Category Archives: Author Resources

6 Nifty Resources No Indi Author Can Do Without

To paraphrase a famous frog, “It’s not easy being indie.”

Actually, it’s not easy being any kind of writer/author, self-published or traditionally published, but wearing the many hats in every Indie wardrobe–author, marketer, social media manager, designer, newsletter editor … did I miss any?–presents special challenges. We’re talking about the kind of challenges that either drive you to drink, force you to beat your head against the wall, or have you tossing up your hands in defeat.

We can all use a little ….

help-153094_960_720

Am I right? Of course I am. Which is why, I’m here to offer some in the form of 6 nifty resources no Indie should do without. (Purple headers = links, of course.)

Bublish

How would you feel about a tool that lets you write formatted e-books, market those books in a unique way, build your brand, connect with fans, and track reader engagement? This is no fantasy people, this is the reality of Bublish, which lets you do all of the above and a whole lot more. You can try out some of the features via the free plan or all of them via free trial, but I’m sure you’ll want the full-fledged Authropreneur package for either $9.99/month or $99/year.

Bublish is based on the book bubble, a unique and oh-so-posh marketing strategy that lets you send out an excerpt of your book via Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail. Here’s what your basic book bubble looks like:

Screenshot 2016-05-18 13.19.59

Slick, no? Seriously, what’s not to love? Save yourself a lot of time and effort designing go-nowhere ads, and give Bublish a try.

World Literary Cafe

Whoever said you get what you pay for obviously didn’t know about World Literary Cafe, which you can sign up for, as we say in the trade, absolutely free. Billed as the place “Where authors and readers unite,” WLC offers more bennies than you can shake your proverbial indie stick at. Check out these amazing resources:

  • training classes (some free, some for a fee)
  • a free book-marketing video
  • a Facebook like exchange
  • a Twitter follow exchange
  • a blog follow exchange
  • tweet teams
  • a free author toolbox
  • tips on how to maximize your free days on KDP
  • more, more, more!

Listen, you’d have to be brain dead to miss out on all these goodies!

Canva

Did you know social media content with colored visuals gets 80% more views? Hoo-hah! Is that a valuable tip, or what? And here’s another: You can create eye-catching social media posts for free using Canva. Well, for free unless you decide to use one of their paid graphics, but even those are one $1 each. The templates–Facebook post, Twitter post, Pinterest graphic, and so on–have already been created. All you have to do is point and click!

Oh, and if you’re looking to create a header of some kind, Canva has got you covered there, as well. You can even create your own templates, say, a specifically sized header to use on your website!

Hootsuite

Although some of your social media posts should be organic–marketing speak for posted in real time–you can make life a lot easier on yourself by scheduling other posts ahead of time on Hootsuite, which works for Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, WordPress, Instagram, and YouTube! And get this, you can schedule them weeks in advance!

Conventional wisdom has it that you should post:

  • no more than twice a day on Facebook
  • three times per day (at most) on Google+
  • at least three times a day on Twitter (although followers tend to lose interest after the third tweet)
  • once a day on LinkedIn

Obviously, being able to schedule at least a few of those posts ahead of time will leave you more time to do what you do best: write.

Font Squirrel

Looking for a safe place to download free and/or almost-free fonts? Font Squirrel has got your back! Plus, all their fonts are licensed for commercial use.

MailChimp

The e-mail lists is one of the best promotional tools out there, because it allows you to form personal relationships with your readers. We’re not talking about using your list purely to make sales pitches, but sharing personal news, your own book reviews, special subscriber-only offers, and such, in order to exponentially build your fan base. MailChimp is a terrific tool you can use to create a newsletter, the occasional targeted e-mail campaign–say, to announce a book launch–or a coupon. Membership is free (although you can upgrade), and they offer plenty of themes and templates you can edit to make your own. Built-in analytics track the size of your list and give you an idea how well your campaigns are doing.

Advertisements

Cut “That” Out!

Ditch thats FB

Tools of the Trade, Part 1: Words

ster•e•o•type  /ˈsterēəˌtīp/ noun 1. a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

I get this. If you’re an indie author, you get this, because, let’s face it, indies have a bad rep in some circles. Now we can’t do jack about folks who believe writing is easy, and/or we’re in this for the money. No changing minds that color all indies as half-witted hobbyists, geeky basement dwellers, ditzy housewives, or bored retirees.

