Goals, Marketing, Organized, Positive Mindset, Self-Publishing, Success Mindset, Tips

Writer Resources: Legal Stuff

WR_ LEGAL

Today’s writer resource post is going to be a little different. It doesn’t have the flash or whimsical appeal of the fun stuff like design. It doesn’t usually incite excitement. It is probably something writers avoid even more than they do marketing.

Legal sh!t.

Does an indie author need to worry about the legal aspects of running a business?

It depends.

Are you writing stories and putting them onto Wattpad for free consumption? Do you primarily share your work only on your blog? If yes, you can probably skip all of this legal mumbo jumbo and instead enter my giveaway for a year’s subscription to ProWritingAid.

If your ambitions carry you further than that, then you may want to start thinking about how to keep yourself out of trouble with local, state, or federal authorities. I want to make one thing absolutely clear before we continue:


I am in no way offering any legal advice. I am simply sharing my experiences and opinions. Please do not misconstrue any of this as legal advice. As with everything, you need to conduct your own research and proceed how you feel is best for you. I cannot, and do not claim to, replace the advice of legal counsel, an accountant, or a tax professional. Laws vary from country to country and from state to state. I can only speak to laws I have encountered in the United States.


Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get down to it.

If you’re an indie author who sells their work anywhere, including Amazon, guess what? You own your own business! It can be hard to wrap our heads around that, but it’s true.

When you’re starting up a business, one of the first things you need to decide is what kind of business are you going to be? The two types of businesses which will appeal to most indie authors are sole proprietorship or limited liability company.

Sole Proprietorship

This is the way most of us operate on default. There’s very little one must do to set themselves up as a sole proprietor—in fact there is no start up documentation required by the US Federal Government. Licenses and permits may be required and will vary from state to state, so check with yours if there are any requirements.

Sole Proprietorships often operate under a DBA, or a “doing business as” (think of it as the pseudonym of the business world) which will require some sort of filing most of the time.

In fact, if you use a pseudonym that could be your DBA. Or even the name of your imprint.

Acting as a sole proprietorship is usually just fine for most indie authors.

Limited Liability Company

It is my opinion that starting an LLC (which isn’t a cheap process) is overkill for most indie authors. I can see this becoming more important if you expand your business to offering services or goods that go beyond fiction.

If you offer editing services, design services, marketing services…any sort of service (like all of these for-profit coaching programs I’ve seen a few indies promoting)…there is always the chance someone may at some point sue you. The likelihood of this happening may not be high, but it is there. An LLC protects you from losing your livelihood in the event someone wanted to be litigious.

If you are interested in learning more about these two business types, I recommend using Legal Zoom.

small_logo
Regardless of the type of business you choose to go with, there are a few things you’ll want to consider:

Budget

quickbooks_online_preview

Every business needs one. Figure out what is a reasonable amount of money for you to spend on your writing business and then figure out how to allocate those funds. There are many options for budgeting software. The first one that comes to mind is Quickbooks from Intuit.

Quickbooks

WaveAccounting_logo1

Once you start listing your expenses, it may be difficult to stomach adding on an additional monthly expense just for the…sake of keeping up with expenses…I get that. So, I would be remiss if I didn’t show you a free option!

Wave

Of course you can always do this for yourself using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. The more complex your business needs get, the less likely you’ll want to do this, though. Excel can be a bit intimidating to learn, but there are plenty of classes available on Skillshare to help you navigate Excel’s murkiness—as well as tons of business classes!

 *afflink*

If you’ve read this far, I’m going to guess at least a few of you have wondered why the hell all of this is important if you haven’t even sold your first book.

You’ll need to talk to your tax professional, but counting your losses on your taxes might be a very good thing for your bottom line come tax time. The list of things you may be eligible to deduct may surprise you.

You might be able to deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage as a business expense if you have a dedicated office space. From what I’ve seen you break your rent/mortgage down by the square foot and you can deduct the amount of the square footage. (So, if you have a 1000sqft apartment and your rent is $1000 per month, you could deduct from your taxes $50 per month if you have 50sqft of dedicated home office space.) Again, please check with your local laws.

You might be able to count mileage if you go to trade-related conventions or if you go somewhere for research purposes. Part of your utilities, internet, new tech, educational classes—there is a long, long list of things you may be eligible to deduct.

