Tools of the Trade

First posted at YA Books Central.

A painter has their paint brush. A sculptor has their clay. What does this have to do with indie publishing? Just like that painter and that sculptor, a writer is an artist. Artists create. They create beauty, tragedy, the illusion of reality. They show us how things are and how things should be.

As creators, we must use what is available to us – tools of the trade. A lot of this can be said for both indie published authors and traditionally published ones. No matter the size of the publishing house you have behind you, there are certain things you must do for yourself. Writing, for example.

Still, there are some tools that will be used more by indies who must make their own advertising graphics, choose their own Amazon key words, and handle their own marketing. I’ve listed seven of my favorite “brushes” for our form of artistry.

  1. ScrivenerEvery author no matter their publishing path can benefit from this tool and that’s why it’s at the top of my list. It isn’t free, but it is very affordable. Scrivener is a writing program. It’s used in the same way many people use Word, but there are benefits. It’s a bit more stripped down than Word, simple and easy to use. The best part about it is the way it organizes your book. These novels we write can reach into the hundreds of word pages. Have you ever forgotten something you wrote and had to scroll through the entire document to find it? In Scrivener, documents are divided into chapters that you can name and move around at will. They also provide character building templates so you never again have to wonder what color eyes you gave a character in some previous chapter.
  2. Canva Photoshop is expensive and kind of confusing if you ask me. Canva is an online tool that allows you to import images (or buy stock photos from them) and manipulate them, changing colors and adding text, to create ads or promotional images. It’s easy to use even for an image illiterate like myself. I’d be lost without canva.
  3. KDP RocketAre you wanting to write a book that has a jump start in popularity? This is called writing to market and many indie authors are doing it. KDP Rocket is a program that helps identify trends and fads in the marketplace to allow you to jump on board. That’s only one of its many features. It can also help determine which keywords would give your book the largest boost. And have you ever wondered about the kind of money certain books are bringing in? Now you can see exactly how each book in the Amazon marketplace is doing to help you decide which genre you’d like to jump into. It can be fun. The program isn’t free, but it can be worth it for indie published/ self-published authors.
  4. Social media management programs – there are many of these including Buffer andHootsuite. As authors, we’re expected to maintain a presence on so many different platforms that if we aren’t careful, all of our valuable writing time will be sucked away. These programs streamline social media. They allow you to post the same thing across different platforms with a few clicks. You can plan ahead, down to the minute, your posts to Facebook and Twitter. I can schedule an entire month’s worth of posts in about an hour. The small fee is incredibly worth it.
  5. The Emotion Thesaurus – Really, I could put the entire series and the connected website here. The Emotion Thesaurus is a book that has a page dedicated to any emotion you can imagine and describes things like body language of feelings associated with it. The series also contains books for character traits and settings. The website connected to the books is called Writers Helping Writers and has more resources in one place than you can even imagine.
  6. Calibre A completely free ebook management program that I always find some use for. As an indie, you will most likely be sending out your own review copies. Calibre allows you to convert them to any format that is requested from you so they can be read on any device. This has been helpful to me because I also help other authors by reading their work. Many of them send it in Doc format which doesn’t read so well on my Kindle. Instead of having to read on my computer, I can easily convert it to the format I need.
  7. Bookfunnel (or Instafreebie) – Do you send out review copies to your advance team? Do you give away ebooks in large giveaways? Whenever you need to send a book, wouldn’t it be easier to just send a link and then have the reader download the book on any device they prefer? That’s what these sites allow. They also let you collect emails of the people who download your book which is invaluable if you’re focused on building a large Newsletter (which you  should be).

There are so many great resources for writers out there and with the rapidly growing indie publishing industry, more are popping up all the time. None of these replace the best resource available, though. Other authors will forever be the best source of marketing advice and support as well as critiques and cross-author promotions.

The tools are out there to make a go of it in this industry. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to never be afraid to try the new ones that come along. Experiment, see what works for you. Don’t be afraid of technology and never ever think social media is a waste of time. In the crowded market, we need to be everywhere. We must make it as easy as possible for readers to see us and get ahold of our books. As indies, we don’t have the huge teams behind us, but in today’s world, some successful authors are finding they don’t need them.


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Book Review – Alicia Rades

Fire in Frost by Alicia Rades

aliciaThe Story:

CRYSTAL FROST tells herself she isn’t crazy, but sane people don’t see ghosts. As her psychic abilities manifest, Crystal discovers she can see into the future, witness the past, and speak with the dead. Add blackmail to the list of things she never thought would happen to her, and you basically have her sophomore year covered. After spotting her first ghost, secrets from her family, friends, and classmates begin to surface. Uncovering secrets can be dangerous, but giving up means someone will get hurt. Again.

Review:

I really enjoyed this book even thought it’s outside my usual genres. Let’s start at the top. That cover is gorgeous. Made me want to one-click right then. I was expecting something a bit different based on that cover though. That just means it got me out of my usual reading rut and I was glad for that.

