Interview with Randy Ingermanson – The Snowflake Guy

By

Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

 

Randy Ingermanson AKA the Snowflake Guy

Brilliant people understand complex concepts. But, despite their superior intelligence, they often cannot explain those concepts to less-than-brilliant folks.

But Randy Ingermanson can. He’s brilliant but he has a simple way of breaking down the incomprehensible so we mere mortals understand what he’s talking about.

For those who don’t know Randy, he has a PhD in physics specializing in elementary particle theory. According to the bio on his website: “Most of my work was in nonperturbative methods in quantum field theory.”

Did that lose you? Yeah, me too.

When I Googled nonperturbative, I recognized three words in the definition: cannot be described. That’s for sure!

Yet…Randy, in his spare time, became a successful author of fiction and nonfiction as well as a sought-after writing instructor. His two-book Snowflake series and Writing Fiction for Dummies still remain in the top 100 writing reference books on Amazon many years after they were published.

Randy has the extraordinary ability to break down complex writing concepts into easily digestible bites. In addition, his step-by-step plan of action template helps writers track and accomplish their goals.

Randy graciously agreed to chat with us here on TKZ. Welcome, Randy!

Debbie Burke: Your day job as a physicist requires a lot of brain energy. You also keep up the Advanced Fiction Writing blog and write bestselling craft books. Plus you write multiple fiction series, some involving extensive historical research, including archaeological digs. And you have a family. Do you ever sleep?

Joking aside, your ability to juggle multiple projects is impressive. Can you share some hints on how you manage your time and prioritize tasks?

Randy Ingermanson: For a big chunk of my life, I didn’t manage my time very well. I took on too many things and then felt really stressed. But things began to change about 15 years ago when I read David Allen’s classic book Getting Things Done. I realized that I was doing things badly, and that’s the first step to doing things better.

One key thing I’ve learned is that sometimes you just have to prune things out of your life. That’s very hard, but over the last several years, I’ve cut back several parts of my life that I thought were essential. And nobody died. I have a theory that everyone has a set limit to the number of main projects they can juggle. My limit is three. Some people can do four, and I admire them to death, but I can’t do it.

Another key thing I’ve learned is that it’s OK to have a hundred things on your To-Do List, as long as they’re not all visible right now. So I have a cascading sequence of To-Do Lists, one for “Someday”, one for “This Year,” “This Quarter,” This Month,” “This Week,” and “Today.” Every Sunday, I review the lists and promote some tasks from “This Month” to “This Week”. Every day, I choose things from “This Week” to put on the “Today” list. The beauty of this is that a day is a success if I knock off all the things on the Today list. I only have to look at those 15 items and decide which to do next. I don’t have to look at the dozens or hundreds on This Week or This Month or This Year. Those will all get done in due time, but the name of the game is to not be overwhelmed. When you get overwhelmed, your brain goes into panic mode, you spend all day spinning your wheels, and you end up eating all the Haagen-Dazs.

I use a nifty method called “Kanban” to manage my tasks. (This is very popular among software developers.) There are a bunch of websites that let you set up Kanban projects. The one I use is at Kanbanflow.com, and it works for me. But I recommend that people always use a tool that resonates with them.

DB: Writing a novel is a hard project. You have a wonderfully workable system for how to tackle hard projects. Can you explain the steps in that system?

RI: I wrote a blog post awhile back on the general problem of managing any hard project. I’ll refer your readers to that post here: https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/2021/01/21/how-to-make-an-action-plan/

I’ve gotten extremely famous for my system for managing one particular hard project—writing the first draft of your novel. The “Snowflake Method” will probably be listed on my headstone. It’s a ten-step method I use for writing my first draft. I wrote out the ten steps back around 2002 in answer to a question somebody asked in an online writing group I was on. And some people liked the idea enough that I posted it on my website. And then it just took off. It’s now been viewed more than 6 million times and has earned me a ridiculous amount of money.

The core idea is that you design a novel before you write it. Some people hate this idea and would rather just write by the seat of their pants. That’s fine by me. Different people are wired different in the brain, and it doesn’t matter how you get your first draft down on paper. We all can respect each other and recognize that we don’t all think alike. The Snowflake Method happens to work well for about a third of the writing population.

You start by taking an hour to write down a summary sentence for your story. This will be your selling tool forever, so it makes sense to take a little time to do it. But don’t spend weeks obsessing on this. Write down your best one-sentence summary for now and then move on to the next step. You can always come back and improve it later. In fact, you certainly will.

The Snowflake Method has another nine steps, and I don’t have space to even summarize them here. But anyone can Google “Snowflake Method” and find my 3000-word web article or my 50,000 word book on the subject. If you like to know approximately where you’re going before you start writing, then the Snowflake Method is designed for you. If you don’t, then it’s not for you.

 

 

DB: Most authors dread marketing. What do you recommend as the most important marketing tools for a writer?

RI: I used to hate marketing. In fact, I remember the day I told an agent friend of mine, “I hate marketing! I’m a terrible marketer, and I don’t ever want to have to market my books again!” She got a panicky look on her face and told me not to say such things out loud, because the walls have ears. And she was right.

I now believe there are three main keys to good marketing for a novelist. I call them the Three Rings of Power. They are:

  • Your website
  • Your email newsletter
  • Paid advertising

Your website is important because you own it. Social media is notoriously fickle, and any social media platform can suddenly become unusable, for a variety of reasons. Various platforms can ban you, or go out of fashion, or start charging you. But you own your website and it’s very hard to take it away from you.

Ditto for your email newsletter. If you have a newsletter with 5000 loyal readers who know you and actually read what you send, you have a guaranteed bestseller, every time you launch a book. That’s gold.

