So I have to talk to…people?

A Tale of Social Media and Reader Interaction

Social media is a large part of our society these days. As an author, it plays a part in both your personal and business lives. Why? Because social media is where EVERYONE is—friends, family, co-workers, other writers. And most important, readers.

Many of us were readers before we ever sat down to pen our first book. We were inspired by someone, somewhere, to put our ideas on paper and make them into a story that we hope others want to enjoy. While the point of marketing is to expose our brand, there’s more to it than spamming the interwebz with pleas to buy our books.

Think on this – when you’re engaging a person at a conference or wherever, do you want them to walk up to you, stick their hand out and introduce themselves like this? “Hey, I’m T.J. I know you don’t know me but my books are awesome. Here’s a link to go buy them!”

Most likely, you’d look at that person and wonder whether they were off their meds. You don’t greet total strangers like that in person, so why in the world would it be effective online? Sure readers are always looking for great books. But they’re more likely to buy your work if you come off as a person who is approachable, likeable and not a total bitch.

Admit it, there’ve been times where you looked forward to meeting an author at a book signing or a conference, then after finally having a moment to interact, you swore you’d never buy another one of their books again. Like, ever.

So, don’t be “that guy”.

The question is, how do we let our readers know that we’re real people and not just walking promotions? We have to TALK to them.

Here’s a great example of how simply being friendly can gain great relationships with readers.

The following post had about 100 likes, which means the number of people who actually looked at it was much higher:

So later on, when this same author posted about a new book, the engagement DOUBLED:

I also notice that after I’ve been a bit more chatty with people on social media, I get a lot more engagement in my actual promo posts. And the hope is that more engagement will translate in sales.

For example, I had a new release in a KindleWorlds launch, and instead of spamming my book in The Wolf Pack (a popular Facebook group), I talked about shifters in general, other people’s books, things I was interested in (such as big cats) and commented on/liked other people’s posts. I did this for a couple of weeks prior to my own release. I didn’t spend all day on Facebook, but just a few interactions a day.

Along came release week and guess what happened? I received a TON more engagements on both my fun and promo posts than I’d ever received before. Ever. In addition, I received more REVIEWS on Amazon for the book that I was promoting, and a nice number of opening sales for the first two months of the release. In addition, every other book in the series received a sales bump. And the longer I engaged the group in fun stuff, the longer the sales bump continued. It was a totally magical [insert Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings-type music here!] moment and completely worth it.

So, yes. We do need to actually ‘talk’ to people. Share a bit of yourself with your readership. They don’t need to know what blood type you are, or what color panties you wear on Tuesdays. But a little bit of information can go a long way.

So what kind of things should you share? Here are some examples:

  • Are you a Doctor Who fan? Why or why not?
  • If you write paranormal, have you ever been on a ghost hunt?
  • Which paranormal TV shows or movies do you like?
  • For general things, do you enjoy music? If so, what kind?
  • Do you listen to it while you write? Does it inspire any of your stories?
  • Who are your favorite man-candy actors or girl-crush actresses?
  • What do you think about the latest movies that hit the big screen? Love ‘em, hate ‘em, ambivalent or just meh?
  • Did you dress up last Halloween? Really? What did you “go” as?
  • Coffee lover? Chocolate lover? Hate one or both?
  • Are you a proud nerd?
  • Know any good jokes? If not, are you master of the funny meme?

Now, I’m not saying just start spouting all of this information all over the interwebz, but find others who may be talking about some of these things and engage them. Your readers will definitely see it and may even check out some of your interests and begin to talk with you about them.

A little interaction can go a loooong way to building positive social media relationships with people who love your writing. And those people will tell someone else. And they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on.

Bottom line, if readers like you as a person, they’re more likely to stick with you as an author.

So, go get ‘em tiger!

Love, T.J.

Formatting with Scrivener

March 21, 2016

You’ve finished your book, and have decided to self-publish it!

It’s a wonderful, exciting step forward after all the work of writing, editing, rewriting, re-editing, and in essence doing everything you can to make sure your book is perfect. You’ve gotten a book cover for your book, and it’s so pretty, you can just gaze at the art for hours.

