Back to the (cover) drawing board

A friend of mine with a background in PR explained to me in detail why the covers I posted a little over a week ago don’t work from an advertising and branding perspective, so I’ve gone back and created a couple more with her advice in mind. For the sake of comparison, I’m also including the winner of my last poll, the more serious cover based on the graphics I used for the blog posts. Here are the covers:

Indie author covers

Do please take the poll or let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks!

Covers and Book Description for “Starting Out as an Indie Author”

I’m almost there! “Starting Out as an Indie Author” is nearly ready for publication. But first, I need some feedback on covers and the book description I’ve come up with. The first cover is based on the graphic I’ve been using for this series for some time now, with stock art I’ve already purchased, so it is more finished than my other two designs. The others have more the character of mock-ups, since I thought it would be fun to attempt something more playful as well. And as you can see in the covers, I haven’t purchased the art yet. They might be too playful, after all, and I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to purchase the art.

Starting Out as an Indie Author

And here’s the book description I came up with:

Have you written your first book and are considering self-publishing? Perhaps you have started looking into the possibility and are feeling overwhelmed by all the options, all the things you need to do and learn in order to become an indie author? Or maybe you aren’t even sure yet whether self-publishing is for you or not, and you want to find out more of what is involved before you decide.

STARTING OUT AS AN INDIE AUTHOR was written for beginning self-publishers and covers the basics on where to sell your books, formatting for eBook and print, and developing marketing strategies. It includes a number of step-by-step instructions for everything from cover design, to setting up eBooks for various distributors, to creating ads with Facebook and Amazon Marketing Services. In addition, there is advice on any number of topics: eBook pricing, using distributors, how much to spend on self-publishing, and writing blurbs for your books.

With this sanity-saving book as a guide, you will have a much better grasp on what is involved in self-publishing and will be able to approach the task realistically and with eyes wide open.

Contents:
Part I: Is Self-Publishing for You?
Chapter 1: Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing
Chapter 2: Potential Self-Publishing Mudholes
Chapter 3: The Costs of Publishing as an Indie Author

Part II: Getting Ready to Publish
Chapter 4: Why Editing is Important – and Who can Probably Skip the Expense After All.
Chapter 5: Preparing Your Manuscript for eBook Retailers
Chapter 6: Cover Options for Indie Authors
Chapter 7: Writing Blurbs and Descriptions for your Books
Chapter 8: Amazon Delivery Fees and Reducing the File Size of Your EBook

Part III: Publishing Your Book
Chapter 9: EBook Pricing
Chapter 10: To KDP Select or not to KDP Select
Chapter 11: Using Distributors for Getting into Online Bookstores
Chapter 12: The Importance of Keywords
Chapter 13: Formatting the Interior of your Book for Print
Chapter 14: Creating a Wraparound Cover for your Print Book

Part IV: Marketing
Chapter 15: The Big Challenge: Becoming Visible
Chapter 16: How to Develop a Strategy for eBook Promotions
Chapter 17: Alexa Rankings for eBook Ad Sites
Chapter 18: Advertising Sites
Chapter 19: Social Media and Cross Promotion
Chapter 20: Newsletter Basics

Part V: Final Thoughts
Chapter 21: Why “Write the Next Book” isn’t Enough; Or: What to do if your Books aren’t Selling
Chapter 22: Rolling with the Changes

Do please let me know what you think!

On the slow pursuit of Overnight Success

Reblogging this, since even though it has nothing to do with indie publishing, it’s very close to the message I often try to get across: WORK! 🙂

Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

Photo on 7-13-16 at 4.28 PM #3

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post over on Tumblr about success.

I’d just walked into a bookshop in Edinburgh, hoping, as many author do, to spot my own work tucked away somewhere on the shelf. When I found not one, but two major displays–a table stand and a wall runner–I stood very still, trying to make a memory, and then, realizing I couldn’t be counted on, I snapped a photo instead. The photo doesn’t do the feelings justice.

These days I see my name paired more and more with the words “overnight success”, and I’ve heard that the average overnight success takes 10 years. It’s taken me 9, so if that means I’m ahead of the curve, so be it.

I started writing when I was a kid, poetry mostly, didn’t try my hand at anything longer than a short story until I was in college. I wrote…

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Yseult and more! Over 100 SFF books for only 99c this weekend

Yseult

Until February 14, I have reduced my epic Arthurian fantasy novel, Yseult, to only 99c to try and get some traction on other stores. In the wake of some strange goings-on regarding pages read on Amazon, which I have gone into in some detail on this blog, I pulled all my books from Kindle Unlimited and went wide with everything. Yseult (and most of the rest of my books) are now available on these major retailers:

Amazon Nook Kobo Apple Smashwords Other Retailers

It is also time again for our regular big group promo of over 100 science fiction and fantasy books, all for only 99c! But you have to act fast on this one — it’s only good through the weekend. And just so you know, it isn’t allowed for anyone to promote a book that has been in the last two promos, and we are getting new people joining our group all the time, so there might well be something you haven’t seen yet if you’ve checked out our promos before.