Paid advertising is now just a fact of life. None of us like paying for ads, but they work. If you use Amazon ads and Facebook ads and BookBub ads and the various book promo sites effectively, you can move copies with a positive return-on-investment. I think TikTok will soon join this short list of paid-ad opportunities that authors routinely use.

So the Three Rings of Power are great, and I personally have done extremely well using them. However …

However, a lot of authors don’t see a good return on their investment for their website, their email newsletter, and their paid ads. Why not? Do the marketing gods hate them?

No, the reason is very simple. The Three Rings of Power are useless unless you also master the One Ring that Rule Them All. That One Ring is copywriting. The ability to write good headlines, strong sales copy, and a compelling call-to-action, all without smelling like a weasel. This is a fine line to walk, but once you learn it, you can apply it everywhere. To your website. Your newsletter. Your paid ads. And away you go.

As it happens, I began to learn copywriting shortly after I had my “I hate marketing” conversation with my agent friend. And that has made all the difference for me. In some sense you make your own luck in marketing, and my luck changed permanently when I took the time to learn how to write copy.

Copywriting is not particularly sexy or fun. But if you go to Amazon and do a search for books on copywriting, you’ll find any number of sources that will teach you the fundamentals. And then you just need to go do it, determined to learn it, no matter what.

Learn copywriting, and the Three Rings of Power are your servants, not your masters. Many Bothans died to bring me this secret.

DB: What are you working on currently?

RI: I read Steven Kotler’s book The Art of Impossible back in October, and it revolutionized my thinking. I decided that for the next few years, I’m going to focus on fewer things and do them better. I have a day job doing image analysis for a biotech company in San Diego, and that consumes half my life, because it’s a half-time job. I am currently writing a series of historical novels on the most influential person ever to walk the planet, Jesus of Nazareth, and that’s going to take me another three or four years to finish. And I’m working on a project I call “Project Chronologicus” that will combine my mathematical/computer skills with my interest in ancient history—it’s a project to harvest historical data from ancient documents and compute the best-fit chronology for ancient history. (This is a notoriously hard problem, too difficult for any human to solve without a computer; but my whole career has been spent solving problems humans can’t solve alone, so I may possibly be able to write the software to solve this one. And if not, I’ll have fun.)

 DB: Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any questions you wish I’d asked?

RI:  As Gandalf once said, you don’t know your danger when you ask a hobbit such a question, because the hobbit will go on endlessly. This hobbit will have mercy on you and just say no.

~~~

Randy, feel free to go on endlessly with all the knowledge you have to impart to writers! Thanks for visiting The Zone!

Randy’s Snowflake series

Advanced Fiction Writing blog

Randy’s website

~~~

TKZers: Have you tried the Snowflake method of plotting?

Please share your best tips for time management for writers.

What is Amazon Doing Now? Can it Work for You?

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

I received a notice recently from Amazon regarding its implementation of “Amazon Stores,” a way to promote a brand or company products. I’m not sure how open and available this is for anyone with a brand or a store concept. Are many authors using this?

I have a corporation, Cosas Finas LLC, that I have developed into Cosas Finas Publications to promote my brand and I have a website that I’m still developing for this entity. (My navigation needs improvement and I’m tweaking it after my deadline, so be kind.)

Awhile back I set up an Amazon PAGE for my company/brand using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to link ad campaigns to. I created a landing page for my ads to show more of my books and group them by series or featured new releases. I’ve come to realize that the Amazon platform has some faults but I still think it is the best for when when I’m selling my books. The main issue that I, as well as other sellers on Amazon, have been having is the inventory mistakes they make. It loses money unless you use an Amazon reimbursement software to get your money back. This hasn’t effected me too much as I’m not selling as many products as other sellers but it could start to effect me once I start selling more. My friend told me to check out this helium 10 review since I’m starting to sell on Amazon a little more. I think it’s a great platform and I love using it.

I’m a user of Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) and have various ad campaigns established for my books as they release or I develop a concept to promote a series, for example. Through AMS I had created a Cosas Finas Publications company PAGE, which is different than their new STORE idea. Amazon Stores are slicker and more attractive in appearance.

Brand pages are going away or the links to these pages will start to be phased out by Oct 31 and completely gone by Dec. It’s only cost me the money for “click-thru” ads and I set my budget and can monitor the expense vs sales revenues. I’ve been satisfied with the benefits outweighing the cost on AMS and I monitor my profitability and tweak ad campaigns to make them more effective.

Amazon Stores are free to vendors. I just set up an ad campaign that links directly to my new store. It was very easy. I chose a HEADLINE search for keywords as my campaign structure (recommended by Amazon and others I’ve researched) and I can query Amazon’s own system for high traffic keywords used by customers. I set up a daily max budget with a click-thru cost for an ongoing campaign without an end. It’ll be up to me to periodically evaluate the effectiveness and I can terminate any campaign at any time. From what I understand, these vendor stores will be required to have at least one ad campaign linked to them to keep them active. This will probably go into effect after Dec, 2017.

I really liked the ad design I submitted yesterday for Amazon approval. Instead of me creating an intriguing tag line for each book, I was able to use my brand slogan, which is “Take a front Row Seat to Suspense” and direct readers to my store. My ad dollars will go farther if I can consolidate my ads for my brand. We’ll see how this turns out. It’s still very new and I need a final approval on my ad campaign before I can see what traffic and sales it generates, but the metrics are there to analyze, with revenues vs ad cost.

To check out more details, visit AMS for vendors (first party sellers are vendors) or Seller Central (for 3rd party sellers that sell other’s products) for sellers.

How many of you advertise through AMS? What’s been your experience?

My STORE is approved as of yesterday. I hope this link works – Cosas Finas Publications The pre-set design templates are not flexible enough for me. It would be nice to have them in modules where you could mix and match, but I can play with the templates to see what works best for books.

