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When it became easy to publish, people published crap. Buckets and boatloads of it. A gate was opened, which was previously closed to just anyone dreaming of becoming a published author. Whether because of budget or ignorance, people published within days of finishing writing and screamed from the rooftops, “Look at me, I’m published!”
The public did not react well. Paying similar prices for books untouched by experienced professionals and for their favorite best sellers equally often resulted in scathing permanent consumer review public records, dooming that sales listing. Indie published books quickly became widely known for, and disregarded as, unreadable because of the reputation established just from that initial flood of unprofessionally published books. That reputation continues to fester in large part because people are still flooding the marketplace with crap. It is much better than it was and with Amazon’s preview mode, a well packaged indie book has a better chance these days. Your topic or genre, overall branding, product packaging, and marketing also gives you a leg up because, let’s face it, they probably didn’t invest in any area of the business of being an author.
You truly only get one opportunity to make a great first impression.
You have to take a side in this industry-wide problem before anything you do becomes public, or published. Either be committed to providing professionally packaged products, or be one of the short sighted, “do it my way” writers who’s ruining it for everyone else. By the very nature of the issue, your decision forever marks you one way or another in the consumer’s eyes, becoming a permanent part of your brand’s recognition.
You can’t unpublish and you can’t remove bad reviews no matter what you fix after publishing.
First, you have to fight that inner urge to act now. Instead, plan…and planning anything starts with learning.
- Learn how to plan, what to include in the plan, what a successful plan should look like.
- Learn when and how to hire the right person to provide a service that you can’t do because some things just do require an expert.
- Learn how to do what is reasonable for you to do yourself, but be warned that there will be “subject matter experts” coming at you from all directions.
I see authors all the time telling other authors any particular advice that they just swear is so perfect for selling books. I look that author up on Amazon: 1 book, no/few/bad reviews, just published or been published awhile, and nothing else about it makes me want to click that buy button.
Always consider the source of any advice or information when your success depends on it.
I surveyed a pool of 300 readers this past summer, learning that some 75% said they end up reading 1 out of 10 indie books whether they were free or not. The other 9 turned them away because of errors or odd layout/design choices, or both. And if they took the time to click a buy button, whether it was $0 or more, 50% of them said they would give a bad review because they invested time and were disappointed. Only 30% said they would leave good reviews when warranted, indicating the number one reason as too busy. This survey was limited to authors who are also avid readers, so I’d say that 30% is higher than if the survey looked at readers who do not know the pain of being an author.
You have 15-30 seconds to make the sale and 3 pages to keep the consumer happy.
Consider if neither window of opportunity converts a lead into a sale, or if you disappoint the consumer who does buy. These things are directly impacted by your decisions to invest or not invest time and/or money into publishing professionally.
Authors tend to want creative freedom over every aspect of their book and that’s just not a good idea, as these results clearly show. Unless you have experience or an innate tendency to excel in something, you are not automatically good at every aspect of publishing just because you want to share the story you wrote with the public. This is often overlooked because when the writer’s job is done, in order to fulfill the purpose for which they wrote in the first place, they find themselves with a limited budget, trying to live out that dream of being published. And like parents excited for their child to go off to college but scared and apprehensive about them leaving home, so it is with publishing your baby—it’s hard to let go.
Total control, YES! Total creative carte blanche, NO.
Consumers need certain things to be standard in their books. Formatting is typically where this goes way wrong. Odd layout/design choices beyond what a consumer is used to seeing won’t make sense to them and will distract from the more important things. In a discussion on LinkedIn recently, some one said “excessively clever” and that couldn’t be more accurate when referring to going too far in design.
Successful corporations excel in packaging their products and services because they hire the right people to make those decisions. If you are asking why you, as an author, shouldn’t have creative carte blanche for every aspect of your own book, I say to you, “Why would you? What experience do you have in marketing?” Everything after writing is directly impacted and influenced by marketing choices, from formatting to cover design to book description to trim size choices to the color of the background in your author photo.
Are you willing to risk sales by not making sure you always make a great first impression?
