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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Celeste Barclay

His Highland Lass


His Highland Lass available on Amazon paperback or Kindle


An undeniable love... an unexpected match...


Faced with a feud with the Sinclairs that is growing deadly, Laird Tristan Mackay is bound by duty to his clan to make peace with the enemy.  Tristan arranges a marriage for his stepbrother, Sir Alan, but never imagines that he would meet the woman he longs to marry.  When things sour quickly between Tristan's stepbrother and Lady Mairghread Sinclair, Tristan is determined to make her his.  A choice that promises to change his life forever.
Raised with four older warriors for brothers and as the only daughter of the Sinclair laird, Mairghread is independent resourceful, and loyal to her family.  When her father arranges a marriage to a man she has never met for the sake and safety of her clan, Mairghread tries to accept her fate.  Mairghread is betrothed to one man but it is the dark, handsome, and provocative laird who catches her eye. Arranged to marry Sir Alan, Mairghread finds herself drawn to Laird Tristan Mackay.  After meeting her intended, Mairghread knows she cannot go through with the marriage, but she must find a way to end the feud that is tearing the two clans apart.   
When the wedding is called off by Mairghread's father, Tristan and Mairghread see an opportunity to be together.  Neither of them imagined that they would find the passion that grows between them.  However, a spurned mistress and a jilted suitor stand between Tristan and Mairghread's happiness.  Tristan and Mairghread must fight for the love they have found with one another.

Destined for another...

Mairghread Sinclair is not prepared for the danger that awaits her while visiting the Mackay clan.  She must use her wits to keep herself alive when dangers pulls her away from the man she loves.

Fated to be together...

Laird Tristan Mackay was not looking for a wife, but could Lady Mairghread Sinclair be the one to open his heart and bring peace to their clans, or will their passion tear the two clans apart?

Meet the members of Clan Sinclair in this first installment of the five book Highland romance series.  The Clan Sinclair features Mairghread and her four brothers, Callum, Alexander, Tavish, and Magnus.  Each member of the Scottish clan faces challenges as they meet their fated match, but all of the Sinclairs find their HEA.  Each novel in the series is a stand alone, but they are best read together.
Celeste Barclay

How long do you keep your book publicity going? (Part 1)

Book publicity

Hello Reader,

This is a tough question to answer.  How long do you keep your book publicity going?  I suppose the first question to answer is: what type of publicity do you use?  If you check back on a couple of my previous posts, including the one that I wrote most recently ("Marketing your own Books and Ebooks"), I have a few suggestions on ways to market your book.

Among the most popular seem to be blog tours, tweet blasts, email blasts, and REVIEWS, REVIEWS, and some more REVIEWS.

But the reality is that this can get expensive fast.  Even buying product sponsor ads can add up quickly if you have a low conversion rate, meaning plenty of people click your ad, but not as many actually buy your book.  This means that your Cost Per Click (CPC) outweighs your Estimated Total Sales.  If you're Actual Cost of Sales (ACoS) is greater than 100% that means you're spending more on ads than you're making.  In other words, you're in the red.  Now, this can fluctuate, but if you see a a steady pattern of being in the red, you need to reevaluate some factors:
your ad, your cover, your book description, and your book content
Vague, isn't it?


Before you launch yourself into a social media blitz...


You must have a clear vision of how you want to position yourself in the market.  Before you seek help from a professional or even go it alone, you need to see the bigger picture of how you, the author, want to be presented on your book jacket, your bio, social media and website, and your press releases.


Before you spend more on ads, consider your book's first impression.


You have a limited amount of space within your ad, so make sure you maximize what you have to say to draw a potential reader to the "Look Inside" or to directly purchase/download your book.
Not to beat a dead horse, but what is the quality of your book cover?  I am rapidly learning how much value really should be placed on this aspect.  I already know that I will need to take a different approach to this.  My understanding of how this market works grows daily, and I find that my thoughts and plans are evolving even from just a week ago.

Do not for a moment underestimate the necessity of a strong book description.  This is often written well after you've finished writing your book.  This is a first impression for your book.  Does it shake your hand with confidence, or is it more like a loose, floppy hand?  My advice in this area, if you don't have access to someone who writes copy for a living, is to read several descriptions of your favorite books.  Look for trends in their descriptions, such as, common thoughts, recurring words, and the emotions they trigger.  Just as importantly, look at books that you decided not to read because the description just didn't convince you.  Evaluate whether it was the way the description was written or was it really just the story that didn't grab you.  Basically, see what you want to emulate and see what you want to avoid.

Finally, if someone uses the "Look Inside" and sees writing that is not well developed or riddled with errors, then your content may be the problem.  That's an entirely separate post for another day.  Suffice it to say, you may have a bigger project on your hands.

Are you seeing a pattern in my message?  What is the big picture?  Before you start, you must have a strategy.


