Branding. What Does it Mean for You as an Author?

There are a lot of questions about how marketing and branding are different and how they are the same. In this two or three part blog series, I’ll explore what branding and marketing are, and how they work together.

What is branding?

What do you think when you think of a brand? Sometimes you think of a logo right away.

Starbucks mermaid.
The Nike swoosh.
The golden arches of McDonald’s.
Verizon’s red check mark that looks like a V.

But brand is just more than a cute logo. What do you think of when you think of Starbucks? Pumpkin spice lattes. Fairtrade coffee. Maybe sensitivity training after that one barista called the cops on those two black men who hadn’t gotten around to ordering coffee yet because they were waiting for a friend.

As a business, when people see your logo, or think of your brand, you want them to think about good things. Pumpkin spice lattes. Good. Fairtrade coffee. Good. Racist employees. Not good.

McDonald’s has yummy fries. Cheeseburgers. Heart attacks and obesity. Shake machines that never work. Probably every big-named brand will have some things that will mar their reputation.

As a person, you have a brand whether you realize it or not. As an employee, are you dependable? A team player? The person your boss knows will stay late? Or are you a slacker? No one wants to work with you on projects because your coworkers know you won’t pull your weight.

You have a brand as a friend. Are you always late? Maybe it’s so bad your friends tell you a different time than when they show up because they’re tired of waiting for you. You have a brand as a bad friend. Or maybe you always buy the drinks when you go out for dinner. Good friend. Good brand.

These brands associated with you take years to cultivate, years of the same behavior. That’s why creating a brand as an author is difficult and confusing. It takes years.

branding a heifer

Author branding doesn’t have to be this painful! Poor cow! 

It’s also why thinking about your brand when you are just starting out is important, because once people start to think of you in a certain way, it’s hard to change their minds.

What do you want your readers to think of you in relation as an author?

You don’t want people to hear your name and have bad thoughts associated with you and your author brand or books.

Examples of bad things people can associate with your brand (YOU):

  • She fights with people who leave poor reviews
  • He doesn’t put out books in a timely fashion. She makes her readers wait.
  • Her books are full of typos
  • She’s not friendly or supportive of other authors in her genre
  • She complains a lot online. ie, she’s a whiner
  • He doesn’t seem friendly, and fans are hesitant to reach out

The way you are perceived by people who pick up details about you, as an author, is your brand.

If you don’t believe me, think of some big-time authors:

Stephen King
His brand is horror. Other things I think of when I hear his name: He hates Trump. He got hit by a truck and almost died. He probably didn’t intend the latter, but I read about it in his book, On Writing. The former wouldn’t surprise him—his tweets are full of disgust for our President.

Nora Roberts
Contemporary Romance Author
Redhead
Maybe you think of her pen name, JD Robb
Prolific. She always has a new book out. And it’s always a bestseller, too.
I’ve read a lot of her books, and I know she loves Ireland. Lots of her books are set there. It’s part of her brand to me.

JK Rowling
Harry Potter, naturally
Billionaire, philanthropist
Maybe you think of the Harry Potter theme park. Maybe you’ve been there.

EL James
Overnight success
Poor writing
BDSM
Twilight fan fiction
Bitch

Her brand is less than favorable. Be it jealousy, or whatever else, maybe the way she behaves in interviews, rumors of the way she acted on the set of the 50 Shades movies, no one likes her. She’d have to hire a good public relations firm to fix her reputation–if she cared what you thought.

You really don’t want people hearing your name and thinking “bitch” or “asshole.” No matter what area of your life you’re talking about.

First and foremost, write good books. Your brand won’t matter if your product sucks. You’ll have a great brand with nothing to sell.

Be friendly online. Be professional. It won’t take much for people to associate you with being a nice person—if you really truly are a nice person. Help people. Stay away from drama. Don’t interact with trolls. Don’t defend yourself and your books if someone gives you a one-star review.

Maybe look at creating a logo. Some authors’ trademark is simply having their names look the same on all their books. I suck at this because I have fun designing my own covers. But that’s a conscious choice I make whenever I release a book.

melissa foster books

 

Maybe my imprint will catch on. I could make a different logo with a free logo maker, but I don’t want to give people too much to remember.

When people hear my name I want people to think Contemporary Romance. Well-written books. Happy endings. Friendly, cheerful. Awesome blogger. Maybe people will think about my cats because I post pictures of them on Instagram from time to time. These are all good things.

That is author brand. It takes time to build. You have to start slow and you have to do it right.

That’s why publishing just an “okay” book your first time out is a bad idea. That “okay” book may not be enough to impress your readers and they won’t give you another chance.

