The YA Spring Fling Giveaway

If you’re broke but in search of exciting new YA fiction, then I have some cool news for you. I’m participating in a HUGE YA ebook giveaway, running from the 20th of March to the 3rd of April. There are over 100 books from over 70 indie authors, plus a whole bunch of loot up for grabs. I’m offering signed postcards for ten winners, but other authors (with cheaper postal systems!) are going above and beyond and dishing out signed paperbacks and other great swag.

YA Spring Fling med

So how does it work? For now, you can sign up for the mailing list (no spam, promise) which will guarantee you at least one free ebook of your choice, and will notify you as soon as the giveaway goes live. Then you just nominate which books catch your eye, and wait to to find out what you’ve won! Super easy.

Other perks? This giveaway is 100% populated by indie books – really good ones. If you’ve been hesitant about trying out indie books, then this is the perfect opportunity to dip your toes in without paying out.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up and give some wonderful indie authors a shot.

Better go sign those postcards.

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Workshop: Standing Out From The Crowd

The second workshop I attended as a part of the Perth Writers Festival, 2014, was Standing out from the Crowd with indie author Susan May. Susan has an incredible story, having only chosen to become a self-published author in the past year. She already has one novel, two short stories and an anthology for sale on Amazon, has almost 40,000 followers on twitter and is the tenth most searched author on Goodreads Australia.

The workshop revolved around marketing yourself as an author – whether traditional or indie. This can be started before you publish your first work, or after you’ve published several. She mostly shared her own experience and stories of her other author friends successes – from modest earnings to the runaway success of Hugh Howie (who she just worked on an anthology with).

Susan was incredibly engaging and inspiring to listen to. A complete go-getter, she’s funny, confident and business minded. A lot of what she said were things I’d heard before in my indie publishing research, but some was new, some gave better insight, and all of it was just really great to hear from a real person – and someone local! – who has braved indie publishing successfully.

As before, here is a summary of my notes. I hope they’re helpful!

  • Treat your writing like a business. Keep up with the industry, know what’s happening, what’s working, what’s no longer effective.
  • Become someone worth discovering. Readers want to connect with authors in a way they haven’t in the past. They want to know you. What’s your brand? What’s your story?
  • Your biography is important. Update it as your career develops. Be positive about yourself, include your smaller achievements until you can replace them with bigger ones. Have you talked at schools? Had any short stories or articles published? Taught a class? Everything counts!
  • Connect all of your social media to your website and author page. Learn to use each effectively. You don’t have to be on twitter, and it’s no longer effective as a selling tool, but it does allow your readers to engage with you and get to know you.
  • Join Kindleboards to get in touch with other authors and share tips and advice on what’s working best at any given time to boost your sales.
  • Your time is valuable – measure it. Time = words = money.
  • Don’t waste too much time on marketing methods that don’t show you a return. If everyone is doing it, there’s a good chance it’s no longer effective. Think outside the box, and don’t forget to think local.
  • Effective free marketing methods include: mailing lists, goodreads giveaways, interviews (radio, television & newspaper, blogs if they have a significant readership in your intended demographic and genre), talks (in schools or universities, at writers festivals, etc)
  • Some examples of ‘Good’ Marketing (i.e. a good return on your time and investment): Local interviews and/or podcasts, price pulsing/sales/free (controlling the price of your books to lure readers), discounted/free first book in a series (most effective when the series is completed, or there is at least a follow up book), mailing lists (linked to via your website, and in your eBook),  group promotions, box sets (joining with other authors of similar genre/demographic to offer a low priced deal, and hopefully sharing and expanding each others reader pool).
  • Some examples of ‘Bad’ Marketing (not a good return on your time or investment): hiring a publicist, any expensive advertising with no promise of a return (paid advertising is less and less effective), blog tours (unless you’ve ensured the blogs have a large readership, and cater to your demographic and genre), guest posts (same again), not getting paid for work in competitions or anthologies (don’t just give your work away).
  • Don’t go crazy with your money. Prioritise what you need to pay for, and find another (legal) way to get what you can’t. Do you know someone good with photoshop? Can you teach yourself to format? It’s not ideal, but you need to do whatever works best for you.
  • If you don’t ask for help or opportunities, the answer will always be no. Put yourself out there. Get in touch with authors you admire, ask local newspapers and radio stations if they’d like to do a piece on you.
  • Prepare a media package (which could also be posted on your website) to provide to anyone prepared to interview or write a piece on you. This makes it easier for them to agree, and easier to get the information about yourself you want out there. This media package could include: a blurb, an article already written about you (which you could write yourself, or have a friend write) featuring quotes, a page with your information, some photos of yourself you own and are happy for them to use in their publication, and a page with reviews of your book.
  • Set short term (yearly) goals for yourself. Deadlines are good incentives.
  • Your books are your best form of marketing. Write a lot of them. Each book increases your chance of sales, and don’t bother with marketing that takes too much of your attention away from your writing. Make each book the highest quality you can.
  • Publish short stories and novellas to support your novel sales. Price them accordingly, or offer them for free. They’ll keep your readers interested in between your novel releases.
  • Put lead ins to your next book at the back of previous novels. Don’t forget, you can edit books after you’ve posted them on Amazon.
  • It’s better to find success on your tenth book than your first.
  • Be cool to your fans.
  • Stay positive, stay creative.
  • Keep writing, and keep focused.