Here is a list of a few of the things am looking into deducting:

Images used for marketing
Stock footage used for marketing
Images used for book cover
ISBNs
Title setup fees for Ingram
Trade books
Website plan fees
Tickets to trade conventions
Gas/mileage to trade conventions
The cost of giveaway items
A portion of my internet bill
plus more…

Legal, shmeagle…amirite?

I know legal stuff isn’t sexy. But, congrats Indie! You are a small business professional, and all of this boring legal shit may be very important to you.

You know what is sexy? A FREE YEAR OF PROWRITINGAID, that’s what!

My giveaway is still going on strong, so don’t forget to enter!

Until next time! Have a fantastic week!


 

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Writer Resources: Marketing Edition

WR_ Marketing

I wasn’t supposed to blog about this today. I had intended on blogging about another resource, but as I was writing it, I realized I didn’t quite have enough information and it felt incomplete. So, here goes plan B.

It’s a three-fer.

The resources I’m introducing you to tonight will help as you dive into the wonderful world of marketing. [enter gagging sound]

Pexels

Cost: Free
Pros: Free High-Quality Stock Photos
Cons: Limited library
Ease of Use: If you can use Google, you can use Pexels
Website: http://www.Pexels.com

Pexels

This is pretty straight-forward. You enter a search term and you surf for images. Sometimes when you search for something, there will be pages upon pages of images to choose from…other times there will be only a few.

There is a sister site that advertises at the bottom, often times with nicer pictures you can purchase. My advice, though, is always search for free images before you decide to purchase. Especially on things such as a graphic for Twitter or Instagram. Save your picture budget for photo covers or paid advertising.

Let’s pretend I’m making some materials for Alabama Rain, and I’ll look up pictures of barns.

barns

Now, let’s say I want the bottom left-hand barn. I click it, and then what?

No attribution
There are a few things I want you to pay attention to after you’ve clicked on the photo and before you click the free download button.

Check to make sure the photo is okay to use for commercial use.

Check whether attribution is required.

Don’t be that person who uses an image you aren’t supposed to. You wouldn’t want someone to replicate or use part of your work without permission.

If the photo requires attribution, give it.

Now, do you see the down arrow to the right of the Free Download button? Hover over it and you’ll see a drop down menu.

Choose A Size
You can choose from several sizes or create a custom size if that works best for you.

Outside of this, there’s not a whole lot more to tell about Pexels.

Are you a photographer? You can also share your photos on Pexels to help other creatives.

So, now you’ve got your image, but what are you going to do with it?

Pixlr Editor

Cost: Free
Pros: Fairly powerful web-based image editor
Cons: Takes a little time to learn, sort of mimics Photoshop
Ease of Use: If you can use Photoshop, this is easy to learn, not for beginners
Website: http://Pixlr.com/editor

Pixlr

Create
The first thing you want to do is create a new image.

New Image
Name your image and give it some parameters.

A lot of people guess what their size should be or they aren’t concerned about it at all and think the platform they upload it to will automatically convert it…this isn’t always the case.

A simple Google search can tell you what size to make your image based on what you’re creating it for.

New Image AR

These parameters and file name can be changed if needed.

Anyway, let’s see what we can accomplish fairly simply with our barn image and some of Pixlr’s capabilities.

Here are just a few of the options and tools in the Pixlr arsenal:

 

As you can see, if you are familiar with Photoshop, there are a lot of similarities. Now, if there is any lingering interest in learning more about Pixlr, you’d do well to look up some tutorials on YouTube, though if you shoot me a message, I’ll do my best to help you.

So, what was I able to make really quickly in Pixlr with that image we got from Pexels?

The before:agriculture-barn-clouds-248832

The after:
New Barn

Not bad for about fifteen minutes.

PlaceIt

Cost: Varies
Pros: Simple, easy to use, takes little to no effort.
Cons: Could do this on your own if you learn Photoshop (Not necessarily Pixlr)
Website: http://www.PlaceIt.net

PlaceIt

Get ready to settle into your desk chair or couch, because if you’re anything like me you are going to find yourself obsessively searching through these mockups.

omg.PNG

SO. MANY. OPTIONS.

undone

While I was looking through the above page, this picture jumped out at me.

I hadn’t planned on actually creating a mockup for this post, but this one wanted me to. It practically whispered at me to announce my second summer project. So, this is a surprise even to me, but here goes nothing.

Within just a few clicks and uploading a few images I had a really nice little image for marketing. (Seriously, this took only about two minutes to upload all the images, crop them, and download it.)

