Tag Archives: john locke

Starting out as an indie author: Creating a welcome page for your newsletter with free tools

Starting out as an indie author

My goal for today originally had to do with redesigning my blog and adding progress bars, using the wonderful tips I’ve received in the comments here. But before tackling the whole adding-progress-bars / blog-redesign challenge, I wanted to make what I thought would be a simple change, from a tip gleaned on David Gaughran’s blog on building a killer email list.

As a result, I have to share some experiences regarding my own email list before they disappear out of my tired old brain. I thought I would “start” my marketing day off today by adding the incentive of a free ebook to my newsletter signup widget. As soon as I started writing down the steps I would need to complete in order to do so, it began to occur to me that it would take me a bit longer than I originally expected. But even then, I totally underestimated the time involved.

Um, like — hours???

I realize that I have not yet posted about setting up a newsletter in the first place, but this particular aspect of the whole business is a response to immediate experience and fresh in my mind. Which is why I decided to tackle the subject on my blog arse-backwards. 🙂 (Not that I’ve ever done that before …) I promise that when and if I put these posts together as an ebook, I will sort the chronology out to make it more logical.

Here’s my original to-do list for the simple task of adding a free ebook to my newsletter signup:

– Make PDF of Never Ever After

– Upload PDF

– Make welcome page for free download

– Set up automated response for Mailchimp

– Edit widget for newsletter signup

And this is how it went:

1) Make PDF of Never Ever After

This proved to be more complicated than anticipated. Scrivener has an option to compile a book as PDF, but when I tested the file, Acrobat wouldn’t open it. So I compiled the collection as a DOC file and made a PDF from that.

Which looked kinda cruddy, without page numbers or table of contents and with single-space tiny font. All things that do not matter in a mobi or epub file — TOC is generated automatically, page numbers are unnecessary, and font is adjustable. (This step would not have been necessary if I already had a PDF for the book for Print on Demand publishing, but I haven’t published any of my short story collections for print yet, except for the one I did with Jay Lake.)

Anyway, it was back to the DOC file to add a TOC and page numbers, and reformat the text. While I was at it, I updated the links in my back matter — which also ended up giving me a lot of grief, which I won’t go into here in detail. Let’s just say, it took me over an hour until I was happy enough with the PDF to upload.

Upload PDF

Make welcome page for free download

These two steps were simple enough. I originally intended to make a hidden page for the download, but since that option wasn’t available via WordPress, I decided to go with password protected. You can read here about how to do that.

Set up automated response for Mailchimp

Another roadblock encountered. I find Mailchimp extremely difficult to navigate, about as counter-intuitive to my way of thinking as things get. But it’s one of the few free options still out there, and I already started my list with them, so I’m committed for the time being. When I first tried to find a way to send automatic response emails, I ended up on the “Automation” page — which is only available to holders of pro accounts.

A comment on this blog post sent me in the right direction. From the “Lists” page, click on the dropdown menu under “Stats” (for some reason). There you will find the link to “Signup forms” — which also include automated response, opt-in, and welcome emails. You can learn more here.


Creating my Mailchimp “Thank you” response email.

Now I have an automated welcome email and a page for the freebie set up. 🙂

Edit widget for newsletter signup

The last step only involved editing the widget for my newsletter (which on my page is a WordPress link) to add the cover of the story collection and change the description to emphasize that something FREE is involved. Part of me still has a problem with all these incentives I have to keep adding here and there, but I am slowly accepting the fact that I am never going to be a bestseller on the basis of my personality and my blog alone, unfortunately (unlike John Locke — right).

Lesson here: Everything takes way longer than you expect.

I would be extremely grateful if anyone so inclined would click on the link, help me test the process, and report your results in the comments below. I promise I won’t be offended when you unsubscribe. 🙂 And even if you don’t, you’re pretty safe from spam from me. Although I set my Mailchimp “campaign” up as a new release newsletter, I haven’t even sent out an announcement of my last book yet, which was months ago. :/ As much as I enjoy being an indie writer after my experience in traditional publishing, I still have a lot of internal blocks regarding marketing that I need to work on. Wish me luck!

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Determining my Target Audience (John Locke and the Rest of Us, Part 2)

You can read my initial thoughts on John Locke’s e-marketing ideas here. In this post, I’m going to attempt to define a target audience in the way Locke suggests in his book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in in 5 Months!

