Tag Archives: Goodreads

Findley Family Video’s Publishing Journey

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A sweet blog reader was kind enough to say she’s been following us for some time now, and likes our writing and content, and also the way we promote our books. She asked about how we publish, and also how we promote, so here, I hope, is an answer to that question. I’m including links to other blog posts I’ve written about publishing where they apply.

We have been writing for over 30 years, but publishing about 4. So our publishing experience is not vast. But we do everything ourselves at this point, from writing, to editing, to formatting and cover design and actual uploading to publishing sites. Here’s a post on the mechanics of preparing and publishing an ebook. Part Two: Make It Clean, Get It Out

We use Amazon and Smashwords for the ebooks and Createspace for the print books. So far we only have a few print books but we will be doing more soon. Our philosophy of publishing is to make our works available as inexpensively as possible and that’s why we started with ebooks. Here’s a post I wrote on our philosophy of e-publishing. The Hows (And Whys) of E-Books

I was an editor for a publishing company and feel confident about my self-editing at this point. Here’s a blog post I wrote about things to look for when editing. Righting Sew Reel Ayes Reed Passed Yore Tie Till We also have worked as videographers and have graphic design experience, so I make our covers. The program I use for that is Photo Impact from Corel. Here’s a post on book covers Part 2 1/2: Cover It Beautifully .That has been a journey, and you can see how my skills have progressed at our Findley Family Video Facebook page, under the photos section, where our stages of cover design are stored. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Findley-Family-Video/149992491693629?sk=photos_stream I also have illustrated versions of some of our books. Here is a blog post I wrote about a site where all the images are offered free by the photographer, and about our latest cover redesign. Dressing up for the Holidays: Free Images to Help You Make Ebook Covers

We write and format our books in Microsoft Word, following the Smashwords Style Guide for ebooks, which is free on their site and on Amazon. Other writers have suggested using writing and book design programs but we are keeping it simple for now.  Here’s another post on ebook creation and publishing. Part Three: Your Book, Where It Should Go, How It Will Look

Now for the hard part — Promoting. I have a Goodreads and a Library Thing account. I have two Twitter accounts, a Google + account, and between us we have 3 facebook pages and two personal pages, plus I have a Pinterest account. I spend a fair bit of time networking with other authors on facebook. I try to share and tweet and promote their works as much as I can. I belong to several author groups on facebook and we exchange advice and promotions. We also have this blog, which has all our books linked to Amazon and Smashwords.

The blog posts get tweeted automatically when we publish, and most of our blog followers have come from Twitter. Some also come from facebook. Some come from search engines. I always include tags when I post a blog, subjects the blog is about, and we get a lot of blog hits on our Bible-related posts. One of the things people have said they like about us and our blog is that it’s not always about writing. Sometimes we post guest blogs and book reviews and talk about our books, but that’s not the focus of the blog. But the books are linked there for people to see and click on if they wish. We also have short descriptions of all our books at the end of most titles, and a link to our blog so readers can connect with us and check out our other titles. Here’s a post about being a blogging writer. Stuff Blogging Writers Need to Know: Part One

We have tried paid advertising or free trials of advertising that would be paid, several different online sites, and honestly, the results have been pretty much zero sales or responses. I participate in author groups where we all post tweets and retweet each other, and, as difficult as it is to be consistent and keep doing that daily, that seems to be very effective. I’m going to treat myself to a paid version of a tweet scheduling program very soon, because right now I do it all manually and it’s driving me crazy. Here’s a post about Twitter. Curiouser and Curiouser … An Author’s Adventures in Twitterland

One thing that has helped us get some notice is offering samplers of our full-length books for 99 cents. Some of our 99 cent books are complete short stories or novellas and some are three-chapter excerpts. We have also tried pricing a couple of full-length books at 99 cents, and even tried Amazon’s KDP select program for one book. The results for Select were pretty disappointing, though we did get some notice and a few reviews. Smashwords has a distribution network to iTunes, Sony, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and others, and we are beginning to see regular sales there.

We have a wide variety of genres — Issues non-fiction, Homeschool Curriculum, Historical Adventures and Romances, and Science Fiction. We have something for most ages and tastes. We are not bestselling authors by any definition I can figure out, but our sales have grown a bit almost every month. It’s interesting to note that people are buying from all the kinds of books we have.

