Writers’ Block – like Global Warming – An Excuse for Waffle Time

September 14, 2014 in Articles, Writing & Publishing

writers-block

Image courtesy of photoXpress.com

Ever heard of Talker’s Block. Always keen for fame, just by writing this I’ve copyrighted the phrase. But could such a thing exist? Yes – so I gather, but it’s invariably a medical condition prompted by either physical or mental trauma. So, pull yourself together, writers, and forget about writers’ block. If all you are doing is waiting for ‘spontaneous combustion’ in the form of great literature transferring itself effortlessly from your brain to the keyboard, think again. It’s not going to happen.

Think about it! Did Mr Hoover (the ‘keep carpets clean’ campaigner) come up with the idea for his vacuum cleaner ‘out of the blue’ – a notion that just flew in through the window one morning – and had he never previously entertained a thought about dust, brushes and machinery that could make his wife’s life easier. He was a doer as well as a thinker; a man constantly imagining how to improve machines and through them, make life better for us all. Not for him, countless hours sitting in front of a drawing board praying for inspiration. His mind was always full of projects. And so should yours be!

Of course there are days, and sometimes months, when writing is just not on the cards; not something that suits, for a variety of reasons. But this isn’t writers’ block, it’s the human condition that conspires occasionally to make us apathetic. In such times, it’s pointless to sit in front of a keyboard. In fact, I’d go further and say it borders on the insane. If ones’ mind and body are at a low ebb, what could possibly be worse than sitting before a blank screen awaiting salvation. Even idiots have more sense – and walk around talking to themselves. Perhaps that’s a better answer. At least some words are coming out. If you want to write and publish a book, you will, but first, release your mind and get on with something else, anything else, if you are currently going through a ‘can’t think of anything’ stage.

No – the solution to this ludicrous notion of writers’ block is to come at the problem from an oblique angle. Set yourself a task, or a series of tasks that will have the effect of releasing energy rather than damming it up. Take on physically draining tasks, even if it’s only cleaning the bath, and release your mind to think about themes you feel passionate about. Any theme, any passion. If you are down in the dumps you have to climb out of them – perhaps by kidding your brain that the worst is over, and soon you will be OK again. A clean and sparkling bath is a great improvement on a still-empty screen or blank sheet of paper. And while you are scrubbing away as though your life depends on it, let the mind wander abroad. It will. They always do.

I remember as a boy, riding to school on my bike, (yes – I’m that ancient) and passing an old horse that stood motionless in a paddock. Week after week I swear it never moved more than a foot from the spot. And it was getting progressively thinner and weaker, too, staring into the distance, taking nothing in. And yes, I’m afraid, there was no happy ending. It was seeing life out – literally – and one day all that remained was a bare patch in the middle of an otherwise fertile field. Don’t be a donkey – get on with life. A writer you will be, once your mind is released.

Eight Real Reasons Why Books Don’t Sell!

April 4, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing

Why Books Don't SellMany authors, who have huge aspirations for their books, can suddenly come down to earth with a bump.

My books just don’t sell!

But does that mean you should just give up?…………. first of all you need to consider why they are not selling and what you can do about it.

Review the questions below and answer them honestly…..they might just
give you a clue to where things are going wrong! 

Number 1Have you had your book properly edited and proof read? Is it really OK to try and sell a book that hasn’t been subjected to the scrutiny of an unbiased and independent third party.

When you write a book and try to edit it or proof read it yourself you have a tendency to see what you meant to say, rather than what you actually say, it’s as simple as that. This means that you will nearly always miss the little errors and lack of continuity that an independent assessment can usually spot immediately.

game overWhy independent and unbiased? Because family and friends will not want to upset you and may not tell you the truth about your book. You really need to employ the services of someone that just wants to help you improve your book and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth about what you have written. Fail to take this simple step and I am afraid it could be …..

 

Number 2

Have you commissioned a professionally designed book cover? When you publish your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo or any of the other major distributors, the first thing a potential buyer sees is an image of your book, usually as a thumbnail. It is your first chance to grab their attention. Get this wrong and your book can fade into the background, passed over, never to be seen again.

Take the time to visit your genre on Amazon or any one of the other sites and look to see what the covers of the best sellers look like, how they stand out from the crowd. Clearly it is not a good idea to make an exact copy, but you can certainly get an idea about what colours, font and format are working best. Also remember the cover has to work both as a thumbnail and as a larger image on your book detail page. Just stop and think, will your hand drawn or painted cover really cut the mustard?

