Guest Post: Rachel Smith – Four Simple Ways To Get Your Book Noticed

Rachel SmithThe t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted. Your book is done and you’re ready to publish. And the hardest part is over…but your work is not done. Now it’s time to begin your marketing plan. First, let’s assume that your manuscript is as polished as it can be – you’ve had it edited and maybe even beta read by family and friends. Let’s assume that you’ve picked out a great title, designed the perfect cover and clicked that final upload button to the publisher of your choice. Now what? How do you get the word out about your book? Here’s a quick list of ways you can get your book noticed:

Get your book reviewed. There are lots of different types of reviews. Editorial review are generally the most expensive ($299+). These reviews are by neutral third parties (yes, we do those) where an editor reads and reviews your book. You are then allowed to use that review in your marketing materials, on the cover, etc. But you can also leverage the blogger network.

What does this mean? I call it the ripple effect. If you have an amazing, compelling book – it will be successful. Remember the last time you read a truly excellent book – didn’t you want to tell everyone about it? There are quite a few bloggers that will read and do reviews for books they are interested in, some of them are even free. But it takes time, perseverance and research. There are several companies that will also manage the process of getting these reviews for you (yes, we do that too). Other options include contacting local media, newspapers and television. You’ll have a better chance of being talked about in your local news if you present your story in an interesting way for the editor of that outlet. Media outlets are always looking for more content that they can provide to their readers.

Use your social networks. This seems obvious but you don’t need to spam your friends and family. However, getting a mention to your book, a link, a like, a post can help a friend of a friend of a friend find your book. And don’t forget for every reader you have, your circle of influence expands. Social networks don’t have to be limited to online contacts. I was recently checking out at a store when the woman in front of me struck up a conversation with the cashier. She said something to the effect of, “I think that you would like my music. I just finished recording this and I’d like to share it with you.” She then left a copy of a CD with the surprised and pleased employee. That made an impact.

Donate when you can. There are libraries and schools near you that are always in need of new books. Find out how you can donate a copy or two of your book to them. They may have an area where they spotlight new books or local authors. Take advantage of this free publicity. Many of these library employees are in the business of recommending books on a daily basis. Also, don’t overlook that many retirement homes or senior citizen centers could benefit from your book as well. All donations are tax deductible either as charity or as a marketing expense. Ask your tax advisor for more information.

Sponsor a book club. There are thousands of book clubs all over the world that meet in person and online to read and discuss a specific book. Contact the leaders of these groups to suggest your book as the book of the month/week, donate it or offer to speak to the group personally for a question and answer session. Everyone loves to get a little “special attention” when they are involved in running or participating in a book group. These experiences give you an opportunity to form relationships with people that can become “super fans” and help grow your reputation while increasing awareness about your book.

These are just a few ways to increase awareness for you and your book. Most are fairly low cost but all involve forming relationships with people. You can download more marketing ideas free at http://www.entradapublishing.com/marketing_guide.html to get you started.

You can do this next step! Just take a few minutes to brainstorm your ideas and write them down, including the ones that you had while reading this article. Your book won’t sell itself. It need a little help from you – but don’t forget…YOU CAN DO it!

~

Rachel Smith is the lead acquisitions editor and marketing manager at Entrada Publishing. She works with beta readers, editors and authors to get books into selling and award winning shape. She prides herself on having found two authors through beta reading for publication, holding their hand every step of the way and celebrating when they signed their first book deal contract. You can get help with all areas of book marketing, book reviews, beta reading, cover design and more at www.entradapublishing.com.

6 Secrets To Winning NaNoWriMo Early

For most people, dedicating a whole month to writing 50,000 words can sound a bit shocking, and that number alone can scare a lot of newcomers out of even trying NaNoWriMo. But for the insane percentage of people who do participate in it every year, we know that 50,000 words is not that daunting once you break it down into daily goals of 1667. I know that I personally have a few people on my buddy list who stretch for 200,000 words in the month of November, which is way too intense for me, but all the power to them. It’s all just a matter of setting your daily goals a little higher than the suggested word count.

