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Author: Iola

I provide professional freelance manuscript assessment, copyediting and proofreading services for writers of Christian fiction and non-fiction books, stories and articles. I also review Christian novels at www.christianreads.blogspot.com.

Best of the Blogs: 25 March 2107

Best of the Blogs from Christian Editing ServicesBest of the blogs: the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Writing

Kristen Lamb is back again this week, asking: Do Some People Lack the Talent to be Authors?

Does writing take talent … or just a whole lot of practice and a willingness to learn? What do you think?

Marketing

Book Descriptions

Why is it so easy to write 80,000 words, yet so difficult to condense that down into a brief book description which sells? BookBub have eight hints to help write a book description which sells. Well, it sells books for BookBub. It might not sell on Amazon, which permits longer descriptions.

Cover Design

Joel Friedlander has published his monthly cover design awards. James Egan and Damonza solidify their reputations as the cover designers to save up for.

Possible trends to note included several covers with characters turned away from the reader or in silhouette, and one which used an italic font. There were also a few covers with yellow or orange. Joel warned against this a couple of years ago, but I’m now seeing a trend for thriller or suspense novels.

As usual, it’s worth looking through the full list (100 covers) to see what works, what doesn’t, and why.

Branding

Jenny Hansen shares a fabulous post on author branding at Writers in the Storm. Read Helpful Hacks to Build a Strong Online Brand.

Twitter

Andrew Pickering visits Social Media Examiner to share 7 top tips for using Twitter to Drive More Traffic to Your Blog. I’m only doing three of these. I’m sure I can add three more with only a few tweaks to my sharing routine. One might be a little more trouble—anyone want to guess which of the seven I’m least keen on?

Award Finalists!

The 2016 Grace Award finalists have been announced, and Kiwi Christian author Kara Isaac is a finalist in the Romance/Historical Romance category.

And Romance Writers of America have announced the finalists for the RITAs, the romance world equivalent of the Oscars … and Kara Isaac is a double finalist—First Novel, and Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements. Congratulations, Kara!

Best of the Blogs: 18 March 2017

Best of the blogs: the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Best of the Blogs from Christian Editing Services

Writing

Plot vs. Character (the Rematch)

Last week I shared a blog post from James Scott Bell on why plot is more important than character. This week, Kristen Lamb takes the opposing view: that Character Determines Plot.

Discover Your Writing Voice

Jeff Goins tells us that the way we discover our writing voice is by reading and copying others. Lots of others. Who do you copy?

Editing

Do you use editing tools? I tried Grammarly for about a week, and while I liked the idea, it’s an online programme … which means it slowed down Word too much for me to work with, and I couldn’t use it at all when out of wifi range.

Anyway, April Bradley visited Writers Helping Writers to give an introduction to ProWritingAid, which sounds good–especially as it can apparently be used online, with Word, or as a separate desktop application.

Have you tried ProWritingAid? Do you recommend it? Read more here: ProWritingAid: A Useful Tool.

Publishing

Attorney Susan Spann visits Writers in the Storm to share 10 Questions to Ask before you sign a publishing contract.

I’ve covered several of these in Christian Publishing: A Guide to Publishers Specializing in Christian Fiction. If you don’t already have a copy, sign up for my monthly newsletter and I’ll send you a copy.

Networking

I’m an introvert, so I never felt comfortable networking in the corporate world. The writing and editing world suits me so much better, because it’s full of introverts, and most of the networking is done like this, using the written word. This week, Kaye Dacus has a post on the importance of Networking for Building Name Recognition in the writing world—especially important in the small world of Christian fiction.

I’ve come across several other writers who have been published because of their connections, for better or worse. Romantic suspense author Dani Pettrey thanks Dee Henderson in her acknowledgements. Forensic thriller author Carrie Stuart Parks thanks her BFF’s husband who coached her in writing until she earned a contract—a guy named Frank Peretti.

Marketing

Book Reviews

As a long-time Amazon reviewer, I try (try!) to keep up with what’s changing in the world of Amazon reviews. In fact, it’s something I must write a blog post on, because a lot of what I wrote in my last series of posts is now outdated. Anyway, here is Big Al at Indies Unlimited commenting on one of the changes: how customer reviews are displayed on Amazon.

Improving Your Reach

Nina Amir at How to Blog a Book posts on How to get Better Mileage Out of Your Blog Posts. Basically:

  • Deliver them in different formats (video, audio, written)
  • Make them shareable
  • Share your posts (you can automate some of this using a tool such as Buffer).