Key Features of Amazon Stores:

1.) Design templates allow you to feature different books in a way that your Amazon Author Page isn’t set up to do. You can add video/book trailers, post promo text, praise blurbs/awards, or feature upcoming releases.

2.) Flexible ability to feature different products at your command. You are the keeper of your store and what is in it. If you have other products that are associated with your brand or writing, like T-shirts or coffee mugs for writers, you can feature those along with your books.

3.) There are social sharing buttons tagged to your store and you can set up HEADLINE search ads or drive readers to your store through your ad campaigns and increase your store traffic. Amazon allows a vendor to search existing keywords already proven to have high traffic on their system.

4.) You can take your Amazon Store link and use it in other promotions off the Amazon website. I can see this working for KDP Select products that are exclusive to Amazon for a time.

5.) Developing an ad campaign for my whole brand of books allows me to make the most of my budget for advertising. Rather than creating an ad for a new release, I can create one for my brand and update the book offerings as I have releases.

For those of you focused on your writing and not at the point of targeting the “not so fun” part of the business end, it’s still important for you to see what authors are doing to promote their work. I talk to many aspiring authors whose eyes glaze over when you share the very necessary business side. They want to believe a publisher will “take care of them” and sell their books, easy/peezy, but that’s not how it works.

I wanted TKZers to see how this might work for you, if you’re not aware of AMS and the Amazon STORE concept, but if you are using it, what are your thoughts? Where do you see this going for Amazon? Is this concept directed at larger companies with multiple products, like a running shoe company for example, or can this work for authors on a budget?

Publishing Trends to Watch in 2017

Jordan Dane

@JordanDane

Jordan Dane purchased image from Shutterstock

I’ve been involved in many “experiments” lately, like Amazon Marketing Services and Amazon Kindle Worlds. I plan to get more familiar with Kindle Unlimited with my upcoming release in Feb – Mr. January. Retaining my copyrights and self-publishing this book, I can explore more marketing tools to see how effective I can be. So I thought I would list some of these things to watch in 2017 as I see them. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on trends you see as important in 2017 or marketing efforts you have had success with. Join in the discussion in your comments.

Publishing Trends to Watch in 2017

Marketing Power of Digital – Print books are expected to continue a comeback in 2017, but for anyone publishing fiction, e-books drive sales and are easier to promote since social media and reader websites offer more economical ways to promote. Digital is the gift that keeps giving in that each book is on a forever shelf. Any author can recreate interest in a back list novel by repackaging the work with a new cover or new content or bundling as part of a box set. (See more on this below in “Over-crowded Digital Book Shelves.”) It’s easier for an author or publisher to focus marketing efforts in the digital arena since it’s cost effective and the exposure can be much greater, but with all the e-book competition, marketing strategies will be more important in 2017.

Small Presses & Savvy Self-Publishers are Growing – The larger traditional publishers market shares are dropping each year. Over 50% of the market share is comprised of self-publishing authors, small boutique publishers, and Amazon imprints. The challenge comes when trying to navigate this new sea of 50-percenters. Simply discounting an ebook or offering it for free won’t cut it. That makes marketing and visibility more strategic in 2017. Amazon is offering their Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to smaller houses and indie authors. With sales stats to track the effectiveness of this AMS marketing tool, it is an easy way for authors to try it and see how it results in sales vs cost to promote.

Amazon Imprints Are Dominating – In 2016, 7 out of 10 Kindle bestsellers were from Amazon Imprints. Is there an advantage to selling a book to Amazon in 2017 when it comes to their sales ranking algorithms? I don’t know, but if anyone knows how to maximize visibility and preferential marketing spots on Amazon, it would be their own imprints, don’t you think? When traditional houses offer bare minimum of support to most mid-list authors, selling to Amazon feels like an author has a leg up on marketing and promotion when the buyer is an Amazon imprint. An Amazon imprint could give any author an edge in marketing strategy in 2017.

Kindle Unlimited Expanding – More readers in 2017 will be finding benefits to the Kindle Unlimited program and Amazon markets their program effectively. This growth trend will undoubtedly affect e-book sales and I’m sure Amazon will find more incentives for authors to try their program. I see this program expanding in 2017 to keep Amazon dominating.

Kindle KDP Select Enhancements Provide Better Outreach – If you are part of the Kindle KDP Select Program, where you publish only through Amazon for a given period of time, you are automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited AND the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) and will earn different enhanced royalties as incentive. The KDP Select program also provides for better royalties globally (70%) in countries like Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico. Plus authors can expand their outreach through Kindle Unlimited in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, India, Japan, and Australia. (My reader fans have complained that Kindle Worlds books aren’t available for distribution yet into their countries, but until that happens, any books I have through KDP Select is available to many of my readers.)

Over-crowded Digital Book Shelves – New e-books have to compete with the over-crowded digital shelves of digital books in 2017 that never go out of inventory. The good news is that there is endless space for digital books forever. The bad news is that authors must compete with a growing mass of books competing for readership. Don’t forget your back list, authors. Redesign your covers, obtain new praise blurbs or write new book jacket copy, get new reviews, and spend marketing dollars toward generating new interest in your tried-and-true back list. The bigger your inventory for a reader to “discover,” the more visibility you can achieve and your promo dollars can go a longer way.

Audiobook Market Is Growing – I haven’t focused on this enough, but with indie authors able to use ACX to create an indie audio book, it’s worth a shot to make your own audio book in 2017 (if you haven’t sold your audio sub-rights). It’s always a good thing to make your book available in as many formats as you can – plus you get to retain your sub-rights in audio.

