Writing Tips: Sharing is Caring

BookBaby is a self-publishing website that I use for promotion tips. It’s totally free and helpful. Recently, I shared a link for a free download they were offering to Bookbaby members (a $10 value). One of my Facebook friends thanked me for doing so, claiming she’d seen the
“crab-in-a-barrel” mentality among authors.

I could understand why I wouldn’t want to share an inside tip on YA/sci-fi because that’s what I write. Still, unless there’s a case of direct competition, I don’t see the point of keeping away valuable information. I do charge a consultation fee, as do most people who mentor inexperienced writers. Most people offer free tips if their blog content isn’t totally self-centered. Have you run into this?

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Roll up the partition: Where does artistic responsibility begin?

I’m a fan of Beyonce. Was a fan, until her latest album permanently turned me off and unplugged me from fandom.

Hardly a “hater,” but I disagree with its direction.There’s no artistic responsibility there — meaning, I won’t take my preteen niece to a Beyonce concert (not like I was itching to do that anyway). This music is for grown folks now.

Problem is, grown folks aren’t the only ones buying her tunes.

I do not want my young daughters growing up too fast. Will that make them sheltered? Maybe in the eyes of some. But my wife and I cannot teach them accountability for their actions and let them sing “Partition” and “Blow” too.

Bring up artistic responsibility to musicians or authors and they may feed you a line about how they are not role models, how parents should keep a tighter reign on their children, blah blah blah.

Look at it this way: if you put leftover food uncovered out on the street and cats get into it, the neighbors will complain. What do you do then? Kanye shrug and blame it on the neglectful cat parents? You put it out there.

For me, my rule is this: some day, my daughters will read my books and ask me why I wrote so and so. If I can’t keep my head up while I’m explaining it to them, I don’t write it.

What’s coming in 2014

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Ready for a Christmas party? So am I. Almost. Maybe not so much.

My blog has been an accurate reflection of my writing time once school started. Some of you know I have returned to the classroom as a high school literature and journalism teacher.

In between the lessons and grading, I don’t have very much time to blog or write, or party, for that matter. I snatch the moments I can and work with them, meaning to others, I might seem antisocial for not hanging out.

For 2014, I commit to blog and even vlog (yes, a video blog) once a week with information on my writing and marketing journey. There has to be something from my triumphs and/or mistakes that can be of use to you. I plan on sharing those.

Also, in 2014, my fifth novel, Sophomore Freak, will bow right before the summer. It’s the second book in my teen sci-fi novel series, Reject High. The third installment has been languishing on my flash drive for some time. That’s on my to-do list, too. There’s also a sequel to The Revelation Gate there. As you can see, I’m asking Santa for some extra writing time.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Here’s an idea: HOW you can get to 100 Beta Readers

Last time, we talked about Beta Readers (a test audience for a book) and their importance.

Boy, are they important.

Too often, you get the “do-this-and-it-will-work-for-you” and not the how. Like, “Get 100 Beta Readers.” You know 100 people, but they may not want to sit down, read your book, and rate your chapters, right?

My friend Lisa said she needed to start from the ground up. Here’s what I did and I guarantee it’ll work for you.

I have a friend, Adrienne, who is totally on my team. No matter how long you’ve been writing, there’s one person you can count on to be on your side. If not, e-mail me. I’ll be your person or help you find one!

Adrienne’s bought all four of my books and she works for a high school (my target market — score!). Identify your target market (the people you’ve written your book for) and find someone well-connected in it.

By chance, she hands my book to a student we’ll call “Tee” and says, “Read it, and if you like it, rate it on Amazon.”

“Tee” read Reject High in one day, loved it, and immediately wanted to read more. She became a Beta Reader. I asked her to recruit some other Beta Readers for me, and she’s uncovered six in one week.

Recap: Start with one person in your target market who’s enthusiastic about your work. Leverage their connections to help you get other people involved. They have to be excited about what you’re doing. Be aggressive and persistent, but friendly as you go. Hope this helps!

 

If you’re an author and you don’t have Beta Readers, there’s something seriously wrong with you

Beta Readers are a test audience for your new material.

For example, in the movie The Break Up, Vince Vaughn’s character originally came out looking better than Jennifer Aniston’s character. That ending did not rate well with its test audience, so the ending was changed.

If The Break Up was a novel, the test audience would have been Beta Readers.

For my next novel, Sophomore Freak I’m following the advice of Allen D’Angelo of Archer Ellison, Inc. Here it is:

  1. Find 100 Beta Readers. How do you find them? Research your target market. (Mine’s a YA, so I want both YA and adults, which is 15-35. Adults read YA more than YA read YA). Then ask around — relatives, friends, friends of relatives. Cast a wide net, but not TOO wide. Nobody has an “audience of everybody.”
  2. Get them to rate every chapter you write between 1 (“hot rotting trash on a summer day with no breeze”) to 10 (“That chapter was so good, I just cheated on my husband/wife/significant other by reading it”).
  3. If it’s not at least an 8, ask them why. Were they confused? What needs to be improved?
  4. Revise and resubmit. By the time you get to a finished product, it should be UH-MA-ZING.

The ultimate goal is getting “pass along” value. “Pass along value” equals “People talking about you.” This is what you want. Try it along with me!