I haven’t yet tried video or audio. Would you watch a Facebook Live question-and-answer session? Let me know in the comments. And add your questions!

Websites for Writers: Which Platform is Best?

Writer websites - Christian Editing ServicesWhy have a website?

It’s your “space” on the internet. It needs to be a space you control, because otherwise you’re at the mercy of ever-changing algorithms and terms of service.

(This is also why marketing experts recommend developing an email list. Because you own it.)

I recommend having a self-hosted WordPress.org site rather than a free Blogger or WordPress site.com. There’s nothing wrong with Blogger or WordPress.com, but the point of a website is that you own it. And you don’t own a free blog. As I found out …

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Blog

One day I woke up to find my Blogger site, Iola’s Christian Reads, had disappeared. Instead, there was a message to say my site had been removed because of “inappropriate content”. It was a book review blog. Of Christian novels. What could possibly be inappropriate about that, beyond a few critical reviews of books I didn’t enjoy because of dubious theology?

Who knows? Anyway, I followed Google’s instructions and Google must have agreed with me, because my site was soon restored. No harm done. Even if I had lost material, I could have recreated the site. I have Word copies of all the reviews. Most of them have also been posted to Amazon and Goodreads, so it’s not like the content will disappear forever.

But that story could have had a different outcome.

And that’s why I recommend having a self-hosted site: because then you’re not at the whim of Google (or some disgruntled reader who’s reported you for being “inappropriate”). And I’m not alone in this: every book marketing expert I know of recommends the same thing, including Michael Hyatt, Jeff Goins, Kristen Lamb, Joanna Penn, Nick Stephenson, Chris Syme, and more.

What does Self-Hosted Mean?

Hosting refers to where the site is stored online. It means you either have to host the site yourself (and I have absolutely no idea if that’s even possible, let alone how much it would cost). Or you have to use a service like Bluehost or Dreamhost to host your site. And that does have a cost—$5-$10 per month depending on the size of your site and how much you pay in advance, but a cost nonetheless (Bluehost is US $3.95 per month if you’re prepared to pay three years up front).

You can often tell from the website address whether it’s a hosted or self-hosted site:

Experts say you look more professional if you have your own site name rather than a Blogger or WordPress address. It says you’re serious—a Blogger address says this is a hobby. And I’m fine with that for my book review blog, but not for my professional sites. (Yes, you can use your own website address on a free Blogger site, but there is a charge for this.)

If you want to understand hosting options better, then I suggest you listen to this podcast episode from The Novel Marketing podcast: Website Hosting for Authors (13:58 long).

What Are My Website Options?

The main options are:

  • Blogger
  • SquareSpace
  • Weebly
  • Wix
  • WordPress.com
  • WordPress.org

Blogger

Blogger is owned by Google, and it’s more basic than Weebly, Wix or WordPress, which means it’s an ideal first website for many people (including me). But Blogger has limited ability to change the blog’s appearance (which limits your ability to brand yourself), and has limited functionality.

SquareSpace

SquareSpace has a free trial, but appears to cost USD 12.00 per month (when paid annually). It’s another simple platform, which makes it easy to use, and the themes are apparently among the best. All themes are mobile responsive, and it integrates with mailing programmes such as MailChimp.

Weebly

Weebly is a drag-and-drop platforms. This means you get to choose how your site looks. The basic site is free, but runs off a subdomain (so your website address is www.yourname.weebly.com), has a 500MG storage limit, and displays Weebly advertisements. And running a site though Weebly means it’s their site. Not your site. Only some themes are mobile responsive.

You can have up to ten pages on a free Weebly site (and I don’t know if that includes a blog or not). That might seem a lot when you’re first setting up a site, but in time you’re going to need a page for your books, and a page for each individual book. You don’t want to get to the stage of launching your third or fourth book and realize you need to move your website. Better to think longer-term now.

Paid Weebly plans start at USD 8.00 per month (when paid annually), and allow for a custom domain and no advertisements. See https://www.weebly.com/pricing for prices.

Wix

Wix is similar to Weebly, in that it is a drag-and-drop platform, and the free version runs off a Wix subdomain (so your website address is www.yourname.wix.com), and displays Wix advertisements. Themes are not mobile responsive, which is a big issue as mobile use grows.

Paid Wix plans start at USD 4.50 per month, and allows a custom domain name but still display advertisements. See http://www.wix.com/upgrade/premium-plans for prices.