But sometimes the word count isn’t the scary part. Sometimes, it’s the time that people have to set aside to work on NaNoWriMo on a daily basis. It’s not always possible for people to work on their project for 30 days straight, and this is where finishing your 50k early comes to be most handy.

Today we are going to be talking about how I beat the clock and win NaNoWriMo early every year. Here are some of my secrets to getting ahead and staying above the suggested daily goals:

  1. I personally write an average of 2200-3000 words a day on days that I am working, and 5000 words on days that I am not working. I tend to split up my writing sessions into 3 separate times (early morning before work, before dinner, and before bed). This helps me split up the times and helps me gather my thoughts before binge writing.
  2. I try to do at least one write-a-thon a week. Sometimes I don’t even set big goals for them, but I don’t separate the sessions. If you want to learn more about my tips for write-a-thons, check out my post about them!
  3. Sprints are my absolute best friend during writing sessions. I am generally a focused writer and don’t have a procrastination issue, but I do get easily distracted by the Internet, by my kitten and by all kinds of chores and things I could be doing instead of writing. So I set up a schedule for my sprints. I will write down what sprint times I want to do, and then I will also schedule my break times and what tasks I want to do during the break times. Whether those tasks are switching my laundry over, or sweeping the apartment, or anything that helps me feel more productive, they really help me justify sitting down to write for longer periods of time.
  4. I scout out fast writers in the forums and add them as buddies on the NaNoWriMo website. I often find myself racing a lot of them or trying to keep up with them. I am very competitive by nature, so it’s really easy for me to get motivated when I see people 4000 words ahead of me. I keep a tab of my writing buddies page open at all times.
  5. If you don’t think setting a word count goal for yourself will motivate you, try using the daily-suggested word counts on the NaNo Stats page. Usually, if I can’t get motivated to write a bunch of words, I tell myself that I am going to write ahead two days and set my goal for the one on the website accordingly. For example, if it’s Day 5, I will tell myself to write ahead to get to Day 7 on that day instead. Even if you only write ahead one day, you are still a step ahead.
  6. When you get ahead, don’t stop writing. Even when I am 10,000 words ahead of the suggested goal I make sure I am writing at least the recommended number of words per day, because as soon as you stop writing you will start losing momentum and you will start losing progress. One day will turn into 2 days and that could and has easily turned into a week of no writing. The goal is to win early to give yourself free time at the end of the month. Obviously if you have plans on a day that you would normally be writing, don’t hesitate to take a day off if you have to, but do make sure that your reason is never lack of motivation.

I really hope that all these tips have given you some ideas on amping up your writing sessions and have given you some insight into the processes of those people who have already won. The biggest thing to remember is that while NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a challenge, it’s also supposed to be a fun experience full of writing habit-building as well as a way to meet other writers locally and around the world. Don’t rush through NaNo just to “get it over with.” With all that extra time, you could set a higher goal, you could start editing and take up some of the sponsors on their winner offers, or you could just spend the rest of the month cheering on your fellow Wrimos!

If you have any tips or tricks for getting ahead and winning NaNoWriMo early, please feel free to leave those in the comments below. I would love to hear them and maybe try a few out!


Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 yeaMazie-Bishopr-old writer and journalism graduate from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

The Power of Write-A-Thons

For NaNoWriMo participants, the word “write-a-thon” tends to mean a few different things. It can either mean that you plan to plot out a bunch of chapters, set a daily goal and write your heart out until you hit that goal, or join an insane write-in event where you are surrounded by people who all plan to write a certain amount of words in a set period of time and will stop at nothing to get there. These options can all come with varying stress levels, but the common denominator is that you are setting a goal and not stopping until you write your way there.

Write-a-thons can be an amazing tool for people who find themselves procrastinating or falling behind in word count or who are just more goal driven. I personally do write-a-thons on a weekly basis during NaNo, and this year I plan on doing at least two 10,000 word days.

