Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Dos and Don’ts of Publishing Your First Book

This week’s topic stems from a situation I found myself in recent months with a new author who’d asked me to read over their book before it published.  I want to start off by saying that I do not even remotely consider myself an expert in the field of book publishing, but I have learned a lot within the last few years.
I’ll admit that I couldn’t finish the book because I was so distracted by the lack of editing and the choppy flow within the first 20% of the story.  The book was desperately in need of a good editor and a good group of beta readers.   Publishing your debut is very exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time, but there are some things you need to make sure that you’ve done before you click publish.  Your debut will give your readers the first impression of your writing style and story-telling ability and in some cases could make or break you.  First impressions, in my opinion, are the most critical step to publishing more books. If your book is poorly edited, the time line is all wonky, and especially if your sentence structure hinders the flow, you may find yourself in hot water with your potential readers.  Readers, especially those who are critical of grammar, may blast your book and place you on the never read again list based off of just one book.   I think by following the things I have listed below that you can make your debut release as best as it can be.
The Don’ts

Don’t rush your book. 

Take your time writing your book and self-editing.  You need to make sure that you have clearly led your characters where they want to do and not overly detailed the book.   When you rush, you make mistakes like calling your character by two different names or switching the ages on characters mid-way through the book.  Just take your time and write from your heart.

Don’t skimp on the editing

Most new authors have a very small or non-existent budget for their first book.  But, editing should be your biggest expensive in writing.  Just like point #1, if you rush and skimp on the editing, the readers will notice and your reviews will not be glowing.  If you don’t rush on your release, you will have the time to save up for a good editor.   I’d also advise trying to find beta readers who can pinpoint troublesome areas and help your story flow better.  A secondary don’t for this topic is don’t let your friends edit unless they can be unbiased and brutal.  You need those kind of readers to make sure your book is up to snuff.  Grammar dictator friends are nice when you’re an author, but only if they tell you the truth about your book.  Protecting your friendship and feelings is hard if you use a friend in this capacity, but honesty is truly the best policy.

Don’t ignore bad reviews.

Embrace the feedbackThis is problem the hardest part of publishing after writing and editing.  If you have thin skin and are easily hurt with negative words, I’m just going to come out and say that you may not be cut out for writing.   You will get negative reviews and for some of those Goodreads reviewers, they will be demeaning and hurtful.   But, it is what those reviewers say that should take precedence in writing your next book.  If they talk about your editing, character development, overuse of certain words, or even timeline issues, you need to take those to heart when plotting your next book.  If you see reviews like that from betas or ARC readers, you might consider pushing back your release to make sure you can make the necessary changes. Granted, of course, that you didn’t set-up a pre-order on Amazon.  They may say out with the bad and in with the good for everyday life, but in book world, it’s completely the opposite.  Embrace the bad and create the good.  

The Dos

           1.  Run your book through multiple betas and proofreaders

This! A hundred times, this!  Every single person reads a book differently and notices different things.  By finding a great group of beat readers and two good proofreaders on top of your editor will go a long way.  I often run the unedited manuscript through my beta readers before sending it to my editor and even some times during the editing process.   Before I send my final read through back, I always run it through one of my proofreaders and the other when I get the final copy back to make sure we caught everything.  Having just one person fill every one of those rolls will lead to mistakes because you will honestly go blind to spotting errors after the second or third read-through.  Every big time author has a team behind them and big or small, you need one of your own to make sure your book is as perfect as it can get. 

2.  Scour your timelines, ages, and names before publishing

I don’t know how many indie titles that I have read this year where this was a problem.  A character would start off being in his mid-twenties only to jump to his early thirties within three or four chapters.   Every time I start to write, especially when the book is in a series, I make out a timeline chart of character’s ages, the birth of their child, ages of their family members. Having this readily at my disposal makes the writing and plotting process easier for a new book.  I also keep all of the old timeline charts and character profiles so that I do not have to spend weeks on end trying to re-work the previous books to get that information.  I’d also suggest having a list of characters names so if you decide to bring side characters for a short time that you don’t end up with two or three Bob’s or Betty’s in the same series.

3    3. Research the market and pick a good release date

You’re probably wondering why I said good release date.  There’s a reason I wrote it that way and it might shock you.  Indie authors, especially new authors, need to research their genre market when picking a release date.  Say you wrote a MC romance novel and you decide to publish is on a Tuesday in July.  Chances are you book will not be seen because July is a big MC Romance release month because of the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Most MC authors will do a big release in July because of the rally.   Tuesdays are also bad because every traditional published author releases their books on Tuesdays.  Don’t believe me? Watch some of the big time blogs on a Tuesday and you will see what I mean.   