~~~~~>Debra L Hartmann, Author, Publishing Consultant with Indie Author Publishing Services, Managing Editor at The Pro Book Editor, Admin for https://authorshelpingauthors.wordpress.com/ and http://booksauthorsandpublishing411.com/
What advice about first impressions would you give other authors?
We all know what it’s like to be a published author: six-figure advances, translation rights sales in forty countries, Spielberg himself calling your agent begging for a film deal. And yet that isn’t always the case. In fact, most writers feel a little hard done by when it comes to remuneration for their efforts. However, life could be a little easier, even for some new writers, if they got to grips with the tax system.
This advice is for authors paying tax in the UK.
Becoming a professional writer means you can claim back tax on a long list of expenses, but when does HMRC consider you a professional? The moment you make any money from your writing, the taxman couldn’t quibble. However, in some cases, you may be able to register as self-employed and start claiming before you’ve made a penny.
If you’re an agented author, this would count as a clear sign that you are writing with the intent of selling your work to a publisher, and an industry professional believes you have a marketable product. If un-agented, it really comes down to being honest.
Do you spend significant time on your writing, invest any money in it, have a clear idea of your book, its market, and the agents and publishers you want to approach, or researched self-publishers? If you tick these boxes, you probably qualify. If in doubt, speak to an accountant.
To claim tax back on expenses, you must be a UK taxpayer. This means you must be earning above the personal tax-free allowance, which is currently £10,600 (2015). There are many costs that are split between personal and business usage. For these, you need to calculate very carefully what percentage you can allocate to business usage, and what percentage is unequivocally personal.
What can you claim for?
How do you write? All office equipment from your laptop and printer down to your pens and paper are allowable. Where do you write? If you use your home as an office, you can claim for costs renting, meeting mortgage payments, heating and maintaining your home. However, to find your allowable percentage, you must work out not just the proportion of time you spend using your home as an office, but the proportion of space available too.
All marketing expenses including building and maintaining a website, any PR and advertising costs are allowable. Membership organisation and journal or magazine subscriptions, for instance Mslexia and the Romantic Novelists Association, are allowable. Costs of production are also allowable, so if you’re self-publishing, this includes any design, editing, type-setting and printing costs.
If you are going somewhere to further your writing, for instance travelling to a writing course, your travel costs would be allowable. Research and development costs are often forgotten, but in fact things like courses, books, and even genuine research trips to exotic locations are often at least partially allowable.
Tax and legal advice are also allowable, and if you’re considering registering as self-employed before you have an income, it might be wise to take advantage of this. When you’re in the creative industries, understanding the ins and outs of expenses can be a bit tricky, probably because it can be such fun, but don’t be “guilted” out of filing your business costs just because you enjoyed them!
~~~~This guest post was written by Natalie Butlin from Accounts and Legal, small business accountants in London offering a full range of tax and accounting services, from self-assessment to business plans to VAT returns and everything in-between.
Having spent many long, sometimes frustrating, months writing that epic, what happens when it is finally done? You had it professionally edited and proofread—maybe—and now it is time to unleash it on unsuspecting readers. It feels good to have the thing behind you, and you can now put to bed all those characters that haunted your nights and bothered your days. You can sit back, put your feet on the writing desk, lean back with a tumbler of good bourbon in your hand, and give a huge sigh of relief.
But, is it a sigh of relief or a rising cloud of concern? When the initial euphoria wears off, you suddenly realize that you have lots of time on your hands, and you’re now starting to wonder what to do with yourself. Sounds familiar? Okay, there are all those Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook posts you wanted to catch up with, and then maybe not. When I look at some of those things, I just shake my head at what gets posted. Never mind, that’s another story. Perhaps you want to review a book or two, or read that particular novel that’s been sitting on the shelf for all these months. Now could be a good time to do a bit of travel, or a few more rounds of golf, or whatever takes your fancy. By all means, go for it. Still worried that something isn’t right?
You may not realize it, but you could be suffering from what I call post-book depression.