Number3Have you thought about your categories and tags? Choosing the correct categories and tags for your book is another essential element to success. Categories are the equivalent of the bookshelf you decide to put your book onto. Would you put your book onto the history shelf if it is a fictional romantic comedy for example? The answer is clearly ‘No’, and in this example it is glaringly obvious. But sometimes it is not so obvious, although even much more subtle differentiation can have a disastrous effect if you disappoint your readers. So choose wisely and relevantly.

Tags are another name for the search terms people enter into the search box when looking for a book to read, they are equally as important, if not more so, as categories. There are 2 aspects to this topic, first of all the chosen tags need to be relevant to your book and its genre and the second is that ideally they should be terms people are using to search for a book.Amazon Keywords or TagsOne way of finding out what people are searching for is to use the predictive text function of the search boxes in Amazon i.e. when you start to type into the search box, Amazon start to make suggestions. Those suggestions are based on what other people have previously typed into the search boxes, in other words they are tags people are regularly searching for.  If you can find tags that are highly relevant to your book then it follows they might be good tags to associate with your book. A Kindle book lets you enter up to seven tags in your book details. Choose the right tags and you will exponentially increase your chances of being found by your  buying audience.

Number 4Does your description grab the attention of potential buyers? When you write a description for your book it is like writing an advert. Assuming your cover image has generated enough interest to bring a potential buyer to your detail page now is your chance to wow! them with what your book can do for them. There will be people that don’t want or even like your book, don’t worry about them, focus on the people that are likely to want it. Tell them what it is about, let them know it is for them and include a ‘call to action’ e.g. ask them to look inside,  pose a question that suggests they need to find out more or simply ask them to go ahead and buy it.

reference book marketingAdditionally, if you are writing reference books it is a good idea to add why you are qualified to write on your topic of choice. Demonstrate your authority and expertise so that potential  buyers are clear that you know what you are talking about.

Don’t be shy about adding a good review into your description as well, if you have had a good review that you think hits the spot, make sure people can see it.

Number 5Are your selling price expectations realistic? I know if you have written a good book that you will have put many hours of toil and effort into the process, but unfortunately that really isn’t the point!

What is the point is where your book sits in the market place and whether it offers good value for money in the eyes of a potential buyer.

They may like everything you have done in terms of the cover, the description and the first few chapters you have written. But if they believe it is over priced they are highly likely to leave your book on the virtual shelf and go to look for an equally impressive offering at a better price.

Your audience really is that fickle, they will always be looking for a bargain, especially when it comes to a digital offering! That doesn’t mean you have to give your book away either, you just need to be sensible. Examine your genre/category look for other books of a similar size, in terms of the number of pages, and authors with a similar status to yourself i.e. don’t compare yourself to an established best selling author with a range of books, unless you are one. Then price your book as competitively as you can against similar books.

To give you an insight into what eBooks tend to sell for take a look at this quote from Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords,  about eBook prices……. his numbers are based on actual sales:

  • $3.00 to $3.99 seems to be the price that brings the highest reward on average i.e. books sell well at that price and in sufficient quantities to return a better yield than books at any other price
  • $1.00 to $1.99 seems to be the price that provides the least reward on average

So if you are struggling to make a reasonable comparison and you are still at a loss, perhaps you can use these figures as a guide.

Number 6Have you made your book available in multiple formats? Different people read books in lots of different formats, printed books are still very popular but digital format is the now ‘not so new’ kid on the block that has taken the publishing world by storm, whether that is independent publishing or traditional publishing. Clearly the more formats you can offer your book in, the wider the audience you can reach out to. This is all a part of having a bigger footprint in the marketplace. For authors it concerns perhaps offering the book as a printed book, an audio book and of course a digital book. The latter comes with even more options, ePub being the main contender outside of the world of Amazon and KF8 being the new standard for Amazon’s ebooks for Kindle and Kindle Fire that has taken over from AZW; a proprietary version of the mobi format that was used exclusively by Amazon before KF8.

The bottom line then…. to make more sales – give your customers what they want.

More on this later when we discuss how many books you publish and why having more books published can bring you more sales, beside the most obvious reasons.

Number 7Have you got any reviews for your book? Potential customers need a little bit of a prompt and what better prompt is there than an honest review from a satisfied reader!

