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

Free webinar: 7 Secrets of Successful Self Published Authors

Register for the free webinar at the Author Learning Center

On Wednesday, June 6 at 2:30 pm EST, the Author Learning Center is offering a free webinar, 7 Secrets of Successful Self Published Authors. This is a webinar I have presented previously on the Author Learning Center and for Writers Digest. It is the most popular free webinar ever presented on Writer’s Digest in terms of number of people who registered and number who attended.

The material I present is based on my own experience as an author and from the conversations I have had with hundreds of authors. It is intended to help authors better understand their options in today’s publishing world and what they need to do if they are going to succeed if they self publish.  There is also a time for you to ask questions, which I greatly enjoy. The webinar is free so register as soon as you can and feel free to tell others about it.

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

The 7 key elements of a great book cover

This iUniverse fiction book has an interesting title and strong cover image.

Do first impressions matter? Of course, they do. For your book, your cover will make the first impression on readers. It is your three-second introduction to the reading public. When readers are browsing the bookstore shelf or the internet,  your book cover needs to grab their attention, but also make a promise as to what readers will find on the pages inside.  So here are seven elements of cover design you should  give thought and attention to as you get ready to publish.

  1. Your title. Place yourself in the reader’s shoes when making your final decision for your book’s title. Will your title make sense to the reader? Is it easy to remember? When choosing your title make sure it conveys your message and fits the design you have in mind. As a writer, try not to get too caught up in creating a clever title, when a straightforward title will do. Creativity can sometimes interfere with clarity.
  2. The subtitle. If needed, elaborate on your book’s subject with a subtitle. A good subtitle provides additional information through a descriptive line which compliments your title. Include any searchable keywords that are not in your title  in your subtitle if appropriate.
  3. Cover design and layout. Your title should be legible at a glance and you should avoid small or faint text as well as busy backgrounds. Select a font or two for your text, staying away from decorative fonts that are hard to read. Choose a strong image that helps people remember your book and integrates with your title. A single image usually impacts more than multiple images. Remember your image should not overwhelm your title, so beware of overpowering your words with pictures. Above all, make sure all text is easy to read.
  4. Back cover or panel copy. This should be a short summary of your book that gives readers a preview or teaser for what to expect when they read it. It should not be about why your wrote the book or a table of contents. It should work like an ad to draw in potential readers.
  5. Endorsements and reviews. Endorsements and reviews help add to the credibility of your book. So if you have endorsements from influential people or reviews, think about including them on your back cover or jacket flap if you have a hard cover edition. If you have an endorsement from a well-known personality you may want to consider putting a mention on your front cover.
  6. The spine. Make it simple, easy to read, and viewable sideways. In most cases, you do not want to include your subtitle due to space limitations.
  7. Your author bio. Briefly state who you are and your most recent accomplishments. Try to keep your author description around three sentences and establish your credentials if you are writing a non-fiction book and your personality if you are writing a fiction book. Readers love to know things about the author. It helps them connect with the book in a different way. Use your author bio to help readers feel like they know something about you.

You have likely spent months and maybe even years working on your manuscript. Make sure you take the time to give your cover the attention it deserves. After all it is the first impression most readers will have of your book.

authors, book marketing, book selling, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, Thomas Nelson, writing

5 keys to building your platform from the new book by Michael Hyatt.

Mike Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson publishers,  has been an innovator in the publishing industry his whole career.  He was one of the first CEOs to utilize the power of social media for his company, himself and authors.  From his experience, he has written an amazingly helpful book on how to build your platform.  In the past eight years, he has generated some impressive numbers:

  • 300,000+ unique monthly visitors
  • 123,000+ Twitter followers
  • 92,000+ monthly podcast listeners
  • 70,000+ newsletter subscribers
  • 17,000+ Facebook fans

So his advice is not theory. It is lessons learned from his experience and they are lessons every author can apply. Here’s what Mike  says about this book on his blog .

Listen, in the past eight years, I’ve experienced every setback, mistake, and headache you can imagine while building my own platform. But I’ve also managed to generate:

The point of those numbers is not to brag. The point is to illustrate that I know what works (and what you should avoid). I carefully documented everything I learned in building my platform—successes AND failures.