To be honest, I didn't have a well developed strategy before I got started.  I didn't know what my options were or exactly what I was getting myself into.  I've learned by doing...maybe I can save you some bumps and bruises along the way.


Publicity Tools of the Trade


Phase 1

As you plan your strategy for the next stage, and a strategy is a must, you need to consider who you are and what you're trying to achieve.  Beyond knowing you need to publicize, you need to strategize your positioning and map that out.  In other words, what tools do you have access to, and how will you use them?

From what I've read, and it's been a lot lately almost to the detriment of my revisions, it seems that more experts and professionals agree that social media is essential.  The use of Twitter and Instagram are now staples to marketing your book.  Hop onto Twitter and follow authors and publishers.  You can fill your feed with over a 100 people to follow in just a few minutes with just those two categories.  Did you know that there is such a thing as bookstagram or rather its hashtag, #bookstagram?  This is a hashtag on Instagram that denotes pictures, videos, or stories that are specifically about books.  It's a newer platform for people to tag their posts that center on what they are reading, what they recommend, or to drive people to their blogs.  Just like "regular" Instagram, the key is to have aesthetically pleasing posts of book covers, people enjoying a book, or objects that evoke emotions related to plot, characters, and setting.  It has over 22 million posts, so this is not a fly by night resource.


There's still something that might just be more important than social media...   


I was opening a thank you card this morning (yes, people do still send those), and as my finger was pushing through the seal, I thought about letter openers.  More specifically, can you even buy those anymore?  While pencil and paper, snail mail correspondence has slowed over the past three decades, the need to correspond has not.  There is value in direct communication with a specific person as opposed to a half constructed thought or sentence that's blasted to your thousand followers.

Email newsletters lists are possibly the most powerful tool you can use once your main publicity campaign ends.  Engaging your (potential) readers with a more personalized and specific message makes them feel wanted and valued.  It also is a practical method for conveying more information than can be fit in a tweet or Instagram post.  Email newsletters should contain information that interests readers.  This includes your current project, projected release dates, snippets or teasers from your current project, your most recent reviews, and insights into your motivations or inspirations for your books.  You might even include small personal anecdotes, such as, recent travels, funny ideas as you're writing, amusing things said to you by readers.  These extra little touches make you seem more human and relatable in a relationship where you may never actually meet the person with whom you correspond.

But how, you ask



When you're still virtually a no name, it's hard to send out an email newsletter when you don't have anyone to send it to!  I'm still figuring out how to build followers so I can have enough subscribers to make a newsletter worth the time and effort.  A major way to get subscribers is to have a well constructed website.  I've been working on mine for the last week, and it's still a work in progress.  Do I invest the money to have it professionally designed to try to draw in more readers or do I wait until I make enough royalties to show I have enough readers to draw in?  The chicken and the egg.

In the mean time, I do have a pop up ad when you arrive on my site.  You might have noticed it.  I used Hubspot Free Marketing to create a form for people to fill out when they land on my page.  I designed this for free, and now it appears on my website when a visitor is here for at least 7 seconds or scrolls past the 50% point on any page.
Another method that I plan to try is to offer to guest blog for other writers and reviewers.  This is an opportunity for a wider readership to see your style and to connect to your website.  Conversely, you can ask bloggers and reviewers to guest blog on your page.  This is a different fork on the same path.  It drives readers to your page through a source they are already familiar with, like, and trust.

The paid route is to use a marketing company to send out email blasts and hope that people will subscribe.  This is certainly the method to gain the widest exposure rather than relying on organic traffic.

One final thought before I wrap up this post.  Try creating a newsletter and post it to your social media.  See if there are any bites and whether it sends any traffic to your site who might be converted into subscribers.  This is on my ever growing to-do list, but I think it's an important experiment to try.

This is the end of my suggestions on Phase 1.  My next post with examine Phase 2: Long Lead Media and the Media Landscape.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Celeste Barclay

Why getting advice on book sales and marketing beats going it alone sometimes

Marketing your own books and ebooks

Hello Reader,

Marketing Your Own Books and EBooks

According to my parents, I was a late talker (you wouldn't know that now) and didn't start speaking in really complete sentences until I was about two and a half.  However...apparently, my first full phrase was "me do it myself."  If you know me, this would not be a surprise in the least.  I'm still reluctant to ask for help and more often than not would prefer to do things on my own---that way I can do it my way.  However, that can be self defeating in the end.

Last night, for example, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to fix a few things on the layout of this site.  I have no formal education or training in HTML but have done some website design before by working with templates.  I have learned just enough HTML to be dangerous, or more realistically, frustrated.  When I am able to get the code to do what I want, it feels like a major sense of accomplishment.  My logical mind loves being able to solve how to make the code do what I envision.  Perhaps this would be nothing special to someone who actually knows how to code, but for me, I feel like shouting out my success.  This was something little.  Something that could easily be reset.  Something I could do on my own.

