Advice for writers

1/4/14: A list of Author Resources (cover designers, editors, formatters, PR specialists, and bloggers) is available here.

*originally posted on my goodreads blog

This is post is for aspiring writers or current authors. I’m no expert, but I’ve been working around the clock to try to figure it all out. I’ve done a ton of research–particularly into promotional opportunities, and want to share what I’ve learned and hopefully save you some time (it was terribly tedious and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone)! Feel free to comment with your own best practices or things that have worked and not worked.

I wanted to mention something up front: there are no shortcuts for hard work. Oprah isn’t going to magically run across your book and be singing your praises. Your facebook friends aren’t going to start a viral campaign that will catch on and make your book sales go through the roof. You can expect to make slow but steady process if you continually work hard to promote your book to to the right people.

Writing—pen or computer? 

No contest for me. I can’t stand even hand writing a letter or filling out paperwork. If there ever is an EMP or anything that wipes out all electronic devices, I’m toast. I have serious co-dependency issues with my 11” MacBook Air and iPhone.

I use Scrivener for my writing (I couldn’t and wouldn’t go back to Word or equivalent, even if paid). It does have a learning curve and it’s a pain in the booty to move existing projects from Word. Benefits:
– Can outline entire book, chapter by chapter, scene by scene and makes it easy to move scenes and chapters around
– Auto generates table of contents
– Allows you to keep all notes and research (including pictures and links) with your book for easy access
– Compiles every imaginable electronic and hard copy book type for you (though be careful to review… often needs tweaking of the standard settings)
– Keeps track of statistics (word count, estimated page count, etc.)
You can check out Scrivener here (both Mac and Windows versions available):http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scr…. Best of all… free trial and approximately $45 (USD) to purchase (cheaper for students).

Writing process 

1) Read! If every author read every book in their genre (or at least the highly rated ones), there would be a lot less rehashed stories, better writing, and fresh concepts. I read 600 books in the last year. You can find my top 50+ favorites in my earlier blog post here:http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_….
2) Plot! Certainly, there have been some successful books written off the cuff, but to have good pacing, story development, character development, building of tension, etc. it typically takes good plotting.
3) Flexibility! Revise, revise, revise. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Don’t get so stuck on your initial concept that you reject an even better idea.
4) Edit! Editing is hard. I typically go through my book over a hundred times, looking for something different each pass.
5) Proofread! Yes, I list this separately from editing. Have someone (or even better, many someones)—other than you—someone with a sharp eye and very keen grasp of the English language, proofread your book. The brain compensates for missing words, extra words, etc. and they are very hard to find. If problems are found after publishing, fix and update. So, so many books these days are released without even moderate proofreading.
6) Work hard! If you thought the writing was time-consuming and hard, promoting your book takes as much, if not more time. Put in the hours.
7) Thicken your skin! It is unlikely you like every book you read, so you can’t expect everyone to like your book. I’ve adopted the saying: “If you’re trying to please everyone, then you’re not going to make anything that is honestly yours, I don’t think, in the long run.”–Viggo Mortensen.
8) Start writing the next one. Your chances increase exponentially of having a ‘hit’, the more offerings you have.

Pre-publishing 

1. Work on cover, author bio, author picture, synopsis concurrently with doing your final editing and proofreading. CreateSpace and other self-publishing houses offer (pay for services) to help you create your cover and get your final product ready, if needed. This bears repeating. Do not proofread your own work.
2. Give out advance reading copies (ARCs)… You can do through Goodreads forums or to your Goodreads friends; Kindle forums; setup a blog launch tour and send ARCs out to reviewers as part of this; or to friends and family. This helps with a couple important things… more eyes on it to look for inconsistencies and errors; you will have people ready to review at launch. Ask for fair and honest reviews. It only will hurt you in the long run if you have all your friends and family post bogus reviews that don’t match the general consensus.

