Archive for February, 2013

February 27, 2013

How KDP Select boosted ratings for The Experiences and Thoughts of a Simple Freelance Writer

amazon rank first day of KDP select

I came home from running errands and attending a first-time ever meeting for a local dessert club to find The Experiences and Thoughts of a Simple Freelance Writer had jumped from around #500,000 in the Kindle paid store to:

#1!!!

 in both the nonfiction journalism and journalists category.

This is only halfway through the first day of my little booklet being promoted as free through KDP Select. I checked my reports, and several free copies have already been retrieved by people who are interested in it.

It’s still only #4,128 in the Kindle free store, but since I never really intended to do much to promote this booklet, the higher ranks came as a huge surprise. I was only experimenting with this booklet and KDP Select to see how the program works. I wanted to know whether it would make a difference in the amount of attention it gets on Amazon.com. Apparently, it does–which means I may try it with other writing later.

It also makes me think that my experiences and thoughts, as humble as they are, truly might have some value to others who are thinking of pursuing the same career path. My heart goes out to everyone who wants this dream. I understand it. I breathe and live it.

Writing is hardly ever an easy path, but it’s a good one.

Along the same lines, we’re down to two days on the $25 Amazon Gift Card give-away for The Night Ones Legacy.

What a wonderful life!

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February 27, 2013

Beginning of a Hero is available on Kindle

A note from me: This is the first time I’ve completely reblogged a post from someone else’s site–but this is his book, and his exciting news to tell!

Legends of Windemere

Hero Cover Final

And that’s all she wrote, folks . . . wait, that’s just the beginning of what she wrote.

Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Hero is now for sale on Amazon Kindle.  I’ve attached a direct link to the site and there is also a link on the store page.  The paperback will take a few more days, but Kindle was the big one.

Remember to read, review, enter the contests, reblog, share, spread the word, and most importantly enjoy my first novel.  Thank you to everyone who has supported me and will continue to support me.

Now, I’m going to lay down.

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February 26, 2013

Ten resources for marketing books creatively

Bright as a great idea!

Bright as a great idea!

One thing I’ve learned from my contest: sometimes, in order to reach a particular target audience, you have to be very creative in the way you market books. Of course, I wondered how, and that led to a series of web searches for fun, creative ways to reach readers.

Here are ten great-looking resources I came across. I haven’t had a chance to review them as thoroughly as I’d like, but I intend to give them some extra thought over the next few months.

  1. 50 Creative Book Marketing Ideas, by John Kremer
  2. The Creative Penn: Marketing your Book—A book marketing course sold here may be a bit out of my price range, but it’s intriguing, and there are links to several great posts.
  3. Five Ways to Creatively Market Your Book You Can Do Today
  4. Getting involved with local libraries: Check out this post, entitled Creative Approaches to Book Promotion. Even though it’s written about books from a librarian’s perspective, does it spark ideas?
  5. The Sky Is (Not)the Limit For Creative Book Marketing A book signing on an airplane in flight? Interesting.
  6. I wrote about this blog post on book promotion from literary agent Rachelle Gardner before, but look at some of the ideas in the comments she got from readers. Some of them sparked ideas for me, and maybe they’ll do the same for other authors. Mainly, I came away with the idea that I should sit down and brainstorm creative marketing ideas. I have yet to do that. J
  7. Creative Book Promotion Ideas for the Overwhelmed Author
  8. The Art of Book Promotion Literary teasers on Twitter? Hmmm.
  9. This is What Creative Book Promotion Looks Like. A novelade stand. What a novel idea! (Sorry about the bad pun. Well, sorry a little bit. J)
  10. Use Fiverr: Five Creative Book Marketing and Promotion Tips with fiverr.com

If nothing else, these should provide some fun hours toward my ‘level up’ strategy in marketing!

February 26, 2013

My fountain helps me focus

My hummingbird fountain

My hummingbird fountain

While helping clean out my grandparents’ home a few weeks ago, I came across a hummingbird fountain.

It didn’t work. The tubing connecting the pump to the actual fountain had corroded and broken. I brought it home, anyway.

Last Thursday I was pleasantly surprised when my sweetheart replaced the tubing for me and set it up on top of one of my filing cabinets in my home office.

I’ve turned it on every day since then while I work, and it’s been extremely pleasant.

There’s something to be said for the sound of running water. This is especially true on deadline week. It completely soothes me and reminds me to ‘go with the flow.’ When my fountain is on, my creativity seems to stream from my mind to my fingertips, where I can write it or type it out.

