7 Things I wish I knew before self-publishing

It’s been over a year since I published my book, Before the Legend. This past year I’ve learned so much about self-publishing and marketing. Although I’m thankful for the little successes and milestones I was able to reach, there were so several things I wish I could have done differently before and after self-publishing my book. The first three in the list are things are already knew before publishing but underestimated while doing this process. Here are my top 7 things you want to do before you self-publish.

  1. Thorough professional editing- Before I published my book I had several people edit my works for free. In addition I also edited my own stories several times over. Even though they proved to be helpful I realized I needed professional editing to cover my bases. When I first chose an editor on Thumbtack, I underestimated the importance of the types of edits needed to make your work polished. My first editor was focused more on the  content of my story, which is referred to as a structural edit. What I failed to do before I published was pay for a line edit which involves a focus on the mechanics of writing, including grammar, spelling and punctuation. Looking back now I would do at least both types of edits before publishing.
  2. Professional Formatting- For a new time author formatting can be tricky especially for eBooks. Considering that first impressions means everything, it is so important that the formatting of the book is clean and professional. Hiring a professional is one good way to ensure that everything from the spaces between the lines, to the page numbering is aligned and spaced correctly. For those feeling ambitious, guides such as the one on Smashwords were very helpful in getting started in eBook formatting. Even after you think you’re finished double-check how it appears on different devices. If something appears off, fix it before it goes live. It needs to be close to perfect before it goes live. If publishing the print version, order the proof and verify it before it goes live.
  3. Professional Book cover- First impressions are everything, and your cover is the first thing you’re viewer will see. It needs to grab their attention and convey what the book is about. Might I add it should look professional. Anything less than great may come off as amateurish. Unless you’re a graphic designer/graphic illustrator,  it’s very difficult to nail the design just right so that it’s not only beautiful and striking but also marketable. Your book needs to appeal to your target audience and oftentimes it’s easy for new writers to overlook that. That’s why it’s strongly recommended to seek help from a professional design artist. When you are designing your cover it’s important to test and see how it looks resized or in black and white before going ahead with the design. Ask others for their honest input. What did they like or didn’t like? Their feedback is very important and can give you insight as to what you can improve upon before it goes live.

Marketing Strategies

  1. Have a plan- It’s important to have a concrete plan. How do you plan to market your book? How do you plan to get reviews? When is the best time to publish? Those are just a few of the questions you need to consider. Having a plan helps you to stay focused and not to rush into publishing without knowing how you plan to sell your book.
  2. Advanced Copies for review- Several authors and publishers have utilized the strategy of giving out advance copies in exchange for reviews. Getting people to read your book before it’s published builds early buzz  that can spill over after the book goes live. With more copies circulated to readers who are more likely to enjoy your particular book, there is great potential in having early exposure while getting early feedback on your work. Finding reviewers early on ensure that when your book goes live on sites you’ll already have reviews from the jump which may sway potential readers and potentially boost book sales.
  3. Cover Reveal!- Marketing doesn’t have to start when the book is already out. As alluded to earlier you want to create buzz weeks if not months before your book is published. One marketing tips some authors have tried include cover reveals, whether on your Facebook page, or sites like Goodreads. It’s a great way to generate anticipation and visibility before your book goes live.
  4. Pre-orders. Even though this may apply more to print books, I thought I might throw this in for the 7th point for the marketing strategies. Having your print book available for pre-order is a great way to create buzz for your book and get a head start on potential sales. Early strong sales on Amazon can determine if your book makes it to important lists such as hot new releases which is where you want your book to be if you want to gain more visibility which can result in even more sales.

Be realistic- Above all it’s important to be realistic. Not all books will sell well. Setting realistic goals helps you to be grounded and not to get too disappointed when you’re expectations aren’t realized. Learning from others successes and failures beforehand will help you be prepared for the challenges of publishing.

So there you have it. Seven things that you don’t want to underestimate when going into self-publishing. It’s too late to reverse the past but I can learn from my mistakes for the next book that may come along. Considering I haven’t tried the marketing strategies (cover reveal, advanced copies, etc) prior to publishing Before the Legend, I have no way of knowing if they are actually effective in terms of sales. I would love to hear from others who have tried these or other strategies. 1) What did you try when publishing? 2) Would you consider it effective?

Blogging 101

From Blogspot

I return to my blog to discuss about the very thing I’m doing: blogging.