If you use Wix and you’re planning to develop an email list and have a newsletter, then you won’t be able to use MailChimp or any of the more common email programmes. You’ll have to use ShoutOut, Wix’s email programme, and this will mean more work for you when it comes to building your email list.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a free site, hosted by WordPress. While it has a lot of the functionality of WordPress.org, it also has all the disadvantages of free. And free can cost … as social media Jedi Kristen Lamb recently found out when she migrated her website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. Kristen’s web dude was able to migrate all her posts, and she now has a fabulous new site.

But she lost 21,000 followers in the process. Yep, read that again. Twenty. One. Thousand.

Some of them (including me) will find her new site because we’re following her via Feedly (web dude must have done something clever there!). Others will find her because they follow her via email, or because they are members of her #MyWANA tribe.

As she says, learn from the mistakes of others. If you’re serious about being an author, start as you mean to go on. And that means a WordPress.org website.

WordPress.org

All the experts recommend self-hosted WordPress sites, which is what I’ve gone for and what I recommend for this challenge. The main advantages are:

  • You don’t have the telltale .blogspot.com or weebly.com or wix.com or wordpress.com address
  • You have a lot more options around customising your site so it doesn’t look like everyone else’s sites (when I first started my book review blog I used a theme with books in the background—and so did every other newbie book blogger. That’s not good branding).
  • There are hundreds of free and premium (aka paid) plug-ins available for WordPress sites.

A plug-in is basically an app or program that adds some kind of useful functionality e.g. automatic site backups, or contact forms. If you’re on a hosted site (WordPress or other), you won’t be able to access a lot of this functionality.

The main reason I’m suggesting WordPress is because I found a fabulous 5-Day Challenge which enables you to build your own self-hosted WordPress site from scratch. I built both my sites with it, and absolutely recommend it,.

Which platform is best is going to depend on what you want to do with your site.

But I’m going with all the experts and saying that if you’re a professional author, your best option is self-hosted WordPress.

Best of the Blogs: 11 March 2017

Best of the blogs: the best posts I’ve read this week on writing, editing and marketing.

Best of the Blogs from Christian Editing Services

 

Writing

James Scott Bell on Plot

James Scott Bell visited Writers Helping Writers® to discuss the chicken-and-egg of fiction writing: Does character drive plot? Or does plot drive character? He’s the author of Plot and Structure and Write Your Novel from the Middle, so his answer is no surprise. Read Conflict and Suspense Belong in Every Kind of Novel to find out why.

Bryn Grenwood on Productivity

Bryn Greenwood posted on Hot Bunking for Writers at Writer Unboxed. I read the post because the title caught my eye—what on earth did she mean? I’ll let you read the article and find out for yourself: Hot Bunking for Writers.

I love the idea. Productivity experts do recommend knuckling down into a task rather than flitting between a variety of tasks. Apparently, multi-tasking is not good for productivity. Who knew? Hot bunking is a solution which also addresses writers block—and anything that stops us staring at a blank screen is a great idea!

Editing

Kathy Edens on Writing Aids

Kathy Edens shares at LiveWriteThrive about her experiences using ProWritingAid, and what it’s taught her about how to improve her writing. Have you used a writing or editing tool like ProWritingAid? The free or paid version? What has it taught you? Would you recommend it?

Marketing

Kristan Higgins on Organic Marketing

I missed this post when it first came out, but  found it after it was shared in one of my Facebook groups. If you’re one of the many authors who loathes marketing because it brings to mind images of scammy, spammy and smarmy self-promotion, you’re in the right place. In this article, Kristan Higgins visits Romance University to share about Organic Marketing aka passive marketing. It’s about getting the foundations right.

She also makes a unique and funny distinction between a writer and an author—and reminds us there is a time and a place for each.

Penny Sansiveri on Amazon Author Pages

If you’re a published author, you should already have claimed your author page at Amazon Author Central. Did you know you can also claim your page on international Amazon sites as well? Book marketing expert Penny Sansiveri explains how in The Most Overlooked Amazon Sales Tool:

Inspiration

And finally, Laurie Tomlinson visits Novel Rocket with a challenge: are you a real writer? Or are you letting Impostor Syndrome lie to you and say you’re not?

 

Should I use a Pen Name? Why or why not?

 

One dilemma many authors face is the decision over what name to use as their author name. Do they use their own name, a variation of their name, or should they use a pen name?

Pen Names - www.christianediting.co.nzMost authors use some version of their own name. This could be:

  • First name-last name
  • First name-maiden name
  • First name-middle name-last name (or similar)
  • First name-initial-last name
  • First name-maiden name-last name
  • Initials-last name

First name-last name is probably the best option. Married women have the option of using their maiden name or their married name. Although if your married name is Jones or Smith … you’re probably better going with your maiden name. Or vice versa. (If you’re Grandma Megan, who was born a Smith and married a Jones … you may have a problem.)