Wow them from the get-go. In every aspect!

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

You-will-never-get-a-second-chance-to-make-a-first-impression-1

And if you have to turn your brand around, that makes the marketing part of it that much harder and difficult for you.

This blog post is already close to 1,000 words, so we’ll visit Marketing in the next post, and talk a little bit about how to combine Brand and Marketing!

See you next time!

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Author Interview with Daniel Mattia, Author of Debut Novella In Crows’ Claws

author interview daniel mattia

 

Dan and I chit-chat on Twitter a little bit, and I asked if I could interview him, and he was amazing and said yes! Dan published his debut novella, In Crows’ Claws on July 7th of 2018. Writing and publishing is hard work, and everyone has a different experience when it comes to publishing. Listen in to see how he fared in the big bad world of indie-publishing!


crowHow long have you been writing? How long did it take you to write
In Crows’ Claws?

I’ve written almost all of my life. I’m 28 now, and remember writing short stories and tales all throughout my childhood. I continued writing throughout my early teens, then stopped for a few years until about 2010.

During that time, I was at the tail-end of a severe bout of depression and found solace in my writing. It was during this time that I started crafting the fantasy setting of Fyrndell, the world in which In Crows’ Claws is based. I wrote quite a few short stories during this time, all of which have helped me to further flesh out and build upon this setting, but In Crows’ Claws is the first I’ve published.

I wrote the first version of In Crows’ Claws in 2010 or 2011 as a weekly web serial. It was a way to ensure I wrote on a consistent basis and the accountability of publishing a new chapter on a set schedule held me to that promise (for the most part).

The original serialized version took about three or four months to write and was fairly raw. That’s not to say it wasn’t written well-enough for publication, but it certainly didn’t meet my current standards.

crowWhat surprised you most about the writing process of this novella?

The emotions I had to invoke in order to represent the mindset of certain characters. I generally write without much personal emotion; I think there needs to be a sort of cold logic when you’re going through the actual craft of writing. I’m not writing how I feel, but how my characters feel, so it’s important for me, as the author, to be as emotionless as possible.

But as I wrote – particularly in the cases of Ahri and Nextiarc, two of the main characters in In Crows’ Claws – I discovered myself feeling how they felt in some of their specific chapters. Ahri, especially, starts off as an excited and optimistic young man who quickly finds out that the world of Fyrndell is a cold, dark place and the “truths” he felt he knew aren’t entirely accurate. The second-to-last chapter, especially, makes me tear up every time I read it – and, again, I’m not someone who has that happen often.

The chapters written from Nextiarc’s point-of-view surprised me even more. They were actually the most difficult to write because, in order to write from the POV of a literal monster who not only enjoys killing but venerates the very act, I had to adopt a rather dark and violent mindset. I had to write his POV chapters in short bursts because writing in his mindset for long actually frightened me.

crowWhy did you decide to publish?

To prove to myself that I could. I have so many stories I want to tell, particularly in the world of Fyrndell, but I’m someone who often has a self-defeatist attitude and can easily give up before I even try. Forcing myself to publish a finished work (along with the encouragement of some close friends) was what I needed to do first before I could even think of repeating the process.

crowWhat was the biggest obstacle when publishing your novella? What did you do to overcome that obstacle?

Formatting. My workflow, and the software used, is atypical from the workflow used by many other Kindle authors. I had to adapt and figure something out for myself despite there not being much information available for how to do it. Luckily, I discovered the Kindle Create software, which helped me to format and publish the Kindle version without much pain – after, of course, I had converted the book to the proper file format.

crowWhat do you mean by workflow?

In this context, workflow basically means process. Like you were witness to on Twitter during my editing/formatting phase, I didn’t write the novella in Word so exporting from the software I used (yWriter, something akin to Scrivener) meant much of the formatting advice I found online needed some tweaking to apply to my situation. On top of that, I completed the last editing phase in Kindle Create instead of the actual doc, which was a stupid idea, since it meant the final editing copy was locked to a proprietary format and couldn’t be easily converted to a friendlier format, ie. a .doc or .pdf.

crowWith publishing your debut novella, what is one piece of advice you would pass on to a writer who is thinking about publishing for the first time?

Don’t underestimate the value of editing. No matter how much or how little editing your work needs, it will always be better after you’ve put some solid editing time into it. I’d recommend hiring an editor to do it for you, but there’s no excuse for not editing yourself if you can’t afford an editor. Do at least three editing passes in which you read every word and every line.

crowWhat is next for you writing- and publishing-wise?