Platform consists of five sections and sixty, short chapters full of practical steps, real-world examples, and helpful resources. It is not armchair theory. It is not idle speculation. It is full of “news you can use” to help you build your own platform.

I highly recommend it.

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

Westbow Press author, Danielle Stammer, shares inspiring story about surviving the Joplin tornado

One of the great things about being an author today is you absolutely can get published and share your story with others. Years ago, that might not be possible. Consequently, there are some books that get to market that may not sell a million copies,  but will impact thousands of lives. One recent example that came to my attention is Singing Over Me, which was published by Danielle Stammer through Westbow Press.

A year ago  Danielle and her family sought safety from the category 5F tornado in Joplin, Mo. Their home, along with much of their city, was destroyed. Recently, she was featured in an article in the New York Post, titled Twist of Fate.  Danielle also just published her first book, which details how her family survived the storm and how they’ve rebuilt their lives in the midst of loss.

The entrance to St. John’s Medical Center where the Stammers sought shelter from the storm.

Here are a few excerpts from an interview she did on the Westbow Press blog and the closing paragraph from the New York Post article.  Her faith is what sustained her as she shares in her book, but even if you can’t identify with that part of her story, I think her comments about writing are helpful to all authors.

What detail do you remember most about May 22, 2011?

DANIELLE: Most days easily fade in our memories with only a snippet or two that sometimes remain. May 22, 2011, is crystal clear and full of details in my mind. I can easily feel the hectic pace as our family scrambled out the door for church that morning; I can see myself breathing a sigh of relief and excitement as my husband’s graduation celebrations came to a close that afternoon; my heart beats fast as I remember trying to make certain my friends and loved ones were taking shelter when the sirens went off; I can still see the black sky, full of energy and tension, only moments before the tornado formed; and I can still hear the silence in my mind when my ears were too full of noise to process individual sounds. But, I think the detail I remember most about May 22, 2011, is the peace I felt while hunkered down over my 17-month-old little boy as the wind ripped into the space around me.

Writing is healing….in a form that would benefit others

Why were you inspired to write?

DANIELLE: Writing is healing. Singing Over Me was already swimming around in my head when the Lord inspired me to process my journey in a form that would benefit others. Isn’t it just like the Lord to heal me in a way that offers healing to others?

Did writing your manuscript come easily?

DANIELLE: Surprisingly so. I joke with others that it was because I didn’t have to come up with the plot on my own!

What impact do you want your book to have in the world?

DANIELLE: Oh, for people to know Christ better or fuller through my story would be my greatest desire. I would love for those who are struggling under the weight of life to find a friend in Singing Over Me who walks with them in their raw and honest journey to renewed hope and trust in the Lord.

The tornado damaged our town, but it didn’t destroy our spirit.

Here’s the closing paragraph of the New York Post article

A year later, almost to the date, nearly 80% of the businesses that were destroyed during the tornado have been rebuilt and already have reopened.

Though there are still signs of the storm, areas that are abandoned or not yet fixed, the community is healthier and more united than ever.

We got help from outside our town, too. The show “Extreme Home Makeover” built seven homes in seven days and helped rebuild our Cunningham Park.

But the work isn’t over.

On May 26, the town will celebrate the second-annual Restore Fest, a Christian-rock charity festival.

The first one occurred just 45 days after the tornado and helped raise funds for the early recovery efforts.

The second annual one will be even bigger, with many Christian rock bands performing to help us raise money for Joplin residents who still need the help, providing thousands of people with services, such as free groceries, hot meals, haircuts, and job fairs.

The tornado damaged our town, but it didn’t destroy our spirit.

book marketing, book selling, Ebooks, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Six essential things every author needs to think about before publishing

As you know I have lots of conversations with authors. Some who find self-publishing one of the best things they have ever done and then others who are frustrated because they did not accomplish what they had hoped for when they started  the process. Here are six things to keep in mind as you begin your publishing journey that will help you make the most of your opportunity.

Knowing who the audience is for your book is the most important element in your marketing plan.

