Category Archives: Tips for Authors and Illustrators

How to get your writing noticed

Publish stories on your own website/blog

thzm0mn3jlAndy Weir, author of The Martian, first published this story on his own website one chapter at a time. He’d been posting short stories and chapters of different books on-line for ten years, growing a dedicated following.  His readers asked him to produce an ebook version of The Martian to make it easier to read, and this is when the book took off. Suddenly, he had an agent, a book deal and Fox Studios making the movie. Interestingly, the author had once taken three years off work to try and sell his writing to a traditional publisher and failed.

 

Use Wattpad to find a readership

176127761Wattpad has 8 million monthly visitors and a high proportion of YA users. Writers post their books chapter by chapter, and give it away for free. But some authors see it as a price worth paying in order to find a readership. Lily Carmine’s story, The Lost Boys, clocked up 33 million readers! It was quickly snapped up by Random House.

 

 

 

Broaden your readership using social media

Try combining your words with images for sites such as Instagram, pinterest and Facebook to expose your writing to new readers. Even on sites where visual content isn’t required, images have better visibility in the news feed. I write flash fiction for pure fun and post it on Instagram/my author blog.

mobile-homes-final

 Make an ebook

stick-dogAmazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) enables authors to independently publish their books straight to Kindle. It’s not a passport to getting your work noticed, but if your writing stays in a drawer no-one is going to read it! Producing an ebook is less expensive than making a physical book and is a good way of dipping your toe into the water to see if it sells. Tom Watson, author of the picture book Stick Dog, produced his own ebook because he felt his work was “too far out there” for a traditional publisher. It went on to gain a massive following through word of mouth. Our Electrik Inc books are all available as ebooks.

Do you have any top tips for getting your writing noticed? If so, let us know. We’d love to hear them.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Kim

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An author by any other name

Here’s a test: judged purely on their names, which genre do you think these authors write in? Winifred Futtock, Colin Smith, Lorelei Chase, Theodora Clench, John Myszkowski, Chantelle Blake. And just to confuse you here are the titles of their books so you can have fun matching author to title: The tyranny of the balcony: what your bra says about you; A History of Baseball; Blue: my love affair with erotica; Bunny’s Birthday; Bonemasters; The Tale of Snatcher Bagpole.

Just in case you’re already resenting the waste of grey matter trying to second guess the ‘answers’ I’ll reveal all: the titles and the authors’ names are all invented but hopefully the excercise threw up a few questions. Does it really matter what you call yourself as an author? Does it only matter if you write in certain genres? Perhaps (with understandable insecurity) an indie writer could be forgiven for imagining that with a name like Colin Smith you might not be optimising your chances of selling a book about erotica. There may be a more basic problem if your surname is the unpronounceable Polish-sounding one above: that poor author has to grapple with the unhappy possibility of a reader going into a bookshop and asking for ‘…that John something-or-other, you know, that unpronounceable one beginning with m—lots of consonants, you know the one…’ His name will probably only trip off the tongue if/when he becomes well known; a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.

And what of those writers who choose to be JK; GK; PL; HG; CS. or HE.? Are they trying to sound anonymous? (“Judge me by my novel and not my exotic/boring/strange Christian name”.) Alternatively,perhaps for some there is more than a whiff of prep school culture around giving yourself initials alone. (“Chesterton G.K., second form prize for Divinity…”) But there may be a more obvious strategy if you’re female; simply wanting your name to be gender neutral. Tricky territory, and guaranteed to ruffle feathers.

Some novelists adopt a pseudonym because they are known for a particular genre and want to break into another. The marketing department is thrown into disarray if you’re known for coming-of-age frothy romps for a largely female readership and you suddenly produce a darkly violent thriller set in nineteen eighties East London.

By a happy accident the inimitable and utterly brilliant Edward Gorey was possessed of a name that could be jumbled to produce the alternative Ogdred Weary. Strangely apt and evocative for a writer of dark, faintly menacing tales about small children.

Aside from the prosaic commercial reasons for adopting a nom-de-plume what fun it would be to dream up an alter ego. We are, after all, in the business of ‘making things up’. How about embracing the new image with strings of rather noisy beads, a velvet cloak lined with purple silk and a handbag containing nothing but a box of truffles, a pair of knickers and a plan of the Moscow underground? But I’m getting carried away now.

Seriously, any suggestions for that pseudonym, now that you know my innermost fantasies?

Julia Draper

Find my novel for children The Paupers of Langden here.

 

 

 

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Using a Pen Name and How to Market Yourself

Great post by Frances Caballo in The Book Designer with some good tips on using a pseudonym and how to market yourself. It often makes sense to use a pen name if you want to write in a different genre, but there can be problems marketing yourself as a  new name or brand, especially if you’ve already built yourself up a fan base in one genre.

