What’s your destiny? I used to think mine was to travel the world and physically help people (similar to Red Cross). But as life goes, my path moved, curved, and changed with time.
What constitutes a serious author? In my book, it’s a person who wants to make a living with their writing, and it’s also someone who takes the necessary steps toward publication (be it Traditional or Indie).
I was advised twice this week, in so many words, “If you’re ready to take your writing seriously (again), then ....” Ouch, right? One person who said that is a leader of an organization built for authors, and the other was an USA Today Best Selling author.
It happened. My newsletter list reached dangerously close to 2000 subscribers. Three months ago, I’d be ecstatic. This is a great problem to have, but once I reach 2000 people, I have to start paying for MailChimp’s service on a monthly basis.
Why Clean Your List
I don’t mind paying for a newsletter service if I thought it was worth it. But if my newsletters are reaching inactive subscribers, then why would I want to pay for those people to be on my list? So I decided to clean my list by removing all inactive subscribers.
Definition of inactive: A person who has received my last five campaigns, who has not opened all five of them, and who has not clicked on any links in all five of them. If this is the case, then they are not interested in my newsletter, and I DEFINITELY do not want to pay to have them on my list.
Short and sweet. It's close to the holidays, but I wanted to give you the results of how my promo ad with The Fussy Librarian turned out!
Promo Date Details
The KDP discount promo began running on Nov 29th. Though I used The Fussy Librarian to spread the word on the first day of my promo, I also placed a small Facebook ad. The days following The Fussy Librarian ad, I utilized newsletter swaps with 6 other authors. Overall, during the KDP promo that lasted from Nov 29th – Dec 5th, I sold 41 books (Scythe of Darkness)! Which means I profited $28.41 ([$0.99 x .70 royalty] x 41 books).
Kindle Promotion Choices
There are two choices when setting up a Kindle Promotion. You can make one of your KDP Select books free for 5 days, OR you can discount the price of a book for up to 7 days. This is a choice made separately for each book; it doesn’t affect them all at once.
You can toggle with the price to fluctuate throughout the 7-day period, but I suggest you keep your book at one price the entire 7 days. By doing this, it makes it easier to cross-promote with other authors, and I’ll explain why below.
If you’re struggling to increase newsletter subscribers, I was in the same boat weeks ago. I’d been in that boring boat for months/years. I utilized Facebook posts as well as Twitter feed in regards to growing my numbers. I’m also an author of 3 books, but I STILL had a hard time finding subscribers. A newsletter is important, because it creates direct access to my readers.
Figuring out an organic way to do this was the key. So when I came across a fellow writer’s cross-promo post on one of the Facebook groups I follow, I emailed her for advice. She had 3000 subscribers, which was 2070 more than I had.
I'm only Human, After All
Backstory and Update: This post is regarding a manuscript that's been through four revisions and read by two (online) critique partners. A third CP is waiting to read it. I'm sending the MS to her once I finish revising the last few chapters and pushing pause on the chapter-by-chapter face-to-face feedback. I need an overall assessment (macro, rather than micro).
I have to get this out. My heart is threatening to tear from my chest, the ache is strong. Taking criticism is hard. There’s no way around it. If I want to become a better writer, I have to place my work in the hands of other writers. That’s all there is to it. It MUST be done.
So why do I feel like crumbling? It’s not like I haven’t received CP feedback before.
Recently, I became a part of a local critique group that meets weekly. Every week, we bring in a chapter from our current work-in-progress. We sit for hours, reading and critiquing each other’s work. Today’s my birthday, and today was the day of our meeting. I’m highly grateful to have been invited into their secluded group. It’s a rite of passage for me. The process of having my work critiqued face-to-face is stressful, but it doesn’t hurt so bad. The exchange of dialogue between the members is incredibly helpful, and I hope to pull my weight in return. So then why do I feel like such a failure? I’ve figured it out: it’s the ongoing, weekly affair of choosing to take criticism.
Ask yourself, when’s the last time you’ve received weekly critiques? This is a first for me.
Besides paying for promos and running Amazon ads, the other advice given to me was to publish a book that’s permanently free on various outlets. Usually, this idea is used for Book One of a series. The hope is that by making Book One free, a new reader will be willing to read something written by an unknown author. Hence, a reader will download the free book, get hooked, and download the rest of the series.
For an unknown author, like me, this idea was perfect. But I hadn’t written Book Two yet and didn’t want to offer Book One for free.
I have two novels published, and one of them is a standalone. My most recent release, Scythe of Darkness, came out June 13th. This is the one I'm marketing. I plan on writing the sequel (draft one) in October/November. After the novel released in June, I decided to write a short-story prequel. I knew that it wouldn’t require as much time to write, and I was willing to make it permanently free.