Many authors with common-ish names use a middle initial or middle name to distinguish themselves e.g. Jerry B Jenkins, Kristi Ann Hunter. Other use a middle name which might be their maiden name or other family name, e.g. Lisa Karon Richardson.

But some authors don’t want to use their own name for one of many possible reasons:

You Write in Multiple Genres

Many authors choose pen names for writing in multiple genres. Well-known general market examples of this are:

  • Victoria Holt (gothic romance) also wrote historical romance as Jean Plaidy and the epic Daughters of England series as Philippa Carr.
  • Nora Roberts (romance and women’s fiction) who also writes thrillers as JD Robb.
  • Jayne Ann Krentz (contemporary paranormal romance) who writes historical paranormal romance as Amanda Quick, and science fiction/romance as Jayne Castle.
  • Joanna Penn writes books on writing and publishing, and publishes her thrillers as JF Penn.
  • JK Rowling writes thrillers as Robert Galbraith.
  • Stephen King published a few early novels as Richard Bachman.

Someone Else Has Your Name

You might want use a pen name if your name is John Grisham or Karen Kingsbury or Nora Roberts or Stephen King—because those names already have strong brands associated with them. You might make a bunch of sales by writing as Karen Kingsbury, but you’ll also pick up a bunch of stinking reviews from readers who feel duped.

You Want to Disguise Your Gender

Authors sometimes use their initials to disguise the fact they’re writing in a genre dominated by readers who expect their authors to be female (e.g. romance) or male (e.g. thriller). Examples include JK Rowling, JD Robb, JF Penn, and EB James. Or there’s LM Montgomery, who may have used initials to avoid the prejudice against female authors (as did the Bronte sisters, who were originally published as Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell).

You Want to Keep Your Privacy

Some authors pick pen names because they want a degree of privacy or anonymity. This could be to preserve the privacy of others (e.g. if they’re writing about real people), or to preserve their own privacy (EL James is a pen name). I’ve heard of authors using pen names because they write children’s fiction and erotica—two genres you wouldn’t want to mix. Or they could use a pen name because their writing reflects opinions their employer (or government) might not approve of.

But be wary of picking a pen name as a way of ensuring online anonymity: if JK Rowling couldn’t keep her pen name a secret, it’s unlikely you can. You’ll need professional legal advice and NSA-level IT skills to keep your pen name separate from your true identity long term.

You Want Your Writing Name to Reflect Your Genre

Other authors pick a pen name to reflect their genre and author brand. I suspect these are pen names:

  • Regina Darcy (Regency romance)
  • Lorna Faith (Christian Western romance)

Or you may need a pen name because your real name doesn’t reflect your genre (e.g. a thriller author with the surname of Love or Hart).

Picking a pen name which reflects your brand could be good marketing—as long as you ensure all your social media reflects that brand.

Picking Your Author Name

Here are some other tips for picking an author name, whether a pen name or a version of your real name:

  • Try and make it unique, but easy to remember.
  • Try and make it easy to spell. Yes, I failed on that. Blame my father.
  • Is the website available?
  • Are the social media account names available e.g. Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest?
  • Be consistent.

If the .com site is taken:

  • Can you get .net, or the site in your country (e.g. .co.uk or .co.nz or .com.au)?
  • Could you add -writer or -author to your name (e.g. www.goins-writer.com)?
  • Could you add a middle initial (e.g. johnpsmith.com)?
  • Could you add a hyphen between your first and last names (e.g. www.john-smith.com)?

I’ve seen some people add a number to the end of their user name to make it unique. I’ve also heard it said not to do so—it apparently looks unprofessional. Or perhaps because too many people use their birth year, leaving them open to identity theft.

You can use www.namecheckr.com to check whether social media account names are available. (A unique name isn’t as important on Facebook, as it allows multiple users with the same name.)

Again, if your chosen name isn’t available, you can try adding -writer, -author, adding a middle initial, or putting a hyphen (-) or dash (_) between your first and last names. This wouldn’t be my preferred option, because it might be hard for fans to remember, but it’s better than nothing.

I’d also suggest being consistent—if www.johnsmith.com is available but you can’t get @JohnSmith on Twitter or Instagram, you might need to reconsider. (Okay, that’s easy for me to say. For some unknown reason, Iola Goulton was available on every platform I checked.)

