Fallen Behind During NaNoWriMo? 5 Tips to Get Back on Track!

Behind During NaNo(1)How has the first week of NaNoWriMo been treating all of you? Are your novels coming to life as you zip through your words? I sure hope so!

But, realistically, a fair amount of us have already fallen behind.

*gasp*

It happens to the best of us. We all start out each November with a few thousand words and the undeniably optimism that this will be the year that we write AT LEAST those 1,667 words (the bare daily minimum to write 50,000 words in 30 days) each day during NaNoWriMo. But, while our muses and creativity are in a frenzied excitement, real life doesn’t slow down.

Maybe you had to work some unexpected extra hours, or maybe you caught a nasty cold. Or maybe you just couldn’t bring yourself to face another bout of writer’s block the other night. Whatever the reason, many of us have already fallen behind where we should be for the NaNo word count and are now playing the desperate game of catch up.

We’re all human and it happens to most WriMo’s. But you can’t beat yourself up about it if you still have your eye on that 50,000 target.

To aid you in your quest to claiming that NaNoWriMo victory this month, here are 5 tips to help you get back on track!

1. Do the Math

Go into your NaNoWriMo dashboard and see how many words you should have, then look at how many words you actually have. What’s the difference? If you’re behind by 1,000 words, just write 500 extra words (on top of the typical 1,667 per day) for two days. Or distribute the difference in smaller amounts over larger days. Whatever seems doable to you. In fact, NaNoWriMo’s site has a section that tells you how many words per day you need to average in order to finish on time. To find this, navigate to the stats page of your current novel and look on the sidebar for “Words Per Day To Finish On Time”. Use this is a guide for how much you need to write in order to catch up.

2. Take advantage of small pockets of time

If you find yourself at a loss for extra writing time, start using those little lulls throughout your day to get those words in. Use part of your lunch hour to write. Or if you find yourself in a waiting room, whip out your notebook or laptop and start writing. Even if you just get 50 words written, those little spurts of writing will add up and boost your word count.

3. Make time

If you can’t seem to find enough time to get your writing done, it may be necessary to go on the offensive and create the time you need. Get up 30 minutes earlier (or whatever is plausible for you) than usual, and use that time to write the extra words you need. Or maybe order in some food one night to save on cooking/clean up time. Start carving out time so you can get back to writing.

4. Set aside a whole day

Let’s say that you’re REALLY far behind. Or maybe you just can’t seem to work productively in short 30 minute spurts. If that’s the case, it may just be time to go all out. That’s right, pick a day in the next week or so and block out a huge chunk of time – if not the whole day. Don’t make any other plans for that time. This is your writing time and you’re going to use it to get back on track with your NaNo word count. It may be a bit drastic, but sometimes you need a whole day to do nothing but write in order to refocus on the goal at hand.

5. Keep writing

No matter what happens, don’t get discouraged! Keep writing and hitting your goals each day. But Don’t get down if you fall behind. You can only catch up and stay on track if you’re both optimistic and defensive of your writing time. So keep at it, hold that 50,000 word goal in your mind, and go for it! You can do this!

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5 Ways to Promote Your Writing NOW

5 ways to promote writingAs I mentioned in my recent series on self-publishing, writing a book (or series or running a blog – really any type of writing) is half the battle for indie authors.

In order to help gain potential readers and make it as easy as possible for them to find your writing, you need to be your own marketer. You need to champion your own site, book, etc.

Here are the top five things you can do right now that will help increase your visibility online, attract new readers, and keep your loyal fans happy.

  1. Reviews. Ask your friends, your family, your readers, your doctor…ask everyone who reads your book to leave a review. I can’t stress how important of a part reviews play in the book-buying world. So what can you do right now? Reach out to your readers and ask for them to pretty please leave a review if they at all enjoyed your book. Or, head over to Entrada Book Reviews. They’re running a contest right now for a free book review. Check it out!
  1. Be Active on Social Media. Regular social media engagement can do wonders for promoting your writing. Take 30 minutes right now to head over to create accounts on any major sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) you’re not already active on. OR, use those 30 minutes to schedule some tweets/posts or engage with others. Be social! But remember, be professional.
  1. Show Your Newsletter Some Love. Set aside some time to send out/plan an email with a freebie, teaser, or update on your latest work. Make sure to thank those who are subscribed and make the email worth their while. OR, if you don’t currently have a newsletter, start one! Check out MailChimp if you’d like a user-friendly, free option.
  1. Give Your Website a Face-Lift. Streamline/re-brand/re-define your online presence. Check out byRegina’s amazing wealth of knowledge on the topic. OR, if you don’t have a website of your own, create a free one (check out WordPress for a free, beginner website). Every writer should have a website!
  1. Give Back. Gain a bit of publicity while giving back to the writing community. An easy way to do this is to write a guest post for a site, give an interview, participate in a book review/swap program, etc. Make sure links to your own site and work will be included, but otherwise, share your knowledge. Have something that our writing audience might find useful? Apply to be a guest poster for Sprint Shack!