In Crows’ Claws is sort of the spiritual precursor to what readers can expect from the next Tales of Fyrndell book. My next work will be a novel in the same setting that takes place in a distant kingdom under siege from an invading neighbor, eventually introducing readers to a cold war that’s heating up quickly.

crowWhat will you do differently the next time around?

I’ve already identified where in my workflow I need to make changes to make the formatting process easier and more simple. The next release will come out in both Kindle and paperback format and will (fingers crossed!) not be such a pain to format and release into the world!

Thanks for the interview, Dan! It sounds like we have some spectacular stuff to look forward to!


yWriter is a free writing program similar to Scrivener. If you have been thinking about Scrivner, but don’t want to pay, try yWriter. You can find it here.

Editing and formatting your books for publication can be kind of tricky. Dan isn’t the first author to . . . put it informally . . . mess up. Even after the books I’ve published, I still find shortcuts and different ways of doing things every time.

Formatting your Word file for conversion to download to KDP (Kindle) doesn’t take that long at all. I blogged the instructions here.

If you’re interested in reading In Crows’ Claws you can find it here.


In Crows’ Claws Description

“This desert is the domain of death.”in crows claws cover for blog

The world of Fyrndell is a place of ancient powers, myriad races, and untold secrets. It is a world where gods may or may not exist, where heroes are few and far between, and where technology progresses at a haphazard pace.

IN CROWS’ CLAWS tells the story of two opposing armies as they race across the continent to a recently-unearthed desert tomb believed to be the final resting place of the goddess Konia. Read the letters sent home from Ahri Vestesson, crowkeeper for the Order of the Orthodox Knights of Fyrndell’s Crusade Army, as he wrestles with matters of faith and purpose while longing to return home to his betrothed. The letters of Marshal Taves Khest, veteran general of the Imperial Expedition Force of the Mhedorian Empire, will demonstrate his duty and ability while he leads his army to and through the desert to claim the glory of capturing the Tomb of Konia in the name of his empress.

But the desert holds many secrets and even more dangers still, for both armies will encounter a brutish and violent warband sworn to the service of Tavradyss, God-Prince of Conflict, and led by the even more vicious Nextiarc.

IN CROWS’ CLAWS is a tale full of action, ambiguous divinity, and heartbreak as three armies converge on the Tomb of Konia, desperate to lay claim to its hidden secrets…

 

Check Dan on these awesome platforms and thanks for reading!

crowAmazon   crow  Goodreads  crow  Twitter  crow  Facebook crow

Where’d ya go, Chance Carter? (And other thoughts on author/reader loyalty.)

Actually, that question is pretty rhetorical. We all know what happened to Chance Carter. The self-proclaimed bad boy was very naughty, and not in a fun way, and Amazon punished him, and also again, not in a fun way.

But for those of you who don’t know what he did, I’ll just give you a quick recap:

Mainly Chance Carter got caught book stuffing. Meaning, he put more than one book into an e-book, made the reader “flip” to the end of the “book” to read the new content, and cashed in on page reads through Kindle Unlimited. Some books to the tune of over 2,000 pages. I hate math, so I won’t do it, but that’s a lot of page reads in KU when you think that a normal book might only be about 200+ pages depending on genre.

I wasn’t even aware of this term until whistleblowers David Gaughran and Nate Hoffelder blogged loud and long about people who violated Amazon’s terms of service. 

He did other things too, like offering raffles to readers who would review, and the biggest giveaway he did before his books were pulled was offer a chance to win Tiffany diamonds to anyone who would review.

This isn’t a blog post for trying to figure out if he was wrong or right, or dissecting his ethics when it comes to scamming.

What I want to talk about is our obligation to readers.

Chance had it going on. He had thousands of followers.  Thousands.

chance carter blog post 7_LI

Having that kind of following would be a dream for any author.

Even his fan groups were crazy with members.

chance carter blog post 8

When you have that kind of following, you owe it to your readers to be real. To be honest. I mean, that’s neither here nor there now, but once he was ousted,

he didn’t even say goodbye.

 

No press release, no private message to one person who could spread the word. Nothing.

chance carter blog post 2_LI

 

chance carter blog post 3_LI

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Not an apology. Not an, I’ll fix this and I’ll be back.

He completely disappeared.

I see a lot of indie authors maintain a cavalier attitude toward their readers. Mainly because they don’t think they have readers.

But do you have a responsibility? Even if you just have one or two readers? Do you care what they think? Do you care if a friend is waiting for your next book? Your neighbor? Your followers on Twitter? The forty-five people who like your Facebook Author Page?

Maybe you don’t think your readers matter until your followers and readers are up into the thousands like Chance’s.

When your readers write you open letters asking you where you are and if you’re coming back. 

