Why I Ignore Some of Your Ideas

“Stay true to your integrity. I can’t tell you how many times I have said no, even though it sounded like such a good platform-building opportunity. You are good enough doing exactly what you are doing.”

– Dr. Lissa Rankin, Author

In the world of Self-Publishing there are so many ideas out there. Everyone has something to say about what to do and how to do it. This supersedes Self-Publishing however, and can spill over into Blogging and Life in general. One undesirable of the internet is that you can always find someone to agree with you or to support your idea even if it is a false reality, makes no sense whatsoever, or is obviously weird. You can find any expert, and any article that will explain in sophisticated detail something that will support your point of view. The problem with this is that eventually the views of experts will cloud the view of the individual until you’re listening to everyone instead of focusing on why you began doing this in the first place. I write because I love to do it. And I believe that you put your all into those things that you love doing. You also put your all into those things to which you want to expand. Like a blog for example. Whatever personal goals you have for your blog, in order to reach them you have to put your all into it. That’s just common sense.

What I think we’re forgetting however, is to excel at being ourselves. Professional advice come a dime a dozen, but there is only one you whose going to do it the way that you would do it. In the end I believe a lot of us forget to stay true to our personal integrity and to make sure that we are not sacrificing that veracity for the sake of gain. But gain is interesting in itself. When I speak of gain I’m not talking about trying to be seen of men. By gain I mean excelling in whatever it is you wish to excel in. Whether it is a promotion at the job, a best-selling book, a new business idea, or a new blog, success consists of one key thing: those who excel at being who they are. They find something they enjoy doing and they do it well without giving too much of that self into the opinions of others. Whatever you do just do it well because it was your personality and talents that drew us in, in the first place. Be not mistaken: WordPress did not convince me to follow your blog or buy your book, and neither did your platform. The fact that you posted a thousand pictures on Instagram did not convince me to follow you, you convinced me to follow you. Marketing and Promotion is simply a leverage to help us to find you, but in the end we have to like you for who you are in order to truly support you. This is what I believe a lot of us are forgetting. That your personality, your writing, your talents, and the effort that you put into what you love will attract others who also enjoy what you love. Your light attracts the light of others.

I see it. The ease of being overwhelmed by following every Self-Published book idea and implementing everyone’s blogging idea. But the truth is that what worked for them may not work for you, and that you’re actually already doing it the way you are supposed to be doing it. I agree totally with Rankin. In that I have turned down opportunities for the sake of preserving my integrity. There are just some things I am unwilling to sacrifice because it will not be me. I love writing, but there are lots of things I love more. My truth is one of them.

The fact that someone thinks I should do something a certain way to be successful is irrelevant, especially since it depends on one’s definition of the word. My success is not yours and your success is, nine times out of ten, not mine. Thus, someone else’s concept of how it should be done does not move me. What moves me is the love I have for it. If I enjoy Twitter more than Facebook, then Twitter is the platform to which I will mostly build. And if I am lead to interact amidst the blogosphere, then Blogging is the platform to which I will mostly build. These are just examples, true examples as I do enjoy blogging and twitter, but examples nonetheless.Eventually, you will find that if you find one thing you love, and you put your everything into that one thing, it will work wonders for you.

The point is not to resist advice. For he who resists advice is nothing short of a fool. Advice is information. It is guidance, correction, instruction. The point is that whatever you choose to do, do it wholeheartedly. Do it well. It is wise to accept advice. And it is wiser to implement that advice into your daily life. And since this post is kinda advice in and of itself, it does not speak against it. But be cautious of the temptation to do more than what it is meant for you to do for the sake of “doing it right”. It may just be that you have struck gold in a particular area, and that everyone else is actually doing it wrong.

Just be yourself. And be good at it.

