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

 

Formatting Your Book for Publication

If you don’t want to format yourself, yet you don’t want to have to pay too much, then there aren’t many things you can do.

Let’s start with Kindle, since more than likely 100% of you will publish on Amazon through KDP. What are your options if you don’t want to format your file for Kindle?

1. Actually, just format it, FFS. It’s easy. I pulled this out of an old blog post I did last year. Some of the info isn’t correct anymore, but you can still take a look at it here.

First, make a copy of your manuscript (just in case something goes wrong). This one shouldn’t have any headers or footers. If you have page numbers and/or a don’t steal my shit copyright header for your beta readers, remove them all.

The biggest thing with conversion is Tabs will screw everything up. If you use the Tab key to make your indents for your paragraphs, you’re going to have one messed up converted file. Here are the steps to take out your Tabs:

Removing Tabs

Press the Paragraph Show/Hide button in the Paragraph section of the Home tab so you can see the formatting marks.
Highlight (select) your whole document.
At the far right of the Home tab in the Editing section, click on the Replace button.
Click the More/Special button in the bottom left corner of the box.

taking out tabs

Select the Tab Character.

2018-06-25_LI

Leave the Replace with field empty and click Replace All. This removes all the Tabs.

This should have taken them out. If, for some reason, you used the Spacebar to make a tab, go into Replace, and in the Find field hit the number of times you used the Spacebar to make the Tab (maybe five? Six?), leave the Replace line empty and hopefully Word will find all the Spacebar spaces you used for tabs and pull them out.

But now you have a whole book that doesn’t have any indentations. I’ve seen books like this. Don’t do it. You want your book to look as professional as possible so put them back in:

Putting your Tabs Back In

Again, select or highlight your whole document.
Click the little arrow at the bottom right of the Paragraph menu in the Home tab. Or right-click your mouse and select Paragraph from the menu.

tabs

In the Indentation section of the box change Special to First Line and enter 0.25. This is how long your Tab is going to be. If you want it shorter you can do 0.23 or something. I use 0.25.

Click OK.

This puts all the Tabs back into your document, but you don’t want the first paragraph of your Chapters and/or scenes to be indented (traditionally published books usually do not have the first paragraph of Chapters or scenes indented) so you will have to go through your whole novel(la), look for the Chapter starts and scene breaks and take the tab out of the first paragraph. When you find those, put your cursor in front of the first letter of the first word, right click your mouse, select Paragraph and in the Indentation section, change By to 0. This will manually take the one Tab out.

When you start a new document, it’s easier to go into Paragraph, change First Line to 0.25 from the beginning, then you don’t have to go through all this after you’re done. It will take a little getting used to, to not have to hit the Tab button at the beginning of every new paragraph, but it will be worth it in the long run.

KDP Formatting Instructions at a Glance:

Take out all the Tabs, put them back in with the instructions above. Don’t indent Chapter starts. First paragraphs after scene breaks have started to become optional.

If there is any in your document, remove headers, footers, and page numbers.

Use a common font. I use Georgia for my Kindle, Garamond for the paperback.

Drop caps are not e-reader friendly, at least not in my experience, and I don’t have enough patience to make them work. Remove those as they will probably mess up your paragraph during conversion.

Set your margins to .5 all around–top, bottom, left, right.

Set your line spacing to 1.5. Not single, not double.

Select your all your text and set to Full Justified.

Don’t use a bunch of Hard Enters to make new pages. Please insert page breaks to create new pages. Lots of hard enters will not convert well. Insert page breaks after you Title Page, Copyright page, dedication page, acknowledgments, Table of Contents, and after each Chapter End. Use them to separate your back matter from your author page.

insert page break

If you have spaces between your paragraphs, you’ll need to select your file again, go into Paragraph and change After in Spacing to 0 pt. This takes out all the unnecessary spacing between paragraphs. (You will want to do this so you are not accused of making your book longer for the extra KU page reads.)

tabs_LI

To add your website or author page in the back, say, on your author page, use https:// with the rest of the website in the link.

What you’ve done is made your file as simple as possible. If you have graphics or formulas or are publishing a nonfiction book with all the bells and whistles, then I would suggest buying a book or researching how to format a complicated document. These instructions are for a fiction book with the general front matter and back matter only.


If you follow those guidelines for your Word document, you should be good to go conversion-wise. But if you don’t even want to do that then you can:

2. Use Kindle Create to format your file. The file won’t belong to you–you format it and then publish right to KDP. So you wouldn’t be able to use the file for other platforms like Apple Books or Kobo. But if you all want to do is publish to Amazon, download the App, upload your book into it and just fiddle with it until you like what you see. Watch the videos to learn how. I played around with it, and I formatted a 50,000-word book in an hour. Look here for details.

