Marketing, Self-Publishing, Success Mindset, Tips, Writer's Life, Writing, Writing Advice

Writer Resources: Wix

WR_ WIX

Welcome back! In this week’s post, I am bringing you Wix. I’m sure you’ve seen their advertisements on YouTube—Rhett and Link from Good Mythical Morning are currently spokespeople. You might have seen some advertising on television too, though I’m not entirely sure about that, since I haven’t had television service in about five years now.

If you’ve seen it and you question whether it could really be as simple as they make it out to be, let me spoil the rest of this post for you: IT IS.

The Particulars

The Price: You can use Wix for free. You won’t have a custom URL, which I like, but it will look like this: username.wixsite.com/sitename/page-url. If you want to upgrade to a premium plan so you can use your own domain, here is the price breakdown as of today’s posting:
Wix Prices (1)

Ease of Use: ♦♦♦♦♦


What’s The Fuss?

Before I stumbled onto Wix, I spent several weeks fighting with another hosting site which, at the time, seemed to advertise more. This other website, let’s call them SquireSparce…claimed to provide a website building platform which was super simple and gave highly professional results. It…didn’t.

Wix really does.

Not only can you drag and drop, resize, and generally edit your website flawlessly, they also make it super easy to edit the way your mobile site looks and feels, too.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is this crazy, headache-inducing hullabaloo that eludes almost everyone. It is important, though. Wix guides you through all the tough stuff, though, and within a few clicks you’re far better off.

Newsletters

If you tossed a virtual rock around the writing community, you’d hit on at least three-dozen separate blogs and vlogs advising that writers have a newsletter and email list. You can absolutely use a service like MailChimp for this, but if you have your website with Wix, you needn’t look any further than their integrated Shoutouts system. It is just as easy to create professional-looking newsletters as it is to edit your website.

In my humble opinion, we writers should focus the majority of our time to our books. The platform-building and marketing stuff is important, too, but if you can streamline your marketing time and keep yourself in as few places as possible, that just frees up more writing time. Boom!

Tons of Apps

Want an easy-to-customize contact form? They’ve got it.
Want to integrate your Instagram feed? It’s simple.
Want to add a status tracker your readers can see on where you are for your WIP? Not hard at all.

There are hundreds of things you can add to your Wix site,
so simply you won’t find yourself reaching for the aspirin.

Easy to Use

I know I’ve said this a few times in this rather short post, but it deserves to be repeated. Instead of attempting to show you its beautiful simplicity through a series of screencaps, though, I found a short video on YouTube I recommend watching if you’re interested in learning more about it.

I Put My Money Where My Mouth Is

$14 per month, to be exact.

If I didn’t make it clear in my last post, no matter my skill level in the resources I’m bringing to you in this series, I believe in them 100%. I use Wix for my website, and WordPress (obviously) for my blog. Why? Because there is no other blogging platform I’ve found that compares to WordPress.

If you’d like to see what my Wix-built website looks like, please give it a gander, by clicking here. (Bonus points if you sign up for my newsletter!)

That’s all I have for you today, friends. I hope you have an excellent, super-productive week! See you soon!

xoxo,

Aila


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Getting To Know Aila, Uncategorized

Aila Factoids. Factoids about Aila.

Aila Factoids.
I’ll say a lot of things I might not mean before I’ve had my coffee. No, wait. Sorry. I might say a lot of mean things before I’ve had my coffee. Where’s my damn coffee?
-Aila Stephens

When I said I had mapped out my blogging topics for the quarter, it was the absolute truth.

Thing is, I don’t want to talk about what I had planned to talk about.

I had planned to talk about dialogue today. I’d tell you things like show the action around the dialogue instead of telling with an unnecessary tag. But I don’t want to. You can find that advice anywhere—and might find it here at some point, I’m not sure. But you won’t find it here today.

Instead, I’m going to just tell you a few of the most random facts about myself you may or may not know. Enjoy. (Also, it’s possible may need coffee.)

 

ds-63-qua-duds
This may be an accurate representation of what I looked like after the incident.

I was once attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets. Or as I like to call them, Hell’s Flying Minions. It was a horseback riding incident. We were way out in the mountains and the lead horse stepped in a nest and the bees started swarming. My horse was third from the back, and I can vividly remember seeing all the yellow little shits on my horse and thinking how it looked like the most terrible case of chicken pox I’d ever seen.

I was in terrible pain, as the bees had gone up the legs of my pants, down in my boots, in my shirt, and one was stuck in my helmet. After stinging me just above the eye, it continued to bite me multiple times. I stayed on my horse, miraculously. I also had to be put on steroids to save my eye, which swelled to nearly twice its size.

 

I love to go hiking. I also have more hiking gear than I’ll ever use. I just think life makes

photo (4)
To get here, you have to walk between two boulders about 18-24 inches apart.

more sense when I’m out on the trail. My thoughts are clearer, my spirits are lifted…and damn it, food just tastes better when cooked outdoors.

Hiking isn’t easy, but that’s one of the things I love about it most. I love having a challenge; hell, I even love when I’m three seconds away from my breaking point and feel like giving up. Overcoming the odds and laughing in the face of adversity is thrilling, addictive.

I don’t go in the summer, though. I may enjoy a challenge, but heat stroke isn’t something I’ve ever cared to try. I love it the other three seasons of the year. My favorite trail is the Kephart Prong in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I am so grateful I have a husband who indulges me and enjoys getting his boots dirty, too.

