authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

3 ways to kick start the New Year, including a free webinar.

Writing is a solitary work.  Only one person can do it. Being an author, on the other hand, is a communal experience. In fact I find interacting with other authors and industry professionals is one of the most motivating and invigorating things any writer can do. We write by ourselves, but we need each other to be better writers and authors and marketers. That’s why there are three things I want you to be aware of that could be just what you need to start off the new year on the right foot.

  1. Free webinar: 7 Secrets of Successful Self Published Authors–January 10. This is a free webinar from Writers Digest. Click here to register. It is a repeat of the webinar I did in November, which had the most registrations and attendees in the history of WD University. If you register and can’t attend, you will still get an email that allows you to listen to the webinar at a later time.
  2. Writers Digest Conference in New York City–January 20-22. This is one of the premier writing conferences in the country. I will be on a panel with Jane Friedman as well as giving a presentation on secrets of successful self published authors. Click here for registration information and I look forward to seeing you there.
  3. San Francisco Writer’s Conference–February 17-19. One month later, I will be at the San Francisco Writer’s conference. I will have more to say about this conference in a later post, but you can click here to get registration information. I would not wait too long though if you are thinking about attending. They have sold out most years. I am not surprised. They have a very experienced staff and run a great conference. I will be presenting here as well.

Bottom line is don’t go to deep into the year without  finding some encouragement and education from fellow authors. These are some great opportunities to improve your craft and learn how to market. I hope to see you on the webinar or at one of the conferences.

authors, book selling, Ebooks, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Top 5 reasons from 2011 why this the best time in history to be an author.

For some time, I have been promoting the idea that there is no better time in history to be an author then right now.  In fact, the top tab of this blog is text from a white paper I published two years ago titled, “The best time in history to be an author.”  In the past year, there has been additional evidence to support the claim. So here are my top five reasons from 2011 why this is the best time in history to be an author

  1. San Francisco Writers Conference publishing contest name is changed to Indie Publishing Contest. The prestigious San Francisco Writers Conference publishing contest was renamed the Indie Publishing Contest and winners were awarded publishing packages from Author Solutions.  This mean more authors could win and get their books into the market sooner, which is one of the main benefits of Indie publishing
  2. John Locke becomes first author to sell 1 million books on a Kindle. Mr Locke broke through the seven-figure barrier and shared some of his secrets in a post I did earlier this year. He did it by doing things any author can do.
  3. JA Konrath finds success self publishing latest books. In an interview in USA Today, JA Konrath had the follow to say. “It’s a paradigm shift and a revolution,” says J.A. Konrath, who is considered the guru of the self-publishing movement. “It’s a huge win for readers,” who now have easier access to more writers from around the world, he says. “I am a guy who had his butt kicked by the industry for 20 years, and now I’m showing other authors what they can do so they don’t have to go through the same thing,” he says. “Traditional book publishers are just serving drinks on the Titanic.”
  4. Amanda Hocking sells more than 1 million books on her own and then gets traditional book deal. She made big news and I covered in an earlier blog post.
  5. Publishers Weekly and Kirkus both start to review indie published books. Both of these industry leaders now review indie published books, which I think is acknowledgment that good books are being published by indie author and the industry is shifting.

There were other candidates, including the launch of Book Country self publishing services  by Penguin and the Hachette document that declared, “self publishing is a misnomer”, but these were the five I thought were most important. If you have some other nominees for the top five, feel free to leave them in the comments section. I am sure 2012 will be even better.

authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

7 secrets of successful self published authors (The last two secrets revealed).

If you have been following this blog, you know I have been doing a series of blog posts titled, “Seven secrets of successful self published authors” In previous posts, I have shared the first five secrets: The previous secrets I have shared are as follows. Successul self published authors:

  1. Can describe their audience
  2. Believe in their work
  3. Set a deadline when they want to hold the first copy of their book
  4. Understand their goals and publishing options
  5. Know the power of social media and have a plan to take advantage of it.

In this post, I want to share the last two secrets. The sixth secret is plan your marketing before you finish your manuscript.

I can’t tell you how many authors write, write, write, write, get their book published, and then they think about marketing. That is too late. You want to actually start planning your marketing while you are writing. Describe your audience, determine how you’re going to reach them, and decide what help you’ll need.  In fact, you should start building your potential reader base even before your title is live. One idea I have seen work well is give potential readers a few different covers to pick from and let them vote. It is a great way to get potential readers engaged with and anticipating the launch of your book even before it is live.

