Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How Indie Authors Can Build a Readership

One of the concerns many indie authors face is how to build a decent sized readership. There can be many benefits associated with numerous readers. You have put years of experience, research and creativity into your book, you want it to be read and enjoyed by many. Many experts suggest growing a community of readers who are interested in your works and follow them faithfully. This is much longer lasting than simply having a fan base, although that is likely where a community of readers will begin to develop. Here are some suggestions on how to increase your readership.

Start While You Are Still Writing
You can start building a readership before you even finish the book. There are many people you can begin telling about your writing, including your friends, family and peers. It’s quite alright to share details about what you are creating. Be comfortable asking those close to you, those who understand you, for support. But, also remember to give your peers--including other indie authors--support in their efforts too. Once you have completed your book or project, those whom you've involved in the process will be eager to make a purchase.

Create A Mailing List
Email marketing is a great strategy for self-published authors. It gives you a way to connect personally with your audience. An audience that is tightly connected with you will likely follow you on a regular basis. Create a mailing list and make sure to put a link and call to action on your website so that it is very easy for others to join.

Give Something To Your Readership
It’s very good to make that connection with your audience, but make it personal. Make sure that you are giving them something that is beneficial. For example, if you are sending out regular, informative emails you must do more than just make a sales pitch. You’ll lose readership if that’s all you do. Give them something “extra” for following you. One idea is to offer them exclusive content or something that is not common knowledge. If it’s applicable to your situation, providing mentorship might be welcome, or support the creative ventures of your audience. Each indie author is different and there will be very creative and unique ways to give back to your readership. Don’t be afraid to contribute to them in the way that makes the most sense to you.

Numbers Are Not Everything
Even though you want more people following you, when it comes to building a readership it’s really not as much about gaining a large audience as it is connecting with them. The interaction or engagement with your audience is where the real benefit is. By establishing a real connection with them, it is likely to be an ongoing, long-term relationship. That’s where the power is, because when you are connected with a follower, they will be sure to spread your news. It’s better to have a couple hundred people on your mailing list who are going to tweet about your latest book to their friends than it is to have a couple thousand friends on Facebook who passively read your status updates. Always remember to engage with your readership, not just count them.

Be Yourself
It is very important to be yourself when engaging with your readership. As an author, you do not need to create a persona. Readers are intuitive and will see past the fa├žade. It’s much better to be yourself so that you will be the same every time you interact with them. They are looking for genuineness and openness. Think of them as a community, not just people who buy your book. Honest interaction with your readership is what will keep them connected to you.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Creating a Sell Sheet for Indie Authors

A sell sheet is an important detail for the self-publishing author. In essence, it contains all of the details pertaining to the book. It will include items such as the price, ISBN/ASIN, a synopsis, reviews, blurbs and an author bio. It may also contain details such as how many pages are contained in the book and where it can be purchased. Some indie authors like to include a photo to add a more personal touch. Basically, a sell sheet is a document that is similar to a brochure that has all the information about the book in one location. 

What is a Sell Sheet Used for?
A sell sheet is simply a tool to help promote your book. It can be useful for presenting your book In some cases, a sell sheet is used in accordance with a media kit. It’s more than a press release, which simply focuses on the news pertaining to the book. A sell sheet is similar to an announcement, but it explains the book and its details from a marketing perspective.

Publishing Details
You will put the title of the book at the top of the sell sheet and in the upper left hand corner you’ll want to place a thumbnail of the book cover. This is more than just an aesthetic feature; it also gives the reader a visual reference for your book. On the right side of the sell sheet you’ll want to list the publishing details about the book including these items:
  • Title (it’s okay to state it again!)
  • Author
  • Category or subject of the book
  • ISBN
  • Format including e-versions and print
  • Date of publication
  • Number of pages in the book
  • Price
  • Book dimensions
  • Where the book can be purchased
  • Languages the book is available in

A sell sheet will also contain a synopsis of the book. It is advisable to write two or three different descriptions about your book, ranging from short to fairly long, so that you have a suitable version for different situations.

