Why Authors Need Their Own Website

If you're an author, a website is crucial for marketing your writing career.

You’ve written your book. You’ve published it. Congratulations! So…what’s next?

If you’re like many authors, you want to start selling it. But it’s not enough to just make it available for sale and cross your fingers. After all, you have a lot of competition out there. And while you have a lot of control when you independently publish, that comes with a lot of responsibilities, too. You have to do a lot of the heavy lifting for marketing on your own. It may seem daunting, and you might not even know where to begin.

Why not start with a website?

While selling your book in bookstores is great, let’s face it: you need to be found online. Your job in marketing yourself is to remove as many barriers as possible for potential readers. You want it to be easy to find you, easy to learn about you, and easy to buy your book.

Part of this is building your personal brand. That’s right, brands aren’t just for multinational corporations to slap on packaging and billboards. Building your personal brand lets readers know you outside of your book and helps you connect with them and build relationships. This will make them more likely to want to buy what you’re selling.

Websites and social media have made this easier than ever, because it allows you to directly share your thoughts with people. If you have a marketing strategy that doesn’t involve a website, you’re missing out on a lot. Plus, having a site just might make you a better writer.

Here are four ways having your own website will boost your writing career.

Engage Readers

How do you stand out in a world full of millions of people selling their books? By making it personal. Build relationships with readers by sharing your thoughts, responding to comments and questions, and entertaining them – in other words, by being a real person and not just a name on a book cover.

Building close connections to a group of fans can add up quickly; in fact, it’s the whole idea behind Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans premise. If you can give people a place to find you and you have a conversation with them, showing that you care about them and not just about their money, you’ll be well on your way to building your fanbase.

Sell Your Book

Hopefully your book is available in every place that will carry it, from Lulu to Amazon to brick-and-mortar stores. But there are a lot of benefits to selling your book on your own. Setting up a storefront on your website – allowing readers to find out about you and buy right away, without needing to go to another site – removes a barrier for purchase and makes them that much more likely to click that “Buy” button.

Network

Readers aren’t the only ones you’ll be able to reach with your website. Fellow authors, publishers, and booksellers are also online, and your website will allow you to network with them. Guest blog posts, for example, let you share tips and tricks and, even better, let you tap into someone else’s audience to build your own. Writing collaborations, workshops, author events – the bigger you grow your network, the more inroads you’ll have to great marketing and writing opportunities.

Practice Writing

Sure you’ve published a book, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement! Even the best authors are always striving to get better. If you’re updating your website regularly, you’ll get a ton of practice writing, whether it’s responding to visitors, posting writing exercises, or learning how to write concisely with your author bio. When you’re an author there’s no such thing as writing too much, and when you’re writing for your site – contributing to your marketing efforts – you’re killing two birds with one stone.

Getting Started

Making your own site has never been easier. Using a blogging platform like WordPress is a great place to start; you can create static pages that will remain relatively unchanged – for example, your bio or contact information pages – and have a built-in blog for regular updates. Or you can choose a platform like Squarespace and use their templates to make creating your own page a snap.

Some platforms are free, only charging you for extras, while some will run you a small subscription fee. And even purchasing your own domain name only comes out to a few bucks a month. No matter what route you go, look at the time and money you’re putting into it as an investment: a little work now will pay dividends as you continue to grow.

Do you have your own website? Tell us about it in the comments! Share your insights with your fellow authors about what works for you (and what doesn’t).

5 Famous Authors Who Were Rejected by Publishers

Have you gotten a rejection letter from a publisher? You aren't alone.

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil—but there is no way around them.

– Isaac Asimov

We’ve all gotten rejected once or twice in our lives. This is especially true when it comes to authors: it’s all about putting yourself out there, and you’re bound to come across someone who isn’t a fan.

Of course, one of the benefits of publishing independently is that you don’t have to worry about rejection. There aren’t any gatekeepers trying to stop your work from seeing the light of day. You can publish what you like and let your work be judged by the people who really matter: readers.