What I am learning that I can't do on my own is the marketing of my books.  In theory, I can.  I can take all the advised steps:

1. Design or have made a good book cover.
2. Make sure your content is strong and well edited.
3. Get on social media.
4. Reach out to bloggers for book reviews.
5 Etc, etc, etc.

But this doesn't really guarantee success in a highly competitive market.  If you want to compete, then you have to play like the winners.  This takes a strategy, and I think I've found one..

The Facts About Marketing Books and EBooks

According to Just Publishing Advice's April 2018 article, "Are You Self-Publishing Romance? Maybe You Should Be", romance novels hold 24% of the ebook market!  That's almost a quarter of all ebooks purchased are within the romance genre.  That makes for very steep competition indeed.

Furthermore, Flavorwire asks the question of why this genre is so successful.

"Books break out because they fulfill the very intense criteria of the best of the genre. Romance needs to hit beats that are driven by emotional investment in the story. The form, in some ways, is very prescribed, and what makes books interesting is what they do with that form. 'It’s a very visceral experience for readers...Many readers see themselves in the stories and are able to imagine their lives in different ways through romance, and those things are not to be discounted.' Romance readers want to feel everything, to care deeply about the relationship in the story, getting both turned on and thoroughly invested in whether or not the central relationship has a shot in a world that suffers cruel and delicious twists of fate, right up until the happy ending."
Sounds about right.  I think that one of the reasons why romance novels are so popular and in turn become so addictive lies in this phrase, "Many readers see themselves in the stories and are able to imagine their lives in a different way through romance..." To be honest, that's what got me hooked.  It allows me an escape from my regular responsibilities and everyday commitments of wife, mom, and educator.  It allows me to become whomever I want for the time it takes me to finish the novel.  Then I can move on to be someone else.  Does this sound familiar?  Sound about right?  Quite possibly.  Even if you do not write romance novels, books provide an escape and an opportunity to let our imaginations guide us.  Something that most adults, unfortunately, gave up doing as they left childhood.

When you consider why people choose romance novels and realize that it has a lion's share of the market, you start to see why you most likely cannot carve out a successful (and profitable, if that's your goal) niche within this field.

Don't judge a book by it's cover---but everyone else does.
I'm seeing a recurring theme throughout the articles that I read about successful authors.  The professionally designed cover is where it's at.  I think I will have to concede this point and jump on the bandwagon.  As of 2016, 68% of financially successful authors spent at least $100 but no more than $1,000 on a book cover.  In comparison, 44% of emerging authors spent at least $100 on a book cover which was an increase of 5% over the previous year.
"What Makes a $100K Author: 8 Findings Every Author Should Know"
In a similar vein, $100K authors employ professional editors.  While you might proofread and make revisions several times, your mind and your eye know what it is supposed to say, so it is easy to miss what it actually says.  The going rate for an editor to work on your manuscript seems to be as low at $50 but as high as $1,000.  I would venture to think that a substantial number of successful authors probably pay $250-$500.

Once you've sorted out your cover design (DIY or pro) and feel like you have a spiffy final copy (DIY or pro), you have to get your book out to the masses.  Simply loading it into Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) isn't going to be nearly enough.

You must find a way to get people's attention.

Hiring Professional Book Marketing Services

Considering what you have just read about the use of professional cover design and professional editing, is really any surprise that the use of professional marketing services may be needed to help you break into this massive and popular niche?  At this point, hopefully it isn't a surprise.

Have you ever stopped to wonder how your favorite author has time to write novel after novel, use social media, blog, do interviews, go to conferences, receives reviews?  Most likely they don't have that time, or they use their time more efficiently.

Book Publicity Companies Exist to Help Authors 

I've spent an exhausting amount of time in the last week learning as much as I can about the different book publicity companies or websites that exist to support authors along with the various popular blogs that post reviews.  As I mentioned in my last blog post, Twitter has been indispensably helpful in finding potential reviewers.  It has also led me to numerous book marketers.  In fact, it has provided me with so much information that I couldn't remember which sites I had already visited and which were new. 

To help me keep things straight, I had to start making some serious notes.  I created two Excel spreadsheets: one for review tracking and one for potential promotional sites.  The review tracker is very simple but extremely helpful.  This is how I set mine up.
Review Tracker










The one for the book promotions has several more columns to accommodate the various options that the marketers offer.  It can be overwhelming trying to remember which one does blog tours, which one does Twitter blasts or emails blasts, or which one lists your title(s).  I needed a way to compare each of their services and, even more importantly, their price.  Again, this is how I set up mine.

Book Promo List









I found that keeping track of what they offer in a visual layout makes it much easier for my to weigh my options.  Without this, I was having a hard time remembering which would offer me the most bang for my buck.  More critically and crucially, I was having a hard time remember which sites offered services that I think I want and need.