Hope this helps!

Digital Books: The Price Is Wrong

I went to the store and almost bought the second season of Superman: The Animated Series. Not for my five-year-old, for me.

Don’t judge me — I have a bigger point to make about it.

The reason why I didn’t buy it is because I saw the price, paused, and thought about it. You never  want a consumer to do that. Logically, you want their interest plus access to the money for purchase to equal an actual purchase.

If they have to think about it, chances are you’ve lost the sale. In a former life, I used to sell men’s suits. The “I’ll-be-back-to-buy-it” folks are looking for something — a lower price, a cheaper product — but whatever it is, you don’t have it.

Recently, I read a blog where the author advised against pricing your e-books at .99 cents. Yes, it worked for Amanda Hocking, Darcy Chan, and a number of other authors. But he said it devalues your work to price it that low, and he’s right. I’ve seen a bunch of books priced .99 cents and they looked like they shouldn’t have cost any more than .99 cents.

This is a group I do not want to belong to, and neither should you.

Instead, experiment with your pricing and watch your sales numbers. Find a price point where your buyers don’t pause and think about it, and your numbers stay the same. Stick with what works.

Hope this helps!

Paying for reviews: Worth it or not?

With my most recent novel, Reject HighI sunk a sizable chunk of my advertising budget to pay for a Kirkus indie review.

Before you skeptically look at your screen, let me tell you: I have tried a lot of different marketing ideas. For my first novel, The Lost Testament, I hired a PR person, held a book release party, and did a few TV and Blogtalk radio interviews. With The Revelation Gate, I paid for a blog tour and sent out paperback ARC’s. Last year, I mailed out t-shirts and used Pinterest to publicize The Anarchists in conjunction with electronic ARC’s.

With all of those, I spent considerably more than the $425 I paid Kirkus to review my book.

The results of my previous efforts were mixed. A good ROI (Return OF Investment) is to see a considerable bump in sales due to my efforts. Of course, there’s no concrete way to correlate the two. Book marketing is a formula: effective efforts + timing + God’s favor (you might call it luck or the universe) = MASSIVE SALES.

So, was it worth it? Kind of, sort of.

After your review is complete, Kirkus offers you a chance to “publicize” your review in online and print media. Of course, there’s a cost (somewhere north of $1,000) for it. That might be worth it and it might not, but I’m not doing it.

Also, if you want to use a part of their review on your book, you have to publish it, good, bad, or ugly, on their website first. What if your review was lukewarm or they trashed it? You excerpt what they said (they don’t allow you to add words) and pray nobody goes looking for the full critique.

My advice? If you’re going to pay for a review, you can’t put all of your eggs in just that basket. Supplement it by aggressively soliciting Amazon reviews from your faithful readers, book bloggers and reviewers, like Cyrus Webb of Conversations Radio, and book clubs. I’d also go grassroots and advertise on high traffic sites too.

Hope this helps!

 

What the Nook?

To drive early sales, get reviews and create buzz, I released the Kindle version of Reject High a month early and set the price at .99 using Kindle Direct. The process was simple — I uploaded my print-ready PDF and cover files and it was on sale within minutes. 

One of my beta readers and a good friend asked that I release it for the Nook as well. 

Ugh. 

I’ll be honest; my experience with the Nook isn’t great. I used Pub It (now Nook Press) for my first two books and never registered one sale. Why? It’s not user-friendly and when you’re marketing yourself, you need a break sometimes. I know three people with Nooks. Where are the other Nook ones?

Furthermore, MS preparation takes forever. I find myself questioning its worthiness when Amazon does it for you and is crushing the Nook in competition right now. 

What’s your preference?

All your character wants is a meatball sandwich

E! True Brian Story: Though the meatball marinara sub  sandwich at Subway isn’t the greatest in the world, I still REALLY wanted one the other day.

My wife set me up with a text, describing it as “hot,” and “fresh.” I so wanted that.

Instead, my mother, who is in town, made me a homemade version. It was good, but it wasn’t what I wanted — so I was a little frustrated.

This is a struggle you should give to your fictional characters — the want something but don’t get it. True, a sandwich isn’t an appropriate plot device unless it’s an episode of FriendsBut your characters need to want something. 

Whatever that something is, even if they say that’s what they want, don’t give it to them. Frustrate him or her, string them along. And when he or she is about to burst, only give them a bite.

Hope this helps!

Plotting: I’m a believer. Are you?

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Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m in the midst of writing my sixth manuscript. It’s the third in my Reject High teen series.

I got stuck. Like all four wheels spinning helplessly in the mud stuck.

I didn’t want to try writing out my plot.

For my first three novels, I created my characters, wound them up and let them go. My major plot points were a function of their behaviors. While I knew where they were going and how it would end up, I let them guide me through the “how.”

With this book, it was just different. I couldn’t do that anymore. My characters were letting me down (they’re teenagers, so there’s that).

So, I turned off my cellphone and iPad, stepped away from my laptop and started writing with my main character, Jason. Once I finished his arc, I worked on his love interest. Three hours later, the entire plot was done.

I’d never thought I’d say so, but I’m a believer in sketching out plots on paper now. Are you? What’s your process?

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