Notice I said ‘satisfied reader’ not customer. The reason for this is that you may have to accept the fact that, to get reviews, you have to give your book away to some people, especially if you are a brand new author. This is a perfectly legitimate thing to do and reviews do get included in search algorithms on major book distributor sites. So having reviews along with sales is extremely important when it comes to being returned in their search results.

book-reviewsAmazon have taken this a stage further and they actually give more weight to reviews provided by verified purchasers. I think the reason for that is fairly obvious, a satisfied (or unsatisfied) customer is more likely to give an honest appraisal of something they had to pay for.

Clearly good reviews are what everyone wants, but you should not be too disheartened by the odd bad review, you cannot please everyone and there are occasions when what someone says in a bad review may prompt someone else to make a purchase. For example if one person complains that a book was too short and lighthearted, another person may buy the book because they are looking for an easy read with which to kill a few hours.

You don’t have to rely on friends and relatives for reviews either, there are review sites on line where people looking for a free book will offer a review in return. There are also book bloggers that will offer a similar service, although the best ones are usually overwhelmed with offers so it can sometimes be difficult to get a review using this method.

Another way many authors gain reviews is by simply having a free promotion period i.e. you set a time when you give your book away and you publicize it as much as possible to get as many books out there as you can (Note: you can only do this on Amazon if you are enrolled in KDP Select).

You can never brow beat people into providing a review, but if you can get enough copies read there is usually a percentage that will come back and review the book for the benefit of others. Especially if you ask them to at the end of your book when it is still fresh in their minds.

Number 8How many books have you published? When you speak to an avid book reader and you ask them what is the first thing they do when they have just finished reading a book they really enjoyed? The answer is invariably that they look for another book by the same author. It is the nature of the beast, they want more of the same. If you haven’t  got another book for them to read then you will just have lost a sale.

One way to mitigate that problem is to try and keep a list of your readers from your social media activities or even better a list of subscribers to your own blog. Then when you do get around to writing another book you can at least email them and let them know there is another book available. Some authors will actually wait until they have more than one book to publish before they press the publishing button, this can be a particularly good strategy if you are planning to write a series of related books.

Other than that you just have to get them out fast and furious. One writer I know who has done that very successfully is David Leadbeater, actually to the extent that he now writes and publishes books full time for his living.

Another aspect to having more books published is that you have a more significant footprint on the distributor site, similar to the multi-format discussion mentioned earlier. With a bigger presence on the distributor site you have more chance of potential customers finding you and providing them with what they are looking for.

This is even more true of those readers who like to seek out more of the same from authors they like. With a single book offering, they may simply pass you by.

Also when you publish a second novel, it may be the one that pushes all the right buttons and takes off. I think it is fair to say that if that happens then there will be a natural draw towards previous books that may not have initially been so successful. Publishing a second or third book could then be considered a great marketing tool and for many authors may mean the difference between success and failure.

So there you have it, eight of the main reasons books don’t sell and we haven’t even talked about book promotion in any detail.  Many authors hate the marketing aspects of publishing books, so in a related article I describe exactly why authors that want to sell their books cannot afford to be shrinking violets

Images courtesy of photoXpress.com

Tell Your Story With An Infographic

January 18, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions, Writing & Publishing

Book Writing Infographic

 

The world is changing and people are being overwhelmed by information.Communication is instant, huge numbers of people use smart-phones or mobile devices and life is fast moving and hectic. So it becomes pretty clear that pages full of text and little else are probably not ever going to be read, unless they come in the form of a book of course.

But you, as an author or publisher, still need to gain the attention of a public audience.

Enter the infographic, a new way to communicate. 

Infographics convey their message through a mixture of symbols, icons, graphical images and text. They give the creator a chance to be creative and the more creative you are the more attractive your infographic will be.

I used http://magic.piktochart.com/ to create the infographic above, I signed in with my Google+ account, but it could have been Facebook or I could have created a username and password. The point being that I was registered in literally seconds and was then able to view a few very short tutorial videos. Within 5 to 10 minutes I was then designing my very first infographic on Piktochart.

How to Write A BookI will be the first to admit that the resulting infographic is not the most creative you will ever encounter, but I can genuinely say that from a standing start, of never having used the program before, 2 hours later I was able to publish the infographic that describes How to Write a Book or Novel: An Insider’s Guide to Getting PublishedHow to Write a Book or NovelWriting a book.

Why is that important? Basically because it provides another medium with which I can describe what the book is about and share it through social media sites that are very much geared towards presenting graphical information in the form of an image.

Google loves text, the search engine relies on it to decipher what a page is all about, but social media sites like graphics and they make it very easy to share a graphic. So if the infographic is good and conveys its message in a clear concise way, there is no real reason why it couldn’t suddenly go viral around the Internet bringing lots of traffic to the associated link in the process.