There are a few important things to plan before you sit yourself down for a day of intense writing, so here are my fool-proof tips to surviving a write-a-thon:

  1. Schedule your sprints and breaks. Do the math ahead of time and calculate your average word count within a set time. Then figure out how many sprints of that length you will need to do to get to your goal.
  2. With that information, you are going to want to set aside some time just for your write-a-thon and make sure that you won’t have any long-term interruptions. It is really easy to lose momentum when you are writing for a long period of time.
  3. If you need to be held accountable for your word count, pick a writing buddy or tweet your goal. I find that as soon as I put my goal on my social media or tell someone about it, it helps me hold myself accountable and push myself there.
  4. Race a friend! This will be a great motivation if you are a competitive person. (Co-founder note: Check out our past posts on NaNoWagers for inspiration!)
  5. Take 5 to 10 minute breaks in between each sprint. Make sure you are staying hydrated and snacking frequently. Stand up, walk around, and get the blood flowing!
  6. Reward yourself at the end or per sprint. If you are sitting down to write 5000 or 10,000 words you are more than deserving of a reward or two! I find guilt-free video game time or Netflix time to be a great reward so far this year.

I really hope that these tips help you a bit when getting ready for a write-a-thon and I hope that you consider trying it out. If you are used to writing the suggested daily goal of 1667 words, I would really recommend you try a 3k day or a 5k day—they are so rewarding and really can boost your NaNoWriMo spirit!

If you have any other tips for having a successful write-a-thon, please leave your tips in the comment below, and feel free to add me as a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo website (username is DaisyforMazie)!


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from
Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

NaNoWriMo Prep: 8 Things to Do Before NaNoWriMo Starts

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It’s that time of year again, when the leaves start to fall, the crisp air bites at your cheeks, and all of the coffee shops are full of the smell of pumpkin… and crazed over-caffeinated writers preparing for the impending storm. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but for people like me, this is the month of readying yourself for the battle against a novel that seemingly never wants to be written. Ideas for stories or novels swarm my brain on a regular basis, but as soon as NaNoWriMo is in arm’s-reach, it’s like they go into hiding.

There are millions of things we suddenly remember while NaNoWriMo is in progress that we wish we would have thought about before–or, at least, that’s the case for me. So I took it upon myself last year to keep a little ongoing list of all the things that I should have done before NaNoWriMo started. Here are some things you can think about or start working on now to have a more productive November.

Find Character Inspiration and Names:
We all know the struggle of character naming in the heat of the moment. Even if you are a “pantser” at heart, you know the time that building a character can take away from your word count. So why not do some minimal planning and figure out your characters before you have to stress about them?

Create/ Brainstorm your Cover Art:
If you are anything like me, you know the pain of going onto the NaNoWriMo forums and seeing all the beautiful cover art all ready in the signatures of all the eager and prepared Wrimos. You try to ignore them, but in the back of your mind, every sentence you write is backed up with an unbearable longing for your own cover. For me, it was my greatest downfall and distraction in the first week of last year’s festivities, and I will definitely be working on mine before November this year.

Research your Genre and Take Note of Any Applicable Conventions:
This is a great thing to do, especially if it is your first time writing within this genre. Knowing the conventions or other common features of your genre will really help you get in the groove, and it’s one less thing you will need to research when you get started.

Do the Math, Plan Your Numbers for the Month:
If you are a student or work full-time, you will need to work around your life’s schedule to win NaNoWriMo. The lovely word count tool on the website will try to tell you that you need to write roughly 1600 words a day, but for some people that’s simply not doable. So go through your schedule, find the best writing days, and try to amp up your word count on those days. This is also good if you suffer from chronic stress and need to give yourself a little break once or twice a week from novel land. If you need a few days off, just calculate that into your weekly numbers and make sure that you can make up for them on another day. The biggest part of NaNoWriMo is keeping a steady pace and making sure you take care of yourself and life outside your novel, as well.

Book Some Days Off for Catch Up or Damage Control:
This one kind of ties in with the last tip. Slipping and falling behind is pretty easy to do–life happens and you can’t expect the world to stop for NaNoWriMo (not yet at least). If you can afford to do so, I highly recommend keeping at least one day near the middle and end of the month dedicated to catching up. I personally keep a few days closer to the beginning of the month to get ahead so that I can focus on all my duties as a Municipal Liaison, and that works best for me.