I don’t write in any one, single genre, even though most of my work falls under the general genre umbrella of “sff” — science fiction and fantasy. But among my published works there’s space opera, near future, magic realism, epic fantasy, dragons, witches, and Mars. So it would be pretty hard to define a target audience for my fiction as a whole — it would probably end up so general as to be useless.

Instead, I’m going to try to figure out the target audience for Yseult and maybe eventually I can do something with that.

Ysuelt is a Big Fat Fantasy of almost 200,000 words. The German translation came in at about 700 pages. While Yseult is a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde legend, it is not as medieval in feel as a lot of Arthurian novels. By that I mean that it isn’t set in an era of jousting and tournaments and chivalry. Yseult is set in fifth century Ireland and Britain, a brutal, transitional age. I did a lot of research on Sub-Roman and Post-Roman Britain, as well as early Christian Ireland, trying to create a gritty, historical atmosphere, despite the fantasy elements. At the same time, I read lots of medieval Arthurian works, in particular Welsh. I liked the old Welsh names best, and used quite a few rather than the more familiar French versions, e.g. Bedwyr instead of Bedivere, Cai instead of Kay, Myrddin instead of Merlin. For the same reason, I didn’t include Lancelot (an invention of medieval French writers). While the main plot line is the tragic love story of Yseult and Drystan, I didn’t skimp on the larger political picture, the war of the British kingdoms against the encroaching Saxons, and there are a number of detailed battle scenes.

Next step: what kind of readers would like to read a book like that?

First off, my ideal readers like both fantasy and historical detail. They get a kick out of learning something new, even when they’re reading fiction. At the same time, they want to be entertained; they like grand passion and epic conflicts. They probably have a weakness for tragedy, as long as the ending is satisfying. A familiarity with Arthurian legends is a plus, combined with an openness to seeing old stories told in new ways. They like a good battle scene as much as a good sex scene. They don’t mind their heroes getting dirty, and they don’t like it when magic solves too many problems. They’re fans of High Mud Fantasy.

Ok, that wasn’t quite as hard as I expected. But even if I have a better image now of my ideal readers, the next step according to John Locke is writing blog posts aimed at precisely those readers, posts that will draw them to my page and make them click on the links to where they can buy my books (see the images to the right *g*). Those targeted blog entries are the real challenge. How am I supposed to come up with posts that will attract thousands of readers of High Mud Fantasy and inspire them to buy my stuff?

Locke emphasizes how long he needs to compose those critical posts, but at the same time, he makes it sound so easy. You figure out what your ideal readers will be attracted to, and *whamo* they’re there and buying your books! You do, however, have to use Twitter to promote your blog until your posts go viral. Repeatedly:

When I’ve posted a new blog, I write a couple of tweets to my 20,000 followers and hope some will vist my blog and re-tweet the link. I also send group tweets to Twitter pals, maybe four to six pals per message, and maybe six to ten tweets altogether …. I tweet to different friends each time so I’m not hassling the same people every month. When they re-tweet my news, I let a few hours go by, or maybe a day, and then re-tweet their “re-tweets,” spreading the message out so I’m hitting different times of the day and night. This keeps the buzz going.

From John Locke, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in in 5 Months!

Well, aside from the fact that he leaves out the instructions on how to get 20,000 followers in the first place, if I can ever come up with a post that will bring my ideal writers flocking to my blog, I’ll be sure to write it. But promote it regularly on Twitter? Don’t people get irritated with tweets like that?

There are a lot of good observations in this book, however, probably first and foremost being that too many writers blog about writing. Which means the only readers they are attracting are other writers, not the folks who might eventually buy their books. Definitely something to think about there. I don’t have to worry about all this marketing too much yet, though. The first thing is to make a cover for Yseult and get the novel up on Amazon and Smashwords. Then I can start testing sales strategies.

Otherwise, I’m still doing pretty well on my goals. I added 700 words to a story that was requested for a rewrite, and progress on the medieval level of Fragments of Legend is steady. Since I set many of my goals up as weekly goals, I’ll post a summary at the end of the week.

John Locke and the Rest of Us: Defining a Target Audience and Getting Them to Come to You, Part I

While we were cruising the fjords of Norway, one of the books I read on my Kindle was John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Since one of my current goals is to get my novel Yseult up as an ebook before Christmas, I figure I can use all the advice I can get. At least I know that Yseult can cut it as a novel — it’s been through the editorial process and has sold over 10,000 copies in German translation. (I don’t have any numbers for the Italian and Dutch.) For Yseult, I don’t have to worry about things like hiring an editor for the monster historical fantasy and wondering if I will ever earn out the expenses.

