To all the writers I know and have met through social media, I want to say that I believe in you.
I believe that what you have to say can have an impact on the world around you. I believe that you are special and talented and I stand in awe of what most of you have accomplished already. I applaud all of your efforts, especially the time and care you’ve put into creating your works of art.
I hope that I can serve as some sort of inspiration by working tirelessly to compile resources and information to make your entire writing and authoring experience easier and more enjoyable.
As a graphic designer, I am currently writing a book that will help you understand how to go about creating all of the images you will need to successfully brand yourself as an author, publish your book, and market your book and your author platform.
This is something I’ve been working on for a while now. I have come to understand that there are so many of you out there who have something amazing to share but just don’t have the financial resources to get the graphics you need that would most likely serve to launch your successful writing career.
Visual imagery attracts the eye, it draws the viewer into what you’re attempting to promote. If you don’t have great graphics to support what you are trying to sell, the chances of you reaching the audience that’s available to you are substantially reduced. You are more than qualified to do the writing that people will enjoy. But you could benefit by having imagery that lives up to what you have to offer and attracts as many new readers to you as possible.
I hope you will find the information I have to share as a helpful resource as you continue along your journey. I want to make creating the graphics you need fun, easy, and affordable. I’m including templates and examples as well as free resources to help you get the graphic design work done on your own. I think you will not only enjoy the process of creating your own imagery, you’ll see the results in your growing network and book sales.
If you have any suggestions for information you’d like me to include, please let me know in the comments section 🙂
All my best,
If you need help with your book cover or author graphics right away, I’m here to serve you…
This might seem squishy, but if you’re meant to be a writer, you know what I mean.
There is no substitute for the love of writing. For the passion of getting the words right, the head-scratching and the pacing around the house and the endless drafts that aren’t quite right yet.
If you don’t love language and your topic and the act of putting words together, none of the rest of this really means anything.
I could have just as easily used Compulsion, Obsession, or Bullheadedness for this section. Whichever word you choose, it’s about refusing to settle for weak writing, because the words matter.
Writing for self-expression can be high art, pursued for the sake of your own experience of truth and beauty.
Professional writers work from an attitude of serving their audience. Serving them with truthful, beautiful words, yes. But also with language that meets their needs, language that clarifies rather than prettifies.
Novelists, copywriters, and content creators all live in service to our audiences. No matter how clever or perfectly poetic we may find a phrase, if it doesn’t serve the audience, it goes.
It’s always struck me as odd that many of the most capable writers are also some of the most insecure.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. Confidence comes from putting the work in, to become a genuinely authoritative expert. It comes from research, craftsmanship, and seeing the difference you make to your audience.
Serious craftspeople are humble and proud at the same time.
The pride and confidence come from hours of deliberate practice – the kind of work that expands your abilities and challenges you to grow. The humility comes from the knowledge that a true pro is always improving, expanding, and refining.
Many writers imagine that if you have a good writing voice and a strong opinion, you’re qualified to work as a professional copywriter.
Not so fast.
Great copywriters and content creators are fine wordsmiths, yes, but they’re also strategists. They understand what types of content work to attract attention, to stand out amid the sea of content clutter, to motivate buying behavior, and to help the audience make the journey from interested bystander to loyal customer.
Solid content and copywriting strategy come from training (and practice). You can get a lot of that training at Copyblogger.
You may be a brilliant wordsmith and master strategist, but if you can’t get yourself the butt-in-chair time needed to produce a significant quantity of work, you won’t get where you want to go.
To a great degree, discipline is a set of habits that can be cultivated. As a writer, you can string together rituals, create the right work environment, and adopt the behaviors of productive writers.
As a working writer, you also need to throw in a set of habits that will ensure that you meet your deadlines, keep clients updated, and invoice your clients promptly.
If you care enough, you’ll do it. The habits can be difficult to put into place, but fortunately, once they’re in place, they tend to keep you on the right track. (That’s the difference between habits and will power.)
Yes, there is some money in writing fiction. (For the lucky few, there’s a great deal of money. Emphasis on few.)
There’s also still a little bit of money in journalism and feature writing, especially if you have excellent contacts.
But for the most part, if you want to make a living as a writer, the fastest, most enjoyable way to do that is to write content to find more customers.
It’s interesting, it’s very much in demand, and it will get you researching and investigating as many different topics as you like.
You might think that this kind of writing is boring to do. Far from it. Creating really good content (as opposed to the mass of junk that makes up 95 percent of web copy) will call on your skills as a storyteller, investigator, wordsmith, travel writer, historian.
A well-qualified content marketer needs all the skills of a great feature or fiction writer — combined with solid marketing strategy.