3. Use a template. The templates are already set so all you do is copy and paste your document into it. Most of these cost money, so look at these at your own discretion. You can start here: Beautiful Templates for Book Design Success

4. Draft2Digital says they’ll let you format your book on their site for free, and let you use that file wherever you want. You can even use them just to make a file for Kindle. You don’t have to go wide to use their free services. I haven’t ever tried them simply because once you get down how to format a file for Kindle, you don’t need anyone’s help. But if you just want to upload your document into D2D after you create an account, give it a try.

5. Buy a Mac and buy Vellum. I  hear Vellum is the best at formatting e-books and paperbacks. I don’t have a Mac but I plan to treat myself this summer so I can buy Vellum (although, if it’s as good as I hear, I’ll be tempted to redo all my books). If you don’t have a Mac or Vellum, and can’t afford either one, maybe you can ask someone who does to format for you. Maybe offer to trade for the favor. You never know.

6. I also hear Scrivener has formatting capabilities. I don’t use it–I write in Word. But if you use Scrivener, you can try it and see how you like it.

You’ll note that I don’t have the instructions on how to put a Table of Contents in your file. I think they are stupid for fiction. But that’s just my opinion and not a very popular one at that. If you want to know how to make a clickable ToC for your e-reader file, read the instructions I had to hunt down when I made a box-set for Summer Secrets a couple months ago.


Formatting your paperback is a bit harder.

1. I will always recommend using an interior template from CreateSpace or KDP Print. These templates are the same, you just download them from different websites. Choose the formatted template which has all the headers, footers, and end sections in place so your page numbers and your author name and book’s title are on the pages they are supposed to be on. If you take a look at any trad-pubbed book, you’ll see there aren’t headers on Chapter start pages, or headers or footers on front matter or back matter. The interior templates takes care of most of this for you. The only issue I had with them at all is that I usually have more chapters than the template allows, so I have to monkey with the end section breaks myself to create more chapters. Most of the time I just copy and paste the section end break of a previous chapter into the end of the next chapter and that works for me. If you have any working knowledge of Word at all, you should be able to do this without any hassles. The front matter and back matter is all laid out for you as well, so just copy and paste page by page, or chapter by chapter. The template is “chunked” meaning you can’t copy and paste your whole document into the template at one time. The chapters and front and back matter are broken up by section end breaks.

Have patience. If you do 98% of the work, I’m willing to bet you have a friend who would look it over and do the other 2% if you just can’t get it right.

2. If you don’t want to go this route, I’m afraid there isn’t much you can do for free besides get a very good working knowledge of Word and start from scratch to do it all yourself. I took a college class in Word, and I still couldn’t do my formatting without at least getting a good start with the template. But you can always look for a paid template. Most websites that sell e-reader templates sell interiors for paperbacks too.

3. Pay for a formatter. Reedsy has freelance interior design recommendations. They maybe be a bit expensive–that’s my guess just by looking at their qualifications. Fiverr pulled up a lot of options for interior formatting as well, and what I saw were reasonably priced. Of course, always ask for referrals, or other books they’ve done to get an idea of how their books look.


 

As always, I recommend learning how to do this yourself. If you’re going to be a prolific writer, or even if you’re just going to write a book or two a year, you might as well learn how to do it. Hey, you might even get good at it and you can trade services with other people. That’s what the writing community is all about: I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. If you can format for someone, maybe they’ll beta read for you, etc.

I know there’s stuff I’m forgetting. I mentioned Draft2Digital but not Smashwords. If you want to publish through Smashwords, they have their own system, and I’ve read their how-to-format-your-file book so that it will convert through their “meatgrinder” process.  I’ve never published through them, so if you’re interested, here is their STYLEGUIDE that will help you format your file to upload to Smashwords. It’s long, but Mark Coker makes it funny, so there is that.

When I first started formatting, it was a lot of trial and error. Make use of the interior viewer on KDP, KDP Print, and CreateSpace. Trust me when I say what you see is what you’ll get. If you get caught in an upload, fix, upload, fix, upload, fix, upload, fix pattern and you feel like you’re going to go mad, take a step back, go outside and come back later with a clear head. There is nothing worse than trying to format when you are quivering with rage.

Try practicing on short stories or novella. It’s a lot easier to work with few words then build up to a complete MS when you kind of know what’s going on.

I hope this blog post helps you format!

Good luck!

Up next is cover design!

Thanks for reading.

How Free is Self-Publishing?

It costs absolutely nothing to publish a book. Nothing.

free

There are free word processing programs like Google Docs. You can use a library’s internet and computer. Platforms like Draft2Digital and Amazon’s KDP will provide you with some kind of book identification number so you don’t have to buy ISBNs for your books.