Final Points

Belinda Pollard has an excellent blog post on choosing a pen name, if that’s your decision. And Helen Sedwick has blogged on the legal implications of using a pen name. Her examples are based on US law, but similar principles will apply everywhere.

Overall, I think it’s easiest if you keep to some variation of your own name, but I understand why some authors decide they need a pen name.

If you do decide to use a pen name, I recommend seeking professional legal advice from an intellectual property attorney on how to set up your new name and keep it secret. It defeats the purpose of having a pen name if anyone with an ounce of Google-fu can uncover your real identity in a few clicks of a mouse.

Best of the Blogs: 4 March 2017

Best of the blogs – the best posts of the week on writing, editing, publishing and marketing your books. And a little inspiration to encourage you.

Best of the Blogs 4 March 2017

Writing

Jami Gold talks about the importance of writing that immerses us in the story—or, more often, what takes us out of the story. She’s right. As usual. (I’m not a fan of the genres she writes, but I love her writing advice.)

Larry Brooks at StoryFix shares some depressingly good advice about The Bermuda Triangle of Storytelling (depressingly good because it’s easy to read, yet difficult to implement).

Beth Vogt visits Novel Rocket to share Donald Maass’s Freeze Frame technique for writing strong fight scenes.

Can you use song lyrics in a novel? It’s a common question, and Helen Sedwick gives the answers in this post at BookWorks.

And for some fun, Kari Lynn Dell visits Writers in the Storm to share 5 Things Rodeo Taught me About Writing.

Editing

Do agents edit? Should agents edit? Rachelle Gardner shares to what level she edits books for clients, and why in How Much Should Agents Edit?

Publishing

Chandler Bolt at Self-Publishing School has a great post on choosing the Perfect Book Title.

And Judith Briles visits The Book Designer to warn us to Beware of Sharks in Publishers Clothing in light of the recent demise of Tate Publishing (of course, if you’d downloaded my free guide to Christian publishers, you’d already know how to tell a shark from a minnow. If you haven’t downloaded it … sign up to my email list in the box on the right).

Marketing

This is a step or three ahead of me for now, but those of you with two or more books published might be interested in this article. In it, Alexandra Amor visits The Creative Penn to talk about using Amazon advertisements (and Facebook tracking pixels) to drive newsletter signups.

Encouragement

And finally, some words of encouragement from DeAnna Julie Dodson (aka Juliana Deering) at Inkwell Inspirations: we are Chosen. And equipped to serve.

That’s all for now. Have a great week!

Six Factors to Consider in Planning an Online Giveaway

Six Factors to Consider in Planning an Online Giveaway via Christian Editing ServicesHave you ever wondered what’s involved in planning an online giveaway? Or how to run a giveaway?

Over the last three weeks, I’ve published a series of blog posts at Australasian Christian Writers. The subject has been email lists and author cross-promotions:

Today I’m going to share six factors to consider in planning an online giveaway.

 

1. Consider Your Strategy

Just because I’ve been extolling the benefits of online giveaways and multi-author cross-promotions doesn’t make it the right tool for you.

The best cross-promotion opportunity for you might depend on your overall marketing strategy. A multi-author cross-promotion to encourage newsletter signups is going to be of little use if you don’t have an email list (although it might be the prompt you need to start one).

Ask yourself: Is this opportunity consistent with my overall marketing strategy?

 

2. Consider Your Brand

With a one-on-one cross promotion with another author, you are effectively endorsing that other author by recommending him or her to your readers. You need to make sure the author is one you want to endorse, in order to protect your own brand—otherwise, you might find yourself in the awkward situation of losing readers if they have an issue with the author you endorsed.

You might need to consider:

  • Genre
  • Content (language, violence, sexual content)
  • Quality of the writing and editing
  • Size of audience—you want the other author to have a similar-sized audience to yours

This is less of an issue with a multi-author cross-promotions, as most allow readers to choose which specific author lists they sign up for.

Ask yourself: Is this promotion opportunity consistent with my author brand?

 

3. Plan Your Giveaway

You’ll need to promote the giveaway to your existing email list, and via your social media channels. You’ll also need to meet any group expectations and requirements in a multi-author cross-promotion. How are you going to do that? Can you schedule a series of social media posts in advance?

Ask yourself: How will I promote this giveaway?

 

4. Plan Your Follow Up

Will your new subscribers be automatically added to your email list, or will you have to add them manually? How are you going to do that? What are you going to do with your new subscribers? Are you going to let them languish on some forgotten list … or are you going to follow up with them right away? Do you have a free download for them, to encourage them to stay on your email list? How are you going to send that to them? Do you have time to individually follow up every email?