Although I’ve taken a break from writing new works, I haven’t taken a break from blogging just yet. It’s been about two years since I started this blog. The world of blogging was still relatively new to me then. Even back then I knew what I wanted this blog to be about: writing. And from those first posts up till now that has been the main focus of my posts. Although my blog has a modest following, it’s been the most prolific and most followed of the two blogs I have out now. What has helped me to continue to keep blogging?

Here are some tips I’ve learned from other bloggers that can help new bloggers out there getting started.

I’ve heard new bloggers lament, I don’t know what to write about. My short answer to that reply: write what you enjoy. I can’t stress this point enough especially for personal blogs. Think about your favorite celebrity, subject or hobby. Isn’t it true that for most for us the things we’re most passionate about, we’ll have plenty to say especially if it’s something we’re well versed in, know from personal experience or research. That principle should apply to blogging. When we blog about topics that we have a personal interest in, we’ll have many things to discuss. And if we don’t know everything (who does) will want to do some more digging. When we write what interests us, we’ll find writing new posts will come more naturally.

Audience

However once we make our blogs available to the world-wide web that brings a whole other dimension to think about; readers. That lends itself to questions you have to take into account.

1. What is your blog about?

2. Who is your intended audience?

3. What will interest your target audience?

If we have answers to those questions you’re off to a good start. Your answer to the first question should serve as the guiding force behind the posts you write about. Knowing what the point of the blog early on will help give your blog a focus instead of having a bunch of random incoherent posts. Sometimes though your blogs may contain your personal musings. Those are okay especially if your blog is of a personal nature that mimic that of diary entries. However having a focus gives our blog a sense of consistency. Even if we vary it up every now and then, readers will have an idea of what to expect in terms of content. If your first couple of posts are on a given subject (e.g. fashion, technology, health, sports, photography, writing, etc.) readers will expect future posts to be about that.

That leads into the answers for questions 2 and 3. What you write about will appeal to certain readers. Therefore it’s important to consider the audience of that subject matter and what will appeal to them in future posts. But you still want to write about things that of interest to you as the blogger. You don’t want to get in the habit of writing posts just to take up space, or writing about topics you have zero interest in. Otherwise writing will become more of a chore and it will get boring fast! That’s why it’s important that you write about what you want to write first and then think about your audience. That way you avoid that pitfall. At the same time your blog should attract readers. The types of readers will depend on what you’re blog is about. Having a blog with a focus helps to draw those who will be invested and more likely to appreciate what you have to say. It’s important to strike a proper balance between writing what you like but also what your readers will care about too.

Write Quality Content

Quality may seem subjective. Especially with the different types of blogs and different writing styles. But what applies to virtually all blogs is good writing. That means making sure your grammar, punctuation and spelling is correct. You don’t have to be an English major to run your posts through spell check before hitting “Publish.” It makes your writing more professional not to mention readable. There’s a lot more involved obviously to this like making sure your sentences flow together, watching your tenses etc, but I think you get the idea. This is blogging 101 after all.

You’ll have short posts from time. That’s ok. However you want to aim to write or post something that’s going to be useful or insightful to your readers. Depending on what you’re writing about, your readers may want more ‘meat’ in terms of the content of your posts.

Pacing

In writing, quality is more important that quantity. Posting regularly is good even recommended. Posting at regular intervals (which I don’t always do lol) is good practice recommended by a lot of bloggers. When followers know when you will post new content there more likely to return. At the same time you have to pace yourself. Although I have more time on my hands now, for the most part, writing a blog post every week let alone once a day was not feasible with my schedule. Not to mention posting daily can pose a challenge in terms of keeping to that schedule let alone coming up with fresh engaging posts. You never want to feel pressured to post just anything for the sake of a deadline if the quality is going to suffer.

Deadlines can be good. It can motivate us to stay on task. If you blog for a news outlet or for money, this will be of greater importance to you and rightly so. For me I try to write a new post every month. Some people post weekly or bi-weekly. I stick to once or twice a month on average. When writing, stick to a routine that works for you.

Connect to your readers

It’s important to connect to your readers. Here are some quick points to help you reach more readers and potential followers.

1. Use catchy titles. Your title is often the first thing viewers see. There’s no hard rule to titles. Generally I try to make them simple and to the point.