You also, of course, need to get comfortable marketing yourself. This can be surprisingly tough even for writers who create superb marketing for their clients.
“Create a bunch of content and hope someone wants to do business with you” won’t work for your writing business any more than it will for your clients’. You need to apply the same strategies and frameworks to your own business that you do to theirs.
If this doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t let that worry you. It doesn’t come naturally to a lot of good writers. But it’s something that’s well within your ability to learn.
One of the tough things about living as a professional writer is that the path you walk is one you make yourself.
There’s no one to tell you which direction to go, no one to give you sign posts along the way, no one to outline your day for you and tell you where you need to be and when.
That’s also one of the fantastic things about living as a professional writer. But sometimes Fantastic is also Difficult.
Writing is a lonely business. And it can be just a little lonelier when you don’t have colleagues to bounce questions off of, or to share your gripes and triumphs with.
When you do find a community of writers, though, it’s a lovely thing. They’re some of the funniest, smartest, quirkiest people you’ll ever meet. And it just feels good to hang out with people who get you.
Are You Unknowingly Spamming Your Social Networks?
Now days indie authors are feeling the pressure to make their social media networks work for them.
They have signed up on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest or as many platforms as they can handle.
They have made tons of connections, traded page likes, and joined all the right groups.
They have studied up on marketing and created a great ad for their book with a catchy tagline and a great hook. Or, they are offering their book at a seriously discounted rate if not for free.
They have created their schedule for marketing and are sticking to it like clockwork. Posting their ad to their groups and feeds at at least three times a day at these particular times – 6 am, 9 am, 12 pm, 3 pm, 6 pm, and 9 pm.
The trouble is that they are now spamming these platforms with this ad. Their share shows up constantly along with thousands of others and has become irritating or is largely ignored. Who is this spammer, is it you?
All of these ads have begun to look the same and there is nothing that stops the public you are networked with, mostly authors, from scanning right past all of your hard work that went into that perfect ad. It’s SPAM.
And if that is not enough, you may be posting your ad for your book on the pages of your followers without their permission, spamming their timelines.
There has to be a better way.
And there is.
Build Your Network With Your Brand
Newsflash – becoming an author is not a get rich quick scheme. Your product is not in demand, there are thousands like it on the market. There are thousands of well written free books, discounted books, and unique books with catchy titles and good covers.
You need to stand out from the rest to generate the kind of sales you are looking for and to gain popularity.
Becoming an author is a business venture, not unlike launching a start-up. It takes years to see the profit and plenty of hours of overtime. Becoming an author is a commitment to your writing career and involves your effort and hard work just like anything else of value. My hat is off to those of you who have done it the right way, you’ve busted your butt creating your platform and poured your heart into your brand by doing what you do best, writing.
My advice for those of you who have not began with your brand is this…
The best way to launch your book is a year before you publish. You do this by creating your brand and building a website where you start a blog and you regularly post content related to your brand. You then share this content across your social media networks and begin to build your following the right way, by getting people interested in what you write.
You make connections with real people by talking to them. You read their articles and make comments. You share their content if it resonates with your brand or if you think your network might appreciate it. You guest post on other blogs. You share your content to your groups and you connect with the people in your group. Once you have drawn people to you with your content, it’s word of mouth more than ads that will skyrocket your sales.
There is a time and place for your ad. Once or twice a week in your groups, three times a day on Twitter, once every other day on Google+ and Facebook. You can also append your ad to the bottom of each blog post, this is a great way to market your book.
If you are passionate about your subject and are willing to write about it regularly (no less than three times per week), a blog can be a fantastic—and free way of building an audience for both you and your work. You can start your blog with WordPress. It’s free, and sign-up is very simple. Below are the steps to help you get started:
Set Up an Account: Visit the WordPress.com and set up a free account to create your blog. Or build your own WordPress website by following these simple steps at How to Set Up Your Author Website
Give It a Name: I suggest that you use your name so that the blog can expand to include future books you may publish.
Write a Post: Once this is done, click “create post.” Type your entry just like you would an email. You can choose different fonts and sizes of text, or add pictures, lists, and links to websites.
Preview and Publish: Click on the preview button to see if you like the way your entry looks. If not, you can edit it until you are satisfied. Once you are happy with the results, click “publish.”
Write in Blogging Style and Observe Blogging Etiquette
Regularly Update: Update your blog frequently, three times a week is a minimum but set yourself a realistic schedule and stick to it.
Keep It Short and Concise: Keep in mind that in the blogosphere, people have shorter attention spans than they do offline so you need to make your posts easily digestible and informative – 250 words can be enough.