First, I guess you have to ask yourself, why are you publishing? What is your goal? I can think of two off the top of my head: Readers and Money. Maybe you don’t care so much about money and you publish on Wattpad, or you write fanfic and publish it to fanfic.net. But if you’re publishing on Amazon, or Smashwords, and/or everything in between, you’re probably hoping to make a little money. With hoping for sales you would like to become well-known for your books.

But not only books. Authors like Chance know their brand. They build their reputations from the ground up, by showing up, being present. By engaging with the people who read their books.

Readers who read books by consistent authors like Chance know what they are getting. Even his covers look similar.

chance carter blog post 9

That’s a series, but his other books, look similar too:

Pecs and abs. It’s not too hard to figure out why these were popular with the ladies.

 

But what does that mean about loyalty for you?

  • Publishing consistently. Self-publishing is a fast-moving wheel that waits for no one. There are a million books out there to read. If you want a following, you need to give your readers something to follow.
  • Do you genre hop? Do you write contemporary romance, then throw in a bit of horror? Do you write historical fiction then jump into sci-fi when the fancy strikes? It’s okay to write what you like, but not all readers will follow you to every new path you want to take when that shiny new idea takes over.
  • Are you accessible? Do you have an email address that you check and respond to? Do you engage on social media? Do you post to an author page? When someone shoots you a tweet, or mentions you in a blog post, do you respond? Do you use a real photo? I’m not saying all those are musts, but if you take a look at Chance’s social media history, you’ll see consistent posting, videos. He shared bits and pieces of his life.  Chance Carter probably wasn’t his real name, but he was real–to 122,000 people.
  • Do you have follow-through? If you say you’re going to do it, do it. Changing up plans in mid-stream because you don’t feel like you have enough of a positive response will teach your fans you can’t be trusted to do what you say you’re going to do.

It’s tough starting out. You feel like you’re writing for no one. But it takes time and patience to build your audience. Chance didn’t wake up one day and decide to have 122,000 followers on his FB page.

It’s too bad that he didn’t treat his followers with more respect. His readers liked his books and kept buying them. They didn’t need to be scammed into reading his books or leaving reviews. They would have done that on their own. Simply because they liked him and his work.

Now they feel betrayed, cheated, abandoned. Leaving messages on his FB Page:

chance carter blog post 5

 

Uncle Ben said, With great power comes great responsibility. Actually, I looked it up, and he stole it, but the idea is still the same.

If you’re looking for a large number of readers, treat the ones you have with respect and loyalty.

Begin as you wish to continue.

And all you Chance Carter fans out there–I’m building my Contemporary Romance audience. I may not be a bad boy like Chance, but I can write a sexy and kind hero too–and I can guarantee, he will always get his girl.

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Whine a Little . . . Over There

There’s been lots of whining on Twitter lately. More specifically, authors whining about not seeing books sales. Even more specifically, authors not seeing their books sell.

Maybe it’s because we’re in the dog days of summer, or people aren’t looking forward to school starting, or the crap we’re all going to have to deal with when THE HOLIDAYS start in full-swing October first.Dog Days of Summer

But whatever it is, it needs to stop. Because YOU, and nobody else but you, can make sales happen for your book.

Mostly, this is on Twitter. I can say it louder for the people in the back. TWITTER ISN’T FOR SELLING BOOKS. If you’re a member of Writer Twitter, you’re a member of WRITER Twitter. There’s a reason why it’s called that. Because we’re writers. Join READER Twitter. It’s gotta be there somewhere. Maybe #amreading is wedged between #IhateTrump and #turtlesareweird. If you’re convinced Twitter is the only way to sell books, or it’s the only way you want to try, break into the #amreading crowd. Or try. I’ll leave a light on for ya.

But if you want to take stab at moving books instead of whining about it, explore these ideas. First though, you need to take a look at your book.

  • Cover needs to be decent. Needs to depict the genre, needs to fit in, but stand out (in a good way.) Join an FB cover group and get some critiques. Taking a second look at your cover and if it’s not up to snuff, fix it. It’s killing your sales before they start.
    Books to consider:

    Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices
    Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes (Writer’s Craft)