So my conclusions about marketing, so far in our journey, anyway, are as follows:

Having a good, clear, relatively simple, striking, easy-to-read and understand cover is a good thing. Having a link in the books is a good thing. Tweeting is a very good thing. Having a blog is a good thing, but probably not one that’s just about writing. Pinterest is something I’m still thinking about. It seems to have good points, such as the ability to display your books with prices and links to Amazon all in one place. If you can join some groups with readers in them, this may be a very good thing. But I see a lot of lookers on Pinterest, not a lot of buyers. Many people are there to ooh and ahh and get lost in pretty pictures, not to click a sales link and go read an ebook. Here’s a post about my pinterest experience. Pinterest Is My New Interest

I didn’t say much about Goodreads, but finding readers there and talking to them about other people’s books makes them think you are a nice person. Talking to them about your own books is not always a good idea, but they will check out that nice person’s books and blog sometimes. Having your books available in as many places a possible (not just on Amazon) is a good thing. Smashwords also deserves praise for upgrading their response time and technical support recently.

Pricing some books at 99 cents is a good thing. Having multiple titles and a variety of kinds of books seems to be a good thing. I have been told repeatedly that having a series is a good thing, so I’m trying that next.

Let me close this by saying that the mainstream, traditionally minded publishers and many traditionally-published authors are not there to help those who want to be indie authors. They consider you the competition. Many of them are getting on the bandwagon of independent publishing, or say they are. Some want you to pay them for advice and claim to be able to help you succeed. But the key to successful indie publishing, once you have made your book as good as you can, is marketing. And few, if any, of these people want to help you market. There’s a lot of talk about “platform” nowadays. That means having an audience who will buy your books. And these people know you have to have one, but they won’t help you get one. Odds are they won’t even take you on as a client or pay any attention to you unless you are already successful at doing your own marketing. And if you keep at it, finding things that work to get yourself known, you will be successful without their “help”.

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Part Two: Make It Clean, Get It Out

So many people have said writing a book is the easy part. Still, it can’t be repeated often enough. New writers are cropping up all the time, while the traditional publishing contract including a marketing machine to get your word out is fast becoming downright mythological. “Do it yourself” takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to new author/new book self-creation and promotion. Check out our previous post on the hows and whys of e-book production for more on the production end.

First step after you think your book is “finished” is to realize it’s not. You have to make your book technically clean before you can seriously try to publish it. Whatever your financial abilities, get the best vetting you can to get rid of the errors. If your editorial staff consists of you, your mom, your oldest kid, and a co-worker you bribed with lunch for a week, so be it. Many author-oriented sites have sections, often called workshops, devoted to getting help from other authors, editors, or those who will take on the task free or cheap if you help them in some way. Avail yourself of them if you can, but remember that everyone, especially unpaid volunteers or friends, will take time to get through your work. They might give up and never finish. In the end, you must get someone you can depend on. Goodreads, Kindleboards, “Indie Writers Unite” and “Indie Author Group” (the last two are facebook groups) all have editors or at least people willing to exchange a read and comment in their ranks.

Some people depend on an auto-editing program. White Smoke is one I have heard praised. I have not personally used one, but I have read three modern self-published books recently in which I found, consistently, the following types of errors. I will paraphrase to avoid picking on or identifying a particular work. One had, at the end of a piece of conversation, “said Robert quietly said.” The word “shudder” appeared where “shutter” should have been, referring to a window’s protective covering. The word “peak” appeared where “peek” or pique” should have in two different books (“I took a peak in the bag,” “this will peak your interest”) instead of, “I took a peek in the bag” or “this will pique your interest”). This is what an auto-editor will do for you. Not only will it not catch/fix everything, it will introduce new things. In the immortal words of Captain Kirk, “Spock, we’re all human.” An auto-editor is only human. It makes mistakes.

I asked the author of one of the books I read about her editing process when I found errors like these. She described shared/workshop readers, her own many years of experience, her training under a professional editor, and the fact that she used an auto-editor. She said she couldn’t afford or justify $5,000 for professional editing services. Another writer said she couldn’t afford such services either, that she had herself, one or two other people, what she could get from the workshop volunteers, and White Smoke. I noticed a pattern even in just these two authors. The auto-editor came last.