Now, though, it’s time to format and upload that book.

While formatting itself is not hard, per se, but it is a bit time consuming and can be frustrating.

Be prepared, no matter how you do it, to re-do that first book several times until you get it right.

Don’t get mad at yourself for having to do it again.

It’s so hard not to–I know, trust me–but like anything, with practice you’ll find a way that works best for you.

I choose to use Scrivener to compile my finished books into an .epub file before I upload. (Scrivener is available for PC or Mac, and is very reasonably priced). This is not the only use for Scrivener–it has a very nice writing program and story organization (binder), also it never “trashes” anything, just moves it out of the way.

Working in Scrivener is very simple. Like in any program, it has a little bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy to use.

Simply put:

  1. You start a new file (a project), and Scrivener has multiple premade templates to use, depending on what you’ve written (fiction, fiction in parts, non-fiction, etc.).
  1. You import your file. You can import multiple word processing file types. Also, be sure to upload your cover art into the program so you can put it in the finished document.
  1. Split your document into chapters and/or scenes. Scrivener allows for making each chapter a folder and putting each scene in each file.

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The Value of Rebranding a Series

March 14, 2016

At first glance, some people might read the title and think, “This is a blog about marketing. How will changing covers market my books?” Well, the answer is quite simple—your cover is one of the most powerful marketing tools in your arsenal.

Think about it. You could have the hottest new story to take the world by storm, but if your cover doesn’t covey the genre and/or tone of the book, it may never be discovered. On top of that, if your cover doesn’t catch the eye, a potential reader won’t click to learn more. And I’m not just talking about on online vendor sites (although that’s important). The whole point of any Facebook ad, email marketing ad, and so on is to catch the impulse buys. But if your cover is ugly, unreadable, and tells me it’s chick lit when I’m looking for paranormal, then you have a problem.

I have experience rebranding two series. One was drastic, where I changed cover artists and she came up with a brand new style. The other rebranding was minor, with me taking my serial boxed sets and repackaging them as novels. Both times, my sales increased afterward. Not only that, but my serial rebranding helped lessen the confusion about the reading order of my series. The last thing you want to do is make it more difficult for a reader to find the next book to buy!

So, when should you rebrand? I can’t give you a definitive answer since I don’t know your sales figures or book(s). However, all of the following could be signs it’s time to rebrand your series:

  • If the covers in your genre shift dramatically, you might want to update yours to better match. Think about romance covers from the 1980s and compare them to today. You definitely don’t want to stick out in a bad way!
  • Readers leave reviews along the lines of, “The cover mislead me about the tone of the book.” Or, “The cover has nothing to do with the story. I thought I was getting subgenre XYZ and it’s really more subgenre ABC.” You want the right readers clicking your book, or they’ll stop reading and won’t buy the rest of your series.
  • Your sales have declined beyond a seasonal slump. A new look could help attract a new kind of reader.

So, take a look at your covers and decide if rebranding your series might be a good option.

Note: Some people may even change the titles of their books when rebranding, and that’s more than fine. Just make sure to put a note somewhere, “This book was previously titled NAME” to avoid confusion!

Trajectory: Discoverability for a New Age

The following post is a report on the Trajectory session at the 2015 Novelist Inc. conference. Sessions are not recorded and tapes are not made because it’s believed this encourages a more free flowing, honest conversation and candid replies to questions. However, because NINC understands not everyone can go to conference, every session is reported on by a member, and the reports are published int he NINC newsletter. This report was published in the October 2015 Novelist Inc Newsletter.

Trajectory: Discoverability for a New Age — Be in On the Ground Floor!

