Tag Archives: Novel

Separate Yourself From The Pack: Getting Noticed – Guest post by Nikolas Baron

12 Feb

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Everyone wants to be a writer. If you go onto Facebook or Twitter and ask “how’s your book going,” there’s a good chance you’ll get numerous replies, many from people you weren’t even aware wanted to write a book. And, why not? When we’re hanging out with friends, we all love to tell stories, and we all want to be the guy or gal at the party who captivates the other party-goers with tales of fun and adventure. The idea of putting that natural desire to paper in the form of a book, which anyone can read, is an enticing one. Where issues enter, however, is when we realize that everyone else around us feels the exact same way. Everyone wants to be a writer.

Ebooks and the Internet have made all of this even worse. Where once, if you wanted to publish your book, you either had to go through the traditional publishing process of submission, rejection, and eventual publication, or you had to invest massive amounts of money out of your pocket to self-publish. Now-a-days, you simply format your book to certain guidelines, upload it to an Internet store, and wait for the sales to roll in. Anyone can do it, and many, many, many people do, for better or worse. What then can an amateur writer do separate him or herself from the pack? What can an amateur writer do to get noticed in a sea full of amateur writers?

In my work with Grammarly, I spend a lot of time researching online tools to make writers better, and I believe that while setting yourself apart from the pack is difficult, it’s not impossible. In fact, the easiest way to do so is to start by understanding some of the most common mistakes amateur writers make and how to avoid those mistakes. Here are a few tips I’ve learned to help amateur writers set themselves apart, and even above, the crowd.

  • Actually Finish Your Book: Remember when I said you could ask about books on  Facebook or Twitter and getting a ton of replies? Often, many of those replies will be something along the lines of, “I’m working on it. Just gotta find the time” or “I’m still in the outlining phase.” That’s because while most people talk about writing a book, very few people actually do. Writing a book is hard, and it takes discipline. The easiest way to set yourself apart from the rest of the writers on the Internet is to actually finish your book. Don’t worry about quality yet. You can edit errors in a book, but you have to have a book to edit first. Don’t think, just write.
  • Write Every Day: Writing is a skill, like sports or visual art. The only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice. Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, a blog post, a business memo, or whatever, try to find time in your day to  lay some words on a page. In fact, if you want to avoid two major mistakes, use this tip to help with the previous one as well.
  • Remember That Editing and Proofreading Are Different: So, you’ve taken the first two tips in hand, and you’ve finally finished your book. Great! Celebrate! Then, prepare for the long and arduous process of  editing that book. No one writes perfect first drafts, and editing your manuscript is almost as important a process as writing it. Some might say it’s even more important. With that said, it’s important to remember that editing and proofreading are two different things. If you’ll allow a cleaning analogy, proofreading is like dusting. You aren’t making any major changes to the room, but you’re tidying up. Editing is like taking all of the furniture out onto the lawn, deciding whether or not you want to keep it, and then moving it all back in. Is this scene necessary?  What about this character? This bit of  dialogue – is that really how the character would talk? Would anyone talk like that? Be willing to slice and dice your book to shreds, if necessary, and in the end, you’ll have a superior product.   
  • Don’t Forget to Proofread, However: Keep in mind, however, that even after you’ve finished moving the furniture out of the room and decided what’s coming back, you still need to tidy up. You still need to dust off the coffee table, so to speak. One of the easiest ways to lose professionalism in the eyes of your audience is to put out a product filled with typos and silly grammar mistakes. You can use a standard spelling and grammar check on your word processing program, but if you really want to catch all of those errors, consider a more detailed grammar check. For example, at Grammarly.com, we offer a check that scans your text for over 200 standard grammar errors, alerting you to issues you might not have caught on standard readings. Regardless of how you choose to proofread, don’t forget this important step. A typo-riddled manuscript will quickly turn your reader off, and as previously established, he or she will have plenty of other things to read.

Setting yourself apart from the pack is not easy, but it’s not impossible. It takes work, but if you’re willing to do it, you have a better chance of finding an audience for your book. Remember to write every day, and when it comes time to edit, don’t be scared to tear your manuscript apart if it serves the story. Firmly establishing these practices early will save you many headaches in the future.

 

About Nikolas Baron

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

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My experience of running a successful Kindle Direct Publishing promo

25 Jun

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When I self-published my first novel, FRY, I chose to take part in the KDP select programme, which committed me to being exclusive to Amazon for 90 days, in return for the opportunity to give away my novel for free for 5 days. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I used two of those days early on and was pleased with the result. For me, this speeded up the process of getting customer reviews and also helped me to get the book into the ‘customer also bought’ sections of some much more prominent books, which resulted in more sales.

I saved the final 3 days for near the end of the 90 day period because this meant I had more reviews, which is important both for convincing readers to download your book, and also for convincing book promotion sites to feature your book. I prepared for the promotion a month in advance by notifying relevant book sites (see AuthorMarketingClub’s free submission tool for a list of these.) I was pleased with the result. FRY was featured on some prominent sites including Freebooksy. This resulted in almost ten thousand downloads and put FRY at number 25 in the Amazon.com chart for free books.

