author reads april 2017

April Round-Up: 5 Author Reads Worth Your Time

author reads april 2017April showers bring May flowers. Or, in this case, good author reads from April (will hopefully) bring some additional book sales this month.

But seriously, here’s a recap of the five author reads you might have missed in April. Now’s your time to catch up.

Can’t Miss Author Reads

1. How to Create a Review Campaign for Your Book Launch
What you need is a system to ensure you’re predictably and steadily bringing in reviews from the moment you hand out your first advance reader copy (ARC). So, let’s get to it.
Book Marketing Tools | April 10, 2017

2. DIY: Book Awards for Self-Published Authors
With hundreds of thousands of self-published books hitting the virtual shelves every year, indie authors need to find ways of standing out.
Publishers Weekly | April 10, 2017

3. Authors: Don’t Make Your Social Media All About You
I get it. In the hyper-competitive world of social media, it seems counter intuitive to use one’s precious bandwidth to promote something other than your own work. But it works, and here’s why.
Joel Pitney | April 11, 2017

4. A Quick Guide to Pricing Your E-Book
There’s one question that we editors hear again and again from self-publishing writers we work wit: How much should I charge for my ebook?
Build Book Buzz | April 19, 2017

5. Author Pages: 5 Sites You Should Consider Having One on
Here are five sites you should consider having an author page on – including Amazon and Facebook – and tips on how to maximize each one.
Smart Author Sites | April 24, 2017

If you read any articles recently that you think would be helpful to other start-up authors, share them below in the comments box. You can never have too many!

Happy book selling, and happy May.

Photo credit: Foter.com / CC0

What Authors Should Read: November in Review

what authors should read

Photo credit: Foter.com / CC0

Another month has come and gone (and we are in the midst of the holiday season). We did a lot of posting and sharing in November — both of our own content and of other sites’ interesting articles, blog posts and more.

In case you missed any of it, here’s a summary of what authors should read to stay on top of industry trends.

What Authors Should Read From November

1. Is Passion for Your Book Enough? Include These 10 Hot Selling Points
Knowing these before you write your book will make all of your copy more organized, succinct, easy to read and engaging.
Book Coaching, November 5, 2016

2. Author Website Templates: 5 Things You Need to Know
So you want to build an author website. Here’s what you need to know about selecting and utilizing the right author website templates.
Smart Author Sites, November 7, 2016

3. Guest Blog Post: Author Website Tips
This article offering author website tips is our second guest post from Irish children’s book author Avril O’Reilly, who I met when she took one of my book marketing courses.
Build Book Buzz, November 16, 2016

4. Social Media Marketing Evolves
As social media platforms get more crowded, indie authors are recalibrating their marketing efforts.
Publishers Weekly, November 18, 2016

5. 4 Steps to Selling More Books with Less Social Media
Traditionally and self-published authors use Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to help sell books. But should they be doing that?
Digital Book World, November 28, 2016

Happy reading!

linkedin-groups

Writers Speak Up: “My Biggest Author Mistake Was…”

linkedin-groupsThere’s a new conversation going on in an author group I belong to on LinkedIn. And boy is it a doozy!

The group is called “Authors, Writers, Publishers, Editors, & Writing Professionals.” The question? “What is the worst mistake you made in the history of your career as an author, which you will not want a fellow author to make?” Here are some of the responses you won’t want to miss…

——-

On Writing a Manuscript

“I think my biggest mistake was starting and stopping. Several times now. If I had just perservered and pushed through the mental and creative blocks and the ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ stuff, I’d be a lot further ahead.”
Patricia A. Guthrie

“I sent a children’s book manuscript to a publisher. Six months later, Hasbro was advertising toys named like characters in my book. Coincidence? Maybe, but that’s the reason for my decision to copyright everything–first and foremost.”
M.H. Johnson

“One of the worst things I ever did was to accept terms on contracts which I could have challenged and made infinitely better. I did learn more about all of this with time, but, looking back, I let too much get away from me and whenever I teach a class on how to negotiate contracts, I urge writers and illustrators to dig into contract negotiations in every way they can, do research, ask questions BEFORE you sign.”