For an unknown author, like me, this idea was perfect. (ClickToTweet)
Paid Advertising for eBooks
I’ve been looking forward to writing this post! Albeit, I was hoping for better results.
eBook Marketing Services
One month ago, I had a bit of extra money, and I used that money to reserve a promo spot with BargainBooksy. Why them? I regularly listen to many podcasts that offer tips on writing and publishing. From those recommendations, I discovered these paid marketing sites: FreeBooksy, BargainBooksy (FreeBooksy’s sister site), and BookBub. Any author can use them. These sites offer book marketing for self-published authors as well as traditionally published authors.
For BargainBooksy, all I had to do was reserve my spot and submit the requested material (summary, [discounted] price), money etc). The process was simple. The allure of using them meant even though I didn't have a huge fan base, they did. And they would place my book in their daily newsletter that targets a specific genre of readers. The day my promo ran, my book was 8th in line of 12 other books in their newsletter. That’s A LOT of discounted books to compete against. Here’s what my promo looked like:
Update: I've become a paid freelance writer since this post. For writers searching for a reliable company, check out Writers Access. The skills test is a long process, but it's well worth your time. Be mindful, they only allow applicants to apply once.
As an author, I hear more and more about the need to have a backlist. What is a backlist? It’s a list of books that have been published by the same author. In other words, an indie author cannot expect to make a living off of one book, or two books, or even three books. The goal is to produce many books that have been edited well and wrapped with good covers.
From what I’ve gathered, this isn’t any different than authors that traditionally publish. I was listening to the CreativePenn Podcast, and Joanna Penn was interviewing the author of the Left Behind series. What struck me was the fact that he’d had over a hundred books published before that series, which then hit BIG. The difference is, he was making a decent living with his other works before writing Left Behind.
But my point is still the same: You need a backlist if you hope to make a living as a writer. So besides freelance editing, producing more books is what I’m focused on.
Yesterday, launch day for Scythe of Darkness, my book skyrocketed to the Top 30 in two Amazon categories. One of the steps that’s not listed below is the video ad that I created for my book. I posted this ad on my Facebook profile and page, and it got numerous shares. From there, accompanied with the 10 steps, my book had a great launch.
Below are the 10 steps that I took to launch my book.
This morning, I sent a press release to three local news stations. Will they do anything with the PR? I don’t know, but it couldn’t hurt. To view this release, click here. Maybe it’ll help you with yours.
I first came across a LIVE video feed when I was on Instagram.
Up to this point, I had done a couple of LIVE videos on Twitter, but after being involved with one on Instagram, I realized I went about them all wrong.
Have you noticed that despite ALL of your Facebook “Likes” you are only “reaching” a very small portion of those followers? Does that bother you? It bothers us, and we want to boost each other up. Link up with Every Free Chance Books.
Having an ARC of your book and finding readers go hand-in-hand. As an indie author, it's all up to me. And if you're reading this, then you're probably in the same boat. So how did I find readers for my book? Well the process started months in advance. Here are the five steps that I followed.
2-4 months prior to the release of my book, be it through Facebook or Twitter (for me, I used Twitter more), I began following Book Bloggers that I thought might be interested in reading a copy of my book. For weeks and months, I actively communicated with them, either by retweeting their posts or commenting on a book they were reading. This is important! Be GENUINE. Communicate on a personal book-reading level. I kept track of the bloggers I followed until I reached a 100.
CreateSpace Expanded Distribution
One of the complicated decisions for me when I chose to publish through CS, was to decide whether or not to choose the Expanded Distribution option. It's free, but it means the price of my book will have to increase. So is it worth it?
In my opinion, the only advantage I see is that my book would be available for libraries to purchase. However, after talking to a librarian, just because my book is available doesn't mean that they will purchase it or even know to search for it. The library in my town finds books numerous ways. One is by attending a Texas Authors Conference, and another is by looking for recommendations in Voya magazine. From there, they purchase books through Baker & Taylor.
Writing Chapter One can be tricky. I’ve been there. I’ll be there again.
With each new book, crafting that opening scene is hard. After reading it over and over, my mind is left a jumbling mess. No matter how many people read my manuscript, I still question myself, but the process has become easier with time.
I searched the top 6 books on Amazon, the category: Amazon Best Sellers in Teen and YA Books. I thought it would be interesting to look at their opening lines, as well as their opening scenes. Do they have anything in common?
For more tips and advice, check out my interview with ML Keller in the YouTube video below. Her nickname is "The Manuscript Shredder.” She observes tons of opening pages and critiques them. During the interview, she gives a prime example of what not to do, plus how to fix it.