Speakers: Jim Bryant, Scott Beatty
NINC Reporter: Sasha White
Trajectory was a super information packed session. So, in order to give you as much information as I can, this is goign to be very concise and condensed.
Trajectory is a relatively new company, founded in 2012, in Marblehead, Mass, and it’s run by veterans of the publishing industry who all share a passion for problem solving and a drive to have significant impact on the word. Every week they’re discovering something new that keeps them constantly evolving. Whihc makes them both awesome, and hard to define.
On the Trajectory website it says that they ‘tirelessly seek to create more relevant, useful, and improved offers for the publishing community.’ And Jim Bryant and Scott Beatty did just that. After speaking with some NINC members, they reworked their presentation overnight, for us.
What Trajectory does is mine data from books and use that data to offer publishers unique insights and opportunities for discoverability and distribution, and to help retailers market the books they provide or recommend. Trajectory is all about deep learning algorithms that are used to analyze and recommend books. You, (a publisher) upload your book to their database, and they scan it and apply all their neat little techie things, and then it shows up on their website with all this awesome information. Recommendations are generated by comparing unique characteristics of one book to the other Writing style, words, subjects. Basically, it’s Moneyball for books.
Example: A library in Midwest is looking for books that deal with specific crops. The data Trajectory provides would help them find those books instead of having to read/scan the books to see if the topics were mentioned.
Below is a very basic rundown of some of the data it mines, and ways it can be used.
Trajectory’s Index – the index shows up on the right side of the page when you select a title. It shows a wide variety of signals and stats that include number of words, number of unique words, parts of speech, nouns dominant, certain use of adjective, average reading time and so on. It also shows the Goodreads rating and number of Goodreads reviews. Some reviews do show on the site as well.
Another interesting thing, how many SAT words are in the title. These things might sound useless, but think of it this way, if you want your book to look good to foreign language libraries/sites for their readers who want to use them to learn /better their english, they’ll be more likely to use books with a high rating of things like SAT and TOEFL words. When you are on the site, and you click on a subject in this area, there is a brief explanation of things, so I won’t go over it all. We don’t have enough room.
While the Index shows you the above things in a percentage form, Trajectory’s Interesting Facts and Data Visualizations section, which is beneath the title, shows it to you in word clouds and graphs. This is where comaparing books gets very interesting.
They have this thing called a Sentiment Graph (also the Intensity one works this way too). What they do is divide the book into 100 equal parts and compare them. They assign each part a sentiment (or intensity) value between +5 and -5 according to what happens in that part. (+ 5 beg something spectacular – 5 being something tragic.)Then they chart the path of the book using these values.
This is just one signal that can be looked at when evaluating books, particularly fiction.
When evaluating words Extreme happiness is 5. Catastrophic is – 5. Then there’s a graph that shows the ups and downs in a clear, easy to understand way. One of the most interesting things is that once a book is up on the site you can compare it to another simply by selecting the Compare this book to another. That is in the top left hand corner of the Interesting Facts and Data Visualization area.

Example:Here is a comparison between Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, and Ninc member Cathryn Fox’s Pleasure Control.

Kinda cool, hmm? Imagine comparing the ups and downs of your books intensity and sentiment to classics, and blockbusters. That alone is cool information, never mind that you can compare the words in a book to SAT data base, TOEFL words and the IELTS words.
What Trajectory offers is hard numbers and data that can help us to see how one book can compare to another. What they do is help facilitate the global book supply chain where the publisher would be paying to supply their own books or retailers using them to find books for their clientele.
What they want to do is help everyone sell more books, and they see us, publishers, authors, and readers as their partners. They need our help to help them evolve into the best use for authors, and they are very open and eager for feedback, so feel free to contact them with feedback to help them make it better.
They encourage us to see Trajectory as a tool to be used in conjunction with other tools. The data they provide has many uses. Retailers today are using keywords you provide to them. Their scan will show you want words are showing up the most in your booksThis will help identify popular keywords in your stories, and help with discoverability. It can also be useful to an author who is unsure how to categorize, or market a book. You can use the data to help your web designer use keywords to drive traffic to your website. Also boughts in online stores are social driven, the secret sauce that each place has, that we have no access to. However, with Trajectory people can use these comparisons to find books that really do compare to the ones they love.
Trajectory has always mainly worked with large publishers to get their books into new markets. The original intention was not for the public. Supply chain was the goal. NINC has helped them to see that authors are not just writers anymore. We are publishers, and suppliers as well, and they are completely open to working with individuals. If you would like to work with them on distribution they ask you please be patient as it takes as much time for them to set up an account for one person as it does for a large company. They like to work with other organizations systems and connected networks. Which brought up the appealing idea that if some were interested in distribution with them, it might be a thought for some authors banding together to submit books for distribution as a group.