Ms. Rades’ style is easy on the brain and flows quite nicely. I was able to read this in two sittings because at no point does it stall or get boring. Crystal is a fun character who is easy to root for and very well developed from beginning to end. She has a great supporting cast of family and friends.

The story itself is an intriguing page-turner of a mystery and I look forward to seeing what the rest of the series has to offer.

stars


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Book Review – CK Dawn

Cloak of Echoes by CK Dawn

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The Story:

Monsters haunt her dreams, but humans are her worst nightmare…

Just as Emma Kincaid came into some disturbing empathic powers, she lost her mother in a car crash. She is also pretty certain she’s being followed, maybe even hunted. But, is it the shadowy creatures that haunt her nightmares or the mysterious guy, shrouded in darkness, who just enrolled at Jefferson High?

The Review:

Sigh. I loved Mattox.

Anway, disclosure, this was the first book by CK Dawn I’ve ever read. So I didn’t already know the world. I didn’t recognize any of the other characters brought in. To me, it was simply about Emma and Mattox. I still loved it.

Emma is still grieving over the loss of her mother as she’s dealing with other people’s emotions weighing her down and also someone or something following her. If that were me, I’d go a little crazy. It’s understandable why she’s guarded around Mattox and takes quite a while to trust him. I loved that he kept trying – even if that was his job. And the fact that he was the only one who could give her peace from other people’s emotions was pure magic.

It’s a good, quick read, with easy-flowing writing. Now I want to dive into the rest of the series.

stars

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Want to stock your e-reader full of fantasy books? Fire and Fantasy includes 22 full length novels, some from bestselling and award winning authors.

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Not only can you get all of these books for $0.99 during the July and August pre-order, but you can be sent TEN other awesome books to tide you over until it’s released.

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Audio-Book Marketing

 

If you’re an indie author, you probably market your own books – unless you’re lucky enough to afford someone to do it for you. This means, unless you’re a little crazy, you probably experience a bit of hair pulling and a whole lot of sighs.

Marketing isn’t easy, especially for authors who’d much rather be creating the books that eventually need to be sold.

Then audio-books come into the picture. How the hell do you move those? The only answer anyone seems to have is that those will sell when you market the ebook.

Hopefully. Not always.

I am someone who has had a lot of trouble moving audio-books despite having absolutely brilliant narrators and pretty well-received stories. One of the problems is that the audio-book market is still in it’s infancy. Yes, they’ve been around for quite a while, but not in download form and not for indie books. This means the market isn’t developed on it’s own. It hasn’t separated itself from the book/ebook market yet.

People buy audio-books because they hear about the book. End of story.

With the ACX production branch of Amazon growing so quickly, an audio-book market is trying to start. It’s sputtering a bit, but there are some tips and advice that every audio-book author/producer should know.

First is that ACX is the branch of Amazon that will bend over backwards to help you. Does that seem strange? It does to me because KDP, the ebook branch, is trying to control their authors more and more and it seems to be harmful to indies. There are so many rules for Amazon published ebooks that the “anything that works” approach to audio-books is a breath of fresh air. It won’t always be like this, but it’s nice at the moment.

ACX WANTS you to trade free audio-books for reviews. The very thing that KDP is trying to stamp out. They even provide you with 25 free audio-book codes to hand out.

Tip 1: ACX may not send you the codes right away. If you email them and ask, they are very pleasant and send them promptly.

Tip 2: Run out of codes? No worries – ACX will send you more. Last time I asked for an extra 10, they sent me 75!!!

Before you get your codes, you have to have an audio-book, right? Well, I don’t have that many tips for you here except that you don’t have to accept the first person that auditions. If you don’t get one you like, or get any at all, go looking for a narrator yourself. I did that for each book in my romance series and found the perfect voices. I had to wait for them to be available, but getting it right is more important than getting it fast.

Back to marketing! (Everything underlined is a link)

Ok, so you have your codes, all your friends hate audio-books, how do you find people that don’t?

Include them in a giveaway – the easiest thing you can do. Your newsletter subscribers and Facebook followers love when you host giveaways. When a blog accepts your audio-book for review, offer to provide a gifted copy for them to giveaway to drive traffic to their site (and their review of your book). Join with other authors to do larger giveaways. Stop worrying about giving it for free. Get as many audible reviews as you can in order to compete with the big boys and girls.

Audio Book Boom – They will find people who will request gifted copies in exchange for review. It costs $15 and there are diminishing returns each time you use it. For each of my books, it was only worth it the first time.

Books with a Groove – The jury is still out on this as it is a new service, but one that is growing. It’s inexpensive price tag makes it worth a shot.

Auda Voxx – There are two free options here. You can donate up to ten codes per book to be used to give your book as a subscription gift to their members. They try to match the book with listeners who enjoy the same genre. The second option is submitting your audio-book for review. Do both. 