This may mean setting up an auto-responder sequence to automatically send a short series of emails to every new subscriber. This needs to written and actioned before the giveaway begins. Note that auto-responder emails aren’t a free feature of most email providers. I’m told they are free with MailerLite, but that tool doesn’t automatically integrate with Instafreebie–so you’ll have to send the emails manually, or pay for a provider like MailChimp.

But the beauty of a pre-prepared auto-responder sequence is once you set it up, it’s there for any future promotions.

Ask yourself: Can I easily set up the appropriate follow-up emails?

 

5. Consider During the Giveaway

The reason I recommend setting up the social media schedule and auto-responder sequence in advance of the giveaway is that you’re likely to get a lot of emails during the period of the giveaway (unless you’ve paid someone else to organise the giveaway for you).

The host of the multi-author Instafreebie giveaway I participated in reported receiving a lot of emails from people who didn’t know how to transfer the file Instafreebie emailed them to their ereader device. Fortunately, she had a relevant YouTube video, so she was able to respond to enquiries by sending the link.

I ask several open-ended questions in my auto-responder email sequence, and several people emailed me with answers … and more questions. Each question was unique, so each response took time (although I will later repurpose several of my answers as blog posts!).

Ask yourself: Will I have time to follow up on individual emails and requests?

 

6. Consider After the Giveaway

Once you’ve run your giveaway (or participated in a multi-author giveaway), you’ll need to find some way of delivering your books to the winners—if this doesn’t happen automatically (e.g. via Instafreebie).

You can:

  • Email the book directly to the winner e.g. epub, mobi or pdf file. Some authors are hesitant about this, because an unscrupulous winner could email the file to their 5,000 closest friends.
  • Gift them the ebook via Amazon, Smashwords or some other online retailer. This is safer, but does cost you money. And you might be unable to gift via Amazon—or the winner might be unable to accept the gift if they’re not on Amazon US.
  • Use a third party such as BookFunnel, Instafreebie or NetGalley.

BookFunnel

BookFunnel is a way of distributing ebooks to bloggers, influencers, reviewers, and street team members. It can also be used to distribute ebooks to your email list. You load up your book in ePub and mobi formats, and BookFunnel creates a link to that book. This can be a unique link for each reader (e.g. for a review team), or a general link.

Prices start at USD 20 per year for the Basic plan. This allows authors to upload up to five books with one pen name, and delivery of up to 500 books per month. This does not include giveaways or MailChimp integration. The Mid-List Author plan is USD 100 per year, and includes giveaways, unlimited books, and up to 5,000 downloads per month. MailChimp integration costs an additional USD 50 per year.

BookFunnel is similar to InstaFreebie, but will provide readers with assistance to get their book delivered to their device.

However, it doesn’t promote giveaways in the same way as InstaFreebie does—it relies on you promoting your book in order to get people to sign up to your email list.

NetGalley

I’ve blogged previously about NetGalley. One of its features is the ability to email a widget that allows the recipient to download the ebook in epub or mobi format. However, NetGalley is expensive, so this is probably only an option if you or your publisher are already paid-up members.

Ask yourself: Do I need to invest in any tools to manage this giveaway?

 

What else might you need to consider in planning a giveaway?

 

Best of the Blogs: 25 February 2017

Best of the Blogs from Christian Editing ServicesBest of the blogs – the best posts of the week on writing, publishing and marketing your books.

Writing

Larry Brooks (the Story Engineering guy) has a great post this week. He’s examining the fiction trifecta: three qualities to evaluate about your story intention, and execution. Read The Triad of Storytelling.

And Kristen Lamb shares about the importance of hooking the reader (and not letting go). Kristen is going to be speaking at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference in Rotorua in August, and I’m looking forward to hearing her.

Publishing

The jury remains divided on whether cover design or editing is the most important aspect of your book. While I have an obvious bias, I do acknowledge the importance of a great cover. The cover entices the potential buyer to check out those important first few pages. The writing and editing are important, but only after someone has picked up the book.

If you don’t read Joel Friedlander’s monthly Cover Design Awards post, you should. It will give you some great ideas about what to look for in a great cover (and therefore a great cover designer), but also what to avoid.

What always strikes me is the number of covers which get things half-right: a stellar illustration pulled down by indifferent font choices, an illegible book title, an illustration that fails because it’s too busy.

Joel also makes an important point on one of the non-fiction covers: the cover should be aimed at the intended buyers, not the author. Anyway, check out the January 2017 eBook Cover Design Awards.

