Learn Much about Self-Publishing by… Blogging

Blog First

Hands-on Self-Publishing Experience

Blogging at WordPress can teach you more about self-publishing than you might realize.

Think about this, and strive to get the most out of it.

It would be wise to blog before self-publishing for the hands-on experience every authorpreneur needs to be successful.

But even if you’ve already self-published, it’s not too late to make the connection between blogging and indie publishing.

Here are several ways that blogging at WordPress can help you become a more successful authorpreneur:

  • Crafting the title. You have to write titles for your blog articles, so you get plenty of experience trying out titles and seeing how much attention your posts get. The title is a very important part of your book. Without blogging, most authors would have no experience or practice writing titles and seeing what interest they stimulate. Study the titles of articles from popular bloggers.
  • Content popularity. Writing about different topics, you can see which seem to be more popular or less popular among bloggers. The best way to learn what people like is through first-hand experience.
  • Keywords and categories. Gain experience choosing categories and tags for your articles at WordPress. You’ll need to choose categories and keywords when you publish. For your blog, you can type phrases in Google to see how popular they are, and for your book, you can try phrases out at Amazon’s home page. When you come across popular blog articles similar to what you write, check out the tags and categories that they used.
  • Cover design. Preparing or linking to images in your posts gives you some feedback regarding how to attract an audience visually. You also see images that evidently attract much attention to popular blog articles. The more you prepare your own images, the more you learn little tips.
  • Look Inside. In the WordPress reader, people only see a short sample. Bloggers strive to learn how to use the beginning of the article to create interest in the article. Similarly, at Amazon, you need to write an engaging blurb and Look Inside.
  • Writing practice. Blogging offers writing practice for self-published authors. You can even try out a new style or genre, with real readers to offer feedback.
  • Build your brand. At WordPress, you strive to build your blogging brand. This will carry over to becoming an authorpreneur, where you need to develop brands as an author and for your books.
  • Learn about marketing. You get firsthand experience trying to market your blog, which will carry over to book marketing. You get to see what other authors do in the way of marketing. Plus, blogging helps you build helpful relationships that can help you with your marketing when your book comes out. Some of your followers will serve as your initial fan base, too.
  • Monitor traffic. WordPress shows several stats that help you analyze your blog traffic. This can help give you a sense of the potential of your blog to help with marketing—a small percentage may be your initial fan base, but more importantly, the search engine traffic helps you see what frequency of outside visitors discover your website daily. The number of likes per post gives you some idea of your active following, which can pale in comparison to your total following; the search engine traffic is the number with the greater potential.
  • Get support. Relationships that you build on WordPress can support you with advice, reblogs, feedback, and more when you begin your self-publishing journey.
  • Explore formatting options. You have to format your posts here at WordPress. As you try new things in your articles, you gain some formatting experience. An e-book formats much like a webpage.
  • Test an idea. Got an idea that you want to test out? Try a sample on your blog and get some feedback.
  • Meet your audience. A thin slice of your WordPress following will include readers from your target audience. These interactions are golden.
  • Device management. Over time, you happen to view your blog from your pc, laptop, a friend’s iPad, a cell phone, etc. This gives you some idea about how various things format on different devices. That’s good experience for the challenge of formatting e-books that read well across all devices.
  • Analyze stats. Stats at Amazon are pretty limited—royalties, sales rank, reviews. You get many more stats here at WordPress—countries, views, likes, follows, shares, comments, etc. Such data can be valuable. You could even make a graph of your blog views for the month and compare it with your sales graph to see if there may be any correlation.
  • Website development. Indie publishers need to have websites, Facebook author or book pages, author profiles, etc. The experience you gain transforming your blog into a website will help you anytime you need to create a webpage or website.
  • SEO. You write articles hoping to pull in traffic from search engines. You gain experience with SEO as you try out categories, experiment with how to include keywords in headings and body text, etc.
  • Grow a following. You’ll develop a following here at WordPress. Setup an author page at Facebook and link to it at the end of your posts, and feed your WordPress posts into Facebook (but don’t also feed Facebook into WordPress or you’ll get double posts). Similarly, feed your blog into Twitter (but don’t feed from Twitter to WordPress or Facebook, or again you’ll get double or triple posts). Create profiles at Google Plus and LinkedIn, and your WordPress traffic can help you grow a following everywhere.
  • Build connections. Meet fellow authors, editors, graphic designers, small publishers, and more in your WordPress interactions. Indie authorship is a supportive community, for the most part.
  • Create buzz. When you release a book, your blog will help you create buzz for it.

