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The Questions I Ask My Alpha and Beta Readers

The Questions I Ask My Alpha and Beta Readers

This is part III of my short series on Alpha and Beta Readers in your book editing process.

Part One: Editing with Alpha Readers
Part Two: Editing with Beta Readers
Part Three: The Questions I Ask My Alpha and Beta Readers (This One)
Part Four: Honest Alpha and Beta Readers (Coming Soon)

I wanted to cover some of the specific and common questions I ask people after they have edited my book. My books (to be published in 2018) are novels aimed at younger readers (10-14ish) so the questions will be very different for a non-fiction book or perhaps even a book for young adults.

I take all sorts of advice and feedback from my readers–as much as they will give! For the most part, I just listen to anything they will tell me. But there are also specific questions I typically ask. Now, before you go through the list, you’ll notice that a LOT of these questions are about specific characters. A fiction book is nothing without likeable or realistic or catchy characters. People need to either love your characters or love to hate them (villains).

 

Here are some of my questions:

Who was your favorite character?

This is an extremely important question! I have learned that one of my characters needs major revision. He’s a favorite for some of my readers of Book One, but the qualities that make him awesome are missing in Book Two. I have learned from this that I need to put those qualities back in his character in Book Two.  When I wrote Book Three, I made sure his qualities were VERY present.

This also gives me insight into what is connecting with my readers. It’s not always the character I thought.  The follow-up question, of course, is, “Why?”

 

What was your favorite part of the book?

Oh, is this so helpful!!! It shows me what really has caught people. It also shows me what parts of storytelling has the capacity to catch people (humor? adventure? suspense?).

 

What was the funniest part of the book?

The books I’ve written are intended to be funny, so when I’m hearing from people what made them laugh, it shows me what connects up with people in terms of humor! What tickles the funny bone? Sometimes readers have told me they laughed out loud at a certain point. What’s interesting is that it often wasn’t the part I thought people would laugh at.

 

What did you think of the main female character?

This is an important question for me. I wasn’t sure if I could write a strong female character. As a guy, I wondered if I could really portray this character well. I wanted to write a female character who was strong, intelligent and wise.  I also wanted a female character who had people around her she could and would trust.  I needed some feedback to help me to understand how to write her well.

In asking people’s opinion of this character, I was trying to find out if I was able to write her the way intended and if she connects with my readers as a strong person.

 

What did you think of Jep?

Jep is a very unique character. He’s a chicken. He plays a big part in the book. I needed to know what people thought. In the end, it turned out he was a favorite of some of my Alpha and Beta Readers.

 

What did you think about Masha and the Soup thing?

This is a wildly unusual part of the book. You’ll have to read it to see what I mean. I’m not looking to hear if they thought this part of the story was realistic. It’s not realistic. It’s not intended to be realistic. I’m wondering if I explained it well enough for them to see it happening in their minds. I was pleased to find that my readers could imagine it. They could see it in their minds, even though it was unrealistic. I like Masha’s character and I can’t stand her character. I’d like to hear your thoughts when you read the book.

 

What did you think about Harv?

Harv is a very odd character in the book. It’s hard to put your finger on him. Who he is, what he’s like and what he’s about are not overly clear. I find people will give me a certain reaction about Harv and then if I ask them for more, they will get a confused look on their faces. I wrote Harv to be a mystery… I like him! The confusion on people’s faces is what I’m looking for.

 

What did you think about the ending?

I have never quite been satisfied with the ending. I’ve received some advice on how to fix it and I’ve implemented some of the advice, but I’m still not happy with it. I like the ending of Book Two, but just not Book One. So I keep asking. People tell me it’s good, but I keep asking. Maybe this is just a struggle with me.

 

What did you think about the book overall?

I ask this in different ways, but it’s important to hear.  It’s fine to learn what someone thought of the details, but you need to hear the overall. Is this something they would buy? Would they recommend it to others? Did they enjoy reading it? Do they think other people will enjoy it?

Ask these questions!

So there you have it! These are some of the questions I ask when it comes to my Alpha and Beta Readers!

Don’t forget to check out:

Part One: Editing with Alpha Readers
Part Two: Editing with Beta Readers
Part Three: The Questions I Ask My Alpha and Beta Readers (This One)
Part Four: Honest Alpha and Beta Readers (Coming Soon)

Comment below with some of the key questions you ask your Alpha and Beta Readers and your thoughts on this process!

Shawn

Editing with Beta Readers

Editing with Beta Readers

This is part two in my series on Alpha and Beta Readers. As I post them, I will update the blogs to link them together. Until then, check out the first blog on Alpha Readers!

Part One: Editing with Alpha Readers
Part Two: Editing with Beta Readers
Part Three: The Questions I Ask My Alpha and Beta Readers
Part Four: Honest Alpha and Beta Readers (Coming Soon)

 

Beta Readers!

There are definitely different opinions about the definition of a Beta Reader. Some may define it as those who get an early copy of your completed and finalized book for review. I would call that a Launch Team. A Launch team cannot give you much feedback (since the book is finalized) and their role is to help you launch the book. I would define Beta Readers a little differently and put them in the feedback giving category.

A Beta Reader (as I would define one) is the reader in the second phase of reading as you move through your editing and review process. Once you’ve cleaned up your manuscript a lot from your Alpha Readers, your Beta Readers can take a walk through it. They can catch more problems/issues and identify more areas needing work. They can also give you a good idea of how people will react to your book.

Receiving Feedback can be difficult. Check out Five Ways to Tell You Do Not Want Feedback and Six Ways to Receive Feedback Well to think through some of this, but keep in mind that you need Feedback!

So at this point in the process, I have my initial edits completed (after my Alpha Readers found a LOT of problems) and then I hand it over to my Beta Readers.

Here’s what I want to cover in this blog…

I want to be able to show what I have done in terms of Beta Readers to give you an idea of how I’ve been polishing up my manuscript in the hopes that this will be helpful for you in your own process.

Keep this in mind. There is an old phrase that says, “Many hands make light work.” With editing, consider, “Many eyes catch many mistakes.” I know… not as catchy, but keep it in mind. Lots of Alpha and Beta Readers will catch many, many of your mistakes!

So, here are some people who have been so kind to be Beta Readers for me:

 

Some Young Ladies: I had three young ladies read through my book.

I only have sons and I know them well enough to know they would enjoy it. The two main characters in the book are both boys (named after my sons).

As I considered these things, I realized that I just wasn’t sure how a girl would react to the story. I have a cousin (who was an Alpha Reader) who has two daughters in the age bracket I’m aiming for with this book. He offered to give it to one of his daughters and she devoured it. Her sister then read part of it as well.

I then had another young lady from my church who read it and she raced through it. They were able to give me some amazing feedback on the book to help me learn how a girl would respond to the book!

 

A Friend of Mine with a Degree in English Literature: This friend looked at the book in a very different way than anyone who had read my book up till this point. He was able to point out not just what he liked or didn’t like or where the weak areas were, but he was able to point out which areas were written well and where my strengths lie as an author. He pointed out that my strength as a writer is in writing dialogue. When I learned that, I was able to evaluate areas of the book where I didn’t have much dialogue and add some more in!

 

My Wife (Yep, I asked her to read it through a second time): She was kind enough to read it again and give me some feedback. Since so much had been edited and changed, I wanted to get her honest thoughts on it. She is both honest and kind when it comes to giving me feedback and as such she is very helpful!