  • Make your blurb awesome! This is easier said than done. Bryan Cohen is great at this. He teaches webinars and he runs a business doing this. And he makes very good money doing it. But he shares his knowledge, so don’t just moan you don’t know how to do it. Read about it. You’re a writer. Research. Here’s his book. He breaks it down so you can do it, too. With his guidance, I write my blurbs in half an hour. Here’s a Book Description Critique with Bryan Cohen hosted by Reedsy. Watch it.
  • Make sure you have a decent title. No one told me this before I published, and now my very first book has a stupid title I can’t change because I don’t want to waste the money I spent on my ISBN number. If you don’t have any reviews and didn’t purchase your ISBN number, you can change your title. Changing your title and ISBN number will lose you reviews so if you only have one from your best friend Angie, she’ll probably post it again if you republish with a better title.
    Grab some ideas from Dave Chesson; he’s got some good ones.
  • Make sure your “look insides” (first sample pages) are decent. This can make or break you if all the other parts about your book are spot on. If you don’t have a solid POV, if you have typos, if your formatting is messed up, the best cover in the world won’t save you. Try to get your hook within the first few pages of your book so it’s included in the look inside. Turn that browser into a buyer!

Now that we covered that and your book is up to par, you’ll need to ask yourself what you’re doing to help your book sell. Tweeting every day isn’t going to help. So what can you do to spike sales?

  • Are you spending any money?  You have to spend money to make money. I’m not kidding. Lots of people are like, “I don’t have any money to put toward selling my book.” Then you’re not going to sell your books. No business has ever opened that didn’t need seed money. Investors. Start-up money. You buy stock for your shelves, you fork over for rental space. You pay for wages for your employees before you’ve even sold one thing. Your book isn’t any different. Nobody ever went into business for themselves because they needed money yesterday. Starting a business is a lifelong endeavor. What can you put your money toward?

    *Pay for promos. I spent 80 dollars to give away 4,000 copies of Don’t Run Away in a free book promo for FreeBooksy. It got me some reviews, and lots of KU reads for the whole trilogy. I made my money back and then some.

    *Pay for giveaways. Goodreads did away with their free giveaways but because you have to pay, the market for giveaways isn’t so saturated. People have debated as to whether or not it’s a good thing, but I think it is. I haven’t tried them yet, but in the spirit of trying one new thing with each new release, I’ll be trying it when I publish All of Nothing this fall. Read about them here.

    *Pay for ads on Amazon. This isn’t as scary as it sounds. I’ve been blogging about my experience. It won’t break the bank to give it a try, but it’s important to do it correctly. Brian Meeks has a wonderful book about it. Amazon changed the platform a bit, so his instructions are already outdated even though his book is only a year old. But his advice is still as good as gold, and just as valuable.

    *Pay for ads on Facebook. These are trickier than Amazon ads. At least, I’ve read that they are. I haven’t tried Facebook ads, and if you don’t have the money to spare, I would suggest going with Amazon ads first. I’ve spent under five dollars experimenting with Amazon Ads. But if you want to try FB ads, again, do it correctly. Michael Cooper has a super great book about it. It’s important to try ads correctly, otherwise you’ll blow through money, claim they don’t work, and you may write off a great way to let people know about your books!

    *Pay for a blog tour. I used to hear a lot about these two years ago when I joined Twitter, but not so much anymore. You don’t have to pay someone to set up a blog tour, but if you pay a legit person they’ll know the best blogs to submit your book to. I’ve never tried one of these. They’re time-consuming. Either you have to fill out an interview sheet or compose a guest post for that blog. If you’re doing a full tour, that could consist of anywhere between 5 to 20 or even more blog sites. That’s a lot of guest blogging and interviews when maybe you should be writing your next book.

    *Reviews. If you do this in a legitimate fashion, this can be a coup for you. I have not tried it because the service I wanted to try distributes the books to readers through BookFunnel and that goes against KDP Select’s terms of service. I pulled Wherever He Goes out of Select to try this review service, and it comes out September 3rd. It wasn’t doing well in KU anyway, so I didn’t see the harm in trying. I’m going to try Happy Book Reviews. I’ve heard good things and so-so things about results. But if you have a good book with a good blurb and good cover, and the plot/genre isn’t too weird, you may get good results. Give it a shot.