But before I tumble off my soapbox laughing–or foaming at the mouth–let me add this:  Even Psychology Today admits some stereotypes grow like twisted pearls around a kernel of truth. Our kernel is this:  We’ve got too much half-assed writing out there. Not the sole province of indies, I’ll grant you, but we can only clean our own house.

And speaking of houses, you wouldn’t try to build one without tools–well, not unless you’re Popeye the Sailor, who used to drive nails with his fists, and even he couldn’t build a book without the right tools. For the next few weeks, I’m gonna make like Lowe’s, offering tips and tools for your building pleasure. Today’s special, laying a strong foundation.

We start by repeating our mantra for this Saturday:

Words-Have-Power

You bet they do, so don’t get sloppy with them. Would you get sloppy with a band saw–whatever that is? No way. Well, to paraphrase Edward Bulwer-Lytton, words are mightier than band saws. Think about it.

Words are wonderful. Hobgoblin, finagle, lambaste, titular, weensy, claptrap, crackerjack, fluff, knucklehead, quisling, snout, porcine … I mean, you gotta love ’em, right? So choose the right one. If you won’t listen to me on this, listen to Mark Twain.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Choosing the right word is key for, oh, let me count the ways. Nail your nouns, you won’t need to swaddle them in adjectives that bloat your writing. A strong verb will free you from adverbs, which as Stephen King assures us, pave the road to Hell. So forget the bad storm and heavy rain. You’ve got your deluge, your downpour, or, if you’re in Texas, your frog-strangler. Jettison smiled wryly or widely or sweetly in favor of smirked, beamed, leered, grinned, or simpered.

Sad to say, sometimes the perfect noun or verb is nowhere to be found. In that case, you’ve got nowhere to go but adjectives or adverbs, so go for the heavy lifters. And use as few as possible. Sticking with the storm theme: sheeting rain, shrieking wind, soupy fog. Smile fleetingly or darkly or crookedly. And for God’s sake, don’t be afraid of the unusual. Check out this evocative image from J.D. Robb’s Conspiracy In Death:  “the thin and sticky hand of charity.”

See what I mean? And I may I just say, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.”

Make use of all your word tools. Onomatopoeia, for example. You probably know, but in case you don’t, onomatopoeia is “the formation or use of words such as buzz or murmur that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.” (Thanks for the cut-and-paste, thefreedictionary.com!) You’ll find a nice list here. In case you’re curious, a few personal faves include plunk, jitter, plop, babble (referring to speech, not brooks), eew, grit, and gurgle. I could go on and on, so please … stop me now!

Alliteration is another handy tool, but you want to use this one with caution, unless you’re writing standup comedy, and even then, you don’t want to go all Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. Check out these powerhouse examples:

  • “I’ll kill him,” he said, “in all his greatness and glory.” ~Old Man and the Sea
  • “his appearance was something displeasing, something downright detestable” ~Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
  • “the sibilant sermons of the snake” ~The Gargoyle (nice combo of alliteration and onomatopoeia, yes?)
  • ballbuster ~almost any mainstream mystery novel

Finally, as I’ve often said–much to the dismay of friends and family everywhere–if you’re serious about words, if you want to learn to unleash their power, you need to read poetry. (I heard that groan. Suck it up.) Poets rule when it comes to the efficient, effective use of words. Read and learn:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

Frozen-ground-swell, spilling boulders? Oh yeah, words have power ….

Growing Up Indie, Part VIII: As Time Goes By

The fundamental things apply
As time goes by

I don’t know about you, but as time goes by I forget.  Between writing (or fretting because I’m not) and marketing (what little I do) and keeping an eye on sales (it only takes one eye at this point) and the occasional obsession with reviews, I lose sight of fundamentals every author should remember.  Maybe I need to print them out and post them on the giant bulletin board above my monitor, alongside the next novel’s murder map and my train ticket to Bordeaux and the yellow button that says, “I may be over the hill, but I can still get back on top when I want to.”

Today, I thought I would post them here, because maybe you’ve forgotten, too.  That way, I can remind both of us.  So here, for our collective edification, are 5 fundamentals every writer should keep in mind.