All you need to do is write, make a cover in Canva using their free website, use a free for commercial use picture from Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash, and you are a published author. All for free.

But when isn’t that a good idea?

Do you know Amazon has over 7 billion books in their Kindle store? And writers publish more every day.

So not only are you competing with everyone you know on Writer Twitter, you are competing with writers who are not on Twitter, big time indies who don’t have much time for social media. You’re competing with traditionally published authors, and those authors range from anywhere between The Big Five to tiny university presses.

You’re competing with writers from the US, Canada, (do you know how many writers I know who live in London, Ontario? A lot!) the UK, Australia, and many other countries.

Over 7 billion books.

Okay. What what is this blog post really about now that I’ve made you feel like crap?

Spending money.

Self-publishing is free.

Until it isn’t.

I do everything myself. For my trilogy, and Wherever He Goes, I wrote them, edited them. I formatted them and did the covers. The orangy hue on the third is my fault. I didn’t have the skill to fix it. It doesn’t look bad on screen, but the paperback could look better. That’s just the way it is, and I accept that.

What can you pay for when you self-publish?

  • Editing
  • Formatting
  • Cover

Those are the three big ones. But we can go further:

  • Beta Readers/Critique Partners/Book Coaches/Book Doulas
  • Blurb writing
  • Reviews/Arc review services like NetGalley
  • Advertising, ie, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Promotions
  • ISBNs
  • Paperbacks for giveaways
  • Giveaway fees like on Goodreads

No one is saying you have to pay for all of that–or any of it.

It’s up to your discretion how much money you want to pump into your books.

See, this is the problem. No one wants to admit that they publish their books to sell them. Which leads an author not spending one dime on their books.

They are publishing for themselves. I repeat this over and over again like a broken record:

If you only publish for yourself you have no right to complain if your books do not sell.

But if you can admit you want people to pay to read your work then you have to take a hard look at your book.

Is the cover you made yourself doing the job?

Is your blurb up to snuff or is it confusing and off-putting?

Are there typos in the first few pages of the Look Inside?

If you can’t put out quality work yourself, then you’re going to need help.

It’s that simple.

And that difficult because saying you need help is a lot easier than being able to afford said help.

That being said, you can teach yourself how to do these things.

If you just shut down on me, it’s because you don’t want to take the time to learn. That’s okay. I wear clothes every day. That doesn’t mean I want to learn how to sew.

But what I’m trying to tell you is that you must find a happy medium between doing things for yourself and hiring out the help you need to make your book desirable to readers.

Because remember, readers have 7 billion choices.

Listen, my books aren’t pretty. Use the look Inside Feature for any of my books and you’ll see basic formatting. The embellishments are non-existent.

That’s fine. I taught myself enough to get by, and that’s good enough for me.

Readers aren’t going to care if you have fancy chapter headings if your story sucks.

So, being I’ve published a few things, I can suggest where you should put your money–if you have any, or where you should ask for favors from friends–if you have any. Just kidding!

  1. Editing. If you’re a newbie writer, this means a developmental edit as well as a line edit and proofing. Plot holes, flat characters. Developmental editing can be more of a job for a critique partner or someone from your writing group. Ask someone who reads your genre so they have a handle on the tropes and feel for the type of genre your book is in. Once you have a stellar story and a solid look inside sample, you need a good cover.
  2. Cover. Canva.com offers design classes. You need to train your eye and learn what makes a good cover. It can make or break your book. Plus, if you push your book in any way, ads, promos, giveaways, your cover will be the selling point. Look at your genre on Amazon. Look at templates. Try to duplicate them yourself in Canva. You may need to spring for a photo, but that’s not as expensive as you might think. I buy mine on canstockphoto.com for seven dollars apiece. Photos are even cheaper if you buy a credit package.

    A word of warning though. I write romance, and slapping some text onto a smiling couple is a lot different than making a cover for an Urban Fantasy novel. Fantasy, of any kind, requires a certain kind of cover. Negotiating a price with someone on Fiverr is a lot better than publishing a book that does not have an appropriate cover. Your sales will stop before they even start. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

    Sometimes you can find a pre-made template that’s cheap.

    Sometimes you can even find a photo on a photo site that is already doctored to how you need/want it to be. Set aside hours, days, if not weeks, to click through pictures. I’m barely 20,000 words into my next book and I’m already looking at photos.

  3. Formatting. Formatting for Kindle takes five minutes. All you need to do is set the options in Word so when you upload it into KDP it converts correctly. If you go wide and you use Draft2Digital, you don’t even have to do that. (Smashwords is a different story, and your Word file has to be formatted correctly or it won’t convert through their “meatgrinder” and they won’t publish your book.) Draft2Digital seems easier to work with, but I’m in KDP Select and haven’t used either of those services.

