Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 1 Pre-Release

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One month to go. You are almost there with comprehensive pre-release strategy that will have your book come out of the proverbial gates a-swingin’! To date we have broken down what to do each month leading up to your book’s launch date, including media kits and contact procedures, arranging for public speaking events, internet presence with social media, organizational methods, graphic design and branding, and interpersonal relationships.

There is no easy way to say this, even with all the hard work you’ve put in so far, the months right before, during, and immediately after your launch are absolutely critical for your book success. History has shown in the traditional publishing industry that book sales are strongest in the first 90 days after release. It will be your measuring stick; and it has also proven to be the time when most books reach bestseller status. Even if that isn’t your goal, it certainly can’t hurt and, when dealing with traditional publishers, can show a strong presence enough to get your book on limited shelf space in stores.

In this section, to make sure you have as strong a start with your book release as possible, we will cover the following:

  • The media blitz
  • Tour scheduling
  • Street teams

The media blitz

You have a strong media list curated if you’ve followed Parts XXXXXXX on my blog. You have the press release polished and snazzy. You have your one-two punch media pitch. Now it’s time to put it all into action. Pitches and press releases should be sent out approximately four to six weeks before your launch date. While we know the world works in lightspeed paces, it takes real time for a reporter to cover a story, including working with their and your available schedules. If you start at the six week window, I recommend follow up reminders and additional releases weekly to keep on their radar.

Radio/Podcasts

Hosts often plan their guest appearances a few weeks in advance. This includes podcasts. They’re busy people, and they have their own marketing pre-release they have to account for. You will most likely need a combination effort with emails and phone calls to get a guest spot. I’ve found it often takes six or more contacts before you get the host’s attention without being too annoying.

The prep work for radio and podcasts is easy. Make sure your voice is well modulated; if you’re a heavy breather or throat-clearer, make sure to avoid doing so. It’s okay to have someone record you in advance like a mini-interview and then listen to yourself so you don’t sound awkward. Since I’m profoundly hearing impaired, I’ve had friends record me and listen to the recording on my behalf to make sure I don’t do things I might be missing. The same feedback can be helpful for normative hearing people too. Every little bit helps. The best audio tip to give about doing a radio/podcast interview is to remember to smile. It will make your host more comfortable with you (if you are in studio) and will make your voice sound open and friendly. The best preparation tip I can give is to have your top two or three points written down in front of you. Radio (and often podcasts) aren’t long, and they often have multiple guests. You may not get a lot of time to talk so make sure you get the most out of your time with the most important information.

TV

Television can seem daunting. The camera is terrifying to many. Especially writers who are often introverted by nature. But you can use the fact that television is visual to your advantage, even if you don’t like the spotlight.

Find visuals that relate to your book. Depending on your book’s nature, you might be able to do some sort of “show and tell,” have photos or illustrations. For instance, if I was to write and promote a book around my blog posts 8 Tips for Shopping Thrift Stores and 5 More Tips for Shopping Thrift Stores, I could have models demonstrate the “do’s” and “don’ts” of thrift store-found fashion. Just ensure that you clear everything in advance with the production team and host who will need prep time to set the stage and react.

Even if you don’t have anything more to go along with your book, being an engaged and enthusiastic guest is good TV. Read a little on how best to dress for the program (or ask the stage manager), and then just do what you do – tell a story, only the story is how entertaining or impactful to others’ lives you and your work will be.

Tour scheduling

Again, you’ve done the work: media lists and scheduled interviews, set book signings, and planned for live events – now it’s time to promote them! Check with radio stations/podcasts about advance promotion of events; many will. Most bookstores promote who is going to be there well in advance with in-store signage; maybe you can even get them to put you on their marquee out front along the roadside. In addition, many bookstores air or publish their own press releases, send newsletters, and do special promotion to VIP members. Conferences and conventions always promote on their websites, even if you’re not a big name celebrity, in the program, and on advance PR.

Let’s face it, like authors, some venues promote better than others. Some do virtual zero promotion. You must remember to ask what promotion efforts they have planned. If they don’t have press releases planned, offer one you’ve written. Tell them they’re welcome to use it on their website and social media as well. Do you have a blog following? Promote there. Keep your signing and speaking schedule posted on your website’s homepage, put it on social media, send it to relevant websites before, during, and after your events. Get your street team (that we’ll be discussing shortly) to get involved however they can.

Keep media releases of different lengths. You want one that covers your whole engagement schedule. You also want short announcements for each event. The media isn’t likely to pick up every event, unless you’ve made some sort of impression on them, but overall odds are good that many releases will get some level of coverage.

Friends who blog? Ask them to mention your upcoming events if their readers are in your target audience. Keep the upcoming events in front of your own readers by making them part of your regular newsletter. Keep it relevant on social media by updating frequently. Post it at places like Shelfari and Goodreads on your profile. Certainly have it available on your Amazon or Barnes and Noble profiles.

At every interview, mention where you’re going to be next. I always mention my next event and the one following that, especially if the first date is close to the interview air date. That way people have two chances, and someone who goes “Darn. I’m not available on such short notice” will have a second option that is further down the road to attend. Keep those interviews linked on social media, website, and blog. Helping to drive continual traffic to the host’s or reporter’s site by posting your interview links is an easy and good way to thank them.

Remember to set up Google Alerts to let you know when your name and book title are posted anywhere on the web. It will be important to know how your information is getting out there and beneficial to see who is the most effective at distributing it. Doing so will allow you to streamline your communications going into the future. That’s not to say to cut out traffickers that weren’t the best, but you can reach out to them later and prioritize your go-to promoters first.