Author Bio
Always include an author bio on the sell sheet. This offers your audience another way to connect with you. Because an author bio is written in third person it is sometimes more difficult for the author to complete than the book itself. It does not have to be lengthy; just tell the reader what you want them to know about you and your interests.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Audio and Video Marketing for Indie Authors

There are a variety of ways to promote your book online using video or audio media. These forms of communication offer another platform for you to introduce yourself and your books to your readership. Sites like YouTube or Blog Talk Radio offer some options for free. Self-published authors typically find that they are adequate for getting the message out about their books.

Why Explore Video and Audio Promotions?
When you think of online searches, your mind immediately goes to textual content. However, Google’s search algorithm looks at a variety of content types including audio and video content. Actually, video content consistently ranks higher than other forms of content in the search engine result pages. Video, in particular, has a much greater chance of going viral through social media than regular text. Some research has also indicated that users are much more likely to interact with content that bears an image or video. Part of this is due to the fact that users are more mobile and are interacting online using iPads, Smartphones and other mobile devices. By combining video and audio outlets with a campaign, you are more likely to get social media exposure, which drives sales.

What Platforms are Available?
There are several different platforms that indie authors can use for book promotions. Some of the more popular options include:
  • Animoto
  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • Authors Show
  • Blog Talk Radio
  • All Talk Radio
  • iTunes Podcast
Animoto allows users to create and post 30-second videos, which can provide the perfect trailer for an upcoming or just released book title. YouTube is a very popular video site and you can create your own author channel to showcase your works and connect with your audience. Vimeo is similar to YouTube in that it allows users to upload videos that they have created. Authors Show offers a platform that has both audio and video programs that are designed for authors to market their books. Blog Talk Radio and All Talk Radio are programs that work as an old-fashioned radio program, except they use the internet. These vidoe and audio platforms can be a great marketing source for indie authors.

Ideas for Marketing Content
Audio and video platforms are a great tool for connecting with your readership. It is worth noting that these promotions do not have to be hour long programs, they only have to be two or three minutes in duration to be effective. While it depends upon the actual content, most of the time a video should be under three minutes. Good video and audio messages will share pertinent information with your audience and contain a definite call to action.

Guidelines for Video and Audio Broadcasts
A video or audio broadcast can serve a broad purpose. You might want to give the background on the book you just released; or perhaps you want to be interviewed by a fan. Share a speech you've made, or an award you've received. The ideas for using this medium are infinite. Basically, take this opportunity to connect with your audience and talk to them. Here are a few guidelines that can be helpful when creating video or audio broadcasts:
  • Keep the message short and to the point (less than 3 minutes in most cases)
  • Make the message entertaining for your audience
  • Offer the audience something
  • Allow the viewer or listener a behind-the-scenes view of your book or work
  • Tell your own story

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How Indie Authors Can Obtain Book Reviews

We know that reviews have the potential to sell books; but can you count on family or friends to provide the best reviews of your books? While your friends and family most likely mean well, it’s better to obtain reviews from a less personal and unbiased audience. As an author, your readers are a great resource for providing honest reviews about your books, but there are many review sites that can provide valuable reviews or lists of reviewers. Some of the book review sites charge fees for reviews while some of them are free. It’s important to select a reputable sites that will give the reviews some weight and validity. 

Value Of Book Reviews
There is not really a way to put a definitive value on book reviews; however, it's suffice to say that they are extremely valuable and a great way to help generate sales. Nothing can replace a well written review that speaks highly of your creation. If you are uncertain about how important seemingly simple book reviews can be, ask John Locke. He self-published books using Amazon and wasn’t moving enough books by his estimation. He was using the standard social media platforms, with a focus on blogging and twitter, but not seeing a sharp increase in sales. He decided to purchase 300 reviews in order to increase the appearance of his fan club and it worked. His sales literally skyrocketed. Readers pay attention to what other readers are saying about books, reviews are a great tool for selling more books.