Make It Compelling: Strive to create blog copy that is compelling, interesting, and will invite further conversations. Remain true to your brand. Stay on topic so that you don’t lose your audience.
Engage: This is an opportunity to tell your readers what you are writing about. Ask them what they would like to hear more about. This kind of involvement will make them feel attached to you and your work, building an audience that will stay with you from book to book.
Involve: Pose questions and comment on people’s comments. A blog is meant to be a community. Respond directly to people’s comments, either in the comments or in a new blog post. This will engage readers so they will come back more often.
Give It Personality: Above all else, remember that your blog should be an extension of you, let people know who you are and your opinions should be reflected in your writing style
Target Your Audience and Build Upon It
Spread the Word: Once you have been posting regularly for a couple of weeks, tell your friends, colleagues, and contacts about your blog and ask them to tell their friends, colleagues, and contacts. Send an email or newsletter to your email address book or database introducing the blog and linking to it.
Utilize Your Sphere of Influence: Look around the Internet for related blogs, and read and post to them. Commenting and becoming part of the blog community will cause others visit your blog and do the same.
Use Your Amazon Author Page: Once you begin blogging, be sure to sign up for Amazon’s Author Central. This is a program that will allow you to feed your blog directly onto your author page on Amazon.com, a very powerful way to share compelling content with possible customers.
Optimize Your Blog and Link Like Crazy!
Submit Sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools: The first place you should take your sitemap for a new website is Google Webmaster Tools. If you don’t already have one, simply create a free Google Account, then sign up for Webmaster Tools. Add your new site to Webmaster Tools, then go to Optimization > Sitemaps and add the link to your website’s sitemap to Webmaster Tools to notify Google about it and the pages you have already published. For extra credit, create an account with Bing and submit your sitemap to them via their Webmaster Tools. Submit url’s to Bing, Google, etc.
Identify Clear Keywords: Create a good, concise description for your blog, as well as relevant keywords. Make your headlines snappy.
Tag: This is easy to do on the “create post” page. Just enter the relevant keywords in the box separated by commas, this will make your blog easier to search.
Link to Retailers: Use your custom “Buy the Book” landing page. The page should be live six months in advance of your book’s publication date (You can list pre-order books with Kindle Direct Publishing for eBooks, and Amazon Advantage for paperback publications).
Social Networking: Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., to let others know what you’re blogging about and provide links back to your blog.
RSS: Put a subscription icon on every page.
Pictures: Use images whenever possible.
Learn from Others: Take a look at your favorite writers’ blogs and emulate some of the techniques that make their postings great.
Participate On Other Blogs
This can be a very powerful tool for promotion and raising your profile. Here are some tips for getting started:
Find Your Community: Use a blog search engine to find blogs in your subject/area of expertise.
Make Your Mark: Once you have identified those that feel relevant and compelling, become part of the conversation by commenting on a post that interests you and add something that readers of the blog might be interested to know.
Let People Know Where You Are: Link to your blog or website if you’ve written something relevant to the conversation. If you are bringing something valuable to the debate, people will begin to follow you and will be more interested in what you publish.
At the beginning of December, I reduced the online price of my novel and a story collection. I wanted my books to be part of the holiday sales craze, so I took the ebook versions from $4.99 to 99¢. My royalties at those prices? About 30¢ a sale.
I smiled when I told my wife that I’d done this–a crooked, sad, maniacal smile. She gave me her best “WTF!” expression. And as it’s turned out, I should have paid attention.
It’s way too easy for us indie authors to devalue what we’re selling. Way too easy. If we don’t rack up downloads right away, we go into pricechopper mode, as if our work is the equivalent of a can of stewed tomatoes that hasn’t moved.
What’s the best price for an indie ebook? Shoot, what’s the best price for a book in general? Publishers struggled with this issue immensely when everything was paper based. A first-run print job was a sizable risk, even with good marketing. According to bestselling author Kathryn Rusch, who writes the blog The Business Rusch:
“By the middle of the previous decade, it cost at least $250,000 to publish a mid-list novel with a nice cover and an author advance of $10,000.”
But with ebooks, supply is limitless. There’s no cost difference between one or a million digital downloads. The only thing any ebook author needs to worry about is demand.
That’s a big worry, though. Building demand for a book is hard as hell for individual authors. You have to account both for what customers expect and what they value. The latter often comes down to subjectively defined qualities like skilled editing, effective plotting, character development, and use of language.
In the early days of ebook distribution, it was all about attracting readers. The best price back in 2009, when the Kindle was introduced? Free.
Many of the initial successful indies–like romance novelist Judy Powell and humorist/blogger Rachel Thompson–built big audiences by using what was then an open-ended system at Amazon that allowed them to offer at least some of their work for nothing.