Street teams

This is an older term that stems from radio. Radio stations used to have interns flood the market with flyers and promotional items. Don’t we just wish we had that kind of manpower and budgeting? Well, in part, you do. At least the manpower.

Do you have a handful of good friends and supportive family members that can be counted on? Who had read your manuscript before it was published? Often times an author can count on their beta readers as the basis for their street team. From there, you can build outward. But first you have to take a little bit of time to train your street team on what it means and how they can help you.

Establish willingness

“You must always ask; never assume.” Just because a beta reader had time to read and critique your manuscript prior to publication doesn’t mean they will have time to join your street team. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. To incentivize street team members you can always offer something: a signed, advance-review copy of the book is often appreciated, a small gift that relates to your book, even tee shirts. Sometimes the team members just likes be the “first to know.” Every team is different.

Establish tasks

This is what you need. Typically, it’s best to ask street teams to complete easy, inexpensive tasks like:

  1. Ask local stores to carry your book and contact you for a signing;
  2. Request their local library branches purchase your book;
  3. Write early, positive reviews of your book on Amazon or favorite online seller, submit reviews to relevant blogs, and post to social media;
  4. Put up advanced flyers and posters about upcoming events at coffee shops, universities, or other popular hangout places;
  5. Attend your events, often acting as a “plant” to ask questions, start conversations;
  6. Invite people, especially their friends, to your events;
  7. Call in during radio or podcasts with questions;
  8. Suggest your book to local book clubs;
  9. Provide a gift of your book (maybe one that you provide to them) to influential people they know;
  10. Talk your book up with people they know!

Some people balk at the concept of “plants” in an event’s audience, but there is nothing unethical about having people who genuinely enjoyed your book in the audience at events. Thinking of it from the big marketing point of view. Companies give out free samples and trial sizes all the time in hopes people will talk up and also buy more of their product. That is all a good street team does in essence: they talk up your product and get people buying!

 

Okay. So we have covered what to do in the month prior to your book launch. If you’ve followed the steps each month then you should have a comprehensive book marketing strategy that will blow the roof off your book release.

 

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
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Step-By-Step Self Publishing on Kindle: Book Formatting

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BC Brown Books Kindle Self Publishing Book Formatting

We’ve covered how to establish a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account and how to set your product pricing and royalties in the Getting Started post and we’ve talked in more detail about the individual product details in the Book Basics post. With all that great information, you’re ready to go, right? Except…wait, what is your product?

If you’re reading this I’m to assume you’ve written a book.The question remains: have you formatted it for upload? Book formatting isn’t as simple as uploading a Word document. Don’t despair however. It isn’t hard either. With a few easy steps you can make sure your book is professional quality when your reader opens their Kindle and sees your work.

Preparation for publication

Many writers choose to write in chapters which affords editing ease and also reorganization. Like many other authors, I don’t write in a linear fashion, instead relying on a mixture of plotting and scene “stitching” that often has me jumping from place to place in a novel. Doing so would be impossible to keep in one text document, no matter the format, so I keep each scene or chapter in separate documents that can be readily accessed.

When it comes to prepping your novel formatting, you need to put your edited document in a single file from start to finish, front cover to back cover. A lot of writers find that the successful conversion format is a Word document that has been saved as an HTML document. You can do that using the “Save As” command in Word. Doing this will keep any embedded files in the document fixed in their proper spot. No one wants a weird chapter heading illustration jumping about in the final document upload. In this same regard considering any columns or tables in the document formatted as text or graphic images. (Be advised: if you are unfamiliar with graphics programs, stick with the text format or work with someone who has design knowledge.)

Kindle books following their own page formatting, especially as readers come in different shapes and sizes, so be sure to remove any page numbers or references to page numbers. Footnotes (if necessary) should be replaced with hyperlinks that navigate readers to another section of your document like an End Notes page. If writing non-fiction, hyperlinks embedded directly in your text is very useful since Kindle includes basic web function. If you use this feature however I’d warn readers somewhere at the book’s front matter that navigating away to the websites may slow their device.

Acceptable formats

KDP accepts the following file formats for upload:

  • Microsoft Word (.doc)
  • Adobe (.pdf)
  • HTML (.htm or .html)
  • Plain text (.txt)
  • Zipped HTML (.zip) – useful for HTML documents with images
  • Mobi (.mobi or .prc) – Mobipocket file

Word and Adobe seem to be the most commonly used file formats, although Mac Pages is up and coming. Plain text (.txt) once uploaded allows you to preview the document before saving. Amazon does recommend you upload the work in a single HTML file. If unfamiliar with that process, you can use the “Save As” function and choose the HTML format. When using Plain Text, remember that Kindle will automatically re-size and re-order the text. Amazon recommends using little formatting in text files and even using as few hard returns, or hard line breaks, as possible. In my experience, I shy away from using PDF. Amazon does not guarantee the conversion quality of PDFs.

Graphics and images

For most writers this will primarily concern cover art and back cover art. However there are a number of authors who choose to include graphics within the book itself. Fantasy is a prime example. Many authors will upload a chapter heading graphic, such as a House coat of arms or a themed graphic.

Kindle will allow the following graphic formats:

  • Joint Photographic Experts Group or JPEG
  • Bitmap or BMP
  • Graphic Interchange Format or GIF
  • Portable Networks Graphic or PNG

Cover images however can only be in TIFF or JPEG format.

Always remember rights when selecting art and illustrations for your book. Some authors will use images found on the internet, but I caution against that. Unless you have downloaded the content with a full rights release from a reliable source, stick to images you’ve created or purchased (again examining the usage rights you are entitled to). Remember that just because you’ve purchased artwork does not mean you have full use of it.