  • Are you writing more books? The best marketing you can do is release new books. Lots of debate on quality versus quantity, but if you just can’t scrape up the cash to put toward your book’s promo, at least writing and releasing is free. *As free as you can get without spending money on cover, editing, etc. I’ve heard you drop off the Amazon algorithms after three months, so you want to release something every three months. Try releasing tie-in novellas. Or just dig in your heels and write the next book. I see lots of people trying to build careers on one book, and that only works if you write a non-fiction book and your career is already based on that book. Readers expect more from you. Keep them happy.
  • Offer to guest blog on other people’s websites in your genre. Ask “up.” Someone in your genre who has more followers than you. Someone whose website gets a bit more traction than yours. This is where your tweeting should come in handy–you’ve made connections, don’t be afraid to ask. Most people would love to host a guest blogger. It frees up their schedule for the week. But make sure your book is up to snuff or they’ll turn you down. And be prepared to giveaway a book. That seems counterproductive to sales, but lots of bloggers want to reward their readers for showing up.
  • Think local. Ask your town’s newspaper’s lifestyle section to do an article on you. If you have local small magazines, ask them to do a profile. Ask your indie bookstore if you can do a signing, or if they’ll sell your book. Heck, maybe get together with a couple of indies in your area and ask Barnes and Noble if they’re willing to do an Indie Night. Asking is hard. We’re introverts at heart, but even if the answer is no, at least you can say you tried.
  • Take a hard look at your book. Besides the cover, the editing, the blurb, the title, ask yourself, is this something someone would want to read? Especially if this is your first book. Indies like to experiment when they’re starting out. We’re finding our niche; we’re finding our passion. Experimenting with your hamster detective series is cool, but can you get sales? Maybe not. So take a hard look at your book before you throw money at it. It may not do any good. And that’s the sad truth. If you can be honest with yourself and say yes, my book has readers, all I have to do is fine them, then good luck!

Whining about lack of sales isn’t going to help you sell books. After a while it becomes annoying, and you end up tarnishing your reputation. If your first book isn’t working, then move on. Write something else. Write something better. We get better at our craft with every book we write.

book marketing challengeRachel Thompson says we don’t get traction with our careers until we have at least 6-10 books under our belts. As the self-publishing industry gets more competitive, that number may get higher. If you’d like to read her awesome book about marketing, you can look for it here.

Book sales are subjective. What works for you may not work for someone else.

The best advice I can give you is write well, and publish often. Stay consistent. Build your brand on a genre you love to write.

Sales take time.

Have patience, and good luck!

 

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When Do You Recommend Your Friends’ Books?

The indie writing community is very tight-knit. Make one of us mad, we all get mad. I think Faleena Hopkins figured that out quick enough. We support each other; we help each other. We do free things for each other: cover help; editing; beta reading.

We even do some naughty stuff like review trading.

We tweet each other’s books.

Lately, there have been a couple of people asking for book recommendations from indie authors. They want to start a list on their website, or they want to start reviewing indie books.

There were lots of tweets, as you can imagine.

And there was something that surprised me, but I guess it shouldn’t have. Someone was recommending books they haven’t read. How do I know this? For one, I know she doesn’t read indie. Two, she’s a very picky writer, and I don’t think she would have recommended these books had she read them. (That is a polite way of saying they could have used more editing.)

This made me do one of my super researching techniques: I ran a poll on Twitter. While the participant number was low, the results still stunned me.

indie books

I’m trying to figure this out because this bothers me.

Why would you recommend a book to someone if you haven’t read it? Would you walk into a bookstore, grab any old book off the shelf, and tell your friend it was fabulous and a must-read? Of course not.

This seems to be an indie-only thing, like not full-justifying your margins in your books when you format or adding your cover designer to the book’s contributors when you publish. Indies start stuff traditionally published authors don’t do. And the more indie authors do it, the more it becomes acceptable and the more newbie authors do it.

Of course I want to support my friends. But we all know indie writers don’t read that much. We might beta read, or be a critique partner, and that’s fine. It’s a little different in that I would assume the published book is different from a draft a beta or CP read. But at least you know the gist of the story, know if the book has proper punctuation and grammar.

At least you know the story makes sense.

But what are you doing to your own credibility if you recommend a book to someone you haven’t read and that someone takes you seriously? What if that someone takes a peek at the look inside on Amazon. What if that book has no established POV, or doesn’t have a good hook (AKA boring as f*ck)? What if the formatting is messed up, or has typos in it? What if the first paragraph head-hops into five different heads?

There were a couple comments in that tweet thread that asked the question: Who doesn’t read their friends?

Well, quite a few if my own track record is anything to go by. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who have picked up Wherever He Goes and read it cover to cover.

And if you want to ask me what indies I’ve read in the past few months, I can say one. And it was someone I edited for back in February. Otherwise, I’m busy writing or reading craft books, or reading trad-pubbed romance books. I don’t read indie simply for the fact that most of my friends don’t write what I like to read–contemporary romance. And then another reason I don’t read indie much anymore is if they find out I’m reading their book, they expect a review. I won’t leave a bad indie review. I won’t do it. So I don’t want my friends to wonder where their review is because there won’t be one if I don’t like their book.

Given those reasons, I rarely recommend indie books on Twitter. I recommend how-to publishing books or marketing books. I recommend trad-pubbed books that do something well that could be used as an example to my fellow writers.