The Take Aways

1.  Unless you are a graphic designer, have knowledge and experience with graphic design or have access to the right software, or know a graphic designer, sooner or later, you will need to buy a custom, professional book cover.
2.  Even eagle eyes don't always spot what right in front of them.  After you've proofread at least twice, find an editor and send it off for a fresh perspective.
3. You can try to reach out to reputable and popular bloggers to try to convince them to review and advertise your book, but there's a good chance they'll charge you for at least the ads.  You also won't be able to reach as many people on Twitter and Facebook or via email as these companies that have miles long contact lists and followers.  They know how to word the posts and how to request exposure on the blogs.  Using a professional book promotion site to market your masterpiece, or rather manuscript, can take you from the obscure back of the pack to being (close to) a leader.  

I'm still evaluating my options, but I think I know who I am leaning towards.  Once I determine whether they are in the budget, I will let you know which one I pick.  It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that I will hire someone.

Did I miss something? If you have any extra tips, please share them in the comments below.

Happy reading, y'all,

Celeste

References:
Donnelly, E. (2015, February 13). How Amazon and 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Created a Golden Age for Self-Published Romance Authors - and Why It May Already Be Over. Retrieved July 26, 2018, from https://bit.ly/2LsNw4D

Ferol . (2017, July 18). What Makes a $100k Author: 8 Findings Every Author Should Know. Retrieved July 26, 2018, from https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/2017/06/07/100k-author/

Haines, D., Orr, A., & HainesPost, D. (2018, April 12). Are You Self-Publishing Romance? - Maybe You Should. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://bit.ly/2Ltq8DS




Monday, July 23, 2018

Celeste Barclay

Lessons Learned from a Self Publishing Author Part 2

Self Publishing Image

Hello Reader,

Before we get started, comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome!

Let's recap part 1 before we move on.

Kindle Direct Publishing (Kindle Books)

1. You can upload your manuscript to be published as both  Kindle ebooks or Kindle book (paperback).  
2. KDP Select means that you have 90 day enrollments where Amazon books has sole distribution rights to your book.  This allows you to get into the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library.  Once you have all of that set, you can move on to advertising and publicizing through KDP.
3. KDP Advertising allows you to run two types of ad campaigns-- product display and sponsored product.  You can also do Kindle Countdown Deals and giveaways.
4. Royalties and KDP dashboard let you know how things are progressing.  The KDP dashboard is where you uploaded and got started.  It also has all of your sales reports and tracks your royalties.  
5. Amazon Author Central is the page that shows up when someone clicks your name under your book's listing.  Be sure to claim this! 

Ok---that's the long and the short of Part 1.  Now for the new stuff....


Marketing, Marketing, Marketing, and Some More Marketing

I'm going to start off with what I did the first time around, and then what I plan to do for the next launch.  Two very different approaches: novice and experienced.

Novice:  I launched my book...and then thought, "okay, now what do I do?"  I started researching how to market my book, and the recurring theme was the importance of reviews---and how I should have gotten some lined up before the book's launch.  Woopsies!
I googled how to get free book reviews (you can't review your own book even if you have a different Amazon account or write under a pen name like I do.  HUGE no-no.  Amazon also really doesn't want you to get a ton of your family and friends to blitz the review section.  They want it to be authentic and organic.  That doesn't mean it actually is, but I'll get to that in a moment).  I generally really like the information and how-to's that I got from Kindlepreneur, but there was a piece of advice that consumed a lot of time and gave me essentially no benefits.  They recommend that you go through the reviews for books that are similar to yours and click on the top reviewers.  Some Amazon reviewers have their email or website in their profile.  You then write a very polite email (I'll show you a sample below) to request a review.  About 9 times out of 10, you won't hear back from anyone.  I did get my first review that way, but all my other emails went unanswered.  Super frustrating!  And kinda scary when it's radio silence.

My ad placements and being part of KDP Select for Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library is what saved my bacon.  As I said in part 1, most of my royalties come from the pages read from the downloads.  This isn't ideal, but I'm still learning.

Experienced:  This is partially what I have started to do for my first novel and what I plan to do for the upcoming one.

Reviews!  Actually, hold up.  Social Media!
A. I decided to start blogging as soon as I released the book.  Scroll back through....you'll see some breaks between posts.  That's because I was working, being a mom, and writing the second book.  I strongly suggest creating a website and a blog.  Give yourself amble time to blog, even if they're short ones.  Discuss the characters, the setting, the behind the scenes, your motivation, etc.  Things that will help the reader better understand and appreciate your work.  Blog about your experience becoming an author, such as this two part blog.  I'm posting this "live" just like I did part 1, but write a few posts and upload them on dates you choose if that makes it more time efficient.  The point is: interact with your potential audience.  Share your posts on your social media and vice versa.