 

Never_Mind_the_Buzzcocks_logo
I’m unashamed: I love Noel Fielding.

I’m a British television nut. Of course I love the ones we’re [almost] all familiar with: Doctor Who (always a Tennant girl) and Sherlock, but I’m also into lesser known shows like The IT Crowd, The Paradise (two seasons was not enough, damn it!) The Tudors, The Detectorists, and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Peaky Blinders, The Crown, the list goes on and on and on. I can’t fathom what life would be like without the Big Fat Quiz Show of The Year. What’s amazing is that I don’t have cable television, and must stream anything I want to watch, so while I don’t watch TV a lot, when I watch it, I watch a lot of it. It makes sense if you really think about it.

 

Youth
I want my first two goats to be named Lucy and Ethel. Or Rose and Donna.

I want my own hobby farm. Hang on, let me amend that, I really, really, really want my own hobby farm. I grew up hearing stories about my family’s farm, and I loved traipsing around its fields, though they grew very little by the time I was born. I’ve always liked growing things. I used to have quite the little raised garden which produced some of the finest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. If I’m being totally honest, my ultimate dream would be to have a hobby farm and be SAHW. (You can use writer or wife there, they both work and they’re both true.) It’s kind of hard to do in an apartment, but I did find a community garden I can rent a plot or two from this spring and grow some things.

 

pexels-photo-708587
Pepperoni is not my friend, nor am I a friend to it.

I’m allergic to sodium nitrate/nitrite. I spent quite a while in a hospital when I was in kindergarten from eating a hot dog during a school field trip. I won’t describe what happens to me when I accidentally consume it. I’m pretty sensitive to it, though. When I was in culinary school we had to learn to use it in its raw form, which is this very fine, very pink powder and I basically had to don a hazmat suit in order to participate in the hands-on portion of the lecture.

 

black-and-white-cartoon-donald-duck-spotlight
Someday, Duck. Someday.

I have this knack for disappointing myself every year by planning a vacation I’ll likely never take. I’ve never been to Disney World despite the fact I plan a trip there every year, and have planned a trip there every year for at least the last fifteen years. One of my yearly traditions is ordering the Vacation Planning DVD from their website and watching it, eyes wide like a seven-year old. I have booked and cancelled more WDW vacations than Elizabeth Taylor has planned weddings.

 

in-a-semicircle-907843_960_720.jpg
Here we see the delicious red gummy bear breaking the news to all the disgusting green gummy bears that while they shouldn’t be ashamed, they are vile and will be passed on to someone else.

I don’t eat green gummy bears. 

Which is weird because green is my favorite color. We’ll call that a bonus fact.

I also like gummy bears. Especially the sour ones. I’ll also tolerate sour green gummy bears because they’re sour apple. I don’t know what the regular green gummy bears are supposed to mimic. Vomit-coated death, maybe? I don’t know. All I know is when I treat myself to a bag of Haribo (there is no other kind of gummy bear, mind you), I must first pick through the bag and get rid of all the green ones. My husband’ll take them, but they can go in the trash for all I care. It is possible I feel a little too passionately about this. I’m not a fan of the clearish ones, you know, the pineapple ones. But I don’t insist on their exclusion.

 

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for you today, as I think I’ll save some for the next time I don’t like what I’ve chosen for myself to write about.

Until next time, lovelies. xoxo


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Marketing, Self-Publishing, Tips, Writer's Life, Writing, Writing Advice

Social Media, Take Two

Social Media

To recap our discussion last week, we went over the general trajectory of social media sites for the coming year to hopefully pinpoint where to devote your social media time…but what do we do while we’re there?

Before we dive into the particulars today, let me make a statement on how I feel about social media—be forewarned, my opinions are not always popular.

Social media can be, and often is, a huge waste of time. It is also hard to avoid and even harder to avoid when you’re trying to promote yourself and your work: so it is almost a necessity. Sure some authors manage to get by without finding themselves shackled to tweets, posts, likes, and pins…but even well-established, traditionally published authors use social media to connect with their readers.

That said, as indie authors we can’t afford to lose any of our precious writing time. Our editing time. Our research time. Our revising time. Our design time. Our formatting time. Our educational time. (If you don’t think becoming a successful indie author requires some sort of education, I fear for you.) If you’re following my train of thought here, pursuing this passion requires an indie to wear a lot of hats. Each particular hat requires a lot of time…and social media isn’t the best of bedfellows with productivity. Always keep that in mind.

If you’re content with your writing journey remaining a hobby, then perhaps this advice does not apply to you…but if you want writing to replace some or all of your income at some point, then I urge you to think of social media in a new way: as yet another tool. Tools should be used when necessary, put away when not, and you should always know how to use them.

And that is what I want to explore today. You’ll notice I will make some confessions along the way about mistakes I have made, and my own personal goals for this platform in the coming year. You should also know the majority of these findings come from my own personal experiences. Yours will probably vary. To find and follow me on any of these platforms, click the icons below.

Anyway…let’s go!

FacebookFacebook | Of the social media sites I used prior to two weeks ago, Facebook is my least favorite for marketing purposes. I think it is safe to say that Facebook is mostly used to keep track of family and friends. I took a quick poll of my own friends and family and next to no one said they use this platform for anything else: more than one of these people volunteered the fact they never click the ads that pop up in their feed.