Deborah Nourse Lattimore

——-

On Getting Published/Self-Publishing

“I self published those first two books that should have been left in the drawer.”
Adrian Collins

“My biggest mistake? Self-publishing my first novel. I had what seemed good reasons at the time, and I’m not really ashamed of the book now; although it could certainly have used an editor, it’s not full of typos, grammar and punctuation errors, etc. But I had NO idea how to market anything, and consequently almost no one has bought or read the book.”
Mary Patterson Thornburg

“My biggest mistake in my career as an author came shortly after selling my first book to Macmillan for a big advance. I thought I could do it all myself, so I turned down an offer from a top-tier NYC literary agent who offered to represent me. Why should I give someone else a percentage for what I could do myself?

“Sure wish I had signed, because once I started writing fiction, I learned what an agent does to earn that percentage.”
Larry Constantine

“For me, it has been choosing publishers. I seem to have a run of back luck with them. I’m not bragging here, but with my third novel I had five publisher’s offer me a contract, and in the end, I ended up choosing the wrong one. Wish I could have that one back. The publisher has an awful editing and formatting team, and they don’t like to pay their authors. I’m finding more and more that you need an agent to make it anywhere in this business. Even though all three of my publisher’s have been traditional, they are small presses, and like the rest of the world they want more money…”
david brown

——-

On Post-Publication Marketing/Outreach

“Being an ass in public to fellow authors, publishing professionals, or even fans can be a career killer. There are still stories circulating about things authors have said during panel discussions at conventions. Rule #1: don’t be a dick.”
Chris Jackson

“My biggest mistake was not educating myself on the norms of traditional publishing. I was fortunate to publish with one of the big six (and some really great things have come from that) but I relied on them to do the marketing, not realising I would have that support for only the month of publication and then it was up to me. I was totally unprepared. I should have had a website, social media presence, my own press releases, marketing plan etc etc. Big learning curve!”
Elly Taylor

 

So what has been your biggest author mistake so far? What would you want to warn other authors not to do? Share your stories in the comments box below!

How Successful Authors Are Promoting Their Books

A GREAT article was released over the weekend in the Houston Chronicle. In it, they covered a variety of authors and the creative things each of them are doing to promote their books. Here are some highlights … don’t be afraid to steal ideas!

Kayt Sukel
Author of Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex and Relationships
Release date: January 3, 2012

  • We kid you not …Kayt Sukel stimulated herself to orgasm while an fMRI scanner tracked the flow of blood to her brain. Her first-person story about this ordinarily intimate act appeared in New Scientist in May, under the headline “Sex on the Brain.” Talk about a viral book promotion!
  • Sukel tweeted questions to her followers, hoping to elicit comments that might provide fodder for the book.
  • She held contests on the book’s Facebook page, “This Is Your Brain on Love.”

  • When a similar orgasm story surfaced — this time with a video (of someone else) from the same New Jersey lab — Sukel blogged about it from a new angle.
  • On Jan. 3, when Dirty Minds was released, Sukel hosted a lively Twitter chat.
  • She is currently working on writing another piece for CNN about her research.

Rebecca Skloot
Author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Release date: February, 2010

  • Fast fact: Rebecca was actually Kayt’s inspiration!

  • Rebecca began reviewing books, using her own book’s title in the tagline of her reviews for publicity.
  • While she was working on her book, Rebecca started doing some freelance writing for O, the Oprah Magazine. As she got to know the editors, she took every opportunity to chat up her book and — not surprisingly — O agreed to excerpt the book when it was released in February 2010.
  • After the book’s release, she did more than 200 speaking events. Two years later, she’s still on tour today.

Mat Johnson
Author of Pym
Release date: 2010

  • Mat built himself quite a twitter following. As a creative writing professor, he built 40,000 followers. As a humorist, he built “a loyal, literary audience made up of magazine and newspaper writers, other fiction writers, even celebrities.” Together, he has a vast audience of fans of his writing and fans of his tweeting … that translates into book sales.

  • His humorous tweets, of course, all include some degree of self promotion. And retweeting doesn’t hurt either … many of his posts are retweeted and shared with an even larger audience

Tom Zoellner
Author of A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America.
Release date: 2011

  • Given the serious nature of the book, Tom decided against using social media to promote it.