B. Last week, I created Twitter and Instagram accounts for writer-me and launched a Facebook page for writer-me (see the right sidebar or click these links).  Be active on your social media!  It doesn't count if you create accounts/profiles and then do nothing.  You look like a spammer.  The single best move I made in the way of marketing and getting reviews is creating my Twitter account.  I have found more reviewers than I ever did with the search Amazon method or even googling review sites for my genre.  The other day, I sent out about a dozen requests.  Before the end of the evening, I had heard back from four.  I've sent out a few more requests and have gotten a few yeses and a few nos.  Twitter will let you leapfrog to the more active review sites rather than hoping Google returns with strong results.  You do have to accept that these are often professional bloggers or reviewers, so it's first come, first serve.  You may have to take a number and be patient.  Even so, I got a way higher ROI for my efforts.  If you get a "yes but not until __" that's fine.  Follow up with them about two weeks before their expected delivery/posting date just to remind/confirm.  I have an excel spreadsheet with their names, email, website, date of request, answer, and posting date.

Now About Those Reviews

C. Be sure you have a Mobi and/or ePub edition of your work along with a PDF.  The first two are the versions that most reviewers want because they are tablet/ereader friendly.  If you don't know what those are, Google them.  Basically, they're just file types.  I honestly don't remember which site I used, but there are plenty out there, and they're FREE.  Start contacting reviewers before your book release.  Get some reviews lined up.  They will have to clearly state that an honest review was given in exchange for a free copy from the author.  They won't be able to post to Amazon or Goodreads until your book is live, but they can do it really soon after.  Also consider putting your book onto Amazon books / Kindle ebooks for pre-order.  Build excitement and anticipation this way.

D. Build a relationship with your reviewers.  Follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  Some may ask for reciprocal reviews--I'll review yours if you review mine.  This can get a little dicey in the world of Amazon rules and can just be awkward.  If you do agree, I would consider buying the book (digitally cause that's usually cheaper) rather than getting a free copy that way you show up as a verified purchase.  Let reviewers know if your work is available through Kindle Unlimited that way they download for "free" but are a verified buyer too.  I would also wait to read and review until they've done yours first.

Marketing Services for Hire

E. Carefully consider buying services.  Purchasing reviews is not allowed on Amazon.  See my note above about authentic and organic.  That doesn't mean it isn't done.  The simple fact of the matter is you may be competing against authors who do buy their reviews, and therefore, have a gazillion compared to your handful.  Amazon has now instituted a policy where a user cannot submit a review until they've spent at least $50.  Great for them ($$$ and keeps the phonies out), but not great if you, say, only have Kindle Unlimited.  You would have to wait 5 months ($9.99/month) to submit a review.  If you're like me, that could be well over a 100 books. So what's the alternative???  The services that you might consider purchasing are:
    1. Tweet blasts--the company or website will offer different packages of how many tweets per day they will do.
    2. Blog blasts--the company or website will submit your info to a specified number of bloggers so that it will appear either as a featured book or be mentioned in a post.
    3. Blog tours--this is what I'm seriously considering for this new book's launch.  Remember back in the olden days when authors sat at bookstores and autographed their new releases? (They do still do that.)  This is a virtual one of those.  It allows you to be featured on several websites and blogs.  Most will include Twitter blasts, Instagram and Facebook posts, event hashtag, interviews, opportunities to guest blog, ad placement, custom ads and banner, and encouragement for reviews to be cross-post on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble.  Facebook Launch Parties enable you to do live feeds, and the company will organize getting readers/viewers, giveaways, and contests.  You can usually decide if you want to do a 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days blog tour.  Check around for virtual tour sites within your genre, and then compare the prices. *** Once you're established and have some reviews under your belt, consider becoming a tour host.  Those reciprocal relationships aren't just about swapping reviews.  It's also about building readership and getting access to potential readers.  In my genre, here's an example: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
My plan for now is to do a blog tour.  I need to figure out a day that I can be available to do a Facebook Launch Party (a minimum of two hours).  After the blog tour (I'm only willing to try 30 days until I know whether it's worth it for me and my books), then I will consider the tweet blasts.

F. List your book on multiple sites.  You may decide to publish through KDP Select and remain with it which means Amazon has exclusive rights to distribution.  That doesn't mean you can't list your book on other sites for visibility.  For example, sites like All AuthorBookluver (this one is kind of like Pinterest, and I'm still trying to figure out how to use it), NetGalleryBookLife, and Kindle Book Review are all sites where you can get free (and paid for if you really want to get noticed) visibility and listings.  Goodreads, Goodreads, Goodreads!  Be sure to claim your book(s) on there and build your writer profile.  Thousands of people are on there, and they recommend books to friends and strangers.  Take advantage of the opportunity.

The real deal is this: If you want to be successful, writing a good book is crucial, but the leg work after the writing is what sells the units.  There are some horrible books out there that sell because of marketing and good copy for their description.  The good books that sell well have all the essential elements plus strong marketing.  It takes time and a lot of effort (and sometimes some money, so be prepared) to get your book out to the world.  The writing is often the easy part.