I guess in retrospect it was a very indie biased workshop. Which was great for me, as someone planning to publish her first novel via Amazon in the next few months.

Some people may not agree with everything Susan said, which is okay. She urged us not to follow her own path to the letter, but to go out and find what works best for us and to think outside the box. At the end of the day, there’s no one thing that will work. If there was, we’d all be famous. The most important lesson she left us with, I think, is that our time is our most valuable asset, and not to fall for ‘must do’ lists found everywhere on self publishing advice guides. You don’t have to go on a blog tour to sell books, you don’t have to make a book trailer, you don’t have to be a twitter mogul.

The only thing you have to do is write.

Updates

Congratulations to everyone who won or even attempted NaNoWriMo this year! You’re all superstars. 

I’m back to focusing all my energy on self-editing my own novel, and the break has given me a bunch of new ideas for solutions and improvements. And this time I actually managed to write most of them down before they disappeared again. 

Soon(ish) I’ll be able to start shopping for editors (I believe in tidying your house before the cleaner comes. Metaphorically, anyway. I can’t afford a cleaner. Or a house) which I’m a little nervous and exited about. I have a couple of names to check out, but if you have any recommendations – particularly for anyone specialising in Young Adult – please let me know! 

And after that… well, I guess I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.

On Rejection

It’s a reasonably well known fact that to be a writer (or any other kind of artist) means facing rejection on pretty frequent basis. From the beginner level there’s the rejection from literary agents or publishing houses, and then crushingly negative feedback from editors, and then the (sometimes loud and very mean) rejection by unsatisfied readers and/or trolls.

The most common advice I hear is to learn how to take rejection well. ‘Learn to brush it off,’ they all say, with the confidence that comes with giving the kind of advice you never follow yourself. ‘Don’t let it get to you.’

And to that I say, rubbish.

I’ve never been able to take rejection well, and I’ve never even had the cruel, crushing kind. I’ve always been the almost writer. I make short lists, I get asked to keep in touch, I get the most encouraging, positive, we-think-you’re-so-close rejections you can get. And they still send me into a spiral of self loathing and hours of crying in the bathroom followed by weeks of shame flashbacks.

tumblr_mevysgNJ6j1qazkdco1_500Hell, I’m having one right now. 

And that’s totally fine. Rejection feels awful and you’re allowed to be upset over it. What matters is what you do after you’ve taken the hour, day, week to feel crappy about it. That’s when you have to look at the feedback (if there was any) and see what you can apply to your work to improve yourself. Some of it will be personal opinion, but some (probably a lot) will be valid criticism. You don’t have to take all of it on board, but you are being silly if you don’t really seriously examine all of it and understand why it was given.

Then comes the really hard part: trying again.

Rejection is the scariest part of being an artist (and, probably, life). And it’s even scarier because it’s one of those things we know will happen. Death, Taxes (unless you’re rich, apparently) and Rejection: the three certainties of life.

Hide dogBut unless you want to keep your work to yourself (which is also perfectly okay if it makes you happy) it’s just something you’ll have to face and face badly, again and again.

Let it hurt, and then let it make you better.

Every time.

How To Use Twitter: A Readers Perspective

I’m a big twitter user, and have been since 2008. Since deciding to get myself in gear and write and self-publish my own book, I’ve read a lot of blogs about how to market your indie book. And all of them say the same thing:

Use Twitter.

Which is great advice, because twitter is an excellent platform to get in touch with likeminded – and even famous! – people and exchange thoughts and opinions with them from the safety of your 140 character security blanket.

Unfortunately, I keep seeing people on twitter with something to sell going about it all wrong. And this is not a post by someone who’ll soon join your ranks with authority on the subject from the inside (my first book is still months from seeing the light and I have a grand total of 364 followers) but as an avid reader and twitter user who follows a fair amount of authors – traditionally published and self, famous and… less famous.