Sure, I could probably make something similar in Photoshop with a little time and a lot more effort, but for $8.00? Think of all the time you could save making things like this and actually writing. Without further adieu, let’s see what two minutes and eight bucks got me:

placeit (1).png

That’s right, it’s time to release the prequel novelette I’ve had stashed on my hard drive for about two years. I’ll be doing this sometime this summer, after it’s all edited and polished. 🙂

That’s all I’ve got for you today, my friends. I hope these resources will help you along your marketing journey! Have something you’d like to share with the class? Please tell me all about it in the comments!

Sometime before this series is over, I’ll be revisiting marketing resources and giving you a glimpse of how I put together my book trailers.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

I know I’m not scheduled to write another blog post this week, but I’m doing something for myself on Wednesday, and I am going to be publishing an extra post on Thursday to tell you all about it.

Be sure to check it out because I’m also going to announce the super-awesome-mega-amazing giveaway that is accompanying this series. Trust me when I say, you are not going to want to miss out on this one.

Until Thursday, lovely people!


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The DNA of Bad Cliffhangers

www.ailastephensbooks.com (1)“Would you dare to walk with the beast on the dark side of the moon?”
– Demetri Daskova

The other day I was firing off what I had hoped would be the last few emails before I could punch out for the day and come home. It was all standard stuff: Warning about system updates, W-2 notices, meeting reminders. I was even chatting with a coworker friend of mine on the phone, indulging in a little light, office gossip. As she and I mused over trivialities, several emails piled up in my inbox in rapid succession.

See, if I’m on my office phone and someone calls me, an email automatically pops up telling me I am missing phone calls and from whom.

Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.

Within the span of thirty seconds, I had a total of six missed calls from my boss’s boss and my boss’s boss’s boss.

I hung up on my friend and started dialing.

No answer.

Where were they? They just called.

Another email pinged, from the boss’s boss: “I just called you twice. Don’t leave. We need to talk.”

Five minutes later, as I stared blankly at my computer screen, three stern knocks at my door were almost my undoing.

This is a true story, and after everything was settled (which, by the way, while I was being blamed for something, it turned out not to be my fault) it took a few minutes for my adrenaline to die down.

On my way home that day I couldn’t help but replay the events in my head and it dawned on me how perfectly this cliffhanger had been set up and it got me to thinking about how to build a successful cliffhanger…and how to build an unsuccessful one.

For the newbies in the back, what is a cliffhanger?

It’s a plot device where something happens suddenly and there is no immediate solution. (Like how I couldn’t figure out what the pandemonium was for) Sometimes there is a physical danger, sometimes the cliffhanger is emotional.

Authors want to construct a cliffhanger that compels their readers to keep reading in order to find out how the character is going to be affected. Will they die? Will they get the girl? Were they in the car crash? Did they get out before the house fire? Did they burn dinner? Did they have the dress in the right size? Did they get into their number one school?

I’ve read, or attempted to read, lots of Indie novels over the course of the last two years and one thing I’ve seen many authors forget is how and where to incorporate a cliffhanger.

Notice how I said I’ve attempted to read lots of Indie novels? Yeah. There’s a reason I, and many other readers, have put so many Indie books in the DNF pile.

Let’s look at some of the common issues I’ve had with cliffhangers in Indie novels.

1.| Not enough cliffhangers. I’ve tried to get through more than one Indie novel where the author seemed hellbent on waiting until they reached the climax to give any sort of cliffhanger. When someone is reading a novel, the place they are most likely to put it down to tend to other things is at the end of a chapter or at a scene break. I’m not saying every scene break needs a cliffhanger, but it might be a good idea to sprinkle in some mini-cliffhangers to spur readers on to the next scene, and definitely a good idea to do something at the end of each chapter that will captivate readers and make it hard to put the book down. If the writer doesn’t make it hard to put the book down, they make it easy not to pick up again.

2.| Repetitive cliffhangers. The one I have seen several Indie novels use over and over again is the will they/won’t they cliffhanger in more than a few chapters. Repeating the same cliffhanger creates the-boy-who-cried-wolf scenario and quickly leads to disinterest. I read a certain fan-fiction-turned-major-Hollywood-film and found myself thinking oh good, they’re fighting again. Look, they’re in love again, I wonder if they’ll argue again…yep, yep, there it is…well, this chapter is about to end, so I guess they’ll think about breaking up, yep.