Social Media

I’m not on Medium, but How to Use Medium from Nicole Bianchi makes me wonder if I should be. It doesn’t seem like a lot of additional effort—after all, I’d only be reposting content that has already appeared on my blog.

On the other hand, I also need to ask how Medium might fit into my overall marketing strategy. If it doesn’t fit, I shouldn’t use it (and then I don’t need to feel guilty about not using it).

In Sell More Books with Less Social Media, Chris Syme says we should spend a (small) portion of our marketing time researching new tools and adopting those which fit. Have you researched Medium? Do you use it? What do you find?

Marketing

I often see authors on social media asking about swag: those promotional gifts authors give away at book signings or conferences to entice potential readers. Bookmarks are the most common, but I’ve also had badges, pens, teabags (lovely!), chocolate (even better!) and a cloth for cleaning my glasses (which I use most days).

I’ve never seen book charms, although it’s a great idea. I love books and I enjoy crafting. But I’m not sure I have the patience author Deborah Crooke (who also writes as Claire Delacroix) demonstrates in this blog post, Making Book Charms. You know you’re doing something right when your fans offer to pay for your promotional gifts.

One More Thing …

The beginning of March is creeping nearer, as is the start of my March Marketing Challenge: Kick Start Your Author Platform. If you don’t have an author website (or if it’s been neglected of late), this is your opportunity to get it into gear. Click here before 1 March to sign up.

See you next week!

A Step-By-Step Plan to Give Your Book the Best Launch Possible

I’ve read and enjoyed all Keely Brooke Keith’s Uncharted novels, which I guess I’d describe as futuristic historical fiction–they’re set our future, but in a society which has had no external contact for about 200 years, so still has only 1860’s levels of knowledge and technology.

Keely impressed me with her debut novel, not only with her actual story and writing, but with her professional approach to marketing. So I’m delighted to welcome her to Christian Editing Services today to share some of that knowledge with you, and to introduce her first non-fiction projects: The Writer’s Book Launch Journal, and The Writer’s Book Launch Guide (which I reviewed yesterday—click here to read my review).

A Step-By-Step Plan to Give Your Book the Best Launch Possible

The Writers Book Launch Journal by Keely Brooke KeithBy Keely Brooke Keith

Congratulations, it’s a book! Whether you are approaching your first book launch or your tenth, it’s time to take a long slow breath and relax into the creative process of promoting your release. You’ve done the hard work, and someone out there needs your book.

While there is no one-size-fits-all book promotions plan, there are certain essential tasks both traditionally published authors and independent authors should do (or delegate to their assistants) to ensure a fulfilling book launch. I’ve written a handholding book marketing guide to help (The Writer’s Book Launch Journal, Edenbrooke Press), but here are a few basics to get you started:

Ready your website.

Your website is the online version of your office or storefront. It could also be your catalog, your bulletin board, or your yearbook. It should not be a cobweb-covered single page you set up years ago and haven’t touched since.

Unless you are an avid blogger or content provider, the author website is not how readers discover you. It’s where they come to learn more about you. Your web address should be the simplest form of your author name as possible. And it should be the link you share more than any other.

Before you create (or update) your author website, look at the websites of some of the top authors in your genre. Decide what you like about them. Notice some of the elements the websites all have in common. You will probably find most of them have basically the same pages. Choose a theme, or the look of your website, that reflects your brand.

Ready your social media.

While the social media landscape changes as quickly as highly-caffeinated developers can write code, the purpose and best practices of an author using social media for book promotion remain the same. Your readers want access to you (or will once they read your fabulous book). They want the inside scoop on your story, your research, and your writing related events.

Your social media presence should be just that: social.

And it should be professional. And yes, you should also use it to let people know when you have a new book coming out, but recognize that social media is largely a post-discovery point of contact with your readers.

Create or update your social media accounts. This should include an official author page on Facebook, a Twitter account, and a Google+ account. Depending on your genre and target audience, you might also want to have a presence on other platforms. For example: Instagram and SnapChat are popular with teens at the moment, while Pinterest is the website of choice for a large sector of 35+ year old women with college degrees. Twitter is a great place for writers to connect with each other and keep up with the industry.

It might take setting up an account on each major social media site and experimenting to find out what works best for you and where your readers will connect with you. The important thing is that you maintain a consistent, professional presence and, of course, that you choose a platform you enjoy.

Build your connections.

Writing allies are the people who support you and make your writing life possible, enjoyable, and peaceful. You can usually find a writing group by searching online or even through your social media interactions.

