Writing: Social Media

Last weekend, my friend and I drove to Indianapolis to attend a writers’ workshop given by Liliana Hart, hosted by Indiana’s RWA chapter. If you ever get a chance to hear Liliana Hart speak, jump at it. She’s awesome, but just listening to all of the work she does, writing and marketing, made me tired. She repeated to us over and over again that if you decide to self-publish, you have to think of yourself as a business.

You have to hire or beg a copy editor to go through your final draft to make sure there are as few mistakes as possible. You have to come up with a professional, eye-catching cover that lets the reader know the genre and tone of your story. And you have to map out a strategy. You try to write the best book you possibly can and then come up with ways to help readers find it. Because if you don’t do your homework, there are millions of books available. How will a reader find yours?

I’ve read Lindsay Buroker’s blog posts for a long time, and she and Liliana Hart gave some similar advice. Both said it’s hard to attract readers with one book. Both said it’s smarter to write at least three books and put them up in short order to attract an audience. Hart suggested having five ready to go. Readers like series. You can’t really do much creative advertising/promotion with one book. I’ve posted this before, but here it is again, in case you missed it: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/4318779-how-do-you-establish-a-fan-base-before-you-launch-your-book

Both Lindsay Buroker and Liliana Hart stressed having at least one series of your books on multiple sites. “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” both warned. Amazon makes it easy for authors to publish and promote with them, but Hart encouraged writers to try iBooks (with Apple). She warned it takes a year and a half for an author to get established there, so there’s no way to get rich quick, but readers on iBooks aren’t enticed by 99 cent, $1.99, or $2.99 books. They expect to pay more for better quality.

Both authors also encourage advertising your books. It doesn’t do much good to promote a book if you only have one available. The real benefit comes when readers download your first book and look for more in the series. The trick is finding an advertising site that works for you. I’ve had good luck with The Fussy Librarian, but my friend who writes Regency romance has better luck with Ereader News Today. So it depends. Bookbub is wonderful, but it’s hard to get an ad there.

I’ve often wondered how effective social media is for selling books. Quite a few authors lately have posted that they might have lots of followers, but there’s not a lot of carry-over in sales. For me, that’s a little disheartening. Social media, it seems, connects writers with fellow writers, but it’s hard to connect with readers who’ll enjoy your genre and books. Tweeting, blogging, and having an author’s facebook page helps, but they warn to spend more time writing the next novel than losing time on social media. Their message? Don’t spend so much time playing on social media that you don’t WRITE.

I’ve heard over and over again that the most effective way to promote your work is by connecting with readers who like your books by offering an e-mail newsletter. I’ve done a crappy job on this. I started a newsletter, using Mail Chimp, but I didn’t think it through enough. Liliana Hart didn’t mince words. “If you don’t offer them something special, why should they join?” I sent the readers who signed up for mine updates and news, but I need to offer more. Hart suggested contests, where the winners get free books, etc. Buroker does the same. Hart goes a step further and has a “street team,” fans who’ll spread news about new books and novellas she writes through word of mouth. Quite a few romance writers have street teams. They send them swag–bookmarks, pens with a new release’s title on it, etc.–to pass out and spread the word.

If you choose to self-publish, remember that you’ll also have to self-promote. That doesn’t mean tweeting your book over and over again on twitter. It means connecting with readers somehow without sounding like spam. If any of you have found ways that work for you, I’d be happy to hear them. And the most important thing–Happy Writing!

P.S.
I put a new short-short on my webpage: Nadine’s Story: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My author’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy
On twitter: @judypost

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Writing–Before Your Book Goes Online

I’m mostly an indie author.  Not exactly, because I have an agent, who’s wonderful.  And an agency, which is awesome.  So I get to skip some of the steps that 100% indie authors do.  Which is fine by me.  So I can’t tell you how to format, because Sharon–who’s an e-book wizard–does it for me.  And I can’t tell you about working with a publisher, if you have a book coming out in hardback or paperback, because I’ve never done that.  All I can share with you is what I know or what I’ve tried.  But here are the steps I go through to get a novel/novella online:

