Guest Blogger – Megan S. Johnston

I am pleased to welcome August’s Guest Blogger, Megan S. Johnston. This month’s offering is on Marketing Your Novel and it comes from an exciting new self-published author. I first came across Megan on Twitter and I have followed her the last few months, interested in her blog and her writing style. Her book, Transition (The Chrimea Hunter Series), is the first of six in a planned series and debuted May 2012. In addition to writing young adult fiction, she is an avid reader of paranormal romances. You would never know to look at her photo but she is also mother of four with seven grandchildren. I’d say this helps to keep her pulse on the young adult genre. Megan also has a large Twitter and Goodreads following so she speaks with an Indie’s voice of authority. On a personal level, Megan is also warm and open, happily married and living in Washington State with her dogs. I highly recommend her to you. 

Marketing Secrets for Authors (Indie or Traditional)

When I first started writing I had no idea what was in store for me. At the time, I thought the writing and publishing would be the hardest, but I had a lot to learn. Marketing is by far the most time consuming of the three. I discovered that selling and marketing books is a completely different process to writing and publishing them.

Whether you get a publishing deal or you are a self-published (indie author), the reality is you have to market, market, market. It is fortunate that in today’s world most of us have computers, which allows us to market globally. All it takes is a little time and a lot of effort and the cost to you is minimal.

If you are a first time author, don’t wait until your novel is finished! You need to brand yourself as you now, because you are selling yourself as an author. Readers need to place your name with the type of novels you write. And remember; don’t leave it in the hands of your publishers or other professionals. Take a chance, and do it yourself.

You need to build an author platform before your novel comes out. You ask, what is an author platform?

Well, it is how you reach your reading/book buying audience. If you already have your name out there, you already have an in, and a platform. So you would more than likely not have a problem getting a book deal. But, if you don’t, then you need to start building one now.  It is never too late, but sooner is always better.

Most of us have friends and family and an email, this is the first step in building your platform.  Do you have an existing business with clients and customers who will perhaps buy your book? Make sure to include them in your email blasts.  Be sure to include community groups where you participate, too. Remember, no spamming, so be sure to identify yourself up front and thank them for their support.

Here are some of the social media/networking sites that are a must when you start building your platform.

  1. Make sure you have a blog. You can get one for FREE on WordPress.com and it’s pretty self-explanatory. Blog often. Visit other blogs with similar interests and comment. Earn a following.
  2. If you already have a Facebook page, which most of us do these days; create a fan page just for your writing. Facebook takes you through the process, step by step. Your author page is separate from your personal page and you can keep one for updates about new releases, signings, professional news, etc. The person page allows you to branch out and share more of yourself like family photos or fun trips.
  3. Start building a twitter page and a following; you can tweet on your progress as you complete your novel. By the time you are finished, your followers will be excited about reading your novel. You can set up your twitter page to put out several tweets a day. But remember; don’t just tweet about your book.  It’s all about connecting with other people, so tweet about what’s happening in your daily life as well. If you already have a twitter following then you can convert them into book buying fans.
  4. Join Goodreads.com, this is a fantastic way to connect with other authors and readers in your genre. Join in on the discussions in the genre you write in. Prior to your book release, do a few freebees on Goodreads, get the readers in your genre to give you reviews for a free .pdf version of your novel. Ask the readers to give you reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Nobel and Smashwords, this will help sell your novel. The more reviews, the more sales you will see when your novel finally hits the internet. You can also do blog tours prior to your release, and it won’t cost you a penny, just your time. And, make sure you host other authors on your blog as well; they will appreciate it and most will return the favor.
  5. Other sites such as Pinterest.com, Google+ and Smashwords are other social media sites you can check into. Remember that publicity is sometimes just about keeping your name out there, even if it is with a simple tweet, a photo, a review of someone else’s book. Say visible.
  6. Then there is podcasting which is creating audio and distributing it via an RSS feed so people can subscribe. You can podcast your own novel, or use an interview format.

Some great reasons why you should podcast are:

It’s a wonderful way to have your work out in the public eye. Readers can now listen to your work instead of reading it. And, you can connect with other authors who also podcast their work. Audio has taken a step into a new dimension and is a great way to communicate with your readers and other authors. They can listen to your work as they drive to work, on the bus, working out or just relaxing in the sun. You can reach more readers if you decide to do a podcast. Most of all, it’s fun!