Post-publishing 

Sit back and relax and watch the books fly out the virtual door, right? Not even close. When you self-publish, you get to do all the promotion.
1. If you want the professional review houses to review your book, get it sent out right away. Note, these all cost (a lot). These are hard-core reviewers, so make sure your book is ready for their scrutiny. And they require a long lead-time. Some allow you to expedite at extra cost, but still, don’t expect anything back for 4-6 weeks. If you are planning to use your (hopefully positive review) as support for a promotional campaign, plan accordingly. Kirkus Reviews, Blue Ink Review, and Foreward Reviews all do professional reviews for a fee, and you can submit your book to a Publisher’s Weekly supplement for a fee and they choose 25% to review from the submissions.
2. Facebook fan page for the book. Create one. To have a friendly name, need 25 fans.
*Special facebook note: harassing your friends and family to buy, read or review your book by facebook is *not* an effective promotional method. It’s surely fine to invite them to read, let them know when the book is free, or offer them a free copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. You can share book successes by your facebook fan page to keep your book’s name out there. But, there should be no expectation for facebook friends to do marketing for you. If they love your book and choose to share with others in the natural order of things, excellent!
3. Twitter. Use, but don’t abuse. I am a definite twitter newbie, and to be honest the constant stream makes me a little nuts. Twitter can be an excellent networking tool and can get your book’s name out there, but no need to tweet every minute imho.
4. Add your book to Goodreads and sign up for an author page. Schedule a giveaway of your paperback book (can do from your author dashboard)—this gets great exposure for your book and potential readers can add the book to their ‘to read’ shelf directly from the giveaway signup. Signed copies get more interest than unsigned copies.
5. Create an Amazon author page.
6. Schedule a blog tour (these cost). If you didn’t schedule one for your launch (like me), then schedule far enough out that a) you have a chunk of reviews up on Amazon and Goodreads, and b) you have professional reviews back. Note that the preparation for the blog tour for the few weeks prior is grueling as you are asked to prepare author interviews, character interviews, top ten lists, and guest posts on various topics.
7. Look for local opportunities to showcase your book. Does your library system showcase local authors? Are there any independent bookstores that will host signings or other author events?

Spend money to make money 

Although I took a lot of English and literature classes in college, I was a business major. So this concept comes naturally to me—you can never expect to make money without investing money. Since your book isn’t on display at a local bookstore or on a giant Costco display, you have to work to get your book’s name in front of people. The hope is that after a lot of people have bought your book that you end up on the hallowed ‘Customers also bought’ lists on Amazon or equivalent, and then your book sales become self-perpetuating. But to get there, you must promote. There are a number of places that allow you to post your book for free, but many of these places (for preferred placement, to be ‘Book of the Day’, etc.) require a $5 or 10 or $25 or $50 or more investment on your part. Do some research to figure out what will work best for your particular genre. There are a lot of different promotional and advertising options—from twitter campaigns, to facebook posts, to on-site advertising. Unless you have unlimited funds you’ll have to pick and choose. Things you can reasonably expect to spend money on are:
– Cover (if it isn’t eye catching, you lose a chunk of potential buyers right off the bat)
– Editing/proofreading
– Blog tour
– Promoting your ‘freebie’
– Promoting your ‘pay for’ book
– Professional book reviews

Key influencers 

Bloggers. I am so incredibly impressed with the book blogging community. These gracious people will often read and review or otherwise promote your book (eg. author interviews, cover reveals, guest posts)… for free. They do it because they love reading, love discovering the hidden gems, and genuinely want to support authors. Please treat them with the utmost respect (regardless of whether they become your book’s biggest fan or not) and don’t make demands. Most of them have ‘to read’ lists hundreds of books long. Unless you are part of a scheduled book tour, you cannot expect them to read and review on your timetable.

Each blog has hundreds to thousands of followers that respect that blogger’s opinion. So every time your book is featured on a blog your book is not only exposed to a lot of people, but the right people. First, their followers all read a lot of books! Second, they read your book’s genre. You can’t get a more highly targeted promotion than that.

Professional reviewers. Professional reviews have a lot of sway, both with readers and with industry decision makers (from libraries, to agents and publishers). Definitely worth pursuing if you believe your book will merit positive reviews.