I am a former English teacher, editor and proofreader, and these things disturb me. I don’t want to read them in your works, please. So, from my tiny sample and admittedly narrow experience, I am going to dogmatically state, Survey says, the auto-editor should not come last. Reel ayes shield bee lest (Real eyes should be last), lest you put out wrong stuff. That being said, if you do use a “professional editor,” understand that there’s a limit to what you should let other people do to your work. One of the published authors I spoke to went self-published because she had bad experiences with editors. No one is saying editors are always wrong, either, but be careful when the changes become extensive and substantive.

It’s your story. Let them fix the typos, the grammar, the punctuation, maybe, but don’t let them say that they can tell your story better than you can, unless you or someone you trust actually agrees on the “improvement.” Editors can be very intimidating people. Don’t let them change what’s vital to your tale for the sake of marketability, not offending people, or because they disagree with what you’ve said and think they can bully you with their “professionalism.” But you have got to get the book clean, or you will annoy and chase off people even less picky than me, based on what I’ve seen. I read a book in which I am sure I found, conservatively, 5% of the content to be errors. That is oh so very much too much.

I am devoting another full post to covers, (yes, you have to have one, yes, it has to be stunning) but, once you feel your book is as clean as you can make it, refer to the earlier post called “The Hows and whys of E-Books” and get your book up on Smashwords, on Amazon, on whatever other sites you can. There is a program called Calibre, and there are others, that, if you can figure out how to use them, can convert your book to multiple formats. There’s no limit to the number of sites you can upload to if you can do your own conversions. But Smashwords premium distribution does get you on most of the major ones, B&N, iBooks, etc.

Once you are up, the sales do not, alas, automatically begin pouring in. This is when you start running the gamut of promotional possibilities. First some of the free ideas. Join forums and talk to people. I’ll use Goodreads as an example. Set up your author page(s) according to directions. Put up books you have read and review them intelligently and honestly, and keep doing that. Then go join some groups, say hello in the welcome areas, and join some conversations. Talk like you are paying attention to what people are saying. Address them by name. Quote from their posts so they know you actually read them. And read the entire post before speaking.

Meanwhile look around for other forums, appropriate groups, lists and subject areas where you can add your books. Try to engage the readers as well as fellow writers. Try to make the readers like you as a person, a thinker, maybe even a friend, and then they might make friends with your books. Don’t just spam your book or blog links at them. You might mention a blog topic if it fits in with the discussion and post a link, or they might ask you for it. Goodreads has the ability to insert a book cover with a link into a post. Do that with your book when you post. If you want to stick your post onto all the threads that say “Share your book (or blog) here” go ahead, but you’re likely to get lost in pages of the same.

Rarely do I go back and look through those lists. Participation is what gets me friends and followers and response. Don’t stay with groups that are obviously just a bunch of friends chatting and recommending mainline popular books and ignoring the Indie authors who try to interact. Don’t stay with dead groups. Pick small but active groups with opportunities to talk to living, breathing people who talk back. Talk to readers, not just writers. Writers are as broke and desperate as you are, and may be helpful, friendly, supportive and full of information you need to know, but readers are looking for books. Make them want to look for yours.

Kindleboards is a rather strict, well-policed but respected forum. They demand that you participate by posting and that you post in the right places about the right things. They also have beautiful author and book pages and active link signatures and banners for you to set up. I am still intimidated by Kindleboards, but I keep trying.

Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, StumbledUpon, Book Junkies Library, Author’s Den, Breakthrough Bookstore, and a host of blogs like Kindle Author give you free space to promote. Absolutely make use of those and any others you can find. Almost all forum sites additionally have opportunities to purchase paid advertising. The costs vary widely. Kindleboards is frequently called the most expensive. Other sites are internet-promotion oriented but not specifically for writers or writing. FeedShark, Pingomatic, Technorati and other blog search engines and other pingbacks can drive free traffic to your blog, where your book(s) better be linked.

Try to get people to write valuable reviews of your books. I have requested and been promised several, but so far only one result. That may be something you will just have to pay for. Not sure on that one. The article from the Wall Street Journal circulating about the Indie author who has sold over 400,000 copies of her e-books says she spent under $2000 advertising and that included one paid review from a company respected in the industry. She also charges only 99 cents for her book. How you price your book is something you have to decide. You might have sales or giveaways but I am still not sure people value something they can get cheap or free. Pricing is a promotional tool, but make sure you aren’t just selling to be selling, unless that’s really all you want to do.

There is a theory going around among Indie authors that if we add likes and tags to each others’ author and sales pages we will be more visible to potential customers. Getting reciprocation on this is difficult, but if you wish to do it or set up to have it done, here’s how.