As a debut author, you have to be smart about your release day.  Other than Tuesdays, you need to avoid major holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day,  and New Year’s Eve. Not only will your pool of readers be smaller than normal for impulse purchases, but bloggers will be away with their families. By publishing on a holiday, you will lower the likelihood of your book being seen or promoted by a wide margin.  Market Smarter, and you’ll sell more books.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Author Diaries: How Do You Promote A Book as New Author?

Hello Everyone!

This week's blog post will be all about how to promote your book!  Promotion is key when you are trying to establish your foothold within your genre.  I won't lie and say this is easy.  Honestly, it is just about as hard or maybe even harder than actually writing your book.  Successful promotion is how you get your book and your name out there to drum up sales and meet fans.   Without promotion, your book sales are likely to stay low because just being on Amazon or Barnes and Noble will not get your book seen. In fact, Amazon will not promote your book until you have a minimum of 50 reviews!  That seems daunting, doesn't it?  It doesn't have to be, and the following points are why!

1. Promotion Begins Before Publication Day

I know, I know. You are thinking, "Avelyn, how do you promote a book if it's not released yet?" The answer to that question is simple and might surprise you.  New authors who spend 6 months to a year promoting their book and creating their brand have a much higher success rate than authors who pop up out of nowhere and release a book.  Promotion takes time and a lot of effort to be successful.  Share your teasers in groups. Find a support group for authors on social media sites like Facebook and start building relationships with other authors.  Do not understand the power of word of mouth and sharing on Facebook and twitter. 

One big thing with promotion on social media that you need to watch out for is flooding the same group with the same stuff.  Make a list of groups where you notice your promotions being liked, seen, or even shared and rotate the days you share.  Also, having several images or graphics to use with your pre-order links or links to your author page keeps your promotion fresh and draws in new people. Please make sure the groups you are choosing to share don't have a "no promo or pimping" policy or you might end up being banned.

2. Don't Limit Yourself to Just Facebook

Using more than Facebook? Am I crazy? Yes. Yes, I am.  With the new rules of Facebook, you are more likely to not be seen, blocked, or even banned than you are being seen.  The algorthims of Facebook are now blocking pages and the ever-growing numbers of Facebook police reporters will kill you unless you expand your horizons.  You would honestly be surprised by the sheer number of fans you can garner from sharing funny book nerd related memes on Instagram with your teasers and snippets or sharing funny book things on Pinterest.  Just because they aren't as big as Facebook doesn't mean they can't be useful. 

3. Goodreads or Badreads?

Ah, Goodreads.   The book review website where swearing and vulgarity are legal and where critical reviewers lurk.  Once a simple book nerd website with books and groups, Goodreads has turned into the hotbed of negativity when it comes to book reviewing. I would need several friends to join in if I counted on my hands of how many times a Goodreads reviewer made me cry.  They are known to be brutal and you need to know that going in. HOWEVER, it is also a great place to meet readers and advertise your books. I highly recommend checking out book especially the monthly group readers. You may not find a winner every time you join a group, but there are some out there.  Look for a group with rules, and several different topics for posting.  Those are all good signs of being one of the good groups

Hopefully after reading this, you will feel more comfortable about promoting your books. Promotion is hard and a necessary evil in this business. If you skip it, you'll likely have a less than successful release. 

Until next time,

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Things I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Hit Publish

Hello my lovely authors and potential authors.  I know it has been awhile since I updated my author blog, but today that hiatus comes to an end.  Life has been extremely busy for me both author-related and personally.  After speaking with several new authors at a few signings this year, I decided I wanted to address some things that I was asked by these new authors over the next few months.  Most new authors don't have a network of support to turn to when they need advice and that is sad.  We as authors should be actively helping those who are just starting out and that's what I aim to do with these weekly posts over the next few weeks.
Today’s topic is revolves around a specific question that I was asked after meeting a group of new authors at a signing in Kentucky.  Granted, I am not seasoned by any means, but compared to those who had only released one book or were still writing their debut, I was experienced. One of the specific questions I was asked was what would I have done differently looking back when I published my first book.  That question really got me thinking about how few author resources are available to new authors.  Unless you have a friendship with a published author, you are really left to your own devices to figure these things out. I have compiled a top 5 list of things I wish I would have known when I published my first book. 
1.       Plan Your Releases Ahead of Time

When I was asked this question, this topic is the first thing that came to mind.  My first book Damaged was a complete fly by night operation.  I had never intended on even writing or publishing it.  After being a blogger for over a year, I knew that the book market had taken a dive and that it was a bad time to be publishing my debut novella, but I hit publish anyway.  That action alone is not where I went wrong.  I went wrong by not promoting the book and building a fan base before releasing my first book.  By hitting publish without self-promotion or exposure with bloggers and readers, I hurt myself.  Within the first six months, I sold a whopping six books.  You read that right. Six.  Looking back, I should have planned the release, set-up a promotion schedule, contacted blogs, and did takeovers to promote.  The best planned release has a higher potential for being a successful release. 