 

A Friend from Church: There is a lady at my church who read through my first book and typed up a lot of feedback for me. It is amazing how much someone can catch in terms of spelling and problems and more even though the book has been read through numerous times by numerous people! She was very helpful and very encouraging with it.

 

A Friend I’ve Known for nearly Thirty Years Who Has a Couple Young Daughters: I still haven’t heard back from him on it. 🙁 If he reads this, it’ll be a reminder to him that I’m still hoping to hear what he and his daughters thought of the book. Is this a bad sign? I don’t know… ’cause I didn’t hear back. What is a poor author such as myself to do? My only response is to grieve deeply and to assume that my writing stinks and that it was hurtful, offensive, dry and cliche.
🙂

 

My Mom: My mom devoured book one in my series in one evening. That’s pretty intense. It’s 65,000 words (I know that’s long for this age bracket). She pointed out a number of really important areas. It was so helpful to hear her critique. It was also helpful to hear what she liked and didn’t like in the book.

 

My Mother-In-Law: My Mother-In-Law was one of my Alpha Readers, but as an Alpha Reader, she pointed out that the beginning of the book was a little dry. Because of that, I wrote a prologue that was a bit more exciting and then ended up completely rewriting chapter one. Some of the great stuff in chapter one that I wanted to keep, I didn’t. It was hard to see it go, but the chapter is better for it. She re-read chapter one for me and gave me some feedback on it.

 

A friend from British Columbia: This is a guy who is doing some of my artwork for me. He’s drawing a map for the book as well as some pencil drawings for the beginning of each chapter. He focused in on ways to adjust the sentences or explanations to make it either funnier or just all-round better. VERY helpful!

 

Each of these people brought something different to the table in terms of feedback! It has been so helpful to get their take on it! Each time I have asked a reader to move through the book, I take their recommendations seriously and make changes as necessary.

 

However, keep this in mind:

Not every suggestion, critique or recommendation is helpful. I receive some feedback from readers who don’t like one thing or another, but what they are recommending does not fit with my goals for the book.

You need to take their suggestions and critique seriously because you want your book to be a quality book. Your readers are the ones who either like it or don’t. Pay attention to what they say.

However, at the same time, remember it’s your book. You don’t have to take every one of their suggestions. Just because one of your readers thinks the main character should have an eye patch and say, “Arrrhhh” every now and then, doesn’t mean you should change your protagonist from an office worker who is struggling to make ends meet to a pirate. Make sense? It’s your book. Sometimes a reader will also not “get” what you’re saying. Perhaps it’s out of their experience. Perhaps it doesn’t fit with their humor. Perhaps it doesn’t pique their interest. They may be telling you what you need to hear (so pay attention), but they may simply not be connecting with that part of the book.
Some critique is great. Some critique stinks. It’s called discernment. Use it. 🙂

One of the things I found through my Alpha and Beta Readers has to do with one of my main characters. There’s an older, very skilled, very helpful, but somewhat annoying gentleman. He is a pretty strange guy, but he is a favorite character of some readers. In Book One he is a leader/mentor, but in Book Two, I’ve changed him. He’s still the same guy and acts the same way in a lot of ways, but the qualities that I believe people loved about him in Book One (regarding his mentor-like characteristics) simply don’t show up in Book Two. After hearing Feedback from the Alpha and Beta Readers, I started to realize that I needed to adjust this particular character for Book Two. His quality needs to shine through in Book Two as well as Book One.

Beta Readers are crucial to making your book into a quality piece! Ask them to help you!

Check out the other blogs in this series:

Part One: Editing with Alpha Readers
Part Two: Editing with Beta Readers
Part Three: The Questions I Ask My Alpha and Beta Readers
Part Four: Honest Alpha and Beta Readers (Coming Soon)

Comment below on your experiences with Beta Readers!

Shawn

Editing with Alpha Readers

Editing with Alpha Readers


This is the first part of a short series I’m posting on Alpha and Beta Readers over the coming weeks. This first one is about how to make use of Alpha Readers in your editing. The second is about how to make use of Beta Readers. The third is about the questions I ask my Alpha and Beta Readers and finally, the fourth is about finding “Honest” Alpha and Beta Readers.

Here are the links this series:

Part One: Editing with Alpha Readers
Part Two: Editing with Beta Readers
Part Three: The Questions I Ask My Alpha and Beta Readers
Part Four: Honest Alpha and Beta Readers (Coming Soon)

 

So to start with…

I have decided not to use a professional editor. I know that this flies in the face of everything every publisher and author declares, traditional or self-publishers alike.

There are some reasons why I am not using a professional editor. First, I’m really trying to do this on a budget.

Now, you may be tempted to skip down to the comments right this instant in order to set me straight. I appreciate the feedback and thank you for the comments you are about to make. 🙂
The second reason I am avoiding a professional editor is that I want the challenge of getting this cleaned up and put together in a professional manner… without having to use professionals. It’s a part of the challenge that I’m excited about.

Let me add this in (for those who have survived this far without skipping down to the comments to tell me how terrible an idea it is to not use a professional editor… I appreciate your feedback, by the way). I am not saying I’m not using any editors, I’m saying I’m not using a professional editor. I am relying on the help and advice from people I know and trust.

So, let me show you the process I’ve been using and it has been working well for me.

 

My Alpha Readers

I write my first draft with all its mistakes and problems. I then go through it on my own to polish up some of the obvious problems (weird sentences, obvious plot holes, clear inconsistencies, etc.) before I hand it off to some Alpha readers.

An Alpha reader is one of your first readers right out of the gate. These are people who can give you some honest (but kind) feedback and who can help you make a major step toward polishing your manuscript.

They are also people who can handle a really rough draft of your story. Keep in mind, this is NOT everyone. Some people cannot get past this kind of thing. It will drive them up the wall to see mistakes repeated, page after page and they will not be able to handle the grammar problems, spelling mistakes and inconsistencies in your writing. If someone is like this, you should ask them to read a more polished version. 🙂

Here are some people I trust as Alpha Readers:

My Wife: I put this on our Kindle App and she reads it, highlighting the parts she thinks are terrible or ugly or written in a horrifically nightmarish way. She also highlights spelling mistakes, problem sentences, parts that are offensive (sometimes you try to write things well and they just come across in a way you didn’t intend) and more. She will also point out areas she thought were good.

The book is intended to be juvenile and silly, but my wife was able to point out areas where I was taking it a little too far. To give you an idea, the topic of snot shows up a lot… it’s a fun book, after all. That’s pretty silly and juvenile, but I took it a little too silly at times and while the focus is for ages 10-13, I was probably hitting some topics more like what a 6 year old would enjoy. She helped point this out.

My Sons: Since my books at the moment are novels geared at older kids and early teens, I read the book to my sons and they give feedback. While I read out loud, I see and hear things that I did not see or hear before. I also hear their immediate responses (laughter and more). I can also get their feedback on parts they really liked and parts they didn’t like. I use our Kindle App as well which means my highlights show up on the same pages as my wife’s, but to avoid confusion we use a different color of highlight so we can distinguish my highlights from hers.

My sons were able to give me feedback from the standpoint of kids/young teens. While they would occasionally disagree on what they thought was good, it was very helpful to be able to hear feedback from the mouths of those in or near the age group I’m writing the book for.

After my wife and sons read it, I make the recommended adjustments and pass the less-rough version on to the next two Alpha readers. You might want to call them Beta Readers because of my revisions, but I prefer to think of them as Alpha 2.0.