  1. Write for Yourself First.  Don’t start out thinking about sales or gold stars or even the reader.  Stay true to your story; it’s a world only you can offer. Writing at its best is like giving birth. Your imagination is pregnant with a cast of characters and everything that happens to them.  You don’t want to deliver a clone, simply because the kid might be more marketable and people will like you better.
  2. Improve Your Art.  Call me a cockeyed idealist, but I consider writing an art, and frankly, I don’t care whether we’re talking literary coming-of-age novels, romances, or zombie apocalypses.  You’re a wordsmith, and practice should make perfect—or as nearly perfect as we can get in this crazy world.  Get feedback from fellow authors and editors and proofreaders.  Pay attention to what you like about your favorite authors.  Go back and (oh, God!) look at your earlier work and pinpoint what you could have done differently (read:  better).  Always, always be on the lookout for ways to grow as a writer.  Which brings us to our next point ….
  3. Keep It Simple, Silly.  In the past few months, I’ve come close to banging my head against the wall any number of times.  Why?  Because authors who should know better—talking best-sellers here—have suddenly decided more words trump fewer, and the more highfaluting the adjective, the better.  WRONG doesn’t quite cover this phenomenon.  Imagine your next sentence is your hand.  You want your words to deliver a slap or a punch?  Keep your writing compact.  This advice goes hand in hand with fundamental #4.
  4. Write Like You Talk.  Tattoo this Robertson Davies quote on your forehead (backwards, so you can read it in the mirror): “I think of an author as somebody who goes into the marketplace and puts down his rug and says, ‘I will tell you a story’ ….” When you write, tell the story the way you would tell it to a group of friends sitting around a campfire (S’mores optional).  This is what we call your “voice.”  This voice is as unique as your DNA,  flowing directly from who you are and setting you apart from every other author who ever has or ever will write a word.  (This is a good thing.)
  5. Leave Some Gaps.  Want to draw your reader in?  Leave room for his/her imagination.  By that I mean, give just enough detail.  No need to describe every wart, whisker, or button on the armchair.  Let your audience fill in the lesser blanks and get on with the action.  Instead of getting bored, your reader will unconsciously invest a bit of him- or herself in your story.  Plus, you let the reader do some of the work!  What’s not to like about that?

Well, there you (we) have them.  I’m sure you could name other fundamentals, and I’d be obliged if you would share.  Seriously.  Post a comment here, or on my Facebook page or just shoot me an e-mail, and I’ll share.  I’ll be waiting to hear from you ….

Waiting

Growing Up Indie, Part VII: Priorities

Writing is not about the money.  Self-publishing is not about royalties.

There.  I said it.

Now, before you file me under “get real”—or call out the guys in the white coats—let me say this:  Getting paid for what you write is not a bad thing.  I like getting paid.  Royalties make me feel more like a “real author.”  (Whatever that may be, and as sad as that may be.)  Someday, said royalties may event amount to enough to help put gluten-free bread on my table and kibble in the dog dishes.

And lest you think I’ve always taken the high road on money, I freely admit to a darned-near (artistically) fatal case of “gonna make me a bundle” early on in the game.  Yes, as much as it pains me to admit it, I believed the self-publishing-as-the-road-to-riches hype.  Put my books out there, kicked back on the dock, and waited for the Queen Mary to cruise in.

waiting_for_my_ship_to_come_in_by_heylormammy-d33gd1s

I’m still waiting.

Fortunately, the wait hasn’t been wasted.  While peering hopefully at the horizon, I learned what is probably the most important lesson self-publishing had to teach me:  It’s not about the money.  Actually, I think I knew part of this before I started, but the Gold Bug bit me and I forgot.  So, in case you’ve forgotten, too—or maybe never figured it out to begin with ….

“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.”
~John Cheever

That’s the part I already knew but forgot.  Writing is about relationships—the intimate meeting of hearts and minds.  When I write, I invite the reader to join his/her imagination with mine.  (Think Vulcan Mind Meld, only a lot less creepy.)  Together, we can open portals to new worlds and fantastic adventures.  Go it alone, and I’m just talking to myself on paper.

The part of the lesson that caught me by surprise is this:  Self-publishing is also about relationships.

Say what?