Goodreads community. Goodreads is another excellent place to promote your book. Where else can you find millions of readers looking for their next purchase? Plus, through the various Goodreads forums (which are targeted to specific genres) you can find people willing to write a fair and honest review in exchange for a copy of your book. You can notify friends and fans of upcoming events (like a blog tour, signing, or new release). You can do book giveaways to help get exposure. And they have reasonably priced (you set a daily limit) self-serve, targeted advertising to drive people to your giveaway, place of purchase, or Goodreads book page so that people can add it to their bookshelf.

Special promo tips (general and for KDP Select—The Freebie) 

I naively assumed that if I signed up for KDP Select that Amazon would promote my book on my free days. Ha. Joke was on me. Below are both free and paid opportunities to post your freebie offer or pay-for book. Some listings are done day-of the freebie, but most have to be scheduled way in advance, so plan accordingly. And many require a minimum number of reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.0 or higher.

I recommend reading this w/r/t KDP Select (great post from an author who has very successfully used the KDP Select program): http://thewritingbomb.blogspot.com/20…

Places to post KDP Select giveaway (some do more than freebies)
*=newly added

Addicted to Ebooks: http://addictedtoebooks.com/free
(Register. Need 5 reviews.)

Author Marketing Club: http://authormarketingclub.com/member…
(One of the most important links as it has submission forms for 19 different sites, though not all work through their site, so I’ve listed them all individually below)

EReader News Today: http://ereadernewstoday.com/ent-free-…
The books that will be posted will be the books with the highest ratings and the most reviews. If your book has a small number of reviews (0 – 3) or low ratings (below 4.0) it will not be posted. We will not repost a free book within 60 days of the previous free book posting.

Pixel of Ink: http://www.pixelofink.com/sfkb/
If your book will be listed as Free ($0.00) on Amazon.com in the next 30 days, then please let us know by filling out the form below.

Books on the Knob: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/v…

FreeBooksy $50 feature http://www.freebooksy.com/the-freeboo… (50-60K reach). 48 hours notice.

Bargain eBook Hunter: http://bargainebookhunter.com/guarant… $5 for guaranteed placement. Must be 3 days out and can not run same title more than once in 30 days.

Snickslist: http://snickslist.com/books/place-ad/ List day it goes free and run for as many days as the promo! Tracks number of views.

http://blog.orangeberrypromo.com/sign… Variety of sponsorships. $9.99 alert for freebies:https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/v… Free alert: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/v… (did pick of the week $19.99; 5 days total)

Free Kindle fiction:
http://freekindlefiction.blogspot.com…
http://freekindlefiction.blogspot.com… (guaranteed post $5)
http://freekindlefiction.blogspot.com… (featured post $12)

Indie Book of the Day: http://indiebookoftheday.com/authors/…
Nominate for Indie Book of the Day: http://indiebookoftheday.com/authors/…

Free Book Dude: http://www.freebookdude.com/p/list-yo…

Digital Book Today: http://digitalbooktoday.com/join-our-… variety of free and paid options $5 guaranteed post.

Awesome Gang: http://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/ Also can post on their Facebook page, day of.

BookGoodies: http://bookgoodies.com/submit-your-fr… $5 per day
http://bookgoodies.com/contact-us/aut… (where submit book info) (done)
http://bookgoodies.com/submit-your-bo… (to submit book for review) (done)
http://bookgoodies.com/contact-us/aut… (author interview) (have not done)
http://bookgoodies.com/get-featured/ (paid sponsorship) ($35 for two week home page sponsorship)

Kindle Book Promos: http://kindlebookpromos.luckycinda.co…

eBooks Habit: http://ebookshabit.com/book-of-the-da…
http://ebookshabit.com/for-authors/ (free book form)

The eReader Cafe: http://www.theereadercafe.com/p/autho…

Book Goodies for Kids: http://bookgoodieskids.com/contact-us…
http://bookgoodieskids.com/contact-us…
http://bookgoodieskids.com/submit-you…
(Have not done)

Kindle Author Boards. Must create account. This link is to add a freebie:http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php…

Centsible: http://www.centsibleereads.com/p/for-… (have not done paid feature; think filled out free form)

http://www.ereaderiq.com (pretty sure they pull directly off Amazon & there is no form to fill out)

Flurries of Words: http://flurriesofwords.blogspot.co.uk… (did not do… need to do. Read down for very specific instructions). UK-based.