Still, sometimes it’s nice to know you aren’t alone. Some of the most famous authors in the world have had their books rejected at one point or another. Here are a few to reassure you that even the greats hit speedbumps every now and then.

Sylvia Plath sent The Bell Jar in under a pseudonym, where it was immediately rejected. The editor then discovered the author’s true identity, and the manuscript was…rejected again.

“I have now re-read—or rather read more thoroughly—“The Bell Jar” with the knowledge that it is by Sylva Plath which has added considerably to its interest for it is obviously flagrantly autobiographical. But it still is not much of a novel.”

Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness received this rejection letter:

A future multiple award winner.

It went on to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. Go figure.

Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times. He even threw the manuscript away before his wife retrieved it from the trash.

Even Tarzan's author got rejected!

Tarzan of the Apes was initially rejected, but Edgar Rice Burroughs’ persistence eventually bore fruit when the novel became a classic.

Sometimes they get a little personal, as with the rejection for Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises:

“If I may be frank, Mr. Hemingway — you certainly are in your prose — I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive.”

And finally, one bonus rejection: Dr. Seuss’ first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected 27 times. Where would we all be without a little Seuss in our life?

So there you have it: it happens to the best of us, but you can’t let it get you down! Is one of your favorite authors on this list? Have a rejection story of your own that you’ve learned from? Let us know in the comments!

Let’s Go Viral: Five Tactics for Boosting Your Clicks, Likes, and Shares

Author PlatformA few years ago, every indie-writer’s conference I attended focused on developing an author platform. This was a fancy, buzz wordy way of saying that independent authors who want to sell books also must create and maintain an internet presence consisting of a website, a blog, and social media pages. Today the buzzwords have changed and conference sessions are still being conducted about why an internet presence is necessary, but many of them fail to provide specific tactics for marketing your book once your platform is in place.

For the sake of this article, we will assume your platform is up and running. Now let’s make more effective use of these tools to get your marketing efforts noticed and your book sold.

#1: A Picture Is Worth 1000 Likes1000 Likes

Images are the most effective way to capture a person’s attention as they scroll through their social media feed. A fun way to get people talking about your work is to take and share screen shots or photos of your writing and publishing milestones to share on Facebook. For example, you can post a screenshot of your book’s product page when it is available for purchase on a new retail site, a screenshot of your book’s sales rank as it moves up the charts, or photos of you receiving and editing your proof copies. Sharing these milestones allows your fans to share in your excitement.

Don’t forget to include a link back to your website, blog, or book page to capitalize on the interest you generate. And, don’t assume your fans are all following you on Facebook. Be sure to post this content on other image-centric social sites such as Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

#2 Scatter Tastier Breadcrumbs

Tasty BreadThe entire reason for developing an internet presence is to capture a potential reader’s attention while maintaining the interest of your existing fans. All the little pieces of information shared in social media are like virtual breadcrumbs you scatter into the world to lure readers towards your content. So, its really important you  choose “bread” your readers will love.

For example, you could spend hours writing a blog post contemplating the causes of writer’s block and how it has affected your output. Or, you can take a few minutes to post a picture of your character’s favorite car, perfume, whiskey, etc. with a link back to a blog post about that character’s back story and why their predilection for this object is important to the story.

Using this strategy, you can also share images and insights relating to settings, locales, and general research: “While researching <fill in the blank>, I learned this interesting fact about…..” Remember the 80/20 rule of social media marketing: 80% of your posts should include useful information while 20% should be dedicated to marketing your product.

#3 Make It Easy to Spread the Word

Share buttonsAdding social share buttons to your website and blog pages may seem like an obvious step, but it is often over looked. These buttons are powerful marketing tools that essentially turn your fans into marketers every time they share your work with their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn network of friends.

And even better, it’s quite easy to add these buttons to your web pages. Here are links for adding the Facebook Like button, the Tweet button, and the LinkedIn Share button.