Basic image formatting guidelines
  • Imagines larger than 450 by 550 pixels will be resized
  • Image files must be 64kb or smaller with aspect ratio of 9 to 11
  • Increase an image’s sharpness slightly but not too much
  • For a full-page image on Kindle, resize it to 450px by 550px

Book covers

Well, what is there to say about this except…your book needs one. Unless you have some considerable skill in graphic design, you should hire a professional cover designer. I know many of you are thinking But I can’t afford that! No fear, there are dozens of professional cover art sites with stock cover arts you can use. I particularly enjoy SelfPub Book Covers. Inexpensive, a large portfolio you can select by genre or surf by artist, and they pull the cover art out of rotation once it is purchased, guaranteeing you a unique cover.

Upload and preview

With these few tips you are well on your way to formatting your book properly and uploading it into Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). All that is left is to try the upload and preview the document, from start to finish, to make sure there aren’t any discernible issues. If there are, identify them and go back to your document to double check. Then simply repeat. Do this as many times as possible ensure your upload is a professional quality as possible. Keep in mind that people will not only judge you on your writing and marketing abilities, they will also judge your work on its quality of appearance.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
 

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane                           

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Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 2 Pre-Release

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Photo: Notebook with checklist and hand checking off the list.

The countdown is getting close! Are you able to breathe? Hopefully with the homework we’ve laid out in Months 6, 5, 4, 3 of the pre-release plan, the only nervousness you feel is the excitement of your new book almost ready for a booming and successful start! This month is all about “priming the pump” so to speak for advance sales.

This month we’re going to concentrate on:

  • Article directories
  • Press Releases
  • “Push” pages

Article Directories

Remember that in order to catch peoples’ attention, you have to be visible. The best way for a writer to increase their visibility (not to mention increase inbound links to their website, therefore increasing search engine results) is to have name recognition everywhere. That means contributing articles online. You can easily capitalize on any membership sites you belong to. Doing so increases your membership’s community library and helps establish yourself as an expert. (Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be about writing or publishing. Any expertise can be linked back to your website, which will promote your book when it releases.)

There are also a number of articles directory sites. Articles directories are super easy ways for your articles to find their way into blogs, newsletters, and other sites. With these directories, you retain full attribution and gain links to your websites. Posting your articles for free is sometimes the quickest way to have people pick up on your material for redistribution among their blog, newsletter, or website. While the effort won’t be directly compensated, the exposure to different networks can be amazing. Most directories allow you to track your articles so you can ensure the poster does properly attribute you and provide a link to your information (like your website, book link on Amazon, etc). Sometimes your articles can even end up in publications around the world, increasing your visibility and establishing your expert status.

If you’re like me, the thought of writing “how-to” articles as a fiction writer was daunting. But, as you can see, as a writer, no matter that genre, you are an expert in writing, at the very least. From my own trials and errors (many, many errors!! Oy vey!) I learned how to market myself and my books better, and a lesson learned is something that can written and submitted!

 

Press Releases

All right, the time has come to put together your book’s press release. I recommend completing on main release, then all you need to do is tweak the first paragraph a bit here and there for other releases. The “tweaking” allows you to tailor it specifically for types of publications you want to target.

But I’m a fiction writer! you’re thinking. No worries. So am I, but a press release is easy. Think of it as backwards storytelling. In fiction we start with the broad and tailor down to the specifics. In press release writing, we start with the specifics and supply the filler information. So your “who, where, when, what, and why” information is at the top. Make sure to include a headline and lead sentence to “hook” the readers, just like you did when writing your back blurb. (Example: New Book Provides Step-By-Step Book Marketing to Authors). Don’t make the mistake of focusing on you as the author (example: BC Brown Launches New Marketing Book). The writer isn’t as important in the headline as catching the reader’s attention. The first sentence needs to hook the reader with what is new, original, or hmmm….weird about your book. Then hit ’em with the book title, release date, publisher, and author name. Head into the next paragraph with a one-line recap of the book’s content. The best is if you can focus on how to book solves a problem or introduces a useful process. If the book is fiction, then you need to highlight how your book is different or original from the others on the marketing, and your one-line recap should be a plot summary. Then add on your credentials.

You head into the next paragraph with any special launch events, media appearances, and book tour signings. Don’t forget to give accolades to your publisher or distributor (if you have one). I tend to give my editor a little shout out here also. Definitely include how your book is available – online, in bookstores, and/or through your website. If self published, it’s best to not mention that fact. It’s unfortunate and unfair but a lot of stigma is still tied to self publishing. Although many indie authors are making strides toward bettering the image in quality of work and expertise, it isn’t quite there yet.

Last paragraph should include your website information, push page (which we will discuss next), and contact information so interested stores or media outlets can follow up with you. Successful press releases are limited to around 200-300 words. Keep sentences short, use active verbs, and keep the focus on what the book delivers for the reader, not on the book itself. Your credentials should always show how your experiences is beneficial to the reader. Make sure to double-check for typos. You wouldn’t believe how many press releases have come across my desk with errors in the email or phone number for an author – yikes! (A useful hint is to read your press release backwards, starting at the bottom of the document and reading it one line at a time to the top. The break in continuity will keep your brain from “filling in the known gaps” and glaring errors should present clearer.)

Traditional media outlets are still sticklers for what they consider “professional submission guidelines.” And let’s face it, the traditional media outlets still dominate the landscape for news. Make sure you follow the traditional press release format. Here is the example I used for my novel, A Touch of Darkness:

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Glorious Bastards Press 555-555-5555

A Touch of Darkness Revitalizes Gritty Noir with Dark Humor, Realistic Police Procedural, and Touching Humanity

     Mattoon, IL—A Touch of Darkness, An Abigail St Michael Novel, the newest title by fantasy author BC Brown, catapults into the modern-day, alternative reality of mysticism and madness with Abigail St Michael, former cop and psychic consultant.