What authors want most is to sell their books, whether they are a traditional or a self-published author. Publishers want to sell books too, so having a good platform is very important to them. Some authors get book deals from building a good platform.

The best part is, you can do all of this for FREE! So start building today.

If you don’t have any of these sites going right now, don’t stress, it takes time to build your platform. But in the end, it’s worth it.

I know it’s a lot to take in, but you have to start somewhere! So if you haven’t already, start your blog today. It’s the first step into becoming an accomplished, well-known author.

I wish each of you much success and look forward to hearing your marketing strategies.

Yours Between the Lines,
Megan S.  Johnston

Blog: http://megansjohnston.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/megansjohnston1
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/MeganSJohnston

Megan’s books are available through AuthorHouse, Amazon and other online retailers.

Book Publishing and Publicity News

Good morning all! Lots of bits and pieces to share, so let’s get started.

Hopefully, you’ve seen that my poetry book is published and now available for purchase at Authorhouse (tho web site has technical problems), Amazon and other place. Part of the publication process included receipt of an “author’s copy” of each style of book. That means I get an AC of my hardback and softback. Those have not come just yet. However!  My husband ordered a book from Amazon the moment we were told the book was live. It came Thursday and I’ve looked at it. Big smiles. Took a picture of him reading his copy. And he’s gotten very possessive of it too. (picture was posted to Twitter)

He's reading MY book!

He’s reading MY book!

I still can’t get over the lovely cover (by Sean Foley and his model was wife Jill).  The cover is very polished and totally original. I plan to enter the cover and book into several awards.

But it was fun to write my publisher and tell them I saw my book before I even have my copy. Too funny.  Looks good too, so you can purchase yours with confidence.

Not so with the ebook. First, nothing was said to me about “special” ebook formatting or anything I needed to know that made ebooks “different.”  Needless to say, I purchased an ebook so I could see how it looked. Am not happy with the result. The ebook has some formatting issues making some poems, tho in the book, not appear in the Table of Contents. Some photographs are not with their captions. Footnote numbers are attached to titles instead of being beside the titles. Just formatting errors that need fixing. I’ve already spoken to the designers who have contacted the ebook division, so I am working that issue. If you purchased an ebook (or were planning to), hang on. I will see to it that these items are resolved.  Onward to other areas:

Items I ordered – like launch invitations and raffle gifts for the party – arrived.  I sent out some announcements cards to folks who do not “see” or “read” me online.  Working on my list of places to leave business cards, too.

Another suggestion for new authors — I was told that it helps to leave a copy of your book in reception areas (with permission of the owners), like doctors’ and dentists’ waiting areas. Also, need to connect with the local library, even the chamber of commerce, town hall, and other offices with receptions (like insurance offices, beauty parlours, etc). Never know where you might get a sale from! 

The behind-the-scenes-work is never ending. Waiting on my offiicial press release so I can connect with the local papers. Need a book in hand to go to the library. Finalizing arrangements for some local appearances.  Speaking of actual engagements, authors should try for local ladies groups (garden clubs, reading clubs, foodie meetings) as well as a meet-and-speak at your local libraries. That’s where I’m at for now.

Still working the book trailer. Decided to do a short UTube video of the first book to tide me over. Will show it here when I get that done.

Fun author notes:

I completed my Goodread’s Author page:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7174564.Sherry_Rentschler

I also completed my Amazon Author page:
http://www.amazon.com/Sherry-Rentschler/e/B00DZPNMAC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1374248562&sr=8-1

ON THE DESK:  Still reading book #3 of Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Very good.  When I get some quiet time, reading will continue. 

INKWELL:  Opened my WIP (the mystery novel) and the vampire WIP. Planning on doing the vampire story (stories?) for November’s NaNoWriMo. I can also work on my other stuff too. When the weather changes, I am much more prolific.

Guest Blogger:  Apologies to all for the late delivery of the blogger. I promise to have all posted by Monday.  Between the book coming early, hubby being on vacation this week, getting a patio built this week (and workers running around my yard all day),  I’ve been a wee bit distracted. But I’ll have new stuff for you next week.