Make a plan and go for it!  You won't know until you try.

Good luck, y'all.

Celeste

Sample review request email:

Dear Mr or Ms __________,

I found your contact information on (insert website or social media site). I see that your favorite genres tend to be contemporary or paranormal romances, but I hope to tempt you into another section of romances (or something that shows that you actually looked at their website instead of just getting their email from their profile.  Personalize!).

In April I released a novel, titled His Highland Lasson Amazon.  It is a historical romance, and I hope I might interest you in reading and reviewing it.  It is currently available on Kindle, including Kindle Unlimited, and in paperback. It is about 140 pages in length.

(Short synopsis) Arranged to marry his stepbrother, Laird Tristan Mackay cannot takes his eyes off of Lady Mairghread Sinclair. When things rapidly sour between Tristan's stepbrother, Sir Alan, and Lady Mairghread,  Tristan wonders if there is any chance for him to find love with the spirited brunette. https://amzn.to/2JA1w6L

I would really appreciate you taking the time to read and review my novel.  I look forward to seeing any feedback that you may have on Amazon or Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17959368.Celeste_Barclay), and a Tweet would be helpful.

I can send you a Mobi or PDF.  Whichever you prefer.

Thank you.

Respectfully,

Celeste

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Celeste Barclay

Lessons Learned By Self-Publishing Debut Author Part 1

Self Publishing Image

Hello Reader,

Before we get started, comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome!

Okay...

This journey as a self-published author definitely has its peaks and troughs, but I think I've learned some lessons along the way. If nothing else, as least I will have notes on what to do, or better yet, what not to do next time around.

Kindle Direct Publishing (Kindle Books)

It really is not that hard to get your manuscript onto Amazon Books for Kindle ebooks or Kindle books (paperback) sales. The great thing about the paperback sales is that it is on demand. You don't have to keep inventory unless you want it. You can order a proof copy of your book to see what it looks like in print. There is also an option to purchase discounted author's copies. The digital edition comes from an uploaded document and a few clicks. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) walks you through everything from including your meta data to book description to pricing and advertising.  It also helps you make sure that you have the right time of file and margins.
But......

The Devil is in the details.

Writing Cover/Sales Copy
Have you read an Amazon description that has bold or italics and spacing? Yeah, well you aren't going to get that from just typing some words into the description box. Do you know HTML? If yes, great. Use it. If you're like most of us and either don't know it all or have just a really basic understanding, then you'll want to use a description generator. This is a website that will let you type what you want and then give you the html for the KDP website. I use kindlepreneur.com description generator (sign up for the free newsletter. There are a lot of emails, but most of them have at least one pearl of knowledge for a new author).  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if your description isn't pretty (or professional looking), a potential buyer may not get very far. BTW--just because you write great books doesn't mean you write great cover.  Apples and oranges.  Read several descriptions from books in the same genre as yours.  Find common themes, styles, messages, techniques and work those into your description.

Cover Art

They say, "don't judge a book by its cover," but let's be real: that's the first thing most people do.  Cover art is hard.  Plain and simple.  It can be hard to find a designer that you like AND can afford.  If you're just starting out, budgeting your little enterprise takes some real consideration and prioritizing.  We'll check back in on this topic a few times in this post.  Most bloggers will tell you that cover art is a top priority.  I kinda, sorta, mostly agree. I'm reconsidering some of my priorities as I move towards launching my second novel.

You have some choices to make:
A. Get a professional custom designed (exclusive) cover--the most expensive choice
B Get a professional template/pre-made (non exclusive) cover--the lesser of the professional choices; they run anywhere from $45-$200+ depending on the site, so look around A LOT
C. Use a site that will "build" you a professional looking cover based on art that you provide---which you probably will end up buying from a stock photo/art website
D. Design your own cover in some program ie Photoshop and then upload it
E. Upload some art and design your cover through KDP

I will be the first one to admit that I really didn't know what I was doing once I had the manuscript done.  I can write.  I think I can write pretty well.  But I did not know up from down or left from right when I logged into KDP for the first time.

This is what I did (learn from my choices):
1. I signed up for a free trial and downloaded ROYALTY FREE art from Dreams Time.  Depending on what you need, it has thousands of photos, and I found what I wanted.
2. I tinkered a bit (believe it or not, Word can let you do quite a bit with images, and I used PIXLR, a free junior sized version of Photoshop) and uploaded the art into KDP's cover launcher.  I wasn't thrilled with my design options.  I knew that none of them looked like the professional covers that I would be competing against.  BUT I wasn't very well versed on the realistic costs of having a cover designed, and I wasn't sure what other expenses I might face.  Quite frankly, I didn't want to spend anything I didn't have to until I knew there was going to be some type of ROI.  Otherwise, this was just a pet project.
3. Once I had the book live, I tinkered a little with the cover some more just to see if there was a higher conversion rate with a lighter or darker cover (darker seemed to win).
*For my second novel, I have self-designed again---for now.  I'm still on the fence about coughing up for a professional cover.  More on why I'm on the fence in just a bit.

