Tag: authors

How To Market Without Losing Your Mind

First I want to say happy New Year to all of you! I hope you’ve had a great holiday season. I’ll be glad to say goodbye to 2014, myself. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year with ups and downs all over the place. I think many people have had a stressful year, so let’s all take a big breath and hope next year is a little less hectic.

Now – in regards to marketing! I encountered someone from one of the many writing groups I’m part of who was talking about how trying to market their book on all the various platforms and trying to keep up with social media was destroying their writing time. Many people were telling the author to “just write and ignore the rest; it’ll fall into place”. Others were saying to automate their marketing using platforms like Hootsuite. They also suggested using cross-platform posts to just post the same thing on all their social media networks.

Unfortunately, none of those suggestions are going to work for a writer who wants to sell books.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: do not automate your marketing strategy. While, yes, this blog will automatically post to my Facebook page I do more than just that. You should not pre-write tweets and posts on social media because that robs it of the interactive feel which is what social media is about: interaction. While you don’t have to have long conversations on social media every day you should keep your commentary and interaction conversational. You aren’t writing advertisements there – you’re providing people with interesting, interactive things that they can enjoy.

That said, you don’t need to spend every minute of every day marketing and playing on social media.

Instead of stressing and drowning in social media to the detriment of your writing dedicate about twenty minutes a day to social media to make sure everything is caught up, and choose which platforms you really want to focus on. There are so many that you can’t possibly keep up with everything. You also want to make sure that your social media presence reflects you. Do you do a lot of photography? Then hang out on Instagram rather than Twitter, perhaps. Are you writing books that are more professional than fiction? Maybe LinkedIn is more your speed than Facebook. There are so many options out there that you need to evaluate which you think are most important.

To me I tend to focus on Facebook and Twitter. While I have an Instagram and post to it regularly I don’t view that as a large part of my platform. I also have LinkedIn which I use on a semi-regular basis for networking, but it isn’t my primary marketing channel. Of course, the change in Facebook’s policy regarding business may change how I use Facebook to some extent, but you will want to really consider what your plans and needs are and then use the channels that will best suit you.

Outside of social media marketing you have blogging which is something I strongly recommend for every author. Don’t tell me you don’t know what to write about – you are a writer. Find something. My blog is about writing and the craft (as you obviously know). Yours can be about whatever you want. Are you passionate about fantasy football? Write blogs about that. Are you passionate about gardening? Write about that! You aren’t limited to just writing about your writing. In fact you should talk more about other topics that will interest people than just your writing because you’re marketing to readers, not writers.

If you have your blog, author website, and social media squared away that will be a huge step in the right direction toward marketing your book. From there you can start talking to local radio stations, newspapers, bookstores, and arrange interviews and signings. You could even try to get on local access television (or bigger TV if you can!) to let people know about your book and what you do. That kind of thing, however, is another blog entirely.

These techniques should give you a strong basis to start marketing your book without losing your hair because your writing time is sacrosanct. But you can’t just use a ‘set it and forget it’ method of authorship if you want to make sales. You can do this, I promise. It’s not as hard or as scary as you think even if you’re an introvert like me.

Well? What are you waiting for? Share this post with folks, start writing posts of your own, and enjoy your New Year’s Eve!

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Much Ado About Typesetting

Since this is what I’ve been doing lately I figured I’d write another blog about it, but this one is going to be more technical. The first thing I want to tell you – something I learned the hard way – is that typesetting for print and for ebook are 100% different. No joke. If you aren’t going to be printing your book in hard copy then your typesetting is entirely different than it is for a physical book. How I learned this? By spending about four days bouncing off the walls because I couldn’t get my PDF to convert it into a format that didn’t look awful. Every time I tried to export it from InDesign into anything else the formatting was sloppy and horrible. There were random words in random places, page numbers on improper pages… it was nightmarish. So, to save you that frustration I now tell you the obvious: it doesn’t work like that.

Also in this blog post I’m going to discuss interior design, albeit briefly, because that is a part of the process. It, too, changes between formats which is one of the reasons you will notice that e-books tend to be more sparse on things like dropcaps and so on.

To me the easier of the two is e-book formatting, so I’m going to start there. After reading some tutorials online about going from a Word Document to an ebook I twitched. Going from Word straight to press? Perish the thought. The idea of doing that makes most typesetters green at the gills. However, for ebooks it proved to be the simplest way to accomplish the task.