 

My Mother-In-Law: My Mother-In-Law has worked as a teacher and librarian for many years in a public school and spends a great deal of time reading. She goes through my manuscript in a very detailed way and gives some very objective feedback on it. It’s been very helpful to hear her responses and feedback. She shared with me one of the greatest encouragements I have yet received in my writing. She told me (when reviewing my first book in the series) that by the time she made it to the sixth chapter of the book (out of around 26), she found she couldn’t put the book down and started neglecting other responsibilities she had. This helped me to see that my books were not just fun books for kids, but adults could enjoy them as well.

Since my Mother-in-Law comes from a teaching/librarian background, she was able to approach it from that standpoint and gave me some incredible feedback in terms of:

  • My first chapter was… boring. It wasn’t catchy. I had to rewrite it. I am very grateful that she pointed out this major flaw! I don’t think I wanted to rewrite it, but in the end I’m much happier with the new chapter. Now think about this one for a moment… if that chapter had NOT been rewritten, I might have lost a lot of readers before chapter two! Feedback is awesome!
  • Problems in terms of spelling and repeated words (she has eyes like an eagle for this kind of thing). It is really easy to write a sentence like, “Liam and and Ezra moved slowly down the hill toward…” Some of you may not have caught that. I made repeated mistakes like that and couldn’t see it in my own editing.

 

My Cousin: My cousin has written about six books and is in the final stages of publishing the first one (January 2018). I won’t give any details on his book as to title or anything just yet. One of the things he brings to the table is the more technical aspect of writing as he has spent a great deal of time studying this aspect of writing. He will catch things in my book that I won’t think of such as perspective, certain inconsistencies, etc. He and I also meet often and encourage each other along the path of writing/editing/publishing.

 

These are my Alpha Readers. They are my first phase of editing (because I don’t know if I can count my own editing as first phase).  You’ll notice I’m related to each of these people.  At this stage of the editing and revision, it’s nice to keep things close to home.  🙂

 

Now, it’s important to understand something about Alpha Readers as we seek out people who might fill this need. The people mentioned above are people who care about me and want me to be successful, but also aren’t going to let really bad stuff slide. In other words, they care enough to tell me the bad stuff rather than just tell me the book is fine as it is.

Each of these people listed above may have a different vision than I have for the book, but that’s exactly what I want. I want to hear their thoughts from their perspective.

 

As Alpha Readers, these people have been very helpful. You need to find people who can read your book for you and give you some honest feedback. It is not helpful to only ask people who will tell you your book is wonderful. That might make you feel good at the moment, but leads to disappointment and pain later on (when the stuff that should have been caught is missed).

Keep in mind that Feedback on your writing is extremely important.  Feel free to check out Six Ways to Receive Feedback Well and Five Ways to Tell You Do Not Want Feedback.

Check out the other blogs in this series:

Part One: Editing with Alpha Readers
Part Two: Editing with Beta Readers
Part Three: The Questions I Ask My Alpha and Beta Readers
Part Four: Honest Alpha and Beta Readers (Coming Soon)

Comment below on your experience with Alpha Readers and keep an eye out for the rest of the series on Alpha and Beta Readers coming out over the next couple weeks!

Shawn

November Book Update

November Book Update

This past month I have been pretty silent on the blogging front. I’ve been focusing in on NaNoWriMo as I’ve written the rough draft of the third book in my series (rough draft finished!) and cleaning up the first book in my series for publishing in April.

I’m planning on posting a series soon on Alpha and Beta Readers, but while that is still coming, I wanted to give an update on my book situation!

Here’s where things are at!

 

 

Book One (subtitled: The Key Quest) is now completely edited

I found when I went through the book this last time, I wanted to rewrite it completely. I suspect that if I did rewrite it, I would want to rewrite it again after that. I have had to settle in with the manuscript as it is. It could always be adjusted or tweaked a little more, but the challenge is knowing when to move forward with it.

Despite my desire to tweak it a bit more, I am confident it is ready for publishing.

Thanks to all my Alpha and Beta Readers and editors. You have been such a huge help!

 

Book One is now set up

I have managed to get the book all set up for printing. I will be blogging soon on how to set up your book for print (that blog is mostly written, just needs to be cleanup up a bit). I ended up using MS Word to do it as Pressbooks, which I had planned on using, wasn’t as easy to use for the print file. Typically, the interior needs to be put together in a PDF file. MS Word works well for putting this together.

I have also put together my cover. This is really fun as it looks so cool (to me) with it all together with the spine and the back and the bar code and more. Since I do not have a bunch of “reviews” to put on the back from famous people, I just made up some reviews. I know, that sounds horrible, but it’s not what you think. They are just jokes, actually. It’s obvious they are made up and they fit with the flow of the book (since it’s pretty silly). For instance, one of the reviews is a made up one from my mom. Another one is a review from my roller blades. Yes, you read that right.

The cover needs to be in a PDF file (300 dpi) for print and a jpeg file for ebook. I’m pretty happy with how it all looks.

I’m missing some interior art as I’m waiting on those files. Once I have them, I can print a proof copy! I’m nearly there!

 

Book Three is typed up

This book is just a rough draft right now so it’s likely absolutely horrible. My goal was to get it written this month. Hopefully, while I’m waiting for book one’s proof copy to be printed, I’ll be able to do my first quick run through it before I hand it off to some of my Alpha Readers. At this point, Book Three is my favorite of the three books, although that’s before I’ve read through the rough draft. It may be absolutely terrible. 🙂

 

So, there you have it. A quick update on the book situation!

My plan is to have some book launch teams starting up either late January or early February, although I’m cutting things close to be able to get things going on that! Hopefully the last little bit of setup will come together ASAP and I’ll be ready to print!

Shawn

Setting up SEO for Your Blog

Setting up SEO for Your Blog

Let me just come right out and say this: I find the topic of SEO boring. I know that’s not the way to start a blog post. This topic is, however, EXTREMELY important and extremely helpful to bloggers.  In this blog, I want to give a clear, simple explanation of how to work through this as a WordPress Blogger.

 

I did not intend to write a blog about SEO, but I had to do all this research three months ago and figured perhaps this information would be helpful to others as they are setting up their sites. As I was setting up my site, I had to learn a lot about this kind of thing. If you’re in the process of setting up a WordPress site, I recommend you also check out WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org to learn a bit about your options.

I find this kind of stuff (SEO) makes my head hurt (and I find it immensely boring), so I’ll try to make it clear and simple. It is, however, for a blogger, a necessary evil.

 

What is SEO

Simply put, SEO for a blog is important. It means Search Engine Optimization and involves the stuff that helps Google and Bing and Yahoo find your blog and let people know about it. It’s a good thing and if you’re writing a Blog, you’ll have to go for it. The more work you do in this area, the more people will see your blog (in searches) and the more followers and subscribers and traffic you’ll get.

What happens is this: search engines look around and collect information about your site. They also collect information about how your blog is being responded to and so forth. The more you fit the search engines expectations, the more likely you’ll be higher up on their ranking list and more likely you’ll be found in a search.

 

Make Google Happy

So, what you need to do is to set up some of the background information of your site in such a way that makes the search engines happy.

Here’s a site I used to learn some information about SEO: 31 Ways to Better WordPress SEO

This site is helpful! There are some things that I don’t understand (more things than I do, actually), but the nice thing about this guy is he points you toward plugins and options that you should be able to run with on your own without a lot of technical SEO knowledge. If you have a basic understanding of WordPress, you should be fine.