Its Saturday. Time to do some laundry, post the #DailyTwitamin on Twitter (hope you are following), clean the bathrooms (oh how I love toity duty), dust and vacuum. Thank goodness I can put on some Justice League for my Saturday morning cartoons (some youthful traditions die hard!) while I polish off the furniture.

BAZING!  In case no one noticed, I changed the BAZING link.  My bff has taken down her last blog and so I decided to highlight blogs I follow which impress me. For now, I hope everyone will take note of The Mess that Is Me. Robbie Cox, a past Guest Blogger here is a delightfully insightful writer. You’ll enjoy him.

FINALLY:  I still don’t understand Facebook. But here’s the link to my Author “page.”  (Is that right?)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sherry-Rentschler/185809561579364?ref=hl

And this is the link to my “regular” Facebook place, the more private me.

https://www.facebook.com/sherry.rentschler

I will NOT wish because…

DAY 6 Blog Challenge is:  If you only had three wishes what would they be? (no wishing for more wishes).

I’ve given this thought all day and I find myself torn by several questions. First, I have put my husband in the role of the genie who keeps asking me what I want to wish for.  At first, I laughed and then as the day wore on I took all this a bit more seriously.

Consider the potential power of three little wishes. Could you change the world? What would you change that would do the most good? How do you know that what you do would stay good and wouldn’t ultimately trigger something very bad? Do you do moral things or monetary ones?  Do you heal or give medicine for the long-term? What is the best approach?

Can you wish for knowledge so you will know?  But you can’t see the future. Do you wish for precognition?  And isn’t that like magic?  So do you become a wizard? How about a philosopher’s stone?  Or maybe you should deal in alchemy?  Can you change the universe this way? 

At what point does “doing” become “too much?”

Do you do something dorky like saying, “I wish for world peace!” and then watch the world fall into an apathetic apoplexy? Does taking away the struggle make us less likely to survive?

Three little wishes. Wow. There are so many implications.

So here is my answer:  I’ll get back to you. There is no easy answer and I’m not making any rash wishes. So, Genie, stand by. I’ll call you when I’m ready. I have the potential to change the world. And that is a scary thing.

Sorry, that’s the best I can do.

ON THE DESK:  I finished the Kevin Hearne novel, HUNTED. Short review on Goodreads if you want to see.  Praise for Hearne. Love him.  Next up, the Mortal Instruments series (because of the movie).  Yes, I know its more YA but hey, I adored the Harry Potter books! So, here’s hoping.

IN THE PEN:  Now that this book of poetry is done, I’m working on other projects like the book trailer and my mystery novel.  It was suggested that I do a second book of poetry for next fall and call it “Dead Bones.”  You know, I am considering it…

SOCIAL MEDIA:  I just want to make a comment about Twitter. Am I the only person out there who follows people because I want to without expecting them to follow me back? Oh sure I unfollow some people who don’t follow me.  But I do go out and seek to follow some folks just because I’m interested in them and I don’t get upset if they don’t follow me back.  However, it seems to me lately that it is all about “the follow.”  If you don’t immediately follow people, you get dropped like a hot potato. OR, once you follow them back, they take two days and then drop you, maybe hoping you won’t notice and stay with them. Ha. But honestly, what happened to just following because you care? Am I outmoded for thinking this?

GUEST BLOGGER:  New Guest selected! Who will SHE be?? Let me just say that she’s a very successful author. Stay tuned!

Guest Blogger – Elaine Calloway

Welcome to June’s Guest Blogger, author Elaine Calloway. I first met Elaine online over five years ago. I was just getting started on Twitter and she was one of the first to welcome and “follow” me. I’ve followed her progression as a writer and watched her success unfold over the years. She’s worked hard to achieve a solid reputation (as we all know being an Indie Author is an undulating path), and her Elemental Clan series is garnering high praise. Elaine and I have some things in common – New Orleans, love of cemeteries, things strange and ethereal, and good seafood. I firmly believe she is part gypsy moth whose blood runs in sepia ink. She makes magic with her imagination. I’m proud to have Elaine as this month’s guest and I present her insights on Self Publishing with some solid advice.

As always, Elaine will monitor and respond to all comments and questions thru June 30.

Tips for Indie Publishing

Ah, Indie Publishing, more commonly called Self Publishing. It’s the craze these days, on Twitter, Amazon, Wattpad, and all the social networking sites. Authors prefer it because they can take control of the reins from “The Big 6” in New York and put the responsibility for success or failure on personal shoulders. 

