Another Writer’s Tip

I’m a bit too lazy to do a whole list of tips in one hit, so I’m just going to post them as they occur to me.

Today’s little ramble is how I increased productivity.

I normally work from home in my purpose-designed study. It has a pretty coral coloured wall, some cute pink and teal cushions, and my tasteful Buddha knick-knacks on the book shelf. I love working there. But! When I have a few days free in a row to work, I start to get a bit too relaxed. I take my time after doing the school drop-off and read the news…maybe read some of the latest book I’m into…sometimes make a second breakfast if my children were particularly crazy that morning and I need to stress eat…and sometimes I don’t get started until 10 or 10.30. Even then, I get easily distracted by Facebook and e-mails.

But today I booked some time at a lovely co-working share space at Peregian Beach (check out DulcieJoCo here!). It’s not really an office – more a creative studio with vintage furniture and lovely artwork on the walls. I stayed there for four hours and worked non-stop on my book. Admittedly, I did check in with a couple of writer buddies for fifteen minutes or so, but otherwise I was solely focused on my current novel. No thoughts of housework…no wondering if there was anything in the cupboard that would satisfy my sugar cravings…and no having a break after half an hour “just because”.

I’m not sure what a normally super productive day would look like at home, but I don’t think it would be anywhere close to getting through 14,000 words of my manuscript, including some brand new content writing and some fairly heavy editing.

It feels a bit indulgent, paying to write somewhere when you have a perfectly good free space at home, but I think the $6 per hour fee was definitely justified, seeing as I got so much closer to the end of the writing process in just half a day.

There were only two other women sharing the studio today, one who I took to be staff, and the other who was a mum like me, escaping the house. It made me feel like I was doing something real and being part of society again – even if I’m currently paying for the privilege.

But the best part was, I came home to a fresh feeling house (I had run around madly tidying up in the morning) and then felt motivated to tackle some of the bigger cleaning jobs I’d been putting off. I even had the energy to do a workout in my living room this afternoon. Plus! I ate less food. I did sit down for a lot longer than normal though, so the jury is still out on the overall effect of that point.

If you can afford it, I highly recommend getting out of the house once a week to work. Even if it’s just to a quiet cafe somewhere. Hopefully any costs you incur will balance out with all the money you’ll be earning sooner from your increased productivity.

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Stuck in the middle…

Last night, after drinking some cider, I decided to do some writing. I am almost done with my fourth novel, but I also have a fifth novel that I find much more interesting right now – but only because I’m not supposed to be working on it until I properly finish the fourth one.

Anyway, I had already written over 1000 words on the fourth one during the day, so I decided to “reward” myself by writing a bit of the fifth one. An hour later, I had bashed out 1500 words. The thousand words I had written earlier took me about two and half hours (with lots of procrastinating in between).

Apart from the obvious fact that I’m further along in the fourth novel and only have the “not fun” stuff left to write, there was one major difference with how I worked during these two sessions.

For the first session, I wrote within the full manuscript at the point in time where that part of the story is supposed to occur. For the second session, I wrote in a blank Word document. And for some reason, that took away a lot of the pressure to get everything perfect. When you’re on the final stretch of writing a novel, you can get bogged down by trying to remember everything that needs to go into that particular scene. But sometimes, it’s completely new content, and you need to treat it like a first draft. Putting it in its own document helps free you from that feeling of helplessness that makes you think you’ll never finish your book in a way that is satisfactory to your vision.

(And while I do not advocate drinking to achieve your objective, I wonder if the alcohol might also have relaxed my brain enough to release my creative energy. I’m sure the image of the alcoholic writer of old has some basis in reality, although I personally advise doing everything in moderation.)

Marketing Your Book

I’ve finished writing my book. Now what?

This is a massive topic to cover, so I’ll just be touching on a bit of everything for now. If you want to know anything else, please send me a message, and I’ll do my best to answer.