 

What is the cost of self-publishing? It can cost as much or as little as you want to put into it.

Someone opening a business always needs to invest. Paying for services is investing in your book business.

I used to think that I didn’t want to invest in my books because I may never get that money back. But that was incorrect thinking.

If my books are well-written, have a nice cover, and are formatted as to not turn anyone off from reading it, eventually, I will see that money returned to me by way of sales.

My books will be sold for years and years.  As I slowly make a name for myself, my sales will increase. It will take time, but I’m in it for the long haul, and I have patience.

I’ve put money toward my books by way of taking the time to learn how to do things for myself. I read lots of editing books. I read tons of blog posts about what makes a good cover. I’ve practiced making covers. I’ve learned to format my files. It took time. But time is money. I’ll eventually see dividends on the time I invested in my books.

time is money

It’s a personal choice.


This blog post begins a self-publishing series about how you can do most of these things by yourself if you want, and where to look if you don’t. I’ll give you the resources I used to learn and you can decide for yourself if it’s easier for you to hire out, or if you can’t afford it, where you can spend time learning things on your own.

Look for my next blog post about editing resources.

Thanks for reading!

 

Author Interview–Aila Stephens

Everyone loves to hear how a launch goes. Was it successful? How many books did they sell their first day? Their first week? How many page reads did they have if they were enrolled in Kindle Unlimited?

Book launches are exciting.
◊Cover reveal!
◊Excerpts!
◊Author interviews!
◊Blog tours!

But what about after? There is always going to be someone else who releases a book and our attention will be jerked away by a shiny new cover.

What happens after the launch? What happens months after the first week of sales? How does an author keep the momentum going?

I spoke with author Aila Stephens to find out. Listen in—maybe she’ll tell us all her secrets.

astericks

You launched Sex, Love, and Formalities, the companion to Sex, Love, and Technicalities in November of 2017. How did that launch go for you? Can you give us a quick rundown of what you did to prepare? You hosted a giveaway, as well, correct?

Sure! I drank a lot of coffee. I panicked a little…no, no. I mean, yes, I did those things, but really, I talked Formalities up on social media a little more than I did when I launched its’ predecessor. I had much better-looking bookmarks printed up, and I spent a little more time and money on the book trailer than I did for the first one. I love having a book trailer for my books. It’s mostly a total vanity thing, but they’re still fairly rare in the indie community. Giveaways are pretty hit or miss, I don’t think that’s a secret, but I look at them as a necessary evil.

I did have a giveaway. It’s no secret that giveaways are pretty hit or miss, and there’s never any rhyme or reason to how many participants you get, but this one had decent participation. I gave away two signed copies of my books along with coffee and tea, a mug, and even a nice shawl to throw over the shoulders as it was quickly turning wintertime.

That was a great giveaway! I was bummed I couldn’t enter. You also did a free book promo for book one during the launch of book two using some of your free days allowed to you in the KDP Select program. Can you explain how you promoted that, if you did? If I remember correctly, your stats for that free book were rather impressive.

I promoted using Twitter and my Facebook author page.

I am going to strangle myself for this, but I cannot for the life of me remember exactly how many free copies of Technicalities were downloaded during those days, but it was several hundred—maybe even closing in on a thousand. I’d tell you concretely, but apparently, Amazon won’t let me go back that far. Whatever it was, the top ranking I got on Amazon that day was #14, for Women’s Fictions > Crime, and I believe it was #20 for Women’s Fiction > Romance.

That’s fantastic! Did your free promotion for book one bolster sales for book two?

In the weeks following that free promotion, I did have several thousand “normalized pages” of Formalities being read on Kindle Unlimited, which was very nice.

…If only all those free books and KU pages led to reviews, right?

It’s hard to tell if the sales of Formalities since then have been directly related to that free promotion, though I suspect most are.

Did you find it easier to launch book two since it was a sequel?

I did. I had so many—so very many—mistakes I learned from with Technicalities. I think that’s kind of a great thing though, learning from one’s own mistakes. I made a few with Formalities which I hope to avoid with the next book, and I’m sure I’ll make some with it that I’ll try and avoid with the one after that…and so on and so forth.

What are you doing, four months after your launch, to keep sales going? And are your methods working?

Still drinking coffee, still panicking. Ha! No. It’s not in my nature to go for the hard-sell. I do share pictures of my covers from time to time on Instagram, though it’s fruitless. What I think has helped me the most to see continued sells and KU reads has been my blog. I didn’t have the best track record of consistently blogging, but after my launch, I decided to make blogging my second priority to writing more books. I blog every Monday and every other Thursday. I’m still trying to wean myself from blogging just to other writers and figuring out how the heck you blog for readers, but I digress.