How did this affect sales?

Previous to this, FRY had been selling quite well in the UK, but sales had been much slower in the US. Following my three day promo, I had a good week of sales in both the US and the UK, so I can definitely say there was a sales bump. A few weeks on, FRY continues to sell better in the US. I have also had a few sales on other Amazon sites around the world. FRY has also had an increase in the number of reviews on Amazon.com and these have been overwhelmingly positive.

So what’s next?

Well, here’s the scary part. Now that my exclusive period with Amazon has ended, I have chosen not to renew the deal. My book is still on Amazon, but, it is now on Smashwords also and I will be trying to get sales on other sites. Going exclusive with Amazon worked well for FRY, but I would not want it to remain exclusive as I think it’s important to reach people with other e-readers.

My next novel, May Queen Killers, comes out in May and I will be going exclusive again as I definitely feel that it has been beneficial. But I can’t see myself renewing the agreement after the first 90 days. I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket.

Have you used the KDP select programme for your book? How did you get on? Did you think the free days were worth the exclusivity agreement?

High or low? Choosing a price-point for my self-published eBook

21 May

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When I launched FRY on Amazon back in March, I initially priced it at $2.99, which translated as about £2.06 in the UK.  For the first few weeks, it sold steadily on both Amazon.com and Amazon UK. Then after around three weeks, my UK sales started to pick up as it was swept into the orbit of some much more prominent books in my genre. By orbit, I mean that it appeared in the ‘Customers also bought’ category for these books, and by prominent, I mean Amazon top 100 books – top 10 at one point. I believe that this happened because I went free for a couple of days shortly after my book launched, which helped give my book more visibility, even if it didn’t lead to a sales bump at the time.

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I knew that FRY would not probably not stay in the orbit of these more prominent books forever, and noted that most of them were priced lower than mine. £1.99, or even 99p or less were quite common for books in my genre, so after the first month, I took a gamble and dropped the price right down to 77p (99 cents.) This definitely had an impact. I went from a best of around 20 sales a day, to 70 sales in one day (nearly all in the UK). Albeit temporarily, FRY rose to number 4 in psychological thrillers on Amazon UK, above some of my favourite authors.

And now? A few weeks on, I do not make more money at the lower price-point, but I do sell a lot more books and I reach a lot more readers, which is very important to me. As a writer, I want people to read and enjoy my book, and I also want to build an audience for the next one, May Queen Killers, which comes out next year. I also get more reviews, which have been overwhelmingly positive, and I’m sure this helps to convince readers to give FRY a go.

Many self-publishing gurus advise that you don’t drop your price, or attempt any other marketing tactics until you have a number of books out, but for me at least, the low price is working. For now. And of course, I can always change my mind. That’s the beauty of self-publishing. Nothing is set in stone.

Have you experimented with different price-points?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Guest post: Thoughts on Modern Publishing – by Awake In the Mad World Author, Damon Ferrell Marbut

30 Jan

 

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The truth I’ve come to understand about self-publishing goes beyond the excitement of what is possible for an author beginning to develop in the current market. The self-publishing industry is still, but was a tremendous change for the literary world at first. It’s levelling out a bit, and earning respect in some regards, but I detested the notion of self-publishing for a considerable amount of time. I’ll get to why soon. But because it’s a real and thriving business enterprise now, for publishers and authors alike, who more often assume both roles, to make sense of strategy (which I don’t like discussing so much in that I only ever wanted to simply write) one should consider what they’re up against when entering this field and this market.

First off, I disagree with those who say it can all be done for free. Or scratch that. It largely can be done for free, but I don’t believe it’s done well. Some writers are great on the keys, naturally or academically trained to write stories that change how people view genres or read about certain subject matter. But then, they may not be so gifted at marketing and self-promotion. Or it can be the other way around. They can be terrific at marketing, establishing Self as a brand, but their writing can be unpolished and substandard. Many people argue, unfairly I think, that self-published authors can’t get book deals because they aren’t good enough. What motivates a person to publish a book on their own should be based on how they understand the relevance and importance of the work they have initially produced. Writing a book doesn’t mean as much these days. Yes, it’s an accomplishment that speaks to the investment of mental and emotional and financial resources, but a writer must understand two things before positioning him/herself to publish in any capacity: why he or she is writing to begin with, and what they wish to do or become once the book is “out there.” And then own it all.

So yes, it does require money. Not necessarily exorbitant amounts, but some money. I’ve seen plenty of people spend unfortunately large amounts of money on terrible, typical book covers, and some spend little to no money on fine cover images that leap from the shelves, online or physical. Or they have the ability to do it themselves, achieving a great or not so great end. And time, when you self-publish a book, redefines itself if you are serious about the legacy and impact of your book. So many books are being published daily that understanding where it belongs, and being comfortable with being wrong as you go along and discover audiences you didn’t anticipate loving your work actually responding to it more, or that the audience you pursued doesn’t care for it at all. Much of being a self-published author is surprise. There is luck in there, too.

