Five Keys to Successful Author Events

Or, what I learned from my second event as an author 🙂

This past weekend I participated in a Local Author Fair at a nearby library. I learned a lot and wanted to share these tips in the hopes of helping other writers.

  1. Bring a buddy who is good at pimping your book. In my case this was my mother. She talked my novel up to anyone and everyone who walked into the room and touted my book to the other 14 authors in attendance. I don’t know if that led to any sales but at least she helped spread the word.
  2. Make sure your table looks amazing. Some of my fellow authors had great books, but their displays didn’t convey as much. I brought a tablecloth, giant print out of my cover made at Fedex Office, magnets, postcards, an easel to prop my book on. Your table needs to sell your book. author-fair-photo
  3. Network with other writers. I shared a table with the lovely Lina Chern, a crime writer, and basically interviewed her at length about her publishing experience when not selling my book. I also grabbed a business card from another author who said she might know a good critique partner for me.
  4. A more general pitch is better when trying to sell your book. At the start of the fair when someone stopped by the table and asked what my book was about, I gave them a blow-by-blow of the plot. Heartbroken teen boy meets Elvis impersonator and quirky friendship and adventure ensues. After I said this, a lot of people gave me a blank look. When I generalized my description, though, to: “It’s a YA novel but it’s not too angsty and it has a sense of humor and it’s set in Hawaii” I got a WAY better response.
  5. Remember that it’s one sale at a time. It’s easy to get discouraged when a lot of people walk through the room and only a fraction of them actually purchase. The hope is some of the readers who do buy your book like it and tell all their friends about it. And when a teen girl stops by, reads your back cover and says, “This sounds sick!!” the struggle will be worth it.

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Authors, if you have any other tips I’d love to hear them via comments 🙂

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How to Network Effectively (Even If You Hate Networking): Start Close to Home

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If you’re anything like me a small part of you (or let’s be real, a large part) hates networking situations with a passion, especially forced networking situations. There is nothing I dread more than a “networking night” which results in two-hundred people standing around a room talking to the same two people for the duration. One of the reasons I love writing is because it’s solitary by nature; ultimately it’s just you and the keyboard and your ideas manifesting themselves on the page. But if you want to actually sell books and have people read them, you have to meet other people and tell them about it. Since my debut novel was released a month ago, I’ve discovered what the best networking strategies are for people who hate networking.

1. Let your family and friends know about your book, in whatever way you see fit. In my case, I sent all my friends and family members an email. I asked them to sign up for my email list if they were interested in getting further updates from me. One of my uncles, who is very cerebral and who I assumed would have zero interest in my YA novel, bought the book and read it. A few weeks later he cc’d me on an email that he sent to twenty-five of his closest friends. In the message he told everyone how much he enjoyed the book, wrote a thoughtful, multi-paragraph review, and encouraged them to buy it. It just goes to show you never know who is going to be your biggest advocate.

2. Tell your colleagues about the book, in a passive way. Don’t shout it out during a company-wide meeting. Tell your boss in your weekly one-on-one. Send the people you aren’t as well-acquainted with a polite email. Tell them you published a book and provide a link for them to read more about it. From my experience this leads to a spike in sales and unexpected connections. When I told one colleague about my book he connected me with one of his best friends—who happens to be the executive editor of a major review publication and a published author. Meeting up with my colleague’s friend didn’t get a me a review, but it did get me other leads to bookstores and professional organizations I can promote myself to. Plus, he’s become a mentor of sorts who is happy to answer my publishing-related questions and give me career advice.

3. Go to as many writing and/or literary events as possible without any expectations for what might happen. I went to an Indie Author Day event at my local library recently and didn’t find it particularly useful since I’d already published my book and had done research for a year leading up to publication. As I was leaving the event another attendee asked, “Did you get anything out of that?” I told him no, not really. His next comment was, “You know what is useful…” and proceeded to tell me about a local writing group I’d never heard of that hosts guest speakers and workshops on a regular basis.