From a ‘high’ after finishing that novel, you have hit a ‘low’ of having nothing to do. Of course, there is always something else in your life that keeps you amused, but the big thing that’s been driving you all these months is gone! There is no need for that writing pad anymore, no need to spend hours staring at the computer waiting for the words to form, no need to dig yourself out of a mental block, no need to edit and re-edit the damned thing, no need to do anything. Writing a lengthy work gets you into a routine, something you are comfortable with. It is a stable element in your life. All of a sudden, that routine is rudely disrupted. Perhaps that tumbler of bourbon now serves a different purpose, other than being celebratory, as you ask yourself ‘what now’? Indeed, what now?
This is how it works for me. Having finished the novel, waiting for a review or two before releasing it, I am genuinely relieved the project is done. It took a lot of work and sweat and I tell myself I deserve a break. Then, all those symptoms I mentioned come creeping in. Should I get concerned? After a second glass of bourbon, it really doesn’t matter. The thing is, I usually need a month or two to flush my mind off my current project, banish all those haunting characters, and have a bit of fun; let my mind wander. You must define what works for you. In other words, I am taking time to recharge my creative batteries, which will enable me to face my next project. Sometimes I have ideas on tap, and I pick over them, probing the possibilities to develop one into my next book. Right now, having finished a major novel, I don’t have anything on mind, but that’s okay. I’ve been there before. Something will come up. The theme for my latest book came from a most unlikely source. I was watching a TV documentary, and wham! I turned the subject matter into a plot for a novel. Maybe watching more TV will give me another inspiration—or send me further into depression, seeing what’s on these days.
The important thing here, don’t mistake that ‘low’ for genuine depression. It is a natural reaction and you must allow nature to take its course while you get energized again. Make no mistake, writing something that is 100,000 words or more takes a lot of effort and perseverance. It is no surprise the work has left you somewhat exhausted. You were running a mental marathon that was perhaps ten months long. It’s okay to have a break before starting the next one. When will you know you are ready to start writing again? If the fires of creation burn inside you, a flash of inspiration will fan them and the compulsion to sit behind that writing desk again will be overwhelming. Ah, back into my comfortable routine!
~~~~Stefan Vucak is an award-winning author of the sci-fi Shadow Gods series. His contemporary political thriller ‘Cry of Eagles’ has won the coveted 2011 Readers’ Favorite silver medal award, and his ‘All the Evils’ was the 2013 prestigious Eric Hoffer contest finalist and Readers’ Favorite silver medal winner. His ‘Strike for Honor’ won a gold medal. When not writing, he is an editor and book reviewer.
Please share your experience!
Awesome post, Mary!
Originally posted on Ecofantasy Press:
Pickpockets Selling You Your Wallet Back
There I was, casually considering that I ought to purchase the domain name, ‘Ecofantasy Press’—which is the title of this webpage, And I have a legally registered LLC in Colorado under that name. It only makes sense.
Too late! It is taken. Hrmmmph….my bad for dallying. It is such an obvious title. I think.
But when I googled ‘ecofantasypress’ — the majority, the vast majority of the hits refer to this page, or my book or short stories, or something I have written. There is no EcofantasyPress.com. Or dot net. Or ecofantasypress anything. I can, however, buy either of them from ‘Domain Agents’ for a starting bid price of $199.
Hmmmph. When pigs fly.
It’s such a pisser, though. I pretty much brought the name Ecofantasy Press into being, however obvious. And here’s another domain name unique to me and my work, but owned…
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Does your website look a little tired and clunky? It doesn’t dazzle you anymore? Staring at my website one day, I know that feeling. After some procrastination—there are always other things to do—I finally decided something needed to be done. Had I known what I faced, perhaps I should have procrastinated some more.
A good website always makes me pause and ponder. It is a combination of layout, colors, flashy ads, fancy backgrounds; lots of things. I just know what I like, wishing mine looked like that. Deciding to have a new website designed isn’t a simple matter of jumping into WordPress or using one of the free content management systems like Weebly or GoDaddy. There are lots of them out there to choose from, and I checked them out. However, I am not a graphics artist or web designer, and to get the best out of these tools, I found I needed to be pretty savvy using the behind the scenes coding, something I didn’t want to get into.