Social Media Sites for Graphics

Remembering that you can upload and post to many, many sites. The principal ones being Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Scoop and many more. The latter ones becoming very popular because they are pretty much ‘graphic’ based. One of my personal favourites is Pinterest and I have already seen some image based pages being re-pinned more than a 1000 times and of course every pin carries the link you provided.

There are of course many sites that provide a resource that allows you to design an instagraphic, many free and many paid. The benefit of paying for the service generally means you don’t have to carry the resource link for the site, which for many will be worth the money. But for me I am not particularly concerned so I went with the free version.

More Infographic Resource Sites

I haven’t used any of the ones above so can’t vouch for how easy or hard they are to use, but I definitely found Piktochart easy to use and I would imagine that any of these others would be equally easy.

So Good Luck With Your Infographics and please rate this post if you like what you read

Who Are You Writing For?

June 17, 2013 in Articles, Book Marketing, eBook publishing, Writing & Publishing

To me this seems like a fairly obvious question to ask when planning on writing  a new book. Coming from a technical background involving new product development, the very first thing considered before embarking on a new development is primarily whether there is a market for the product. Then secondly what are the product requirements that will fulfill the customer needs?  In technical terms, the latter is the product specification.

Well clearly there is a market for books, all manner of them, and in both printed or digital formats. Although I sometimes feel when I read a book,  that an author has somehow crossed boundaries and managed to alienate what could have been a significant market sector as a result. In the analogy, they have got the product specification wrong!

Who is your intended audience

Book Markets This then begs the question again  ‘Who Are you Writing For?’

You really do need to consider which genre you are going to write for and then who your target audience is. Are you interested in fiction writing or producing non-fiction books for educational or reference purposes for example. In many ways non-fiction is easier to write than fiction, there are clearer objectives that need to be met and certain criteria that needs to be fulfilled, most of which can come from your own expertise or the research that you do.  That said you do still need to think about your target audience, whether you are trying to communicate with a layman or someone that is already a technical expert. You could be targeting a younger audience or looking to appeal to a more adult and mature sector, maybe you are ambitious and want to target the whole caboodle.

Regarding fictional writing the borders can  become significantly more blurred. As a writer you are just letting your imagination run, once you start the words will appear to materialize from your subconscious mind and whatever pops in there is likely to appear in your story line. This is after all the artistic aspect of writing a book, something that is written completely and entirely from the imagination of the author. Often you will, even for a fictional book, have to research places, times and events to add credibility to a story. Not always, sometimes that can be completely invented as well.

But once you have that first draft down and it is there in black and white for anyone to read, do you then stop and think about your customer requirements. Part of the editing process should include whether you have considered market expectations and more importantly have you met them. Did you just write a book that would be a brilliant story line for children to enjoy and then for some reason go and add a section that included some explicit sexual content. Because if so you could just have alienated a whole customer base that the book may well have had a large appeal to.

This example is intended to illustrate that one small chapter dedicated to explicit sex could rule a book out as an option for children or teenagers but may not have sufficient adult content to keep the interest of a mature population looking for something that is gritty and hard hitting with sexual content i.e. something in an adult reading category. Somehow you may simply have gotten the customer requirements wrong by spanning two completely different sets of requirements that were not compatible with one another.

Don’t take this completely the wrong way, you shouldn’t get so hung up about the requirements that you stifle your artistic flow, rather just give some thought to the direction you would like to go in before starting and just check that you haven’t drifted too far off course when you have a first draft to review. If you do drift off course and prefer the new direction you have taken, then just make sure you have gone far enough in the new direction to engage that new audience.

The bottom line is this, if you are writing a book that you want to appeal to an audience and that you want to sell on a commercial basis, then that is a product and a product typically must have a demand and then must meet certain specifications to fulfill the customer requirements generating that demand.

For many reading this it may seem to be a case of stating the obvious. But it is surprising how easy it is to ignore (or simply forget) about the intended audience and to just hope that the end product appeals to someone, anyone, when it is finished. Truth is that there will always be an element of people a book will appeal to, but with a little thought about who you are writing for, as you follow the process, there could be so many more.

Things to think about

  • Intended genre
  • Book categories
  • Age range of target audience
  • Audience gender
  • Audience intellectual level
  • Audience expertise
  • Search terms that might be used to find your book

These are a few things worth having a think about when you are planning your next book, particularly from a target market perspective.

For more information and help writing a book why not take a look at what this experienced editor and author has to say.

 

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