4. If a reader takes the time to contact you, thank them and ask how they heard about the book. I have found this to be a good way of gauging the effectiveness of my marketing efforts. What’s working and what isn’t? Was this money and time well spent? Nothing is better than direct feedback from readers. And when your next book comes out, they’ll remember you as the author who took the time to email them back. Hopefully they’ll buy your new book without having to think about it.


This post originally appeared as a guest blog on Jane Friedman.com. To receive posts like these first, sign up for my email list.

 

Six things I learned in my first month as an independent author

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In an effort to pay it forward to my fellow writers, here are the six things I learned in the month since One Night was released.

1. Tell everyone you know about the book, no matter how self-serving it may seem. Another way to say this is use your network. Telling everyone you know will definitely lead to a spike in sales and could connect you with some key players in the publishing industry. When I told one of my colleagues about my book he connected me with one of his best friends who happens to be the executive editor of a major review publication and an author. I have no idea if knowing him will help me sell books, but it’s good to know him regardless. The more people you have to bounce ideas off of, the better.

2. Be persistent and creative when it comes to setting up events. When I started trying to plan events before my book was released I was met with more opposition than I expected. Silly me, I thought it would be easy to book an event at a library. Despite some setbacks, I continued reaching out to other organizations: writing groups, independent bookstores, rotary clubs, high schools. Not everyone responds favorably, but when they do it definitely brightens my day. When they offer to pay you it’s even better.

3. Your first book signing will be brutal, even if you set realistic expectations. I told my husband if I could sell one book to a person who didn’t know me I’d consider that a success. I beat my goal by several copies, but still. Those first twenty minutes when no one was coming into the store really sank my spirits for a bit.

4. Try everything when it comes to marketing, within budget of course, and if it works do more of it. That’s really all there is to it. I’ve found that a promotion is only worth my time if it results in sales, reviews, email signups, or significant traffic to my web site. Significant for me is defined as 30-50% more page views and visitors than I get on an average day.

5. If you are mailing copies of your book within the United States tell the post office worker you want to send it via media mail. This is oftentimes half the price of regular postage, sometimes even less. I discovered this on accident when the lady at the post office asked if I had a book in the package I was mailing to a giveaway winner.

6. When you’re doing everything yourself, the wins are that much sweeter. When you get your first five-star review or an email from a reader who doesn’t know you you’ll be reminded of why you decided to do this in the first place. When someone who bought your book online comes to your book signing just to have you sign it (the same brutal book signing mentioned above) you’ll feel like your hard work hasn’t been for naught.

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How to make sure your manuscript is in great shape before sending it to an editor

writing-goals

One of the things that terrified me about self-publishing was working with an editor. Even though I was confident enough in my novel to go about publishing it independently I was still worried the editor would have some harsh words for me when it came time to read his evaluation of my manuscript. As I waited for my editorial letter I was sure it was going to say I should abandon the idea of publishing my novel and quit writing altogether. I was afraid it would say my story was stupid, filled with ridiculous characters and shoddy writing. Instead, my editor said, “The story world feels real, like it’s inhabited by real people instead of shallow caricatures…you don’t tell us what a character is feeling, you show us the symptoms of that significance or those emotions.”

Though there were loads of grammatical corrections, in terms of rewrites the changes I had to make were very minor and could be accomplished in an hour or two. I think the reason the letter was so complimentary was because of my relentless editing and vetting of my manuscript.

To ensure a smooth reception of your own manuscript, I suggest following the steps below:

-Self-edit as much as possible. This translates to: read the damn thing as much as you can without going crazy. I read my manuscript probably 12 or 15 times before I took it to an editor. I did specific searches in Word for show vs. tell, re-read the first and last sentences of each chapter, and changed the font a few times which let me see my manuscript with fresh eyes. I discovered something I wanted to change with every single read.

-Start writing something else. I got a good chunk of another novel completed while editing One Night. Even though I loved the characters in One Night it got trying at times, spending so much time with them. To get a break I started a new manuscript. Taking some time away from One Night also allowed me to look at the novel with fresh eyes when I came back to it.

