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!

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!

Pricing Your Self-Published Book

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

When you’re getting ready to upload your formatted masterpiece to whichever platform(s) you’re selling on, you’ll come across one tricky question: what will your book be priced at?

Finding the right price for your book might take a little research and experimentation. To take some of the guesswork out of the process, I’ve got a couple points for you to take into consideration.

 

Make Sure Your Price is Competitive and Appropriate

  • Do a little research: check out other books in your genre/niche. How long are they in comparison to your book? What do their ratings look like? See what they’re charging, then price yours in the same ballpark.
  • Keep in mind that, if you’re a new author, it might be hard to get readers who haven’t heard of you to buy your book if it’s overpriced.
  • Ultimately, charge enough to communicate the value of your work, but don’t charge so much as to scare readers away.

 

Should You Consider Putting Your Book on Sale?

  • Some authors benefit from putting their books on sale from time to time (knocking an ebook down to 99 cents – or free – for a day or two to drive downloads/purchases/exposure to new readers).
  • On the other hand, some authors rarely ever put their books on sale because they believe it teaches their audience to WAIT to purchase until the book goes on sale.
  • The bottom line here is: decide what works for you! Running promotions/sales may help grow your readership and audience. However, you don’t want to set a precedent that you might regret down the road.

 

What About the Perma-Free Funnel?

  • Many self-published authors make use of the perma-free “funnel” where the first book in a series/collection is permanently free (or just one book in an author’s body of work if they don’t have a series). The theory is that readers, once they’ve completed the first book, will be “funneled” toward buying other books from the author if they enjoyed the free one.
  • This method sometimes pays off, earning more readers and more sales. But sometimes it doesn’t. Again, make sure that you do what is right for you and what you think will pay off in terms of gaining new readers/fans.

 

Experiment!

  • Keep in mind that, since you’re an indie author, you get to decide how much your book is priced at at any given time!
  • YOU’RE in charge! So play around with different price points, run some sales (or don’t!), and consider giving the perma-free model a spin. See what works best for you and run with it!

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Have any pricing-related questions? Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

Formatting for Indie Writers

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

The time has come! Your manuscript is done and edited, your launch date is set, and you’ve weighed your options of producing your book in print and/or electronic. It is finally time to upload your manuscript!

But wait. You can’t just upload that word document to Amazon or that PDF to Kobo. No, you need to make sure you adhere to the proper formatting styles laid forth by each platform. So how do you go about this daunting task? Never fear – I’ve compiled a quick and general guide on the ever-terrifying matter of formatting.

 

Where Are You Selling?

Where are you selling your book (whether in print or electronic)?

Are you selling exclusively on Amazon via KDP Select?

Are you going wide and putting your book for purchase on all the big sites (Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Apple, Google Play)?

Create a list of all the platforms you’ll be selling on/through.

 

Do Your Research

For each platform on your list, make note of what file types they accept. This information can usually be found through each platform on their FAQ page for authors.

Note on your list which files types you’ll need to convert your manuscript to.

 

Evaluate Your Abilities

Do you have the appropriate software to create the necessary file types? Does your computer have a program that can churn out .mobi or .epub or whatever other file types you need?

Take a look at some online guides (search for guides or how-to’s on compiling certain files types with your programs, i.e. “how to format .mobi files with Scrivener”) and see if you have the time/patience needed to format everything correctly.

Do you feel comfortable with taking on formatting on your own? Great! Purchase any necessary programs you may need, then get to work!

Does the thought of trying to figure out how to format your manuscript make your stomach churn? If so, read on to the next point!

 

Formatting Services

If, for some reason, you cannot (or do not want to) take on the challenge of formatting, there is another option! You can use a formatting service. These services take your manuscript and do all the sticky formatting work for you.

These services charge a fee (some reasonable, some more expensive) for formatting your work. So make sure to do your research and find a company that offers the right service for you.

Weigh your time vs. cost. Do you want to do your own formatting and have the time to do so? Then format your own work and avoid paying someone else to do it. Are you short on time but can afford to pay someone else? Hire a reputable company/freelancer to format your work.

 

Uploading Time!

Once your manuscript has been formatted correctly, upload it to the appropriate platforms.

Voila! You’re nearly a self-published author!

Note: it may take a few days for your manuscript to be fully uploaded/appear for sale (as an ebook) online or to receive next-steps (for print books) from your printer. So make sure to upload early (before your launch date)!

 

What About Using a Distributor?

I’d like to address the option of using a distributor to upload your books. Should you wish to use a distributor (companies such as Draft2Digital), the distributor will send your book out to all the platforms you want it to be sold on. This saves you the time/hassle of uploading to each site individually.

However, I’d like to point out that most of the time, when you use a distributor, any changes you want to make later on to your book (like price or updating the manuscript file), has to be done through the distributor. This means that changes might take a while to go into effect since you’re going through a middleman rather than updating your books directly on each platform where they appear.

 

The Power of Scrivener

If you have yet to hear about Scrivener, I’d like to point you toward this magical writing tool. In my opinion, it’s a must-have for any serious writer.

Not only does Scrivener make writing and organizing your manuscript so easy, it also can transform your manuscript into nearly any format.

I could go on forever about why I love Scrivener, but you can go try it out for yourself for 30 days for free here.

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So there you have it, the low-down on formatting for indie authors.

Have any comments? Questions? Let me know in the comments below!