Which of these 5 things are you excited to tackle? Have any questions? Comments? Leave them below!

A Tiny Guide: Prioritizing Your Writing Time

prioritizing your writing timeSomething’s been bothering me lately about my writing habits and, after a long week of solemn reflection, I came to a realization that I wanted to share with you: it is impossible to do it all.

That’s right. I’m talking to you over-achievers out there. And to those of you that are inundated with responsibilities outside of your writing life.

After switching into a new job a couple months ago, I’ve found that my time for writing has shrunk and my energy and motivation have been steadily declining.

After reaching a point last week where I felt that I could no longer keep up with all my writing commitments, I took a step back and evaluated the situation. What was really going on here? Why couldn’t I prioritize my time correctly and get into a good writing rhythm?

Then it hit me: I was overwhelmed. I’d taken on too much and assumed I could make it all work. And what was more, I had so many writing commitments on my plate that didn’t truly interest me, that I was avoiding them. So, to remedy this issue, I started breaking down my writing commitment and created a guide for myself that I’d like to share with you.

Below is a breakdown of the percent of my writing time that I spend on different kinds of writing (to make sure my time spent writing is manageable, productive, and enjoyable), as well as a list of questions to ask yourself when you need to figure out what you should cut from your writing workload.

Writing Time Spent on Different Projects

I’ve found that most of my writing projects fall into three different categories. I’ve broken down the percent of my writing time that I spend (or would like to spend) on each category every week.

Passion Projects (35%)

Blog Posts/Projects with Deadlines (25%)

Paid writing (40%)

Note: there might be some overlap between these categories – which sometimes makes things easier – or harder – to prioritize.

I’ve found that when I stick to this sort of writing schedule, I’m a happier, more motivated writer.

What Happens When Something Has to Give?

Sometimes there’s just too much. Sometimes, you have to make the tough call and resign from that editor position or give up trying to squeeze an extra blog post in each week. To help you make the decision on what to give up when you need to let something slide, use the below list of questions to determine what is really important to you and what you should let slide.

  • what makes you happy?
  • what allows your writing to grow?
  • what do you look forward to writing?
  • are you under a contract?
  • will you be letting anyone (including yourself) down if you don’t complete this?

The secret to being a great writer is loving your craft, devoting your time, and prioritizing your projects. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with uninspiring work or items that take up your time and leave no room for other projects.

Balance your writing life in order to let it grow.

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Do you have any tips for prioritizing your writing time? Let us know in the comments below!

Review Copies: The Indie Author’s Best Friend

Review CopiesNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

For any seasoned indie publishers out there, it’s no secret that getting reviews (which fuel sales) is often a struggle. “Why aren’t people buying my book?” they sigh to themselves. “Why aren’t they leaving reviews?”

More often than not, self published books need more than a great cover and stellar marketing. Sometimes, potential buyers need to hear from someone else that this book was great before they invest their money. That’s why, dear indie authors, you need reviews for your book.

But how do you go about getting reviews? How do you get other people to read your book and then take the time to say nice things about it?

The answer lies in review copies.

What is a review copy?

If you’re not familiar with review copies, they’re essentially copies of your book that you send off to people for free. In exchange for the free copy, those readers give a review of your book once they’ve read it.

Who to send review copies to?

Now, as tempting as it might be to just start chucking your book into the social media void and hope that some stranger picks it up and gives you a five-star rating, you’re going to need to strategize just a bit more. Be discerning with who you select to review your book. I recommend giving complimentary review copies to people you know and trust: try your beta-readers, a critique group you belong to, or die-hard fans that have been following your writing (or subscribing to your site)  for a long time. Try close friends and family.

Remember that reviewers are doing you a favor.

Give your reviewers time to complete the review. They need time to read, process, and then review. Don’t bug them incessantly to get the review done. Be respectful of their time. And it’s worth noting that it is possible that your reviewers might only think your book merits 3 or 4 stars. You might not get all five-star reviews. Remember that the goal here is not to coerce people who like you into giving you false, five-star reviews. Their reviews should be honest (because if you have a bunch of phony reviews, customers down the road will figure it out for themselves and feel cheated). But by picking people you think will like your work, you’re stacking the deck in your favor.

