Category - Self Publishing

1
The Author’s Lifestyle
2
A quick, easy & cheap way to get your own email address for your mailing list and still use Gmail
3
How to make your blurbs look 1000% more awesome on Amazon
4
How to publish a book (and promote it!) for under $500
5
Why the “throw-shit-at-a-wall” approach to publishing doesn’t (usually) work.

The Author’s Lifestyle

Now, while I’ve written a couple of posts in the last few days, they’re also the first posts I’ve written in a month. And I’m not gonna lie, I hadn’t planned on taking that much time off from here. But I also wanted to show you what I was doing, and give you an idea of just what kind of life is possible when you’re a professional author.

The view from my apartment in Dubrovnik.

The thing is, sometimes when you work full time as an author, you get caught up in the “grind”. I know I do. Write, release, rinse, repeat.

And sometimes, when you’re just starting out and you’re not making a living with your writing yet, it seems like an endless road.

Well, most of my posts are informational. That’s the goal. But this one, this one’s completely motivational. I want to show you what’s possible with writing. I want to show you the vacation I had, and the life it’s possible to lead.

To be honest, I have too much tying me to home to really go off and travel the world all the time. Family, of course, and my little doggie. I couldn’t bear to be separated from her full time.But I did just spend two weeks travelling around Florence, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. My husband and I would go out during the day, then we’d come back in the late afternoon and I’d do all my writing work at night. I didn’t have the time to write the posts for the blog that I wanted to, but I did have a fairly successful novel launch during that time that’s already paid for the whole trip.

This is all stuff that writing has paid for. I went on holidays and came back with more money than when I started. What other job can you have where you can say that? I can’t think of a lot of them off the top of my head, and I certainly can’t think of any that I’d be qualified for. Writing affords us the most amazing opportunities. When you’ve been doing it full time it’s easy to take it for granted, and when you’re new it’s easy to feel like it’s an impossible challenge, but I promise you – it is not. I was in your shoes once. Four years ago I pressed publish on my first ever story. I made something like $8 that month.

A year later I was pulling in a full time income.

Now, I can travel the world at will. I’m thinking of going back to Europe in October, we’ll see.

But here are a few photos that show how writing has changed my life. Just think of how it can change yours.

The view from my apartment in Florence

Ljubljana – the most underrated city in Europe in my opinion.

Also Ljubljana

Me enjoying the Slovenian countryside.

Predjama Castle in Slovenia

Enjoying Lake Bled, Slovenia

The view of the old bridge from the restaurant where we had lunch in Mostar, Bosnia.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Split, Croatia

Panorama of the view from our apartment in Dubrovnik, Croatia. This is where Game of Thrones films a whole lot of their stuff!

If this post inspires you to keep writing, well, I have done my job.

Until next time,

Liv

A quick, easy & cheap way to get your own email address for your mailing list and still use Gmail

So chances are you’ve probably seen by now that some changes to Gmail means it’s a bad idea to keep using them for your mailing lists. Basically, using your gmail emails is now going to get pretty much all your emails sent to the spam box.

Boooooooo.

But what do you do if you don’t really care about having your own website, but still want to have your own email that’s pretty easy to use?

Here’s a quick and easy tutorial. This method will cost you around $10 a year, but looks more professional than having a mail.com email address (which is also, as far as I’m aware, a totally valid method to getting around the whole gmail thing).

The way this method works is it will forward the emails from your new email address to your old gmail address. When you respond to people, they will get emails from your @gmail.com address, but that’s fine, because the only thing you really need the new email address for is your newsletter.

Now, without any further ado, since I know I sometimes tend to ramble, here are the instructions:

 

Step 1: register a domain with name.com.

First, go to name.com

Now, when you’re on the main site, you want to choose your author website name. The number one, 100% best name to get is authorname.com

Always buy a .com domain. Even if the .com is taken but .net is available, don’t. People are so used to typing .com now that they’re not going to remember that your website is a .net.

If johndoe.com is taken, try johndoeauthor.com. Or authorjohndoe.com

At least one of those three should be available. Click “Add to Cart” and then go to checkout.