For an indie author, breaking that barrier is difficult. Your family and friends will likely share posts you make, comment on them, etc. but will that cross the even more daunting barrier of getting what I call outside engagement(By this I mean you’re attracting the attention of new people, those outside your established circle. I.E. Not your mom or best friend.) Getting attention, in this manner, on Facebook can be like threading a needle with your eyes closed, one handed.

Perhaps this is why I find Facebook to be so stupidly tedious. There’s so little return on the time investment. It’s disheartening to look through the analytics. So, I’m here to admit: I suck at using Facebook. I’ve been trying to read a little here and there about how to improve my FaBo game, and I was surprised by a few things I read.

It seems when it comes to other social media outlets, hashtags are the name of the game…not so much when it comes to the Book of Face. According to PostPlanner, hashtags may be crippling our posts! Now I’m not sure what sampling of posts they used for this study, but here goes:

  • Posts with 1 or 2 hashtags averaged 593 interactions
  • Posts with 3 to 5 hashtags averaged 416 interactions
  • Posts with 6 to 10 hashtags averaged 307 interactions
  • Posts with more than 10 hashtags averaged 188 interactions

Ian Cleary from Razor Social says using pointless hashtags on Facebook is, and I am paraphrasing, a turn off. Don’t do it. Stick to only relevant hashtags and only use two.

Peg Fitzpatrick from Canva (I LOVE CANVA!) reminds us that even though using too many hashtags on Facebook can oddly limit a post’s reach, we should still embrace them as they are one of the only ways to expand your reach without paid advertisements. (Which, by the way, I know next to nothing about, therefore I don’t feel qualified to give any advice on the subject. Perhaps another time.)

I guess the moral of the story is: Hashtag wisely, folks.

Cons: Hard to find legitimately new followers, unless you have some degree of notoriety and people will already be searching for your name. If you want to be seen by fresh eyes, you’ll almost certainly have to pay for ads, and there are no guarantees at all you’ll see any clicks. The analytics page isn’t as easy to decipher as Twitter’s.

Pros: Your family and friends will likely share your work for you with their family and friends.

My Facebook goals for 2018: Post consistently while also experimenting with what content works. I’d like to have a minimum 300 FaBo followers by the end of 2018. I have a lot of work to do.



Twitter (3)Twitter | 
I have had much more luck navigating Twitter. The use of hashtags on Twitter is much more user-friendly than it is with Facebook, and used much more often which is great! And not so great. It’s the very definition of a catch-22. You can’t be seen if you don’t use the popular hashtags…and sometimes you can’t be seen when you use the popular hashtags. Why? Because everyone else is using them too, and the most popular way to view them is to view the latest tweets at the top. Meaning your tweet from thirty-seconds ago with the hashtag AmWriting is now probably 20-30 tweets down, if not further.

One of the things Twitter does amazingly is their analytical tools. You can easily monitor your most popular tweets and when your best times of day are. If Twitter is something you’re looking to get serious about as a tool, you really need to familiarize yourself with the analytics. This will help your impressions and your follower count blossom.

My favorite thing about Twitter is the ease of finding other writers.

My least favorite thing about Twitter is it can be really damn difficult to find readers.

The writing community on Twitter is vast. Ever expanding, really. We’re everywhere, sharing our work and hashtagging like it’ll save the world! But, as for people who are just seeking to find a new author or a really good book…I’ve yet to really find the magic formula for this. Sorry.

You can, and probably will, sell a few books to people you meet on Twitter. After all, writers are readers. Just really freaking busy ones with their own stories to write. I went on an Indie diet in 2016 and part of 2017, and every book I bought was found on Twitter. So, don’t give up…just don’t get discouraged, either.

I think the best possible way to utilize Twitter as a writing tool is to use it to network with other writers. Find people to share in this journey with you. Learn from them. Teach them. Read other indie work. Befriend and be involved. This is where I have found 95% of my beta readers. In that sense, Twitter has been invaluable.

But never forget that you aren’t writing your novel if you participate in every single writer’s chat and hashtag game. Do these things, fine, but sparingly.

Cons: Can be hard to find readers seeking out Indie authors, therefore not the best way to make sales. Because the writing community is so vast and there is always some sort of chat, event, or game going within it making getting lost and inadvertently wasting time is easy to do.

Pros: Such a vast and active writer community. It’s easy to find help, guidance, support, inspiration, beta readers and critique partners.

My Twitter goals for 2018: Learn even more from Twitter’s analytics tools, and use the data to increase impressions, interactions, and up my followers by 25%.



GoodReads2GoodReads | 
You want to find readers? GoodReads. This website is a reader’s delight. It’s easy to find new books and new authors, more finely tuned than on any other social media outlet. It’s a beautiful relationship. There are really only two reasons for a person to be on GoodReads at all: either they’re a reader or a writer. It’s the best site for a captive audience.

But…well…GoodReads has made a controversial move in the indie author arena. One of the things that has been so gosh darn attractive about GoodReads has been their giveaway platform. It was so easy for readers to find great, new material this way because it was a free service to authors, and allowed readers to participate in giveaways with peace of mind. Now, GoodReads is going to charge out the proverbial ass for hosting a giveaway. If you’re an indie author PAY REALLY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THIS:

Standard Giveaway will cost authors/publishers $119, per book. There’s not a lot included with the standard giveaway, except for paying an awful lot of money to give something away.

Premium Giveaway will cost authors/publishers $599, per book. SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS to give something away for free. What do you get for this exorbitant fee? Special placement. That’s literally the only difference. Both packages also offer an email to contest winners reminding them to leave a review for your book.