  • Instead, the former journalist wrote opinion pieces and reported stories for a number of publications. All of them, of course, included elements from the book.
  • Several years before, he had appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote his 2009 title, Uranium. And there’s no denying: TV scoops up a broader range of viewers than a Twitter feed or a Facebook page.

Justin Cronin
Author of The Passage
Release date: 2010

  • With the full support of his publisher, Ballantine (which promoted The Passage at BookExpo America, by the way), Justin produced video trailers, and explored alternative advertising — including phone kiosk signs in New York and billboards in Los Angeles.

  • Cronin landed an interview on TV’s Good Morning America the day the book was released.
  • What he didn’t expect was what happened during the interview … Stephen King would call in to praise The Passage. Cronin says of the unexpected surprise: it was nice to “have the hand of the great father” on his shoulder.

We should all be so lucky. But maybe one or two of these ideas can turn you into the next bestselling author.

How to Become a Bestselling Author

I thought that title might get some attention. But seriously, a client sent me a link a few days ago to an article titled How I Became a Best-Selling Author, posted on Yahoo Finance.

Here are some of the highlights from the article, which follows one woman’s “unlikely road to a hit novel.”

  • Five years ago, Darcie Chan submitted her novel, The Mill River Recluse,” to multiple publishers and agents. It tells the story of a wealthy Vermont widow who bestows her fortune on town residents who barely knew her. It was rejected by … get this … a dozen publishers and more than 100 literary agents. Whew!
  • Dejected, Darcie stashed the manuscript in a drawer, and buried herself in her legislative work.
  • Then, this past spring, Darcie started reading about the rise of e-book sales and authors who had successfully self published, and decided to give it a shot. She published the book electronically, through Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing program.
  • A few weeks later, she also started selling it on Barnes & Noble’s Nook and through SmashWords, who distributed it to major e-book retailers including Apple’s iBookstore, Sony and Kobo. By this point, she had sold 100 copies.
  • Darcie made every effort to get the book out there to the general public. She decided to drop the price from price from $2.99 to 99 cents (a great benefit of electronic publishing — you can do that and not take a loss). Several reviewers on Amazon said they bought the book because it was 99 cents, then ended up liking it. Number of copies sold to this point: 700
  • Then, at the end of June, the book was mentioned on a site called Ereader News Today, which posts tips for Kindle readers.
  • Encouraged by the increase in publicity and sales, Darcie decided to do some marketing for herself. She bought banner ads on websites and blogs devoted to Kindle readers and a promotional spot on goodreads.com, a book-recommendation site with more than six million members.
  • Darcie then decided that it would be helpful to get her book reviewed, even if she had to pay for those reviews. She paid $35 for a review from IndieReader.com (IndieReader no longer offers paid reviews) and $575 for a review from Kirkus. She also started using blurbs from these reviews as marketing material on her site and in ads. By now, Darcie had sold 14,000 copies.
  • In July, the book was featured on two of the biggest sites for e-book readers, generating even more sales. By August, Darcie had sold more than 77,000 copies and hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book best-seller lists, alongside brand-name authors like Michael Connelly, James Patterson and Kathryn Stockett. It later landed on the Wall Street Journal list, too.
  • To date, Darcie has sold more than 400,000 copies of her e-book. A few major publishers have made offers to her, but none matched the digital royalty rates of 35% to 40% that Ms. Chan makes now. To date, she’s made  around $130,000 on her book, and that number is only destined to rise.

Basically, Darcie took control of her own destiny, made some good strategic decisions and is reaping the rewards. And her story just goes to show you: authors are now in control of their own destiny. Just like musicians can get around the record companies by selling their music through iTunes, authors can completely subvert publishing companies (and print books altogether) and sell their book digitally.

As the article points out, though, there are some drawbacks to following in Darcie’s footprints. They include….

  • Ebooks still make up less than 10% of overall trade book sales.
  • It’s hard to get a self-published book reviewed
  • Without a print book, you’re not likely to be carried in brick-and-mortar bookstores
  • Very few authors have a marketing and advertising budget equal to a publisher’s

All of that said, I hope that Darcie’s story can be an inspiring one to authors like you. I know I’ll steal a few of these ideas….