2. Tags are your friend. With people searching for blog through tags, using good tags are important. Think of tags as keywords of what your blog covers. You want to aim to use popular tags that people will likely be looking up that are still relevant to your post. It’s even better if you use tags or keywords that are actually in your blog or title.

3. Comment and follow blogs similar to yours. Did you genuinely like what they posted? Show it by liking it and/or commenting. That might bring new eyes to your blog. They’re more likely to return the favor if they see genuine interest vs. a solicitation to read your blog.

4. Make it easy for readers to connect with you. One of the best ways to start is by having an About Page. Make sure to tell readers a little about yourself. What’s your background? Hobbies. Any interesting facts about you? Those are all good things to include without spilling your whole life story. I’m an introvert by nature but even then you need to make it easy to connect with readers. Make sure you have a follow button that’s easily visible so others can follow you if they like what they see. Don’t forget to include share buttons so people can share your posts with others which will drive more traffic to your blog.

5. Continue to keep writing. You only get better by writing more. So get out there and write!

All Good Things Come to an End

It seems like all good things must come to an end. The month is almost over and with it marks the end to two main things. And I’m not just talking about summer.

 

Before the Legend eBook going exclusive on Amazon.

Starting this October 1st, I plan to officially sign my book to Amazon’s KDP Select program. It’s a partner program to Amazon that allows authors to publish through the site while enjoying perks such as higher royalty rates for $.99 priced books, greater control over promotional pricing, just to name a few. What does that mean for readers? That means for the next 90 days my eBook will only be available for purchase on Amazon in Kindle format. That means it won’t be available in other formats such as Mobi, ePub, etc. If you do wish to purchase the eBook in the following formats I strongly suggest you download the format of your choice from Smashwords or the Buy Now Page for the list of current retailers before the change goes into effect tomorrow.

Although I was originally against the idea of exclusivity, I was curious to try a new approach to self-publishing. I’m curious to see if publishing the eBook via Amazon will have an impact on sales or future exposure to my book. After the 90 days I can fully gauge at that point whether this is something I would want to continue or end.

The Series End

My story series which has gone on for what seems like forever has finally come to its end with the last two chapters of Chasing Blue. It was a bittersweet experience saying goodbye to the many characters that have graced the many pages. In the Two-Part Finale, which has just been released, the ending is probably the most intense, heart-rending portion I’ve ever had to write before. While it was not easy, it was one of my favorites parts to write. I had a rough idea how it wanted it to end but I had no idea how the characters would inadvertently write themselves, changing how the scenes play out. Even though I anticipated the finish line for a long time, when I finally got to the end I realized I didn’t want the story to just “end”with a pretty little bow tied on top.

When writing this, I also realized there were many questions that still needed answering. Problems that needed resolving. There were so much packed in these final moments with Troy and the growing unrest on the island that I had to split the last chapter into two parts: “Breaking Point” and “Last Stand.” Essentially in these two chapters, it pick up right from the previous chapter “Insurgence,” when the rebellion begins. However the stakes are at their highest as Troy must find out what really matters before its too late. Here’s a brief overview of the Two-Part Finale….

A powerful quake rocks the island to its core, tipping the scales in favor of the rebellion. However things have never been more dangerous than ever before especially for Troy as he finds himself at odds on both sides of the conflict. However something far bigger looms, threatening to kill everyone including the ones he loves the most. Before he says goodbye one last time to his first home, he must find his friends before he loses everything in ashes! 

I hope everyone enjoys the final concluding chapters of the 4th and final book to the story series. Where do I go from here? For now I will take an indefinite break from writing new works. This is not the end. I still have new story ideas sitting in my imagination. Think of it as the start of something new. Like Troy, I have other adventures and pursuits I’m eager to explore. To start a new chapter in life as a young adult. This blog isn’t going anywhere. Not anytime soon at least. I will continue…. after I take a vacation of course. :)

Dramatic Music anyone?

Down to the wire

After three years, Chasing Blue: The Final Saga is finally coming to a close. After just completing the 2nd to last chapter to the final series, I can almost taste the finish line. And as promised the final chapters will build on more suspense until it crescendos to the climax.

The newest chapter: “Insurgence” builds on the prior chapter, “Invasion”. As a recap for those that haven’t read the previous chapter, Troy runs off with Priscilla into the night to find the others including his friend Julius. Although they find a hiding place in the crags, they are reminded they must keep on the move before they are discovered. We see more of the tension and drama building in this chapter as the characters have a fleeting moment of “calm” before it’s time to flee again. Just when you thought things were getting angsty, the latest chapter intensifies the action to a whole new level. In “Insurgence” we see the sparks of the rebellion igniting. The stakes are higher. The action intensifies. Troy is faced with painful decisions with potentially devastating consequences in this heart-wrenching chapter.