#4 Add Facebook Comments to Your Webpage

CommentsFacebook allows you to add a commenting system to any web page. This can be particularly effective in maintaining fans because it allows you to communicate directly with your readers from within your own website. It also allows you to nurture and develop your super-fans – those readers who will buy everything you write, share all your social content, and tell all their friends about your books. These people are your most effective marketers and they will be thrilled to receive answers directly from you instead of your Facebook Marketing Page profile.

To learn more about adding Facebook Comments to your webpages, see: Facebook Comments Plugin

#5 Your Fans Love Free Stuff – And So Do Their Friends.

You probably have fans who follow everything you do – if not, see above. Why not reward them by allowing them to download a PDF version of the first chapter of your upcoming book? They will be delighted to get it first and will be eager to share the experience with their friends.Retweet Button

You can make it easy for them to share their happiness by including a Retweet button in the free PDF content. You can pre-populate the text of the Tweet and include a link for others to download the free chapter. “I’m reading @AuthorName’s new book: <Book Title>. Get the 1st chapter free here: tiny.url.link.”

For more information, see: Adding Retweet buttons to PDFs.

These are just a few social media tactics you an easily implement with minimal effort. If you have others you would like to share, leave a comment below. And don’t forget to Like and Share this content with your friends. (See what I did there?)

Advice from the Literary Stars: Overcoming Writer’s Block

writers block WomanWe’ve all been there. Sitting at our desk struggling to move our story forward. Sometimes it’s a word that’s just out of reach, a scene you can’t adequately describe, or a transition that is a bit awkward. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t move forward. You are blocked. Fortunately, writer’s block is almost always temporary and all writers experience it at one time or another. So don’t despair. You are in good company.

If that is not enough encouragement to help you through your crisis, perhaps the following words of advice from these literary stars will help.

“Writer’s block is my unconscious mind telling me that something I’ve just written is either unbelievable or unimportant to me, and I solve it by going back and reinventing some part of what I’ve already written so that when I write it again, it is believable and interesting to me. Then I can go on.” — Orson Scott Card Ender’s Game

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” — Mark Twain

“I encouragwriters block vintagee my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing — just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a commitment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let things go at that.”— Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’” — Maya Angelou

“Pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close, like your sister, or your mother, or someone that you like.” — John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden

Writers Block Hemingway“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it, you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” — Ernest Hemingway

“If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.” — Norman Mailer in The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing

 

writers-block woman 2“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” — Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

“Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.” — Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, American Gods

“I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” — Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

 

Easy Ways to Sell Books at Events

Easy ways for you to sell your self-published book at events.Most independent authors are used to selling their books online. Sites like Lulu.com, Amazon, and other retailers are typically the place where you’ll get most of your sales. If you put in a little hustle, you can also get your books on the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores.

But what if you want to sell your books yourself? It takes some work, but that’s something you’re used to if you’re publishing on your own, right? Especially if you’re writing and publishing as a business rather than a hobby, selling your own books can open up a lot of networking and sales avenues; just listing on Amazon and leaving it be simply don’t offer the same opportunities.

If you find yourself at a lot of conferences, seminars, book signings, or other events, you might be leaving a lot of books on the table – literally – by not being proactive with your selling strategy. Here are a few ways you can be hands-on with your sales.

Sell Online
“But I already sell online! Isn’t that what Lulu and Amazon are for?”

You’re right, but the ease of selling through an online retailer comes with the inherent drawbacks of being locked into their platforms and rules. Maybe you want to sell your book somewhere you can have complete control – running your own discounts, bundling books, adding non-book products, and more.

Luckily, selling online has never been easier to do. Squarespace, Shopify, Big Cartel, and Gumroad are just a few of the platforms that let you set up your very own ecommerce site in minutes. Add images, product descriptions, and prices, and you’ve got yourself a full-fledged storefront that anyone in the world can find at their fingertips.

The best part is, it still works great for people at events. Maybe they don’t want to carry around a book for the rest of a conference or have to find a way to pack it into their bag for their flight home. Or maybe they want to take advantage of those special deals that you’re able to do when you’re selling on your own, like a bundle that includes one of your previous book.

Plus, there’s a lot to be said about having a professional-looking site with its own store. People know to take you and your business seriously because they can see that you’re taking yourself seriously.