I don’t know about you, but this new change doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies. My pragmatism dictates that GoodReads is providing a service, and they should be able to charge people for that service if they want to. I’m fine with that part. But I am not so fine with the amounts being charged. I think it’s grossly excessive and really doesn’t allow indie authors a shot at a competitive edge.

My advice for using GoodReads going forward is to make the most out of your page, utilizing the interview questions, trivia questions, etc. etc. but, I don’t recommend shelling out that much money for a giveaway. The odds are really stacked against indies for a ROI in this giveaway arena. Run your own giveaways and save yourself the money. Look at books in your genre, see who is reading and enjoying them. GoodReads is a great tool to learn and study your key demographic!

Cons: Giveaways are no longer free, and the fees are astronomical.

Pros: Users are usually dedicated readers who seek out new material. There are ways to interact with fresh faces. GoodReads is more powerful than it may seem at first glance.

My GoodReads goals for 2018: Jazz up my page, and try to initiate more interaction with readers, utilizing their message boards and browsing books related to mine and finding out all I can about my key demographic. (Which might help with other social media sites in the long run.)


 

Instagram (1)Instagram | I do not know very much about Instagram, to be honest. I’ve avoided it for a long time, and it is going to take a lot of diligence and practice for me to make using it a habit. What I do know about IG is that it continues to grow and gain momentum at a rate I never imagined.

 

For those that don’t know, Instagram is all about posting images with engaging captions and multiple hashtags. Hashtags are very important in Instagram, as people do scroll tags in order to find content relative to their interests, unlike most of Facebook users–Facebook being IG’s big papa.

Instagram Stories is apparently the hit new thing, though it really isn’t a new thing. New doesn’t last very long on the internet. Basically, Stories is a way to share multiple images on IG that tell, well, a story. As a writer, you might like to compile some pictures that show your habits during a full day of writing. Your coffee, your desk, your computer screen (if yours looks like mine, it’s framed in a myriad of post-its), the sandwich you have for lunch, a sneak peek into your day planner, a close up of your editing notes…you get where I’m going here? Stories seems to be a way to give even more of a glimpse into what goes on behind the curtains.

Cons: I’m not certain it will be the easiest place to sell books, as I think people skim for images more than they will click buy-links. Time will tell me if my prediction is correct.

Pros: It’s the hip place to be on the internet, apparently. It’s growth is expanding, and the experts at Entrepreneur.com believe it will be the best social media site for marketing in 2018—time will tell if that proves true for the Indie author community.

My Instagram Goals for 2018: Learn to use it and make a point to use it more frequently. I’d like to gain 1000 followers by EOY.


Pinterest (1)Pinterest: I am a habitual Pinterest browser…rarely do I ever post things. I’d like to do a better job with this. Currently I use private inspiration boards, but I’d like public ones. Also, I fully intend on making shareable and printable documents that are so popular on this platform—which I think is more viable than trying to find book buyers.

Instagram (2)Google+: Use for hangouts if you’d like to have group discussions, otherwise it’s currently a waste of time in my humblest opinion. I am still holding onto hope, however, that the geniuses at Google will someday figure out how to revolutionize their social media side…until then, I won’t utilize this platform.

YouTube (1)YouTube: If you’re braver than I am, starting a YouTube channel might be a great idea. Don’t do it if you aren’t 100% sure, however. Nothing comes across worse than someone trying to force themselves to be comfortable in front of the camera, or worse yet, professing expertise on a subject they know nothing about. While I technically do have a YouTube channel, I only have two videos posted: my book trailers. Creating book trailers isn’t a surefire way to sell books, but it can’t hurt. In fact, I noticed after posting my most recent trailer, I did sell a few copies of my eBook for Sex, Love, and Technicalities.

If you do decide to make a trailer for your book, as with everything else you publish, make it to the absolute best of your ability…which might mean hiring someone to do it for you if you lack the skill or are unwilling to learn the skill. (I will be doing a more thorough blog post in Quarter 2 of 2018 on producing a quality book trailer.)


My BIGGEST pieces of social media advice:

  • Be authentic, whatever platform(s) you use. Don’t be someone you’re not, because that is a tough act to keep up for long. We all fall back into our old habits before too long. If you’re not a naturally comedic person, don’t try to be, because…
  • We’ve talked a lot about selling books…but don’t sell your books. You’re selling you.
  • Follow etiquette. Don’t spam people. Don’t invade established hashtags with the intent of some sort of coup. Give credit where credit is due, always.
  • Social media is only a piece of the author platform puzzle: don’t neglect the other parts.
  • The old adage “you catch more flies with honey” always applies.
  • It is absolutely fine to start building your author platform while working on your debut work…just don’t forget to also work on your novel. The interest you’re building in yourself and your book needs to actually go somewhere.

 

That’s all I have for you today. When we reconvene on Thursday, I’ve got a special interview I know you’re just going to love!

Until then: Happy reading and writing, my friends!


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Self-Publishing, Writer's Life, Writing

Crisis of Creative Faith: My Take on Self-Publishing

crisis of
Table Rock, as seen from Caesar’s Head State Park in Greenville County, SC. This is affectionately known as my Thinking Spot.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
– Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

So the other day, Brittany Pettegrow asked me if I would be willing to join her on a webcast this coming Saturday (8/5), to talk about the glamorous writing life. Because Brittany is awesome and amazing and hilarious, of course I said yes—even if my introverted spirit immediately began comprising a list of a hundred reasons why this is a bad idea. But, I gave my gut instinct a quick uppercut to the chin and didn’t back out.