Then there’s sacrifice. I’ve written about this recently in an article I was asked to produce on the writing process. The people in your life need to be prepared ahead of time to see less of you, as you write and as you market. You will, if you stick with it, get busier as you promote and as you simultaneously begin a new book. I’m at the point now that I almost need an assistant. And my partner is patient, my friends understand, but there exists that pull from them that occurs (in my head at least) when you know all that laughter and storytelling and coffee shop visits and dinners out have to be minimized so you can work. And it is real work.

I read a couple of books on self-publishing when I was starting with it last year at this time. I was encouraged by former professors from graduate school, and an editor who published my short fiction in New York, to go ahead and produce my own unique book and develop it in the market and then, after it was taking on a reputable life of its own, approach an agent and then a publisher to take on the book so I could relax from the effort enough to write more. I’m at that point now in talking to agents. A year ago I said I wouldn’t want to let go of the control once I committed to it, but now I’m happy to let it become its own creation in the market. I worked a great deal on telling my stories well, or to the best of my abilities, and even scratched a novel or two to get to the voice I want as my own in modern publishing.

I think most would agree that authors must determine what social media works best for them. In the beginning, I joined every group and community I found, just to learn the language of the new industry. A lot of it is disappointing and sometimes infuriating. For example, I wrote a fairly incendiary post on Goodreads after I saw an “author” asking people to give her plot lines for her book. Back story for it, actually, because she was too lazy or incapable of giving it time to come to her. And people lined up to throw in their two cents. I was horrified. Plainly spoken, many authors in the online communities aren’t realistic about their work, and can be selfish, aggressive and shameless in how they pursue the exposure of their books. Some organizations let you down, some are fantastic, some try incredibly hard but cannot handle the workloads the multitudes overwhelm them with. But it must be understood that without the good and bad I’ve experienced, the near-misses and the successes, without the fantastic enthusiasm of those who do love to write, who do wish to learn how to cultivate an online presence and, maybe one day, a career in writing if not something that leads to teaching it, without those I admire for their constant fight through the noise and nonsense that complicates the self-publishing world and earns it a bad name, I would not be as proud of myself as I am today, for working as hard as I’ve worked to be able to discuss the industry with confidence. It is business, but it is improving by the minute, and so there is no shame in producing one’s own book and elevating it to its highest potential through the online communities that are now aware of what they’ve created and work so diligently to construct an industry image worth preserving and which they can proudly claim to join.

To finish, let me go back to why I first despised the idea of self-publishing. I didn’t know anything about it. It’s that simple. I was still in love with the old, traditional publishing model of finding people to support your work. But it isn’t completely like that anymore. In self-publishing, we must make our mark first, we must earn our ways into that delicate, hopeful space before the eyes of agents, editors and publishers. They aren’t absolutely necessary anymore. But the romance of that traditional era can still be had by authors who want it, if they know why they are writing, are kind and patient, and simply continue to do the work.

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Damon Ferrell Marbut was born in Mobile, Alabama. A Southern novelist and poet, Marbut’s “Awake in the Mad World” is a contemporary fiction novel and is currently an entrant for the Pulitzer Prize. He lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana. His collection of poems, The Difference Between Young Gods, is under review with several publishing houses, as are two short fiction titles. His follow-up novel to Awake in the Mad World, which is based in New Orleans, is in progress.

You can contact Damon through his blog, like his Facebook Author Page and message him at http://www.facebook.com/DamonFMarbut, or follow him on Twitter @dfmnola.

What are your views on traditional publishing? Would you seek a traditional publishing contract once you’ve self-published your book?

Next week, I’ll be gearing up for publication!

New Year, New Blog!

2 Jan

Greetings, readers and welcome to my new blogtopia. I will be publishing my first novel, a psychological thriller called FRY on Amazon in March and this blog will plot my trials and tribulations as a self-published writer.

As this is my first post, perhaps I should tell you all a little bit about myself. I am a politics, social psychology and European Studies graduate. I have worked mainly in the British civil service, primarily at the Home Office. I have two small children who keep me highly amused and I suppose I am a little bit quirky. I have an unlikely fondness for My Little Ponies (yup, that’s the children’s toy) and used to help organise conventions. I love the Eurovision song contest – I haven’t missed it in 15 years and nor has my poor husband. We even went to see it live for the 50th anniversary in Kiev. I once met the Dalai Lama on a plane (he smiled kindly at my son) and I am very, very fond of coffee and chocolate.

I was named after the novel, Lorna Doone, so really, I had no choice but to become a writer. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I just hope I’m not jinxing myself by launching my first book in 2013!

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