Tweeting Benefits For Authors

TwitterI find myself overwhelmed with the variety of social networks an author can use to promote him or herself.  Quality blog posts on my official site should take priority — should represent my writing completely — however, in the online popularity game of celebrity status (i.e. the more networks your name is on the better) I find it hard to put the right amount of time and effort into my blog.

I decided to stop promoting myself for the sake of promoting myself, and began a Twitter account to bring awareness to the anti-conflict diamond campaign — a cause I care deeply about, which in return promotes my research, writing, and helps me build a reader following by tweeting with people who are interested in the subject.

Authors that specialize in a particular field will find Twitter to be a useful tool for (1) informing your audience on current topics, studies, and statistics related to your expertise, (2) directing traffic to your official site, and (3) marketing your book (products or services).  People with Twitter accounts often choose to follow others who are involved in the same interests and careers.  Using this site is a great way to reach out to your targeted audience.  An author can have a link to their Twitter account via their Website.  It’s a great way for first time visitors to connect to your site by them following your tweets.  It keeps you connected to your readers…bonus.

Utilizing Past Blog Entries

An English professor of mine once said, “Poems often come from other poems.”   I have found that poems can come from old blogs posts as well.  Looking through blogs and journal entries can provide rich text to take from and emote.   A great exercise for anyone with writer’s block!  An author could develop characters, storylines, and dialogues from old posts.

Below is an excerpt from a blog I posted on Sept. 26, 2008 at 9:04 p.m.  I used it as inspiration to write a few Haiku poems.

I like the Midwest. The sunrise in the morning is inviting. I feel so energized when the light shines on the lake and reflects on to the trees.  The nights are enchanting. The sky is clear and the stars shine bright.  It sounds simple, but it truly is breathtaking. I do a lot of thinking under that night’s sky.

Welcome Home

Inviting sunrise

The trees sing with the cold wind

A Midwest morning

9:04 p.m.

Stars shine through the black

Provoking the lake to dance

Night enchants the poor

I thought my past blogs (rarely viewed) were done with.  Being able to utilize them as a writing tool has motivated me to blog more consistently so I’ll have content to work with in the future.

Old Habits, Fresh Ideas

I’ve spent the past few months focusing on completing manuscripts rather than concentrating on writing.  My language skills, writing exercises, tips from various writers’ magazines and literature journals are ready to go in my mind, but the message in my writing gets lost in all the formal structure.

I’ve been substituting emotion and thought, for conventional words and rhythm.  I forgot how easy it was to capture the moment by free styling.  Simply sitting down at the computer and typing what I feel brings certain tranquility to my storytelling.

When I first started writing, I would jot down anything ‘inspirational’ that came to my head – on napkins, scrap paper, and on the back of receipts. I don’t do that anymore.  Instead I get hung up on how behind I am in my revisions.  I’ve learned this month that in order to keep my creativity fresh and true to myself, I need to take a break from the conventional.  I’m setting aside time to put the laptop away and scribble on paper.  I’m reverting into my old habits – while keeping my new skills… to remember how to write and why I write.

Blogging for me has actually become a way to exercise my free-style writing.  I think a writer must take a break from that incomplete project and come back to it with fresh eyes and mind.  New ideas (to include in my stories) come to my head as I blog clumsily about my mundane life and writing process.

Do you remember the quarks that got you through those first drafts?  Maybe incorporating them into your writing routine will bring about those youthful ideas that drove your passion in beginning.

Hello Writer’s Block, my old friend

For anyone who has ever put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard, we have encountered a pesky nemesis called Writer’s Block. I like to capitalize the W and B in Writer’s Block because it is a persona … an alter ego within the soul of an author. As an author, we are conditioned to believe that Writer’s Block is an office mate that we must learn to tolerate. So we live with Writer’s Block, commiserate with Writer’s Block, curse Writer’s Block, stare at the greenish-glow of the computer screen with Writer’s Block, drink coffee with Writer’s Block, procrastinate with Writer’s Block, and pray for the moment when we can smirk with glee when Writer’s Block takes a vacation or, better yet, packs its bags and moves to a new town.