The most important thing I learned about ebook creation is that, unlike traditional typesetting, there are very, very few page breaks. The reason for this is that on a device where the font can be changed and text made larger or smaller you can’t predict where the page breaks will be. As a result you should not insert them except at the end of chapters where you want to force the flow to switch pages no matter what font or size the reader is engaging at.

Secondly is don’t use dropcaps or other fancy formatting. It won’t carry over cleanly and will provide a massive headache. You can do simple things like adding in bullet points or maybe a horizontal rule, but it will be very difficult to have text boxes off to the side and so on without being far better at this than I am. As a result you want to limit yourself to as light formatting as possible. Stick to the usuals – bold, italic, underline, strikethrough. The reason for this is because when the Word document is exported through the conversion program it is changed into xhtml which is then read into .mobi, .epub, or whatever format you like.

If you have graphics you will want to keep them as simple as possible and avoid their use if you can because they may not align well. Epub is a rather limited file format, or so I am told, and it can’t really handle a lot of the things that we might want it to, so be careful what you attempt to do with it. I am sure that, with enough time and learning, those of you writing childrens’ books that are full color and illustrated could figure out how to make your pages look good in that format, but I couldn’t tell you right now how to do it. This is more for books that are a straight read and contain very few graphics.

formattingexample

When you are done with your formatting the pages should look like this (without the red). They should be LEFT ALIGNED and have minimal formatting. This page has a page break before the first line and after the ISBN because it needs to stand alone in the book. I killed the personal information about this book because it’s not ready to hit the market yet, and this page may not be in its final form.

Finally, transferring your Word Document to the various file formats can be done in several programs. Calibre, for one, is open source and does a good job creating the files for you.


Traditional typesetting, however, looks much different and, unlike ebook formatting, should decidedly not be done in Word. As I referenced in my last post, I have developed a strong preference for InDesign as a typesetting program. It is a little less overtly friendly than MS Publisher, but it proved its worth to me in letting me have a project done in far less time than I could have anticipated otherwise.

When you are traditionally typesetting you must control leading (the distance between lines), kerning (the distance between individual letters), page breaks, page numbers, and everything else you see when you open the page of a book. Spoiler alert – there’s a lot you don’t even realize is there until you start doing it.

One of the biggest things you are going to be looking for during your typesetting process is eliminating widows and orphans. That is, lines of text leftover on a page or column when the rest has migrated onto the next page. A widow is a single line of text at the bottom of a page where an orphan is the same thing at the top of a page. They’re sad, lonely things and really should be with their families.

In addition to that you must work on designing the page layout for each page. The author’s name, the book’s name, the page numbers, the use of graphics on the chapter pages… all of these things are part of your process and are a lot of work. I’m not going to give you a step-by-step process on how to do this because there are better tutorials out there than I can provide that will center around your preferred software.

Why Traditional Publishing Isn’t Dying

This is likely to be a controversial post because I am going to say a lot of things about the industry that I think are hard truths. Truths that suck to hear, but they are things I think need to be said.

Despite pundits saying it, traditional publishing isn’t about to die. It isn’t “dying”. It isn’t even in pain. While the “Big Six” in New York are suffering there are plenty of presses who are still doing marvelously and aren’t on the verge of collapse. In fact, I would even say that the indie publishing world is booming. While there are sharks in the water and idiots floating around in inner-tubes with tin foil hats there are also plenty of good companies emerging from depths. The thought that traditional publishing is dying is a misnomer and is, for some people, wishful thinking. It isn’t going away, and thank God for that.

I do not take issue with self-publishing and have many friends who are quite successful doing it. They are skilled writers who take time with their works to polish, market, and prepare them for the shelves they’re on. I salute anyone who takes the time to do that and do it well. It isn’t easy. However folks like that are rare.

The reason I prefer traditional publishing in 90% of circumstances boils down to a single word: gatekeepers. There is a buffer zone of several people between the hopeful would-be author and their potential audience. Agents, acquisitions editors, editors within a publishing company, lawyers… all of these people make a difference in the quality of the work produced. And they all protect readers from the dreaded Slush Pile.

