And the ebooks go to…

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I’m just dropping in to let you know that the giveaway has ended, and we have a few winners– eight, to be exact. Congratulations to Olivia, Hailey, Rachel, Marrok, Raechel, Jennifer, Bailey, and Cory! (Whew.) You’ll be getting your ebooks within the next few days.

For those of you who didn’t win this time… no need to feel sad. You can still follow our blogs (there’s a list of them here!) for more bookish goodies and contests. And you’ll definitely want to follow me on Figment, because that’s where I’ll soon be posting journal entries from a certain raiding captain we all know and love… In the meantime, you can still visit the giveaway page to see the list. Be sure to congratulate those who won!

Congratulations and holiday cheers to all who entered; you are the best! See you next time.

He supports your love of champagne. | 31 Reasons We're Addicted To Benedict Cumberbatch

Self-Publishing Part 5: The Dark World of Advertising

Are we already done? This is the last day of the self-publishing Q&A series! Read the previous posts here:

So… what remains? We have, seemingly, covered everything about self-publishing. Or have we?

Our final question is an appropriate one. Olivia asks:

Do you have any tips on advertising your book once it is published?

Rubbing hands together. Evil laugh. Glad you asked! The world of advertising your own books is a dark and scary one, indeed, and a lot of people (myself included) don’t know what to do at first. Do you have to buy a marketing package? Pay hundreds of dollars to Facebook and Google for ads? Host book signings? It’s downright terrifying.

But- ahem- it doesn’t have to be. About a year ago I started the research on this subject, and I came up with one big, yet reassuring, rule for marketing:

Friends are the ones who buy and sell your books. Therefore, make more friends.

Maybe I sound utterly Machiavellian. After all, am I just blogging, tweeting, and even writing stories just for the purpose of making money? Of course not! You see, I only share my ideas and writings because I have something valuable to say. Which brings me to the first thing to know about marketing: if you want to sell anything, you have to actually care about creating quality content that is worth a reader’s time. Write what you love and are good at. If you aren’t writing that stuff now, find a genre in which you can succeed. (I might add that it goes for everybody, too, not just writers… but that’s for another blog.) Now for some practical tips.

First, if you ask any experienced self-publisher what is the best way to grow a network, they will almost always tell you to start blogging. Seriously. You get to practice writing skills, explore new concepts, engage in dialogue with other writers, and meet new writing buddies. And, once people know about your blog and all the cool stuff on it, they are more interested in the other writing you do.

Image result for social mediaNext, use social media. This was a hard one for me, and I’m still not great at it. I had to figure out that on Facebook, images are more likely to catch people’s attention than plain text. I had to track down public domain gifs for Twitter. I had to learn exactly what a hashtag is (and why one always precedes “majestic thorin”). However, it’s starting to pay off. I’ve met other authors and fans, and we share the word about each others’ favorite books. Win-win!

Try Goodreads. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have some experience with this database of books and authors. But did you know that Goodreads also has an author program? Authors can sign up for an account (and link it to Amazon) and upload their own books. This way, you can get word of your book right to your intended audience: real readers. Besides marketing, you can write book reviews of your old favorite classics, search for other authors and books, meet other story enthusiasts, and keep a record of your most recent reads. (Check out the links below.)

Then you can do giveaways. You probably know what these are; I recently did one for Alen’s War. Rafflecopter (see below) is my favorite tool, but I know of other favorites among bloggers. You sign up for a free account- upgrades available- and create your own giveaways, which can be embedded in your blog and shared on social media. The best part? Rafflecopter automatically collects information and chooses winners for you, and all you have to do is send them the prize.

Chat on forums. Introverts, this isn’t as scary as you think, and that is coming from one of the most socially awkward masterminds on the internet. In a forum, you can chat about the things you have in common, discover new interests, argue politely about ideas, and ask for writing advice when you’re stuck. Besides, chatting with other writers is fun once you get to know everyone. (Christian teens, I’d start with the KingdomPen forums- see below.)

Image result for five stars

Ask for reviews. This doesn’t mean you have to chase readers down waving bayonets and torches; just ask your readers to leave you a quick review. For example, when you send an ebook to a giveaway winner, ask them to share their thoughts on Amazon or Goodreads. Or reach out to your blogging friends and let them know about your awesome book (which they might have helped you edit). Readers- fantasy fans in particular- are usually quite willing to rave about a book they loved, and they just need a reminder to tell their friends.

Finally, you can use writing networks. This includes sites like Figment, Wattpad, and CritiqueCircle. We talked about this a few weeks ago. With an account, you can submit stories for critiques and reviews from fellow writers, making friends and editing your work at the same time. Of course, you shouldn’t use these databases as your summer reading list, but you can definitely improve your writing and critiquing skills. Full confession: I’m not very good at this sort of thing yet, but I’m learning. Go ask writefury or Sarah Spradlin for more advice on networks.

Well, that about wraps it up! See, self-publishing isn’t all that scary once you know about it, and in fact it may be the best option for a lot of us new writers. Feel free to ask your remaining questions in the comments, and I look forward to seeing your indie novels on Amazon someday soon.

Want to know more?

General marketing skills: Selling books the old-fashioned indie way

Five-minute book marketing

A month of book promotion, from a writer’s perspective 

Social media: A thorough overview of social media sites and how to use them.