Free Books Daily: http://www.freeebooksdaily.com/p/cont… (can pay for guaranteed feature & book of the day $5)

Ask David: http://askdavid.com/free-book-promotion

Free Kindle Books & Tips: http://www.fkbooksandtips.com/for-aut… (must have average rating of 4+)

Kindle Finds: Needs 10 reviews average 4.0+ www.kindlefinds.com

http://www.ebooklister.net/submit.php Can submit in advance

Kindle Mojo http://www.kindlemojo.com/kindle-serv… Free & Paid options

Black Caviar Book Club http://www.blackcaviar-bookclub.com/f… Can put up a free listing.

*Book Daily http://www.bookdaily.com

*Daily Free EBooks http://www.daily-free-ebooks.com/sugg…

*Book Deal Hunter http://bookdealhunter.com/submit-free…

*Zwoodle http://zwoodlebooks.com/authors-and-p…

Paid
The Frugal eReader: http://thefrugalereader.com/promotion… $50

Good Kindles: http://www.goodkindles.net/p/submit-y… $7 or advertisinghttp://www.goodkindles.net/p/advertis…

Kindle Nation Daily (highest reach, highest $$): http://indie.kindlenationdaily.com/?p…

World Literary CAfe: http://worldliterarycafe.com/content/… ~$40

Book Tweeting Service: http://www.booktweetingservice.com 50K followers; 1 day $29; 2 day $56; 3 day $81; 4 day $104; 5 day $125

All on Fire http://contentmo.blogspot.com Social Media posts $19.99 for one day up to $149 for 7 days

*Story Finds http://storyfinds.com/listing-informa…

*Book Bub http://www.bookbub.com/advertise/pric…

Facebook sites to like and spam day of freebies

http://www.facebook.com/indiebookslist
http://www.facebook.com/AontheC
http://www.facebook.com/effectiveteac…
http://www.facebook.com/freeebookdeal
http://www.facebook.com/iauthor
http://www.facebook.com/IndieKindleWLC
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kindle-…
http://www.facebook.com/readingkindle
https://www.facebook.com/freebooktoday
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1… (must join group)

Twitter (instructions on their profile page of how to tweet your freebie)

@EReaderblast
@Free_book_promo

An Incomplete List of Absolutely Awesome Bloggers (most for YA) 

Please support them by visiting their blog and following via facebook, twitter, google+ or other methods listed.

I Am A Reader Not A Writer
Crossroad Reviews
Little Hyuts
Rattle The Stars
Wine Relaxation and My Kindle
Suzanne van Rooyen
Castles in the Air Books
Lust for Stories
Crafty Zoo
Hardcover Feedback
Heather’s Book Chatter
Forever Young Adult
Waiting on Sunday to Drown
Martha’s Bookshelf
Froze8’s Blog
A Dream Within A Dream
Blkosiner’s Book Blog
WTF Are You Reading?
A Diary of a Book Addict
Opinionated Consumer
Emi Gayle
In Libris Veritas
Cuzinlogic
Shortie Says
Mom Does Reviews
Magical Manuscripts
Mythical Books
Sab the Book Eater
Paranormal Sisters
Must Read Faster
Reading Away the Days
Reader Girls
leeanna.me
Laurie’s Thoughts
Spellbindings
Realm of the Sapphired Dragon
Lena Sledge
I Eat The Books!!!
Delirious About Books
Bookworm Lisa
Ever and Ever Sight
Fangirlish
Becky’s Barmy Book Blog
Sher A Hart: Writing Art
Books, Books the Magical Fruit
Deal Sharing Aunt
Read Your Writes Book Reviews
Why Not? Because I Said So!
Indie Author How-to
Bound to Astound
Impressions of a Princess
Blood, Sweat and Books
YA Novelties
A Casual Reader’s Blog
Brooke Blogs
The Itzel Library
Pieces of Whimsy
Little Book Star

I also highly recommend the Indie Book Blog Database. They list indie-friendly blogs by category that you can send review requests to.

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  1. Tory Richards

    Wow, great article and list of resources! Thanks for putting it out there.

    Tory

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