Many like to make this process seem easy. It is easy, isn’t it? I can skip so many steps if I do it on my own! 

Wrong.

Don’t mistake what I’m saying. Choosing to upload a book yourself and handle all the cover art, editing, promo, etc. on your own is a wonderful feeling. But it isn’t necessarily easier, and you definitely still need to have professionals work on part of the process. 

Step One. Make sure you have written, rewritten and edited your book. Make sure you’ve had people besides your family read and comment on your book. Your mom may be your biggest fan, but she likely won’t tell you that your plot has holes or your heroine isn’t believable. An objective person can. 

Besides, those amazing plots that sound wonderful in your head may not make sense to the average reader. You need a good critique partner or group to tell you where your strengths and weaknesses are. We all use certain phrases too much, forget to add in emotion in some scenes, cause more confusion than clarity on occasion, etc. We’re human. We need feedback. 

I can’t stress enough that writing is also a solitary process. You need to connect to others for support, whether it’s in-person at a local writers group or a virtual option like Twitter chats or challenges like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). 

The point of writing is to enjoy the process. Writing is solitary; we live inside our heads with our characters. Make sure you’re getting some objective feedback before you upload your book to the world. Then edit, edit, edit. And then edit again. 

Step Two. You need a cover artist. Yes, a professional. Even if you know a thing or two about graphic design, I still maintain you need a pro to design your book cover. And let me dispel a myth for you. You CAN get a cover design done for less than $1,000. When I first began researching cover art, many writers said that a decent graphic designer costs at minimum $500 and up to $1,000 was not out of the question. 

But wait! I don’t have that kind of money! 

Relax. You don’t need to have that much money in the bank. There are plenty of pros as well as art students who upload images to Deviant Art (www.deviantart.com) and often will charge reasonable rates for book covers. Also, Amazon has creative people who can do book covers for you. Some top-notch authors have their covers done for less than $300. Start browsing the site. Sign up for a free account so you can download your favorite images to reference later. 

One good tip is to gather Web links for a few images you’re fond of, and ask some friends what they think of say, 3 or 4 images. Find out which is their favorite and why. 

To my surprise, the image I fell in love with, no one liked. But everyone seemed intrigued by the close-up of an eye. I took that feedback, browsed Deviant Art some more, and began to contact those artists whose work I liked. You can send notes to artists on the site easily. 

One thing to remember: in addition to looking for visual talent, you also want someone you can work with. Some of the artists on Deviant Art have still not even opened my note or responded (from 8 months ago). Those people, regardless of how beautiful their designs, will not make good subcontractors if you want to keep a schedule for your book release. 

Out of the six or seven artists I contacted, the one who responded the quickest is the woman I hired. She was prompt, I loved her work, and most especially, she was willing to work with my ideas, with shaping something that I only had a vague idea about. I could not be more pleased with the cover she came up with.  Take this link to see my latest! http://www.thewriterscanvas.com/waters-blood-book-one/ 

Another thing to watch out for is that some artists don’t have the rights to the images they make on Deviant Art. The professionals do, but some just play with images and don’t ever intend to sell them for professional purposes. Be aware. I found quite a few artists whose work I loved, but I learned they didn’t have the rights to the images, and not only that, the person who did have the rights (or the stock photo company they took the image from) had gone out of business. Not a place you want to be in. 

Use your best judgment. You want someone collaborative, who responds in a reasonable amount of time to email, is willing to do PayPal or another easy form of payment, etc. A picture is worth a thousand words. Make your book cover count!

 Step Three. Formatting your manuscript. I’ll make this tip short and sweet: If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, creating and applying styles to various sentences/paragraphs/fonts, then my suggestion is to format the book yourself. I found the process took about two hours from start to finish, including going through the entire manuscript, removing extra paragraph returns, making headings into a bold style, etc. 

Every digital option (Smashwords, Amazon, etc.) has its own rules. If you are not comfortable applying styles, then hire someone to do the book formatting for you. I’ve seen prices from $50-$100 to do this service. Honestly, I didn’t shop it much because I was able to do it myself. 

One word of caution: keep a back-up copy of each type of digital format you complete! There’s nothing worse than having to start over. 