1. If you write for everyone, you may not appeal to anyone.
If you have read this blog, listened to one of my webinars, or read my book, 7 secrets of successful self-published authors, this will sound like a broken record. The best place to start your publishing journey is to identify the most likely group of people who will want to read your book. In other words, write with a particular person or audience in mind. Focus on characteristics such as gender, age and avocation. For example, do you think more females or males will want to read your book? What age? Do they have a particular area of interest such as romance or science fiction? Providing clear answers to questions such as these will increase your ability to effectively market your book.
2. Your marketing plan is as important as your manuscript .
Most authors who pen a manuscript are not eager to market their book alone. Yet the primary responsibility for book marketing lies with the author. You can find outside resources to help you, but having a plan for how you are going to promote your book and gain distribution is even more critical. You can find a number of resources to help you craft a marketing plan to help you reach your publishing goals, but you should not have the expectation that someone else is going to do it all for you. You need to be part of the process.

This cover has a short memorable title and a clear subtitle. It catches my attention and tells me what the book is about. Does your title do that?

3. An interesting title draws attention and potential customers.

You labor over every word. You make sure all stylistic elements are perfect. Yet, the first words most people read will be your title. It is important to give as much care and thought to your title as any other part of your book. Tips on good titles include:
  • Don’t make the title too long. If I can’t remember it, I won’t be able to tell others about it and the type size on the cover will be too small to read.
  • Speak to potential readers, but don’t make it too cryptic. There may be a phrase or word that resonates with your target audience. If there is, consider using it in your title.
  • Reward the reader of your title. Make sure your title gives some hint of what readers will find within the pages of your book.
4. A book isn’t just judged by its cover. It’s sold by it.
Like your title, your cover design is crucial to attracting book buyers and readers. Be sure your cover fits your genre and the artwork supports the title. Work to ensure the typeface is legible and there is enough contrast between the background and the typeface color so the title can be easily read. A cover that is too plain or too complicated can send the wrong message to readers. Also, a cover that is based on a template can detract from the uniqueness of your book. Our skilled designers can help you optimize your creative ideas for the most effective cover. Too many authors ignore the advice of professionals and execute their vision for the cover even if it is not the best option.
5. Limiting the formats of your book may limit your opportunity
As e-books have increased too many authors either focus exclusively on digital or even worse, just one format, like a Kindle. While hardcovers are in decline and e-books are on the rise. there are still a number of paperback books that are sold so author should really think through whether or not there is any advantage to limiting the formats readers can buy the book.
6. If you don’t have specific goals, you can’t measure success.
It is important for you to set realistic goals for your book. To help you do that, you need to conduct a self-analysis of how much time you can invest in promoting your book. What goals can you reasonably expect to achieve from the different sales channels available to you? What speaking opportunities are available to you and can you sell your books while you are there? These are just a few of the questions you need to consider. Too often authors have unrealistic goals or lack a plan so they end up disappointed, but somehow they thought if they publish their book, the world will come calling.
authors, book marketing, book selling, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

Which authors benefit the most from self-publishing?

In this short video, Pete Nikolai, Director of Backlist Development and Publishing Services at Thomas Nelson, shares his thoughts on why self publishing is a great option for new authors. Pete has varied background in publishing including working in retail bookstores for a period of his career so he brings a broad set of experiences to his point of view. The video is featured on the Author Learning Center currently and provides some simple insights that can help you on your publishing journey.  Some of his key points include:

  • Each author needs to look at his or needs and decide how they can best be published.  That may not sound like a profound statement, but I think what is important is even a few years ago, there were no options. Now an author can choose to do it all themselves using a publishing platform like Booktango, use an assisted self-publishing company like many of the imprints at Author Solutions or pursue a traditional route. Each of these options has particular benefits. If you want to understand the differences more clearly and what you need to do to succeed as a self-published author, you may want to download the 99 cent e-book, 7 secrets of successful self-published authors.
  • New authors benefit most because it helps them get there book in the marketplace. This is perhaps the most important benefit to self-publishing: speed-to-market. Instead of waiting for years to see if it will be available to readers, self-publishing allows the book to get out in the marketplace. That way consumers can be the curators of content, not just editors at big publishing houses.
  • It lets the messages that consumers want to respond to stand on their own. Because of changing economics, traditional publishers are having to drastically reduce the number of choices for consumers. Self-publishing gives consumers more choices and books that would otherwise be ignored by big houses because they do not have mass appeal. This does mean not all the books that get published will be well-written or well-produced, but that is still no reason to limit the opportunity of writers to get published. Readers are smart. They will find the good books and tell others about them. Self-publishing makes that possible.
authors, book marketing, book selling, Ebooks, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

How my cab driver helped me remember why self-publishing is so great for authors.