Figure Out Your Goals and Rewards:
I’m a big believer in setting goals and planning rewards for when goals are achieved. If you are someone who finds themselves unmotivated often, then you should definitely set multiple short-term goals and rewards, such as for every 10,000 words written. But if you just need that one big push to get to the end, give yourself one big end goal and work towards that. Every year my reward is a winner shirt for the year and a big celebratory dinner with all the friends that had to put up with crazy-NaNoWriMo-me.

Prepare Your Inner Editor:
I want to talk more about this in a later post, but for now, I am going to explain what you can do to get ready for your novel frenzy month. Any seasoned Wrimo knows that the biggest word count killer is your inner editor. That little voice in your head that moves your fingers to that backspace button, makes you read back 8 pages, or convinces you to delete whole chapters. You need to start training yourself to fight against that little voice. I have some tips and tricks to help you beat it once and for all, but right now, you can start by practicing the ever so simple mantra “write now, edit later.” It will seriously change the way you write anything and everything. There are settings for you to turn off your word-processors editing tools if that helps you at all, but just start practicing, I promise it will make a huge difference.

Clear Your Workspace and Computer of Distractions:
Nothing is better than a well-organized workspace. All your references in order, the perfect little spot for your coffee… it all helps everything flow better when things are in place. I always make sure to clean up my computer while I’m in the cleaning mood. I hide all the distracting files or games in a folder and flood my desktop with motivational quotes and inspirational images or references. It’s really helped me out when I am looking around for something to distract myself.

How do you prepare for NaNoWriMo? Will you be trying any of these tips this October? Let us know!


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Navigating The Eight-Point Story Arc

yzu1CGEoRQ6IE7yj8rc9_IMG_8812 copyAs we all know, writers tend to fall into one of two categories: plotters or pantsers. There’s the ambiguous gray area between the two that some of us wade into from time to time, but ultimately, most of us tend to lean one way or the other.

However, whether you choose start your Big New Idea with a blinking cursor on a blank Scrivener document or by filling entire notebooks with outlines and character profiles, your story has to have one thing in common with everyone else’s—regardless of their planning methods or lack thereof. For your story to incite curiosity, pull a reader through the pages, and ultimately fulfill its promises, it has to have a narrative arc, also known as a story arc).

Take any classic or modern work of literature and you’ll likely find elements of the Eight-Point Arc. I’m going to describe it here, and I’ll use examples of several different works to avoid creating one big spoiler for any particular story. Keep in mind that your story’s narrative arc goes hand-in-hand with your character arcs, which I discussed a while back here.

The Eight-Point Story Arc

  1. Stasis. Known sometimes as “exposition,” this is the part of the story that sets the scene. Think of Katniss hunting just outside District 12 and observing the starvation and desolation when she returns within the broken electric fencing.
  2. Trigger. Something happens that triggers the protagonist and kicks off the Quest. In The Hunger Games, Katniss’s sister, Primrose, is selected for the reaping and Katniss volunteers in her place.
  3. Quest. The protagonist embarks on a quest; in The Hunger Games, Katniss’s quest is to partake in—and win—the Hunger Games for the sake of her family.
  4. Surprise. Self-explanatory, the surprise is something unexpected that changes the story for better or worse. One surprise that may stand out to Harry Potter fans is Harry’s discovery that he can speak Parceltongue in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, which decidedly alters the direction and outcome of the book.
  5. Critical Choice. The critical choice is, by name, critical—that is, it can’t be made by accident and the result has a lasting effect on the story and its characters. Often, this is where we get a full picture of the protagonist’s true colors, such as that fateful moment in which Robb Stark chose to marry outside his arrangement with the Freys.
    (Note: arguably, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice And Fire series is composed of MANY different intertwining story arcs in order to create a massive epic in which there is no true single protagonist. For this example, I’m focusing strictly on the story arc of the Starks’ quest to vengeance in the HBO show).
  6. Climax. A direct result of the critical choice, the climax is the height of drama, the point in the story at which all the built-up tension over hundreds of pages finally peaks. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this is the moment when the war against Voldemort erupts at Hogwarts.
  7. Reversal.This point in the novel is what separates a true climax from a fireworks show. Your climax shouldn’t solely fill the purpose of forcing a reaction; rather, it should be a consequential moment that leaves your characters forever changed. This state of altered being is the reversal, the decelerating moment in which Jasmine is safe, Aladdin’s selfish ways are changed, and the genie is set free.
  8. Resolution. The story has come full-circle and the characters are now in a new form of stasis. This isn’t the way things were, it’s the way they are and will be (or, where the sequel will pick up with a brand-new trigger!). Example: the hobbits returning to the shire at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