Sell In-person
Conferences and other events are great places to sell your books. After all, you’ve already engaged your audience with a talk that showcased your expertise, and there’s nothing better than a book to let them go more in-depth and keep you at the top of their minds.

But even if you have a stack of books and a line of willing buyers, how do you move those books? Do you cross your fingers that everyone will have cash on them? Do you direct them to the Internet and hope they don’t forget before they have a chance to check out your site?

The answer is easy, because today’s tech allows anyone with a credit card to become your customer. Products like Square, Shopify, and PayPal Here let you plug a credit card reader right into your phone or tablet and accept plastic like a pro. You can also use Stripe or PayPal for electronic payments.

Selling in-person has a ton of benefits. You’re meeting your audience face-to-face, which goes a long way in building relationships and networks. You’re also giving them instant access to your book; instead of waiting around for it to be shipped, they can start flipping through it right away and strike up conversations with other readers.

And hey, maybe you’ll even get asked to sign a few copies. There’s no easier way to get started down the path of a celebrity!

What To Watch Out For
Selling books through a third party is easy. Take Lulu, for instance: you set up your book and we take care of the listing, the checkout process, the payment transaction, and making sure your book gets to your customer. If you’re selling on your own, these are all things you’ll need to take into account yourself.

Which platform are you going to use? Are there fees involved with accepting payments? How are you going to ship your packages out? How many copies of your book are you going to keep in stock? Will you accept returns?

That’s the tradeoff between selling on your own and letting someone else do it for you. When you have control of everything, you have to control everything. That isn’t to say one is better than the other; you just need to know what you’re getting yourself into and how much time you’re willing and able to put into your business. Just remember to keep your options open, and strike when the opportunity presents itself!

Have you had success striking out on your own and selling your books? Let us know your best tips and tools in the comments!

How to Find a Writing Group

Join a writer's group to share your workWe writers can work anywhere with a horizontal surface on which to rest our laptops or pads of paper. But, the process of turning what we imagine into text is a singularly solitary effort. We know what we want and mean to write. We clearly see it in our mind’s eye. Yet our mind is a tricky place. It tends to fill in the blanks we left on the page resulting in under developed characters and unresolved plot lines.

Joining a writing group is one way to fill in those blanks.  Not only can a group make your writing more of a collegial experience, but a group of like-minded writers can also help you meet your writing goals, work out the kinks in your plot lines, and point out any inconsistencies in your work.

So where do you find these mythical people? Here are a few places to look:

1. Local writing centers and communities

The first place to start is the internet. A quick search using your city name and “Writing Group” will get you started. If you get too many results, include the genre in which you write to narrow down the list. Once you find a promising group, send a message to the group leader or attend a public meeting / class to determine if the group is a good fit for you.

2. Conferences and Retreats

While you are at it, search for any local writing conferences or retreats to attend. Sharing your contact information with other writers at these local gatherings is the best way to make contact with authors who can recommend or introduce you to an existing group.

3. Bulletin boards

Despite living in the digital age, that old school means of finding like-minded people can still be effective. If you are interested in starting a writing group post a notice at your local public library, coffee house, or arts center. You can even post a notice on your city’s Craigslist > Community > Groups section.

4. Writing associations

Professional associations such as Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America have chapters throughout the country. Check their sites for directories to find members in your local area.

Lulu Joining a writing group

5. People you already know

We all have one good book inside of us – or so we would like to think. So, why not build a writing group from your friends and acquaintances. Most of us don’t live among authors and poets, but that’s not the point. The key is establishing a routine for a regular exchange of work. A word of caution may be needed here. Remember, criticism – even constructive criticism hurts. So choose carefully from those friends who will welcome your suggestions – and vice verse.

6. Online critique groups

Multiple online services are available and are often set up as an exchange: you must critique others’ work to have your own critiqued. Though they are often free, you may need to pay for full access or pay for an unlimited number of critiques. Some groups to to check out: Critique Circle, Review Fuse, Scribophile and Ladies Who Critique. One thing to keep in mind is that the readers in each group may or may not be your target audience and may not be a fan of the genre in which you work.