A Touch of Darkness opens in the midnight world of psychics and serial killers with the death of a child, washed in the shadows of night and the alternating red and whites of police lights. Abbey St Michael is forced to confront an evil on her doorstep that may be closer than she ever realized. With her unique brand of dark humor and sarcastic wit, she struggles to catch a killer while not getting caught herself.

BC Brown’s first work, the dark fantasy Sister Light, Book One: Of Shadows and published under the pen name BB Walter, burst onto the sci-fi/fantasy scene first as short fiction and then expanded by request of fans for a full-length printing. Sister Light then went on to repeated sold out signings while on book tour and earned high praise from reviewers and readers alike. In A Touch of Darkness, Brown has brought all the sweeping vision of epic fantasy to contemporary paranormal mystery with an added noir grittiness and realism evident in its market pre-sales.

A Touch of Darkness is published by Glorious Bastards Press, a new author collaborative imprint. The Abigail St Michael Novels are distributed in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster. Learn more at www.bcbrownbooks.com.


When submitting your press release make sure to embed it in the body of your email. Do not attach it as a document. Understandably reporters are uneasy about opening attachments for fear of viruses. Many firewalls are built to keep out attachments for that reason. You should always include a personal note to the correspond in an effort to build personal relationships. Keep it brief however. I usually start with a line or two about one of their recent articles I’ve read. Just remember to be sincere, actually read the article. Then wrap it up with a polite note asking their consideration for your release.

Don’t forget about all the paid and free press release distribution services. The paid ones range in price. I’ve seen them go from inexpensive to costly, depending on their presence and distribution, plus bonuses that can be added. I’ve used PR Newswire in the past. Free sources I like to use are OpenPR and 24-7PressRelease. There are numerous others, and I suggest doing a little websurfing to see one that fits you best.

Why press releases? Every release that gets picked up online will drive traffic to your website and the push page we’re about to discuss. It also helps boost search engine results, creates buzz about your book, and builds visibility about you as an expert. Don’t forget to use your press release when emailing bookstores too. Their PR person will be able to use it in their marketing when setting you up for book signings and events. Always notify media personally of events when you’re going to be in the area as well. And don’t forget about capitalizing on the “homegrown” aspect – let local professional association publications, alumni magazines, community event publications – know about your book and who you are. You’re a celebrity now!

Push Pages

A push page is an industry term that allows for online pre-sales of your book. This can be done even if you are self publishing by creating a pre-order button on your website.

Most commonly used in non-fiction, push pages are becoming popular in genre fiction work as well. Typically push pages (for fiction) use pre-ordering by offering bonus materials, such as a short story in the same genre etc. It can be anything really (audio recordings, swag, etc) from the author. The point is an incentive to commit to and purchase the book prior to its launch. Another fun way to market (and grow your audience and author network) is to ask other authors to cross promote with you. You can ask them to offer an excerpt or downloadable chapter, article, discount (anything) to your launch. Just remember that you want similar content without competing messages. This can work especially well if you and an author friend have opposite publication schedules. Also, ensure you have a way to fulfill the cross-promoted material (or the material you are providing) so everyone gets what you’ve promised.

To recap: this month you should be working on article directories and submissions to them, press releases to be sent out, and push pages for pre-release sales. If you haven’t yet, you should make sure you have bookmarks, business cards, posters, and book “fliers” designed and ordered. Send out your press releases and review copies. Contact bookstores to schedule those important signings. Start scheduling conventions and conferences for speaking opportunities and signings.

During all of this, make sure you update your spreadsheet with notes as to who you’ve contacted, when, and responses received. This includes media, reviewers, and book stores. Make notes about personality, outcomes, and overall experience. You can work with those who are willing to work with you instead of against you by keeping accurate notes. And it will save you a lot of time in the future! I also consider what “swag” I will be giving away at future events. In the beginning, I suggest keeping it small: bookmark with some type of giveaway (I suggest a short story download), maybe pens or magnets, candy). Keep it simple and small at first. Find ways to tie it to you or your book when possible.

Okay, well that wraps up your 2 month pre-release. You are well on your way to a successful launch if you’ve followed the steps laid out. Remember, by following each of these little by little you save yourself a lot of last minute stressing and initials sales that may be discouraging, to say the least.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
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Step-By-Step Self Publishing on Kindle: Book Basics

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Book creation is as easy at 1, 2, 3.

We talked about foundation of your Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) adventure in my previous post Step-By-Step Self Publishing on Kindle: Getting StartedThis week, we’re talking about individual projects and the steps needed to getting a finalized product on the digital market. You’ll go through this process with each ebook you intend to upload, so we might as well get started.