I hope you find something you like! 🙂

Last Tale of the Rose Knights: Desert Peace

The last Tale of the Rose Knights, “Desert Peace,” went up on Daily Science Fiction today. It may not be the last forever — I still have a few I started that Jay Lake never had a chance to contribute to. I’ll have to take another look at them and see if I want to whip them into shape by myself.

This is the ending:
He stands there, the soldier, in a uniform so floral and pale pink that many armies would have rebelled to wear it. The Pink Knight is not so tall, but tall enough, and the yellow highlights of the startling tunic match the highlights in his hair. He carries a curious weapon, this soldier, a long thorn like a wooden needle, the end beaded with blood so bright red as to be almost purple.

The tourists come to look, sometimes even to pray, for that blood is always pure and fresh. The soldier does not move. He simply smiles as he stares into an eternity only he can see. Even in the desert, the horizon is finite, but his eyes are on distant stars and a sleepy ember that is invisible to those around him.

In his desert there is peace. The hawks hunt elsewhere. The coyotes pass silent under the mistress-moon who rules their night. Even the cactus thorns have softened a bit, so that rabbits and children might pass near the soldier.

Read the rest here at DSF.

Pronoun Redux

I recently posted about a certain amount of frustration involved in publishing to two new distributors, Streetlib and Pronoun. Well, it looks like I’m going to have to give Pronoun another chance. They have announced a number of changes, including better royalties (70% for everything up to $9.99), and more flexibility as to where you publish your book. Whereas you used to be required to publish your book on all the retailers Pronoun supports, you can now choose which ones to publish to. The only requirement is that your book be on Amazon, whether through them or directly is up to you.

I will definitely be giving it another shot in the next couple of days.

More here:

https://janefriedman.com/pronoun-distribution/

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Social Media and Cross Promotion

I’m almost there on getting the book version of my series “Starting Out as an Indie Author” ready for publication! I’ve put together some new material on subjects I hadn’t covered in my posts. Today I would like to share a new chapter with you, “Social Media and Cross Promotion.”

Social Media and Cross Promotion

Social Media for Writers

If you are forced by financial difficulties to keep your expenses for advertising as low as possible, social media and cross promotion may be the only effective avenues open to you until you have made enough from your books to reinvest in more expensive ads (or better covers, or whatever you have decided you might need to move your writing career forward). Because when it comes right down to it, most of the cheap advertising sites are cheap for a reason. And many of those that are more expensive have priced themselves so high that you’re never going to get a positive ROI using them. Luckily, there are plenty of authors out there willing to share their results with other authors, so we don’t have to throw our money away, at least not too much.

But to figure that out, you need to network with other indie authors. A great place to start is the Writers’ Cafe on KBoards, which I’ve mentioned before in this series.

So how should you spend your time on social media as an author to sell your books? My answer: don’t. Yes, I know I started this post suggesting it might be one of the only ways for authors who don’t have the money for advertising to “get visible” (to quote David Gaughran, who you should read, by the way.)

But the thing is, you don’t sell your books on social media, not really. You offer content (like me with my Indie Author series), or you become an Internet personality (like Chuck Wendig), or you join groups and start up conversations with readers who are fans of the genres you write in. No one likes authors who are only posting “BUY MY BOOK” all the time.

I’m in the camp of those who believe that social media only sells books indirectly. If you have established relationships with readers through social media, then they might be curious and pick up one of your books to see if they like it. Admittedly, I am far from being a social media guru. I’m not a big fan of FB and Co., since it can be such a time sink. But just consider how you react when “BUY MY BOOK” shows up in your Twitter feed. I bet you’re a lot more likely to click Unfollow than the link to buy the book.

Consider as well that the time you spend on social media is time you could be spending writing. If you only have one or two novels finished so far, it probably makes more sense to concentrate on writing the next one before you go searching for an audience for books that aren’t there. One book does not a career make (except if you’re Margaret Mitchell).

Basic Internet Presence for Authors

There are plenty of recommendations out there, but here are mine:

– Amazon Author Page
– Facebook Author Page
– Goodreads Author Page
– Twitter
– Blog or static web page

One of the reasons I suggest making sure you have at least the above is because many of the advertising sites I have recommended on this blog ask for links to web page, Twitter, and Facebook when you book an ad.

Here a short rundown of those that might not be quite as obvious:

– Amazon Author Page

The Amazon Author page is important because if you don’t set one up, all a reader gets when clicking on your name in the Amazon store are the search results. If your name is Jane Smith, this is not going to help you a lot. I’m lucky that my name is not all that common — not even in Norway. But even for a Nestvold, an author page is still a big advantage over a page of search results. It allows me to have links to book trailers, my blog, author pics, and all of my books:

Amazon Author Page

To create your author page on Amazon, you need to go to Author Central: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/

– Goodreads Author Page

The importance of a Goodreads Author Page is similar — it allows you to link all of your books, as well as your blog feed and whatever book trailers you might have in one place. And that on one of the most important sites for book addicts in the world.