At the end of every blog post I include a small, hopefully unobtrusive, advertisement I made for my books and I link it to them on Amazon. I have noticed that I usually sell something on Tuesdays and/or Fridays, and my KU pages have remained rather steady.

This is a comfortable way for me to garner attention to my books without me feeling like a spam-artist.

Again…if only those translated to reviews.

What have you learned from either of your books to help you launch and maintain momentum for your next book?

I want to give a little more time between finishing the book and launching the book. With this next one I want to seek out ARC reviewers on YouTube (which, honestly, excites me and kills me a little on the inside), and I also want to spread out smaller, but still impressive, giveaways. I am still researching some launch tactics, but these are the main ones I intend to employ this go-round.

Do you have any tips for those who are seeing declining sales after their launch?

I would ask them what they’re doing to keep putting it in front of people. Like I said, there isn’t a soul out there who can say I’ve sent them an auto-DM going, BUY MY BOOK!! But I endeavor to have a quality blog I drive traffic to several times a month, in the hopes that by the time someone gets to the bottom, they’re intrigued enough to take a look at my books.

You can’t publish a book and then expect people to find it without a little elbow grease.

Have you ruled out paying for ads or promotions?

Not at all! I just don’t want to do it for two books. Once my next book comes out, I’ll shell out a little money for advertising and see what comes of it. Three is by no means the magic number, but I will chalk it up to research, too. I can’t afford to be anything except financially prudent with this, but I’m excited to see what happens with it.

I’ve read the best advertisement to promote your work is to write another book. Do you believe this is true?

Absolutely. I wish I had the ability to write full-time so I could crank them out faster. I think in today’s world, we’re all so accustomed to instant-satisfaction that we don’t want to fall in love with a book or an author if they’re not producing anything else. It’d be like watching The Paradise on Netflix and falling in love with it only to learn they shucked it after two seasons. We binge-watch in this day and age, and readers binge-read. This is why there is so much advice out there saying book series are the moneymakers.

…says the girl writing a standalone book right now.

Think of Harper Lee. To Kill A Mockingbird is a priceless piece of American literature, but for the longest time—fifty-five years!—there was only one published out there by Ms. Lee. I don’t know how well that sort of publishing schedule would work in this day and age. 😉

I guess the secret is to write such a thought-provoking, moving book, that your book is mandatory reading in all schools! Thanks, Aila, for taking the time to chat with me!

Vania, thank you so much for sitting down with me again for such a lovely interview! I am always honored and humbled that someone of your talent and expertise has time for little ol’ me.

And to all of your amazing readers, thank you so much for taking the time to get to know me!

Love ya, mean it!  -Aila

Aila always makes me blush. I hope you enjoyed her interview and maybe learned a little something about how to keep the momentum after your launch from drifting away. Help keep her momentum up by downloading free copies of her books here (March 27 and 28) and give her Amazon profile a follow while you’re there. 🙂

Aila is leaving her mark all over the interwebs, and you can follow her Instagram account, Tweet with her on Twitter, like her Facebook author page, and definitely give her blog a peek. She’s in the middle of a wonderful writers’ resources series you don’t want to miss!

Thanks for reading!

 

Quotes taken from the websites in the photo captions, and photos taken from http://www.pixabay.com and http://www.unsplash.com. Graphics created with these photos in http://www.canva.com.

Basic Rundown of Terms and What They Mean

It seems as if there is a lot of confusion in the way people post things online referring to who is what and what they do, and I see this mostly on Facebook. Let me clear up some confusion for any new writers who may be looking to self-publish in the near future. Here are a few basic terms and companies described.