If you don’t know what the Slush Pile is, it is a derogatory term for the query inbox. It’s a neck-deep pool of horrible that no one wants to be part of, and it’s what acquisitions editors protect readers from. They protect you from such titles as “A Billionaire Dinosaur Forced Me Gay” or “Taken By The Lightning Bolt“.  Those books, however, almost define the slush pile in my mind. I’ve got nothing against gays or erotica, but those two were the worst things I could dig up on Amazon. If anyone else wants to share links to HORRIBLE books in the comments I’d be happy to add more!

Before you ask, yes. It is that bad. No, I’m not making it up.

Now, before you all shout “BUT I DON’T SUCK!” I believe you. Being that awful takes many years of hard work, and I personally know many successful and skilled self-published writers. However, you are running up against the fact that you are emerging – still dripping – from a pool over three million kids have peed in. No matter how many showers you take and how many times you clean that bathing suit it will follow you around as long as you own that suit.

I know that it isn’t fair. And I know that it isn’t right. But that is the stigma that self-published authors face, and it isn’t going to go away. I know many people believe that self-publishing will gather steam and stomp those mean ol’ publishers right out of existence, but it just won’t happen because: gatekeepers. The lack of gatekeepers is what is causing the self-publishing industry to hemorrhage. There are so many authors and so many of them are so awful that it becomes almost impossible for readers to sort the wheat from the chaff. That job that once belonged to people who defined the writing industry before readers even saw the content is now being passed on to the readers, and most of them just don’t want to do that job.

There are a few dedicated folks who will read only indie books. They will read only self-pubbed works, and they stick up for authors they believe in. I respect them, and I respect the authors who actually “make it” through self-published means. Being able to do that means they have found ways to market themselves effectively to the point where they are likely as educated in marketing as many people who have gone to college for it. It is no easy road. However, they are the minority.

Regardless of the few, the proud, and the intelligent who look at self-publishing for what it is – a business venture – there are far too many folks out there who view it as a shortcut. I recently had a conversation with my friend Jerry Hatchett about this topic. Jerry is an accomplished self-pubbed author who is one of the few authors I know who nearly makes a living off his writing as an indie author. He expressed hope that maybe self-publishing would start to filter itself after awhile, and I hope for the same. However the realistic part of me doesn’t see that happening anytime soon because any moron with a word processor and internet access can put a book up for sale. And they will. The lack of gatekeepers in the industry is what will cripple indie authors from being able to really become the powerhouses they could otherwise.

Why "More" Marketing Isn’t Necessarily Better

I’ve been being bad and hanging out on Twitter lately when I probably should be doing other things. I keep telling myself that it’s market research, but mostly it’s cat pictures and blogs about writing. Now that I’m blogging about it I can at least pretend it was time well spent.

Everywhere I turn on Twitter – and Facebook and LinkedIn – I see people throwing their cover ads everywhere. I also see them paying to put their cover in places all over the net. Having been a veteran of the internet since I was a young, I can safely say that I do not click on banner ads. They don’t sell to me. And if they don’t sell to me they don’t sell to most people. I don’t click on the ads of people who tweet about their books nonstop or FB posts about their books or…

You get the picture.

Now, I’m not claiming that having a cover advertisement won’t benefit you in any way. Some people do respond to that kind of marketing most of us won’t. What we are interested in is why your book should interest us. Most of the time I pick up a new book or a new series based on a friend’s recommendation. Either I borrow a book from them, or the library, to see if I like the series at all, and if I do like the series I buy the rest as they come out. Or I look for other things by that author.

That kind of thing is more typical to most books and authors than someone seeing your cover advertisement and immediately wanting it. I can think of one book that the cover drew me in and made me want to read it. The good part about that was that it was free, so I didn’t have to go out of my way. (It was “The Book of Deacon” by Joseph Lallo, if you’re curious.)

The most powerful type of marketing you are going to find is word of mouth marketing. Developing relationships, publishing something that gets people talking, and then putting out advertising is going to be your best bet. Think of it like a pyramid. Your well-written book is the base, the next layer is going to be word of mouth marketing, and the final layer (the top) is going to be the kind of marketing you pay for through various services.

Keep in mind that word of mouth marketing includes book reviews, author interviews, and social media among other things, so you aren’t just going to be sitting around waiting for other people to talk about your book. You have a lot of work to do! Just don’t get caught up in the spiral of thinking that you need to sling your book cover around all over the world and pay for a lot of advertising when the foundation of your marketing should be word of mouth.