Now, when you’re in your cart on name.com, you’ll notice that whois privacy has been added for $3.99. DO NOT TURN THIS OFF. You absolutely want whois privacy on all your domains, it hides the information of the person who registered the domain from the public. Basically, if you don’t have whois protection, anybody with an internet connection can look up your real name and address.

However there’s no reason to pay $3.99 for this. So click the button for Promo Code, and in the window that appears enter ‘PRIVACYPLEASE’ and name.com will give you the whois protection for free.

Then enter your payment info, and buy your domain.

When you’ve bought your domain, you should be taken to your dashboard, which should look something like this:

Click the domain name you just bought. On the right hand side, you should see a menu bar like this one:

Click the “email forwarding” button.

In the “email” section, type the email address you want to use. So, if your domain is johndoeauthor.com and you want your email address to be john@johndoeauthor.com, simply type “john” in the email box. Then, in the “forward to” box, type in your existing email address.

Click “add record” and you’re done! From now on, any time anyone emails this new email address you created, it will forward your emails to your existing email account. Easy, right?

And you’re done! Congratulations.

Note: Gmail does have a “send email as” function in the account settings that lets you choose which email account you use to send your emails from. DO NOT USE THIS WITH YOUR REAL NAME EMAIL. Some older versions of Outlook let people see all the email addresses associated with that account. For this reason, I haven’t included the instructions to use this method in this post at all.

How to make your blurbs look 1000% more awesome on Amazon

So you’ve read my guide on writing blurbs that sell, and you’ve got a killer blurb at the ready. Your cover’s on point, your book is ready, and you’re about to rock the self-publishing world with your new release.

Now I’m going to show you a trick to take your blurbs to the next level.

When you just publish your book normally, your blurbs tend to look something like this:

And sure, this is fine. It’s acceptable in most cases. But there’s a super easy way to make your blurbs stand out even more. And remember – the more your blurbs stand out, the easier they are to read, the more likely you are to get your readers to click that buy button.

Do you find it easier to read the blurb as it’s shown above, or easier to read this one?

Yeah, that second one not only looks a lot better, but it’s easier to read.

And all I did was use some simple HTML. And what’s even better: Amazon supply a list of the HTML they allow you to use in blurbs. Click here to look at the full list of available HTML tags you can use in your blurbs.

To close the tag, you just put the same thing as the opening tag, but with a slash mark added to it.

So to bold something, you start it off with <b>Then you write what you want in bold here.</b> And then everything from here on in will no longer be bold, because you closed the bold tag with the </b> mark.

How to preview your blurb to make sure you did it right

If you’re not used to using HTML tags you might be a bit nervous about adding them straight into your blurbs and then hitting publish without being able to preview properly.

Well, not to worry! You can use this tool to create your blurbs with all the formatting, then just copy/paste the code into the description slot when creating your book.

I don’t know who it is who made that tool, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to call them a true American hero. Even if they aren’t American.

There’s only one thing to note with the tool: if you use the header options (<h1> <h2>…) they show up as being orange text in the preview. This is how they used to appear in blurbs, and then about a year ago or so (it might have been longer… I’m so old!) Amazon changed their code, so now it appears as bolded text, but still in black in the descriptions.

Now go out there and make your blurbs gorgeous! Don’t forget to look at how bestsellers in your genre use the different formatting options and try to keep yours in line with that… after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Happy blurbing!

How to publish a book (and promote it!) for under $500

I’ve seen way, way too many self-published authors spend thousands of dollars getting their books ready for publication. That’s just not necessary. Especially when, for most of those people, they’re never going to get that money back.

So if you’re one of those people spending over $500 every time you’re launching a book, and not getting any results from it, this is absolutely the blog post for you.

Basically, there are three main things you should be spending your money on as a new author.

#1. Editing

If your book isn’t well edited, well, you can expect some bad reviews. Every author should be paying for editing, especially given how cheap it is.

How much to pay?

For copy editing, which includes basic proofreading for spelling/grammatical mistakes, as well as watching out for plot issues, sentence structure, and a few other basics, you can usually expect to pay in the $200-$250 range for a 50,000 word novel (I look for a provider generally charging in the $5 per 1000 words range). I wouldn’t bother paying for line editing. Copy editing is fine.

You’ll notice that we’re spending a good chunk of our budget on editing. Well, editing is pretty important. You don’t want to skimp out on something that might end up giving you bad reviews if you’ve made too many mistakes.