What The Heck is Author Branding?

writing_as_professionalAh, the freedom of Self-Pub, gotta love it right? You can write as many books, covering as many angles as your full heart desires. Romance, Sci-Fi, Historical, Biography, not even the sky is the limit. But what makes your Romance novel stand out from the rest? What makes your History book the best? Self-Publishing is not like other businesses. It is not a jewelry store, a brightly lit collection of possibilities. A host of shiny things that pretty much sell themselves. It is not a restaurant, a place where menus lay open for people to see and to choose. When I walk into Burger King I know exactly what I want and how I want it and I know what I am getting. I already know what to expect from the food. But book publishing is different from other businesses because there is a lot to learn and there is a lot to do.

writers-block2I think the most challenging aspect of Self-Publishing is being able to prove to your target audience that your book is worth buying. Especially as a new author. It is critical at this point that we show ourselves to be set-apart from the rest. That we garner the kind of trust in our readers that we have in Burger King. That when people pick up one of our books they know they are about to have it their way. That was corny, but the point is that they know that the journey in which they are about to embark on is a good one. Have you ever picked up a book and did not have to question if it would be a good one? That is because, like your favorite restaurant, you are familiar with the taste of the authors’ words and the way they move around in your mind when you read them.

writing-groupWhat is an Author Brand? As a Self-Publisher, it is not something that immediately comes to mind. In the midst of writing and editing and book cover design, branding is the least of our worries. Of course we think about it (eventually), but when we set out to write a book Author Branding is not at the top of our list of priorities. It is a term that is heard among literary agents and blah blah blah. We are Self-Publishers after all. We make and break our own rules. But, being a Self-Published Author does not mean you live on Mars. You are, after all, part of the world and in the business of publishing. It doesn’t really matter if you publish traditionally or if you self-publish, we can all benefit from learning more about the business, which is constantly changing.

AuthorBrand

Author branding in short is basically how you want to be known as an author. The good thing is that many of us have already begun a form of Author Branding by establishing our perspectives and personalities as we blog.

“Serious writers who want to succeed as authors should include branding in their early success planning. A strong brand helps an author in the same ways it helps a company. It gives you name recognition and helps you sell your products—your books.” – Nina Amir

I know, Branding sounds like a lot of work. Makes me think about large corporations and blah blah blah. But, the good news is that little ole me can establish a form of branding without hurting my brain with talk from branding experts and people with more degrees than hairs on my head. Below are six simple branding tips for authors as suggested by Nina:

Here’s how you start: Think about how you want to be known as a writer. To determine this, consider:

• the types of writing you want to do
• the subjects about which you want to write
• the types of stories you want to tell
• the themes you want to cover in your work
• the ways in which you want to serve your readers
• the clients or customers you want to attract
• the spin-off books (sequels or series) you would like to publish
• your values
• your interests
• your passion
• your purpose

Does something stand out? Is there one quality, topic or aspect you’d like to highlight so that you become known for it? If so, this is a good place to start. You then can create logos, taglines and websites that feature and highlight this concept so you become known for it. This becomes your brand.

literI like using myself as an example because no one likes to hear about the adventures of invisible people. I am flesh and bone and person so here goes. I suck at branding myself in the name area. I know what is required to establish myself across the web and yet I continue to move away from it (hey, maybe that is my brand, ha!). My Author Website, my blog, and my social networking sites pretty much have different names. I know, that sucks, but that’s me. I’m A House of Poetry, A Literary Korner, and a PBS Blog, it doesn’t get any more different than that. I am the brand far as I’m concerned, so like, whatever.

You can either be special like me or you can use this tip:

• Use your brand statement across all your social networks.

Use the same title, tag line, photo and colors, etc., across all your social networks, as well as in articles, videos, and guest post, and always provide a link “home.” This helps you get you known quickly and easily and is another way to strengthen your brand once you’ve developed it. And tie everything you do back to your author website.

Yea, sure. I’ll think about it.

Self-Publishing: Just Write

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I’ve heard enough criticism of Indie Authors and self-published books to last a lifetime and for the most part, I agree with them. I believe a lot of self-published books are low in quality. I think the editing and proofreading of some of these books suck, and I think some of the book cover designs are far from eye-catching. But I also believe we are overlooking one major detail:

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Many books that are published by big Publishing Companies have some of these same problems, but no one is going to talk about that because after all, who wants to stand against St. Martin’s Griffin? No one will talk about these poorly written, and sometimes poorly edited books published by some of the most famous Publishing Companies. It is because these books have the reputation of professionalism. They are backed by publishing houses with teams of support systems that Indie Authors simply do not have. Is this an excuse? Of course not. But what I would like to suggest to Indie Authors is this: JUST WRITE.