What I do have to worry about is figuring out how to get Yseult to the audiences who would be interested in reading it. Which is what Locke’s book is all about. The problem is, he’s writing a book for authors writing a series character who can put out short novels similar in tone and plot on a regular basis (that’s where the million comes in — lots of publications selling to a regular fan base). Ok, so that doesn’t apply to Yseult, since it’s a retelling of the legend of Tristan and Isolde, but one that starts with the story of the female character rather than the male. But as most people know, the story ends tragically — no series there. It’s a Big Fat Fantasy of almost 200,000 words, and I have to admit, I really don’t want to give it away for 99 cents.

So is there anything I can learn from Locke?

He says the first thing a writer has to do to is define her target audience and then write posts that will draw potential readers to her blog — and the links to her ebooks on her sidebar. The mistake of most authors is that they write their blogs for other writers. Fair enough, guilty as charged. I have the sidebar with links to my books, but my posts are mostly about writing.

Then let’s tackle the next step, defining my target audience. As far as Yseult is concerned, I have a bit of an advantage here, since I have lots of reader feedback to help me try to figure it out. I know who my ideal reader is — her name is Valentina Coluccelli, and she wrote a review of Yseult when it came out in Italian. I hate reading reviews, but with this one, every step of the way, I was thinking – omigod, she got it! she knew exactly what I wanted to do, why I fiddled with the sources here and chose that version there! Finally, someone understands me! She even got some of the details that I thought of Easter eggs. 🙂

But how do I extrapolate from my ideal reader Valentina to define my target audience? That’s a tough one, and I fear it means I am destined not to sell a million ebooks in five months, sigh. My audience for Yseult is very specific, and while I have a follow-up novel also set in Sub-Roman Britain, the other novels I want to bring out as ebooks are all over the place as far as genre and target readers are concerned. About the only thing they have in common is that they share a certain feminist sensibility in the subject matter in that they touch on ways women have been disadvantaged over the centuries or (for my SF) try to illuminate “common sense” ways of thinking are biased against women.

And here I am, in the middle of the night, with way more words than I intended and no conclusion. So I think for the first time in my blog career, I’m going to have to make this a two-parter.

Otherwise on the writing front I’ve been fairly successful in repressing my frittering gene and have reached my word count goals. Haven’t started tackling any of the other goals yet, however. But at least I’m thinking about my target audience. 🙂

Northern Lights and New Goals

We got back from our cruise along the Norwegian fjords with the Hurtigruten late Saturday night. While it was a bit on the cold side up there in the Arctic Circle, it was stunningly beautiful trip, made even better by the fact that we saw the northern lights.

This wasn’t just luck, although of course that too played a role. But before I booked, I did a little research into when the northern lights are visible and was very happy to learn that winter is not a prerequisite. Night and clears skies (luck) are. Chances are better when there’s little moonlight. So I checked up on the phases on the moon for September / October. We didn’t want to go when it started to get too cold or the days too short — we wanted to see the fjords too, after all. Then I chose a date where we would be on the ship only during the darkest half of the month.

And we were rewarded.

I think writing goals are a little like that. You figure out what you want and what you can do and you plan accordingly. Luck plays a role too in meeting goals — you can’t plan for sicknesses or family crises or added, unexpected dayjob stress, just as you can’t plan for the sun acting up enough to produce stunning, dancing lights in the night sky. What you can do is take the information at your disposal and plan accordingly.

Unfortunately, I am not as reliable in my word counts as the phases of the moon, but what I do know is that I can produce 500 words a day pretty reliably, unless I get derailed by a major money-making dayjob project where time spent on job = that much more cash. Since I want to push myself a bit, and since I got a good chunk of writing done on the cruise (4500 words, mostly in the last four – five days), I want to aim a bit higher. At the same time, I have a number of writing goals that don’t involve word count, so I can’t aim too high — otherwise I won’t have time to tackle those other projects.

So here are my new goals for the rest of the year:

– Write 5000 words a week
– Get three short stories revised and out on the market
– Update my web page
– Put two new collections of previously published stories up on Smashwords and Amazon
– Get my novel Yseult up on Smashwords and Amazon before Christmas

It’s a lot, but if I can get better organized and cut out a lot of the “frittering” I do online, it’s not too terribly unrealistic, I hope. We’ll see. My goals might soon need some revision. 🙂