Then I logged into Twitter this morning, as I do, and I noticed that I had been tagged in a tweet by her loveliness. Lo an behold, she had created a promotional tweet for the webcast and it turns out that she’s put together a lovely panel discussion on the topic of traditional publishing versus self-publishing. Here’s the lineup:

Me, myself, and I will serve as the author who has been exclusively self-published.

Rebecca Frohling, an author who has been exclusively traditionally published.

Cori Lynn Arnold rounds out the panel as an author who has been both self- and traditionally published.

Now, as terrified as I am of cameras and sounding like a bumbling idiot on a live webcast, I am extremely excited about this topic. Why? Because I have a lot to say. Why do I have a lot to say? Because as shy as I am, I’m even more opinionated. Also, I know that this isn’t going to be an all-out attack on anyone. I’m not scared these ladies are going to tear me down. That’s just not their style.

So, Aila, why the crisis of creative faith? Because as soon as I realized the topic at hand, I knew that the vast majority of whomever watches this webcast is likely to believe that there is little merit in self-publishing. There are just a few preconceived notions out there about the indie-industry. 😉 For a nanosecond or three, that made me feel… inadequate. Like the underdog. But who doesn’t love the underdog?!

In order to prepare for this webcast, I decided to clear my head and shake off this crisis before it could get the better of me. I know my reasons for believing in myself and self-publishing, but I needed to figure out how to convey them properly, so I went to my thinking spot and did some thinking.

Without further adieu, here are some of my thoughts—the good, the bad, and the ugly—on self-publishing.

Yes, Amazon is beyond flooded with really bad Indie Books

I cannot argue that it isn’t easy for absolutely anyone to call themselves an author these days. You write a few words, you stick it on Amazon for nothing, and you slap a price tag on it. Boom. You’re an author. The truth is, this is as beautiful as it is frustrating. It might really be someone’s dream to write a book set in the Wild, Wild, Dystopian West about a zombie-Saloon girl who stumbles upon a portal to the galaxy of Ishicon-7-Alpha-Nyablar-Blue. Hell, that doesn’t sound like one book, that sounds like a series. So they write it. (That’s the beautiful part. They’ve followed their dream.) But they don’t realize that there is much more to being an author than merely writing a book. They slap together a cover on MS Paint (let’s not pretend that this doesn’t happen) and then they hit the submit button and now the whole world can get that bad boy on Kindle. It might be riddled with dangling modifiers and plot holes large enough to swallow I7ANB (for short), but their book is now available alongside yours and mine.

While it’s hard to believe that many dedicated writers out there would settle for putting out third-rate work, there is a subset of people who truly believe that cranking out a slew of titles will make them rich. They think writing is an easy way to make a quick buck, and the more titles the better. So, you get a virtual ton of books that look like a drunk second-grader wrote them during a time-out. This is very frustrating to those of us who aren’t writing for the riches, though riches would be nice, but because we have a story we want to tell…and tell it well.

Writer vs. Author

Some people debate whether someone can actually call themselves an author if their work isn’t published by an actual publishing house. After all, the aforementioned hypothetical writer shouldn’t be placed in the same league as, say, George R.R. Martin or JK Rowling, should they? You can’t deny that they wrote their book, but you don’t want to give them the same title as your favorite author. So, you just lump us into two categories: Self-Published Writers and Published Authors. I actually see the logic behind this, however, I don’t necessarily abide by it. (Truth be told, generally I use the two terms interchangeably and I think a lot of people do.)

When people think of traditionally published works, they envision that a writer sells their idea to an agent first, then the agent sells the work to a publisher and poof! the writer is now an author. The publishing house assigns an editor to polish up the manuscript before handing it off to a designer, who then hands it off to a crack team of advertisers. What does this author do now? They sit at home, counting their stacks of cash and get started on the next book.

But that isn’t exactly the case. First, it can take years and years for someone to even get an agent, and then the wait begins to get a publisher. Book advances for new writers are not usually enough to live off of (though, generally more than most Indie-Authors will make from a single title), and then once the book does go to publication, the author (and their agent, I’m sure) have to do most of the grunt work to promote the book. The author is still responsible for managing their blogs, social media, website, etc. And then they also have to hope and pray they sell enough to pay back their advance so they can get royalties. (It’s called an advance for a reason, kids.) Why do they hope to get to royalties? Because they’ve likely spent most of their advance on promoting the book.

This is where I see a difference in Indie Writers vs. Indie Authors. Maybe I’ll be put on blast for this, but this is my blog…so my opinion. We’ve established that anyone can put together some words and submit their first-draft as a completed work on Amazon then go on to writing the next, then the next, then the next. I think we cross that line from Indie Writer to Indie Author when we start wearing the additional hats. We can’t just write. We have to edit, rewrite, design, publish, promote, get the coffee, market, advertise, get the coffee, schedule events, run a website/blog, get the coffee, etc. When writing becomes more akin to running a small business, I think that it is safe to say we’ve arrived at authordom.

Indie Authors are pretty freakin’ hardcore

Pretty much every day, we face an onslaught of negativity from all directions. Many times our loved ones don’t take us seriously, the writing community might not take us seriously, and it can be difficult to get readers to take us seriously. But, we tell ourselves that it’s okay. We will smile and offer up whatever spiel we’ve worked out, try our best to present our work, and hope to change your minds. For the Indie who takes this industry seriously, we’re only putting out work that we believe to be high-quality. Is it always perfect? No, but I’ve picked up books on the shelves at B&N and found missing words, misplaced commas, and smudged ink. But, though our battle is always uphill, we still try and reach readers every day.