Marketing Strategy Will Be More Important Than Ever – This is a tough one for me and my biggest challenge. I try new things all the time to stay effective. I’ve seen good and track-able success in Amazon Marketing Services, but there are other marketing tools, such as BookBub, Freebooksy, and Bargain Booksy. In 2017, continue to expand your marketing strategies and evaluate what is working and drop what isn’t.

Facebook Ads Declining – I’ve never been a fan of Facebook. Their ads might not seem too costly, but unless you have a good metric to establish whether these ads are truly effective and result in actual sales, it doesn’t matter how much they cost. Some authors have used FB ads to increase their mailing lists, but for actual book sales, I haven’t seen anyone who can analyze this. With Amazon Marketing Services being a better option, with sales data tied to the promo, it is a much better option.

Try Expanding Your Foreign Sales in 2017 – Part of anyone’s sub-rights are foreign sales. If you have an agent, they could be marketing this for you “a la carte” or your publisher might have gotten your foreign rights when you sold to them. These foreign sub-rights have value and a potential for growth. And if you’re lucky enough to get your back list rights returned to you, try marketing to international markets. Many international buyers love American authors. If you’re an indie author on Amazon, you would notice the foreign markets they list when you set up your book, but there are other international markets. An agent or broker might be able to enhance your sales by tapping into this resource. Some may take English language “as is” or they may require language translation, but they pay an advance for the rights. It could be worth exploring in 2017 to expand beyond US and UK readers.

Authors Find Safety in Numbers – In 2017, expect to see more authors banding together in projects where marketing and promo can be shared. Co-writing books and creating box sets can generate buzz. Authors have always been generous with other authors and it warms my heart to see this, but it also makes good sense. The best part of the Amazon Kindle Worlds books comes from the cross promotion of all the launch authors banding their efforts together. We share our readerships with all the other authors, but get a lot in return. The concept of the Kindle Worlds launches and cross-promotions is a real benefit for all authors involved.

Discussion:
1.) What trends have you noticed that you’d like to share with your TKZ family?

2.) What marketing tools have you tried and had success with? Please share.

Mr. JanuaryMercer’s War Book 1 coming Feb 2017 in print and ebook

Zoey Meager risks her life to search for her best friend Kaity in a burning warehouse, only to cross paths in the inferno with Mr. January, a mysterious man with a large black dog, completely devoted to its shadowy master.

 

Another Way to Get Your Ebooks into Libraries

Jordan Dane

Available for Amazon ebook preorder now

Available for Amazon ebook preorder now

 

Interested in getting your ebooks into libraries and get paid? And would you like to do it without forcing libraries to repurchase your digital offering after a restricted loan count as if it has a limited shelf life? You can upload your ebook into Overdrive or get to Overdrive through Smashwords. Both can be cumbersome systems to work with and have their challenges, there are many e-book programs being developed every year, such as Sqribble, and more and more platforms to read ebooks, not just iBooks.
But I wanted to share a developing alternative.
EbooksAreForever

EbooksAreForever is a platform to help libraries sustainably purchase ebooks from independent authors and publishers. It was launched in March 2014. Since it’s new to me, and I’d been looking for a means to reach out to libraries for my indie pubbed and backlist novels, I thought I’d share what I found.

Ebooksareforever’s philosophy is based around sustainability. They believe libraries should be able to buy ebooks at affordable prices. Since ebooks are digital and not physically degradable items, libraries should be able to own and offer them to loan for eternity.

Authors JA Konrath and August Wainwright co-founded ebooksareforever to sell DRM-free ebooks with no re-licensing restrictions.

“We deliver a curated collection of titles from independent authors and independent publishers and make it as simple as possible for both the author/publisher and the library to interact with the collection and to fairly compensate the author/publisher for every transaction.”

—August Wainwright, co-founder

How does EbooksAreForever work?

I’m excited at the prospect of having a new avenue into libraries, but understandably, libraries need a gatekeeper to ensure quality. How does that work?

Every author and book is approved by a curation team. “We need this because we’re working hand in hand with libraries”, says Wainwright, “and we need to deliver what they’re asking for. We assess by reviews, number of titles the author has available, whether those titles are in a series, quality of cover art, interest in libraries, and genre saturation in our system. We couldn’t be taken seriously if, say, 80% of our titles were romance. It equally wouldn’t work if every book had to have at least 200 reviews on Amazon.”

Good news. If your book is rejected, you can reapply 60 days later.

Each book is purchased by a library on ‘perpetual license’. They pay once and they can use it forever. Only one copy can be checked out at a time.

Will authors get paid?

Yes. Titles are sold to libraries for $7.99 (full-length) and $3.99 to $4.99 for shorter works. Authors receive 70% royalty of every sale.

Ebooksareforever says it hopes to evolve the submission/rejection process once the business grows and the system flourishes, but the current focus is on developing and sustaining a robust system which is a trusted resource and popular with libraries.

They are also working on ‘patron apps’ which will break the business out of the US and allow global libraries to purchase titles with patrons loaning copies using universal apps. This system should also see broader opportunities for author payment. A very exciting prospect.

PROS

• Free to submit

• Author payment

• Set up by authors for authors

CONS

• There are rigorous curation efforts that favor series and higher-profile authors

• For now, it’s limited to US-only

Discussion:
What have you heard about EbooksAreForever?

Any other ways to distribute your ebooks into libraries besides the ones I’ve mentioned?

tmp_4087-TheLastVictim_highres-1601584079The Last Victim available for ebook preorder at a discounted price. After release, will be available in print and ebook formats.

Let’s Discuss Book Promotion Resources

Jordan Dane

@JordanDane

Teen Pic

Purchased Image by Jordan Dane: book cover

Off the top I will say that spending a great deal of time doing promotion, instead of writing, is probably not a good thing. Even if you’re an indie author, having inventory to sell is a key way (the best way) to keep your work in front of readers.