Now, those of us who wing our way through novels may have a hard time with this because we feel restricted by outlines and spreadsheets; that’s okay, and it’s not expected that everyone prep and write a story in exactly the same way. If you’re struggling to wrestle out all the main plot points of a story before you get writing, try applying the arc to your story after the first draft is written. Hold up the skeleton of the arc to your full, well-rounded story, like a star frame to the expansive night sky, to identify the constellations of scenes and events that correlate with each of these phases.

Examining your story this way, through the lens of the Eight-Point Arc, can help you smooth out the narrative flow and identify kinks in your plot. Likewise, if you’re having a hard time with unruly characters whose actions aren’t matching up with their personality or the direction of the plot, character arcs can also help—whether you use them as planning devices or editing tools.

Do you use the Eight-Point Arc to plot or edit your story? Let us know how it works for you—or whatever else you use to polish up your narrative instead!

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!

~

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

Be Professional, Dammit!

be professional dammitNote: This is a post meant for writers who are interested in self-publishing. You can find more articles on self-publishing here.

In this series of self-publishing posts I’m doing, I wanted to make sure to touch on an important topic for indie writers: professionalism.

While self-publishing has grown into a legitimate and respectable market, there still remains a stigma among many writers and readers. Often, people shy away from self-published works, saying that they’re garbage. To be fair, there IS a lot of self-published garbage out there (that’s inevitable since ANYONE can self-publish).

But don’t forget, there’s also plenty of professionally published works that stink. Just because a book is published by a professional publisher does not guarantee that it’s good. To dismiss all indie works is extremely short sighted.

For those of us that take self-publishing seriously and take every measure to make sure we’re putting quality work out there, it can be frustrating to have our work stereotyped as garbage just because SOMEONE ELSE wrote something horrible and vomited it up onto the internet.

So today I’m issuing a call-to-action for all you indie writers out there: be professional!

I mean it. Sure, you might be doing all the formatting and editing and cover designing on a minuscule budget, but make sure you write a QUALITY piece (this means having others look at it objectively before you publish), have a gorgeous cover, and do everything in your power to make your readers (these are your CUSTOMERS) happy.

I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret secret: Being unprofessional makes you and your product look bad. And it makes all us self-published writers look bad. Would you want to buy a book that looks like the cover was designed in MS word in 5 minutes? Would you leave a good review for a book riddled with typos? Probably not. Take your time and make sure you’re putting out a great product.

Another not-really-a-secret is this: If you put out a professional-level book, you will get more sales and more positive reviews. This keeps your readers happy, loyal, and willing to invest their time in more of your stuff. That’s the point of self-publishing, right? To get your work out there? You want to do everything you can to stack the deck in your favor.

So what do you need to do to be professional about your publishing? My friends, it means you have to go the extra mile. Yes, get a designer to do your cover (you can get professional-looking covers done at Fiverr for $5!) if you’re not an amazing graphic artist. Definitely have people you trust tell you if your work is worth publishing or if it needs edits. Eliminate ALL typos or grammatical errors. Format your book nicely, market it appropriately, and always go out of your way to make your readers happy.

So be professional. I don’t know how else to say it. Be. Professional. Do it for yourself, for your fellow indie writers, for your sales, your reputation, and – most importantly – your readers. Present something you’re proud of. Hold yourself to the same standards that a traditional publishing house would hold you to. Then go even further than that.