TOEFL-Test of English as a Foreign Language
IELTS-International English Language Testing System

Project Management For Writers

February 29, 2016

Did you know a writer’s career can be summed up as mini-projects from start to finish? Author and project management are two terms that rarely go hand-in-hand. There are thousands of ebooks out there that will tell you how to write, how to market, and how to increase your word count. Trust me, I know. I’ve read most of them. What I’ve yet to find is a comprehensive guide for effectively managing multiple author projects, website updates, marketing, money, contracts, etc. and still manage to get your writing done.

Many years before I took the plunge into full-time writing, I was a project manager for large military hospitals at various sites. Fifteen billion dollars in products and services passed through my hands during those years. It was a high-stress job with micromanaging at an epic level (for good reason! That’s a lot of tax dollars!), and keeping track of my daily to-do list was a nightmare all its own. Our base had become a joint venture with our sister services as well as the VA so there were a lot of eyes on our new program.

My job site sent me to shadow three project managers of the largest accounts in all of Pacific Air Force. For one week, I’d be at their side, learning the ins and outs of time management in the midst of turmoil. Each project manager taught me valuable lessons that I’m going to share with you. If they don’t make sense, no worries. I’ll expand on them in a bit.

  1. Your daily list is the most important list you’ll ever have. If you’re not a list maker, then you need at least a primary goal in your mind.
  2. If you don’t hold yourself accountable for your time, you will constantly feel as though you will never catch up.
  3. Document your time. And BE HONEST. Don’t exaggerate how you did. Later on, when you’re really struggling, you’ll need to see this wasn’t the first time you’d hit a snag.
  4. Effective time management means balancing the project legs (parts of the project) with the appropriate amount of time and attention. That means cutting your big projects down into manageable chunks.

The life of an author has taken a fascinating turn these past few years. We’re expected to do more with less, market harder than the person next to us, and still write gripping prose while maintaining optimism. It’s enough to overwhelm a person.

Each book you write, edit, upload (or submit), and publish is a project. A book can be broken down into four main project legs: writing, editing, publishing, marketing. If you have a publisher, the publishing section would be what you have to do in order to get your book ready for submission and will include the submission process. Maintaining your financial records is an ongoing project that requires a scheduled update. Website design and maintenance are a project all its own (though creating a new lead page for your latest release could technically fall under marketing for a book project). Blog posts, like this one, need to be scheduled and promoted. These are important aspects to our career that we have to pay attention to.

So how do you set up your project management tracker?

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The Ugh! I Hate Tracking Reader Engagement Tool

February 8, 2016

So, I have a fantasy. It’s a very dark and dirty fantasy where I get lost in the sheer bliss of organization. I seduce myself with thoughts of plots, outlines, and tracking every single piece of data I can get my greedy little fingers on.

This cycle sends me tumbling into the corners of the scary and often thrilling, corners of the Internet. Google. Youtube. Forums. Pictures. I search out tools that will fulfill these twisted needs of mine, downloading with abandon. With breathless anticipation I open them up only to remember that… yeah, well, I kind of hate tracking. Especially when if I used this spreadsheet I’d never get any actual writing done because it would take me ten years to manage. I promptly lose all interest.

But see, here’s the thing, I am a businesswoman as much as a writer. I spent the last ten years as a management consultant I know tracking is important. I’ve managed projects—you have to know what works and what doesn’t. You need to know your ROI. But every tracking tool I’ve ever opened up is a BEAST, clearly made those of you that love and have inappropriate feelings toward tracking.

So using my businessy skills I started to create tools that will help me track the vital parts of my business without driving myself crazy. My criteria was simple: It had to be easy, and take me less than 30 minutes a month to complete. I’d like to share one of those tools with you today.

For you data queens, this isn’t going to be enough, but there’s tons of stuff out there for you, this is for the rest of us—that really, really want to track those necessary things, but can’t wrap our heads around a twenty-five tab workbook.