Still, lots of authors manage it successfully, so I thought I’d pass this on as worth a read, in case any of you are looking for ideas.

Kay Leitch
Author of  Treasure This

Originally posted on kaywriteshemretoo.wordpress.com

 

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Writing, Editing and Publishing

You know how sometimes you know what you want to say but then you hear someone else say it so much better than you could?

Well, that’s a convoluted way of saying I’ve found three blogs I think are worth sharing in this world of creative writing, independent publishing, traditional publishing and editing.

1) — Paula Hawkins didn’t have much success writing a variety of genres, including frothy romance stories. She wrote them to try and earn some money. A few years ago she decided to stop trying to second guess the market and decided “to try writing the kind of story she likes to read” and so she wrote The girl on The Train. And guess what? It worked. Good for her! She finally wrote what she wanted to write.

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/the-gamble-that-put-girl-on-the-train-writer-at-top-of-bestseller-lists-in-under-a-month-1.2088004

2) — Toby Young, writing at The Telegraph online with the headline These days, writing isn’t a career, it’s a rich man’s hobby mentions that a survey of 2500 professional authors found their median income in 2013 was £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/11349865/These-days-writing-isnt-a-career.-Its-a-rich-mans-hobby.html

Most writers need another job to supplement their income (that or a private income or an understanding — and rich — spouse). Interestingly, most traditional publishers and agents only need to hold down the one job… They make their money from writers.

So, it seems to me, if you’re going to be paid what amounts to pocket money for doing what you love, and need to keep the day job anyway… then you might as well write what you want to write.

Life. Is. Too. Short.

3) — Mandy Brett at the meanjin.com.au site gives an in-depth analysis of what being an editor means to her. She demonstrates how a good editor works and why they’re so necessary if you want your book to be not only professional, but better than it would have been. And you do want that, right?

http://meanjin.com.au/editions/volume-70-number-1-2011/article/stet-by-me-thoughts-on-editing-fiction

So that’s it. Three blogs that said exactly what I wanted to say. Here’s what it boils down to:

1)   Write what you want to write.

2)   You probably won’t make much money from writing anyway (although a lot of people will make money from you), so write what you want to write.

3)   Hire a good editor; they’re worth it. But write what you want to write.

There’s a theme in there somewhere  🙂

Kay Leitch

Author of  Treasure This

Originally published at kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

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Ten Tips For Successful Marketing (ebooks and print on demand)

First, make a plan. It’s okay to write your book without any kind of plan, if that’s your preferred way of working. But if you adopt that strategy for marketing, you’ll seriously restrict your book’s chances.

A lot depends on how much time you have. I don’t subscribe to the ‘make the time’ school of thought, either for writing, reading or marketing. Too many writers also work, full time or part time, and many don’t even get sitting down to eat until way after 7 pm. Since the laws of physics are immutable, ‘making time’ is impossible, so don’t beat yourself up about it. What it really means is that if you want to write and market your books, and you also have to work, then some other part of your life will have to be sacrificed: eating, sleeping, watching tv, spending time with loved ones … take your pick.

All this means is that choosing a marketing strategy that works best for you is more important than trying to fit everything in and then wondering why you’re exhausted, bad tempered and have just noticed a horrible mistake on the last page of your printed book.

For example, you may not be able to do school visits (if writing for children) but you could fit in a few hours of social media marketing a week: reviewing others’ books, putting your own up for review, joining forums, being helpful, guiding people to your own blog (and your own book) … When your spare time is so precious, make every hour count. Don’t waste time on Facebook if you’re not comfortable with it – find another way. Forums can offer more anonymity, if that’s what you want. But bear in mind that these days, everyone wants to ‘see’ who you are.

A typical marketing plan might look something like:

1 Do a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Example: Strength: you write well. Weakness: you have limited time. Opportunity: independent publishing is becoming easier, and there are some very bad books out there. Threat: There are also a lot of very good, independently published books out there, and someone might write a book similar to yours but have greater resources with which to market it.

Your strengths and weaknesses will be unique to you, but the opportunities and threats will alter with the state of the market. Know where you stand within your chosen market. Keep an eye on it.

2 Sit down … I have some news … You are now a brand. I know. I’m so sorry, but it seemed best just to break it to you.

Even if you’ve never been image conscious or interested in fashions and fads, you need to start looking at yourself (the writer) as a product (a good book) that people (readers) want to buy. It’s your job to ensure those people know your product is available to buy and that they can be assured of a consistent image/style (and quality) within that product.