I think it’s great that we help our friends. But if we want to help our friends, we should do it in a different way. Pass along promo sites. Recommend books you’ve read on how to do proper Facebook ads or Amazon ads. Marketing your friends’ books is not your job.

Sure, I’m flattered when someone posts a picture of my book on Instagram, or tweets about it. (And yeah, less five people have done that for me anyway.) But I don’t expect it and I don’t ask. My readers aren’t on Twitter. They aren’t even following me on Instagram right now–I got sucked into the writing world there, too. {KT Daxon is a good one for this, and I have to give her credit where credit is due. She does a great job of promoting the books she reads, and she truly does read the books she says she does.}

I would only recommend books I’ve read. It’s honest.

And you want people to be able to trust you, not question your taste.

Not question how good your books are.

I know this blog post sounds like I don’t think indies can write and publish good books. That’s not the case. What I am saying is that some indie books could use more editing. And I understand why indies don’t. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Waiting for an editor to get back to you is like sitting on pins and needles, and then you have to put in all the edits once you get them back. A total edit could push your pub date back by several months. But let’s not pretend that indies aren’t impatient, and rushing to publish is a mistake a lot of indies make.

This reminds me of the trad-pubbed writing community. I’m exposed to a lot of YA on Twitter and Instagram. It seems like a lot of YA authors do read other YA authors and tweet about their books and support each other. Being trad-pubbed is like being in a club, and those authors have each other’s backs.

Romance writers are the same way:

lori foster brenda novak

Here’s Brenda Novak reading Lori Foster for a book club Brenda is going to hold in her Facebook Author Group.

That’s real support. That’s real networking and collaboration.

There’s lot of bad things to say about the traditional publishing industry, but this isn’t one of them.

Let’s support our friends the right away.

Read the books you’re recommending. Because reading a book and having a discussion about the book with its author would mean a lot to the author, and a tweeted conversation about a plot twist or an evil character is true promotion.

Do you have any good reasons for recommending books you haven’t read? Let me know!

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

My BargainBooksy Ad from last month. How did it do?

Well, apparently, not very well since I forgot to post the update. This time, this ad was a paid ad (meaning, my book wasn’t free), and I set the price of Wherever He Goes to .99. I thought, a dollar for a book, that’s pretty good, right? Heck, I spent three months working on it, I figured a dollar was a good price.

The problem is, with doing these ads, you just WON’T KNOW why your book doesn’t sell. It could be the cover, it could be your copy. It could just be that no one wants to pay. You never know.

So, in total, I sold 40 books on the day the newsletter came out and a couple days afterward. That is nothing compared to the 4,000 books I gave away during my Freebooksy ad I did back in February. You can read about that here.

june sales for bargainbooksy ad

As far as KU page reads are concerned, you can see that the newsletter created a bit of a spike, but nothing to write home about. And this is only for Wherever He Goes. My trilogy is still getting a few page reads, but I wanted to see what my ad would do for Wherever He Goes, and unfortunately, for 80 dollars, not much.

Here is what my ad looked like in the newsletter:

bargain booksy ad

Would I do this again? I haven’t made back what I spent on the ad, so it will be a while before I try something like that again.

What I need to focus on is getting reviews, but for using any legit reviewing services, I need to pull my book out of Select because the one review service I contacted distributes the books through Bookfunnel. Amazon considers Bookfunnel as a distribution platform and will yank you out of Select if they catch you using it.

For my next book, I’m going to place my book with a review service first, before putting into Select and see what happens. Hopefully, if I get some decent reviews that way, readers will give all my books a chance.

And I think if I ever do another promo with Written Word Media (Freebooksy/Bargainbooksy) I’ll do the free one, since I kind of feel like I got more bang for my buck. At least, it sounds better to say I gave away 4,000 copies than say I sold 40. It would be great if any of that had turned into reviews, but so far nothing significant on that end, either.

But, that is my experience with Bargainbooksy, and if you’ve tried them, and have gotten better results, let me know!

Thanks for reading!

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

 

What do You do with Promo Photos? And Better Yet, WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?

We all see these cute photos of people’s books, you know? If you don’t know, you’re not on Twitter much, or you haven’t liked many Facebook author pages. Let me give you some examples. Hold on while I dredge some up.

wherever he goes promo composite

This is mine for my latest book I put out in June. That looks pretty cool, right? Or how about Aila’s, when she did her cover reveal for her new Women’s Fiction, Alabama Rain:

alia's cover reveal

Hers is pretty fancy; those books stacked on that nice shelf. And I love her cover. I am so excited to read this book. She made an awesome trailer, too, and you can watch it here. Anyway, I can make something similar with mine (but not the same because her skill set and my skill set vary greatly):

whereverhegoespromowithsunflower

The best part about the 3D mockup maker I use is that you can download a PNG without any background, which makes it very easy to place your book onto a different background, and you can make a super cute promo like this:

aila's promo

But what the heck are you going to do with it?