Perhaps I think too much about these things. I tend to look at the objects in my life as symbols, things I can learn from, lessons to treasure. Still. Where’s the wonder in the world, if you can’t feel awe over something as simple as clean water?

It’s food (or water) for thought.

Anyway, I’ve noticed a strange correlation between having my fountain on and how focused I am at work. In a world full of distractions, this makes my little fountain a valuable asset to my home office.

What helps other writers focus on their writing work? I’d love to know.

February 25, 2013

Six life lessons I’ve learned from the Bakken

Quick note: this photo was  taken in Utah, not North Dakota--but most drilling rigs look similar to me!

Quick note: this photo was taken in Utah, not North Dakota–but most drilling rigs look similar to me!

For the past few years, I’ve written contributed to a publication focused on oil exploration, development and production in the Bakken area of North Dakota. I’ve written before about how these kinds of articles are my constant education–and I love it.  That’s at least partly because, beyond being able to speak and write about it somewhat intelligently, it teaches me about life.

Here are the top five life lessons I’ve learned from the Bakken:

When you hit rock bottom and can’t go up, go sideways.

Horizontal drilling has and will continue to be a major factor in the amount of oil that’s recovered in the Bakken area of North Dakota. For those unfamiliar with this idea, wells are drilled vertically to a certain point (about two miles deep in the Bakken), then turned and drilled horizontally for about another two miles.

This life lesson occurred to me one day when I was contemplating what it felt like to hit rock bottom. There are times when you’re down, and you just can’t seem to get back up, to return to your starting point and try again.

In these instances, there’s usually some wiggle room if you look for it. If you go sideways, at least you’re moving, and you never know what pool of resources you might hit.

Just keep moving.

Sometimes you have to combine methods to get anything done.

Oil flow in the Bakken is determined by a variety of factors. Combining horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing has made a huge impact in the amount of oil that’s recoverable from the oil formations in North Dakota.

My writing life is very much like that. I love writing fiction. I love poetry. I love blogging. I love writing nonfiction articles.

It seems to take a combination of all of these, plus a combination of forces outside writing, to keep me balanced, healthy, and happy enough to serve my family and those around me.

My life’s lesson: think beyond what you’ve done in the past, combine your methods for reaching happiness, and let the creative juices flow.

Face life’s bottlenecks.

The oil patch in North Dakota produces more crude oil than it can get to market. To date, there simply haven’t been enough pipelines to move the product to the coasts where producers can get the best price for their oil. Pipeline projects are a big deal for this state, but so are other options like trucking the oil (mostly locally) and using rail to carry it sometimes as far as refineries on the east coast.

My personal bottlenecks usually come in the form of time management issues. Raising a family, managing a household, volunteering in my community, and writing everything I can all compete for my attention.

In my world, getting things done is like getting a product to market. It’s not something that can be ignored, but with determination to work through the issues and some creative thinking, these problems usually solve themselves.

It’s okay to be your own pipeline, to truck your own writing work and to be responsible for getting your own ideas to market.

It’s also okay to follow North Dakota’s example and find help. Like the railroad system, letting other people help you move your writing work while you concentrate on building other personal ‘pipelines’ can be a valuable investment.

Always try new things.

I really believe that success in the Bakken is based on ongoing research. Every time the issue has come up in an interview, I’ve been told the oil companies and their partners are always trying new things to increase their efficiency and decrease their ecological footprint on the land.

In the few years that I’ve been writing about the Bakken, I’ve seen a handful of new technologies make a real difference.

My lesson has been to allow my curiosity to get the better of me whenever I can. The writing methods I learn about from fiction have already improved my ability to write creative nonfiction; the methods I learned from writing articles apply to my blogging and to my editing.

The cycle continues. I’ve come to believe that personal research, trial labs and other educational pursuits are one of the best indicators of how well and how often I reach my goals.

Steer your own drilling bit.

Producers rely on all kinds of technology to help them steer the drilling bit (which is sometimes miles away) from the surface. They have to know as much as they can about what’s going on underground: what the rock formations are like, where the resources are, what they want to have happen.

This might be akin to always trying new things, but knowing what’s going on in the area you’re working in can make a big difference in where you go and how fast you get there.

This includes setting goals. Deciding where to go is the first big step, and only you know where you really want to be.

Tactfully refusing to listen to people who don’t know anything about where you’re drilling is the second step. You’ll never get where you want to go if you let other people steer your drilling bit—but keep your goal in mind, lead out, and they’ll usually follow.

Living unselfishly is part of living the dream.