How to get reviewers their free copies.

Be as accommodating as possible. Ask which format would be best for your reviewer. Be ready to send them a .mobi, .epub, or .pdf file at the very least.

What if I’m worried about the file getting pirated?

When I first started sending out PDFs of my work to reviewers, I had a fair amount of anxiety.

“What if someone shares it with their friend, who then shares it with their friends? What if no one buys my book because it’s out there for free?”

This is a reasonable thing to worry about. But my advice to you is: don’t worry. I’ve found that if someone really wants to pirate your book, they will (no matter how many precautions you take). But not everyone will take advantage of this. People will buy your work if they really want it or like it or want to support you as an author.

If you still have reservations about sending out free files to your reviewers, try shifting your perspective on pirating: it’s better to lose out on a few sales and get attention and reviews for your book than to waste away in review-less obscurity. Not to say that you shouldn’t take action if you find out someone is giving your property away for free – but it’s just a way to look at it to ease your worries about putting your work out into the boundary-less internet.

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Have any other questions, comments, or tips about review copies (or self-publishing in general)? Leave a comment below!

Tips For Marketing Your Self-Published Book

Marketing SelfPubed BookNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

When it comes to self-publishing, writing and publishing your book is only half the battle. The other half is an arduous, never-ending process of self-promotion. Many indie authors would prefer to write than to spend time networking and marketing. And many writers don’t even know where to start marketing. But being an indie author means that you are the only person responsible for the success of your book. You choose how it’s marketed and where. And to tell the truth, I’ve often found this to be simultaneously freeing and terrifying. So let’s take some of the mystery out of marketing and start selling your book.

Why Marketing is SO Important
As an indie author (especially while your fan-base is still new), gaining exposure is the hardest thing to do. Making money with your writing is typically not as simple as putting your book up on a website and then watching the dollars roll in. In most cases, people won’t even know your book exists. That’s where marketing comes in. You need to put your book in front of potential readers and grab them with your awesome cover and product description in order for them to buy it, read it, love it, and then tell all their friends about it.

When to Start Marketing Your Book
As soon as possible! You can start marketing before you’re even done writing your book. This way you can create buzz about your book and get readers waiting to buy it. But I’d advise that you only do so once you’ve decided on the final title. Nothing’s more confusing to a reader than ever-changing titles.

And before you start spreading the word, make sure that you know – without a doubt – that you will deliver your book by the date you’ve set. Don’t let your readers down, or they might not come back when you actually do release your book.

When to Stop Marketing Your Book
Never! If your book sales dip one month, who’s to say that they won’t spike the next? Keep making your book known. You never know when you’ll reach a new reader that will become a life-long fan.

Where to Market Your Book
The key is to reach as many potential readers as possible – and it’s even better if you can target people who you think will actually like your book. You’ll want to research where your ideal readers are (what sites are they on?) and cater to them. Here are just a few examples of the most popular methods of self-marketing:

  • Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc.
  • Your blog/website
  • Your mailing list of people who have subscribed to your site
  • Other people’s blogs/sites (by doing a guest post or blog tour)
  • Book advertising sites (this one takes some research, but you can find sites that will advertise your book for you – this usually requires a fee or that your book meets certain criteria)

How Much Will It Cost?
Basically, marketing a book will cost as much as you want it to. Some people swear by advertising on sites like BookBub (which can get pricey), others like to spend a couple bucks on paid Facebook or Twitter ads. And then there are people who like to advertise without spending any money whatsoever (social media, your own site, etc.).

I can’t say that any method is any better than others. But this is how I approach my marketing:

  • I market anywhere that I can for free
  • I make sure any sites that I choose to advertise on are legitimate
  • I’m not afraid to spend money to make money (provided my budget allows for it)

Sticking to the Guidelines
If you’re marketing on any sites that are not your own (this includes social media), make sure you are adhering to the guidelines set forth by that site. Don’t lie about the genre of your book just to get advertising space and don’t spam your audience (see below). This sort of behavior will only alienate potential readers. Be respectful of platforms that are willing to market your book for you – read their guidelines and follow them as though your writing career depends on it.

A Word About Spamming
Please, self-published authors, do not spam your audience or followers with incessant tweets or posts or pop-ups pertaining to your new book. Yes, keep it on their radar, but do not send out 100 messages a day telling the same people the same thing over and over and over. Make sure you are professional and that you’re representing yourself in a way that you’re proud of.