I’ve noticed since publishing my most recent novel, I haven’t been able to find one resource that explains everything I want to know (unless you sign up for some sort of paid course) – so I thought I would have a go at compiling some of the resources I’ve found – sort of for my own benefit, but hopefully for yours too. You can go very deep into the rabbit hole if you’re not careful, so I’ll try and keep things simple and practical.

Proofing / Editing

This is kind of the first logical step after writing your book. You need at least a few people to read it for you so you can get feedback before releasing it to the public. I had a bit of a hierarchy of people I submitted my latest novel to:

  • My two critique partners: I met one a few years ago in an online course that was run through the QLD Writer’s Centre, and I was introduced to the other through her. I talk to them online nearly every day, where at least 50% of what we discuss is writing! They were the first to read the book because I trusted that they wouldn’t laugh and poke fun at me if I got something wrong.
  • Friends and family: I then sent pdf copies of my book to a bunch of girlfriends on Facebook, prefacing the message by telling them I wouldn’t be pressuring them to read it or follow up. I didn’t get a huge response, but the few that got back to me were very positive, which is always nice. I think there’s always the issue of them worrying they’re going to offend me if they say anything bad, so I mostly rely on this group of people for very broad feedback.
  • Impartial beta readers: I had heard great things about Quiethouse Editing in the US, so I paid for two of their beta readers to read it two months before release. I was very happy with the result (and I actually joined them as a beta reader after that!). They usually make comments throughout your manuscript and then complete a detailed questionnaire at the end. They may also write you a review on Goodreads or Amazon once you release.
  • NetGalley: This is where you can offer your book to readers for free before releasing it to the public (in the hope of obtaining an honest review). I scheduled this through Xpresso Book Tours a month before it was due to go on Amazon. If you go through NetGalley directly, it can get a bit pricey, so I opted to use Xpresso’s account (which was $60US). I ended up with around 15 requests, but only three reviews so far. HOWEVER, as a result, I got a few other little bonuses:
    • The lovely Jade at weheartwriting.com contacted me and asked if I would like to do a guest post on their site. After it went online, I was contacted by a fellow chick-lit author who started reading my stuff!
    • Everyone who saw the cover liked it (you can see this information on your NetGalley listing).
    • I got to be posted alongside two of my all-time favourite authors: Jane Green and Jill Mansell. (That was really just an ego boost more than anything else!)

After that, you should have a fairly good idea of any changes you need to make. At this stage, you may feel you need a content or line editor to help polish up the final product. Two recommendations are Tamyka at C Word Creative (she’s based in Australia) or Starr at Quiethouse Editing (based in the US).

Covers

I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but it sort of goes without saying that your cover is pretty important. If you don’t have any design expertise, you are better off paying someone to make one for you. But depending on your technical abilities and budget, you have a few different options. As the guys at Sterling & Stone said, you should pay for the most expensive cover you can afford. I’m a graphic designer, but I’m even thinking of hiring someone else to do my next one (because it’s hard to look at your own stuff objectively!).

  • Canva.com is helpful if you have a tiny bit of design knowledge and just want an e-book cover – you can choose from ready-made layouts and change the colours and text accordingly. You can also add images – most will cost you around $1US. You can also upload your own images. Pexels.com has some good free images, but you can also buy them relatively cheaply from sites like bigstockphoto.com.
  • Goonwrite.com has pre-made covers you can order for around $45US or less. You just give them your title and other details and they will slot it in.
  • If you want something a bit fancier, try someone like okaycreations.com or joshuajadon.com.

There are also sites like Fiverr or 99Designs that you can look at, but you might find that what you ask for isn’t quite what you get.

Title / Blurb / Synopsis

I’m not sure if this is the right place in the process to mention it, but if you haven’t done so already, you need to put some effort into these three items.

With your title, think about whether it accurately depicts your story. Also, go on to Amazon and look up your book title to see if anyone else has it. The same goes for your pen name. You want to have as little competition as possible.