A simple conversation with a cab driver reminded me that self publishing is about opportunity and choice. Who is against that?

My meetings were finished so I grabbed a cab to the airport.  I returned all my calls and traffic was at a standstill so I struck up a conversationwith my cab driver.  We didn’t really talk about what I did, but I asked him when his shift started and how long he had been driving a cab. He told me he started at 5:00 am, but went to class in the middle of the day. He had moved to the U.S. five years ago from another country where he was a lawyer and was now trying to get his law degree here. That fascinated me so I asked why would he trade a legal career in another country to drive a cab for years with no assurance he would become a lawyer here. His answers were sincere, refreshing and a great reminder of what democracy means to people. When I told him that I worked in self publishing, he quickly pointed out how that would not be possible if democracy wasn’t the rule of the land.  It was simple, but profound and so I thought about what he said about democracy and realized he was right. Here are some of his quotes followed by my thoughts on how it applies to self publishing

  1. “This is a country of great opportunity”. From his perspective, you could be a cab driver one day, but the opportunity exists for you to be a lawyer the next. It is not guaranteed, but it is possible. In his opinion, no other country offers that as freely as the U.S.   Maybe that is why self-publishing was birthed in North America and more specifically in the U.S.  We are a country that still believes in opportunity. An author can be unknown one day, and reach a wide audience the next. Publishing used to be an aristocracy, but now it is a democracy.
  2. “With opportunity comes possibility”. I have been saying for some time, this is absolutely the best time in history to be an author. Not that long ago if you had a manuscript, your only hope was to get an agent to notice you, and then pray a publisher would pick you up. Now you can still pursue that path of traditional publishing, but you can also use DIY publishing solutions like Booktango or any number of assisted self publishing imprints from a company like Author Solutions to help you get your book published. So instead of walking to the mailbox and pulling out another rejection letter, you can pull out a copy of your book.

The critics of self publishing argue that bad books get published or that authors get taken of advantage of with false hopes of becoming a best seller. I think they are missing the point. Self publishing is about opportunity and choice.

  1. “My five year old son could be president”. With opportunity and possibility come the chance to dream big. In this case, the cab driver said his son, who was born in the US, could grow up to be president one day. In his native land, that isn’t something a parent or child might even think about. As an author, self-publishing makes it possible for you to become a best selling author. It is not guaranteed, but the opportunity and possibility exist. Take Bronnie Ware for example. She lives outside Brisbane, Australia and self published with Balboa Press. Her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying became a topic of world-wide interest. She eventually got a traditional publishing contract and is impacting people throughout the world with her book. Would she have been able to publish through a traditional publisher. Maybe. But how long would she have to wait to see that happen.
  2. “There are some unqualified candidates that run for office, but at least they have a chance to run”. You can probably tell by now, this was not your average cab driver.  We talked politics and he made the point that in America everybody has a chance to run for office. Many candidates are not qualified and spend lots of money only to lose the election. But to him that is not the point. The point is they have the opportunity to run. I think the same thing can be said about self-publishing. There are some “unqualified” books that get published, but the greater good is that every body now has the opportunity to publish.

The critics of self publishing argue that bad books get published or that authors get taken of advantage of with false hopes of becoming a best seller. I think they are missing the point. Self publishing is about opportunity and choice. There is no Rasputin-like spell that has been cast over authors that make them pick a particular publishing option. They choose of their own free will and now they can do it for free using DIY solutions or pay for services to help them accomplish their goal. This is truly the best time in history to be an author!

I have to be honest. In the past, I would have been irritated to sit in traffic that long, but I am grateful for my conversation today. It reminded me of two things I know, but sometimes can lose sight of. First,  even with the challenges we have in our country, this is still one of the greatest places to live. Second, even though there are naysayers, self-publishing is the best thing to happen to authors since Gutenberg’s press.

So if you have a manuscript, take advantage of the amazing opportunity you have as an author today and make the choice that makes sense for you and get your book published.

….even though there are naysayers, self-publishing is the best thing to happen to authors since Gutenberg’s press.