Writing conferences come in all sizes and offer a menu of classes to sharpen your skills. There are a variety of professional organizations that support every genre. Consider joining the writing organization that would best align with your writing goals.

Many radio and television programs feature authors, as do newspapers and magazines. Often local media outlets are more accessible to new authors.

Build your dream team by creating a sign-up form and promoting it online. Often the promise of an early review copy of your book is all it takes to get booklovers and bloggers to join your team.

If you like the sound of your own voice, consider starting a podcast and interviewing others in the field related to your book.

Perfect your product.

If you’re traditionally published, your publisher should ensure your book has been professionally edited and formatted and has an eye-catching, genre-appropriate cover. But if you’re independent, it’s up to you. If you’re signed to a traditional publisher, they might write compelling copy for your book. They might not. If you are an indie author, you will have to write it yourself.

Either way, take the time to perfect your book description. Also, consider writing a reader’s guide or book club questions to include in the back of your book.

Create your media kit.

A media kit (also called a press kit) can be as simple as a document file containing your author bio, professional photo, book release information, book cover image, book description, sample Q & A, book excerpt, and endorsements. You might not have all of the information available yet, but go ahead and start the document so you can add to it as you go.

Find potential reviewers.

Book reviewers can be found in groups on social media, on Amazon by looking at the reviews of comparable titles, and on book sites such as Goodreads. You can search online for book bloggers in your genre who accept review submissions. Create a sign up form for new reviewers. Promote it on your social media and send it to your email list.

Find potential endorsers.

Books endorsed by popular authors in the same genre or influencers in the field related to a book tend to sell better than those without endorsements. Who might you ask for an endorsement? If you don’t know the potential endorsers personally, email them individually.

What do you do once you have the basics covered?

Let The Writer’s Book Launch Journal guide you through the marketing and promotional tasks every author should do to ensure a successful book launch. Filled with checklists of essential tasks, an abundance of publicity suggestions, and questions to personalize your promotions, The Writer’s Book Launch Journal will lead you on the journey to a fun and fulfilling book launch.

And since some authors want the information in The Writer’s Book Launch Journal but prefer to scroll through the checklists on their computer, I’ve also written the ebook The Writer’s Book Launch Guide: A Step-By-Step Plan to Give Your Book the Best Launch Possible. This ebook is a good companion to The Writer’s Book Launch Journal because the tasks are explained in more depth. I recommend getting both the journal and the ebook together.

About Keely Brooke Keith

Keely Brooke Keith is the author of The Land Uncharted (Edenbrooke Press) and Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media). Her novels are known for blending genres in unconventional ways. When she isn’t writing stories, Keely enjoys playing bass guitar, preparing homeschool lessons, and collecting antique textbooks. Keely resides with her husband and their daughter on a hilltop south of Nashville where she dreams up stories, hoping to encourage, comfort, and inspire readers. She is a member of ACFW.

Best of the Blogs: 18 February 2017

My roundup of the best of the blogs for the week ending 18 February. It’s got more of a marketing flavour this week, as I’ve been researching and putting together the March Marketing Challenge: one month to kick-start your author platform. If you’re interested, sign up here: March Marketing Challenge.

March Marketing Challenge - Kick Start Your Author Platform

Writing

Free eBooks for Writers

In case you didn’t get the message last week, I’m part of a promotion featuring 18 free ebooks for writers on writing, publishing and marketing. If you’re looking to understand Twitter better, you won’t want to miss The #ArtofTwitter by Daniel Parsons, and Transform Cold Clicks into Raving Readers by Victoria Pinder has lots of great information on building an email list and setting up your autoresponder sequence (and if you don’t know what that means, you need to download her book, and sign up for my free challenge to Kick Start Your Author Platform).

Publishing

Cover Design

Reedsy had a great post this week on the importance of good cover design, as well as a cool infographic. The part which most interested me was that some of the ‘bad’ covers in the article are actually excellent covers in terms of design. It’s just the design is wrong for the genre.

Book Design

This is getting a little geeky (okay. More than a little geeky), but I enjoyed this article from Retinart on the secret of great book design: page harmony. Mathematicians among you will recognise the Golden Ratio at work …

Vanity Publishing

Vanity publishing continues to make waves. I was impressed by this article from author Steven Capps: 6 Signs of Scam Publishers. Read it. It could save you thousands.

Book Reviews

And finally, here is Keith Cronin at Writer Unboxed debates the pros and cons of authors reviewing, and discusses the Bambi rule of reviewing – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Except … most of the blog readers disagree.

What do you think?