I have had authors come back to me and thank me for encouraging them to do a book launch event

The seventh and final secret is plan a book launch event for when your title is live.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had authors come back to me and thank me for encouraging them to do a book launch event. Along with these events being a key motivator for completing the manuscript, they are also a lot of fun.  I know authors who have done an event in conjunction with a family reunion.  I know authors who have published a christian book and held their launch party at a church. My favorite example is an author who wrote a mystery book based in her hometown. One of the settings for the mystery was a restaurant in the town. She actually held  her book launch event at that restaurant. Since then the restaurant now sells her book at the cash register and  they have actually named a menu item after her book.  I think that is pretty cool, but the point to all these examples is publishing a book is quite an accomplishment and it deserves a celebration.  Don’t miss out on the opportunity. It allows you to connect to readers and get your word-of-mouth campaign started.

authors, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Every author’s greatest fear and greatest hope: Will they like me?

A review on Amazon for my book reminded me how publishing enables us to impact the lives of people we have never met.

As you know, I have a lot of conversations with authors of all experience levels. I myself have used indie publishing to put two books in the market and recently, after a  number of interactions with a variety of authors, I realized there is a common fear we all have and a common hope. We want people to like our books, which is actually a proxy for them liking us

Now that may not sound like a  revolutionary idea, but I decided it was worth writing about because I have never seen a post about the topic.  Much is written about the economics and process of publishing, but what I have learned is becoming an author is an intensely personal and emotional experience. When you put a book in distribution, you are actually putting a bit of your self out there for the world to see. I am not saying that is bad or good. I am just saying what we really hope for is that people will like our book and like us.  When they do, it can be very gratifying. Readers may express their appreciation through an email or blog comment or at a book signing.   Recently, I was thrilled to see someone really liked my book Eli the Stable Boy becaue she wrote a customer review on Amazon.  I have never met her, but here’s what she wrote

A drummer boy story for today!,

What a charming and insightful book! This is the story that teaches our children that they, too, serve God, in their own way! Just as the Little Drummer Boy taught my generation that we all have gifts to give to God, Eli, the stable boy shows our children that they can have a real part in the story God is writing for them!

The illustrations are charming, the story is engaging, and the lesson is well taught, and one that will be remembered for lifetimes. I recommend this story and book to anyone with children.

Her words were a reminder to me of a statement I have made previously,but which I think bears repeating. That is when you publish a book, you have the opportunity to impact the lives of people you have never met, and even if it is just ten or twenty people, it is worth the effort. So don’t let that manuscript sit in your drawer. Get it published and into the hands of readers. Not all of them will like it, but you may find a number of people greatly appreciate your work and that is one of the best things about becoming a published author.

authors, book marketing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

Hachette leaks document that declares, “Self-publishing” is a misnomer.” I don’t agree.

A few days ago an internal document from the publisher Hachette was “leaked” to Digital Book World and reported on  a few other sources as well. In this internal memo, titled, “Self-publishing” is a misnomer”, the writer sets out to explain why a traditional publisher is essential in this ever-changing world. My my, how things have changed. To think that a publisher has to justify its existence and defend itself against self publishing is another sign that the Indie Revolution we declared back in 2009 has truly taken place. The complete text of the memo is listed below in italics with my comments inserted in bold and in parentheses.  I think the value of this memo is not that it points out why traditional publishers are important, but rather it does a great job of listing what is true about publishing for any author and what every author should focus on in the “business” of publishing. Certainly a publisher can do the tasks listed in this memo, but the question is how many authors will they do it for. If the answer is very few, which I think is true, than self published authors need to take the responsiblity and get their books in the hands of readers. That is the great thing about self publishing. The consumer becomes the gatekeeper as to what is good work. The publisher no longer has that role.

Publishing requires a complex series of engagements, both behind the scenes and public facing. (I could not agree more. I think first time authors often underestimate what it takes to get a book to market. That’s why assisted self publishing companies are critical for some authors. Not all authors but some)

Digital distribution (which is what most people mean when they say self-publishing) is just one of the components of bringing a book to market and helping the public take notice of it. (Self publishing is more than digital distribution. That is just a format.)

As a full service publisher, Hachette Book Group offers a wide array of services to authors: (I agree, but a traditional publisher is not the only one who can do that.)