Inversely, some cliffhangers are unsuccessful because they came from far out in left field. If an author is writing an epic western drama, and the first fifteen chapters give no indication of science fiction but then out of nowhere an alien spaceship lands in the middle of a shootout at high-noon…that’s just…no. The cliffhanger needs to make more sense than that.

3.| Not enough emotional development. Cliffhangers should happen to characters in which your readers have invested some time. A writer can’t expect readers to be all that concerned someone mentioned once, sixteen chapters ago, was shot…There should be enough of a bond between the reader and the character the writer is inflicting fear/pain/harm upon that finding out what happened is a necessity.

If at the end of a chapter a writer wants to entice me by having the great uncle I’ve never heard of call to say he’s coughing up blood, I’m going to be left with questions, yes, but not ones the author wants me to ask.

Let’s look at couple of examples:

A.

After shopping, Leslie walked her usual path home. She and Greg had worked out a lot of their issues and she looked forward to their night. As she waited for the crosswalk, she blacked out and hit her head on the asphalt, moments before the bus was due to arrive.

B.

Dangling her shopping bags from her index finger, Leslie’s heart skipped a beat thinking of what Greg’s reaction would be to her new lingerie. They had worked through so many issues, and he’d taken therapy much more seriously than she ever imagined. Maybe we have a chance, she thought while waiting for the crosswalk light to give her permission to cross. Eleven years. She still couldn’t believe they’d made it to their anniversary. Her thoughts drifted to what wine would pair best with their dinner when her lungs failed to draw in her next breath. She looked down at her arms which now felt like anvils. She dropped her bags and fell forward, her head bouncing on the road’s fresh asphalt.

Onlookers screamed as a bus screeched to a halt.

I won’t believe you if you say gave you a more emotional response.

I just made that shit up, but let’s pretend that is the end of an amazing chapter. My readers are thinking oh, no! What happened to her? Did the bus hit her? Is she dead? OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!

I’ve successfully created a cliffhanger my readers are invested in, and they’ve decided to forego finishing the laundry to keep reading. Is my job as an author done?

Nope. A successful cliffhanger must be followed by its resolution—and a bad resolution will ruin the cliffhanger. How might a resolution kill the cliffhanger, you ask?

4.| Rushed resolutions. Cliffhangers are supposed to be a swift kick in the groin. They happen and then the writer enters a page break. Your reader should feel a reaction. They need to think oh shit! What just happened? I need to know! And be inspired to turn the page.

I’ve seen Indies who write a decent cliffhanger and then resolve it before they start the next chapter or scene, leaving no sense of urgency to turn the page. We don’t want this.

The resolution should usually come in the next scene or chapter, but not right away. Milk this emotional thing your reader has going on for a little while. Get them invested in the chapter. If the resolution happens in the first sentence or two, the reader isn’t likely to keep going, as they will have gotten the instant satisfaction of knowing what happened next.

Which sounds like a chapter opening that will get the most out of this emotional buck?

A:

Sitting up in her hospital bed, Leslie stretched and took a sip of cool water. I wonder where Greg is, I’d like to do a crossword puzzle together.

B:

The incessant beeping of machinery would be Greg’s undoing. He couldn’t peel his eyes from his wife, her face was so swollen he barely recognized her. All he wanted in the world was to trade places with her. He had been the one who screwed things up for so long, it wasn’t fair she had to fight this battle, too.

Greg closed his eyes and pictured their last fight, the one where he came so close to hitting her. He was a different person then. Never again, he thought.

“Greggy,” Leslie said, her voice soft and scratchy—just like the doctor warned would happen from the feeding tube. “Greggy, where I am I?”

If really sounds better to you, then you’re going to love a lot of Indie books.

Does the resolution always need to occur in the next chapter? No. Delayed satisfaction can be a powerful tool, but it shouldn’t feel forgotten. Maybe Leslie doesn’t wake up in the next chapter. Maybe there are two or three chapters where it is touch-and-go, but if in the next chapter Greg is out drinking with his buddies and never once mentions his wife, and in the next two or three chapters he starts seeing some chick named Hildi and finally in that fourth chapter Greg gets the phone call his wife has woken up…readers are going to be a little angry.

An author can also delay gratification by giving the resolution in smaller doses. Leslie is awake, but can she remember who she is? Can she walk? Will she be in a wheelchair? Will she ever dance again?