Of all the various forms of entertainment, our writing Indie sect has it the roughest, I believe. Think about it. Sure someone might make a sly comment about an indie band not being good enough to get a label, but they’ll still listen to a song and often times their opinions will change because the band is really good. Indie films have cult followings. Perhaps an even better medium to think of in today’s society is YouTube. Anyone can have a YouTube channel these days, the vast majority of which would be considered Indie. Not all content being published on YouTube is quality, but when the presenters put in the time and effort, they can produce network-quality shows with huge, money-making audiences.

For an Indie Author, though, we have to go through a lot of hoops in the hope that someone will simply read a sample of our work because reading is perceived to be more of an investment of time than listening to a song or watching a video. (Granted, most traditionally-published authors find themselves jumping through these same hoops.)

Many authors, myself not included, create YouTube channels as a means of connecting with an audience. Potential readers may have to watch hours and hours of content before spending 3.99 on an ebook. We go to a great length to find and engage our readers, to a degree that I don’t think indies of other mediums find necessary.

Indie Authors have a genuine interest in the success of other Indies

This is the part I love the most, I think. The Indie Author community has a great stake in the success of everyone in it. We share our trade secrets all the time. I think of Joshua Edward Smith who just wrote a really great rant, as he calls them, on how to correctly insert text messages into novels. Texts are such a integral part of modern day society, they’re bound to show up in novels more and more, and there are some really confusing ways writers have been writing them. Joshua writes them very well, and he could have easily kept his method to himself, letting other writers continue to trip all over it and make a mess on the page—but because he did share, WriterEtte PensBrooke’s debut novel will read much more cleanly and will be well-received now. Joshua is helping to legitimize Self-Publishing, one piece of advice at a time. (Not to mention the stellar novels he’s self-released!)

And most Indie Authors are trying to do the same thing. When I tweeted not long ago that my fellow writers’ hard work is valid, and that I want to see them become successful in their writing endeavors, I meant that wholeheartedly. (Whether they self- or traditionally publish) I love that we live in a time when it is easy to share our stories, even if it means we have to tread some really murky waters to find the true gems.

There will always be really terrible books on Amazon, just as there will always be really terrible books on the shelves at your local B&N. The fact remains that a lot of Indie Authors are working just as hard on their books as their traditional counterparts. Don’t be so quick to write us off. (See what I did there?) Publishing house or not, there are some really great authors out there. We’re just hard to find sometimes.

Until next time my loves, keep writing, polishing, and hustling!

 

 

 

Self-Publishing, Tips, Writer's Life, Writing

Let Me Be Frank

Self-Pub Mistakes“A teachable spirit and a humbleness to admit your ignorance or your mistake
will save you a lot of pain. However, if you’re a person who knows it all, then you’ve
got a lot of heavy-hearted experiences coming your way.”
-Ron Carpenter, Jr.

So as I mentioned last week, my launch day wasn’t the thrill it was supposed to be. I didn’t tweet about my book–and haven’t once–since then.

I’m sure my husband would protest, (HA!) but alas: I am not perfect.

Instead of pouring my heart and soul out, let me just give you a little lesson in all that went wrong for me on that day and the days leading up to it. If I had a nickle for every red flag I overlooked, I could quit my day job. (If anyone wants to send me nickles to get that process started, my P.O. Box is… *wink*) In all seriousness, please learn from my mistakes.

Without further adieu:

1.| I should have recruited more help. The people helping me were FANTASTIC! But, I should have had people reading the eBook in multiple formats, because I wasn’t just putting it on Amazon. I was using IngramSpark and my book appeared on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and obscure Japanese websites for whatever reason. So, while the formatting may have been decent on one platform, it wasn’t on all and this was something I didn’t consider. Mostly because…

2.| I purchased a layout for my novel. [This isn’t exactly a mistake, but there were definite lessons to be learned.] I’m not ashamed to admit it, I wasn’t getting results on my own that I was happy with, and I didn’t have time or patience for learning InDesign on the fly, so I purchased a Word-friendly book layout that was supposed to translate perfectly from print to eBook. I am 99% sure I even paid a little extra for the duality. I’m debating on whether to link to the company because I am quite frankly debating on whether I will use them again. Their information is listed in the front matter of the book because a.) it was a requirement of purchasing the layout and b.) because I’m thrilled with the way the paperbacks look.

However, what I did not, can not, and will not like or understand about this is what happened to the metadata of my eBook. This company automatically inserted itself in the metadata as both author and publisher of my book. And my eBook layout problems only seemed to occur whenever I corrected the metadata. For legal reasons, I will not say that they were definitely the cause of my eBook layout problems, but I will say that it is a matter I am still looking into.

3.| Every time I needed to fix an issue with the eBook, it cost me $25 to do so. This was my fault, 100%. I knew that when/if I needed to make changes to the print version that it would cost me $25. I did not know the same applied to the eBook. With the layout problems I was facing, this was staggering. I am singing IngramSpark’s praises because they did not give me any trouble whatsoever when I asked begged them to release me of my eBook contract. Within 48 hours every trace of my error-riddled eBook was off the market and it was mine again to obsess over and check for those blasted formatting errors.

cautionSide note: If you’re going the IngramSpark route, I will be doing a more thorough review of my experience with them, but I will say this much quickly: Unless you are absolutely certain your success hinges on your eBook being available in every possible market, having your eBook with them will be an expensive venture. eBooks are updated regularly, and $25 each and every time adds up. Research the absolute hell out of the pros and cons of using their digital distribution services before you decide.