Writing new material should be a goal for every author. Having said that, book promotion is a necessary evil, even if you’re traditionally published with book tours and appearances, but even more so if you are an indie or hybrid author straddling business and creative lines.

So let’s talk about promo. It’s been awhile since I looked into this topic. Even if you are traditionally published, it can help to enhance your sales if you assist your publisher with your own marketing strategy – something that isn’t redundant with what they may be doing for you. The average author today can not escape promoting their own books, no matter how big their publisher might be.

Promotion Resources:
BookBub still is a popular option if you are lucky enough to get your book selected by them. It can be costly (depending on what genre you pick to promote your book in) but I’ve heard authors have good odds of making the expense pay off in sales because you get your book in front of readers of your genre. Always a good thing.

Other popular options are:
BookBuzz is a fee-based service company that will help you promote your book in various packages, including getting your book listed on NetGalley for reviews (which costs money). The fees are reasonable and you choose which package best fits your purposes and budget.

BookGorilla is a reader-based service that sends out emails daily, listing great books deals. If you’re offering your book at a discount upon release or for preorder, this might be a good place to reach a vast list of reader members.

Upload Service Question:
For those of you in “the know,” is there a service that will input a new release book into 50+ reader-based sites for a fee? I seem to recall there used to be one but I’ve had trouble locating it online. It would certainly be a cool feature for any author or publisher to find a service like this.

Facebook Parties:
Many authors add Facebook Parties to their launches. It could be part of a virtual tour offered by a service company. It helps to have more than one author of a genre to make the party more fun and generate interest. Has anyone had success with a Facebook Party for a crime fiction book? (Romance and Erotica authors do these quite a bit.)

Promo Question:
Does anyone have promo sites for either promotion service companies to generate buzz or reader-based sites to get new releases into readers’ hands that have paid off? It’s often hard to quantify whether a fee has paid off in book sales, but please share anything you’ve tried with success. I’m especially interested in services for crime fiction, mystery, suspense, and thrillers.

I hope you’ll share what has worked for you. Please join in the discussion. Below are links to promote free or discounted books. Hopefully some are new to you.

ENT (E-Reader News Today)
Pixel of Ink
The Reader Cafe
Free Booksy
Kindle Nation Daily
Digital Book Today
Free Digital Reads
http://ereaderutopia.com/
http://www.humanmade.net/submission-form
http://www.orangeberrybooktours.com/
http://www.bookblast.co/advertise/advertise.php
https://www.themidlist.com/
http://www.ebooksoda.com/
http://www.masqueradecrew.com/2014/10/advertising-options-from-masquerade-crew.html
http://newfreekindlebooks.com/authors
http://kindlemojo.com/
http://www.thekindlebookreview.net/advertise-here/
http://www.bookbear.info
http://www.totallyfreestuff.com/
http://www.icravefreebies.com/contact/
http://blog.booksontheknob.org/about-this-blog-and-contact-info
http://freebooksy.com/editorial-submissions
http://www.kindleboards.com/free-book-promo/
http://indiebookoftheday.com/authors/free-on-kindle-listing/
http://freekindlefiction.blogspot.co.uk/p/tell-us-about-free-books.html
http://www.freeebooksdaily.com/
http://www.freebookshub.com/authors/
http://www.ereaderiq.com/about/
http://ebookshabit.com/about-us/
http://www.blackcaviar-bookclub.com/free-book-promotion.html#.UXFB27XYeOc
http://www.kornerkonnection.com/index.html?fb=ebookkornerkafe

Social Media Etiquette: 15 Dos and Don’ts for Authors

by Anne R. Allen

Note from Jodie: I’m just heading home from presenting at Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival all weekend (2 workshops, panel, blue pencil sessions), so humorous author and award-winning blogger AAnne Allen_e-agenne R. Allen has graced us with her wit and wisdom today. Take it away, Anne!

Thanks, Jodie. It’s a pleasure to be a guest on TKZ.

“Authors behaving badly” tends to be a hot topic on booky forums and blogs these days. A lot of people blame the indie movement, but some of the worst social media behavior I’ve seen comes from traditionally published authors who are following the dictates of their marketing departments.

Unfortunately, a lot of marketers seem to have studied their craft at the “let’s cold-call random strangers just as they sit down to dinner” school of salesmanship.

As a general rule, I feel if someone has the social graces of a rabid squirrel, he’s probably not the guy to listen to on the subject of winning friends and influencing people—which is what social media is all about.

We need to keep in mind that social media isn’t about numbers, no matter how numbers-oriented your marketing department squirrels are. Social media is about making actual friends, not about mass-“friending” a horde of random strangers.

You’ll make a lot more real friends and sell a lot more books in the long run if you heed the following dos and don’ts.

1) DO remember Tweets are casual: Never tweet a query—not to an agent, reviewer, blogger or editor.

2) DON’T post advertising on anybody’s Facebook “wall.”  A person’s wall is how they present themselves to the world. When you plaster the cover of your book on their timeline you seriously mess with their brand.

Posting on somebody’s wall is like putting a sign in the front window of their house. Don’t do it without permission. This is true for pleas to sign petitions or donate to charities, no matter how worthy the cause.

3) DO use social media to interact with people, not to broadcast a never-ending stream of “buy my book” messages.

People whose Twitter stream is the identical promo tweet over and over look like robots with OCD. They will only get followed by other compulsive robots.

Twitter is a place to give congrats to a newly agented writer here or a contest winner there. It’s a wonderful vehicle for getting quick answers to questions. Or to commiserate when you’ve had a disappointment. Or if you’ve found a great book you love, tweet it.

Social Media is a party, not a telemarketing boiler room.