Blogging: Tips for designing a website. I don’t utilize all these tips, but they’re helpful.

Blogging posts from Self Publishing Today

Goodreads: Goodread’s Author Program page

An Unofficial Guide to Goodreads for Readers and Writers

Giveaways: Rafflecopter, my trusty giveaway platform

Forums: The official KingdomPen forums. Seriously, teens, check this one out.

Reviews: Good ways to collect book reviews

Self-Publishing Part 2: Which Way to Go?

Hail and welcome to the second installment of the self-publishing Q&A series! Read Week 1’s post if you haven’t already. This week we are talking about that most formidable of challenges- deciding how exactly you will deliver books to readers once you’ve turned down traditional publishing (or vice versa).

Indie writer Ellyana asks:

Through talking with you I know you work through Createspace Amazon. (Please correct me if something has changed.)

This may be my most-asked publishing question: how exactly do you publish your books? Elly probably remembers asking it some months ago when she was just starting to publish her novel. Yes, I do use CreateSpace (I’ll explain that in a minute), but we have a variety of self-publishing options open to us, and we will look at all of them presently.

But have you ever considered using a Literary Agent for advertisement and the like? And if you know anything about Literary Agents that would be of assistance.

Ooh, here it is- the Agent Question. I confess that I have never been interested in working with one. I did some research and learned that most of them at least are experts who have done wonders for some people, but I also heard that other people have hired agents and regretted it. I decided that, since my goal was to get better at publishing my own books and not necessarily to make lots of money, I preferred to remain my own boss. So I will direct you to indie author Roger Colby: he knows a thing or two about literary agents. (Also check out the links at the bottom.)

Anyway, I happen to have a list of self-publishing options (which, of course, I certainly did not put together just for the sake of this post). We will go through that today and dive into the details next week. Get it? Got it? Good.

First, normal or “true” self-publishing requires you to do your own set-up work, including buying (or making) your own cover, formatting the book, paying for it to be printed, and promoting it yourself. At the same time, you retain all autonomy and control over the process. This, by the way, is what Christopher Paolini did with Eragon. True self-publishers hire a publishing company to print many copies of their book, and then they go around promoting and selling the book themselves. It’s hard and often quite expensive, but I know of some people who swear by this approach. 

Then there’s Print-On-Demand (POD) publishing. POD is a technology that allows the publisher to print books one at a time, as customers order them. This is what Amazon’s CreateSpace does. It’s less expensive than printing hundreds of books at once, but in most services the author has less control over the more detailed processes- after all, the POD company has to keep your files around to print them when necessary. 

Image result for self-publishingThen you have various eBook publishers, Amazon Kindle being the obvious one. Lots of indie authors love this approach. Ebooks eliminate the cost of paper and production entirely, only requiring you to get a book cover and upload your files. Lower production costs result in lower prices and no shipping fees, which means some people are more inclined to buy them. The downsides: Kindle books are cheaper, and while you may sell more of them, you earn less royalty money. And is it worth mentioning that you risk being rejected by a handful of book extremists like this guy?

Finally, some authors publish their works on writing networks like Wattpad or Figment. Even though a lot of people are inclined to overlook it, these networks are a legitimate option if you want to get the word out about your book. They’re basically online magazines crossed with forums. Writing networks allow writers to upload stories or chapters of books that they’re writing and get feedback on their plot structure, characterization, etc. from other authors and readers. And the best part? You can hear from a real audience and make changes even after publishing the story.

While we’re on the subject of options, though, beware of vanity publishers. They will buy the actual rights to your book, meaning that you retain little or no autonomy, and they will publish any book, so they are generally considered less credible. And some of them are downright sleazy, stealing your intellectual property for their own- which is very much illegal. If you do opt to publish with a vanity publisher (which may be fine), do some careful research, and be aware that you may not make as much money.

So… how do you pick just one option? When it comes down to it, you just have to set some goals for yourself. Are you trying to share a good book with other fantasy lovers? Build a following for your business? Become famous?  Once you know what you want to achieve, you can read up on the options and decide what works best for you. Read and research, read and research. My list of resources below should get you started.

Oh, and have fun. Because learning about how writers can speak to the world, increasing the number of wrinkles in your brain, gaining some business smarts, and maybe making new connections along the way isn’t exactly torture.

Do you have a self-publishing question? We all would like to hear it, no matter whether you’re about to publish a book or are simply curious about how your favorite authors do it. Share in the comments!

Want to know more?

AgentQuery. Not just for finding an agent; these professionals have all sorts of good advice on publishing.

A helpful article on all manner of self-publishing 

Costs: How much do you need to pay to self-publish?

Print-On-Demand: CreateSpace’s website, forums and all

Ebooks: Good stuff on the variety of eBook companies

Ebooks: Amazon Kindle’s official site, complete with tutorials and FAQs

Vanity publishing: Get the lowdown on vanity/subsidy publishing

ISBN: Are you buying your own ISBN?

Giveaway Winners

A quick congratulations is in order!

I’ll be sending you your free ebooks on July 28th. Mazel tov!

And thank you to all who entered. Hold out until July 28th… it will be worth it. For now, you can read the first three chapters of Alen’s War on Figment.