Knowing that Writer’s Block is usually lurking around a dark corner, what can an aspiring or seasoned author do to escape its clutches?  As a newly published author myself who tried to befriend Writer’s Block, I was given just one, simple piece of advice that singularly impacted my ability to work around, through, above and beyond Writer’s Block. What was that scrumptious morsel of wisdom? Write.

Sorry for the anti-climactic answer. But it is true … when you are suffocating in the grip of Writer’s Block, simply put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard and write, write, write.  Write whatever comes to mind, even if it is your shopping list. You may believe that you are writing nonsense, incomplete thoughts, and rambling sentences; however, the goal to working out of the clutches of Writer’s Block is to go through the physical process of writing and not worry about the quality. It is one of those rare moments when quantity over quality prevails. And when you do this, you are subtly telling yourself that you are a writer; and in fact, and that moment, you are technically writing. You may later return to your writing and toss out much of what you created; however, you may also find sentences, paragraphs, concepts, characters and entire plots that are brilliant, yet buried underneath the rubble caused by Writer’s Block. By engaging in this rote process of writing, you will open the dam of your creative juices and they will begin to flow where they were once stagnant.

So when Writer’s Block pays me a visit and I feel like my creativity has taken a 180-day luxury cruise around the world, my first instinct may be to follow Lady Gaga and “Just Dance”, but the best path is to simply “Just Write”.

For those of you who are animal lovers, check out my website and blog at www.alliephillips.com and my “You Can Do More for Animals” Facebook page.

3 Ways to Write Good Characters

What makes a reader relate to your book? Why would someone choose it over all the other offerings on the “New Novels” table  at Barnes and Noble? I used to think it had something to do with the situation in which the lady on the cover found herself: Mindy is adorable….and she only has 30 days to live! Mike’s fighter plane is going down in a remote part of Afghanistan…can he save himself in time?   It’s the Telenovela method: If you put a character in an ugly bind, it doesn’t matter what his or her personality is like.  The book will sell. Or at least that’s what I believed. Then I started working on my novel every day, and I  realized that even I was getting lost in my own plot’s endless twists and turns.

I’m not naive. I know that there has to be a tangible sense of danger, excitement or novelty on a book’s back flap to get someone to pick it up, especially if the author is not widely known. But there are also many other subtle cues that help a reader decide whether a story, or a character, is something worth investing in. A few concepts research shows can hook a reader in seconds:

Establish Your Perspective

Studies show that key stylistic choices reveal intended audience. Are you writing a female character you want women to relate to intimately? Make sure to include a lot of specific details to that show her emotions during a scene. How does she feel about the  house she’s about to break into? Or the job she’s about to leave? Including a few words on a character’s perspective in your outline can also help you to remember to stay as close to your character as you are to your plot. Even if you are writing a hard-boiled thriller and keeping description to a minimum, staying close to your character’s movements and moment-to-moment decisions will make the reader feel as if he were in the scene too.

Amplify your Genre

A reader may be hankering for a romance or a western, but she’s never in the mood to read the same story twice. Regardless of how familiar a setting or plot line may be, readers love to feel like they are getting to know a new, endearingly quirky character, one they may want to visit for a sequel. Conceiving a character whose inner failings or strengths enhance a genre’s conflict is a great way to go. In Shirley Jackson’s classic thriller “The Haunting of Hill House,” Eleanor Vance’s bitter loneliness has engaged more readers and film directors in the decades since it was published than the house’s famed creepiness.

Create a Character Chart

As a published author, once you’ve completed a manuscript, you probably feel like the time for writer’s workshop-style exercises are over. It’s time to just pound out the pages and get it over with, right? That may be the case for a lot of folks, but for me, there’s one Writing 101 trick  that has proven invaluable. Years ago, a friend emailed me an exercise from a workshop she had just attended: a personality spreadsheet, with more than 50 questions detailing the minutiae of a character’s life. At first, I was dismissive. It seemed like a complete waste of time. Plus, who cared? I figured I’d  never get through chapter one if I loaded the reader down with so many details. But, once I got through it, I realized that even if half of the preferences and other facts about my character didn’t make it into the book, it was still helpful to have it done. Just knowing what my character will and will not do has gotten me through some major writer’s block.

What tricks have helped you develop your characters? Any other tips you want to share here?