1. Curator: We find and nurture talent: (While I think this was true 20 years ago and is still true, the ultimate curator now is the consumer. If it is made available to the public, and self publishing makes that possible, the consumer will curate the content and let us know what they think is worth reading. The power is with the reader. I trust they will make good decisions.)

• We identify authors and books that are going to stand out in the marketplace. HBG  discovers new voices, and separates the remarkable from the rest. (This is true, but the market can also do that.)

• We act as content collaborator, focused on nurturing writing talent, fostering rich relationships with our authors, providing them with expert editorial advice on their writing, and tackling a huge variety of issues on their behalf. (I think this is one of the most important things a traditional publisher can do. One of the biggest weaknesses I see in self published authors is that don’t work at their craft. Many think they can write one draft and the world will come calling. That is just not true. Good writing takes talent, but it also takes hard work. Traditional publishers know that and demand it.)

2. Venture Capitalist: We fund the author’s writing process: (Really!. How many first time authors are getting advances that they don’t plow back into their own marketing.)

• At HBG we invest in ideas. In the form of advances, we allow authors the time and resources to research and write. In addition we invest continuously in infrastructure, tools, and partnerships that make HBG a great publisher partner. (See note above. Celebrities get advances, but I suspect the number of unpublished authors getting advances is very small.)

3. Sales and Distribution Specialist: We ensure widest possible audience: (If this means investing in a print run, then that is true. However, in this day and age, print on demand and digital books greatly reduce the need for big print runs. Besides, any author who publishes with an ASI imprint can have their book in all print and digital formats and available at all on-line retailers. Bookstores are another story, but we can address that in another post.)

• We get our books to the right place, in the right numbers, and at the right time (this applies equally to print and digital editions). We work with retailers and distribution partners to ensure that every book has the opportunity to reach the widest possible readership.

• We ensure broad distribution and master supply chain complexity, in both digital and physical formats.

• We function as a new market pioneer, exploring and experimenting with new ideas in every area of our business and investing in those new ideas – even if, in some cases, a positive outcome is not guaranteed (as with apps and enhanced ebooks). (Don’t need a publisher to do this. You can find people who can do this for you or you can use an assisted self publishing company to do it for you.)

• We act as a price and promotion specialist (coordinating 250+ monthly, weekly and daily deals on ebooks at all accounts). (See earlier post on author Darcie Chan. Authors can experiment with pricing on their own. Bottomline is people will pay for a good book, but you may have to price aggressively to build demand and a following.)

4. Brand Builder and Copyright Watchdog: We build author brands and protect their intellectual property: (This is vitally important, but we have lots of examples of authors doing this for themselves. In fact, in this day and age, every author needs to cultivate their own following. Building a platform is as critical for authors today as knowing how to avoid dangling participles.)

• Publishers generate and spread excitement, always looking for new ways make our authors and their books stand out.  We’re able to connect books with readers in a meaningful way.

• We offer marketing and publicity expertise, presenting a book to the marketplace in exactly the right way, and ensuring that intelligence, creativity, and business acumen inform our strategy.

• We protect authors’ intellectual property through strict anti-piracy measures and territorial controls.

authors, book selling, Ebooks, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

How I became a best selling author. Wall Street Journal article reveals the secrets of author Darcie Chan.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal ran a cover story in their Friday Journal section about author Darcie Chan and how she became a best selling author. The reason the Journal gave so much space to the story is Darcie had been rejected by 12 publisher and more than 100 literary agents before she self published and sold more than 400,ooo ebooks. Part of her marketing strategy included pricing very aggressively to gain a following. Here’s the link to the full article in the  Journal that tells her story.

Self published author Darcie Chan has sold more than 400,000 ebooks. There is much we can learn from her example.

This is something all authors should read. The subhead on the article declares, “Self-publishing is upending the book industry”. So no matter what your publishing experience, Ms. Chan’s story is one that can help you navigate the fast changing landscape.

What I like about her journey is it reinforces what I have been saying in my secrets of self published authors series of blog posts. Perhaps the most important thing about this story is she believed in her work. That is the second secrect I shared in an earlier post. While she piled up rejection, it did not make give up on her dream of reaching readers with her writing.

This quote from the article sums up a key lesson all authors can learn from Ms. Chan’s success.