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Any questions or thoughts on marketing your self-published book? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

 

Driving Book Sales and Visibility by Mastering Key Terms

Driving Sales & Visibility byNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

So after you’ve uploaded your book, your cover, and product description, you’re met with a page asking you to pick your “key terms”.

“What are key terms?” you think to yourself, scratching your head and settling for a handful of vague words that describe your book. “That should be good enough, right?”

Wrong! Key terms, while short and sweet, are very important! They’re one of the driving factors in how people find your book and where it appears on the platform you’re selling on. Essentially, key terms help the site categorize your book and match it up with people who type in those same (or similar) key terms.

So let’s talk a little about what your key terms should do and how to select them.

Make Them Count

You only get so many key terms (usually 10 or less), so make sure yours:

  • Are accurate and succinct (don’t misrepresent your book!).
  • Help you find your target audience – or rather, help them find you.
  • Place you in a niche category so competition is less fierce and it’s easier to get noticed.
  • Don’t repeat words that appear in your title/subtitle. Those are already taken into account by the platform’s algorithms that you’re selling on. Don’t waste a precious keyword by repeating yourself.

Pick Only the Best

  • Think about how people find books. What terms would someone search that would lead to your book?
  • Browse through the platform you’re selling on by clicking through their categories. See which books come up under certain categories. Are these similar to your book? If so, that’s likely where your book belongs. Make sure to add keywords in that will land you in those categories.*
  • Make a list of key terms for your book, then try to hone them down to about 10.
  • Ask your beta readers or editor to create a list of key terms that they think would best suit your book. They know the book, but can likely give a more objective opinion of it.
  • Test out each keyword on your list by typing it into the platform’s search engine and seeing what results come up. Are these books similar to your book? You’re on the right track! Are there too many results? Try another word that might land your book in a less competitive category.

*Note: some platforms require you to use specific keywords to land your book in niche categories. Research each platform’s rules, guidelines, etc. to get a better idea of what keywords you might need to select.

Remember that you can always change your key terms at a later date! Being a self-published author means you have the power to make changes to your book and its listing at any time. Take advantage of that!

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Any questions or comments about key terms? Let us know in the comments below!

Writing Stellar Product Descriptions: How To Write Back Cover Copy That Sells

product descriptionsNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

Product description, blurb, back cover copy. It doesn’t matter what you call the text that goes on the back of your book, inside the dust jacket, or on your website – that text is one of the most important things you’ll need to successfully sell your book.

Why is that? Think about what happens when you come across a book you’ve never heard of before. Sure the cover might draw you in, but what’s going to sell you on actually buying that book? The description.

In order to help you write the best possible product description, I want you to ask yourself this question: If you were at a bookstore and picked up your book, what would need to be on the back cover that would entice you to open up the book, flip through the pages, and buy it?

Here’s my list of elements for a successful blurb/product description:

  • Mention any pertinent awards or prestigious publications you’ve achieved as a writer.
  • Got any great reviews or accolades for the book that you can pull from? Stick the best possible quote or tagline on there.
  • The feel of the book should be conveyed through both the description AND cover.
  • For fiction: give a few sentences that describe the main plot points. Introduce your main character(s), your general storyline and the challenge/consequences that the character(s) is facing.
  • For non-fiction: note what the book is about and what it intends to do (answer a question, teach someone something, etc.).
  • The summary should make the genre evident. If the book is a sci-fi book, make sure the summary reads that way!
  • Engaging, vivid language.
  • Tone that is consistent with the book and the marketing language you’ve used so far (like in your launch).
  • Include a call-out to your ideal reader. Is this the perfect book for fantasy lovers? Great for people who enjoy a quick, lighthearted read?
  • Keep it relatively short and very digestible. Potential readers will often skim over this section. Make it skim-friendly with bold terms, italic quotes, headings, paragraph breaks, etc.

If you’re looking for some examples of great product descriptions for self-published books (particularly fiction), I’d recommend checking out books from David Wright, Sean Platt, and Johnny B. Truant. For example, check out their product descriptions for Yesterday’s Gone and The Beam. When in doubt, browse through Amazon or Nook and see what you think works and what doesn’t for different books.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to do a couple different drafts/rewrites of your product description. Give it the time and attention it deserves. If you throw something together last minute, it will show – and your sales will likely reflect it.

You can always hire someone to write your copy, but unless one of your beta-readers or editors is a great copy writer, I’d suggest you write it yourself. After all, you know your book best!

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Any thoughts, suggestions, or questions about writing product descriptions? Let me know in the comments below!