Of course, there are many other benefits to blogging. For example, you can make some great online friends, and you can find some excellent material to read for free here at WordPress. Arguably, friendships and great reading material are the BEST parts of WordPress.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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What the Dreck?

Slush Pile

The Dreaded Slush Pile

Two popular terms among authors and readers make me cringe every time I see them—which is much too frequently. There are some very strong opinions about this subject, too.

  • dreck
  • slush pile

These terms generally refer to the ‘worst’ of the books, but this definition by itself creates some problems.

  • There is more than one way to define the word ‘worst.’ Do you mean editing, subject matter, sales rank, very short books, web content disguised as books, or something else entirely?
  • Thus, some authors take this the wrong way. “Are you talking about my book?”

Any one of these things, by itself, doesn’t necessarily make a book bad:

  • Maybe an author has a fantastic story, but on a low budget, chose not to invest in an editor without knowing if the book would sell. Given a choice, I’d rather have a great story that needs editing over a lousy story with superb editing. (But there are many excellent stores with good editing to choose from, so this isn’t a decision that we really have to make.) My point is that editing alone doesn’t imply that a book is bad.
  • Similarly, if the book simply has poor formatting, it could still have great content. I wouldn’t call a book poor just because it could use some tender-loving formatting care.
  • A miserable sales rank—or no rank at all—doesn’t make a book lousy. Maybe the cover and blurb aren’t attracting attention, but the story is amazing. Perhaps the author didn’t attempt any marketing. Or maybe there is a very tiny audience for the book. These things don’t determine that a book is poor. (Just that the author isn’t getting rich from that particular book. At least not presently—for all you know, it could have sold like hot cakes when it first came out, but just hasn’t sold in recent months.)
  • How about a very short book—just a few pages? If the information is valuable, people will want it. If it’s very well written, what’s the problem? The beauty is that customers can decide if that appeals to them. More people writing short books doesn’t mean that other books won’t sell. It doesn’t mean that shorter books are selling. Kindle Unlimited makes it easier for customers to reach 10% of shorter books, but Kindle Unlimited doesn’t encourage customers to download shorter books. Why borrow ten very short books? Customers spending $120 per year may be more inclined to get the best possible value for their money. But let’s just say that shorter books do start selling more. This means that those books are appealing to customers. If those short books truly are dreck, customers will stop buying them. So if they sell frequently, they must not be dreck just because they’re short.
  • Perhaps you’d like to judge the content as dreck—e.g. certain kinds of romance novels, sales pamphlets, get rich schemes. Return to my last point. If it’s selling and continues to sell, apparently it’s satisfying readers. How can you call something dreck if readers appreciate it? Because if there is something that you’re sure is better, then wouldn’t readers also agree that it’s better and stop buying the ‘dreck’? But again, even if it’s not selling, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the book is bad.
  • There are, indeed, books that we may agree are lousy. Maybe we can judge by the intention of the author. If the author made a poor effort, and was just hoping to turn a quick buck, perhaps that could properly be classified as lousy. If the author tries to deceive readers, does that make the book lousy? If the author recruits dozens of reviews to make a book seem far better than it actually is, when the author knows that nobody would have bought the book otherwise, can’t we call that book lousy?

The worst of the worst, however you want to define them, are important for two good reasons:

  • When a reader experiences a book that turns out far worse than the reader was expecting, it leaves a significant impact on the customer’s reading experience (and it tends to change the customer’s book buying habits).
  • When one of the worst books sells, it frustrates authors who have worked very hard to master their craft and publish a quality book.