Step Four. Upload your book to the Web! This is the simplest part of the process, though I will mention that it usually takes 24-72 hours before the book is “live” and available for purchase online. If you’re marketing a book release for a specific date, be sure to keep this in mind. Upload the book 2 days early to promote a 5/1 release, for example. 

Step Five. Write more books & market your current one! Don’t overdo it. If you tweet about your book, make sure only about one in 20 tweets is about your book. Nobody likes a pest. Blog about it, mention on Facebook, definitely get the word out, but keep writing! The main way to gain a following is to keep producing the stories that touch human souls and make us want to read more. 

Hope that provides some insight to future indie authors. Now, go forth and write! 

Yours between the lines,
Elaine Calloway

Website: www.thewriterscanvas.com
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/writerscanvas

Newsy stuff

There is a great deal of information on the web about “how to have a fab book launch party.” Everyone has a recommendation and an opinion. So I’m going to be winging mine, thinking of how I can make it practical AND interesting/fun. Real challenges there. I thought about having a private launch with just some family and a few friends, but you only get one first launch. So I may be expanding that with some cool ideas including something that YOU can take part in too!  More on this soon.

NEXT GUEST BLOGGER! June’s new guest will go live this week. Twitter’s first hint is that SHE like seafood, cemeteries, and striking eyes. Bigger hint tomorrow. Any guesses?

ON THE DESK:  Writers, you must read! And read. And read! You need to make it a priority because you learn from other writers what sounds good, feels good, how to write dialogue, what you like (and don’t), experience different POVs….reading is good for inspiration too. Do it. Stop offering excuses like, “it inhibits my creativity” or “I’m afraid I’ll start writing like the stuff I’m reading.” Really?  If you do that, stop. Reading helps you find your true voice. It is okay to emulate and experiment. Just write and read. Do both often.  That said, I am working on Diana Rowland’s second book Blood of the Demon.  I’m starting to truly enjoy this series and am happy I have purchased all book now published. I do my reviews on Goodreads, so pop over there if interested in what I like and what I rec.

SNEAK PEEKS:  Reminder that the peek is temporary. It will disappear without warning.  I only ask that if you read it, that you tell me what you think, what it makes you feel, if it peaks your curiosity. And I thank you.

Parting thought:  I couldn’t sleep last night. Brain was working overtime on “things to do.” I tried the Weather Channel, a little solitaire, some quiet time staring at the ceiling in the dark. Thoughts drifted to friends who have real troubles, a sister who celebrated a birthday, friends who are missing in the quiet, strangers struggling with flooding or fires, people who are dealing with real hot-bed issues. It tends to put things in perspective. Just a thought.

Book Cover and News!

BIG news!  My book, Paper Bones, is only three to four weeks from publication!! Oh my gosh!!!  So much to do/plan/prepare for! I thought I had two months yet! Yikes! Now begins the final push. Have much to do, including the book trailer which will appear on YouTube and elsewhere.  I have some terrific friends who will be lending a hand (thank God for them!) on the technical stuff.

I’ll be setting up an Author Facebook page shortly. I’ll post when it is live and hope you will contact me so we can connect there. I don’t have a clue how to work it yet, so much to learn there (bff to the rescue on this issue; thanks Meli).  Same goes for WordPress. Improvements/changes coming.

Ah, I have never shown you the cover! It was custom prepared by a professional graphic artist, and my friend, Sean Foley.  Here it is:

Poetry book cover by Sean Foley

Poetry book cover by Sean Foley

I am fortunate to have a foreword by author Mary Deal. Mary is a Pushcart Prize nominee, Eric Hoffer Award winner and a finalist in several Indie book award programs. If you don’t know Mary, you should.  There’s a link on the side to her website, Write Any Genre.

ON THE DESK:  Reading Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland, first in a series of five so far. I’m over halfway through and have decided to order the rest of the series. What does that tell you?

NEXT GUEST BLOGGER:  The Guest Blogger for June appears next week! Who is SHE? Look for teasers next week.

Exciting stuff! Don’t forget to check out the current Sneak Peek. I remind you that it will disappear without notice and a new thing will appear later. I will let you know only when the new stuff appears.

Now, I’m going to try not to hyperventilate!  Stay tuned!