“The story of how Ms. Chan joined the ranks of best sellers is as much a tale of digital marketing savvy and strategic pricing as one of artistic triumph. Her breakout signals a monumental shift in the way books are packaged, priced and sold in the digital era. Just as music executives have been sidestepped by YouTube sensations and indie iTunes hits, book publishers are losing ground to independent authors and watching their powerful status as literary gatekeepers wither.”

authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

How do you build a platform? Author Kathi Macias shares her strategy

Author Kathi Macias provides some helpful tips on how to build a platform

Recently, I facilitated a panel that included author, Kathi Macias. Kathi is a multi-award winning writer who has authored more than 35 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. She is also a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and won the Member of the Year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association), as well as Novel of the Year from Golden Scrolls and finalist for a Carol Award from ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al.  Here are some exerpts from my interview with her regarding how she built a platform.

Kathi, you have been in publishing for quite some time, but at some point social media became an important part of your strategy. What prompted that focus?

 When I first started in the publishing world (eons ago!) we didn’t use agents or publicists, nor did we concern ourselves with marketing or promotion. That was the publisher’s job. All we had to do was write good, clean manuscripts, turn them in on time, and then move on to the next project. With about 15 or so books under my belt (one a bestseller for my publisher), I suddenly found myself struggling to land a contract. My agent agreed that I was turning in strong proposals, but nothing seemed to click. Then one day, while attending the International Christian Retailers Services (formerly Christian Booksellers Association) conference, a longtime editor friend sat me down and said, “Kathi, no one in the industry doubts that you can write. What we need to know now is, can you sell?” The need to get onboard with marketing and promotion hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks! In addition to hiring a personal publicist, I threw myself into online social networking, and it made all the difference. I am now getting contracted again (so much so that I can scarcely meet my many deadlines!) and having a ball writing several books a year. At times I still lament the fact that social networks are more time-consuming than I would like, I also know they are crucial to successful publishing and marketing.

 If I remember correctly, you now have 8,000,000 people who receive your devotional in an email. How did you develop such a large following?

Actually, I have a “guesstimated” weekly readership for my weekly devotional (in English and Spanish) of 8,000,000. I started with a mailing list of about 40 people, who often emailed to ask permission to reprint my devotionals or pass them on to others. I now give blanket permission to anyone anywhere any time to use/reprint/pass on the devotionals however they wish. The only stipulations are that they keep my name as writer, include my website link, and don’t make changes to my writing without checking with me first. For the most part, I believe people have honored that. And oh, how it has grown from there! Though I don’t personally have the names of all those 8,000,000 readers on my mailing lists (I’m overwhelmed at the thought!), that is the figure we (I and those who reprint my devotionals weekly) have come up with as being a close and relatively accurate estimate. The largest publications that regularly post/carry my devotionals are, Black Christian News, Latino Christian News, and Christians in Recovery, though there are several others. I’m still stunned when I think of how God took that tiny seed of 40 names and exploded it into a readership beyond my wildest dreams (as the Bible says, “exceedingly, abundantly, above ALL I could think or ask”). The key, I believe, is not feeling territorial about this portion of my writing. Though I receive income on other writing projects, including my books, I never charge or even accept payment when offered for these weekly devotionals. It is my way of giving back from the many blessings I’ve received over the years.

You recently released a new book this year. Tell us about it and how are you using social media to promote it.

I actually released three books this year: People of the Book (April 2011), set in Saudi Arabia (final of four in Extreme Devotion series); Deliver Me From Evil (September 2011, first of three in Freedom series, dealing with human trafficking), and A Christmas Journey Home (October 2011, first of annual Christmas novels to be written around social issues, this one being the illegal immigration controversy). With all three books, I participated in online blog tours (two per books, each hitting different readership potential and lasting about one month each). I also had video trailers made and have done radio and TV campaigns (still in the middle of those). I also do lots of giveaways online. I have Google Alerts set up to let me know when anything posts about any of my books (or just me in general), and then I post the info/link on Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., making sure that they are all set up in such a way to feed from one into the others. This is crucial in creating the “buzz” we authors so desperately need to let people know about our work and how to find us.

Kathi used social media to help promote her latest book.

If you could tell aspiring authors one thing about social media, what would it be?

 If you are serious about writing, then you must believe you have something worth saying, something people want/need to hear. That will never happen unless potential readers know about your book: when it releases, what it’s about, why they should read it, where to find out about it and order it. Also, offer an incentive to people who not only buy the book but post reviews online. I usually tell people that if they will let me know when they’ve purchased/read my newest book and posted a release, then I’ll see that they get a free copy of the next book. Sure, we don’t make any money off the books we give away, but it helps build a faithful reader following.