Having eliminated the do-it-yourself path, the only remaining choice was to engage a professional website designer. I immediately faced another decision point: a private at-home operator, or an established company. Making a wrong choice would drastically effect the end result, not to mention my pocket, and after some research, I decided to engage a local company. Before setting up the initial interview, I needed to establish what kind of website I wanted: theme, content, menu elements, functionality, look and feel—all the things that captured my attention when looking at someone else’s website, whether personal or professional.
To find out what goes into making an eye-catching website, I dug up several Internet articles that provided some pointers. What was particularly valuable, they included URL links to those websites, enabling me to decided for myself if they had that wow factor I was looking for. Finding a website that incorporated everything I wanted in mine, I fronted up for the initial interview with the company’s representative, confident I had everything he needed to build my website. Ouch!
One of the first questions he asked: what would be the purpose of my website? I knew that one would come, so I answered confidently: to sell me and my books. Duh! Okay, do I need a shopping cart? I had thought about that one, seeing how my books are distributed by Amazon and Smashwords; at least the e-book versions. Still, it couldn’t hurt to explore the possibility, and I told him to provide a separate quote for that. The web developer checked my existing website, noting what pages I had, content, and work required for data migration. There was a lot more, but you get the idea. He then asked something puzzling: what do I want the website to look like? I had already emailed him the URL link of the website I liked, and I assumed he would have looked at it. He did, but he wanted my input. As the alarm bells started clanging, I told him I expected input from him; he was the professional web designer. After more discussion, he told me he would put together some wireframes for me to look at. I left that place sobered and somewhat chastened.
You see my problem? I wasn’t prepared! I should have designed those wireframe pages beforehand to support my interview. It wasn’t enough to simply show him a website I liked and let him get on with it. However, the damage was repairable. I hunkered down, clicked the link to my sample website and went through each page in detail, noting all its elements, considering how they could be applied to my website. Opening a spreadsheet, I started creating my wireframe pages: home, blog, contact me page, and others. Did I want static banner images on each page, separate background designs, combination of color bars on some pages; I had to consider them all. For images, I downloaded them from Shutterstock.com and All-free-Download.com, to name two, and pasted them into my wireframe pages. Slowly, as each page evolved, I moved things around to achieve the rough look and feel I wanted. I still needed feedback from the web developer, but what I sent him reflected more closely what I wanted, something he appreciated. We’ll see how things go when I get his initial layout.
Okay, so what are these website elements I needed to look at? It is all subjective, and everyone needs to make a choice that suits him, but there are some basic guideline elements you need to consider.
Home Page The home page really is the most important page of a website. As the first page your visitors will see, it must give a positive impression, making the visitor want to browse further. It must sell you and your books, and is a page you cannot get wrong.
Books Page A books page for an author is a must, of course. Each book should have its own page, sample review blurbs, and a link to a reviews page. It must have links to sales pages like Amazon, Smashwords and others. It should also have a download button for a sample chapter, giving the reader a glimpse into your work, hopefully prompting him to buy.
Contact Me A vital page!
Reviews page This page should be a collection of your favorite book reviews, which gives readers an opportunity to see opinions of your books.
Interviews Page This is where you present a collection of interviews about you and your books, attaching links to host pages.
Blog Not much to explain why this one is needed.
Biography / About Me This page gives readers a glimpse into who you are, your background, and whatever details you choose to publish about yourself. Some Internet articles suggest having a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section here, but that is up to the individual.
Site Map A site map can be a useful navigational aid for a website. However, unless the website has lots of pages, menus and sub-menus, setting one up may not be worth it. Some people recommend having one as it helps Google spiders and bots during searches.
Other pages to consider:
Perhaps my experience will help you when deciding to create a website, or renovate an existing one.
~~~~~~Stefan Vucak is an award-winning author of the sci-fi Shadow Gods series. His contemporary political thriller ‘Cry of Eagles’ has won the coveted 2011 Readers’ Favorite silver medal award, and his ‘All the Evils’ was the 2013 prestigious Eric Hoffer contest finalist and Readers’ Favorite silver medal winner. His ‘Strike for Honor’ won a gold medal. When not writing, he is an editor and book reviewer.
I would love to hear from you regarding your experience with websites.