Note, when you’re installing plugins, I would recommend you take into consideration how many times it’s been installed and what kind of ratings it has. If it’s been installed a million times with a high rating, it’s probably decent. I would steer away from plugins that have not been downloaded much or have bad ratings. I am wary they might cause trouble for your site… maybe not… you just never know. 🙂

So, taken from the site mentioned above, I took a lot of steps to help my SEO. Here is what I did based on this guy’s advice (I left in the numbers he used). Below these tips, I lay out the results from the SEO work I did.

 

Tips for Setting up Your SEO

 

3. Install an .xml sitemap plugin

I used Google XML Sitemaps by Brachhold.
A sitemap is a file that lists the URLs for your site and includes some information about each of the URLs. Search engines use this to understand your site better.

 

4. Install an SEO plugin and start using rel=”canonical”

I used All in One SEO Pack and followed a bit of this plugin’s tutorial to get it up and running a bit better. You can just use standard settings, but I wanted to tweak it a bit according to the recommendations.
As for the rel=”canonical” part, that has to do with postings which have similar content to one another. If you post the same basic post twice and search engines see the same info twice, it can hurt your rankings and hinder your ability to be found. Soooo… find the post which is the one you really want found (out of all the similar ones) and use rel=”canonical”.

Here’s a link to a site that’ll tell you how to use rel=”canonical” on your post if you ever start posting similar content: Complete Guide to rel=”canonical” – How to and Why Not

 

7. Use a caching plugin to speed up your blog

I used W3 Total Cache.

It is irritating when you try to load a page and it just comes in slowly. This will help speed up your site. That’s good.

 

10. Block spam comments

Here’s the problem… if your comments on your post have nasty things in them or are promoting inappropriate things, it can hurt your rankings. There are also trolls out there who just like to be grumpy and complain and will take the opportunity to do that in comments. I don’t want their grumpiness on my blog. I don’t know if it hurts my rankings, but I don’t like it. Some people are just grumpy and are looking for a fight. I don’t want my blog taken over by their need for attention or conflict.

Because of these things, I set my comments so they need to be approved, unless they have posted before. I also don’t allow people to post links without approval. You can make these changes in Settings: Discussion.

 

12. While writing new blogs, link to your old blogs

I didn’t know this helped! Now that I know, I can implement this! Simply put, while you are writing a new post, link to your previous posts (within that new post). This will help search engines connect up your blogs with various topics which then help people find you! Don’t just use a plugin here, link it within your blog post! Note, just don’t link to unimportant pages (like your contact page). People will find that if they need it. This is mentioned later on in this guy’s article, but I included it in this section.

So connect up similar topics, one with another. This will not only help search engines, but then your readers can click from one post to another to follow through on the topics.

 

19. Integrate Social Media sharing buttons in your posts

Simply put, the more “likes” you get here and there, the better. Get the word out across social media and it’ll get more attention. This causes the search engines to like you more and they give you more attention! A bit of a snowball effect (for those in places which have snow).

 

23. Add fresh new posts frequently

Don’t be surprised if you post something new and lots of people come! Post and post a lot! I’m aiming for once to twice a week. I will probably try to do more at the first and then back off since I don’t have all the time in the world.

Now, one of the things the guy who wrote 31 Ways to Better WordPress SEO recommends is that you post consistently. So if you have five posts ready to go up and then won’t be posting for another month, you’re probably better to hold four of them and post one a week. Post consistently, rather than post a lot today and nothing for a while.

The following is cut and paste from this site. It’s really good (I would strongly recommend you make your way through his entire post, don’t just read mine):

Bonus Advice: be smart yourself, don’t insensibly trust others
This one is a bit different from the rest of the suggestions but it’s applicable for many new bloggers and site owners. I’ve seen them starting out on knowledge sucking sprees. They try to stuff their brains with as much as random blogging and web development knowledge as possible in as less time as possible. This results in them not sticking to a particular strategy and implementing hundreds and thousands of unimportant and useless things on their sites which not only do no good to them, but occasionally also hurt their sites.
Like everything else, growing a site requires patience and a working brain. Just use your brain and think whether a particular SEO strategy is right for your blog and implement or don’t implement it based on that.

So… putting that into practice… don’t just do everything that you’re told to do. Implement some of it, see how it works and go for stuff that works for you! Make it unique. It’s not someone else’s blog, it’s yours!

Now, for me, I wanted to see instant results and figured I would probably see an increase in traffic right away. I assumed that within a few days I’d be getting a lot of new attention. I’m an optimist and quite content with my overwhelming hope.

As I looked into it, however, I found out that SEO takes three to six months to really take effect. That’s 90-180 days. To drive home the point, that means it could take 7.5 to 15 million seconds for you to see results. Be patient.

I did all this SEO work in the first week after setting up my blog. I would recommend you do the same. If you haven’t taken steps like these, start implementing them right away. Whenever you do this, you’ll still have to wait 7.5 to 15 million seconds before seeing results. It’s worth starting now.

 

The Details

Just one more thing… let me give you some details. I set up my blog on August 12, 2017. Today is August 15, 2017 (the date of writing this blog). I’m not likely to post this particular blog today as I feel it’s wise to sit on it for a little bit in order to let the topic and information settle and so I can re-read it with fresh eyes. Also, I want to see the results over the long term with a Google search.

It’s been three days since my site went up. I Googled this evening for “Self Publishing on a Budget Shawn Robinson”. You would think that would bring them right here, but my site didn’t show up on the front page of search results at all. I didn’t keep looking past the first page of search results. The first page is kind of the important one.

I am told that it takes 3-6 months for the SEO to really take effect for your site. Hopefully in 7.5 to 15 million seconds it’ll show up there!

 

Update: November 16, 2017

Okay, we are three months in. I think we are a little over 7.5 million seconds. I Googled my site again with the same search, “Self Publishing on a Budget Shawn Robinson” as above. Aside from all the Ads that appear, there were 10 results. The first 8 were my blog! I also searched for “Shawn Robinson Publishing” and my blog comes up first and then my Facebook author page comes up twice a little later on.

So, SEO simply takes time! Get implementing this on your site as early as possible so that the results can come in!  The longer you wait, the more invisible your site is to the rest of the world!

Comment below with your SEO advice!

Shawn

Using Bing Ads to Promote Your Book

Using Bing Ads to Promote Your Book

I’ve been a bit slack on blogging lately as much of my writing time as been taken up with NaNoWriMo, but I wanted to share this information on book promotion.

So, how do you promote stuff on the internet? You know… stuff.
Stuff like books.

There are many different ways to promote your book on the internet. Perhaps the favorite two ways of promoting an idea is to use social media and by writing a blog–both of which offer your ideas to the world (for good or for ill).

 

But there is another way and this is the option of paying for online advertisement (word ads).

There are benefits of using ads. One of them is that you can get your information or product out there for people who do not run in your circles (social media or your blog readers).

A little while ago I received an offer for $100 in free Bing Ads. Perhaps you’re wondering if anyone uses Bing. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I would try it out. On a side note… just for fun, try replacing “Googled” with “Binged” in a sentence. Like this, “Hey, so I wanted to know the closest pizza joint around so I binged it last night and it turns out that Gino’s Pizza is…” Doesn’t that sound like fun? This is a great way to make friends and influence people! See if you can just consistently do this and if someone comments on it, just look confused like they really aren’t up on what’s cool.