Your Book. Ok, so the basics who who you are and how to pay you are out of the way. It’s time to start in on your actual book. Each New Item uploaded will require data input for the Product Description. Here are the basics:
  • ISBN: If you’ve purchased an ISBN, you can enter it here. However KDP will automatically generate an ISBN for your work if you have not taken that extra step. Personally, I let KDP generate my ISBNs. A friend of mine bought a lump of ISBNs for her work a few years ago. She uses them to organize her different series with similar ISBN numbers in both ebook and print. Just a small detail that helps keep her organized during inventory and accounting.
  • Title: Enter the whole title of your book.  You can and should utilize the subtitle category of this process if you can. We can go over that in more detail later however. If there is a volume number to your book, also put it in the Title Category. Anything and everything that is useful to a successful search option should be considered for the Title Category.
  • Description: Oh boy. Descriptions are hard. We’ve just written a book and blurbs are hard. I mean, if we could have wrapped up the whole story neatly in 300-500 words, we would have just written it that way, right? Here are a few things to remember when writing your description:
    • Professionally written. Don’t let an unprofessional description undo all the professional work you put into the book itself.
    • 70,000 foot view. Only include the highlights and most important details of the book.
    • Don’t over-exaggerate. Building up the reader’s hopes and not delivering on the expectations will get you nothing but negative reviews, which can hurt your sales.
    • Concise writing. This sort of goes back to the “professionally written” part previously stated. But I can’t stress enough the fact that the blurb is a teaser for your book. It has to be short and sweet to hook the reader’s information without giving away the plot. Also KDP limits you on the number of characters you can use in your Description.
    • Generalized comparisons. Many authors make the mistake of comparing their books directly to famous books currently on the market. I’m not saying you shouldn’t compare, but avoid things like “This book is the next Harry Potter,” unless specifically taken from a review. You can say something closer to Readers who lived and loved the magic of the Harry Potter series will enjoy XYZ Title.
  • Publisher: Author name or imprint name. And, again, I stress the importance of making sure
    Photo Credit: Alejandro Escamilla

    you don’t steal another imprint’s name. Google is easy, it’s fast, it’s free. Trust me, a lot of writers have been super clever before your clever need.

  • Language: Fairly easy. Select your native language. If you have had the book professionally (and I emphasize professionally) translated then you will need to create a separate New Item for each translation. If you publish in one language but want to point out the work is published in multiple languages, do that in the Description Category.
  • Publication Date: If this is the first edition of this book’s publication, enter the release date. If the item has appeared in another format somewhere, enter the first date it was published.
  • Categories: These help sort your books for readers searching Kindle. Remember, you are allowed a maximum of 5 categories. Take the time to read through the whole list; you might find a category you hadn’t considered. For example, in my paranormal mystery novel A Touch of Darkness once I started looking, I found there is a category specifically for ‘African-American Female Heroines.’ For my Abigail St. Michael Novels that category is perfect. Amazon searchbots are also incredibly clever to use the keywords within those Categories to optimize search results.
  • Author: Seems a duh moment to most authors, but you also have the chance in this area to add Co-Authors, editors, illustrators, narrators, photographers, fore words, introductions, prefaces, and translators. Doing so can link you with those individuals’ accounts (if they have them) and help you leverage their established networks. Plus, it’s just plain right to properly attribute anyone who helped work on your book that wants to be attributed (always ask first). And it’s just another way to get those clever searchbots in on suggesting your work to readers when they’re looking.
  • Keywords: Categories along are not enough to deliver your book into the search results of readers with their fingers at the keys. You need keywords. Typically 5-7 descriptive and relevant keywords is the preferred target range. Is it a rule? No. Sometimes it’s okay to have a few more to make sure your book’s topic/s gets covered properly. For example, for my paranormal mystery A Touch of Madness I used the following keywords: psychics, serial killers, magic, fantasy, dark humor, interracial romance, romance, and science fiction.
  • Product Image: There is nothing more frustrating than a pixelated or blurry Product Image when shopping on Amazon. It’s no exception with KDP. Images uploaded must be either JPEG (.jpg) or TIFF (.tif/.tiff) and 72 dpi to meet Amazon’s minimum threshold for thumbnail Product Images. When you purchase your cover art, ensure the artist/designer provides you with multiple DPI quality images to use on the print book, promotional material, and online.
  • Edition Number: When dealing with books that have been revised multiple times, it is important to include an Edition Number in each new upload. It does a number of things like tell the readers there is updated information or corrections in the book, as well as tell those clever Amazon searchbots to push out an updated version of your book to readers who have already purchased it. Some authors will go so far as to list each edition and when it was published.
  • Series Title: Readers like a series; authors love a series. When completing work in the same series, make sure to include your series title. For example, my paranormal mysteries A Touch of Darkness and A Touch of Madness are both part of the An Abigail St. Michael Novels series.
  • Series Volume: Mostly this works for magazines, journals, or any title issued in a series. However there are instances where an author has chosen to put out a work in serialized form. Notable was Stephen King’s The Green Mile.
  • DRM: Stands for Digital Rights Management, and there are only two options 1) Enable DRM, or 2) Do not enable DRM. Personally, I always enable DRM. It’s an extra step to go through but it ensures that I have the opportunity to shift my uploaded document to match KDP’s format specs perfectly. It also gives me a preview of the document as it will be seen on ebook readers. This preview step can help save you from weird formatting and possible negative reviews from it. A lesson I learned from the first edition of my paranormal mystery A Touch of Darkness.
So there you have it. The basics leading up to uploading your book to Amazon Kindle for self publication. After this point, it’s only a few more quick steps to having your book self published on Amazon for millions to buy.
BC Brown
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
 

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane                                                                   

 

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Description for Writers: Detail Work

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The devil is in the details.

Every decision you make as a writer, the length of your sentences to the point of view you choose, crafts your story’s description. It’s easy to write “Beth sat in her car.” It describes an event. Concise and clear. But “Beth wept and leaned on the steering wheel, her tortured breath pluming in the shadows and fogging the windshield” is full of all sorts of jazz. 

Instinctually, writers jazz up their sentences all the time. It makes us good storytellers. But it is that instinctual jazz that turns a plain declarative sentence into a descriptive sentence. For

Neil Gaiman quote credit

instance, the fact that your character’s breath is “pluming” tells us the atmosphere – cold – and possible season – fall or winter. That same “pluming” may even draw an association from your reader as chill or uncomfortable, which describes you scene and ties back to the fact Beth “wept,” as well as the detail that she “leaned.” And both the “steering wheel” and “windshield” describe a vehicle without implicitly stating she is in a car. 