So, having spent at least an hour a day on twitter for the past five years (oh dear), I have compiled Some Thoughts that may be helpful for authors hoping to connect with their audience.

1. YOU ARE NOT A SPAM BOT

You know what DOESN’T make a reader want to buy your book? A link to your amazon page. Tweeted again. And again. And again. I’ve seen this mistake made many times before, and I’ve unfollowed every account that’s done it – even if I like the writer and/or their work. And no, changing the tiny blurb does not mask the fact you’ve posted the same link twelve times in one day.

Many marketing blogs will allow you one amazon link tweet per day. I’m going to disagree. One a week. Maybe. If it’s relevant and you’ve hit a personal milestone with sales, or someone’s written a really great review, or you’ve done an interview about it. In which case, post a link to the review or the interview, rather than the amazon site. Readers who have read your book will be happy for you, readers who haven’t yet committed will be much more interested to hear what someone else has to say about it than you do.

Tweeting Links To Your Amazon Page, A Cheatsheet:
1. Put a permanent link in your twitter bio.
2. Tweet it along with all your excitement when you first launch your book.
3. Tweet it when you hit personal sales milestones.

And of course you can tweet about your book (sans linkage) but do it like a normal person rather than a sweet little robot who just wants to learn about love has been programmed with exactly three sentences: Have you read Title Of Book yet? amazonlink.com; Excerpt of book synopsis, check it out here! amazonlink.com; SPECIAL SALE 99c/FREE ONLY AT AMAZONLINK.COM

Seriously, would you want to look at anything that looks like it came straight from a subject header in the depths of your spam folder?

No. You’d delete it, and the person who keeps clogging up your timeline with it.

Which leads me to…

2. YOU ARE A HUMAN PERSON

All of those marketing blogs aren’t telling you to use twitter to sell your work because spam is a scientifically proven path to moving goods, they’re telling you to use twitter because the best way to sell your writing is to sell yourself.

Think about it. How many times have you become more open to watching, say, a movie because you saw an actor on Graham Norton and they turned out to be really likeable? I know I do it all the time, and when I was a young person working behind the ticket counter of a cinema, I heard it about twenty times a day (people above the age of forty-five really like to tell you things).

It’s not that you have to force yourself to be likeable per se (though I’m sure many of you are), but tweet in the way you would normally talk. Put yourself out there a little, allow people into your thought process or your day. Do you like/have animals? Share something funny they’ve done. Same goes for kids. Are you crafty on the side? Post pictures of the awesome things you make! Love to cook? Congratulations! I don’t understand you, but I do want to see pictures of your food.

Amongst these normal people actions, tweet about what you’re working on at the moment, or books you’re currently reading, or thoughts on a TV show you’re completely addicted to. The people who follow you, as an author, are most likely going to be friends and family; fellow writers; and readers. All of them want to hear from YOU, author and person, rather than AUTHOR B. WRITERSON, desperate amazon spam artist.

3. BE NICE TO YOUR FANS

Do you have fans? That’s awesome! Do you have someone who’s expressed mild interest in your work and communicated this to you via a tweet? That’s still pretty great! No luck yet? Well, it’ll come.

The point is, anyone getting in touch with you about your work is good news (bar trolls, but we’re not going to talk about them), as it means you have a READER, or FUTURE READER. So answer these tweets genuinely and with enthusiasm and respect. DO NOT just retweet them to make yourself look popular, or, if you must, make sure you also reply to the tweet. Maybe you can afford to ignore them when you’re a big shot and your fan base is solid, but at this stage you should be thrilled anyone’s actually spent a few dollars and a few hours of their time on your work.

And aside from being polite, it’s good business sense. I’ll admit it, I’m so much more loyal to authors and other celebrities who’ve taken the time to engage with me. And your fans will be too, even if you’re not at celebrity status. By communicating with your readers, you’re telling them that you appreciate their opinion and their time. And they’ll most likely return the favour by continuing to follow you, and by checking out your next book. Not to mention the word of mouth that comes with you being a lovely/awesome person.

4. JUST DON’T BE TERRIBLE

Unless this is the market you’re going for, try not to be a negative person who trash talks other authors, other books in their genre, anything popular just because it’s popular, etc.

I’m not saying you have to be a Carebear and love everything, or that you can’t criticise anything via your twitter account, but avoid being THAT PERSON who hates on everything so much that your opinions become invalid. Unless you can make it funny, it’s kind of a massive turn off.

tumblr_lwn747LtCM1qdlkggThe tumblr unfollow meme applies here.

And there you have it! My very basic guide to Using Twitter While An Author, from the perspective of one person who follows a lot of them.

What are your twitter do’s and don’ts? What makes you follow or unfollow someone?