Dramatic Music Anyone?

As a personal habit of mines from time, I enjoy listening to a certain song or soundtrack as I read a particular scene in my story. From personal experience the right song enhances the reading experience! When writing out a scene, music plays an integral role in how the scene comes together. Like music, each piece, down to the words should not only flow together but also capture a feeling or mood. When writing some of the darker intense scenes, I found it very helpful to listen to dramatic music that fit the mood I was going for. This included many movie scores especially Hunger Games and Catching Fire, which has some amazing scores in my opinion. This helped me get in the head space I needed to portray more intense, emotional scenes. For more slower moments between Troy and Priscilla, slower melodic pieces were used as I wrote out their scenes.

Here’s one of the intense action scenes from my story when the guards invade the tower, inspired partly by the musical score used in one of the Catching Fire trailers. Credit goes to Dean Valentine, Music Piece:  “Dark Matter.”

-Excerpt-

The sentinels returned but the Messenger was nowhere to be found. There were even more horses than before. Each man was girded with breastplates and helmets. They looked like warriors. They looked like a miniature army sent out to destroy us. The negotiations had failed.

“Find all three brothers,” one of the chief sentinels commanded the men swarming the hill. “Bring Troy to me but kill the rest of the brutes.” They knew I was here.

Bang!

I could hear them banging the door like madmen. My heart was pounding with every thud. Once the war cries bellowed from below I knew they were inside now. It was time to light the fire. Now! I raced to the rooftop with the withering torch. I hurled the torch, letting the flames lick the straw. It had begun.

I ran back to the corridor where I was greeted with the noises of battle. Hold them back! Do not let them get past the first level!” Caius shouted to the men below. He raced up the stairs to meet me in the top corridor. “Your father captured the Messenger. This is your father’s response to ‘a negotiation!’ The plan failed us. We have to kill them now!”

“No! There has to be a better way,” I protested.

“There is no other way, Troy!” We both walked in the room as the guard approached Barbarius with the sword. Apollus stuck his foot out causing the man to stumble. Barbarius scuttled over, rocking back in his chair and stomped on the captor’s hands with his sandals. Caius rushed into the room with his sword drawn.

“I will handle this,” I muttered, yanking his free arm.

“No, I will. You did a poor job of handling it!” he said shoving me against the wall.

“Agh!” the man yelled. I looked down as Apollus lifted himself partly erect to head-butt his captor. As Caius came swinging with his sword, Barbarius leaned back in his chair, shifting his weight on the tips of his toes. While still fastened to his chair, he swung around as the sword came slicing the air, striking him from behind. The chains fell to the ground. Without knowing it, he had helped free Barbarius! Enraged he took another swing at Barbarius who was defenseless. He ducked, just missing the knife by a hairbreadth. Desperate, he grabbed a chair leg as his weapon to block his strikes.

“Hold your hands up!” I ordered Apollus. Without objection he lifted his hands. I only had one chance to get it right. With a swift blow, I slashed the chains bounding his two hands. His jaws dropped. He was either stunned I had such good precision or that I bothered to do him a favor or both. Just then the guard from behind grabbed my neck from behind, sending me falling backwards with him.

“Traitor!” he growled in my ears. I elbowed him in the ribs, but his grip only tightened.

“Let me go!” I rasped. Gasping for air, I struggled to reach for my dagger. I looked over at Apollus who was easing his way out the doorway.

“Apollus. Please!” I croaked as his grip grew tighter. Now I was the one that needed mercy. Apollus bit his lip as he stood, frozen. Now the tables had turned…

Read it in full here.

 

 

New cover going live!

Full Book cover

It was long overdue but it’s finally close to ready as its going to get. As a quick heads up to everyone I am currently uploading the new cover for Before the Legend. That means that the book will be briefly unavailable on Amazon. This update hopefully shouldn’t affect the other retailers which can be found on the “Buy Now” page. The book should be live by tomorrow for both the eBook and print version on Amazon as early as tomorrow morning. Updates will likely be posted on my official Facebook page.

Where do I go after a new cover?