In essence the second sentence you wrote described the same event as your first one. The second sentence however gave your readers more detail, set your mood and your scene. 

It is important to understand that you needn’t change your natural writing style to accommodate details. There are many writers who have a more minimalist nature. They use spare, economical prose that leaves a story open for reader imagination and conclusion. Well placed details (a burnt but unlit cigar, an echoing silence, a flickering light) can serve a writer better to express a character or setting. Other writers tend to the dramatic, the flamboyant, with description. Some readers are versatile, comfortable to slip into the author’s personal style easily. Others prefer certain styles only and tend to stick with writers who embody those preferences. Myself, while I am (generally) a minimalist reader I am a flamboyant writer.

The telling detail. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to shine the light on a character in your story. These one or two illuminating finds are “telling” details in fiction, going beyond simple observations to enlarge a reader’s sense of character or place. A woman’s carefully tended or touched up heels show she is low on means but cares about her appearance. The teen’s greasy hair projects an outsider mentality. The dog’s laid back ears indicate uneasiness at a situation. The sheen of patina on a dining set indicates the restaurant is more upper class and well maintained.

Detail like this makes fiction more than your typical what’s-next storytelling. It becomes more an accounting. Carefully choosing your details at the right times during your story give the reader an intimate access to the inner truth of person or place. It is one thing to tell a reader your character seeks love and intimacy and quite another to show them leaning into an individual during conversation or smiling dreamily at a person as they speak. 

Sensory input. As authors, we often get caught up in describing a person or place, we forget to tell more than just what we see. While a carnival is a feast to the eye, as well as great fun to write about the sights, we mustn’t forget there are four more senses to explore: sound, taste, touch, and smell. The carnival being a riot of color rocketing around the open field is fine and good, but it might serve the story better to know that the air dripped with the acrid odor of burned popcorn and the ears rang with the tinny, shrill blast of games and barker’s calls.

Simile and metaphor. A strong simile or metaphor can be the wind in the sails of a good descriptive fiction. Without them, a writer tells only a bare bones story rather than showing a fleshed out one. When used sparingly, simile and metaphor can give life to a story. But keep in mind that overuse of either can drown it just the same. While assuming most writers know the difference, I’ll include a brief explanation of simile and metaphor.

  • Simile. A direct comparative feature. A figure of speech and usually introduced with like or as comparing one thing to another thing.
    • Janet’s hair was as soft as fleece.
  • Metaphor. Metaphors are less direct. A figure of speech that leaves a reader open to continued thought or comparison after the initial descriptor.
    • “Jonathan?” Matt asked. “He’ll be okay. He’s just a wet hen right now. Give him a minute alone, then we’ll head out. It’s a long walk to Atlanta, and I don’t want him pecking and scratching the whole way.” 
Learn some restraint. Curbing your impulse to include every detail playing on your mind’s mini movie reel is a smart move. Writers are immensely imaginative. That’s why we do what we do. But a reader and a story can get lost in the details we provide. Keep in mind that too few or too many details will derail your story just the same. Once a reader is lost, your run the risk of them putting down your book and never picking it up again.

That’s a wrap. Details can save or sink a story every time. When you choose to write your next piece, remember that one well placed detail can save you a page of exposition – ahem, extra work. Telling details can be both unintentional in the drafting phase or intentional, with considerable thought, revision, and editing.

Keep in mind your senses. We don’t live in a vacuum of one of two senses. Go back over previous passages and keep an eye out for one sense you’ve listed, then consider if that is the right sense or if another would serve the story better. Once you’ve done that, does the passage need a supporting sensory detail? The sight of blood and gore kicks you in the gut, but the scent of copper and urine will twist the gut and drive the imagery home.

Simile and metaphor breathe life into writing. But there is a fine line between strong comparison and over comparison.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
BC Brown
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane                                                                  

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Step-By-Step Self Publishing on Kindle: Getting Started

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It’s all at the tip of your fingertips.

You see it. Wealth, fame, and immortality. Your destiny is in your hands. It’s written on the proverbial page. Now all you have to do is get it from your hands and into the hands of others. As quickly as possible.

Ta-da, Amazon Kindle’s instant gratification, self publishing platform – Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Wait one second. You might want to rein in that horse there, partner.
 Photo Credit: Dai KE, Article Credit: BC Brown
Kindle is a fantastic opportunity to take total control of one’s writing to get it to the public but, keep in mind, that it is a lot of work to write, edit, design, publish, and market your own novel. To see tips on marketing your novel read this article. For today, we’re going to start with the basics of getting your novel on the KDP platform.

Create an Amazon account. Fairly self explanatory, you will need an Amazon account in order to use KDP. Once that is created, you will have the opportunity to go directly to KDP to begin work on self publishing your book. I cannot stress the importance of making absolutely sure your book is ready to be published before taking this step.

KDP Account Information. Don that business professional hat; you’re in the publisher seat, baby.