To create it, you need to set up a Goodreads account. Once you have that, all you need to do is find one of your books, click on your name and scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find “Is this you?” When you click on the link, you can send a request to join the Author Program. Complete instructions are here:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/program

– Facebook Author Page

To create an FB author page, click on Create / Page on the left hand side of of the screen in your news feed and follow the instructions. The “Writer” category is under “Artist, Band or Public Figure.”

If you’re a bit of a social media grump like I am, you might be wondering why I recommend so many things to sign up for. While on the one hand I don’t like spreading myself too thin, at the same time, I have fans on all of these sites who only communicate with me through whichever happens to be their favorite. Without those sites, I would be missing out on communication with readers who want to contact me.

While I advocate making sure you have a presence on all of the sites listed above, that doesn’t mean I think you should be hunting down followers or friends on Twitter or Facebook or anything else. That way lies madness, and many hours of wasted time. Believe me, I’m as guilty as anyone of being addicted to numbers when I first started learning about all this stuff. But believe me as well that chasing followers is not going to do you a bit of good. Yes, you should be on all those platforms, but no, following or friending in the hopes of selling more books will get you nowhere and will only eat up time better spent writing.

Further social media sites for authors

– Google+
– Instagram
– Tumblr
– Pinterest
– Reddit
– LinkedIn

I am on all of the above, but with the exception of Pinterest, which I love, I don’t really use any of them. And despite my love of Pinterest, I have no idea whether it can work as a marketing tool. What I mostly use it for is a place to collect links for books in progress, as you can see from this board for Ygerna, a prequel to my Pendragon Chronicles series:

https://www.pinterest.com/ruthnestvold/ygerna/

As for the rest, I signed up for them because I read somewhere that you really had to have a presence there as an author, so I went with the flow. Of all of them, Reddit appeals to me personally most, but at the same time, I know that I could get lost in the discussion threads if I allowed myself to, so I just don’t go there in the first place.

For all of these sites, the main thing to remember is to be on those that appeal most to you. Use them in a way that feels natural, stay authentic, build a presence, and interact with like-minded readers and fans.

Cross Promotion

This is where the real genius of social media for marketing purposes lies. If you can find a good group for cross promotion, when you all have a sale, instead of yelling “BUY MY BOOK,” you will be sharing an amazing deal with dozens of eBooks on sale for only 99c!

Which would appeal to you as a reader more, HUGE SALE or BUY MY BOOK?

In my opinion, group promos are pretty much the best way of getting the word about your novel out to a wider audience for free. The idea behind cross promotion is that all of the authors involved share the information on their blog, mailing list, Facebook page, etc., and the more authors involved, the wider the reach. So it requires some effort on your part in helping to spread the word, but not much more than if you were lambasting Twitter with tweets most people will ignore.

But how do you find out about groups like this in your genre? One of the best resources I know is Kboards, which I mentioned above. I no longer spend as much time there as I did when I was first starting out, but it is an incredible resource for indie authors.

Aside from Kboards, another way of finding group promos in your genre is through Facebook. Try searching for “group promos” or “group promotions” and see if anything shows up that fits with your genre. The group I participate in most regularly, “Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Promotions” organized by Patty Jansen, is on Facebook — although I found it through Kboards. If you also write SFF, you can find the link on the right sidebar of my blog. Join, introduce yourself, help promote in any way you can whenever there is a group sale. If you have found a good community, I am sure you will see results.

But remember, putting a lot of effort into promotion isn’t really worth it if you only have one or two novels out. Concentrate on getting a couple more published before you start spending too much time trying to draw attention to yourself and your books.

Big 99c sale of Science Fiction and Fantasy eBooks, Jan. 7-8

We have another big sale coming your way to start the new year, over 100 eBooks in science fiction and fantasy genres, all for only 99c each.

January promo

Just go to http://pattyjansen.com/promo/ and click on your favorite retailer to see what’s available! The promo officially begins tomorrow, January 7, but a lot of books have already reduced the price.

My contribution this month is Shadow of Stone, book 2 of The Pendragon Chronicles. The books are standalone novels, though, so you can easily start with the sale-priced one. 🙂

New Tale of the Rose Knights: “Snowfire”

A new Rose Knights flash fiction piece that I wrote with Jay Lake is up on DSF today, “Snowfire”:

nowfire should have been a cliche, with her brilliant face and her ways full of love and thorns. The Rose Knight of the Rose Knights, she strode the world wrapped in laughter and a charisma that could stun stone idols. She needed no sword for her battles. She could smile her way through walls and gates and brambled pits and talk the very monsters from their lairs, soothe the raging ocean, and humble the proudest men.
Snowfire’s colors were red-on-white, sanguinary and brilliant both in their scarlet repose. Bereft of her armor, sword and trappings of her station, she would have been a comely woman on the streets of any city. Imperious in her array, she was devastating to look upon.

Read the rest here.

Snowfire by Matt McKay
Snowfire (c) by Matt McKay. License: Public domain

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