Anyway, I thought I would explore Bing Ads to promote my blog and to see if it works. I figured if it did work, then when I publish (Spring of 2018) I would know if it’s worth the effort and cost of advertising with Bing Ads. I figured that trying it out now (for free) would show what kind of results I could end up getting and this would help me to see if it’s worth trying it out with book promotion later.

So this is how Bing Ads work:

You set up an account with them and create a new campaign. This campaign might be called, “PromoteMyBook2018.” The name of the campaign is just so you can recognize it. The customer doesn’t see that information.

You set up your campaign with an Ad title (what people WILL see) and the link you want to them to see along with another short phrase–kind of like a subtitle for your Ad. You also choose keywords (people search and if they use your keywords, your ad may pop up). When it comes to the money part of this whole thing, you set up your budget of how much to spend per day (I started with $5 and eventually increased it to $8).

After you put all this information in, you have to let Bing know how much money you want to spend per click. The more you spend, the more excited Bing gets about showing your ad so the more people see your ad. When someone clicks on the link, that’s called a “click” (hard to remember, that one) and this is where it costs you money. At the time of writing this blog, the average being spent on a click by people with Bing Ads was about 84 cents. This wasn’t what I was spending, this was the average per-click cost across the board with Bing Ads. You can, however, set your amount at whatever you want. More money gets you more attention. Less money gets you less attention.

You can set your budget for this per day, but in the end you need to keep a close eye on this. You may not use up your whole budget each day, but in case you do, you want to keep an eye on your account to see if it’s producing the results you want.

Since I wanted to see how Bing Ads produced results over a longer period, I initially set my daily budget low ($5).

 

So, what I did was I picked my keywords and set my “per click” amount at 20 cents. Loads of fun! I started getting lots of views of my Ads fairly early on in the process (these are called impressions). These aren’t clicks, they are times when my Ad showed up on someone’s screen. Considering that people do actually Bing stuff (not just Google it), I ended up having my Ad show up a 1000 times in very short order. What they say is a good click response is around 2%. So if your Ad has 100 impressions, you should get 2 clicks on your ad. I’m closer to about .2% which means I’m not very good at this at the moment. By the end of my add run (when I was out of money), I was well up over 1% so it was starting to come together for me.

After about three days of this, I was up to about 17,000 impressions (my Ad showed up 17k times) and 43 clicks. I had also raised my per click amount up significantly on certain keywords and spread the target area out a little bit (it started with just US and Canada, then I spread it to a lot more of the English speaking world). The fourth day (after spreading out the target area) was the first day I reached the $5/day budget I had set. When you reach your per day budget, they just stop showing your Ad. By the end of the fourth day, I was down to about $86 left of the original $100.

At the time of writing this blog, I have not tried out Google Ads, but I hope to in time. When I do I will either update this blog or write a new one for Google Ads.

 

So, how does this help your book promotion?

Well, simple. Set a budget for yourself on how much you want to spend, set up your campaign and away you go! You can use Bing Ads to reach people who are searching for a book like yours.

The nice thing about it is Bing Ads will give you an accounting of how many people have clicked through to your link (perhaps your website or maybe to Amazon so they can buy your book). You can also, however, see what keywords are attracting the most attention. If someone is Binging “exciting new thriller novels” and someone else is Binging “thriller novels,” you might see that “thriller” is popping up as your most useful keyword. For my blog promotion, “writing” was the popular keyword. This is helpful for you to find out what keywords are the most useful for attracting book buyers to your book.

I ended up getting hundreds of “clicks” through to my site through Bing Ads. Since this was free for me, it was worth doing as I didn’t have anything I was trying to sell. Once you have a book you are looking to sell, this may be a worthwhile venture!

What people tend to do is they try to attract interest by the Bing Ads. Your goal is not to take people right to a shopping cart! To do something like that has produced poor results for people. The goal is to take people to a “landing page”. This landing page is a place where information about your product (presumably your book) is provided and interest is peaked so that people can go from there to purchase your book.

So… the way this works is you would use something like Bing Ads to get people to come to your landing page (a page on your site where you show how awesome your book is). Once there, you will hopefully peak people’s interest in your book and you can send them to Amazon or wherever your book is being sold. If you are sending them to Amazon, I would look into Amazon’s Affiliate Program. I will be blogging on this program soon, but until then, you’ll have to look into it yourself. 🙂

The best thing to do is set a relatively small budget and try it out for your book. See if book sales go up!

Caution: I would recommend you set your payment type to “Prepayment”. This way, you pay for an amount of Ads (say $100) and then when that runs out, you have to pay more. If you have it set to “Postpay” (you pay after your Ads are up) and you’re not careful with budgets and so forth, you may find you end up logging into your account and owing a lot of money in advertisement. Make sure you set your budget and Prepay is a smarter way to go.

Comment below with your experiences with Bing or Google Ads.

Shawn

 

Three Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Writing

Three Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Writing

Writing is often so much fun, but it can also be a lot of work. Anyone who writes knows there are times when it is easy to write and times when it is hard.

When it is easy, it is nothing but a joy. Personally, I find writing relaxes me. It allows me to settle my brain down a little bit (sometimes my brain gets a little too jumbled) and I can focus on getting thoughts down on paper… or at least onto my laptop. In just a little bit, I plan on launching into NaNoWriMo–something I’m very excited about. This is both a challenge for me as well as an opportunity to relax and refuel myself. Check out my progress here on this journey as I move through the National Novel Writing Month.

When writing is difficult, we often need to push through, but I think sometimes when we find it hard to write, we should ask certain questions of ourselves. Here are a few:

 

1. Does writing feed into you or take from you?

If you as a writer find that every time you sit down to write it leaves you exhausted, angry, depressed or feeling like you want to hide in a dark place somewhere, you might be involved in something you shouldn’t be involved in. Perhaps you’re writing something you shouldn’t write. Are you dealing with topics that ruin you? Are you empty of ideas and need a break to refuel?

On the other hand, you may find that writing feeds into you. This is what I hope it does for you.
For myself, I have been writing and telling stories for about twenty-five years. I love doing this, but only since my health problems of this past year have I found that writing is something which feeds into my heart. I feel encouraged and excited when I write. I look forward to it, enjoy it and want to do more. Because of that, writing is not a chore. It leaves me excited!

If it feeds into you, go at it! If not… either make some adjustments or take a break for a bit. Writing is not meant to ruin you.

 

2. Are you carving out time for writing?

This is not rocket science. What I’m sharing with you is not overly insightful. It’s just the way it is.

If you want to write, you need to actually write. Find a good place where you enjoy writing and sit down and do it! Do you type on a laptop or write by hand? If you write by hand, find a place where you’re comfortable, have lots of space, can sit up straight and get at it! If you type, find a place that fits with your laptop, desktop computer or… typewriter if you use one.

Sit down and get at it!

Um, you don’t use a typewriter, do you?

 

3. Are you writing about something you love?

I love to write about a few different things.

I love to write fiction. I love to write humor and silly stuff. I also love to create deep, interesting stories. I love writing fiction.

I also love to write about my faith. I’m in the process of working through an idea for a book about God’s care for us which will hopefully see the light of day in the coming years. It’s too early to know what to expect, but I love to write about what I love!

If you’re not writing about something you love… perhaps you need to revisit what you’re doing. No wonder you’re having trouble getting it done!