Self-publishing-300x300Produce a professional product and keep producing. Your content may suck at first but you will never please everyone so just write. Write and invest in the  professional quality material. Identify the readers who like what you write and engage them. Self-Publishing is a slow game. So don’t go into get rich or die trying. I would even suggest you have another career on the side for bills sake and livelihood because it will be awhile before you start making real money from your book sells. This will not only assist you in life outside of writing, but it will help you to invest in your own writing. You should never solely depend on your writing career financially starting out because everybody knows writers do not make much money. Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing, we are not ballers so don’t set yourself up for disappointment by raising the stakes too high. Ambition is great, but this is a slow process in which Indie Authors need continual improvement by producing plenty of books.

 

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It is at this point that you will need to identify your writing goals. What is it you want from self-publishing a book? Is it to make the New York Times Bestsellers list? Is it to entertain your circle of friends only? Why are you self-publishing a book? This is a question only you can answer and depend on what that answer is you will have to take it from there. Your motivation, however, will have to be deeper than making money. I’m not talking about finding god and all that extra stuff. This ain’t church. I’m talking about your personal inspiration because whatever that inspiration is it will have to be the driving force behind your will to keep going. There will be frustration after frustration  in an industry to which, despite failure, you must continue to produce. It’s exciting initially because you’ve published a book, which is a huge accomplishment, Yay!! Go You! But what now?

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You set it up in your mind that the money will start pouring in and it doesn’t happen. That’s because it doesn’t work like that. Not even for writers who traditionally publish. As I’ve stated, a lot of Self-Published books suck for various reasons but don’t let the industry fool you:

Traditionally published books do too.

You think these books are automatic bestsellers? You think they’re striking gold? Nope. That’s the illusion but I’m here to tell you: writers don’t make money. At least not at first. Not Self-Published writers or Traditionally Published writers and you can take that to the bank and cash it.

So what do I propose? Do you throw in the towel? Do you do away with that manuscript? Do you stop here? No. You pass go, collect $200 and use it to keep writing. Whether your aspiration is to publish traditionally or Self-Publish, just write. But dedicate yourself to it. Here are a few tips to help get you started:

– Good Editing / Proofreading

– Nice Book Cover Design (FYI: Most major publishing houses buy multiple stock images from places like Getty images and combine them using Photoshop. Wanna know the secret to that nice book cover? I just told you).

– Formatting

– Easy to Follow Structure

– Jaw dropping opening scene

Keep it simple, keep it professional, and keep it coming. Don’t worry too much about the formalities and all that extra stuff these so called professionals keep telling you because your story probably does suck to them, but that don’t mean it’s not a masterpiece to someone else.

Just keep Writing.

Self-Publishing Book Descriptions

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Passin‘ is not a self-published book, but I would like to use it as an example. I actually borrowed it from the library and intend on returning it soon. Not that it wasn’t a good read, but I wouldn’t purchase it. Here’s why: I enjoy a book that makes my mind play it out in my head like a movie. I want to see the characters develop as real breathing people, I want them to have real issues and problems, and I want to see the story in action, and let’s just say this movie’s a little slow. Not that this book didn’t have all of that, it’s just slow getting to the point I perceived to be the main event (the meeting of the man). So it’s an alright read; I wouldn’t give it 5 stars, though. More like 3 stars. I really am enjoying the read, it’s just that I’m a bit disappointed by what the book description told me and how the story is unfolding (yea, still reading it, I’ll probably move up to 4 stars by the time it’s over, who knows lol). The story is an interesting tale of a young woman passing in the new millennium (2007). Racial passing occurs when a person classified as a member of one racial group is also accepted as a member of a different racial group by passing as that different racial group. (Did I confuse anyone?) So a black woman pretending to be white is an example of passing to keep it simple. But what made me check out the book is this excerpt from the description:

“When a successful African-American businessman thinks Shanika is the white woman of his dreams, her world spins out of control. With her future on the line, she’ll have to go beyond skin-deep to discover what’s really worth reaching for–and the person she truly wants to be.”