Where To Find Reviewers
The trouble many indie authors have is finding people who are willing to post reviews about their books. But, there are ways to make the process of building reviews easier. There are plenty of sites through which indie authors can find reputable reviewers for their books. Some sites are free to join and others charge a nominal fee.

Here are a few of the top sites to find reviewers for your indie book:
  • Blue Ink Review
  • Choice Review Online
  • Forward Reviews
  • Kirkus
  • Midwest Book Review
  • Reader’s Favorite
  • Self-Publishing Review
You may also find it beneficial to check out Amazon’s Top Reviewers. Simply locate the reviewers who have a history of reviewing books in your genre and contact them. Be certain to let them ask for a copy of your book before sending it to them. Another notable site is Book Review Broker, which offers a unique method for obtaining book reviews.

Finding Lists of Reviewers Online
There are several sites that offer lists of reputable book reviewers. On these sites, indie authors will find numerous reviewers who have a reputation for honest reviews of books. Each site is slightly different in the way they approach sharing the list of reviewers with self-published authors.

Here is a list of sites that provide reviewer lists, along with a brief description.
  • 101 Best Blogs for Book Reviews – This list includes blogs that feature book reviews of books from many genres.
  • Book Blogger Directory – This site includes a very detailed list of book blogs, all of which are dedicated to discussing books.
  • Book Blogs – Book Blogs is about online communities on which members' interactions are all about books: reading, writing, blogging or publicizing.
  • The Indie Reviewer List – For those looking for a list of individuals who review indie books for free. This list includes readers who actively post reviews and are not affiliated with any publishers.
  • Step-by-Step Self Publishing Reviewer List – Developed specifically for the self-published author, this site provides lists of independent reviewers.

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Wrote a Book, Now What?

Finishing a manuscript is not really the end; it’s more of a beginning. There are many different tasks, such as editing, that cannot be done until the pages are filled with words. In reality, once an author gets the content done this is when the work begins. There are several things that have to happen before the book is completely finished and ready for publishing. What happens after you finish the first draft?

Rewriting and Rewriting!
To the author, once the book is finished the work is all lined out. It’s a long way from actually being finished and the actual finished product may look quite different than the first draft. The book in this first form is likely to never be seen by anyone other than the author. But until all the words are spread across the pages, there can be no editing and rearranging. Once it is all put together, you can start the editing process. Once the first draft is completed, you should lay it down and take a break for at least a day or two. This gives you a chance to come back to it with fresh eyes later. Then you will want to do a read-through while making all sorts of notes to yourself. The margins may be full of scenes that need to be rewritten or characters that need more clarity. Then go back and complete all the pieces that need to be rewritten.

Editorial Reviews
If it at all fits in your budget, you should consider obtaining an editorial review, or a structural edit. Just like there are indie authors, there are also indie editors who can evaluate and edit your book for you. This can be especially useful as an experienced editor can spot discrepancies or errors. After the editorial review you’ll want to consider the suggested revisions.

The Value of Beta Readers
Beta readers can be an invaluable asset to the indie author. Make sure that you are happy with your finished book before you hand it over to beta readers. This can be done in a few different ways. You may find a local book club or a reading group who will be willing to read your book and offer unbiased feedback. You may also want to choose five or so individuals who are willing to read your book and offer feedback. Either way it can be a great way to obtain a reader’s viewpoint of your work before finalizing copy. Just remember that you don’t want to start making a lot of changes based on the feedback of just one person. However, if you hear the same thing from more than one person you probably have something that needs to be addressed.

Revisions and Proof Reading
Once you have received feedback from beta readers you’ll want to make any necessary revisions. Then you will want to read through the text very carefully. You may wish to also use a proof reader. At this final stage, keep a keen eye out for any grammatical errors or mistakes like misspellings. 