Blogs – Find blogs that love audio-books and post on audible as well as their sites.

These blogs below accept submissions for review of audio-books depending on the genre. Make sure you read their preferences before submitting. They may or may not respond depending on their reviewing schedule. 

The Guilded Earlobe
DWD’s Reviews
Elsie’s Audio-book Digest
I am, Indeed
Bookish Things and More
The Audio Bookworm
Swept Away by Romance
eargasms Audio-book Reviews
Bookwormerz
Lost in Literature
Oh My Shelves
Kris and Vik Book Therapy
Lily Element
Under My Apple Tree
The Reading Date
Book Lover’s Life

There are many other things you can do. Facebook/amazon ads may work for you. Many of the bigger audio authors and publishers utilize radio ads. There are sites and magazines that only cost your first born. 

But this is a start! 

It wouldn’t be very prudent of me to write about audio-books without plugging mine (wink, wink). Dawn of Rebellion, Day of Reckoning, and Choices are all available. Eve of Tomorrow, Promises, and Dreams are coming soon! Click on the images to find the audio-books.

5 Things Every Author Should Be Doing

There are so many obvious things we need to be doing as authors – but these are the less thought of items we must have on our to-do lists!

  1. Beta Reading – I’d argue that this is the most important thing on this list. Don’t know what beta reading is? It’s reading another author’s work, typically just before it goes to the editor, and finding things like plot holes, inconsistencies, tense changes, and grammatical errors.

    Why is it important to do this for other writers? Well, the obvious answer is because the people you beta for will typically do the same for you. That’s a major plus.
    Less obvious answer? Because you learn a lot. Believe it or not, as an author, you don’t know everything. If you think you do, then you’re probably in the wrong business. We’re always growing, always improving. The easiest way to learn is to
    look for what someone else is doing wrong. It’s very hard to spot certain problems in our own books, but they’ll jump out at us in someone else’s.
    Beta reading is how you learn about different styles of writing and how to break certain habits.
    My beta readers used to constantly yell at me for using filler words like “had”. It wasn’t until I focused on cutting those words from a friend’s book, that I could see the problem in mine. Habit broken.
    This takes time – a lot of it. I’m not going to lie. I beta read for six or seven people. You usually have to read a Word file instead of an easier eBook. But it’s worth it and every author should invest the time.

  2. Reading Widely – Most authors are also avid readers. I mean, we get into writing because we love books. But more and more frequently, I see author’s mentioning how they no longer have time for it and that’s a shame.
    I’ve always believed reading breeds ideas. That doesn’t mean we copy ideas from the books we pick up, just that it revs our imaginations.
    Here’s where the widely part comes in. Read many genres, many styles. Read first person. Read third person. Past tense. Present tense.
    Basically, if you’re a romance writer and the only thing you read is romance, it makes it harder to breathe new life into the genre. That’s how genres become stale. Ideas are recycled and tropes are formed. So, if you write romance (or any other genre) read romance, but also read fantasy or sci-fi or historical fiction. Just something that is different. Something that will teach you new things or stretch your imagination in a new way.

  3. Network, Network, Network – I hear it all the time. Facebook only takes time away from my writing. You can substitute Facebook for any social media platform. Some authors try to stay away with the exception of interacting with readers.
    Taking the time to interact with other writers is not wasting time. There are many many valuable groups out there that provide advice and tips. They help you stay on top of the ever-changing publishing world.
    But they can also be friends. “But, Michelle, online friends aren’t real friends!” Sure they are! Writing can be a lonely business. Most of the people in our lives don’t understand it. But other authors do. They will be the ones to help you get unblocked or encourage you when the inevitable bad reviews come in. They’ll champion you and celebrate when you hit your sales/reviews goals – because they get it.
    Some of these connections will last many years and turn into very good, deep friendships. Don’t discount it because you think Facebook takes too much time from writing.

  4. Writing reviews for other authors – only on books you read, obviously. But when you do read a book, don’t just put it away and forget about it. You know from firsthand experience how much reviews help. My reviews even turned into a position on the indie team at YA Books Central.
    We’re all in this together, so don’t be hesitant to help someone out.

  5. Putting the pen down – ok, so most of us write on computers, but putting the computer down didn’t sound as good.

    Don’t be afraid NOT to write. This goes against what all the experts are saying. If you want to be overly prolific, then more power to you, but there’s nothing wrong with letting your life get in the way of your writing. Don’t let writing interfere with family time or fun days out. Don’t feel guilty to take a break. That’s how you begin to see it as a chore. Yes, writing is a job, but it isn’t life.
    My writing time has been severely cut because I watch my two-year-old niece twice a 
    week and then see them usually on the weekends as well. But I’m enjoying writing more than ever. I never want to lose my love for it, but I love my family more. Time goes by so fast and you won’t regret the time you didn’t spend writing. You will regret the time missed with family and friends.

    Your best books will come out of your love, your passion, for writing. Your best ideas will come from living your life.