  • Publisher Information. Before choosing to publish, after all the technical “author” details like editing, formatting, layout and cover design, you have to decide who your company is. Many writers will chose an “imprint name” that represents their books. It’s important to pick a name that is unique but also encompasses what you write now and what you might write in the future. Due diligence in researching your imprint name is required. You don’t want to inadvertently steal someone else’s hard word.
  • Payment Information. Even those who write for love or art want to get paid if they’re charging. With KDP almost all royalties are done via electronic funds transfer, so have your banking information ready. I keep my royalties separate from my primary funds (for easier accounting purposes) and created a special savings account with my bank. It isn’t a necessary step however, if you are more organized and a better grown up than I am.
  • Business Type. There are 3 types of businesses to choose from: individual, partnership, and corporation. Go with “Individual” if your book isn’t affiliated with any business except your designated imprint. With the “Individual” account, you’ll use your social security number to register under.
Royalty Rates and Royalties. Now that you’ve told Amazon where to pay you, you should tell them how much to pay you. There aren’t any hard and fast rules to pricing books. But there are a number of good suggestions to keep in mind when pricing your work for the market. Personally, I do a little genre research. If fantasy ebooks are selling, on average, for $5.99 I will use that as a benchmark for pricing my novel. You want to keep in mind what you consider your work valued at, but you also want to be careful not to price yourself out of the market.
Amazon allows you to set your royalties manually for each book you upload. While those rates change from time to time, typically you can select to keep either 30% of your royalties or 70% of your royalties. Understand that, while it may seem like a no brainer to keep a great royalty profit margin, there are benefits offered through KDP at choosing the smaller royalties.
Okay, so now we’ve reviewed the most very basic requirements to self publishing your book on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Look for more information about going through the steps required on each individual book project. 

BC Brown
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane                                                                  

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Get It Right: Social Media For Authors

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The world is digital. Short of an apocalypse scenario, there is no going back. Authors who don’t utilize social media marketing to promote their writing will become extinct. But there is a fine line between using social media and using social media well to market.

Hard Vs. Soft

If you know anything about marketing, there are two types of selling: hard and soft.

Hard sales are those annoying kiosks at the mall. Those sales associates who get right in your path and offers you all sorts of free things for a minute of your time. It isn’t enough that their product is on display enormously. It isn’t enough to be available. They have to be in. your. face.

That is hard selling. And that is a mistake a lot of authors, new and experienced, make when using social media to market their books. There are several examples of how authors use hard selling in one of my previous articles, Twitter Twits.

Soft sales are the meandering, not directly related to a sale offerings. Like the free song download offered by your favorite artist. The singer hopes that by giving away something small for free they can entice you to buy the whole album. Notice there is always a “click here for more” option on your device at the end of every free song? That isn’t a “click here for more free stuff” option; that is a “click here for more stuff I’m selling” link.

Soft selling is trickier and, sometimes, has less direct results. There are always people who are only interested in whatever can be obtained for free. Those are lost avenues and you shouldn’t be concerned with them. They will always be the ‘only free stuff’ people and won’t ever become your buyers. 

To know how well your soft selling is working, you can track the effectiveness of your soft sales with any number of sources like bitly.com, goo.gl, tinyurl.com for example.

Social media approach.

Using social media for marketing does take a little bit of thought. But what it needs more of is a whole lot of genuine.

You must be genuine in your approach to social media as an author. Like life, social media is a give and take process. If you want people (potential readers or other authors), you must be willing to give almost twice as much as you take.

For example, on my Facebook page, I promote other authors and artists with my “Pimp A Creative” posts. Was I asked to promote people through those means? Nope. Did that person write or do something I thought was creative, entertaining, and possibly informative? Yep. So I ‘pimped’ them.

Why do I call it “pimping?” Well, to be honest, like any good pimp I do hope to get something out of that non-me promotion. However it can be any number of things I want to earn: give my readers something, good will, establish a relationship, catch their followers’ eyes, build a correlation between their brand and mine, and the list goes on. What’s most important is that unlike most actual pimps, I am genuinely invested in their information I’m promoting (i.e. I took the time to read it, liked it, and thought it should be shared.) Disingenuous pimping would be piggybacking directly off someone else’s established name or information without bothering to at least give them the courtesy of my click-through. 

Social media timeline.

A mistake many new authors make is not bothering with social media until the week or two before their book releases. Building relationships and establishing a presence online takes time and crafting. I discuss it in more detail in my article, So You Think You Can Author? (Part 1).

To use social media well, you have to invest a little time into it before your book is released. Just as importantly, you have to remember to maintain that investment while your book is out and when you no longer have a ‘new’ book out. It’s just as phony to take the time to craft relationships online, release a book, and then drop promoting others in favor of your own promotion. 

Remember, the key to online is to give almost twice as much as you take. If you ask another writer to submit one guest article for your blog, be willing to offer them two articles from you for theirs. For every one “ad” you post about your book, post two other authors’ “ads” as well. 

Using social media is easy. All it takes is a little common sense and a genuine approach. 


BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane (2016)                                                 



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So You Think You Can…Author? (Part 1)

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The End.

Every writer rejoices in typing those words even though they know their work has only started. Endings are nothing but beginnings. Writing is hard work. My article So You Think You Can…Writer? describes the very special personality type it takes to be a writer – a masochist. A writer is someone who sits down to write knowing that no matter how hard it is to get the words to flow, the scenes to match up, or those damned plot holes filled, the writing is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The real work comes after the writing.

Editing, revisions, rewrites, more editing; critique groups, critique partners, beta readers; second round editing, revisions, rewrites. But that’s just all writing still, right?

Sure. Except while you’re doing all that (and don’t forget, you’re probably already logging words on the next project due out), you’re also gearing up for publication. 

Vetting cover artists and approving designs, book formatting and layout – those are still necessary parts of writing and editing, gearing up for ultimate publication. But those are still only the visible parts of the berg.

If this is your first book, you aren’t working with a ready base of fans. You need to build anticipation for your launch day. Book sales can be made or broken depending on the anticipation built prior to a launch.