For example, if you write dark YA fantasy, your blog shouldn’t look and read like something from a knitting or gardening magazine (unless there’s an intelligent, psychotic plant that shape-shifts into … well, you know what I mean). This can be a hard idea to take in, because it encompasses so many things: your style of writing, your genre, how people (readers) see you, your image, your blog, your tweets … all of these should have your unique stamp on them.

3 Make a list of social media sites you might be interested in. As I mentioned in my Ten Tips for Successful Independent Publishing, join forums and review sites such as Goodreads or Booklikes. Start reviewing. Play nice! Ask others to review your book – but be prepared for them to be brutal. Stay professional. And build on the online relationships you make. Consider guest blogging (yours and theirs), give useful links. Be interesting. The idea is to drive traffic (people) to your blog or website, where they can find out more about you and possibly buy your book.

4 Your cover is an important marketing tools. Get it right. Organise a cover designer. Be prepared to pay for this – set a budget. Do homework. Check other book covers you like. Have a strong idea of what you want your cover to be, don’t expect the designer/illustrator to work to a blank canvas. Be prepared to pay a kill fee if you don’t like their attempts. Use your cover wherever you can in your marketing material – any press releases should have your picture and your cover on them. Your cover should definitely be on your blog and any Facebook page. Give your book, and cover, a page of their own, rather than just presenting it as a normal blog, which usually disappears down the list and makes way for the next blog.

5 Put your book into one of CreateSpace’s interior book templates to see how many pages it will make in the book size you want. Then work out what discount you will have to give to the major print on demand distributors (anything from 20% to 55%, depending on what you think you can get away with). They will all take a cut and the longer your book is, the more your print costs will be, giving you less profit. Once you know an approximate page size, you can work out roughly how much you will make on each sale. Then you can work out how many books you will have to sell to a) break even; b) make a profit; and c) earn a living from writing.

Caveat: this is the point where you may consider sticking your head in the gas oven, or running away to join a Circus in the Balkans so I think it’s worth pointing out that you need to accept you’re in this for the long haul and not the fast buck (excuse the mixed metaphor). Time and again I’ve heard it can take at least a year or two, or a book or three before you begin to make any decent money from writing.

6 Consider an online launch if you are launching an ebook only. It’s a good way of spreading the word to your online friends and associates that you have a book coming out. Read more about these at spiritauthors.com – a great site for all sorts of information on independent publishing.

7 Consider a bricks and mortar launch if your book is also print on demand. (Remember the book store will likely want to see the kind of book you plan to publish so let them see any book proof.) Don’t restrict yourself to independent book stores for your launch. There are some great Bars out there that would be happy to host a local author’s book launch, especially mid-week when it’s usually quieter. Or, again, consider something completely different. If your house is big enough, host the launch there, or at a friend’s. Theme it. Make it fun. Invite more people than you think will come; there will always be those who can’t make it.

8 Make up postcards with your cover on one side and your blurb and contact details on the other. Consider bookmarks (if appropriate), T-shirts, notebooks – anything you can think of that would add perceived value to your book. Always link these back to your book (cover or other visuals). Vistaprint.co.uk and other companies offer these kinds of products, often with discounts. But don’t spend money if you don’t have to. No point making up lots of T-shirts or fridge magnets just for the sake of it. Stick to items your intended readership might like, or find fun. Build this into your budget but don’t overdo it. Also, make sure you have a professional business card and carry it with you – for example when you visit your local book stores to ask if they’ll stock your book (see 10).

9 Consider an author Facebook page for your book and characters. Tweets and u-tube are other options (short readings, fun videos). But remember, as ever, to choose what works best for you and the time constraints you may be under. I’m making a list here so you have options; you don’t have to do it all.

10 Go round local book stores, especially the independents. Ask if they’ll consider stocking a few copies of your book. As an unknown, you don’t have a lot of leverage so if you’ve had any media coverage, take along a copy. Offer sale or return (times are hard for everyone). They’ll likely check the book’s ISBN to ensure they can order it from their usual wholesalers and if your print on demand company has done its job properly, your book should come up in all the right places. Ask for window space for a small display – they probably have their own plans for that but it’s worth asking. Sometimes they’ll offer you a window display ‘in a few months’. Fine. Keep in touch and take them up on it.

And here’s one extra tip – for those of you who actually want to write, rather than spend your creative time and energy on the social media marketing treadmill:

11 FIND ANOTHER WAY.

Read what Lionel Shriver says in her feature How to Succeed as an Author: Give up on Writing

Read some of what Michael Alvear says in his book How to Make a Killing on Kindle (Without Blogging, Facebook or Twitter) and then decide if you want to buy it.