Another side topic under this category is you have to take into account the audience of your books.  Is your book a science fiction alien ménage romance?  Well, if it is, you need to market it to the right audience.  The subgenres of romance are spread far and wide and you need to make sure you are marketing to the right people.  If you are marketing your science fiction book to a blog or a group of readers that like contemporary or sweet romance novels. you are wasting your time.  Focus on the readers that like your genre and branch out from there.
2.       Building Lasting Relationships with Bloggers and Readers
For indie authors, bloggers are your best friend.  Unlike traditionally published authors, you don't have a team of degreed professionals running your promotions and spreading the word about your books to the right audiences.  There are literally hundreds of book blogs on social media these days so finding the right one to partner with to promote your book is possible, you just have to put in the time to look.  Building and maintaining a lasting relationship with a blog is essential to book promotion.  They are your front line source to reaching new readers and should be utilized properly. Offer your favorite blogs the first chance at an ARC giveaway or send them swag as a thank you for promoting them.

Remember to be kind, patient, and polite to bloggers.  Sending a pimp post without even so much as a hello will decrease the chances that they will promote your work and make you come off as someone who isn't interested in anything, but pimping your posts.  Most bloggers are promoting and reviewing books because they love reading.  It is often a hobby for them so do not be discouraged if they don't respond right away. Get to know your bloggers and use them to your advantage with book promotions, but also help promote their page.  A quick and simple "I love this blog, check out their page" goes a long way with building that mutual beneficial relationship. 
3.       Self-Promotion vs. Promotion Companies
This is where being an indie gets tricky.  I don't know how many times I have been asked about promotion companies.  I was lucky when I started as an author because I was a blogger first.  I knew who were the main promotion companies that were out there.  I learned from the very beginning that self-promotion would only get me so far and that if I wanted to succeed I needed to employ a promotions company to help expand my releases further.  These companies are a great way to reach large lists of bloggers and get your book out there, but you need to do your research before you choose one.  You need to ask them the following questions to make sure they are the right fit for your particular book.

1.  What genres do they see the best participation rate for? 

If your genre isn't one of them, it's time to move onto the next company. Only use promotional companies that know how to market your specific type of book.  Remember that science fiction book I mentioned before, don't try using a contemporary romance centered blog or promotion company for a book that doesn't fit their readership genre. 

2.  How do you track your posts?  Do you tag the author or request links?

I've seen and heard this far too many times.  You pay a blog $XXX for a promotion and only see 3-4 posts on Facebook.  That is unfortunately the downside to the business and does relate to point #1.  You want to use a company who does it due diligence for making sure that the blogs keep their posting and reviewing commitments. Not knowing who posted and when is not a good sign.  Good promotion companies work to make sure that you get what you paid for.
3. What is the average participation numbers for similar books in my genre?

This is the most important question you need to ask.  Find a promotions company that is both affordable and has a great rate of return especially if you are offering ARCs.  At the same time, you must remember that your book may not be one a reviewer enjoys so don’t expect to get every single review back favorably or at all.  There are some blogs and even readers out there that receive ARCs that never intend to review or are unfortunately book pirates.  Piracy and non-reviewers are rampant these days, but that is the price your take to promote your book.  You have to assume some risk in order to get your book out there for potential readers to see.
4.       You Can’t Do It Alone

Think you can handle working a full-time job, writing, and self-promoting your books? Let this be reality check #1.  Don’t get me wrong, I know there are people out there right now doing this very thing, but I couldn’t do it.  Between my job, my husband, and all of the activities we participate in on top of writing and blogging, I never slept. Have you ever seen an Avelyn zombie? Yeah, it’s not pretty.  Stress is the number one reason why many authors walk away from writing all together or even away from social media.  We live in a day and age where social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, etc are our life lines to reaching our readers and fans. Having a personal assistant, whether that be a friend, family member, or even a seasoned PA, will go a long way in keeping your stress in check and sanity especially when you’re writing.  Readers and fans are also a great source of helping you promote your books. Build a street team or a review group to help get your next book off the ground on release day.  The best promotion is done using teamwork because you are spreading the work out over several people instead of leaving it solely on your shoulders. 

5.       Be Patient.  Being A Bestseller Doesn’t Happen in a Day.

Being a Bestseller takes patience, a great team, and a great book.  Some of us may never hit that magical NYT Bestseller list, but the real accomplishment lies with the fact that you took a chance on a story from your head and made it a reality.  As an author, every single reader is special to me and even if I only have one, I am a success in my eyes.  Celebrate the small successes and continue writing because the book that you think may not be your best work could be what lands you in the spotlight. Grow as a writer with each book and learn from each new experience.
I hope that this post helps you and if you have any questions, please feel to contact me on Facebook or email.