4) DON’T put somebody on an email list who didn’t sign up for it. ONLY send newsletters to people you have a personal connection with, or who have specifically asked to be on your list. Lifting email addresses from blog commenters without permission is considered especially heinous. Cue Law and Order music…

5) DO use Direct Messages sparingly. And never automate DMs. Private messages are for personal exchanges with people you have a legitimate connection with—not for advertising or begging for money. The fact somebody has followed or friended you back doesn’t give you license to send them advertising through a private message. This is especially true with “thank you for the follow” messages that come with a demand to “like” your author page, visit your blog and buy your products.

6) DON’T forget to check your @ messages on Twitter several times a day and respond to them. It only takes a moment, but those are people reaching out to you. Ignoring them will negate what you’re doing on Twitter in the first place.

 7) DO change the Facebook default “email” address to your actual email address. You are on social media to connect with people. Post a reliable way to connect—which that Facebook address isn’t.

8) DON’T forget to check your “Other” Folder on Facebook regularly. People who want to contact you for legitimate reasons may contact you through a Direct Message, but if they’re not on your “friend” list, the message goes into your “other” file.

A lot of FB users don’t even know it’s there.

If you’ve never heard of it, go to your home page and click on the message button on the left side of the toolbar (It’s the one in the middle, between friend requests and notifications.) They’re semi-invisible if you don’t have anything pending, so if it’s all blank up on the left side of that blue toolbar at the top of the page, move your mouse slightly to the right of the Facebook logo in white and click around.

Mostly your “Other” file will be full of spam and hilarious messages from guys with poor language skills who think Facebook is a dating site. But nestled in there you may find a note from a fan or a fellow author who wants to co-promote or is asking you to join a blog hop or something useful. So do check it once a week or so.

9)  DO post links to your website on all your social media sites. And have your contact info readily accessible on your site! Being paranoid on social media makes your presence pointless. Even if you’re on the lam, incarcerated, and/or in the Witness Protection Program, you need to be reachable if you want a career. Use a pen name and get a dedicated email address where you can be reached at that Starbucks in Belize. 

10) DON’T “tag” somebody unless they’re actually in the picture. This is an unpleasant way some writers try to get people to notice their book or Facebook page. They’ll post their book cover or some related photo (or worse, porn) and “tag” 50 random people so they’ll all get a notification.

But here’s the thing: a tag means a person is in the photo. Full stop. Yes, you may get a person’s attention with this—but not in a good way. Remember you’re trying to get people to like you, not wish for you to get run over by a truck.

11) DO Network with other writers in your genre. Joining up with other authors to share fans and marketing is one of the reasons you’re on social media. You’re not here to sell to other authors, but you are here to pool your resources.

12) DON’T thank people for a follow, especially on Twitter. It may seem like bad manners, but the truth is most people on Twitter and FB would prefer you DON’T thank them for a follow. That’s because those thank-yous have become 99% spam. If your inner great aunt won’t let you rest without sending a thank-you note for every follow, send it in an @ tweet.

If you actually want to show gratitude, retweet one of their tweets. Then maybe they’ll thank YOU and you can get a conversation going. 

13) DO talk about stuff other than your book. Yes, we’re all here because we want to sell books, but social media is not about direct sales. It’s about getting to know people who might help you make a sale sometime in the future. Consider it a Hollywood cocktail party. You don’t launch into your audition piece every time you’re introduced to a film executive. You schmooze. You tell them how great their last picture was. You find them a refill on the champagne. You get them to LIKE you. Then you might get asked to audition in an appropriate place.

14) DO Read the directions. If you’re invited to join a group, and you’re instructed to put links to your books only in certain threads, do so.  Anything else will be treated as spam and you could get kicked out of the group. And don’t dominate any site with your personal promos, even if it isn’t expressly forbidden in the rules. Taking more than your share of space is rude. People don’t like rude.

15) DON’T ever respond to a negative review or disrespect a reviewer online.

  • Not in the Amazon or Goodreads comments.
  • Not on your Facebook page
  • Not on their blog.
  • Or yours.

And especially don’t Tweet it.

If you get a nasty, unkind review, step away from the keyboard. Go find chocolate. And/or wine. Call your BFF. Cry. Throw things. Do NOT turn on your computer until you’re over it. Except maybe to see these scathing reviews of great authors. Getting a bad review means you’ve joined a pretty impressive club.

If you break this rule, you can face serious consequences. So many authors have behaved badly in the past that Amazon has sprouted a vigilante brigade that can do severe damage to your career if you get on their poop list.

In my forthcoming mystery novel, SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM: The Camilla Randall Mysteries #5, an author breaks this rule and ends up being terrorized—online and off—with death and rape threats, destruction of her business, hacking her accounts, and other horrors.

This isn’t so farfetched. I know authors who have gone through this, for much smaller offenses than my heroine. There are some terrifying vigilantes in the book world who don’t just fight fire with fire. They fight a glow-stick with a nuclear bomb.

So ignore these rules at your peril, or you could be designated a “Badly Behaving Author” and become another of their victims.

What about you? Have you been making any of these faux pas? (I’m not going to claim I haven’t. We were all newbies once.) Do you have any funny “Other” folder encounters you want to share? Any do’s and don’ts of your own would you’d like to add? 

Anne R. Allen is an award-winning blogger and the author of eight comic novels Anne Allen_ARA roseincluding the bestselling Camilla Randall Mysteries, plus a collection of short fiction and poetry. She’s also co-author of How to be a Writer in the E-Age: a Self-Help Guide, with NYT bestseller Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Social Media for Authors

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

We’ve blogged a lot about the need for authors to be savvy marketers, as well as great writers, and to use social media wisely and effectively to promote their books. At the Willamette Writers Conference I attended a few weeks ago this was evident in all the presentations provided on publishing and marketing ebooks. 