  • CreateSpace
    CreateSpace is the paperback publishing arm of Amazon. This is where you go to create a paperback of your book, if you’re not choosing one from a myriad of other options. You can find free templates for your cover, and free formatted templates for the interior. They are free. You don’t need an account to download these. They also have a Cover Creator with templates and font/font placement. Choose a photo (available for commercial use) and the creator will create a cover in accordance with your book’s measurements. They also have a CreateSpace Community. If you have questions, they have most likely been answered 1,000 times already.
  • KDP
    KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. This the Kindle arm of Amazon. Some people only publish on Kindle (or e-reader/tablet if they go wide {see definition below}.) The set up is much easier than putting together a paperback. Just format your file, upload your cover art, fill out all the fields for price, etc, and you’re done. Your ebook will be published on Amazon in 12 hours. They say to give them 3-5 days, but it has *never* taken that long.
  • KDP Select
    KDP Select is OPTIONAL. When you enroll your book into this program, you are promising Amazon you are not selling your e-book anywhere else, in three month blocks. That means you are not published on Nook, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, or anywhere else e-books are sold, including your own website, during that time frame. This does not have anything to do with your paperback, and you don’t have to enroll in Select even if you don’t plan to publish your e-book elsewhere. It seems people use KDP and Select interchangeably, and this is not accurate. If you enroll in Select, your book will be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, or KU. Readers with KU subscriptions can read your book as part of their subscription costs, and Amazon will still pay you for the page reads. If you want to know more about Kindle Unlimited, look here. You can unenroll any time, but KDP makes you finish out your three months, so plan ahead if you want to begin selling your books on other platforms.
  • KDP Print
    KDP Print is the paperback arm of Kindle Direct Publishing. With CreateSpace closing their online store and the creation of KDP Print, it is rumored that eventually Amazon will shut down CreateSpace. Why have two services doing the same thing? I’ve looked around KDP Print, and the submission process is similar. Even the downloadable templates are the same. The only difference is how your purchase your author copies. There was a lot of complaining at first, because KDP Print didn’t offer the same things as CreateSpace does. They are slowly changing that, though, and to me, that’s another indication that soon you won’t have a choice between the two. I only hope their customer service remains the same. I’ve had to call CreateSpace customer service on occasion, and I have always received polite and helpful service.
  • Going Wide
    Going wide means that you are not selling your e-books only on Amazon. That’s it. Lots of people don’t understand what this means, or they get confused because they don’t realize there is more than one place to sell books. There are a lot of opinions on this topic and you need to do what’s best for you and your writing and marketing plan. Currently, I’m in Select, but I feel as I add more to my backlist, I will expand. It’s never good to have all your eggs in one basket, but it may be a while before I have more than one egg.You have a couple options on how to go wide: You can upload your file to all the places yourself. Kobo recommends you upload directly to them so you can take advantage of marketing opportunities. But you can’t upload directly to iBooks unless you have a Mac and can download the necessary apps. Most people use a 3rd party aggregator such as Draft2Digital to distribute their e-books. But be aware if you do this, your royalties are lower. You pay D2D to distribute, but then you also pay the vendor for selling your book.
  • IngramSpark
    IngramSpark is the other company indies use to publish their paperbacks. They have better distribution (CreateSpace uses them to distribute) and The Alliance for Independent Authors suggests you use CreateSpace to sell your book on Amazon and use IngramSpark for other distribution. CreateSpace will give you a free ISBN number, which is why a lot of indies go that route, and CreateSpace is free (besides taking their cut of your royalties) and IngramSpark is not. Also, IngramSpark makes you purchase your ISBN through Bowker. If you decide to purchase one from Bowker, however, you can use that one for both IngramSpark and CreateSpace. That is another personal choice, and you will have to do your research and see what is best for you. If you plan to do any book signings, IngramSpark is the way to go. That way a Barnes and Noble can order your book from IngramSpark and return any that you do not sell at your signing. The cost is on you, for returned books, but bookstores do not like to deal with CreateSpace, as they view Amazon as a competitor.
  • BookBaby, Lulu
    If it all seems too much for you and you just want to upload your book and walk away, there are reputable self-publishing companies who will help you. Though I haven’t used BookBaby or Lulu, I have heard they treat you well, and don’t pressure you to buy services and products you can’t afford. Be aware that if a company offers “editing” that they do a light proofread or line edit only, and if you want developmental editing or a deeper sweep of your MS, you will need to hire that out before you submit your book to these companies. These companies are legitimate as far as I am aware. Joanna Penn even had the founder of BookBaby on as a guest on her podcast, and Joanna would never endorse a company that is not on the up-and-up. She is a member of the Alliance for Independent Authors and they are committed to helping the indie-publishing industry.These are not to be confused with other self-publishing companies run by Author Solutions. Companies such as Author House, Xlibris, and iUniverse are listed on the Writer Beware website, and you should use extreme caution when deciding with whom you will publish.

    Thanks for reading this quick guide. If you’re new to the writing and publishing scene, it may seem overwhelming, and there is never a lack of information on the internet. As always, check and double-check before you make any decisions, and always, always, be careful if you decide to pay someone for a service. It’s nice to think you can trust people you meet online, but in reality, the only person you can, and should, trust is yourself.

    Tell me what you think! And let me know how I can help.

Happy writing Vania Margene

Results of my ad with Freebooksy

I figured with a few books out now, I should do a little marketing. I’ve been against it, claiming I needed a backlist before I started putting money into my career, but I thought since my trilogy was done, I could do a little promotion.

I’ve heard about various book marketing websites where you pay for exposure, and that’s what Freebooksy is. Essentially, you’re paying to advertise your book in their newsletter for one day. There are other promotions run by the people of Freebooksy if you don’t want to to go free with your book, but I did because 1) it didn’t bother me to give my book away and 2) I was hoping for a little read-through since the other two books were available.