Almost every writer dreams of one day being published, but not all writers realize what exactly goes into publishing a book. Whether you are self-publishing or pursuing the traditional publishing route, writers need to learn to navigate the publishing process. After all, writers are first and foremost just that—writers—and learning the ins and outs of publishing is not an easy task. However, as the publishing industry grows, new tools are becoming available to authors to help them publish more successfully. Crowdfunding is one of these resources and many authors are learning the importance of this step in the publishing process.
M.C. Muhlenkamp is the author of the Markram Battles series available on Amazon. A special thank you to Melissa for sharing her perspective on writing through this blog post on her wonderful website!
Originally posted on M.C. MUHLENKAMP:
Decisions, like most things in life, come down to priorities. I remember reading a post by Nathan Bransford a long time ago where he said something along the lines of, no project or goal is worth pushing aside the most important people in your life. Nathan, please forgive me for not quoting your exact words. Attempting to track down that single line in your blog would be like looking for a needle in a giant tub on needles.
Back then I was barely starting to share my writing with others and slowly making my way through the world of self-publishing. But here I am today, about two years later, still mulling over those words. As the due date for baby number three approaches (yes, I’ve been pregnant for the past nine months), hauling along all the responsibilities that come with another kid, I cannot help feeling overwhelmed.
I remember when…
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Think about how much time you spend on Twitter and what you are hoping to accomplish by using Twitter. One of the most important things that can happen for you is when someone else retweets for you, right? And for you, as you work to increase your network, you are looking for things to retweet also, right? And all of the activity you do that is Twitter related takes so much time in total and you probably wish you could spend more time writing and less time on Twitter?
Don’t we all! Here’s your quick tip: Pin a tweet.
Pick which of your tweets is most important for your goals and you most want retweeted by others and PIN IT. Then when people roll through their email notifications and are looking to reciprocate or to catch your attention by retweeting, you’ve made it quick and easy for them to select the tweet that gets you the most benefit. Pinned tweets remain at the top of your Twitter page and others don’t have to search for something relevant to retweet.
I personally look for something to retweet every time I follow someone. Often, I end up scrolling down their page and finding only things they have retweeted and I move on to the next email notification to follow someone back and retweet for them–time is money, or in our case, time is words on the page, right? That person missed an opportunity for me to retweet for them. I love it when a new follower has a pinned tweet because I can follow and retweet for them and go on to the next one…they save me a ton of time! And, it starts that chain reaction we all want…retweeting for each other is the neighborly thing to do and helps you gain valuable, meaningful followers.
How to pin a tweet:
- From your Twitter profile home page, send a tweet.
- Go to the sent tweet at the top of your list of sent tweets and click on or just move your mouse over “…more”
- Select “Pin to your profile page”
How to unpin a tweet:
- Go to your Home page in Twitter
- Select “more” underneath the tweet
- Choose “Unpin from your profile”
So, you are a newbie author and you’re awaiting the release of your book in the next three or four months (heaven forbid, if it’s a longer wait!) After you have wrung your hands and vented to your significant other about why publishers can’t seem to get their act together, you come to a major decision. You are going to be dignified and patient. And, while you wait, you’ll actually start working on your next novel. Sounds like a plan, right? Read the rest of this entry →
Authors who are choosing to self-publish have the advantage of maintaining all creative control over their work, which provokes many writers to take the self-publishing route. However, in order to be successful, the writer’s role must change. A self-publishing author is no longer simply a writer, but they’re taking on the responsibilities of becoming the publisher, too.
In order for an author to be successful in the crowded book market, authors must begin marketing efforts well in advance of their publication date. Without a solid foundation to launch from, their book will most likely get lost in the overwhelming number of titles that are published every year. Once a book is lost, it’s difficult to recover the possible momentum of being a recently published book. Essentially, the publishing industry is sink or swim, but luckily for business savvy authors, Read the rest of this entry →
When you began the very personal journey that resulted in a manuscript you then felt compelled to share with the world, you probably didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to let people know your book is available for sale. Marketing concepts and methods are relative to the consumer’s demands, not publishing methods, and traditional publishers will expect you to market yourself just as the indie published author has to. Marketing indie style simply means you are responsible for marketing your product.
If you are self-publishing or starting a small press, you may wonder where to distribute online and what the differences are between eBook distributors. Is there an advantage of choosing one over another?