You should also have a couple of blurbs done. One that is one or two sentences long – you can use this for marketing purposes down the track (if you’re lucky to get accepted by one of the big promo sites like Bookbub). And one that outlines the story without giving too much away (usually a few paragraphs).

The synopsis can be around 1 – 4 pages, and can be used when applying for competitions or to agents if you decide to go down that avenue. You should probably have your synopsis done by the end of the first draft at the latest, so you can use it to see how the story fits together and make any relevant changes in later versions.

Actually publishing

To start out, you might want to keep things simple and just release through Amazon. You can sign up for a free CreateSpace account and download their templates to set up a paperback copy – or pay them to do it for you. You can then order proof copies to be posted to you (you only pay a few dollars per copy), or you can review online before you make it live. Keep in mind that postage times can be lengthy if you’re not in the States, and you also have to wait a day or two after each revision if you need to fix a typo or add anything to your book.

Amazon makes it easy to transfer to the Kindle program from here*, so once your paperback is approved, they will automatically convert the files for you and guide you through signing up to KDP (you obviously don’t have to do this if you’re not ready). In here, you can decide whether to enrol in Kindle Unlimited or not. If you do, you can’t release on any other non-Amazon platform, but you will be able to run free promotions for up to five days in every 90. It also allows people to ‘borrow’ your book – and depending on how many pages they read, you will get a proportion of a big royalty pot each month from Amazon. I have found I often get higher royalties from there than from actual sales.

Some people choose to ‘go wide’ and publish on Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Google as well. They usually do this once they have a few books out and if they’ve found they’re not getting great results from Kindle Unlimited. (You might want to check out forums like kboards.com if you’re interested in finding out more about this.)

*You can also go directly to Kindle if you don’t want to publish a paperback, but if you add one later, it takes a while for them to link up online. You might have to contact support to do it for you if it doesn’t happen automatically within a few days.

Marketing

Here is the crazy part. There are sooo many ways to go with marketing – and you can spend a lot of money for very little return if you’re not careful.

It’s probably important to work out what you want to achieve from marketing – do you want to build a mailing list? Get reviews? Make money? All three?

I’m about to do a three day freebie on Amazon through Kindle Unlimited, so I’ll post my results at the end, but these are some of the sites I’m advertising with (it sounds silly, but these days you need to pay money to tell people about a book you’re giving away!):

I have another promo scheduled for July with BookGorilla and Book Basset as well because they didn’t have any availability for the first one.

I was declined from some of the sites I applied to, probably because I only have one review on Amazon right now (at least it’s five stars and it’s not someone I know personally!). These were Bookbub, Robin Reads and E-Reader News Today.

The main thing I hope to get out of this is some good reviews and exposure, which will hopefully lead into paid sales. I have three books out (although one is a different genre to the other two, so I’m not sure about cross-promoting it), and I hope to generate some sales for those too.

Something I’ve been experimenting with over the past few days is Facebook ads. I’m not confident I’m doing them right yet, but if you want a quick intro, check out Mark Dawson’s site at http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/ – he offers three free videos that introduce you to the basics if you want to build a mailing list. There is a more in-depth paid course, but I haven’t looked into that yet.

Making money

This is what everyone wants to know, isn’t it? I made some decent money on my first book, but I put that down to the fact that it was 2011 and hardly anyone was doing giveaways back then. My first giveaway resulted in 18,000 downloads (I actually had a whole bunch of sites advertise my book for free without me even knowing!), but then I got a few thousand paid sales in the month after that because my Amazon ranking went up. I have since heard that your paid ranking doesn’t change after a freebie anymore, so I’ll let you know how I fare this time around.

The general consensus at the moment is that you need to have a series (or two, or three!) and then mark the first one as permanently free so that readers get a taste of your work. Then, if you land a Bookbub ad, you often get a lot of flow through to sales of your other books. Once you have completed your series, you can package it into a bundle and then sell that at a discounted price to what it would cost for someone to buy all the books separately.