As someone who has only used social media sporadically in relation to my books, I was interested in how many of the presenters viewed the social media world as a fragmented one – with options such as Facebook and Twitter having, in their view, only limited reach and effectiveness in terms of actual marketing. I have certainly noticed a real uptick in the number of Facebook posts I receive that are little more than either blatant self promotion or thinly disguised marketing (To be honest I’m getting pretty sick of hearing what # on Amazon’s rankings certain author’s books are – does it mean I’m more likely to buy their book because I read a Facebook post on this – short answer, no). Most of the time it doesn’t bother me though – I’m always interested if it’s a post on a one-day sale or some special event/signing etc. – but I remain unconvinced that Facebook is a tool for actual marketing. In my mind it’s more of a tool to connect with people who have already opted to be your ‘friend’ (either on your author page or for you as an individual). I’m not sure it necessarily gains an author new readers.

After digesting what many of the presenters at the Willamette Writers conference said on the use of social media, I thought I’d get some feedback from the TKZ on their views. It will be interesting to get your take on the issues raised. So…here goes… 

  • When mapping out your own marketing plan (or author platform development) how do you view Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, or Tumblr etc. 
  • Do you adopt a different approach and have different expectations in terms of using these? 
  • Do you use all or only some of them? 
  • Are there any you just don’t bother with?
  • Do you replicate content across social media or do you produce discrete, original content/posts for each?

In short, how are you navigating the social media world when it comes to marketing and promoting your books?

Website Essentials

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Having done final, final, final edits for my agent on my latest novel (all smiles here on that front – and no small measure of relief!),  I am focusing on a much needed update to my author website (very much overdue I fear!) but, horror of horrors,  I’ve realized that the book world has altered so much since I set up my website, I am now at sea as to what changes I really should be making.  Sure, I have all the obvious tabs: Author bio, appearances, book news, links to blogs, excerpts/readings and ‘what’s new’, but what I really need is to focus on what additional elements that truly add value to my readers (and yes, I also know I need to update my news/appearances too…)

As a reader I know I enjoy websites that are beautifully designed, visually appealing, easy to read (no weird fonts or jarring colors) and which offer lots of value added information that keep me coming back. That being said, it’s often hard to translate that into what is needed for your own website (and also, it’s a slippery slope, I don’t want to spend all my time writing website content rather than novels!).

So as I so often do, I am turning to you, the Kill Zone experts to find out what you think works/doesn’t work on author websites. 

Here are some of the ideas/questions I am currently mulling over:

1. As I am venturing into YA territory should I have a separate tab for this on my current website or should I have an entirely different website designed – given that these are two separate genres?

2. How much ‘value added’ content is worthwhile including on a website. Given that I write historical fiction (for both my mysteries and YA books) does giving  information on the period provide a useful value add or would links to other websites and resources be sufficient. It’s always hard to know just exactly how much information/effort an authors should give to what is essentially background information.

3. Are giveaways and competitions really worthwhile?

4. What about books trailers or videos?

5. Do you (as a reader) appreciate any other value added elements/information on an author website?

And finally, have you got an examples of what you think are truly first-class author websites or ones which just don’t meet the mark?

  

Essential Twitter Hashtags for Authors, Readers and Publishing Industry Professionals

Twitter can feel like screaming into the void until you get a feel for the Twitterverse. If you tweet using a link to your blog post or website to draw traffic, you can check your blog or website stats to track the traffic from that link. Using Twitter in the right way can enhance your promo, but if you aren’t maximizing your tweets with hashtags, you’re not being as effective as you can be. That’s a waste of your precious time that you can’t afford. Here’s why:

It can take time to build Twitter followers. You can have 100 followers, but if you understand the use of hashtags, you can get beyond your followers to a much larger online community. By using the Hashtag symbol #, you can connect with readers, tap into people following a particular topic, search for the latest in a book genre, look for industry advice or read about book recommendations. Even if you have many followers, by using the right hashtag, you can target your post to a specific audience that’s looking for what you have to tweet about.
Hashtags can also be used to promote a certain product brand, like #Kindle or #Nook. It can also be used to tap you into certain experts, like #AskAgent or #AskEditor. A fun way hashtags are used is punctuation to a joke or use of sarcasm, like tweeting ‘Snooki did another beach face plant #awkward.’

To keep up with the latest in hashtags or look up ones you don’t understand, go to #TagDef. Below is a really good list to start with hashtags geared for authors, readers, and industry topics.

Target Other Authors

  • #AmWriting
  • #AmEditing
  • #BookMarket (Every Thursday, 4 PM, ET)
  • #IndieAuthors
  • #LitChat (Every M/W/F)
  • #MemoirChat (Bi-weekly Wednesday, 8 PM, ET)
  • #WordCount
  • #WritersLife
  • #WriteChat
  • #WriteTip
  • #WriterWednesday (or #WW)
  • #WritingParty
  • #WritingTip
  • #YALitChat

Target Book Genres

  • #RomanceWriter
  • #SciFiChat
  • #KidLitChat
  • #RWA (Romance Writers of America)
  • #ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers)
  • #MGLit (Middle Grade Lit)
  • #SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators)
  • #MemoirChat

Identify Industry Information

  • #AskAgent
  • #AskAuthor
  • #AskEditor
  • #GetPublished
  • #PromoTip
  • #SelfPublishing
  • #Publishing
  • #EBooks
  • #IndiePub (or #IndiePublishing)
  • #BookMarketing

Goals Setting Specifics

  • #WritingPrompt
  • #StoryStarter
  • #WordAThon
  • #Creativity
  • #WIP (work in progress)
  • #1K1H (write one thousand words in one hour)

Target Readers

  • #FridayReads
  • #BookGiveaway
  • #Giveaway
  • #Kindle
  • #MustRead
  • #Nook
  • #Ebook
  • #LitChat
  • #StoryFriday
  • #MustRead

After this TKZ Twitter Tutorial, I thought it might be fun to launch a Twitter FollowFest. If you are interested in building your Twitter Followers, use the LINKY TOOL below and enter your twitter account for others to follow. Anyone wanting to participate can enter their Twitter link and auto-follow those on the list we’ll create. This link will only be open for a limited time.
Support your fellow TKZers.