I know I know, how woman of me, but who doesn’t love, love? Anywho, it’s not a bad story so far, but what’s disappointing is my assumption that the meat of the story would surround this event. But halfway through the book, there’s no mention of this African American man. The story is pretty much just about Shanika’s, I’m sorry Nicole’s, struggles with “racial” (I don’t really believe in a race but for the sake of clarity) identity and her inner conflictions about living a lie (and her hatred of self…my 2 cents). In fact, we don’t meet Mr. Right until close to the end of the book. I’m probably just being picky, but I really did borrow the book to specifically see how this relationship was going to evolve. I’m not finished with the book so I may be doing a part 2 of this same post about how I judged a book by its descriptive cover, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

The point is that this inspired a post about how important book descriptions are to books, especially self-published books. We have talked about book cover designs, a little bit of editing, and even common sense reasons to self-publish. Now let us talk about the content of the book, starting with the description.

When a reader decides to buy a book, one of the first things that strike them is the book cover, the sample, and of course they’ve got to read those reviews. But another important element that plays a role in the buying experience is the book synopsis, summary, or description. If you think this is something I pulled out of my hat, just visit your nearest library or bookstore. You’ll see people scrolling through aisles and turning over the backs of books. Some of them flip through the pages and may even begin to read the first paragraph just to see if it grabs their attention.

The good thing is that if the description of your book has little to nothing to do with what the book is actually about, no one will know until after they buy the book and after they read it. The bad thing is that if they give a bad review, they’ll be your first and only customer. The truth is that book descriptions play a big role in book buying, and as I always say, it’s a good idea to produce your books the way you buy them. If a striking book cover makes you go for the bait then you should also have a book cover design that is also striking. Likewise, if reading the synopsis of a book is what makes you buy, then as an author you want to make sure your book description is also just as fantastic. “If your book description doesn’t grab them and make them feel ‘the need – the need to read’ then you’ve just lost a customer….” (Mark Edwards).

(For the record, Karen’s description was pretty good and achieved the desired effect, it made me pick it up and check it out which means I would have probably picked it up and bought it, so that’s not my complaint since I’m sure her book sells are doing better than mine. My complaint is just about the accuracy of her description of what’s actually in the book, but I digress).

A good summary will give readers just enough information about your book to get them excited about reading the whole thing. For this reason, it should be clear, brief, and simply breathtaking.

Below are 7 ways to improve on book descriptions by Mark Edwards as featured on the blog Catherine Caffeinated

(there are actually 11 but these are the ones I thought worth excerpting far as importance is concerned, 7 is a perfect number after all…isn’t it?):

1. Make it clear. Your potential reader needs to know with a quick skim read what kind of book this is, what it’s about and what the story is. The story is the most important element here – if you’ve written an erotic romance that will give Fifty Shades a run for its money, make sure people know that. Though remember, it’s the relationship at the heart of Fifty Shades that made it such a smash. You need to get that across in a very lucid way.

2. The first line is the most important. If you don’t get the first line right, they won’t read on (this applies to the book itself too). Your first line needs to encapsulate the whole book. It needs to draw people in, hit them where it feels good and make the hairs on the back of their neck stand up. Not easy – but worth spending time on.

3. Don’t be boring. The moment your potential reader feels bored, they’re gone, clicking on to the next book on the also-bought bar. Every line has to be compelling and move the story on. Just like your book, in fact.

4. Make them laugh, cry, cower. It’s all about emotions. How is your book going to make people feel? Is it heartbreaking or hilarious? Chilling or hotter than Angelina Jolie sunbathing in Death Valley? Again, look at the words most used in your genre. They are clichés for a reason. They work.

5. Use testimonials. If you have some quotes from well-known writers or experts, use them. These are generally best in a block rather than scattered through the text. If you’ve got a quote from your Auntie Maureen, you might as well use that too. Just don’t reference her as your auntie.

6. Make your characters live. As well as the story, it’s vital to get a good sense of your characters across – and, most importantly, their big problem. What terrible dilemma do they have to resolve? What personal demon do they need to conquer? You need characters and problems people will identify with – but they have to be big problems. Having a broken dishwasher just isn’t exciting enough.

7. Make the reader desperate to know what happens. You have to end your description with a cliffhanger. You need to lead the reader to the point where they are so curious that, were they a cat, it would kill them. Make sure you don’t give too much away. Be intriguing. Make them feel like Anastasia when Christian tells her he’s about to show her something really new and exciting. Make them go ‘Holy crap!’”