1.  People keep saying it, but they’re right.  Write the best book you possibly can, because there are a LOT of books out there–some good, some bad, but you want yours to be the best it can be.  So don’t slap words on a hard drive and share them with the world.  Edit them.  Have a few beta readers (who don’t tell you you’re wonderful and shouldn’t change a word) critique them for you.  Then decide what you could do better and fix it.  Now, I’ve had several friends who would be happy to NEVER send their book out into the cold, cruel world because they’re never going to be satisfied with it.  They can always see one more thing to fix, one more thing that will make it shine.  You have to find a happy medium here.  But don’t rush your book either.  When you send it out, make sure it’s good.

2.  Have someone who knows his/her stuff copy edit your work.  I notice misspellings, bad grammar, and the “sprinkle method” of adding commas.  (I had a friend once who told me that she didn’t understand commas, so she just “sprinkled” them on the page so that they looked good).  Aaargh.  Grammar and spelling are the basic tools of writing, but none of us finish writing a manuscript with no mistakes.  And we can’t always see our own mess-ups.  Make sure your manuscript is clean before you offer it to the world.  (My biggest weakness is hyphens.  Hope one belongs in mess-up???)

3.  Once your manuscript is ready to go, it’s time to format it for whatever site you’re going to load it on.  Most of my writer friends pay someone to do this for them.  A few take the time and effort to do it themselves.  I’m lucky.  (And I know it).  Sharon does it for me.

4.  Books need a cover.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with Michael Prete.  I love the covers he’s created for my novels and novellas.  (And for the first time, he’s told me he’d like to do more covers, so I can share his name and web page: http://vertex10.com/.  He usually designs web pages, so his site only shows his professional work as a web designer, but if you like any of the covers on my work, he’s done all of them, and his prices are reasonable!!).  He’s also been kind enough to let me find images that I think fit the story/tone that I’m trying to create.  Sometimes, I only use one image for a cover.  Sometimes, I combine them.  I just copy the links of what I like and send them to him, and he works his magic.  But whatever you decide to do, your book cover is what makes people notice your novel.  Don’t kid yourself.  People DO judge books by their covers.  Here are my two favorite sites to find images for Michael to work with: http://www.canstockphoto.com/  and  http://www.shutterstock.com/.  Be warned, though, once you start flipping through all of the images, you can lose a few hours without noticing.

5.  And last, but not least, once your book is ready to go, how are you going to market/promote it?  What have you got in place to help people find it?  I’ve already shared a few great marketing sites in previous blogs.  A good one is http://www.lindsayburoker.com/.  Another is https://twitter.com/BadRedheadMedia.  I had great luck with Book Bub ($90), but it’s getting harder and harder to get your book listed there.  I had okay luck with http://www.ebookbooster.com/ ($40).  By okay, I mean I had over 3,000 downloads of my free book with ebookbooster.  Not bad, but nothing compared to the 18,000+ downloads I got from Book Bub.  Later this month, I’m going to try out the parajunkee site to see how that works for the release of my 2 new novella bundles.  I’m experimenting, looking for a mix of sites that help readers discover my work.  I’ve been lucky enough to have several bloggers feature my books.  I still haven’t been brave enough to try a blog tour.  Twitter makes a difference when I tweet about a new release.  So does Goodreads when I self-promote in Making Connections or Nexus.  But an occasional paid ad has proven pretty effective, worth the money, (but only because I have more than one book online).  All that I’m saying is that not many people are going to stumble on your book amid the thousands or millions of novels on amazon and Nook unless you help them find it.  You can twitter (but do it right.  Don’t just list your book over and over again.  People stop reading your tweets).  You can join Goodreads or Facebook.  Or start a blog.  But whatever you do, do something!

P.S.  Just because I LOVE this cover and I mentioned Michael, this is the cover he created for the first Babet/Prosper bundle that’s going online Sept. 23–and this one happens to be FREE when it goes up.

cover_27_thumb

My facebook page (but it’s mostly the blogs you’ve already read): https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/JudithPostsurbanfantasy