Not all mention of the ‘slush pile’ stems from good intentions, though:

  • Some authors feel a sense of superiority and mention the slush pile with a sense of arrogance and disdain. This isn’t expressed as the frustration of an author who worked hard, but comes out as an “I’m better than you” feeling.
  • Some authors feel a sense of inferiority and mention the slush pile to feel better about themselves.
  • It may be in the financial interest of traditional publishers to advertise the slush pile as often as possible, hoping to create a perception that self-published books aren’t worth reading so that more customers will, hopefully, buy traditionally published books.
  • Editors and book formatters may advertise the slush pile, hoping to encourage authors to hire their services. (Editing and formatting are important. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay for such services, just that this might be one of the motivations for advertising it.)
  • Some readers want to feel superior in terms of what they are reading. For example, they might feel superior reading literary works, and thus denounce everything else as dreck.

Personally, I feel that not enough people read. A greater selection improves the chances that everyone can find a book that he or she would like to read.

Here are some truths about the ‘dreck,’ including reasons that I cringe every time I hear it mentioned. (Am I a hypocrite for mentioning it here? My hope is to help improve the perception, and that some good may come from the following points).

  • Every indie author who mentions the slush pile or dreck is marketing a poor image for indie books, which in turn hurts his or her own sales indirectly. Oops!

  • The worst books aren’t in the way of better books. Lousy books that don’t sell quickly fall in the rankings and fall down into the depths of obscurity. Why worry about lousy books that are hard to find?

  • When a self-published author says derogatory things about other authors’ books, how does that affect his or her image? Brand a positive image for yourself. It might even help your sales.

I’m not saying that we should ignore books that have problems.

Here are some positive ways to address this issue:

  • Don’t advertise lousy books.

  • Don’t use the words ‘dreck’ or ‘slush pile.’

  • Do find a few excellent examples of self-published books and advertise those instead of the bad ones.

  • Don’t put other authors down.

  • Do find indie authors who are producing quality books and bring those authors up.

  • If you know a friend or acquaintance who is a newbie author, offer some helpful tips that will result in a better first book.

  • Occasionally share tips in your social media posts that would help fellow authors produce better books

  • Help motivate self-published authors to perfect their books.

  • Do your best when you self-publish. Do some research. Seek feedback. Don’t view your first book as an experiment. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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The Beauty of Marketing

Beauty

Book Marketing

There isn’t just one way to do it. The fact that there are many different book marketing strategies is your opportunity. Find a way to look at marketing in a way that you can enjoy it.

You want to be successful, right?

  • It’s not about embracing someone else’s idea of marketing and carrying it out with due diligence.
  • It’s about finding an effective marketing method that you can embrace with a passion and make it your own.

Most indie writers are artists at heart, not businesspeople. Yet self-publishing success, both on and off Amazon, depends on effective book marketing.

  • That doesn’t mean that you have to switch from artist to salesman to sell books. That’s like hammering a square peg through a round hole.
  • It means you have to view marketing as an art or craft to master, and pursue it with passion. That will fuel your self-motivation.

Look at this article. It’s about book marketing. I didn’t use $ signs for the picture. I left my artistic hat on and turned marketing into a rose.

You, too, can wear your artistic hat successfully both as a writer and an artist. Successful indie authorship is a combination of writing and marketing, both of which are driven by passion and feature creativity.

The business side of marketing books can seem dull and boring to writers. Many indie authors think of the following features when they first encounter marketing:

  • Advertising.
  • Self-promotion.
  • Screaming loudest.
  • Generating hype.
  • Judging a book by its cover instead of its content.
  • Salesmanship.

Actually, most of the things on the above list aren’t effective when it comes to book marketing.

If you approach marketing as something that’s dull or boring, you’re definitely not going to succeed at it.

  • Again, this doesn’t mean you have to get excited about something that you naturally feel is boring. That has inherent limitations.
  • Rather, it means that you have to find a way to look at marketing that makes you inherently passionate about doing it.