Well, it’s like this:  I never connected with as many kind, helpful people in my life, as I have since going indie.  Reader/reviewers.  Marketing mentors.  Altruistic promoters.  Emotional support groups.  (I was going to say “emotional supporters,” but sounded too much like men’s underwear.)  General helper-outers and cheerleaders.  You simply would not believe how many terrific folks are out there, waiting to join hands.  I mean, hokey smokes, it’s enough to restore your faith in mankind!

So allow this junior senior citizen, this student in the continuing-education school of knocks for those hard of head, offer you a few modicums of advice:

  • If you measure social media success by the number of followers you have on Twitter, or the number of likes you have on Facebook, you lose.
  • If you live for retweets but stay a stranger to the folks who help you out—forget to banter with them, encourage them, and/or support them—you lose.
  • If you’re all about self-promotion and never about paying it forward or lending a helping hand, you lose.
  • If you’re so busy courting reviews and counting stars, you don’t have time to toss a few stars into someone else’s galaxy, you lose.
  • And if royalties, not relationships, are your yardstick for success, you definitely lose.
“Regardless of whether a relationship brings us joy or sorrow, each relationship gives us the opportunity to grow stronger, nobler, and more compassionate with ourselves and others.” ~Tamela Rich
Just my opinion, mind you, but that’s what writing and self-publishing are all about.  So, let’s keep our priorities straight, shall we?
HANDSTOUCHINGS-33

Growing Up Indie, Part VI: Hindsights

Given a few of my posts, followers of this blog probably think my attitude toward self-publishing looks something like this:

tantrum

Not true, although I wouldn’t blame you for jumping to that conclusion, given my plaints about promotion and the pressure to produce.  Be those as they may, my attitude toward self-publishing actually looks more like this:confused-face-emoticon-612

(Except my glasses are rimless, my eyes are hazel, I have gray hair, and my shoes aren’t nearly as cool.)  I don’t hate self-publishing—and have no plans to quit—I’m simply not cut out for everything DYI entails.  This I learned through experience, the best (if not always the kindest) teacher.

Today I would like to share some hard-won hindsights, which are sort of like insights, except they usually show up too late to do you any real good.  So pay attention and maybe you’ll spare yourself some grief.  Please note that the following pointers assume you’ve written a good book, had it beta read and edited, and have it properly formatted.  If you haven’t done that, stop reading right now.  (Or save this post until you catch up.)

  • Hindisght #1:  Get your author platform down.  I already wrote about this, and you can find that post here.  For the moment, suffice it to say, If you were in a footrace, your author platform would be, “On your mark!”  You can’t win, if you don’t start at the right place.
  • Hindsight #2:  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  You need a budget.  Not talking Daddy Warbucks here, just enough to pay for some great cover art (not as expensive as you think), an editor, the occasional ad, membership in a few key professional organizations, and maybe a course to fill the knowledge gaps, something like they offer at Fostering Success.
  • Hindsight #3:  You need a plan.  How are you going to launch your book?  Think “build-up,” people, and maintaining “the big Mo.”  You need to get readers excited BEFORE you put your book out there.  Tease them with excerpts.  A cover reveal. A few advance copies.
  • Hindsight #4:  Know thyself.  If tips, helpful websites, blog tours, and social media platforms were raindrops, your ark would already be afloat. Maybe writing is your full-time job, and you can afford to write all morning and promote all afternoon.  Or maybe you’re a pink bunny with a big bass drum and energy to burn.  The point is, you need to be honest with yourself.  How much can you handle?  If the answer is, “Not all that much,” then pick your spots.  Services like Bublish (free) and Ebook Booster (not free, but the next thing to it, and well worth the expense) can take a major load off.  You’ll find links to these and a few other nifty resources on my website.
  • Hindsight #5:  Expectations are  your enemy.  (This hindsight is also known as, “Don’t fall for the hype.”)  Once you put your book out there, trust me, you’re gonna discover a whole new obsession:  numbers.  How many sales?  How many free downloads?  How many reviews?  How many good reviews?  Word to the wise:  Keep watching the numbers, and you will flat drive yourself nuts!  Remember:  Once in a blue moon, a book hits Amazon and takes off … but only suckers count on a blue moon.  This stuff takes time.

There’s probably more I could tell you, but at my age, you can only hold so many thoughts at once.  Besides, I gotta save something for future blogs ….

Growing Up Indie, Part IV: Friends, Indeed

What do you do when ….