Common Self-Publishing Mistakes

Really? Is she really talking about self-publishing again? Yes, as a matter of fact I am. I already told you I’m in love with writing.

So, we’ve discussed briefly some Common Sense reasons to take advantage of the Self-Publishing Industry, and we’ve even talked about the professionalism (or lack thereof) among the industry. Today however, I would like to feature an article (with my 2 cents in-between) that will shed some light on some of the most common self-publishing mistakes known to Indie Authors. Ready? Alrighty then, let’s go. Excerpts written by Cate Baum:

Book Cover Designs

cover129-500x750“It may seem very easy to take a snap and use it as a cover, slotting it into one of the simple templates available on many of the book publishing platforms such as Createspace at Amazon. However, these templates should be used only as a very last resort. Why? Because these templates are truly only there for the most design illiterate of us all, and for those who don’t much care about how their book looks, for instance, maybe the book is being published for a charity or a niche, local audience who anticipate the book’s availability. There is a completely blank template for adding your own design, which is perfectly sized. I use this one with my own design, forgoing all of the added titles and image holders on the others; because if you wish to sell your book to a new audience out there, you’re going to need to spend some time or some money on a cover. Make sure your cover is eye-catching and clean, and can be seen at a distance because thumbnails on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and most other book sites are going to use a thumbnail to show your book off as a first point of sale.”

Very good advice! I must admit I am guilty of doing this very thing years ago as I embarked on the Self-Publishing path. But as I began to look more deeply into the professional outcome of the product, it became clear to me how important the book cover design was to the book. The content is the most important no doubt, but book cover designs are also just as important. I think authors should sit back and ask themselves (as I ask myself), no matter the audience, and no matter whether or not you’re trying to make Oprah’s book club, “what do I really want from the end product?” Just because you don’t expect to get rich, doesn’t mean your work can’t be the best. Remember, “Be exceptionally good at everything you do because light attracts light.” Check out these “Lousy Book Covers” for an example of what not to do (really, that’s the name of the website, I didn’t make that up): http://lousybookcovers.com/

Not Spending Enough Energy on Editing

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“We say this many times over, and I am constantly surprised by the number of self-publishers who go ahead and publish anyway, even when they know themselves their book contains errors! This is death to your book sales, and will not be ignored by readers, not just for this book but for all your books connected to your name. Editing is fairly expensive and tedious, but if you wish to make sales and give up the day job, it is vital you edit your work. Two-part edits are minimum: a proofread to find spelling and grammar errors, and then a formatting pass, followed by a structural edit to the actual story and characters. This will flag up any parts of the book that do not communicate well and parts where you’ve dragged on or skipped over detail that could become boring or confusing to your readers. In such a tough and competitive market an edit is an essential, professional process for any serious writer, even if you think you can spell, write, format and structure I bet you money an editor will find a bunch of stuff that you had missed, wood-for-the-trees style.”

So true. I know I know, would all of the grammatical geeks please calm down?  Nobody cares that you’ve counted over 50 grammatical errors in this post already, that’s what we have you for. 🙂

But seriously, I notice that one of the hardest stumbling blocks to tackle for some Indie Authors is finances. Often, we don’t put a lot into the editing of the material because we can’t afford it. But, if you want the most professional look possible, I would highly suggest you invest in editing. If nothing else, put some sheckles (yea, I said that), away for a decent editor to be your extra set of eyes, it may just save your novel’s life. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not as critical a reader as some may be when it comes to grammatical errors but I’m telling you now, if it’s so bad that it becomes hard to read, that’s going to throw me off completely and I’m gonna care more about watching the Walking Dead than reading your book.

Insisting on a Fancy Font

Fancy Font Fixation

Ok, thanks a lot Cate, but I think I’ll take it from here.

Please don’t do this people. Unless your book is some kind of graphic specialty or Children’s Book or something that requires some kind of cursive expertise, please don’t adjust your fonts in fancy writing. Only because you’re not in grade school anymore, the focus here is not how cute it looks, but how professional. Below is a basic list of the kinds of fonts that I would suggest for Chapters and such:

• Times New Roman
• Verdana
• Calibri
• Garamond
• Tahoma

Since I have to go now, I’d have to come back to this topic, but I hope what little information I was able to share may be of assistance to you. The most important obvious investments you can start out with though  is Editing and Book Cover Design.