-Employ the use of beta readers at different stages of the editing process. I used beta readers after I finished a first draft and again after I finished the third draft. It can be hard to find good beta readers—i.e. ones that are actually helpful—but they are a must if you want to improve your manuscript. Whether you send the entire thing to beta readers or a partial manuscript it will help you immensely. They will catch things you yourself don’t see. There are many people out there willing to beta read for free so I suggest you save yourself some money and recruit people who are happy to devote their time at no charge.

-Read your manuscript out loud. This is really a companion to step number one, but since it involves reading aloud I wanted to add it separately. Reading your manuscript out loud makes you aware of awkward phrases you can’t catch when you read the pages in your head.

-Have professionals vet your novel. Before I decided to publish One Night, I tried to get it traditionally published. In fact, I urge all of you who are thinking about self-publishing to try the traditional route first. I queried agents for nine months. The reason I decided to go ahead and publish One Night myself was because of the high request rate I had for the full manuscript. Without this I would’ve been hesitant. Moreover, the reasons for rejection were all over the board and subjective. If agents had rejected One Night for the same reason over and over I would have thought major changes were needed, but since they varied greatly in their reasoning and complimented my writing and the characters I knew I was onto something.

I wish you the best of luck as you work with an editor on your manuscript and hope you find these tips useful.

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What it’s like to get a printed book with your name on it

My proof print copies of One Night got here sooner than expected. On Friday after a somewhat rough day at work I wasn’t in the best mood when I got home. Imagine the boost I got when I came home to this:

box of books

I knew I loved the cover of my book, but seeing it in print was exhilarating. I am thrilled with how it came out and still can’t believe it. It looks even better next to the other books on my shelf:

book on shelf

In the end hubby and I decided it was finally time to break open the champagne we’ve been holding onto since our wedding – it was a gift. I just hope we don’t get sick since it’s 2.5 years old.

champagne

All in all, it’s a great feeling to see my novel in print. Surreal.

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How to survive formatting a print book

One of the things that scared me as an independent author was the prospect of formatting a print book. I am not a designer and have very minimal knowledge of InDesign. I am capable of making text edits in InDesign and creating a document, but that’s about it. Luckily I found some Word templates through The Book Designer.com which made the process easier, but it still wasn’t what I’d call a smooth process. I survived, though, and you can too if you remember these tips:

(1) Understand that you will have to redo some formatting five or six times. This is part of the journey. I have no less than seven versions of my “final” PDF manuscript. Every time I thought I was finished I noticed something else that had to be fixed. I now have even greater respect for designers than I did before.

(2) Accept that at some point your manuscript will become FUBAR. There will be four extra blank pages you didn’t remember adding between chapters eight and nine. There will be the sudden absence of italics or bolding. There will be two chapter fives instead of one. Once you accept that at some point your manuscript will be unrecognizable the easier it will be to handle when it happens.

(3) Formatting a manuscript takes time, even with a template. After the first few chapters you will get into the zone, however, the zone can make you cocky and start to hurry when you shouldn’t. Take your time to avoid having to fix mistakes later (see my note above about seven “final” versions). It might still take you six hours but at least you won’t spend two of those hours correcting mistakes.

(4) Even though you’re not a designer by trade, you can format a print book. If you want to save money when you publish your book I highly recommend taking on the formatting yourself, especially if you don’t have any images in your book. It will be frustrating, yes, and make you utter curse words you didn’t know existed, but in the end you will want to weep tears of joy when you’re staring at your beautiful print-ready manuscript file.

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Can’t afford $399 for NetGalley? How does $50 sound? — Ana Spoke, author

By now I’m sure you’re familiar with my Most Super-Duper, Exhaustive, Comprehensive, and Current Listing of Free and Paid Book Advertising Websites and Ideas, and if you’re not – have a look. It’s not only a list of promo websites that I’ve been compiling for many months but also a diary of my experiences with some of […]

via Can’t afford $399 for NetGalley? How does $50 sound? — Ana Spoke, author

*Great and helpful post by Ana Spoke!

Five Ways to Ensure a Beautiful Book Cover

The great thing about self-publishing is you have complete control over the creative process. This can be overwhelming at times, but ultimately it’s liberating. Below are five ways to make sure you get a stellar book cover for your project.