5.| No resolution at all. This is the king of cliffhanger mistakes. A writer has successfully gotten his reader to turn the page, desperate to find out what happens next, and then nothing ever happens. The cliffhanger has turned into a loose end. A plot hole. When, if, the reader finishes the book, they are going to be bummed they never found out what happened. This is not a good feeling when one has finished a book.

But what about endings, you ask?

If an author is writing a stand alone book, I caution using a cliffhanger at the end because of the fact there will be no resolution and the reader will be left unsatisfied. I can’t think of a time this is a good idea. Feel free to show me one in the comments.

If a writer plans on a sequel and wishes to employ a cliffhanger, the author should be aware that this cliffhanger isn’t just getting someone to turn over to the next chapter, but it must entice them to buy another book. People don’t part with money easily, so plan on making a humdinger of a cliffhanger.

Also keep in mind that no matter how good your cliffhanger, if you wait to publish the sequel, people will probably have forgotten the first book and the cliffhanger. So make sure the second book is ready relatively soon thereafter…if you’ve succeeded in developing an amazing cliffhanger, you’ll increase the sales of book two by leaps and bounds.

What is your favorite cliffhanger, either on the page or on screen?

That’s all we have today, my lovelies! Until next time, happy writing! xoxo


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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!


SLT   SLF Cover

Are you a fan of Women’s Fiction? Find my novels on Amazon in eBook and paperback.

Both eBooks are free with Amazon’s KindleUnlimited.

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!

 

 

 

Getting To Know Aila, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life

Marketing Sucks…

 

UNION“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”
Steuart Henderson Britt

It warrants repeating. Marketing sucks. Especially if you don’t do it.

Now, as with all things in life, I try not to speak on a subject unless I’m fairly well-versed on the topic at hand–and there’s little else I’m better at than not talking about myself.

I wrote a book and I’ve done an exceptionally bad job at marketing it. Let’s not kid ourselves, writing a book is a big deal. Even if you never sell a single copy. Even if you never publish it. The simple fact that you wrote a book from start to finish is incredible. You created a world that doesn’t exist. You created people that do not exist. You thought up and penned hardships, relationships, love, envy, hatred, crime, and magical creatures that otherwise would have remained a fleeting thought in your head, or a dream you would have eventually forgotten.

You did an awesome thing.

I did an awesome thing.

And I’m smart enough to know that just because I did this awesome thing and hit the button to publish it for the scrutiny of the world, it doesn’t mean a damn thing without begging people to buy and read it. Which means I have to step–no leap–out of my comfort zone and talk to people about my book all while keeping the thousands of tiny rules about self-promotion in the back of my head.

Don’t open a conversation talking about your book. Don’t auto-DM people about your book. Don’t do this. Do that, but cautiously. Do this every day. Do this other thing every other day.

So, for those astute readers out there, some of you might be thinking that Sex, Love, and Technicalities came out almost a solid year ago. Why, for the love of Whitman, am I talking about this now?

Well, my friends, I sold a book. I mean, I’ve sold a few copies of it actually–but this one was a genuine surprise. I didn’t even know I’d sold it because I’ve been so unbelievably terrible at my author duties for going on four or five months now. Now, this sale (from a complete stranger) also came with a 5-star review on Amazon. This was a kick in the seat for me.

Here’s this person who found me by mysterious means almost two months ago, bought my book and loved it. They took money out of the wallet to buy, and time out of their life to read something that took me over a year of my life to write. And they loved it. I wasn’t even paying attention at the time. How sad is that?

I’d all but given up on myself and my work and this sweet soul named Diane came out of left field and reminded me that I’d done an amazing thing. Thanks, Diane, you’re the best. Whoever you are.

So, don’t be like me. Don’t finish your amazing thing and then leave it on the virtual shelf to die. It wasn’t even the lack of sales that caused me to drift, it was the notion of having to market myself when the fun part is writing. I had no grandiose notions that I was somehow above the marketing part, nor that I would be special and the crowds would flock to me out of nowhere. I was just doubling down on my social anxiety and introvertedness.

Listen to the experts on this one, guys. I’m absolutely the last person you want to take marketing advice from. All I know is that I have to figure it out because Diane from Amazon stumbled upon my book by chance and loved it and I kind of want to find out what everyone else thinks too.

Marketing sucks, but just freaking do it.

 

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!