The Top 6 Books
Below is an interview with the cover artist for my book. If you ever wondered what's involved in the process of finding a designer, you can find answers in the interview below. Ammonia Book Covers is who I hired to design my cover for Scythe of Darkness.
I know how scary it can be for a new author to find a cover, sometimes wondering if the artist on the other end of the internet is real, hoping that you're not about to be scammed. Yvonne Nikolova with Ammonia Book Covers is very much real, and she was efficient when answering my inquiries.
As an indie author, I have to be up-to-date on the latest news regarding publishing. Two of the most important pieces of advice boil down to picking a category for your book, and choosing the keywords for said category. This post is in reference to publishing on KDP, however, I'm using the same strategy for other digital platforms as well.
Why do Keywords Matter?
While building a book on the KDP site, you are given the option to pick 7 keywords. But what you may not know is that these keywords coincide with the categories you choose. According to KDP, this enables your book to be listed under certain sub-categories.
Proofreaders shouldn’t be mistaken as an editor. Proofreaders should be reserved to read the polished manuscript (after it's been thoroughly edited) in the months/weeks prior to publishing.
As an indie author, my job is to find an editor AND proofreaders, because nobody else is going to do that for me. This is the business side of the process. At least that’s how I think of it.
If a reader begins reading my book and finds themselves pausing over mistakes here and there, their opinion of my work will not be as good. Which means they're less likely to eagerly share my book with their friends. And word of mouth is a huge part of reaching new readers.
You can find the corresponding YouTube video at the bottom of this post. The information below is for indie writers who are using Microsoft Word to format their print books.
Using Times New Roman is a sure way of shouting “newbie” when publishing your book. Did I use this when I published my first book? I hope not. Either way, I definitely won’t be using it for this new one, Scythe of Darkness.
By searching through other books in the similar genre, I was able to get an idea of the type of font they used. I chose Garamond, 12pt, for the body. This font size combined with the margin spacing created the perfect amount of words per line that I was aiming for.
You can also access this information by watching my YouTube video at the bottom of this post.
It took a lot of research to have my paperback book formatted. My goal is for it to look and feel as professional as the traditionally published books.
For the printed version, I’ll be using CreateSpace. I wasn’t sure where to begin in regards to formatting the interior, so first I searched online and found this PDF Submission Specification form. It covers everything from the interior to the exterior in regards to formatting.
The editor that I hired for my book was Kelly Hopkins. I can’t stress enough the importance of having a professional editor.
A true editor is going to turn your manuscript into a beautiful piece of work. Now, my book flows smoothly in such a way that it hadn't before.
Prior to editing, my manuscript had been revised many times, but it still wasn’t the best it could be. Being an indie author means that I have to make sure my books are up to par with the others on the market, better even. If it’s not edited well, the reader won’t stay fully engaged with the story.
Pitch Wars is a wonderful contest that helps writers. Brenda Drake is the creator. To find out more, click here.
By entering the contest, I found a critique group that I’m still a part of today. The video at the bottom zooms in on this aspect more.
What is a Critique Group?
Mine is a group of writers that write in a similar genre as me. Which I’ve found works best. By partnering with other writers this way, the group is filled with people who are focused on what readers want in that particular genre.
Yes, I read in multiple genres, but I also read a ton within the one that I write in. And the idea is that the group I’m involved with is filled with writers doing the same. But even if your critique group is filled with writers of different genres, overall you want partners who know how to construct a story (pacing, characterization, character arcs, show vs tell, etc). These people aren’t just readers, they’re writers as well. They know what problems to look for and usually have suggestions on how to fix them.
I’ve created a YouTube channel that follows my journey to indie publishing my newest novel, Scythe of Darkness. This channel will be for other writers who are curious about the process. By watching the step-by-step videos, be it something big as marketing and promotion, to the tedious details of interior formatting or picking a genre-specific title, I hope that my journey will help you.
When launch day happens, I’ll share with you whether or not my new marketing strategy increased book sales, especially how it compares to the first time I released a book in 2013.
Writing a query letter can be tough. After all, there’s a ton of advice on the web. Below is an example of the query that I used for my book, Scythe of Darkness. When I was querying last summer, I had been using a different title: The Art of Kissing Death. So don’t be confused.
In the fall, I sent that query to a professional editor who revised it for me. This polished version is on the bottom. I didn’t query with this one until last January, but a couple of weeks later, I had decided that I wanted to indie publish my book instead. Of the 10 queries that I sent out in January, there was a small press interested, but they ultimately decided that my book was too dark for their taste. No problem. Because I do write dark and twisty things, so I understood. Either way, my book will be available in May/June. And I’m excited!
Great Tool for Writers