If you’re looking for a good editor, try forums like kboards, where editors are listed. The most popular editors are usually booked up pretty early, but they’re popular for a reason. You generally want to stick with those. Whoever you go with, make sure they have good references, whether they be in the form of forum posts, or if you have to ask for them. If you become a member of smaller communities, oftentimes service providers there will offer special discounts to members of those boards.

I don’t recommend it, but if you absolutely, positively MUST self-edit, well I have one piece of advice for you: step away from the book for at least 48 hours. Give your brain some time to forget about what you’ve done for a little while. If you finish your book and immediately go to self-edit, you will miss major mistakes.

#2. Cover

Your cover is the #1 thing that’s going to make people click on your books when they show up in their search results. I’ve seen wayyyyyy too many authors ask me why their book isn’t selling, and then showing me covers that look like this:

badcover

Sure, this is an extreme example, but this is the cover of your book we’re talking about. No one’s going to click on that cover I posted above. They’re just not. It looks terrible. And unless you genuinely have years and years of experience with Photoshop, and you’ve spent hours upon hours studying your genre and what the covers look like, chances are a cover artist is going to do MUCH better work for you than you could do yourself.

This isn’t the time to get all insulted about not being a professional cover artist. You’re NOT a professional cover artist. At least, most of you reading this aren’t. Some of you might be. But if you’re not, then buy a cover. At least for your first couple of books.

How much should I pay for a cover?

You can get decent pre-made covers in the $40-$60 range. For custom covers, which I only recommend if you really, really can’t find anything pre-made that fits your book, you’d be looking more in the $60-$80 range.

Again, go to KBoards, or smaller writer’s forums related to your niche. You’ll find great cover artists there. And if you take your time and look around, you’ll find a deal. I’ve seen amazing pre-mades selling for $35 before. Start looking for covers while you’re still writing your book, or even before you’ve started writing it but after you’ve come up with the plot. If you’re not in a hurry to buy something, just being able to have a quick browse here and there can help you find great premades at excellent prices.

#3. Marketing

So now we have around $200 left from our initial budget. We’re going to spend that money on marketing.

Now honestly, depending on what genre you write in, where the best place to spend your money is is going to vary. What I would do, however, is focus on mailing lists. Honestly, I don’t recommend Facebook ads when you’re trying to really squeeze as much as you can out of every dollar. The Facebook ads market has become super saturated after a few courses have come out telling authors about how good they are, and I would personally spend the money on mailing lists like ENT, BookSends, that sort of thing.

I would spend most of the money on one big promotion (in the $70-$100 range) and then the rest of the money on smaller promotions on surrounding days. This is where you really need to find a forum with writers in your genre: they will be able to tell you what sites are worth the money, and which ones aren’t. I can tell you that in romance I’ve had good results with ENT, BookSends, My Romance Reads, The Naughty List, Shameless Book Deals and ExciteSteam.

This of course doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use free sources of marketing – submitting your books to Facebook pages, making sure you have a bunch of reviews, promoting to your mailing list, etc – but paid marketing, when done well, can go a long way towards making sure your book is seen, and it doesn’t need to cost a whole lot.

Watch for my upcoming post with more free promotion methods to get as many eyeballs as possible on your books without having to break the bank. As you can see, we just launched a book fully for under $500. There’s no reason to spend more than that, at least not when you’re starting out. You haven’t skimped on anything, and this way you’re getting your feet wet in the publishing world in a way that makes you more likely to make your money back and then some.

Why the “throw-shit-at-a-wall” approach to publishing doesn’t (usually) work.

Now, I’ve been around the block for quite a while *angrily waves fist at young children on her lawn* and I’ve seen a lot of things in self publishing. A lot of good things. And also a lot of bad. Authors who go with the throw shit at a wall and see what sticks approach, well, I’m here to tell you why that approach rarely works.

It’s not like I can’t see the appeal. And I’ve seen it recommended on forums, social media and other places that new authors try a whole bunch of things and see what works for them. Inherently, it’s not bad advice. I can see where they’re coming from. But it still almost never works.

Because by “throwing shit at a wall” you’re not letting yourself become established.

