Monthly Archives

February 2017

Adventures in Indie #7: The Dreaded Newsletter

I’m heading into the area of promotion, and I have to admit that I’m at a bit of a loss here. Trying to grasp all the types of promotion available is like drinking from a fire hose. It’s overwhelming.

But there is one staple I can start with: A newsletter

Now, a large percentage of writers have newsletters. This is currently ‘what you do’. Who knows whether it will remain that way? But I am using the newsletter to keep reader apprised of my new publications, special prices, and various freebies I’m running.

When I was with Ace/Roc, I mostly flailed around with the newsletter, not sure what to do. And at that time I had about 50 subscribers, so it was what is sometimes called an ‘organic’ list. All of those people had sought out my webpage and joined, but I wasn’t making special efforts to attract new readers.

Essentially, I didn’t know how.

One of the differences in going mostly indie is that I have no choice but to get that in hand, so I started researching ways to reach more people. My friends at Codex (one of my writers groups) made some GREAT suggestions that had really helped.

So here’s what I’ve got…so far.

  1. Use a newsletter service like MailChimp, MailerLite, or Sendy to handle the newsletters for you. My friends are fairly evenly divided between the first two, but I’ve seen Sendy gaining ground for those people with huge mailing lists (like 13K). Sendy is installed on your webpage and you basically send the newsletter rather than having MC or ML send it for you.
  2. Have a newsletter sign-up pop-up on your webpage. I actually created a new web-page so that I could do that (it wasn’t possible on my old webpage).
  3. Look at other author newsletters to see what you like. Copy shamelessly.
  4. Use a service to attract new readers like Instafreebie (my favorite) or Bookfunnel. I use Instafreebie to offer free books to people who join my mailing list. There is some question whether this people will ever -buy- a book, but it’s also true that exposure is exposure.
  5. Join group promotions. When someone comes to look at Author A’s offering, they might also enjoy yours.
  6. Try not to inundate people’s mailboxes. I mail once a month at most.
  7. Offer them incentives, if you’re feeling magnanimous.  I often include a free short story with a newsletter. For me it’s a chance to expose more people to my writing, and a chance for me to practice my formatting skills, as I often create .mobi and .epub files especially for those.

All of that said, I’m not an expert. I’m just starting out.

In the last several months, though, I’ve gone from about 50 members to about 1600. That’s a decent increase. I cannot attest to the ‘quality’ of my subscribers (a lot of people who pick up free books will only read free books, so they’ll never become purchasers), but I have seen a consistent increase in numbers of books sold.

And my aim was to have a bit of a base built before I released Original in April (I hope). So for those aims, it’s meeting my needs well enough.

So what’s worked for you and your newsletters? 

 

 

 

Adventures in Indie #6: Self-made books

I talked a couple of weeks ago about using Canva to make covers for ‘promotional’ books. And generally to save costs on those books, I also format them myself.

Now, I have to say up front that my method of formatting is not the best. There are a lot of ways to format a book.  Some people use Scrivener, which can put out a book in EPUB format. Personally, I found Scrivener too complicated, so I gave up on it after six months.  I have a friend who uses InDesign, but when I did a trial of that, I found it WAY too complicated also.

So what are some of the options I’ve used?

Way back in 2011, I formatted my books using the guidelines that Smashwords recommended. This led to decent books, although nothing special.

But I wanted something a little better looking for this new generation of books.

So for The Dragon’s Child, I tried out a service called Pronoun. It basically takes your Word file and makes it into an ebook (but not a print book). They give you a choice of layouts (6 at the time that I used it), lay your document into that, and put it out as an epub and mobi. They will even upload it to all the vendors that way.

It’s a free service as well. (Here’s a pretty comprehensive review of the service). So far I’ve been pretty happy with the book they produced for me. However, it’s not available as a print book, something that I may work on this fall (see below.)

Since then, however, I’ve been working with a new program that I like pretty well to produce ebooks -and- print books.

My editor/formatter, Rick Fisher at EQP Books, turned me on to the program that he uses: Serif PagePlus 9.  So far this program has been easy to learn and I’ve been super happy with the books that I’ve produced.  (See Fleurs du Mal and A Time for Every Purpose, available as .pdf files on the bottom of my Free Fiction page.)

Again, I’m just producing my promotional books this way (because I want my editor to review my novels for me!), but that frees me from being tied to Pronoun’s placement restrictions, so I’m uploading them to Amazon and D2D myself.

The best thing for me about PagePlus is that it’s a fairly intuitive interface. Most of the menus have similar structure to Word, so that means that someone who uses Word all the time will find it easier to work with than, say, InDesign (which is an Adobe product). I can create .mobi, .epub, and .pdf files, and even used that .pdf function to create the cover for my print version of The Sparrow in Hiding. Really versatile.

Also, because it’s a legacy product, it’s inexpensive. I paid 24.99, rather than the new subscription services like Adobe. So I’m happy with it so far!

 

Next Week: The Dreaded Newsletter

 

 

Adventures in Indie #5: Formatting and Editing

Back in 2011, I put up some books on Amazon and Smashwords and sold them. I formatted those myself, and while they were adequate, they didn’t look particularly…professional.

For my new forays into self-publishing, I wanted a product that looked better. So I paid someone to do an edit pass and format my books for publication.

There were two reasons for this:

  1. I wanted another person’s perspective on the product before I put it out, someone with formatting and editing experience.
  2. Learning to format these myself is a steep slope, one I wasn’t willing to climb at the time.

After looking through recommendations from my writers’ groups, I went with an editor I’d met before (at a convention), Rick Fisher at EQP Books (e-Quality Press)

Before I selected them, I looked at some books they’d edited, checked their prices, and discussed with Rick what level of edits I was interested in.

(For example, I was not interested in a “Developmental Edit” or “Content Edit”, which is the kind of edit where they suggest changing a plot point or removing a chapter to tighten things. I was more interested in a “Line Edit”, which is where they’re looking for grammar and clarity issues instead.  It helps to know what you’re looking for before choosing an editor.)

Here’s a great article by Rinelle Grey with Tips for Choosing the Right Editor.

Once I knew that I’d found the right editor, a lot of the same rules will apply in working with him as did with my cover artists:

  1. Be Professional.
  2. Be Timely. Don’t expect the editor to have your edits done in four days. They have other authors to edit, and other deadlines outside that. So make sure you’ve allotted plenty of time for the editing step. (I usually try to check in with mine before the manuscript is even done to set up a date. I’ve told him my manuscript for Original will get there early- to mid-March. And if I can’t make that date, then I’ll notify him as soon as I can so he can shuffle projects if needed.)
  3. Have a good idea how much you can pay. Most professional editors will have prices on their websites. Put that together with how many words you’ll have, and that should tell you whether you can afford them or not.
  4. Pay on time…or work out something with them. Don’t stiff your editor.
  5. Make sure you let others know if you’re pleased with the work.

Overall, I found that having a professional editor working with me takes a lot of pressure of my mind when releasing a new book. It takes a weight off my shoulder to know that someone else is doing all the niggling little work that makes me batty!

And so far, I’ve been extremely happy with my choice of editor. I will be using them for the foreseeable future!

Next Week: Publishing Software