1. Know your book. Know where it goes in the store and what kind of tone/voice you want the book cover to convey. For example, when working with my designer I told him I wanted to convey a charming, yet contemporary feel. If your book in a thriller you might want the cover to come off as dangerous or convey a sense of excitement.

2. Send potential designers covers you like that you would like your book to emulate. As a self-published or independent author you want your book cover to look as good if not better than NYT bestsellers. If your book has any chance of competing it needs to look the part.

3. Hire someone you trust. I have the advantage of knowing many designers through my day job, however the designer I chose to work with still had to earn my business. I told him what I needed for my book and he pitched a concept to me. I liked it and his rate was reasonable, so I hired him. If you don’t have the advantage of knowing someone personally there are other measures you can take to ensure a good business relationship. For example, how fast does the designer respond to your initial inquiry? Do they lay out their contract terms in a clear manner?

4. Give your designer key details about the book without being overbearing. Provide them with a cover blurb, comparable titles, and your elevator pitch, but don’t insist they read the book. Remember, not all elements of a story can be illustrated on the cover nor should they be. What you want to get across is a feeling/a tone. You want to invite the reader into your world and make them want to come along for the ride.

5. Push your designer to create the best cover he or she can. If you think something needs tweaking don’t be shy about voicing your opinion. For example, if you think a different font might work better for your genre speak up. Be sure you have a reason for suggesting changes, though, and explain to the designer why a particular element isn’t working for you.

I hope these tips help you in your quest for a beautiful book cover. I think mine turned out great, but I’m biased 🙂

One-Night-Cover

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Best Free Marketing Tools for Independent Authors

Best Tools to Help Market Your Book

Hello, writers! I’m creating this post for myself and all of you to keep track of useful marketing tools I find. I will add to this whenever I find new ones.  Happy writing (and marketing)!

  • Canva. How did I go so long without this? This tool will allow you to create custom images to use in blog posts, on Twitter, and Facebook. A lot of the images and functionalities are available for free. Check out my Facebook header.
  • Mailchimp. This is a great tool to build your email list. It has its quirks-I have a Word document with notes on how to navigate certain sections-but in general, this is a great free tool.
  • Hootsuite. This is great for managing social media posts and scheduling posts ahead of time. I like to go in at the beginning of the week and plan content so I don’t have to worry about it. Awesome for those of us who have day jobs! One note of caution: the application doesn’t like it if posts are too similar and spaced too closely together, so be cognizant of that.
  • WordPress. I know there are some WordPress haters out there and the program irks me sometimes, but I have found this to be an easy enough tool to use to set up and maintain a web site if you have minimal HTML knowledge.
  • Windows Movie Maker. This is a great program for making a book trailer. I myself am still tinkering with it, but I can say that if you have an eye for video and a clear plan it is a very useful tool to help you put a commercial for your book together.
  • Social media. I will just lump all free social platform-building tools into one bullet. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, Snapchat.

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Best Marketing Advice for Self-Published Authors

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I’ve been doing research on self-publishing for the last several months and have found these links to be the most helpful when trying to figure out how to market your novel.

The best comprehensive marketing plan I’ve found is on Michel Sauret’s web site.

He has the most easy-to-follow guide I’ve seen if you’re thinking about releasing a book on your own.  His plan includes everything involved with producing a book and marketing it, including when to submit your book for review.

Pretty much anything on Jane Friedman’s web site can help you. Dare I say her web site is the online Bible for self-published authors.  If you visit any site as you develop your marketing plan go here. She is a highly successful self-published author and businesswoman and the former publisher of Writer’s Digest.

Joanna Penn, the force behind The Creative Penn, also offers a wealth of valuable information about self-publishing. She is a successful self-publisher of nonfiction and fiction and once you start looking at her site you’ll find it’s hard not to read every article.

Lindsay Buroker has a great post about how to approach librarians about your book.

Lastly, indie author Jamie Jo Hoang’s web site is a great resource. She wrote a nice piece for Writer’s Digest on how to assemble your own media kit. I think she’s a great resource because of the quality of her novel which earned a Kirkus starred review.

Other helpful links that can help you market your novel:

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