Their print service is exceptional, though. Truly top notch.

4.| If you’re an aspiring author and you’re not on Goodreads, hear this: Get on Goodreads. It’s powerful. Oh, and while you’re there, follow me. I ignored this valuable asset for far too long. You can do a lot of things here to set your book apart, like add video trailers, create quizzes and trivia for fans of your work. Have discussions with your readers in a way that other social media outlets simply can’t compare.

5.| I am not sure why I didn’t do this step, because I fully intended to, but I wanted to send out 15 or so ARC (Advanced Release Copies) to hopefully get some reviews before launch day. (This also would’ve alerted me to those formatting errors, too.) This was a monumental mistake on my part. Don’t be like me. Send out ARCs.

At the end of the day, you know what? I have a book. Relatively few people can say that. Even if you make every single mistake I did (Don’t, because you’ve read about them now) and you have a completed book that you’re proud of, that is an amazing thing! Don’t let a few mistakes and bumps along the way cause you to lose sight of your accomplishment. Dig your heels in, do your best to make it right, and make a vow to do better next time.

Do not give up on your writing dreams!

Getting To Know Aila, Tips, Writer's Life

Ten Writerly Lessons

Ten
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
-Benjamin Franklin


There are only FIVE days until the release of Sex, Love, and Technicalities. That’s… terrifying. I thought I would take this time to share with you ten things I’ve learned over the course of this past year—the good, the awful, and the ghastly.

1. | HOLY CRAP BALLS – WRITING IS HARD. Okay, so not physically hard. Unless you think sitting in a chair for long stretches of time is a strain. (For the record, I know several people who actually do find this difficult.) But, a lot goes into writing a full-length novel, and sometimes I want to pull my hair out.

2.| There are more tools than MS Word. I can hear some of you snickering, but this isn’t something that had ever occurred to me before I got serious about writing. I’ve dabbled with several programs and Scrivener is just amazing. Even if you want to stick to Word, I highly suggest using ProWritingAid instead of relying on Word’s less than stellar grammar help.

3. | Patience is key. I am not a naturally patient person. I get that from my father. But take it from someone who is admitting to this embarrassment: Being impatient can be costly. I started buying promotional items before the second redraft. Yep. I did that. You know what happened shortly afterwards? I changed the name of the book. And pushed back my release date. Anyone want a useless, highly inaccurate bookmark?

4.| The writing community is a vast, packed, and lonely place. I had an idea of how large the writing community was, but it wasn’t until I dipped my quill inside the well that I realized just how massive. I’ve met some incredible people, forged some priceless friendships… but there are a lot of people to compare yourself to. And for me, a naturally negative person, sometimes the very beauty of this community can leave me breathlessly lonesome.

5.| Build your brand before you type “Once Upon A Time…” If you’re serious about becoming a published author, by any means necessary, it is essential for you to build your author brand. I claim no expertise on the subject, I just know it is something you have to start early.

6.| Ideas will pop up at the worst times. I sort of knew this before. But before I got serious about writing, I could let go of these story ideas without much of a second thought. After all, I assumed I’d never use them. Oh, but now! now these precious gems of ideas crop up and I’m finely tuned into them. It doesn’t matter if I’m just drifting to sleep or in the middle of a conversation. Not getting to jot these ideas down is almost blasphemous.

7.| Doing bad things to my characters actually hurts. I revealed this tidbit to a non-writer friend, and they just couldn’t understand. “You do know they’re fictional, right?” Yes. But they’re my creations and I have just turned their world upside down and dumped a bucket of shit on top. Doesn’t mean I don’t fully understand that I have to do this, but sometimes after writing some particularly heavy scenes, a girl just needs to watch Doctor Who.

8.| Browsing Barnes and Noble becomes difficult different. Don’t get me wrong, I still do this on the regular, but once you are knee deep in publication decisions, you start to analyze books for things other than just their content. Oh my God! I LOVE that font! Where can I get *that* font?! Others in the vicinity will notice that you’ve adopted Gollum’s stance and are stroking a particularly pretty book and… well, you get the idea.

9.| I get insanely excited for my writer friends’ successes. There is nothing I like more than to see my writer friends achieving their goals. I’m not necessarily talking about publication, either. I like seeing them blow past a word count record, tackling and defeating a difficult chapter, getting the guts to query agents. It’s all worth celebrating. I love when someone sends me something to read. It makes me giddy! Which brings me to…

10.| Writers are without a doubt some of the brightest, loveliest, and bravest people on the planet Earth. You offer pieces of yourself up on the page for people to scrutinize. You want to change the world with your ideas. You give encouragement and hope with your words. You create your own worlds and realities and shine light on important subjects. You are amazing.

That’s ten things, of many, I have learned over the past year. Thank you all so much for being the awesome, crazy, amazing, badass people you are.


If you’re interested in getting your own signed copy of Sex, Love, and Technicalities, I am hosting a sweepstakes giveaway on Viral Sweep, and I am SUPER excited! There is no purchase necessaryWIN, but unfortunately it is only open to US residents. There are multiple ways to earn extra entries! I do hope you will enter to win—and share with your friends! (Actually, that’s one way of earning extra entries!) For entry and the full details please see either the ViralSweep site or my website. Thanks in advance!