 

There you have it! Three questions we need to ask ourselves about our writing. What others questions do we need to ask ourselves when we find it hard to write?  Comment below with your thoughts…

Shawn

 

Writing for NaNoWriMo!

Writing for NaNoWriMo!

It’s almost NaNoWriMo time!

That sounded better in my head. Now that I say it out loud I… never mind. It makes me think of Mork and Mindy.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. I know. We have a month for everything or a day for everything. Maybe tomorrow will be National Take a Donut to Work Day.

In November of every year, NaNoWriMo takes place. It’s a time when people around the world sit down and try to pump out an entire novel (50,000+ words) in one month. That sounds like a lot, but if you plan well, work hard and discipline your time, it’s not unrealistic. It works out to less than 1700 words a day. Still a challenge, but doable.

The nice thing is, NaNoWriMo doesn’t require a perfect novel, just a written one. So your 50k novel would, at the end of the month, be a really rough draft.

If it seems like a lot, you can consider that this is only about 70 words an hour or less than a word a minute. If your words are, on average, 8 letters long then you get to take about 6.5 seconds to write each letter. If you worked 24/7, you could use the hunt and peck method to type it up. This is going to be easy!

 

I’ve decided to jump in on NaNoWriMo. I have had my third book in my series (coming 2018) outlined for months now and have been toying with the idea of writing it during NaNoWriMo.

To join in on NaNoWriMo, what you do is register an account on NaNoWriMo’s site and announce your book (sometime in October). There are forums for people in your area and you can encourage one another to keep at it! Sometimes people in a certain area will gather together and have what they call a “write-in”. It’s a chance for people to get together and just type.

While I’m not likely to join in on the write-in, I’m excited about taking on this challenge. I have also been wanting to write the third book in my series and this is a good way to focus in and get it done. One of the challenges to writing is, of course, just getting the book typed up. Once you have it typed up you can start to edit it and move toward publishing, but until you get it typed it’s hard to do all that stuff. NaNoWriMo helps this get done.

If you complete the novel during the 30 days, you get a lot of prizes. To be honest, I don’t see an awful lot of prizes on their list that I’m all that interested in, but I’m more excited about the challenge of trying to get this done. The two prizes which interest me are a 50% off discount on Scrivener (check out this blog on this great software) and IngramSpark is offering a free setup for your book (although I think you might be able to do this with or without NaNoWriMo).

 

So, anyone up for joining me?

In this blog, I’m going to share my progress working through the novel. I have set up goals for myself below, keeping in mind which days are likely to be busier for me and days when I’m likely to have more time to write. I’m hoping to reach the 50,000 word mark by November 27 at the latest. The last few days of the month may end up being catch-up. As I move through, I’ll keep updating my progress below so you can see how the challenge goes. I usually take some holidays in November so I’ll aim to get more written during the second half of the month (holiday time).

Due to some health issues, I’m not always up for writing when I have free time–so that may set me back. At the same time, due to my health issues, often writing functions as a kind of therapy for me. Hopefully that’ll push me ahead.

I’m looking forward to the challenge!

I’m not sure how I’ll do or if I’ll even finish it in time, but here are my goals for November!

 

Goal: 50,000 words

Total written so far: 15,806 words

 

November 1–Day one kickoff!
Goal: 2000 words
Wrote: 5785 words
Total Written: 5785 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  Okay, so I didn’t plan on writing nearly 6k words today.  I got up early to try to get 1000 words written before work and I wrote a lot more than I meant to (something like 2200 words).  Then, this evening I had a lot of time so I managed to get around 3600 words written.  A good start to a great experience!  Two chapters in my third novel finished!  Well… rough draft of the first two chapters.  Very rough.

November 2
Goal: 1700 words
Wrote: 2556 words
Total Written: 8341 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  I found today a little harder to get some time in.  I had an early meeting so I just had some time in the evening and that was split up with some other tasks.  Still having a blast, though!  This is a great experience!

November 3
Goal: 2500 words
Wrote: 2978 words
Total Written: 11,319 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  Today was fun!  I’ve written some short stories based on some bedtime stories I used to tell my sons and I’ve kind of created a bit of a crossover in my series with those bedtime stories.  Today I wrote a chapter that connects up with a couple of the short stories in a big way.  That was a lot of fun.  I’m also noticing that I’m having to “mature” one of my main characters a little bit.  He’s grown a lot in the first two books so I can’t keep going with the same approaches and responses he gave in times past.  It’s a challenge, but fun!

November 4
Goal: 1500 words
Wrote: 2050 words
Total Written: 13,369 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  I really had some fun with this one.  I try to get a good balance between humor and adventure in these books and I think this chapter flowed well with both.  I’m excited about sharing this story with my Alpha Readers to get their feedback!

November 5
Goal: 2000 words
Wrote: 2437 words
Total Written: 15806 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  I passed 15k today!  That’s pretty exciting.  I am aiming for 2500-3000 words per chapter and I’m about half-way through chapter six.  This has been a lot of fun so far.  I’m excited to be way ahead of schedule as I may fall behind this next week.

November 6
Goal: 2000 words
Wrote: 2311 words
Total Written: 18,117 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  This section was a lot of fun!  The characters in the book have to go on a quest to accomplish something (I know… that’s somewhat vague).  In this chapter, they finally set out on this quest.  This brings me to the end of chapter 6!

November 7
Goal: 500 words
Wrote: 662 words
Total Written: 18,779 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  I didn’t have much time today to write, which was fine.  I just squeezed some in at the end of the day to make sure I at least moved forward.  I’m trying, at this point, to exceed my goals every day and so far so good!

November 8
Goal: 2000 words
Wrote: 2051 words
Total Written: 20830 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  Just made it past my goal today… just.  🙂

November 9
Goal: 1700 words
Wrote: 3080 words
Total Written: 23,910 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  Oh, this one was fun!  I had a small idea of something I thought was a little funny that I wanted to throw in and it turned into a major part of this chapter.  I’m happy that I managed to get a lot more written today that I had planned!  An extra nearly 1400 words today!

November 10
Goal: 2500 words
Wrote: 3264 words
Total Written: 27,174 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  Oh, this was a fun one!  One of the things I love about writing is that I never know what will happen in the story!  I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going, but there’s so much in terms of the detail that ends up being a surprise for me.  That was true today.  Some fun stuff showing up in dialogue and in story.

 

Amount I should have written by this point: 18,400 words
Actual amount written by this point: 27,174 words.

I’m ahead of the game!  And I’m passed the half way mark for the 50,000 word goal!

 

November 11
Goal: 1000 words
Wrote: 1322 words
Total Written: 28, 496 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  I love writing.  I find it’s this great adventure when I never know what’s going to happen in the story!  Some fun stuff came out today, although I left it at a spot where I’m not sure how to properly get through the next section.  Looking forward to how this goes!

November 12
Goal: 2000 words
Wrote: 3323 words
Total Written: 31,819 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  Oh, this one was fun.  I had a bit of a challenge part way through as I needed to make a decision if I would reveal something in the story now or closer to the end.  I think I made the right choice.  I think it would have been funnier to reveal it at the end, but I think it was more impactful to reveal it early and deal with it.  I’m really enjoying this book.  I hope others do as well.  🙂

November 13
Goal: 2500 words
Wrote: 3768 words
Total Written: 35,587 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  I ended up writing a lot more than intended today, but had some challenges with how to move forward on certain parts of the story.  I feel like this part is really strong in terms of adventure and in terms of being interesting, but not overly funny.  That’s fine, but I’d like it to be really adventurous and funny.  Can’t we have both?