My trilogy is enrolled in KDP Select, and I had never used any of my free days for any of my books before, so I went ahead and chose five days for my book to be free, then I went on Freebooksy and chose a day that I wanted my book in their newsletter. In the future, if I do this again, I’ll plan ahead to give myself time to promote the promotion.

A rep reached out to me, and she was very nice, but she wanted to put my book in the sweet category romance newsletter. I replied that it didn’t belong there as the book had four open door sex scenes. I’m not sure why she wanted to do that, unless she mistook my cover. Nikki and Dane do look cute together, but I didn’t choose to put a steamy couple on the cover because there is a fine line between contemporary romance with sex, and erotica. I didn’t want anyone mistaking my trilogy for erotica. I’ve written erotica, had my “taste” so to speak, and I’m more comfortable writing contemporary romance.

Anyway, this is what the ad looked like that went into their newsletter:

freebooksyad

You’re the one who writes the blurb, and I was afraid I didn’t spend enough time on it. You only get so many characters, and it’s difficult to try to convey what the book is about and still make it interesting in that short space.

My book was free from February 6th to the 10th. I started getting downloads even before my book went out in the newsletter. In total, while my book was free, I gave away 4,458. Between February 6th and today, February 15th, I have sold fifteen of Book 2 and six of Book 3, so you can see there was a small amount of buy-through (not necessarily read-through), and I lowered the prices of those books to .99 to go with the free promotion. Also, my page reads for Kindle Unlimited for all my titles went up from 0 to this:

page reads for KU

It’s not the best, of course, since even all those lines only represent $25.00 in sales. If you do the math, that’s a horrible ROI, at least, on paper.

Return on investment comes in many different forms, monetary being only one of them. I’m hoping now that I’ve given away so many books, people will remember my name, I’ll begin to foster some lifelong readers for future books.

My sales ranking did go up for a little bit, and I can give you a snapshot of those, though I didn’t take a picture every time my book moved up in ranks. And as everyone congratulated me, going up in rank in *free* books looks nice, but it’s not the same as going up in the paid lists.

awesome stats!3

These are the best stats the book got. I don’t know if it did much more than earn me a few bragging rights, but there it is.

Amazon did a nice thing, too and put my books together in an ad on my Author page.

tower city box set

You can’t buy them that way–I haven’t created the box set yet, and that is on my to-do list after I figure out my stupid cover for book three. (Yeah, still wrestling with it to get it exactly how I want it in paperback.)

If you were to ask me the best part about this whole promotion thing, I would have to say that it’s that people are starting to read my work. We all want people to read our stuff, but when they actually do, it’s nerve-wracking. So far I’ve been getting decent reviews. They’ve been saying my editing is solid, and there hasn’t been a complaint about formatting, which is a relief since I do all my own formatting myself.

criticism-3083100_1920

Overall, I would say the experience was a positive one.

If I were to give any advice to someone doing this I would say:

  1. Have more than one book out. I did prove that if you spend money advertising one book, you’re really advertising your whole backlist. Not many people bought books 2 and 3 who downloaded book 1, but it was enough I was happy they were available.
  2. Having a good cover is no joke. It doesn’t seem like a big deal when no one is looking at your books, but the minute you realize people are going to be choosing your book among a selection, suddenly you’re hoping it’s good enough. Be sure it is.
  3. Have a decent blurb. I shortened mine from what I wrote for Amazon, and I worried I didn’t spend enough time on it. Had I spent more time on it, maybe I could have gotten even more downloads.
  4. Have people willing to spread the word. I don’t know how many downloads came from my Twitter followers, or my followers willing to tweet about it. I don’t know how many downloads came from the people who liked my FB Author Page. I was also naughty and told everyone on my personal FB page that my book was free, and I know it’s against TOS to do that. I only did it once, on the day the newsletter went out. And I was lucky a few people shared that post.

I won’t be doing this again anytime soon, but it was fun to try something new and to get my feet wet. A little snowflake can cause an avalanche, and I’m hoping this is true in my case. But now that my trilogy is over and done, I need to relegate it to my backlist and move forward. I’m 31,000 words into a new WIP, and I can’t wait to share with you!

Happy writing Vania Margene

Indie-Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–Imprints

Indie Publishing Chats

Imprints are fun . . . some say frivolous. But if you have any long-term plan to publish books, having an imprint is another way to claim your work. If you think really long term and are successful as an author you may want to publish other writers’ works. Joanna Penn, not long ago, created her own imprint. While she’s not accepting submissions, she certainly has what it takes in terms sales and exposure to draw in new talent under her imprint if she so chose. Never write-off something that could be part of your brand, as you never know what the future holds.