People can like your Facebook author page. Beware of going around liking a bunch of fb pages if you don’t want their blood and guts horror titles (or smarmy romances) showing up in your feed. Do what you can to support other authors, but be realistic, honest and responsible. People can like most any other author pages you have. How to do that is to find a like or thumbs up sort of button and click it. Tags are a bit trickier. You should have set up tags when you first uploaded your book, but if you didn’t, your Amazon book page is set up as follows: The book’s cover near the top, next down is editorial reviews, next is product details, next is Customer Reviews, next your Shelfari extras if you have that set up, next your author page link, and ‘way down the page, “Tags Customers Associate” with this Product. I have tried hard to have at least 15 tags. I keep a text file saved with them ready for all the sites that ask for tags.

These are picked up by search engines as subjects and matched to customer searches. Just having yours set up is a good idea. Type an appropriate subject in the box and click “add.” Once you have one in place, you will see the word “edit” beside the box. Click on edit and you will be given a larger box into which you can cut and paste or type a list of all the tags you want, separated by commas. When finished click “add” and all the tags will appear at once. If you wish to participate in tagging, other people can click in the box beside the tag word and add to its number of uses. Tell them to make sure they are logged in as an Amazon customer, to be sure that the click actually increases the number beside the word, and that they click all the tags.

It’s difficult, it’s complicated. If you belong to an author group with 700+ members and you try to tag all of them, then get a dozen or so in response, that’s the way it is. I try to tag people when I see them post and put links up, but that means nobody’s even trying to tag mine because We have a round dozen now and I can’t put them up every time I post. And I don’t give likes to things I haven’t read. But if you can, and think it helps, at least try to reciprocate.

You can create video teasers for your books using the free moviemaker programs that come on your computer. Record a soundtrack of a reading excerpt, music, sound effects, whatever you are able to do, but make sure it’s good quality. Ever see a TV commercial where the image was fuzzy, the voices and music were almost inaudible or way out of balance, the text was hard to read? Maybe you haven’t, but they do exist and they are painful to see. Don’t do that.

Do add an author image (a good, clear, and preferably casual-appearing one) and bio. Do add book descriptions. Do add cover images, and in all this image uploading, pay attention to size requirements. They vary a lot. Create banners and whatever else you can, business cards, postcards, bookmarks (this is why you should keep an image file with the elements separate).

Twitter seems to get a response, for reasons I am still unclear about. Set up to automatically tweet your blog updates if nothing else, and update your blog often. I mean several times a week. Really. Consider posting on Google Plus. I complained to another author that we joined Google Plus in the latest wave of Facebook discontent but most of our friends weren’t there. He wisely said, “Facebook is to keep track of your old friends. Google Plus is to find new ones.”

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Review of the Huguenot Sword by Shawn Lamb

I am interested in church history, especially regarding Protestants, and as soon as I saw this book I wanted to read it. I got the Amazon Kindle version on a 99 cent Cyber Monday sale after a heads-up from the author on Goodreads. It deals mostly with young adult characters and includes a number of well-known historical figures. For those who don’t know, Huguenots were Protestants who tried to obtain the right to live as citizens and practice their faith in Catholic France but were severely persecuted, especially under Cardinal Richelieu.

Shawn Lamb has created a great study of how ordinary people look at and practice their beliefs, and how those beliefs affect their own lives and conduct, and their interactions with others. If you like the Three Musketeers, the Scarlet Pimpernell, and Zorro, you will like this story. Adventure, disguises, intrigues, court life, expectations of family, arranged marriage, and elements of romance and temptation all enter into the plot and storyline.

Three young men try to live by their motto, “For Friendship, for Faith, and for Freedom,” while aiding the Huguenot Resistance in France. Shawn Lamb provides plenty of swordfighting, pursuits and escapes, and, most importantly, insight into how young people view faith as they mature and make decisions about what they really believe and how it will shape their conduct.

Though I enjoyed the story and characters very much, I found the book contained some technical imperfections. The author was kind enough to share her process of writing and “vetting” a book and her many years of experience with different ways of bringing a book to print. She graciously promised to take my comments about the book into consideration in her future writing.

So, take it all together, the Huguenot Sword was an exciting, satisfying read, a tribute to faith and its struggles to grow, and an opportunity for me to learn firsthand something about how an author gets a book out of her head and into print, or into my Kindle, in this case.  I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads and Amazon.

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