For many, publishing a book is already a complicated enough goal. At the same time, another goal to consider is to just break even on the real money you invested in the book. As I prepare to publish my book in April 2014, I am scratching my head at the different royalties offered by different book distribution sites. To be honest, I don’t really care which company carries my book as long as I can calculate the correct amount of royalties I should be gaining from each sale. It’s important to me that data is available at all times in case I want to check on sales numbers in the middle of the night.
No longer is getting published dependent on a wish and a prayer. The traditional publishing houses and their gatekeepers don’t hold the only key anymore. Advancing technology has now made it possible for anyone with average computer skills to publish themselves.
In the most basic context, metadata means “data about data.” What about when we talk about self publishing—what is metadata?
When was the last time you went to the library, pulled out one of the card catalog drawers and rifled through the 3×5 cards printed with the information of each, individual book in the library?
Initially when I first embarked on a Kickstarter project campaign for my first book, The Undead Sorceress, I assumed that it would be a simple task. After all, the media has covered stories about people getting thousands of dollars from crowds, so how hard can collecting free money be? But I learned the truth quickly, there is no such thing as free lunch!
Why were Tom Clancy’s first two books, The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising so readable? Many lowbrow literary critics wouldn’t think they were well written books at all, but then, you can’t please everyone. They sold over a million copies each, so they had to have something—and I’m not talking about having a sophisticated marketing machine behind them.
Dazzled by the brilliance of your inspiration for a new book, shaking off the urge to start pounding away at that keyboard, you’ve caught your breath and took stock of what you are really facing. Slowly, a sobering realization breaks through that dazzle: that book idea now needs to be translated into 100,000 words or so.
We live in a world awash with blogs. Everyone has one or has had one at some point. Whether they’re used to simply detail a person’s day-to-day life, or to anonymously snipe at politicians, we’re aren’t exactly starved for choice. So, when you want to start your own, how do you make it stand out against the crowd? It isn’t easy, and it takes work, but here’s how to get on your way.
Let The Fussy Librarian help you sell books. After you’ve spent hundreds of hours writing your book, slaved through rewrites and hired a cover designer, it’s understandable that there’s not much energy left over for marketing. We’ve taken what works, made it better and made it easy for you.The Fussy Librarian is the first eBook website to match readers by genre and their content preferences. If you write cozy mysteries, we have readers who have told us they like their mysteries without any violence.
When I get into a hole while writing, to clear my head and let things sort themselves out, which they usually do, I download an e-book to review. Saying it like that, the process sounds simple, but selecting a book is fraught with apprehension and hopeful expectation. Bombarded with flashy covers and eye-catching blurbs, sometimes not so, I look for a book that will entertain and transport me into the author’s world, but more often than not, I walk away disappointed.
Ah, what writers do! Or should I say, what writers shouldn’t do!As an editor and book reviewer, I cringe when I see a manuscript fraught with beginner’s mistakes. It is not only that the manuscript looks disorganized, if I am editing it, before doing anything, I need to hammer it into proper format, which can be a lot of work and drains my enthusiasm.
Every budding author wants to see his masterpiece published, preferably by one of the traditional book publishers. After all, that’s where the fame and money is, right? After accumulating a stack of rejection letters, thoughts of ending it all bubbling in the background, reality starts to sink in. There are lots of writers out there competing for the same thing, with traditional publishers closing ranks and picking up fewer new authors all the time.
I am sure someone famous once said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Not sure about the genius part, but in writing, the rest is certainly true. When I wrote my first novel, and I use the term ‘write’ loosely – good thing it will never see the light of day – I wasn’t short of inspiration. I had ideas for a dozen books; still do, and some have been turned into real books.
“Throw away my book: you must understand that it represents only one of a thousand attitudes. You must find your own. If someone else could have done something as well as you, don’t do it. If someone else could have said something as well as you, don’t say it—or written something as well as you, don’t write it. Grow fond only of that which you can find nowhere but in yourself, and create out of yourself, impatiently or patiently, ah! that most irreplaceable of beings.”
In other words, write the book that only you can write. No other book is worth writing.
Posted in Authors Helping Authors