Let’s break that berg down into ice cubes.

Launching a book isn’t necessarily expensive, but it does cost some money. There’s building a website with a reserved domain name; promotional materials like business cards, bookmarks, posters; gas, food and lodging for events, signings, and conferences; and, of course, household expenses like internet. And, unless you contract out for someone to do that work for you, which would be an additional expense, it all falls to you – the writer, the editor, the marketing agent, and the PR rep.

So now you’re writing, editing, reviewing artwork, discussing layout and formatting, designing promotional materials, and designing websites.But, so far, you still haven’t started actually building anticipation for the book. The good news is that the foundations you lay now during the first book will reduce the work you have to do during promotion of future books.

Building anticipation ideally starts at 6 months to 1 year before launch. On average, most authors seem to stick with the 6 month mark and do pretty well for themselves.  Like all writers know, there’s a tremendous amount of research that goes into writing. The same is true of pre-promotion. That will take just a little set up on your part. Since you’re still undergoing an enormous amount of work with the  aspects of writing yet, we’ll keep them simple.

  • Get to know your media. Newspapers, TV, radio, podcasts, specialty magazines, websites and blogs, social media. All are avenues for marketing your book. Now is the time to compile your list of media opportunities. What you want to get are publication names, call signs or letters for radio and TV, website and bloggers, hosts, reporters, and reviewers phone numbers and emails, notes about their target audiences, distribution areas and circulation numbers.
  • Know your bookstores and area events. Find out names, location, managers and marketing person for each bookstore plus the best phone numbers and email addresses for each. Don’t forget to visit the stores you want to be able to call in the future to arrange signings. Make note of other authors they have scheduled, how they promote, what their layout and primary sales are invested into. Having these little details ready on hand when you want to schedule an event is worth its weight in the time it will take you to compile it.
  • Build your online presence. Reserving a custom domain name (recommended to brand it with your name, not your book title as, with hope, you’ll publishing more than one in your career and won’t want to have to build a new site for every book you publish) and building the website doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. There are several inexpensive domain hosts you can purchase for next to nothing that also come with easy-to-use template website design. Don’t forget to tie a blog in with your website for added visibility, future ability to cross promote with other authors and creatives, plus a boost in search engine results every time you blog.
  • Social media. Many authors are daunted still about using social media for promotion. I recommend a minimum of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Each are free and require minimum time to establish and maintain. Just remember to keep all your interactions genuine. And above all else avoid the hard sale approach using social media. If you’re still unsure how to use social media to promote your books, take a look at three articles on using Twitter here and here and here.
  • Book sites. There are specific social media sites geared entirely toward books and readers. Goodreads, Shelfari, Armchair Interviews, AuthorNation are a few. Naturally, if you’re publishing through Amazon, you’ll want to make sure you have an author page established there as well. Amazon author pages give you the added advantage of having a blog that automatically sends updates to everyone who bought your book through Amazon.

All of this is a good, small step to building anticipation for your book launch well before you’re even technically finished with the initial process of writing your book. Building these early relationships with reporters, reviewers, bookstore owners and marketing managers, potential fans online and other authors is all key to first making yourself visible and available.

It might feel overwhelming, and it’s definitely not easy work. However starting your promotion 6 months prior to publication gives you a solid base for anticipation of book launch. 

And you thought the writing part was hard. So… you think you can author?


BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)

Upcoming: Karaoke Jane (2016)                                                                   

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Be Right Back

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Some of you may have noticed, I’ve not been active on my blog in the last few weeks. The main reason? My general fiction novel, Karaoke Jane, is gearing up for release, and I’m hard at work making sure it’s utterly amazing for you. Bear with me just a bit longer. The words have gotten their claws into me, and I’m singing in the rain!!

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Twitter Twits

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Spam. Nobody likes it. Not even with eggs and peanut butter cups. And Twitter can be a confusing, high-trafficked site. Like the rest of social media, Twitter’s function is to be, you guessed it, social.

Authors love (as they should) Twitter for reaching out to readers, connecting with authors and industry professionals, and building their platforms. The downfall many run into when tweeting is the absolute spammy nature of their posts.

If your stream is filled with nothing but:

“On sale now! NAME OF BOOK – Get Yours Today – LINK”
“‘She whispered, ‘I saw the murderer.’ Paranormal Mystery – NAME OF BOOK – LINK”
“Latest #blog – #Author BLAH BLAH’s NAME OF BOOK – LINK”
You have a problem. You are a Twitter Twit.
Harsh words. I know. But think about it. Do you like seeing your ads filled with nothing but hard and soft selling? No. So why do it to the people who follow you?
Sometime over the years we saw FB de-evolve into people’s to-do lists. You know, they looked something like:
Grocery shopping, edits, maybe time for the park later, and then macaroni and cheese for dinner.
Although they tend to much more long winded than that example. FB became void of thought or comment. Slowly Twitter is doing the same, only it’s chocked full of ads of all shapes and sizes.
There is nothing wrong with announcing blog articles or prizes you’ve won or when your book is on sale. Just remember that for every one of those you post roughly 3 billion other people are posting one or two of their own. That begins to look like an advertisement agencies portfolio in quick fashion.
Instead why not try injecting thought or comment into Twitter again? Don’t panic. They don’t have to

be original thoughts or comments (although those are best). They can be famous quotes, followed by your reaction or thought; they could be a funny picture you found online, followed by your reaction or thought.

Do you see a pattern? The vital aspect is… followed by YOUR thought or reaction.
Don’t be a Twitter twit. Remember to vary your tweets with real thought, real reaction. Spam-bots make terrible friends.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate other writers through humor and simple instruction.
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