November 14
Goal: 2500 words
Wrote: 4522 words
Total Written: 40,109 words
Reflections on today’s writing:This was a more difficult day for me as there were many distractions, but I ended up writing a fair amoung!  There was a point where I was ready to stop, but then I realized I was really close to hitting 40k and wanted to reach that point!  Just under 10k words to go to reach the goal of winning NaNoWriMo!  I do, however, think I probably have another 30k words left in the book in order to finish the rough draft.  I have some fun stuff coming up in the story in the coming chapters and can’t wait to get to it!

November 15
Goal: 2000 words
Wrote: 2890 words
Total Written: 42,999 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  Only 7,001 to go to win the NaNoWriMo contest!  Unfortunately, I think I still have about 40k words left to write to finish the story.  I was aiming for 65k words in total for the book, but there’s a lot of fun stuff that just keeps appearing in the book!  This is one of the reasons why I like writing so much.  I never know what’s going to come out of the story and when it does start to come out, it’s fun to see it unfold!

November 16
Goal: 2000 words
Wrote: 3344 words
Total Written: 46,343 words
Reflections on today’s writing: I’m running into some tricky stuff.  There was something funny and suspenseful I was looking to put into the book around this point, but I just can’t seem to figure out how to fit it in.  I think I’ll leave it and try to insert it during the edits.  Not too far from the 50k goal!

November 17
Goal: 2500 words
Wrote: 4240 words
Total Written: 50,583 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  I made it!  50k words!  This was a hard day.  I was really tired, but I wanted to hit the 50k mark before midnight!  I have about another 30k left to write in the book, though, so still along ways to go.

November 18
Goal: 2000 words
Wrote: 2908 words
Total Written: 53,491 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  This was a good day.  Some fun stuff to write, but I think I’ll probably only write a little bit tomorrow.  Too busy of a day.  I’ll likely just write a few hundred words so I’ve at least written something.  I’m loving this, but I think I’m pushing myself too hard with writing.  🙂

November 19
Goal: 1700 words
Wrote: 702 words
Total Written: 54,193 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  I did something today I hadn’t planned on doing.  I decided to not reach my goal for the day.  I wanted to get at least something written, even if it was 100 words, but I decided to take a break.  I’m loving the story and the typing, but I’m averaging nearly 3000 words a day and it’s taking its toll.  Writing typically energizes me and relaxes me, but it was leaving me tired.  This was a good day.  I look forward to getting back at it tomorrow!

November 20
Goal: 2500 words
Wrote: 4065 words
Total Written: 58,258 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  Oh, this was a hard day to write, but a good one.  I made up for what I didn’t get done yesterday and it is still early.  I may even write just a little bit more.  There’s a really cool part coming up in the story that I’ve been looking forward to writing for a while… I might get back to it again this evening…  but, even if I don’t, I was able to validate my novel today in terms of word count.  NaNoWriMo is about trying to write a 50k novel in a month.  You can’t validate that you’ve reached 50k till the 20th, I believe, so I validated my 50k words and I got a certificate!  Pretty cool!  I think I have about 15,000 to 20,000 words left to complete the story, though.  Maybe a bit less…

 

Amount I should have written by this point: 39,100
Actual amount written by this point: 58,258 words.

Woohoo!  Nearly 20k more words than planned!

 

November 21
Goal: 2500 words
Wrote: 10,022 words
Total Written: 68,280 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  So, I’m on a “writer’s retreat” right now by myself.  I’m just focusing on doing a lot of writing.  I didn’t plan on writing over 10k words.  I was going to stop a short while ago, but realized I was just within reach of 10k and didn’t want to pass up the chance to break 10,000 words in one day!  My butt hurts.  I’m tired.  It’s time for bed.

November 22
Goal: 2000 words
Wrote: 961 words
Total Written: 69,326 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  Didn’t get much done today.  The story is being wrapped up.  I think I might only have another 2000-3000 words, unless inspiration hits and I get a few more ideas.  🙂

November 23–My Anniversary… not likely to get too much written
Goal: 500 words
Wrote: 4470 words
Total Written: 73,796 words
Reflections on today’s writing:  This afternoon I finished the rough draft of my book!  It’s done!  Now I have some editing to do before my alpha readers can get at it and help fine-tune it!  I wasn’t planning on doing much writing today, but I woke up REALLY early this morning and got at it!

So, Book III in my series, the rough draft is finished!

 

 

 

Vanity or Subsidy Publishers?

Vanity or Subsidy Publishers?

In a previous blog, I wrote about The Self-Publishing World.  In that blog, we took a moment to see what Self-Publishing has looked like over the years, especially in comparison with Traditional Publishers.  In this blog, however, we want to explore something that is kind of half-way between a Traditional Publisher and full Self-Publishing.

Self-Publishing (or Indie-Publishing) is, simply put, doing it all yourself.  You take care of editing or find an editor.  You take care of cover design or hire an artist.  You do all the setup for your book, arrange printing, make it available for sale and even market your book.

That’s a lot of work.

You can see the attraction of working with a Traditional Publisher on this, can’t you?  Personally, I think it’s still worth it to Self-Publish.  If nothing else, it’s worth it for the adventure alone!

There are, however, companies out there which offer to help you with various parts of the process.

These companies are called Subsidy Publishers or Vanity Publishers.

They will offer many different services.  They will even take your book from the form you have it (perhaps in a fairly rough draft) right through to the published state.  They will offer to help with everything from editing to cover design to marketing!  Sounds great, right?

Subsidy Publishers can offer great services and be a big help, but here are some things to be careful of if you decide to use a Subsidy Publisher:

 

Quality

When a Subsidy Publisher works with your book, you pay them a fee for the work.  This is really different from a Traditional Publisher.  A Traditional Publisher will cover most (typically all) costs associated with your book (unless you personally pay for an editor) to get your book out there.  Because of their investment, they are concerned that your book sells well (they won’t even work with you if they do not think it’ll sell).  They will also be concerned that the product they are putting out there is of high quality.  In other words, they are invested in making sure that your book sells well.

A Subsidy Publisher, on the other hand, has no real investment.  All of their services are paid for by you.  These services can be purchased individually or in packages (advertised as starting around $1000-$1200).  Since YOU are paying THEM for a service, they may not feeling the pressure of their investment (as in the case of a Traditional Publisher).  As such, you need to be careful that the quality you are receiving is up to a high standard.  Look for other authors who have used the specific Subsidy Publisher you are looking at and Google feedback to find out what other authors have to say about this specific company.  Some Subsidy Publishers will be better than others!

Check out things like, quality of printing, their editors, value for money paid, etc.

 

Control

You may find that with a Subsidy Publisher, you can lose a lot of the control you were hoping to have in self-publishing your book.  They may help you design a cool cover, format your book and even get you an ISBN number!  When all is said and done, you may have all that taken care of, but you may have few, if any, actual books in your hand.  From that point on you may have to print them through the Subsidy Publisher and this will likely cost you far more than Createspace or Ingram will charge (and the quality may or may not be of the same standard).

If you decide to take the formatted book and cover and go print it elsewhere, you may find yourself unable to do so.  Your agreement and services with the Subsidy Publisher may have been set up in a way which requires you to continue to work with them (or start fresh).  Be careful to read the fine print.  You may end up spending all this money and be stuck having to work with them or walk away and start over.