 

Announcement, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

SL&T: It’s Getting Close

I’m taking a little reprieve from the A-Z Series. I’ll pick it up again in the first week of August, and I’ll post a few each week to get caught up. Let me say that I have really enjoyed writing that series so far. It has given me the chance to get to know some seriously cool authors and read some amazing work, but I have a few really good reasons for the break:

1.| I should launch a new website this week. It’s actually ready and awaiting publication, but I’ve changed hosting companies and I’m waiting for them to sort their crap out. (When this launches, I will be giving the novelette No More Running, prequel to SL&T, away to mailing list subscribers for free!) I am toying around with merging the blog straight into this website, but for now, I will still use Wordpress for all my blogging.

2.| I have my book completely laid out and ready for publication as well, both for an eBook format and for paperback. I, being the OCD person I am, am having one last go through the book, reading it on different media and aloud making the tiniest little adjustments, but I have to force myself to have a cutoff for this, and I’m looking at Wednesday. If I don’t give myself a cutoff, I will be stuck in this stage for the rest of my days.

3.| As per reason #2, I have been spending an exorbitant amount of time getting my cover, spine, and back cover designs the way I’d like them, which means I had to write a short Author Bio, and I am not exaggerating in the least when I say I would rather write a hundred novels than Cover Design.pnga single paragraph about myself.

The cover has evolved many times. Generally speaking, I create cover art for each of my books. I’m not sure why exactly, but it has become a part of my process. Each of the covers I have created have been designed in Canva, with a little tweaking in Photoshop afterward.

Whenever I work through a difficulty in a scene, I  just tinker around with the corresponding cover design until I have it figured out. If I had to guess, this would be version 483.7, or somewhere in that vicinity. 😉

In anticipation of the book’s release, I thought I would take an opportunity to tell you a little bit of the behind the scenes information about the book and give a quick introduction to my main character’s family… and reveal which actors or actresses most frequently played them in my mind. Yes. I said that. (I’m only admitting to what every single one most of us do!)



| By the numbers|

The first draft of SL&T was about 82k words and it took me a whopping eleven days to write. Interestingly, my most productive day was 11k words. Also, the original chapter eleven was slashed from the book first. There was just something about the number eleven. I was very fortunate to have the time off from work which allowed me to write so much in such a short amount of time. I was also lucky that my husband didn’t walk out with as much as I talked about it and with the sheer volume of ideas I bounced off of him. I was very motivated to write this book. Now the book sits at around 76k words, broken into 40 quick chapters.

I knew early on in this book that it was going to have a sequel, which I’ve already gotten through about 1/3 of the way. I had gotten through it about 1/2 way, but then I had an epiphany about the way SL&T ended, and I rewrote so much, the sequel had to change shape. Well worth it in the end. I’m much happier with SL&T’s ending now.

| Other Tidbits – Warning: Contains Spoilers, however minimal |
While this book is a far, far cry from autobiographical, there are a few parallels between myself and the main character, Briella Logan. Brie, as she’s called for short, is a chef. I’m a chef. She struggles with turning thirty. I unexpectedly fell apart over turning thirty. She struggles with whether or not she wants to continue being a chef. I had the same struggle. She’s very close with her father, who has precarious health problems. I’m very close with my dad, who has been in poor health since I can remember. (Brie’s dad calls her Pumpkin, my dad calls me Chickadee.)

The numbers in my book are [mostly] from something significant in my life. For example, the number 927 shows up in the book. That number is the date of my father’s very first heart attack.


| Introducing The Logans |

Briella LoganBrie is the head chef of a popular restaurant called Table Twelve, she’s a workaholic who has been avoiding any sort of social life for quite a while, save for her best friend John. She lives alone in an apartment with a view of the water and the city of Nashville. She enjoys wine and British television. On the occasion she does go out with friends after work, she drinks to excess—something she hides from her well-to-do mother, Deidra. [Among many, Rachel Bilson probably had this role most often.]

Deidra Logan: Is somewhat of a socialite in Nashville, especially amongst the ladies in her Bible study group. She has high standards for her family, and generally isn’t shy about letting her daughter know when she isn’t living up to them. She’s a bit of a worrywart when it comes to her husband, and is known for elaborating. [Geena Davis or Sela Ward]

Geoffrey Logan: The head of the Logan family, Geoffrey, usually finds himself trying to keep some sort of tranquility in his family, as he is usually put in the middle between his wife and daughter’s arguments. He is a very calm, rational man who loves the outdoors and taught Briella early on the pleasures of camping and fishing. He enjoys golf as his health allows. [Kevin Costner. I don’t know why.]


I am brimming with so much excitement as this whole process is coming to a close, I am having to restrain myself from dropping some major spoilers. If you have previously checked out the prologue, which can be found here, please check it out again. Things have changed a bit.

As ever, thank you for stopping in. Sex, Love, and Technicalities will be available this month, and you can bet there will be some giveaways centered around the launch, so check back!

 

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Writing Prompt Wednesday

Excuse me, (1)

 

Last week a whopping zero people participated in the writing prompt, and I’m not surprised.

Why, you ask? Well, it was our first one, silly. So, here is our second writing prompt picture:

Miserable Pug

Is this dog loving life, or hating every moment of it? Perhaps the poor little thing is plotting some crazy scheme to seek revenge. What is going on in this pup’s mind?