Meetups are a great place to share your writing

7. Meetup.com

This online service connects local people with similar interests ranging from Spanish literature to Scrabble. If there isn’t a writing group in your city, for a small fee you can start your own – or hold virtual meetings and exchange work via email.

8. Social media

Social media is now the most common way to connect with like-minded individuals and to find potential writing group members. Try these to get started: LinkedIn Groups for Writers, Facebook Groups for Writers, Goodreads Writing Groups and Twitter Lists for Writers.

Another options to just put out a call on your own social networks that you’re starting a writing group. You might be surprised who responds!

As you can see, finding a writing group takes time but it is well worth it to have the support, feedback and encouragement a group provides. Are you part of a writing group, or do you have tips of your own on finding people to share your work with? Let us know in the comments!

5 More Apps Every Writer Needs

5 Apps For Every Writer

Your writing time is precious. Last year we gave you five apps that every writer needs to check out. We’re back with five more apps to help you stay organized, stay on track, and make writing that much easier. Or maybe they’ll help make your life easier. Either way, you’ll thank us.

1. Evernote

We’ve talked before about the importance of using the cloud in your writing, and we called out Evernote in particular. Whether you’re using it for writing, note-taking, or research, Evernote is great at pulling everything together. You can save websites for quick reference, snap photos, and even chat with someone if you’re collaborating.

Best of all, Evernote syncs between every device it’s installed on. So type on your phone while you’re on the go and take a quick picture, and it’ll be at you laptop when you get back home. When you don’t have to worry about where you’re writing, it makes it a lot easier to actually get to writing!

Available on Android, iOS, and desktop.

2. Simple Pomodoro

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the 1980s as a time management system, named after the Italian word for “tomato.” The basic idea is that you focus for 25 minutes at a time, punctuated by 3-5 minute breaks.

The good news is that you don’t need a tomato-shaped kitchen timer (after which the method is named), because you can time yourself from your phone or tablet. One of the best is Simple Pomodoro; like the name implies, it’s simple and straightforward. Tap to start the countdown, and when time’s up your break will start automatically count down, too. You’ll be amazed at how your time management improves once you get into a rhythm.

Available on Android.

3. Trello

Sometimes getting things done isn’t the problem – it’s keeping track of everything that gives you a headache! A little management can go a long way in keeping tasks straight. Trello is a project management system, but it works just as well for writers.

At its most basic, Trello works like this: you have boards for big projects, lists for groups or related tasks, and cards for individual tasks. This will let you break up your writing process however you wish: by chapter, by theme, by characters, and so on.  Once you get organized and don’t have to worry about figuring out where you left off, you can get past the planning and onto the writing.

Available on Android, iOS, and browsers.

4. Coffitivity

You have an issue: you have trouble working when things are too quiet, but turning on music or the television distracts you. What you really need is the perfect amount of background noise to keep you grounded. After all, studies have shown that ambient noise can spur creativity. Try Coffitivity as an easy way to keep those creative juices flowing.

Coffitivity lets you use the mild hustle and bustle of a coffee shop to keep you on track. Choose from ‘Morning Murmur,’ ‘Lunchtime Lounge,’ or ‘University Undertones’ and start listening. It’s that easy! Give it a try and see if it helps you get over that bout of writer’s block.

Available on Android, iOS, and web browsers.

5. IF

Ever wish you could automate the little things in your life? IF, the app from IFTTT (If This Then That), lets you connect the other apps in your life to try to make things a little easier.

The way it works is all in the name: “if something happens, then do something else.” You define the “somethings.” For example, if you favorite a tweet, then save it to Evernote. Or if you miss a call, then respond with an automated text. There are tons of supported apps and devices, from Facebook to Fitbit, and crossing even a few things off of your to-do list with automation will save you a lot of time in the end.

Available on Android and iOS.

Have you used any of these apps? What do you think of them? Do you have any favorites of your own that you think help make your life and writing a bit easier? Share your experiences in the comments below!