I’ve often been surprised at how quick oil companies are to lend a hand to the communities they work in. I recently learned of a huge donation to a city to help develop affordable housing. I can think of a number of other projects where oil companies have worked to decrease traffic on the roads, help protect wildlife near oil resource areas, and more.

All this while they’re producing oil, making money for the state and employing a huge work force—is it possible?

If nothing else, it emphasizes the idea that I can do things for others even while I try to make life better for my family and myself.

I can recycle; I can make small donations of my own to local charities; I can pitch in and help when someone needs something—and, if I use my time right, I can do this even while I manage my household, raise my children, keep falling in love with my sweetheart and write, write, write!

Granted, I can’t do everything—but I can do some things, and that makes living the dream completely worthwhile.

February 25, 2013

Thoughts on Secrets of Successful Writers, by Darrell Pitt

One of the best things about writer’s conferences is that you get to network with other authors. You find out what works for them in everything such as the best time to write and low long to write every day to how to price books, how to develop a platform and how to promote your books.

Darrell Pitt‘s Secrets of Successful Writers might be the next best thing to attending a writer’s conference or an ongoing, very inclusive writer’s group. This book introduces us to fifty authors (including Pitt) and how they deal with the pertinent issues.

The chapters in Secrets of Successful Writers are conducted interview-style, so you get author’s answers back in their own words. You might as well be having a conversation with them.

Here’s some of the advice I gleaned from this book–remember, not every author uses every technique, but these are the techniques that jumped out at me most:

When and how much you should write

  • This varies widely from writer to writer. Some sleep late and work late; some work early, and some write just when they find the time and inspiration. The tricks seem to be flexibility and the willingness to experiment with your own schedule until you find what works best for you.

Marketing–always the big one :

  • Be nice to your readers; be sociable online and make friends
  • Methodically use the Amazon discussion boards to promote your book
  • Do every interview you can
  • Visit Joe Konrath’s blog for some great ideas
  • Find a readership using ebooks
  • Network with other indie writers enough that their fans get to know you, too
  • Use facebook and Twitter
  • Author Heather Killough-Walden also said the following: 

Create a stark, eye-catching cover that draws readers to your book out of all of the books surrounding it on the Amazon or Barnes and Noble page.

Pricing:

  • Some of the authors were traditionally published, and their publisher took care of that.
  • For indie authors, pricing seems to be as arbitrary as when you work and how long you work each day. The general idea among many of the authors was to play around with pricing until you’re comfortable; however, a lot of them priced their books between 99 cents and $2.99, and one said she was uncomfortable pricing her books over $5 each.

General advice:

  • Write as much as you can.
  • Pay attention to quality writing
  • Writer’s block is a signal that you need more input. Go gather some information, come back and start writing again.
  • ebooks are the future of the publishing industry. Bookstores and libraries are more about the experiences they provide–the smells, the textures of printed books, etc.

My favorite part of the book was this question-answer set:

Darrell Pitt:

What advice would you give to someone about to publish their first novel as an ebook?

John Locke (the first independent author to sell one million ebooks on Amazon):

The minute you send it out into the world, start writing the next one. Don’t worry if your firs t one is going to sell, because it probably won’t. And if it does, your public is going tow ant the next book anyway, and you’ll have nothing in the tank to give them. Your readers want to know you’re committed to providing them with content. In this regard, writing is like a friendship. Do you want to be my friend? Then BE there for me!

How can you not smile at a statement like that?

An upside of this book: you can read an interview a day, stay enthused and feel like you’ve made a new friend. Pitt also included web sites, Amazon pages, and similar information for the author at the end of each interview. If you find you have a lot in common with a particular author, it’ll be easy to use that information to follow them or even get in touch.

This book was both helpful and friendly.

About Darrell Pitt: something to encourage all indie authors

Besides editing Secrets of Successful WritersDarrell Pitt authored the Teenage Superheroes series and The Steampunk Detective. He now has a major publisher looking at his books. I’ll be following up with him about that when he’s able to share more.

In his own words:

It’s a real confirmation the indie publishing can lead to great things.

TeenageSuperhero-2240x1400 [Desktop Resolution]  TheSteampunkDetectiveFINALWebRes

February 23, 2013

Good things are coming

By Todd Bristol

By Todd Bristol

It’s been an interesting week. As I wrap it up and prepare for next week, I can’t help sharing some of the things on my mind.