Here is the Linky Tool:

An Indie Author’s Checklist – A Look Behind the Curtain of OZ (Post #1)

This is post #1 in a blog post series that I hope you will find interesting—things that I have learned on my indie author journey. Since I’ve been fortunate enough to be published by HarperCollins and Harlequin Teen, I can see and appreciate the differences in what I will be doing as I self-publish. I’m discovering what my houses do behind the scenes for authors on the e-book front and realize that when I become an indie author, I will have to make choices on how to expand my distribution and retail visibility—ways my traditional publishers did for me without me knowing it.

My first recommendation for any indie author is to do your research on what’s involved. It’s not simply writing a story, editing it well, spending some coin to format and cover it, and uploading it onto Amazon and expect readers to find you. You first have to put out the best book you can, because quality will help you build a readership. Secondly, there is a business side that detracts from your writing time and you must be aware of how time consuming this can be. You won’t be able to load your book up and have readers flock to find you. It takes time to build a virtual shelf of quality work and expand your distribution. That’s why I wanted to share my experiences so you can research what will work for you and not spin your wheels, trying to gain traction.

This series of posts are intended to jumpstart your research, but for the purposes of discussion, I will lay out the decisions I had to make as I began. I’d spent time researching and building service provider contacts. I already had an infrastructure in place where I had an online presence, blogs, twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and many other sites that I have grown my online presence. A new indie author would not start where I did. They’d have to catch up and that takes time and money to set up your promotional foundation. This post is not intended to start from scratch. I’m sharing my experiences, starting from a spot where I already had insights into the industry. I hope what follows will help any author build on their expertise.

For me, the process started with me making decisions on which service to upload my books into after I’d done my initial due diligence into self-publishing. I knew I would upload to Amazon and B&N. They provide comprehensive systems that make the process easy and their reach encompasses most of the e-books being sold today. So realize that if you upload to Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook, you are probably reaching 60-70% of the digital books being sold. In a quickly changing world, however, the shift in technology could change this dynamic, but for now I’m comfortable with my digital offerings being on these two sites. For many established authors, who want to step foot into the indie world, this might be enough. But it’s not enough for an indie author with dreams of finding another way to make a living and who might be starting from scratch.

A traditional publisher uses its name to aggregate digital books to retailers and provides the latest offerings in a bundle. They support and build an infrastructure to get their books into as many viable venues as possible, to get books into the hands of today’s online readers. An indie author is on their own to figure out how to expand their reach and what to promote, but traditional houses have resources en masse with staff to support that effort. For an indie author to learn what works—and to grow what they know— they must navigate uncharted waters of Distributors and Retailers that are willing to allow self-published authors or small houses to have the same access as larger publishing houses.

I thought it would be interesting to break down what I’ve learned into five posts and create a future page of resource links on my FRINGE DWELLER blog for indie authors that I will maintain for myself and to share. My hope is to demystify the process of self-publishing so authors can make informed business decisions on how to get their work in the hands of readers directly. Ultimately, this will become a comprehensive “how to” book on author promotion that will cover various topics from branding and online presence, to press kits and resources, with practical tips on distribution. This indie process has educated me and will continue to do so.

But in doing this, I’m also realizing what my traditional houses have been doing for me and appreciate their efforts. I’m hoping to maintain a balance that works for me where I can still have projects through traditional publishers, but reap the benefits and gain experience with being an indie author for certain projects. Sustaining my online presence and growing my name recognition will hopefully be a benefit and a WIN-WIN for any house I work with as I self-publish. By expanding my reach, I can also give my agent more to represent.

Even authors who have no plans to self-publish can gain an appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes beyond your desk, your publisher, and your friendly retailer—because today’s readers have many ways to discover books outside the brick and mortar stores.

Here are the bullet point topics I will cover in this blog post series:

1.) Introduction (Post #1)

2.) E-Book Retailers – A Checklist Place to Start (Post #2)

3.) Distributors & Library Sales (Post #3)

4.) Retailers with Volume Restrictions or Limited Access (Post #4)

5.) Conclusions & Introduction to My Resource Page (including review sites receptive to indie author books by genre) (Post #5)

Please share your questions and topic suggestions that you hope I will cover so I can target the focus of my series. I’d appreciate your input.

In the mean time, I hope you will indulge me in a little blatant self-promotion for my first ever self-published offerings.

120429 One Authors Aha Moments - Jordan Dane - FinalONE AUTHOR’S AHA MOMENTS (92-page POD, e-book) is geared toward aspiring authors and has an emphasis on the Young Adult genre. These writing tips may also be helpful to experienced authors and those who write other genres. My advice comes from my personal experiences on writing fiction for adult and teen markets and what has worked for me. Topics include: Young Adult fiction themes, voice, and characteristics; how to create characters editors look for & give them a unique voice; plot structure that even a non-plotter can love; how to hook your book; the writer’s life, goal setting, editing, book promotion and more.


My first anthology of short stories—SEX, DEATH & MOIST TOWELETTES (e-book)—is now available. It’s a mix of stories from crime fiction noir to paranormal, with my brand of dark humor. As a teaser for anyone not familiar with my adult paranormal writing, I’m releasing DARK KISS (e-book) as a single short story from the anthology for a discounted price.