Let’s listen in to the chat I had with KT about imprints.

KT Daxon
What are imprints and how important are they? Personal preference or encouraged for Indie authors?

Vania Margene Rheault
Imprints are the name and logo of the publishing company you set up for yourself when you publish. They are a personal preference, but your name will be listed as the publisher of your book on CreateSpace if you don’t have one. They aren’t encouraged as much as owning your own ISBN numbers, but they go hand in hand.

KT Daxon
How does one set up an imprint?

Vania Margene Rheault
The first you have to do is make something up. Something you like, something short, though, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room. Something that means something to you. I’m a romance author, and I love coffee, so I made up Coffee and Kisses Press. BUT and this is a big BUT, you have to make sure it’s not taken by someone else. Coffee and Kisses Press was like, my 4th choice.c&k2

I had a friend draw the mug, and my son did the rest. I share this imprint with @drwillisbooks. David doesn’t write romance, but he wanted an imprint and they are kind of hard to think of. So many are taken.

KT Daxon
So you both use this when publishing?

Vania Margene Rheault
He only has one book under this imprint. He published other books with iUniverse, and they have their own imprint. But yeah, all mine are under this imprint. I bought my own numbers and I knew I wanted my own imprint from the beginning.

KT Daxon
You say so many are already taken, how do you advise other authors on creating their own? Coming up with names is difficult for me, and in turn drive me crazy until I figure it out.

Vania Margene Rheault
I’ve read up on it, and they say that if you think of something personal, it’s easier to be unique. Like your pen name. I know how you made it up, so I mean, keeping it close to your heart it’s easier. But I suck at stuff like that too.

KT Daxon
Would you recommend I use my pen name as my publishing imprint?

Vania Margene Rheault
I would suggest you think of something cute. Especially if you’re going to stay with writing romance. PillowTalk Press. On the shape of a pillow. LOL But I bet that’s taken.PillowTalk Publishing

KT Daxon
Hmm

Vania Margene Rheault
Actually, it’s not. That’s funny.

KT Daxon
Hmm, I don’t know if I’ll stay with romance. Down to Sleep is Romantic Suspense … the next book after this is likely considered Contemporary Romance? Hahahaha! Hmm …
How much does getting your own imprint cost?

Vania Margene Rheault
Nothing. You pay for it when you buy your own ISBN numbers. Unless you hire a designer. Then that would be an extra cost.

KT Daxon
Even better, LOL. So, when you buy your ISBN numbers, you will just include that during that purchase?

Vania Margene Rheault
You can look for ideas on Canva. They have logo templates. Yes! Great question. You need to have thought of your imprint name before you buy your numbers because there’s a field for it.

KT Daxon
I know what will be running through my mind now. LOL That’s all the questions I have for now on imprints…that I can think of. Oh! I have one more. How can you find out if an imprint is taken? Is there a site?

Vania Margene Rheault
No, you just Google it. Most of the time if there is a publisher or a press associated with it, it will be the top few search results. But I used all the search engines to make sure: Yahoo, Bing, Google. You get slightly different results, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

KT Daxon
I got one I will check out…where on Canva can you use to check for logos?

Vania Margene Rheault
If you go to Create A Design, it’s under the menu, Marketing Materials. I made mine before I knew Canva existed. I have a tab on my website that explains my imprint and the books that are published under it. You have to be careful on Twitter if you are ever approached by a “press” or a “publisher” who wants to publish your book. It could be someone trying to publish your book under their imprint, and they don’t have any real publishing experience or distribution channels. They run your book through CreateSpace, just the same as you would then take a cut of your profits. So be very careful when someone approaches you–especially during the pitching games like #pitmad.

KT Daxon
Good to know!

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, it’s kind of scammy. But if they have a pretty imprint and a website that looks legit, it’s easy to get taken in. Everyone wants a contract and not everyone is as careful as they should be.

KT Daxon
Is Press the only thing you can use or are their others?

Vania Margene Rheault
You can use press or publishing. Those are the two main ones.

Our chat fizzled out after that because KT started experimenting on Canva. She wants to keep her imprint a secret until she publishes, so I’m not allowed to post what she came up with during chat. But if you need ideas for yourself, Google imprints and click on Images for the results. You’ll get an idea of what you need to come up with. Here are a few other articles on imprints:

Should Self-Published Authors Create Their Own Publishing Imprints?

A Quick Lesson About Publishers, Imprints, CreateSpace, and Bowker

Why You Should Create Your Own Publishing Imprint

A long time ago, I also wrote a blog post about imprints. If you’re interested, you can read it here.

Thanks for reading! Next up we’ll talk about having your author photo taken, and the advantages and disadvantages of trying to remain anonymous online and still try to sell books! See you there!

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