upload your work at any time, keeping it safe and free from software problems. It's secure, offers the ability to share or keep secret, and allows you to edit work right on their page.
First drafts are not pretty, but they're not meant to be. Once you've finished your book, the editing task kicks in and you'll have to go through multiple rewriting rounds. After a while the words start to run together, and it's difficult to spot errors. Having your work read aloud is a great way to spot mistakes your eye might otherwise skim over. Some word processing programs come with text-to-speech programs already installed, or you can download one like Natural Readers for free.
This is hardcore, in-your-face, Chuck Norris writing help. When you write using the Write or Die interface, you can choose your level of involvement. You can get a picture of a cute puppy after so many words or a popup of a scary spider if your production goes below a certain speed. Set the background to soothing colors as long as you're working at a good pace, and it will change to emergency orange when you slow down. The toughest of the levels in this program is kamikazi mode. Set your typing speed and begin to work on your book. When you slow down or dawdle too long, the monster in this program begins to eat all the vowels out of your words, starting from the one you just wrote. Speed back up and you'll save the rest of your work from being disemvoweled.
Give yourself a little reward each day and get writer friends to join a challenge at 750 Words. It's a writing motivational site that uses gamification techniques to motivate novelists to write at least 750 words each day, turning a competition into a habit. Compete with friends for the most points, join to see if you can combine for a score goal, or simply challenge yourself to beat last month's total.
Keep the faith and may the force be with you!
There are two kinds of people in the world: Apple vs. Android, Coke vs. Pepsi, and perhaps most importantly for writers, plotters vs. pantsers. It's a rare author who embodies both worlds in her writing, because they're basically the exact opposite approaches for creating a piece of work. There is no right or wrong method to choose; it depends on your personality and writing style, and may even change depending on the particular book you're writing, but each method has definite pros and cons connected to it. In truth, knowing what type "you" are can make you a better writer!
What is a Plotter?
Plotters love an outline. Not just the bare-bones outlining technique you learned in elementary school. That's just the tiniest bare beginning of what some plotters write in order to prepare for their novels. JK Rowling (image next to pants) made an elaborate spreadsheet for every chapter in each of her books, encompassing pages of secrets and interactions. Plotting doesn't have to be this highly detailed, though. Many plotters are happy simply to write down the main points of each story arc, indicate plot changes and main character introductions, and give the direction in which the story will go. Plotters definitely know how their story will end.
What About Pantsers?
Pantsers are the free spirits of the writing world, the grasshoppers to the plotting ants. Pantsers may or may not know where they're going or even what's going to happen along the journey. They simply have a concept, a question, or a couple of characters, and they play with them to see what happens. NYTimes bestselling author Jana DeLeon is an unapologetic pantser, often claiming that she's gotten 80 percent of the way through writing some mysteries before she's discovered who dunnit. Pantsers may have a general direction in which to go, but usually can just sit down to write without a plan or direction.
Pros & Cons
Both methods have their good and bad points. The technique you use to write your book depends on your personality, your writing style, and even the novel you want to create. Simple stories are much easier to pants than elaborate, complicated plots. For example:
Know where the story will end, so there's little chance of losing the thread of storyline
Have less of a chance of wandering off in a totally different direction
Are stuck with the story line as written, even if a new twist comes up, unless they redo their entire outline
Can limit their creativity
Are free to move their story in any direction they choose, as whims arise
Can add plot twists on the fly and introduce new characters and directions late in the game
Can wander off track and lose the thread of the story, losing track of characters and earlier plot twists
Often don't know how the story ends, where the story is going, or how to get there.
The better you understand who you are as a writer the more creative and more productive you can be....makes sense right?