KDP Select...or Not

One of the choices that you will have when you upload your manuscript is whether to enroll in KDP Select.  I still find this confusing, and I've read several articles on it and the actual website description.  The long and the short of it is: KDP Select allows you to add your Kindle ebook to Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library.
Sidebar I, personally, live and die by my Kindle Unlimited subscription.  I pay $9.99/month and can "check out" up to 10 ebooks (from the thousands available) at once.  I can read a romance novel in just a couple of days, so I can plow through 20 books in a month theoretically.  Do you have any idea just how much that saves me?  I'm all about supporting my fellow authors, but I have a family and all the financial commitments that go along with that.
People who digitally download your Kindle ebook through their subscription get it for "free," and you get paid for each "first time" read of a page in your book.  This means that someone who falls in love with your book and reads it a thousand times is not going to make you a millionaire.  KDP keeps count of the pages, and you receive royalties out of the KDP Select Global Fund.  In other words, you get a cut from this jumbo pot of money that is split among KDP Select authors. Honestly, this is how I make the majority of my royalties.  I have Kindle ebook and paperback sales, but most of what I earn is through this.
THERE IS A DOWNSIDE TO THIS!!! If you do not want Amazon books to hold exclusive publishing rights to your book (ie you want to sell on Barnes & Noble and Kobo, or do free giveaways on other sites, OR SELL FROM YOUR OWN WEBSITE), then this will not work for you. The initial sign up is for 90 days and auto renews.  You can choose not to renew, so you can publish elsewhere, but you then lose out on the KDP Select Global Fund.  Weigh your options.  For my next novel, I plan to do the 90 day period and then turn it off, so I can see if adding Barnes & Noble and Kobo helps.

Royalties

You can choose what percent royalties you want.  I use the 70%, cause well, that's more than 30%.  There is a 60 day initiation period, if you will.  You will start to receive royalties after the first 60 days that your book is available.  There is a minimum threshold of $100 if you don't do direct deposit.  I do direct deposit.  I also use my royalties to roll over into advertising.  *I'll get to that in a moment, and I'll circle back around to cover art along with it.  For paperback novels, you get 70% after printing and shipping have been deducted.  Set your prices wisely and competitively.  For some ebooks, that may mean peanuts compared to the jackpot you thought you would earn, but if the average book in your genre is $5.99, and you're priced at $12.99, guess what--some sale is better than no sale.  Lower your prices so that you don't price yourself out of the market.

Advertising

KDP gives you a couple different ways to advertise and promote your book.

1. Ads

--there are two types of these, and you can set your budget for overall spending and Cost Per Click (CPC)

A. Product Display

(I believe the lower ROI of the two).  Have you ever noticed those little ads off to the right sidebar when you're looking at a book?  That's a product display.  You won't get much from that.  Or at least I got nothing, so I terminated that campaign.  You can set an overall budget for this (I did $100 and didn't spend a penny).

B. Sponsored Product

( I like these).  Have you ever noticed the larger suggested books that are listed horizontally after the description of the book you're looking at?  Or a listing at the top of your search returns that says "sponsored"? These are sponsored ads and are WAY MORE visible and get far more traction.  You can set a daily budget for these.  Mine was $5.00, so if the system spent $5 in a day for me, then it stopped posting my ad.  The secret to this, though, is how much you are willing to pay per click.  The more you are willing to spend for CPC, the more often your ad will be seen.  This isn't a guarantee that anyone will actually click.  This isn't a guarantee that if they do click, you'll get a conversion.  This can get expensive very quickly meaning you're spending on ads, but no one (or very few) is buying your book.  You have to weigh your options: spend on ads for visibility even if you're actually in the red compared to royalties coming in, or lower your bid price for CPC, or don't use this type of campaign.

***So here is where I tie together the cover art, the royalties, and the advertising.  I chose to invest in the sponsored ads rather than pay for the cover art.  I did this simply for the sake of visibility and getting my book out there in front of potential buyers.  I did reinvest my royalties into paying for the ads, so that means that I didn't see all of my royalties (but I also wasn't out of pocket after the first 60 days--I raised my CPC bid then).  I have gotten paid from the KDP Select Global Fund, but it wasn't a huge amount.  When my debt to profit ratio had me spending quite a bit more than I was making, I paused the campaign.  When I paused it, my sales declined because I didn't have the visibility.  I am going to reinstate the campaign, BUT I'm going to reduce my CPC bid.  This means less exposure than before, but more than I have now.

Honestly, I'm still debating on the cover art investment for the next Kindle book that is coming out soon.  My plan for now is to send my designed cover to someone who can make it look fancy.  I'll launch the book with a smaller ad campaign to test out whether the traction comes from the ad placement or the appearance.  I'll let you know how that goes.