I’ve been on author pages where the person’s written 10 or so books. And that’s awesome. It takes a hell of a lot of work to write 10 books.

Let’s pretend that these books belong to an author called Jane Doe. Of those ten books, you have:

  • 2 contemporary romances
  • 1 paranormal shifter romance
  • 2 cozy mysteries
  • 1 thriller
  • the first part of a fantasy series
  • 1 cookbook
  • 2 YA books

None of those books have a rank under 100k. Because this approach just doesn’t work. And I see it all. the. time. And I know that I don’t even see all of them, because a lot of people don’t want their thrillers and their contemporary romances under the same pen name, so they just use a different pen name with 1-2 books published for each.

Reason #1: You’re not mastering anything

I believe in the 95/5 rule. 5% of authors are making 95% of the money in any given genre. That 5% know their genre inside and out. Remember my post about analyzing covers? And if you’ve read Blurb Magic you know that I go through how different blurbs look in different genres.

If you’re publishing in multiple genres, you’re never going to get the kind of mastery of these arts that the 5% have. They know everything there is to know about their genre. Hell, you could give me a paranormal romance right now and I guarantee you it wouldn’t do nearly as well as my contemporary stuff, because I focus on contemporary romance. I don’t know what the trends in paranormal are. I don’t have the time to keep up with them. But I can tell you exactly what’s selling in contemporary, the latest trends for covers, how the blurbs are being formatted, what sub-niches are growing and what ones are starting to fade away, what new authors are starting to make a dent in the market and what promo places have the best mailing lists for contemporary romance.

You can tell yourself that you have the time to keep up with all this info in multiple genres, but frankly, you’re lying to yourself. Mastery of a niche. You are much, much better off focusing on one niche and absolutely mastering it than just putting things out there in two, three, four different niches and hoping something sticks. This is the kind of info that takes authors from being low-listers earning $100-$500 a month to full time authors making 5 figures a month, by the way.

Reason #2: You’re not writing fast enough

This one overlaps with reason #1 a little bit. When you’re writing in a certain niche, you’re going to have fans. And when you have fans, they will buy what you write.

If you’re writing in, say, three different niches and you can release one novel a month, that means your fans for each niche are going to have to wait three months between novels. Do you think they’re going to stick around when someone else who writes at the same speed as you and is focused on their one niche is writing one novel a month? No. Of course not. Plus that other person’s going to build a backlist quite a bit faster. So after six months, when they have six novels out, every time they get a new fan that fan has six books to buy to catch up on. Yours have two.

Of course this is assuming you’re running each niche on a different pen name. I’m not even talking about the people who run different genres on the same pen name, because that idea just makes the marketer in me want to scream. Brand yourself. Don’t stick a million different things on the same pen name. If you absolutely have to write both cozy mysteries and romance, choose a different pen name for each. You want people to think of you as “the cozy person”, not the “bunch of random books about different things” person.

I don’t care if you can write 10,000 words a day (I am jealous of you though, just FYI). Releasing a novel every week or so to rabid fans who can’t get enough of your work is still way better than releasing a novel a month in four different genres.

Reason #3: You’re not giving yourself time to be successful at something

Look at Jane Doe’s catalogue. She has ten books out, but no more than two in the same genre. How is that supposed to build a brand, build a following? What if she’d written ten books in one genre. She’d have learned a lot more, she’d be more likely to have a growing following, and she’d be more likely to be making decent money from writing. Things in this business, just like in life, they usually take time. Michael Jordan didn’t wake up one day and decide to be a great basketball player. But if he’d stopped after being rejected at the first 10 colleges he applied to and decided to take up baseball instead… well, do you think we’d know his name at all, let alone remember him as the greatest basketball player to ever live?

Just because something doesn’t make money after the first try doesn’t mean it won’t ever make money. If there are other authors selling well in the same genre, it means the money is there to be made.

 

It’s not that throwing shit at a wall will never work. It can work, and there are a few examples where people have gotten big doing it. And of course, if you’re writing something and no matter what you do it just doesn’t sell, there’s no problem with swapping genres to something you might find easier, or enjoy writing more, or that you think you’ll be able to sell better. But choose something, and give it a good go. You’ll increase your odds of success tenfold that way.

Copyright © 2016. The Writer's Blueprint.