After everything has been gone over with a fine-toothed comb, you’re ready to publish your book. As an indie author, you can publish directly with retailers or use a service that allows you to easily distribute to many retail channels through one publishing process. Draft2Digital, for example, offers a customer friendly service that will distribute your book through sales channels such as CreateSpace, Kobo, and Apple iBooks. 
photo credit: Mike Rohde via photopin cc

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Set a Price for Your Indie Book

A book is a wonderful, creative piece that actually took a lot longer than just the time to type it all up. Ideas may be conceived in a moment, but developing plots and characters can take a lot of time. When an author finishes a book, it is a culmination of their imagination, life experience, and their expertise all coming together as one. Pricing a book is part art, part science. Self published authors perhaps struggle with setting a book price more than just about any part of the publishing process. But there are some ways to help making setting a price for a book a reasonable feat.

Too High or Too Low?
There is a bit of psychology that goes into pricing books. Having a price that is too low can work against you and have a negative impact on its quality. Pricing a book too high can deter readers from purchasing it as well. People tend to feel that they will “get what they pay for” so you want to choose a good in between price that lets potential buyers feel like the book is worth the investment. Smashwords did a survey and found that on average books that were priced at $3.99 sold better on average than those priced at $2.99.

What Are Your Goals?
After you have worked to get your book ready for publishing and you need to set a price, you should already be relatively sure of what you want the book to do. Usually, an author has one of two goals: more sales or more readers. In most instances, authors are likely to say that these two goals carry equal weight and they are not mutually exclusive. You may take either approach successfully and the other is likely to follow. For authors who are not yet well established, a lower price might be what is needed to draw in a readership. Authors who already have a solid fan base often can charge a higher price for their work.

Making Comparisons
One place to start comparing prices is in your own genre. Romance novels tend to do well in the range between 99 cents and $2.99. But nonfiction or literary fiction usually tends to run a little higher in price. In most cases, authors may choose to start pricing at $10 or below. From there, test out a few different prices and maybe run your own promotions to find out what sells best. Take some time to research your specific genre to see what is selling at what price. This can give you an idea for a price range for your latest book.

The Babelcube team wishes you pricing success!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why Every Indie Author Needs A Blog

As an indie author you most likely understand the importance of maintaining a website, but do you need a blog as well? It is certainly well worth consideration. Let’s face it, blogging the right way is a time consuming process. Who has the extra time to sink into keeping up with multiple posts on a blog each week? Wouldn't it be more productive to spend the amount of time that must be invested in blogging on your latest project? Many authors consider blogging as a distraction, a waste of time, and totally unproductive. These reasons are certainly worth thinking about. However, if you do a blog right, then there are benefits that will make the work worth the hassle. Here are just a few of the benefits that a self-published author is likely to experience from a well maintained blog.

Blogging Helps You Connect With Your Existing Audience
By blogging on a regular basis you offer another opportunity for readers to connect with you. They most likely connect with the characters in your book or enjoy your writing already and blogging allows for another way to connect on a more personal basis. A blog allows you to become a “real” person to your readership. Those who have already experienced your books are likely to want to connect with you and learn more about what makes you tick. Blogs offer a safe environment for sharing with your audience and you can always choose how much or how little you want to share with your readers.

Blogging Attracts New Readers
The internet has created a platform that makes it a lot easier to connect with a variety of people. Blogs are a useful tool for establishing new connections and are commonly used in conjunction with social media accounts, like Twitter and Facebook, to broaden exposure. For authors who are planning on self-publishing globally, such as translating their works via a service like Babelcube, to reach an international audience, a blog can be a very good strategy.

Blogging Often Increases Sales
A blog that is updated on a regular basis can be used to increase traffic on your main website and book listings. In your blog posts, include links to your site and places your books can be purchased to help interested readers find your materials. Blogs allow indie authors the opportunity to share with their audience when they are publishing a new book, or starting to work on a new project. It can also be cross-linked with various other sites which might include videos, webinars, or audio recordings. Blogs can help extend your reach as an author and promote additional sales to your existing readership.

Blogging Provides A Platform To Showcase Your Expertise
When you maintain a blog on a regular basis you will establish your personal brand. And as you continue writing in your own niche, you will continue to build connections with your readership and your ideal audience. This puts you in the perfect position to promote all of your books, conferences, videos and your primary website.

Happy blogging!