2. Giveaways

- you can do a 5-day giveaway for each of the 90-day KDP Select enrollments.  A giveaway is just that--you give away your Kindle ebook for free.  This is why I haven't done it (yet): no sales price means no royalties.  This is why I anticipate doing it when I launch the second book: who doesn't like free?  If I can drive traffic to my first book because it's free, hopefully my writing skills and price point will create conversions for my new book.  There are TONS UPON TONS of websites where you could do giveaways.  Goodreads is one of them.  Just remember, though, if you're in KDP Select, then you can't do giveaways anywhere other than Amazon books.  Since Amazon owns Goodreads, you can do your giveaways there and on Azamon directly.

3. Kindle Countdown Deals

-this is an up to 7 days at a time price reduction.  You have to have your book listed for 30 days before you can do the first mark down.  You can also do it in increments.  There is limited data, from what I can find and what other bloggers tell me, as to how much the Kindle Countdown Deals help.  I have done it twice with little ROI.  I figure that it at least increases some visibility because people love discounts almost as much as they like free.

Author Central and KDP Dashboard

Both of these resources are really useful, most of the time.  BE SURE TO CLAIM YOUR AUTHOR CENTRAL PAGE AND YOUR BOOK(S)! Have you ever clicked on the hyperlink to an author's name and gone to the page that lists all of their books?  It even may have links to their RSS or Twitter feeds.  This is their Amazon Author Central page.  Claiming this helps readers find you and all your books.  On the back end, it allows your to link your website/blog, add a photo, add your RSS and other social media info.  If you have a short promo video for your book, it can be uploaded there.  It also gives you your Amazon Author Rank and Sales Rank info.  Unless you are an econometrics algorithm genius, more than likely you will not be able to crack the nut that is the Amazon books ranking system or their listing priorities.  But it is kind of cool to watch how your rank moves up and down based on your sales. You will also be able to see all reviews of your books in one place.
Your KDP Dashboard is where you upload your book to begin with and manage all of the start up.  It's also where you go for your sales reports.  You will be able to see how many paid digital copies and free digital copies, as well, as paperback copies have been sold.  If you do KDP Select, you'll also see the number of pages read.  It will tell you your royalties based on those numbers.  You can pull up reports for the past too.  It will also have the link to take you to the ad campaign part of KDP. This is really handy information as you try to make informed decisions about advertising and sales.

Barnes & Noble and Kobo

I've set up accounts with them.  I found Barnes & Noble to be annoying because I write under a pen name, so I needed to provide info for both the real-me and the writer-me.  It didn't seem to like that there was a difference, but I'm sure I'm not the only one.  If and when I don't renew my KDP Select, I will list with them too.

Are you still there, reader?  Have you gone cross-eyed from all this information?  Are you tracking?

I know this is a lot to take in, but I tried to break it down as though you were having an actual conversation with someone rather than reading the legal eagle manuals.

I'm going to take a break here.  Part two will talk about the things that you'll want to do just before launch, during launch, and after.

Before I do go, here are two sites/resources that I have found that have a VERY wide array of information on their blogs.  There is info about KDP on there.  I stumbled across them through Twitter and find myself reading at least 2-3 articles a day by them.  They are partnered sites.

Resources

"Just Publishing Advice": https://justpublishingadvice.com/
                                          Twitter: @justpublishing
Derek Haines                    https://dahaines.com/
(the person behind the above site) Twitter: @Derek_Haines
     
Happy reading, y'all,

Celeste
@CelesteMBarclay

Monday, July 16, 2018

Getting My Social Media Game Face

Social Media and Me

I admit that it is SO much easier to keep up with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram than it is to keep up with a blog.  I can access these sites from my phone or tablet without much effort.  I can share or retweet with a click.  I can post quick comments or idea.  I can follow the goings-on of my friends and acquaintances from the same place that I can create and post my own ruminations and adventures.

That said, I have spent much of today creating and working on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for my author sites.

It is rather fun to start these accounts or pages fresh.  It's like the beginning of a new relationship.  There's excitement to get to know the new account and to test the waters a little.  You're excited when notifications pop up. You want to see what others have to say to or about you.  Do they like you?  Do they want to get to know you better?  Do they want to talk more?

For a romance writer, this is a perfect set-up.  It's like blind dates.  It can go either way, but you always hope that it might be Mr/Ms Right (Now).  It can be a short term commitment, or you may find yourself in for the long haul.  You just don't know until you get started.

I admit that my blogging tends to fall to the wayside while I'm working on a novel.  All of my creativity gets funneled into the book, and the blog gets forgotten.

Social media makes it easy to keep up.  I can cross-pollinate sites with just a click.  Hitting those old birds with one stone, and what not.

If you haven't already, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  My links are on the right side or click here:
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