In an interview with Forbes last fall, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, says of a company study about ebook price points:
“At the Apple iBook store, free books are downloaded about 100 times more than paid books. The lesson for authors who want to rapidly build their platform is that free books are a very powerful tool.”
Yet, even if you opt for this tried-and-true route, there’s really no more “free” on Amazon–or Barnes and Noble, for that matter.
Last year, Amazon introduced its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system, which has many fabulous features. As one example, in an industry notorious for inaccurate and incomplete reporting to authors and agents, its real-time online reporting system is a big fat raspberry at traditional publishers.
But the most prominent feature of KDP is a pricing system that allows the author to set his or her book between $2.99 and $9.99 in exchange for getting 70 percent of the take. KDP also allows authors a more flexible price range of 99¢ to $200 if they’re willing to accept royalties of 35 percent.
At Amazon, the lowest you can go with price is a penny off the dollar –with one exception. KDP members are allowed five “free days” in each 90-day period if they’re willing to sign a deal where they sell their digital title only through Amazon’s Kindle Store.
In 2012, many indie writers gave the “free day” concept a shot (or two or three). I did a three-day August run that resulted in 10,100 downloads of my novel. Some other indies have reported getting as many as 50,000 downloads when their books were free.
If you’re an unknown author, that’s absolutely amazing. It matches Coker’s findings in the Smashwords study.
But you burn through those days quickly, get drunk on the idea that so many people have your book, and then must reenter the real world of charging for your writing. In my case, after my free days, I priced my book at $2.99. I got two downloads the day after and then nothing for several weeks, no matter what marketing I did. By the end of September, I’d had enough. I’d written a great story that was professionally edited and formatted. If it could sit at $2.99 with no purchases, why not have at least a little pride and make it $4.99?
In fact, while Coker points out that, logically, 99¢ books sell better than $1.99 books and $1.99 books sell better than those priced at $2.99, here’s his key observation:
“As price increased there were fewer sales. But what price yields the greatest income? And that was really interesting: We found that the $2.99 to $5.99 price band appears to be the sweet spot for indie authors, those prices over-performed the average in terms of income for the author. But 99¢ and $1.99 under-performed.”
That’s because books aren’t commodities. They aren’t even really consumer items in the conventional sense. Each book is a unique world that readers step into and keep safe on a shelf or in their Kindles when they’re done.
Customers may love discounts on bestsellers, but they don’t buy any old book just because it’s cheap. Try imagining the equivalent of a supermarket sale sign, and you’ll see the problem:
While Supplies Last! Prices Slashed on Sexy Literary Thriller! Less Than a Can of Tomatoes!
You can’t replace one book with another. For instance, I just bought the paperback version of Haruki Murakami’s mammoth 2011 novel 1Q84 for about $20. It’s fabulous. I also have roughly 20 books that I’ve downloaded for free this year from indie authors I know and another 50-plus that I’ve purchased for anywhere from $1 to $3.
But I’ve read very few of those downloaded ebooks. I regularly attempt to, but things keep getting in the way–yet I am reading Murakami, an established literary author, in paper.
So: Are we trying to sell books? Or to get people to read them–to enter the worlds we’ve created?
That’s not a rhetorical question.
Experienced authors like thriller writer Wesley Dean Smith regularly offer suggestions to indies about pricing. Here are his latest recommendations for 2013:
Novels: $6.99 – $7.99
Short Books: $3.99
Short Stories: $2.99
Short Story Collections: $4.99 – $7.99 (depending on the number of stories)
For Smith, indies are competing with traditionally published books. He also astutely points not only to the digital/paper divide but also to the psychology of buying books in either form. “If you have a $16.99 trade paper and a $7.99 electronic novel, it looks right to buyers,” he says.
The thing is, most indie authors don’t pay attention to this advice. The majority of indie ebooks are priced from 99¢ to $2.99. That’s a lot of “WTF!” spousal faces.
But if Kindle and iPad owners liked an author’s 99¢ mystery or romance novel last year, maybe they’ll be willing to pay $4.99 or $5.99 for another book by the same author this year. Maybe they’ll pay $6.99 and $7.99 for other titles the following year.
Which brings me back to that beautiful face my wife made in December. She was right–and I’m paying attention.
In early January, I raised my prices to be more in line with what Dean Wesley Smith advises. As I move forward, I’m hoping that my potential readers will see value when they look at the price tag–rather than a deal.
I have a new novel coming out this spring. I assure you, it will not be sitting on the floor somewhere with a 99¢ sticker on it. But even at $6.99, it will be less than any traditionally published novel out there.