As ever, it’s about balance. I hope you find it.

Good luck.

Kay
Originally posted on kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com
Author of Treasure This
Co-founder of Electrik Inc

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Mission Possible

The last management consultancy job I undertook was to write a marketing strategy for a medium-size business (I have a Masters in Management). Then I started the MA in Writing for Children, fulfilling a long-held dream. For several years I forgot all about business strategy and management models and simply wrote whatever I felt like. Children’s fiction — lots of fantasy. It was wonderful! But now I find myself dusting off my old marketing folders for Electrik Inc members and also for me.

Before you can write a marketing strategy for an indie publisher you need a clear sense of what the business or individual is trying to achieve and their direction of travel. You need to look wider than the book that’s just been written. This would normally be documented as a mission statement. On Wikipedia it is described as:

“A statement of the purpose of a company, organisation or person, its reason for existing.

The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making. It provides the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.”

But as independent publishers do we need to be business focused? Having now published two books myself, I believe the answer is yes. From the moment I set up a limited company, I became accountable for the financial bottom line. I am responsible for paying the illustrator, graphic designer, ebook formatter, the printer . . . for their services in a timely manner. If I want to publish more books, the business has to generate enough income to fund these people again. I would also like to pay myself at some point in the near future — I am responsible for looking after my family, too. On Wiseinkblog.com they say that “the biggest and most devastating mistake indie authors make is that they forget to think like a publisher. A publisher understands its vision as a business and seeks manuscripts that reflect those values, principles, and its established criteria.” But the writer in me just wants to create, and that’s a good thing. I don’t want to be so market driven I stifle my imagination.

One of the main reasons I became an indie writer after the MA was that I wanted to have complete creative freedom to write what I wanted to write and not be pigeon-holed into producing a particular type of book for a publisher, just to meet their sales targets. However, I find the writer and independent publisher in me somewhat at odds. I have to find a way of balancing both sets of needs, as does a traditional publishing house.

I have looked at publishers’ mission statements for inspiration for my own one. What is interesting is how different they are and how those statements shape their business activities. Stripes Publishing said their mission is to “make books that children WANT to read, not because it’s good for them but because it’s fun!” While Scholastic said they are, “committed to providing quality, engaging educational content in digital and print formats for the next generation of learners, and their families and educators who guide them”. Clearly they will publish different types of books and market them in very different ways. On Random House’s website, they talk about “connecting  readers worldwide to adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction authors both familiar and new.” Here we have a real focus on distribution and marketing. I don’t believe my books will just be found by readers. Connecting readers with my stories is important to me as well.

Interestingly, publishers’ mission statements often leave out the need to be commercially successful, but it is usually documented elsewhere. For example, Egmont said:

Mission – stories are at the heart of all our activities at Egmont. Stories are our promise to the world. In short we bring stories to life.

Ambition – We are commercially minded. We are here to achieve results, both on the bottom line and within the media industry.

But I have decided to include the need to be commercially viable in my mission statement. I’m not vanity publishing or self-publishing on the cheap. Costs must be covered. Due to the low profit margin on my books, I’m also aware of the need to find different revenue streams. Note that Egmont’s focus is on bringing stories to life not books.  On their website, they said, ‘Our organisation can tell a world of stories in every medium imaginable’.  I also want to make story content that can be translated into other media. It would introduce new audiences to my work and help with funding.

The creative side of me is still not inspired though, so I’ve looked at other artistic organisations’ mission statements. One of my favourites was for the Cirque du Soleil:

“Cirque du Soleil is an international organization founded in Quebec and dedicated to the creation, production and performance of artistic works whose mission is to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world.”

Independent publishing is also partly a lifestyle choice for me and I want to include something about my personal situation in my statement.

I am wondering how different the electrik inc co-founders’ mission statements will be — I’ll be finding out soon! If they are different, our marketing strategies may vary greatly too. Here is mine:

To publish stories that excite me, and that I believe will be desirable to readers world-wide and be commercially viable. I will produce story content which has the potential not only to be a physical and electronic book, but which can be translated into other media, such as film, apps and computer games in order to reach new audiences and provide different revenue streams. I will work hard at making new readers aware of my stories, build the trust of my existing readers and form good relationships with suppliers and potential business partners. Because I also have a young family, and want to be a good mother, I will maintain a strict work/life balance.

This won’t stop me experimenting with my writing, but I will only publish stories through my company if they meet the requirements of my mission statement. In the future, I may find myself rejecting my own manuscript!

Kim Donovan

Author of St Viper’s School for Super Villains.

electrikincTM

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