Fortunately, marketing does have highly artistic and creative elements that can appeal to writing artists:

  • Marketing is about sharing your passion with others.
  • It’s a chance to interact with others and let them discover your excitement about your book. (Let them ask you what you’ve done lately, rather than advertise what you’ve done. This distinction makes a huge difference.)
  • It’s an opportunity to put readers in a positive mindset before they open your book. People you interact with in person and who enjoy the interaction are more likely to look forward to your book with a good frame of mind.
  • You can wear your artistic and creative caps when you get involved in the cover design (a big part of marketing—it’s part of the packaging). Even if you hire a cover artist, you’re still involved in the design of your cover.
  • Blogging is a great match for marketing books. You love to write, right? Not only that, you get to interact with people who read your blog. You get to be creative coming up with ideas for posts and finding images to use.
  • Creativity is a great tool for catching the attention of your target audience and engaging interest in your book. When you talk to people, you have the chance to show your creativity in the conversation.
  • Imagination can also be a helpful marketing tool. Come up with a creative marketing idea and you’ll enjoy carrying it out; others may enjoy your creativity and check out your book.
  • Even your curiosity can be a benefit here, such as your curiosity for how to think of marketing in a way that doesn’t sound like salesmanship. Use your creativity to find other ways to think about marketing.
  • Branding is an art form. Pursue it as an art. Brand an image for yourself.
  • You can even approach marketing as a scientist. Come up with different hypotheses about marketing strategies and test them out.
  • Embrace book marketing as an art form and strive to master the craft.

If beauty truly lies in the eye of the beholder, then you have the power to see how beautiful marketing can be.

Chris McMullen

Want free information about book marketing? Find all my marketing posts by clicking here.

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Authors, You Are Amazon

Me yes you

Why You

Because your book is available for sale at Amazon.

Amazon does sell many other products, but most customers think of books when they think of Amazon.

Millions of customers will buy other books besides yours, but some will (hopefully) buy your book.

When those customers read your book, your book—for that period of time—represents Amazon.

If the customer enjoys the shopping and reading experience that your book provides, the customer doesn’t just think highly of your book and you, but Amazon, too.

A poor buying or reading experience produces the opposite effect.

Of course, you have your own reasons for wanting to create a positive reading experience: You want the customer to recommend your book to others and to look for more of your books.

You want other authors’ books to create positive reading experiences. The more customers who enjoy shopping for books at Amazon and reading those books, the more likely those customers are to buy more books from Amazon and recommend Amazon to their friends, which improves the sales potential of your own books.

So it’s in your interest to support your fellow authors when they need and ask for help. (Offering unsolicited advice isn’t always received well, though.)

It’s also in your own best interest to help brand a positive image for Amazon, Kindle, and CreateSpace. The more customers who shop on Amazon, the better for all authors.

It’s even in your best interest to have good things to say about books similar to yours because those books are likely to appear on your customers-also-bought lists, and even if they don’t, most customers buy multiple books that are similar, not just one of them. Similar books can thrive together (or they can sink together).

When you hear negative things about Amazon, Kindle, or CreateSpace, take a moment to calmly and concisely say something good—and then let it be. Don’t get into a confrontation. Brand a positive image for yourself, too.

If you ask a customer what Amazon is, he or she will probably mention that it’s a huge website with an enormous selection of well-priced books.

But that’s not how the customer feels about Amazon. How the customer feels depends on shopping experiences and reading experiences. Each sale of your book contributes to a customer’s perception of Amazon.

You are Amazon.

We are Amazon.

Even the customer is Amazon. Anyone who enjoys the great selection, convenience, and prices benefits from helping to brand a positive image for Amazon.

Of course, indie authors must be thankful for the opportunities that Amazon has created.

Indie authors account for a significant share of Amazon’s book sales.

Indies are Amazon, too.

And the best indie books have shown that they can create wonderful reading experiences.

Beyond Amazon

You’re more than Amazon.

If you sell books on Nook, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords, etc., you’re all of these.

Wherever your book is sold, your book represents that retailer.

You want to brand a positive image for all of these outlets, and for whatever publishing service you use.

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.