Other things to try include adding sample chapters of your other books at the end of each book, and offering a free book to people who sign up to your mailing list. You can use Mailchimp to build your mailing list through your website, and Book Funnel to send out links to your free book. Book Funnel is not free, but if you’re going to do a few giveaways, it’s very reasonable and keeps things tidy. If you’re running a Facebook ad for lead generation, you don’t need Mailchimp, but it doesn’t hurt to have another place for readers to subscribe if they go to your website.

Connecting with other writers

I have found quite a lot of good information from the Writer’s Café at kboards.com about marketing. Also the Kindle (KDP) forum. Through kboards, I have met a few other writers who are making a decent living from writing, and so I occasionally write to them to get advice.

So that’s it for now! Hopefully some of these links are helpful. I’m constantly trying to figure out the best way to get my name out there, but there’s not really a magic formula. However, it seems to me that if you put in the effort, it will eventually pay off.

If you want to share tips or ask me anything, please send me an e-mail at kirsty@kirstymcmanus.com.au.

Thanks for reading!

How I’m Surviving Nanowrimo

I’m just over half-way through Nanowrimo, and so far I am loving it! I’ve managed to write almost every day, or have done more on either side of missed days to keep to my target.

This year has felt easier than last year (which I finished but with a slightly stressful last few days), and infinitely easier than the years before that (which I didn’t finish at all). My story has expanded so much that I might not even need to start a new story at the end to make up the required 50,000 words. My original goal was 84,000 (to match my previous first draft) but I’m already up to 88,000 and I still have a few chapters left to write.

Recently, I have discovered a few helpful ideas and tools that I will now share with you on the off chance that they might also be helpful to you.

Continue reading

Bookbub

I don’t know if it’s just me, but sometimes I struggle to find something new (and good) to read on Amazon. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to use my writer’s knowledge to solve this problem. While searching for ways to promote Dismissed, I came across Bookbub. It is the one site that I hear spoken of highly (consistently) amongst independent authors. As a writer, you apply to have your book advertised with them when you are running a special or a freebie, and they promote it on their site and through a daily e-mail to their subscribers. This almost always translates into higher Amazon rankings and more paid sales afterwards.

The reason this site is so successful is because they only advertise a small percentage of the books that are submitted. Only the decent ones make the cut.

While I haven’t yet applied to have my book listed, I decided to sign up as a reader and see what kind of stuff is on there.

So far, it’s been really good. I’ve received four of the daily e-mails and downloaded four books already – a couple of them free and a couple discounted to 99c. I’m part way through my first one and loving it (review to come). Some of these books have insane numbers of positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, which makes me wonder why they need more exposure, but I’m not complaining.

So next time you’re looking for something new to read, check out Bookbub. And let me know if you find an awesome story that you’d like to recommend!

 

Take Off Your Pants…


No, this is not the name of a new erotic fiction novel. It’s a great little book by Libbie Hawker about outlining a novel. I’m in the process of reworking my latest project using this formula, so I’ll let you know if it does in fact make the whole writing task easier. But I’m pretty happy with what I’ve read so far. If you want to grab a copy, click here!

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Romance Writing Structure

Even though I’ve written two novels, I still feel a bit clueless when it comes to structuring one. I find the middle particularly hard to deal with, especially when trying to incorporate a romantic relationship into the story. So I went hunting and found this cool post about the seven story beats in a romance novel: http://kayedacus.com/2008/04/28/writing-the-romance-novel-the-seven-story-beats/

Hopefully it will inspire you and help you develop a stronger and more consistent story.

An awesome resource…

I have just discovered the Writer’s Café at Kboards, which has a great community of indie authors. They even have an Aussie Writers thread: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,158050.0.html

The people there are all very friendly and helpful in terms of sharing advice, and I hope to relay some of it here as I navigate this very crazy world of self-publishing in 2015.

I’ve only been back in the marketing side of things for a few weeks, but so far it’s been a bit overwhelming. It’s made me realise I know almost nothing about this business, and that I have a lot to learn!