Tool: Reader EngagementContinue reading

Thinking Outside the Box Set – Creative Author Collaboration

By now, most authors know that multi-author boxed sets of ebooks can be a great way to cross promote and reach new readers. While there still can be a lot of power in a bundle, if done right (in fact, there’s a great article right here about how to do that), the power of the mighty boxed set is beginning to wane.

Luckily, authors (especially indies) have all kinds of other great opportunities to collaborate! Here’s a look at a few creative projects that have come out recently.


Authors are banding together to write closely-connected stories within the same world. From projects like the Woodland Creek series, where thirty authors coordinated to write paranormal shifter stories set around the same town, all tightly branded and releasing on the same day, to the ambitious 50-title historical western romance project American Mail Order Brides, authors are using the strength of their numbers to make a marketing splash.


Several bestselling romance authors are collaborating to release sexy novellas under the 1001 Dark Nights brand, with great success. And a number of SF and Fantasy authors have put together short story anthologies based around themes or featuring women writers, like the fabulous collection The Dark Beyond the Stars.


Although the above ventures are ambitious, you don’t have to put together a huge project to be successful. Find one or two other authors writing in your subgenre who have a similar career track and goals, and see if you can come up with some interesting ideas. Bestselling western romance writers Deborah Holland and Carolyn Fyffe share the Mail Order Brides of the West series, taking turns releasing books in that sub-series which are tied to their own, individual series. Authors Grace Draven and Elizabeth Hunter have released themed collaborations where they each contribute a novella, and cross-promote to their readers. Beneath a Waning Moon is their most recent duo release.


Many authors have found that gathering a group of similar authors to share promotions can greatly increase their reach. Whether it’s doing a book giveaway for the holidays or putting together a Facebook reader event, collaborating with others increases the fun, and the potential success, of your project.


The best way to make things happen is to connect with similar authors (the more similar the better in terms of genre and where you are in your careers) and start building connections. Form up or find groups on your social media networks, and start putting ideas out there. Be proactive, fearless, and creative. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of ways to use our power as authors to collaborate and innovate. The next big thing is out there – maybe just waiting for you to invent it!

Managing giveaways and free stories for newsletter subscribers by Anna Lowe

January 25, 2016

My biggest challenge as an author is probably the same as any other person’s: balancing time. That’s true on several levels, because I have to balance my writing commitments with family time as well as meeting the demands of my day job. If I zoom the focus to writing specifically, the balance question becomes how much to time to put into writing new material which is critical to keep fans happy versus how much time to put into social media and promotion so that I can reach new fans? In this article, I’ll talk about why and how I give away free content and how I distribute it.

Every author knows (or should know) the importance of building a mailing list. I have tried gaining newsletter subscribers in various ways but the most effective, hands-down, if offering free content. To put it crudely, I dangle a baited hook in front of readers – and “free” makes great bait. Free and easy is even better – for authors and readers alike.

I currently offer two short stories free to subscribers (one for each of my series). I started out offering one free story that followed up on the couple featured in Book 1 of my Wolves of Twin Moon Ranch series. That attracts huge numbers of subscribers. Once I expanded into a second series (the Serendipity Adventure Romance series), I added a second free story, which is the prequel to Book 1 of that series.

These giveaways make effective bait because they are complete stories in and of themselves (not excerpts or deleted scenes). The stories also fit seamlessly into the line-up of my established series so readers can see that the product has value. This impression is reinforced by the fact that the covers are professional, attractive, and again, streamlined into the series. Finally, the giveaways are actually posted for sale on Amazon and have collected many reviews, so the reader can see that they’re the genuine deal. And snap – they grab the reward! As they should; it’s a great deal that allows new readers to try out my story worlds for free. A win-win for us both.

I started out by individually emailing fans epub/mobi/or pdf files of these free stories (and sending ARC copies of upcoming releases to my growing review team the same way). That was a huge time drain! Author friends pointed me to instaFreebie and I’ve never looked back. Newsletter subscribers can use Instafreebie to claim both books in any format they like, and ARC readers can download advance copies of a new release the same way. Interestingly, both of the stories I give away for free also sell reasonably well on Amazon for 99¢ each, so I’ve long since earned back the costs of covers and editing for both.