Aila says she puts hers at the end of her blog posts, making the photo clickable and driving traffic to her Amazon page. That’s not a bad idea. But she blogs–a lot. And consistently. Who can say they do that? Not me. But you should totally check out her blog. She writes very informative posts about the indie publishing industry, and she knows a lot of writing resources she generously shares.

I mean, you want photos out there. Someone might Pin It, or Retweet it, if it’s cute. I found this one somewhere and saved it for reference because I’m terrible at design:

book promo idea

Text is good, you know? A tagline, a teaser.

I made this messing around in Canva, trying to practice, develop my eye:

He's her boss, but he's got his eye on her. She doesn't know what she wants.He has demons to spare.And she has an ex that just won't quit.

Canva is good for stuff like that. It makes placing photos in composites a lot easier if you don’t know your way around GIMP or Photoshop. I made this in Canva using my Kindle cover for the first book in my trilogy:

Don't Run Away Promo

Of course, you need to make sure the photos you are using, like the sunflower on the shelf, and this work photo, are okay for commercial use since you’re trying to sell your books. At least, I’m going to assume you are.

But the problem is, there’s a ton of this stuff out there, and it’s annoying. You can Tweet it all the time but people will unfollow you. You can’t post it on Instagram all the time, because then you’re pegged a self-promoter and no one will follow your account.

So, I make promo photos, and then I don’t do anything with them.

But part of this blog post was to tell you where you can do this stuff, so take a look at the programs I’ve used:

FREE ONLINE BOOK MOCKUP MAKER
Derek Murphy runs this site, and he’s got a lot of great information about making covers yourself. He has a YouTube channel, and it’s worth checking out. I used this to make the first picture in this blog post, and I’ve done it for my friends, just to see how it looks with other covers:

stealing home promo

wolves of dynamoThis is a free site, though the positions of the books are somewhat limited. But it’s free and the program places the covers for you, so you take what you can get, right? If you want to place the books anywhere else, like a shelf, you need to use a program to place them onto a different background. I use GIMP to keep my hand in (I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the very small percentage of what I do know); it’s a free version of Photoshop. But you can use Canva, too, which is a lot easier to figure out.

shelf with sailboatandbook
I bought the shelf photo from canstockphoto.com. Wolves of Dynamo is a fantasy YA geared for both boys and girls, so I didn’t want to put with anything too girlie, or something that wouldn’t fit the genre. (I showed it to the author, and Gareth gave me a tough time. LOL)

Anyway, so give the mockup maker a try. Use pixabay.com and find workstation photos. All their photos are free for commercial use. Placing your book’s cover onto a Kindle mockup is easy using Canva. Just like any software, it may take a little bit to get used to, but that’s part of the fun of making these, right?

Because it’s not like you can shove them in people’s faces all day long–people will get bored with you, fast.

This is the quick mockup I made of David’s book:

shelf with lampstealinghome

If you make a lot of these, you probably want to experiment with different ways your book looks. Stacks, like Aila’s above, or just one, or all your mockups will start to look the same.

If you do the stacks, you’ll need to have a picture of your spine and better skills because the 3D maker I linked you to doesn’t have a stacks option. I haven’t bothered with that, just because there’s only so much time I want to take messing around. And it takes a lot of time to make these things if you don’t know the software; it takes a bit of practice.

It can be a nice break though, from writing, to mess around with this kind of thing.

Aila used a different website to find her mockups, and she put a lot of work into those, but she knows Photoshop really well, and she makes her own book covers, too. I think she does a fantastic job!

Also, you can get a lot of ideas just Googling book cover mockups. On Twitter, I’ve seen people advertising to do this for you but they charge a bit. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can hire someone from Fiverr. Sometimes if you hire a cover designer, they’ll make a couple of these for you, too. But again, it’s like, what are you really going to do with them? You know? If you like design and want to put the time in, practice so you can get to know the software for other things like, maybe eventually you’ll want to make your own covers. Then you don’t have to bother your cover designer or ask their permission every time you want to create a mockup.

I’ve given you some ideas on the book cover mockups for promos, and where you can go to make them. But don’t be wasting your time messing around with these when you should be writing. It’s fun to learn how to do these, but if you don’t have a book to market, it’s all pretty pointless, anyway.

Have fun, and good luck!

Vanias Books Promo