I’m seriously considering joining KDP Select on Amazon. Although I never liked the idea of a retailer having exclusivity over my eBook, I must admit the program does offer some nice perks including higher royalty for the $.99 selling price and setting prices for a set promotion time frame. If I do decide that path that would mean for 90 days my eBook will be unavailable anywhere else for sale. Of course I will keep my viewers updated on my decision.

There’s also talk of the latest extension to KDP Select, called Kindle Unlimited. It’s still fairly new so determining whether it would be a profitable avenue to take is too early to say, but there’s appeal to both self publishers and Amazon users alike. A post by David Gaughran is one of the few I’ve found that addresses the new questions about Amazon’s newest marketing move. Even then some questions remain to be answered. Want to get the latest updates? Sign up here.

Also don’t miss the latest chapter, “Persuasion” for Chasing Blue. A snippet of the chapter can be found here.

Important Update: eBook is now live with the new cover as well as the print book! There was  a delay with the print version and the changes may be trickling over to partnering retailers with Amazon’s Createspace in the coming days. I appreciate everyone’s patience.

The Blurb

Never underestimate the power of the blurb.

The blurb is that short description you find on the back of a book. You’ll also see a version of it in the brief description provided on Amazon and other retailers that sell the book. Although it’s easy to overlook, the blurb is a powerful arsenal in marketing your book. The blurb goes hand in hand with the cover design. The cover is the lure that will initially catch the reader’s eye. A good blurb will hook the reader by giving the reader a taste of what the book is about and entice the reader to buy it. The blurb should provide a gist of the main plot, main character(s), and the stakes/complications involved. The trick though is not giving the whole plot away. Although you don’t want the blurb to be too vague you don’t want to spoil the plot. It’s like watching a movie trailer that gives away the whole storyline  in 2 minutes. If you were to do something similar in the back blurb, what incentive would the reader have to read it if they already know what is going to happen in the end?

Writing a Great Blurb

While rewriting my blurb I found it helpful to gather feedback from others and look at other examples of blurbs. An effective way to get people to care about the story is to evoke an emotional response from the reader. This can be achieved by using the right words that stir strong emotions that the reader can identify with. Another point is to include the major conflict the character must overcome to reach their goal or quest. The higher the stakes, the more interesting things get which will further heighten the reader’s anticipation of finding out how the conflict will be resolved. Here are some helpful tips I picked up from Michael Sullivan, an established writer, in an article he wrote about blurb writing here. I will briefly outline the main tips about writing good blurbs but I highly suggest reading his post especially the concept of using a headline for your blurb.

  • Keep it short and snappy. Brevity is key. Keeping it to one paragraph is preferable.
  • Think of your blurb as an advertisement. Throw in a teaser, (eg. raise a question) that will intrigue the reader and urge them to want to find out what happens next.
  • Examine other blurbs from stories you like and figure out what makes them successful and apply some of the techniques they use.
The blurb for Before the Legend

The blurb for Before the Legend

Above is the revised back cover for Before the Legend with the blurb. Although I’m no expert at blurb writing, here is my latest attempt.

It’s every child’s nightmare. In the next three days he’s about to relive it. Will he defy this dream?

On the quiet island, amidst the looming Roman Empire, Troy, the youngest son of the King has always known his little world to be safe and happy. But one nightmare gives him a disturbing glimpse of losing his parents forever. He wakes up only to realize he may have lost something else_ his parent’s love and affection. Left with more questions than answers, Troy must figure out the new questions that the event has triggered. But in three days, an earth shattering event rocks the island, separating him and his brothers from their parents. If Troy doesn’t find his parents in time, his worst nightmare is about to come true. But if he does, will he be prepared for what he’s about to discover?

_______

In the example above, I introduced the main character and the setting which fits with my genre (Historical fiction). I provided the main gist of the plot and threw in the complication (the earthquake) and left the reader an interest-arousing question. So what do you think? Although blurb writing has never been easy it doesn’t have to be so daunting after all.

_______

Update: As a heads up check out the newest chapter for Chasing Blue you can check out this link.

Cover Reveal!

The wait is almost over. Here is the new proposed book cover for my debut book, “Before the Legend,” a fresh alternative look on history seen the through the eyes of a young precocious boy living in the backdrop of one of the greatest civilizations known to rule. Expect a cover change to the e-Book and print versions across major retailers as early as July. What do you think about the new cover?

Cover Reveal!