  • I got my business license renewed yesterday. For some reason, I never expected to see a business license printed on orange paper. It’s kind of fun. I’m hanging it on my wall today. I’m sure it will catch my attention over and over again; hopefully it will help remind me to be professional. Which reminds me–one of these days, I’m going to finish my business plan. When I do, I’ll probably post about it.
  • This is the final week of my $25 Amazon gift card giveaway. I can hardly believe how excited I am to post about what I’ve learned. Even more, I’m excited for the drawing. It’s a small way to say thank you for tall the wonderful feedback I’ve received on The Night Ones Legacy. This has been one of the best learning experiences (where marketing is concerned) that I think I could have had.
  • I’ve made arrangements for a guest panel interview to address one of the issues that’s come up during this contest. I intend to post that on March 1 when I post the contest results. I’m very much looking forward to it.
  • I’ve become an administrator for National Book Week on facebook. Granted, this isn’t anything really big, but it does give me access to a wide variety of readers who love to read books and talk about them. If you have a book you want to share, please let me know. You can e-mail me at gwenbristol@gmail.com.
  • I’m working on three deadlines–two due next week, one the week after–and I’ll be experiencing a fun out-of-town trip in the middle of it all. Soooo….if I’m crazy this coming week and nothing I say makes sense, you know why!
  • Debut author: my brother in-law, Todd Bristol, has written a book! It’s called From the Bottom Up: A Leadership Perspective and will be out on Amazon very soon.
  • I’m also looking forward to the official release of Beginning of a Hero, by Charles Yallowitz.
  • One new experiment: just for fun, I’m trying KDP Select with The Experiences and Thoughts of a Simple Freelance Writer. It’ll be available for free from February 27 through March 3.
February 22, 2013

Sandpiper

piper 2

A Sandpiper on a fence post, in North Dakota

Forgive me if I turn away;

forgive me if I hide my face.

Your countenance, as bright as day,

makes me ashamed of my grayed lace.

And if I falter when I speak

or try to fade out like a ghost,

please forgive me. I am weak,

when I see what I want the most.

All fences have their barbs and snares,

and still, it is enough for me

to sit this close to one who shares

my love for life’s serenity.

You are the wind, the grass, the sun,

the bluest shade that skies can boast,

and when I see you, I’m undone.

I’m just a bird upon a post.

It’s Friday again! Happy Friday, wonderful world!

February 21, 2013

Forty things I’ve learned about writing in forty years

One more: When you can, let your children play in your office while you work.

One more: When you can, let your children play in your office while you work.

It’s one of those quiet mornings when I should be hard at work and, instead, I’m musing on the upcoming week while my toddler plays in my office. I realize I have a lot to be grateful for. Sharing my thoughts about some of the things I’ve learned about writing these past forty years is just one way to celebrate.

  1. Good writing isn’t always meant to be shared. Sometimes it’s best to hold it inside, let it age, savor it.
  2. If you share your fiction writing with the people closest to you, remember their opinions might be biased.
  3. If you truly love writing, you’ll be willing to endure all forms of humiliation to see your work in print.
  4. Keep a notebook with you. Write down ‘story sparkers’ as they come to you.
  5. Also write down incongruent ideas–adjectives and adverbs and verbs and nouns that usually don’t go together. Sometimes these things lead to surprising metaphors that can enrich your writing.
  6. If you’re taking notes for an article, make sure you transcribe your notes right away…either that, or have impeccable handwriting.
  7. Never share your personal opinions in the middle of an interview for an article. Before is fine; after is fine. Never in the middle.
  8. Read poetry with your children. They might grow up with a desire to write.
  9. Thank your mother for reading poetry to you. Share your own poetry with her.
  10. Find a hobby outside of writing, and enjoy it regularly.
  11. Look up and smile when your children enter the room. Otherwise, they might think you love writing more than you love them.
  12. Always check your facts.
  13. Eat breakfast and tidy your house before you turn on the computer.
  14. When you’re trying to write seriously, do all you can to avoid the telephone and internet.
  15. Have a few friends that love to write as much as you do. Laugh with them, learn with them, treasure them.
  16. Keep your office clean.
  17. Writing is sometimes a good excuse to stay up too late, but you shouldn’t make a habit of it if you want to get right back into writing early the next day.
  18. Don’t eat at your desk.
  19. Don’t try to edit something during a road trip.
  20. Keep a notebook or file with all the nice things people have said about your writing to encourage you on rough writing days.
  21. Remember–writing isn’t a competition. Not with anyone. Do all you can do to help other writers succeed, whether or not you succeed yourself, and you will find joy in the journey.
  22. Don’t take on more work than you can handle.
  23. Ask your sweetheart and children how much work they think you can handle. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in multiple writing projects that you forget you have limits. Your family provides a great system for keeping your schedule in check and your life balanced.
  24. Take time to daydream every day. Good fiction starts here.
  25. Read something uplifting and get some exercise every day.
  26. Learn all you can, all the time. Learn about EVERYTHING.
  27. Join a writer’s group.
  28. If it’s possible, keep up with technology. You never know when you’re going to need to use it for an online interview, or to gather illustrations, or simply to talk about it intelligently as a springboard for an article on another topic.
  29.  Read books about writing.
  30. When you’ve finished a project, set it aside for as long as you can before you begin to edit it. You’ll go back to it with a more objective eye.
  31. Always be cordial and friendly in your e-mail and other online messages, especially when you’re trying to set up an interview or get photos to accompany your article.
  32. When someone says something nice about your writing, pay it forward AND backward. This helps circulate good feelings and happy writing ideas.
  33. Respect yourself enough to refuse work that makes you feel downgraded, used or invaluable. (This includes editing and ghost-writing for free. Equitable trades are fine, though.)
  34. Have a list of referrals for other writers ready in case you can’t or don’t want to take on a certain job. The editors I’ve used this with seem to remember it as good will. It also shows you’re a team player with a vibrant network of writing friends.
  35. Whether or not it happens, it’s okay to dream about being a bestseller.
  36. Take a personal inventory regularly. Are you already ‘living the dream?’ I may never be rich, but most of the time, I think ‘living the dream’ and simply being able to write go hand in hand.
  37. Try new forms of writing, new genres, writing contests and more. Variety in writing keeps it fun.
  38. Visit the local libraries often, but make sure you turn your books in on time. Visit book stores, too, especially if your children are with you. Sweet memories can be built in libraries and book stores.
  39. Do all you can to meet your deadlines.
  40. Even writing doesn’t replace family, friends and other rich human interactions. Keep your priorities straight.
February 20, 2013