Most importantly, instaFreebie makes it easy for me. By offering readers a variety of formats in which they can download their reward, instaFreebie saves me valuable writing time. Looking back, I was able to reward the first few dozen subscribers to my newsletter “by hand,” but now that I’ve broken into four digits with my subscriber list, that’s just inconceivable.

Similarly, I used to individually email every member of my review team a copy of the story in her preferred format. It took ages! With instaFreebie, I send one email to my entire review team with one instaFreebie link. The great thing is, if someone needs tech support, instaFreebie helps with that, too, so I’m not left scratching my head about why Jane Doe can’t load a book to her device. (You’d be amazed how many people don’t know how to load a story onto their reading device.) InstaFreebie also gives me some peace of mind in that it distributes watermarked copies of my book, making it slightly harder for a copy to end up on a pirate website.

Even I, a complete technophobe, could set up MailChimp to send all newsletter subscribers a welcome email that leads to the free stories on instaFreebie, so that is automated, as well. The one thing I don’t automate is responses to my ARC review team. Once they send me the link to their review (a requirement to stay on my ARC team), I reply to each and every one personally. They’ve given their time to read and review my books; the least I can do is send even a brief thank you in return.

Finally, the nuts and bolts: I set up my free stories as unlimited campaigns (no limit to number of downloads and no expiration date), because I don’t want readers to come to a dead end with an expired offer. On the other hand, I set up my ARC campaigns as batches of 50 downloads with no expiration date just in case someone were tempted to abuse the system and share the link with the world. It’s never happened and I hope it doesn’t, but just in case, I do ARC offers in limited batches.

I have a prominent tab on my author website (labeled “FREE BOOK” instead of “newsletter”) that leads to my newsletter sign-up. That page includes a color image of both covers to brighten that hook even more (see In addition, I include the same color invite to join my newsletter as a live link in the frontmatter of every book I publish, and I put the sign-up link in the backmatter, as well.

Good luck growing your newsletter list and managing your giveaways to make the most of your precious writing time!

25 things authors want to know about Amazon but didn’t know to ask

When I prepared to self-publish, I had no idea how many aspects of Amazon existed, much less those I’d need or choose not to use. Here’s an overview of 25 ways authors can partake of Amazon’s sites and services. Starting Thursday, January 14, I’ll cover one or two in detail at

Not ready to publish but want to get your GAN (great American novel) into the public eye? Consider one of these sites for sharing your work that incorporate the power of crowd voting and commenting. 1) You can post on Kindle Scout (the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award was discontinued in favor of this). Maybe you’ll prefer 2) the story lab Write On by Kindle.

If you prefer traditional publishing, consider submitting to one of 3) Amazon Publishing’s 14 (!) imprints.

Like fan fiction? 4) Kindle Worlds allows authors to publish in the worlds of certain popular TV shows such as The Vampire Diaries and best-selling authors such as Kathryn Le Veque. You write a novella or book in that world and share royalties.

To self-publish other e-books, you need an account with 5) Kindle Direct Publishing. For print, you need 6) CreateSpace (yes, there’s a way on CreateSpace to automatically create an e-book for Kindle, but because of formatting issues, that’s not recommended). Each site has different features and offers different reports.

Not ready to write a full-length novel or just prefer short stories? Check out 7) Kindle singles and short reads.

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Get Started On Your Book!

January 10, 2016

Before we start, if you're here looking for a magic pill to make this all happen for you and a hand holding step-by-step guide, you've landed at the wrong blog post.

Looking for a list of recommended reads to help you not only get started on your book but develop your craft as you go? Welcome! It should also be noted that this page and its contents may often change so be sure to bookmark it. Interested in writing a book, but don't know how to go about doing it? Have no fear. I asked some of today's best selling authors to recommend books to help you get started.

Wait? I have to read books about the craft of writing? Yes. While we don't mind offering a direction to get started, we don't have the time to offer much beyond that. Also, all of us have had to do the legwork and the research as well to develop our craft.) In addition to the suggested reading material, the biggest piece of writing advice that came from the authors was "write the book". Put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard and write.


Recommended Reads:

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