  1. You’re an indie author.
  2. You despise marketing.
  3. You don’t have the creative energy to write and tweet and FB and go blog-touring.
  4. You’ve sworn off intense social marketing, but ….
  5. You want folks to hear about (and buy) your books?

Well, if you’re me, you look for a few talented friends to help you out.  I’ll be posting about the friends I’ve found from time to time, and I’ve created a “Friends, Indeed” page on my website dedicated to them.  Because they deserve recognition, and they have my thanks.

So.  Let’s get started.  Today’s “Friend, Indeed” is Bublish.  I ♥ Bublish, because this unique service not only offers you a way to craft eye-catching book promos (including excerpts), but it allows you to tweet and Facebook them right from the site!  For … FREE!  I recently interviewed Bublish founder, Kathy Meis.  Here’s what she had to say:

Me:  What specific service(s) do you provide? Please differentiate between paid/free services, but list all.

Kathy:  Bublish is a social book discovery platform that helps writers share their stories and readers discover new books and authors they’ll love. It is free for both writers and readers. The heart of the platform is the book bubble. Here’s what one looks like (click on image to enlarge):

Book Bubble

Authors can manage up to 30 books with multiple book bubbles from their Bublish Author Dashboard in order to create and share their bubbles across multiple social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.) as well as on bublish.com. The “secret sauce” of Bublish is the ability of the author to tell the story behind their story in the book bubble’s Author Insight. This is a powerful way to connect with new readers. In the future, there will be additional premium, paid accounts for authors and publishers. However, our free accounts will always remain free. We currently make money through the affiliate sales of books.

Me:  What prompted you to create this service?

Kathy:  I have been a writer and editor my entire life. I have watched the economics change drastically in publishing, not always in favor of creators. It is our mission at Bublish to provide writers with a powerful tool to find their audience and engage with readers in a way that will help them stand out in a crowded, noisy online book marketplace. Because the price of books has come down in the Digital Age, authors will need to sell more books over time to compensate. This will require authors to build a loyal following of readers who can support them throughout their writing careers. Bublish will provide the type of manageable, effective tools (like book bubbles) that will enable authors to engage authentically and effectively with their readers on a regular basis.

Me:  How many hours a week (approximately) do you spend on it?

Kathy:  Bublish is a full-time pursuit.

Me:  Any statistics you want to share?

Kathy:  We currently have about a thousand authors on the platform and grow steadily each month through word-of-mouth marketing. Some of our authors have had their work viewed hundreds and even thousands of times on Bublish. Our prototype won the prestigious People’s Choice Award at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change publishing conference in 2012. We were invited by the International Digital Publishing Forum to launch Bublish at last year’s Ignite BEA at Book Expo America. Writers all over the world now use Bublish to share their stories with readers.

Me:  How/when/why should an author contact you?

Kathy:  Authors can contact us at info@bublish.com. We’re here to answer questions and support Bublish authors as fully as possible. We also do numerous weekly events to promote Bublish authors: Our weekly 12-hour #SampleSunday Marathon on Twitter, The Bublish Floating Bookstore on Mondays, live weekly chats with authors, publishers, publicists and agents on Twitter and Facebook on Thursdays at 3pm ET, #featurefriday in which we spotlight the writing life of a beta bublisher as well as other events associated with holidays or particular book genres.

Me:  Tell us a little about yourself—e.g., favorite genres/authors, hobbies, goals, pets, etc.

Kathy:  I love to read. As I tell my friends, I like my reading difficult and my movies light. I read a lot of nonfiction these days, but then I go through a fiction fit. I like to read stories that are character driven, and am also drawn to books set in foreign countries and written about foreign cultures. I also read often with my youngest daughter, which exposes me to some wonderful children’s literature.

Me:  Anything you would like to say to authors? Readers?

Kathy:  We welcome all writers and readers to the bublish community. We’re here to support our growing family of writers and readers and help you connect with each other around great content. We hope you’ll come see what we’re all about!

Homepage:  http://www.bublish.com
Blog:  http://bublish.com/blog/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/bublishme
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/bublish
Google+: https://plus.google.com/b/106672408688515739740/106672408688515739740/posts
Twitter:  @BublishMe and @katmeis
Hashtags:  #bublish #bookbubbles #bookbubble

Note:  Future Friends, Indeed will be featured on my website!

Find-Friends-Nearby_1