Platform, promotion and a possible daily plan

I wasn't going to do any promoting with this booklet--but how can I resist the urge to experiment? It's become my KDP Select guinea pig.

I wasn’t going to do any promoting with this booklet–but how can I resist the urge to experiment? It’s become my KDP Select guinea pig.

According to Rachel Gardner, literary agent with Books and Such Literary Agency, there’s a difference between developing a writer’s platform and promoting your book. In a recent blog post, she wrote the following:

You can’t promote your book without first having a platform. However…

A platform is not enough. To sell copies of your book, you have to actually promote the book.

Shocking, huh?

You can have a huge platform — thousands of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and blog readers. Maybe you’re even a public speaker, have a popular newsletter, you’re a go-to expert on your topic, or you’re already a bestselling author.

But if you don’t actually put your latest book in front of people and make it easy and advantageous for them to immediately click-to-buy, nobody is going to buy it.

Gardner differentiated between platform-building activities (blogging, social media, author branding, etc.) and book-promotion activities, which includes things like contests and giveaways, targeted advertising, and book clubs. It’s got me thinking about the way I spend my online time.

More appropriately, it’s got me thinking about how I intend to spend my online time once I have another book ready to promote.

Right now, I’m using the two books I’ve published on Kindle (The Night Ones Legacy and The Experiences and Thoughts of a Simple Freelance Writer) to test the waters. I’m coming up on the close of my contest for The Night Ones Legacy, which has been an incredible education, and I’ve just decided to try KDP Select for Thoughts of a Simple Freelance Writer. I hope I learn as much from that as I have from my contest.

When it comes right down to it, though, I spend the majority of my time online on blogging, social networking and other platform-building activities (that’s excluding time for research for particular assignments). I spend less time on book promotion, partly because I’m just testing the waters, but also partly because it’s easy to set up a contest or KDP Select and just let it go. I’m assuming that book promotion would come in here if I spent more time actually promoting the contests or the book itself…

I feel like I have something entirely new and fun to spend my time on, even though it’s always been there.

The big question for me is how to divide my time between platform building and book promotion. Gardner indicates both are necessary if you’re going to sell your writing online.

From a time management perspective, I think spending half the work day writing, a quarter of the work day on building a platform and other business-related activities and a quarter of the work day actually promoting my writing might be doable.

Is that realistic?

I’d also love to know what platform-building activities have worked for other authors, and what book-promotion activities have worked.

I’m slowly getting the hang of social media, and I’m becoming a fan of contests and giveaways. I know there’s more out there to educate myself about, and that makes this writing-publishing-marketing game extremely fun.

Gardner has another great new post on her site about self-promotion.

One more thing: The Experiences and Thoughts of a Simple Freelance Writer will be free on Amazon from February 27-March 3, if I’ve set my KDP Select up right.

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