You may also find that the ISBN they have provided you with is listed in their name (this is almost a guarantee if they provide the ISBN).  Soooo… if someone orders the book, who do you think gets the order?  If they are listed as the publisher, the orders will continue to go through them.  You will likely receive royalties on this, but perhaps not as large of a royalty as you had hoped.  🙁

 

Cost

Subsidy Publishers are expensive.  They charge a lot for their work.  This is not all bad.  If you find they provide the quality you want and the service you are after and you are willing to pay the price, that’s your call!  Just understand that there are many fees.  Get a clear quote and know what services you are being provided with.  If you don’t understand what a service is, ask.  Do not be surprised if a number of services provided in the package you are looking at are described in a way which is nearly incomprehensible to the average person.

Also… don’t expect many printed books with the services you have purchased.  You could find yourself spending thousands of dollars and walk away with five to twenty-five cool looking printed books.  All your money may have gone to setup fees and editing.  Ask to find out.

 

Marketing and Distribution

Look carefully into this one.  When it comes to a Traditional Publisher, they have the connections and business relationships built over decades.  They know how to advertise and push a book so it is bought and read.  This is why your book will likely sell WAY more copies with a Traditional Publisher than as a Self-Published work.

When it comes to Subsidy Publishers, just because a Marketing (getting word out there about your book) and Distribution (getting the actual book out there) service is provided, does not mean that they have the connections in order to do this.  You may simply find your book added to a list of millions of other books.  That sounds good… till you think it through.  🙂  I would recommend you look into this carefully before spending money on this one.  Some Subsidy Publishers will be better than others.

 

When you SHOULD go with a Subsidy Publisher

If you want someone to take care of all the editing, formatting and publishing work and just want a few copies for family members and close friends, go for it!  A Subsidy Publisher may be just what you’re after–assuming you can afford the cost.

If you are planning on offering your book for many people to buy, I would personally recommend you only hire a Subsidy Publisher for the services you cannot do yourself.  Otherwise, you will find the cost of services may eat up your profits.

If you are going to hire a subsidy publisher to produce your book, get a hold of a number of books they have already produced (yep, buy them off of Amazon or wherever you can find them) and go over them with a fine-tooth comb to ensure the editing is done well, the book print quality is just what you want, the cover art is done well, the formatting is just right, etc.

Here’s my advice.  Subsidy Publishers are not a bad way to go if you’d like someone to do a lot of the work, but if you go with them… do your research!

 

For more information on this, www.thebookdesigner.com has a helpful free guide to get you started on Self-Publishing.  It’s called, “10 Things You Need to Know about Self-Publishing”.  Good read and very helpful!

Here’s a great quote from their guide: “Subsidy publishers make money from selling services to authors, not from selling books to book buyers.”

Keep this in mind.  Subsidy Publishers aren’t all bad, but you have to be careful.  Remember that they are selling a service to you.  I assume you are interested in selling books.  This means that your goals are not aligned so you simply have to be more careful.

Comment below with your thoughts and views on Subsidy Publishers!

Happy Publishing!

 

Shawn

 

 

When Do I Launch My Book?

When Do I Launch My Book?

One of the challenges a self-publisher faces is the question, “When is the best day/month to actually publish/launch my book?” The short answer is… on a Tuesday, on the first day of the month, but not in December.

Simple? The truth is, there’s no perfect day to launch your book. There are, however, better times to publish. Publishing at the right time of year and, perhaps on the right day of the week, can help your initial sales. Here is some information to help you nail down when exactly you might want to get your book out there!

Best day of the week or month:

If you’re in a rush, the answer is probably Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

If you have some time, this is why:

The Traditional Publishers (the big ones… not the self-publishers), typically publish on a Tuesday. Movies usually come out on DVD on that day as well. It seems to be a well accepted day to get new material out and into the hands of people. This day is actually called, “Super Tuesday”. There’s not an awful lot actually super about it. If you want to learn a bit more about why Tuesday is the popular day, I would check out this blog at dearauthor.com.

With that said, there are several things to keep in mind.

First, a lot of self-published authors strongly feel that the best day to get your book out is the moment your book is ready. This makes sense as it means your book is actually out there. Until it’s available for pre-orders or for sale, you can’t actually sell your book (I know… that was profound).

Second, I mentioned Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. For the most part, these are all good days to publish. While Tuesday may be a little more traditional, remember that you are self-publishing and… well… you’re not doing this whole thing the traditional way, are you? One author mentioned they had published on both Monday and Wednesday and had not noticed any difference in sales. Pick your day and go for it!

Third, if you’re wanting to think outside the box, go for it! I just would not recommend you publish on a weekend. Typically the weekend is too busy of a time and your book can get lost in the shuffle of everything going on. One author I read liked publishing on a Sunday night. Perhaps that would work well, but why not wait till Monday morning?

Fourth, some prefer to publish not on a specific day of the week, but on a specific day of the month. Specifically, you might publish on the 1st of the month. Part of the argument for this is that people have just been paid and have more money to spend (and therefore willing to spend it). I don’t know how much that affects sales, but here is a point to consider. If you’re aiming for the 1st of the month, try to line it up with a month that has the 1st on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. 🙂

Best time of the year:

If you’re in a rush, the answer is probably January-February or June to July.

If you have some time, this is why:

August is not ideal for two reasons. First, people are often away and things are quiet. This can actually work to your advantage as people travelling will often want books to read, but you might want to back up your launch to July. The other problem with August is that media outlets are sometimes a little slower in their reponses. This is a problem if you are hoping to advertise or have them review your book.

If you’re thinking of December, Christmas time is a terrible time for a self-publisher to release a book. Christmas is a big time for sales in general, but not ideal for your first book launch. It’s a time when people are focused on Christmas and were just focused on Thanksgiving (in the US). They are not focused on you and your book.

Consider this: when was the last time you bought a fiction book for someone as a gift for Christmas? What was the book? It was likely by an author either you already read or by an author you know they read, right? If you are a new author who is not established and do not yet have a following of people who buy every book you write (other than your mom), your book will not likely sell well at Christmas time. Perhaps try to publish a few books first before hitting that time of year.

Now, there are some books which will do well at Christmas (in addition to bestsellers by already famous authors). If your book is Christmas related, that will certainly help, but publish it prior to December 1. There is also a demand for cooking books, certain self-help books and quizzes/novelty books at Christmas time (again, publish before December 1).

Ultimately, December is the realm of the traditional publishers. They have books they are promoting in a big way to people and those books sell like crazy. It’s not impossible to launch in December, it just may not be the best time for a self-publisher.

One more thing to consider about Christmas time. Remember that not only is it a typically busy time for you, but it is also likely a busy time for everyone else–including all your support. You may need some help with Createspace and you may find them a little more sluggish in their responses. You may need some help with marketing, but those you are relying on are busy not only with work, but also with family commitments. Keep this in mind. Christmas is not a good time to get stuff done.

Okay, so there are two months when you shouldn’t publish. There are also some months which are likely neither good or bad to publish. So, when is the best time to publish?

January to February:

The winter is a good time because in colder climates (I’m in Canada), people may spend more time inside reading during January and February. Many people may also have received new tablets or e-readers or Amazon gift cards and might be looking for a new book to read. Not a bad time for book sales! January is often considered the best time for self-publishers to launch their new book.

February is also a good time as people have settled from Christmas and, hopefully, paid off some or all of their Christmas credit card bills. People are looking for something new and exciting. If you are more south, it may be getting warmer. If you are more north, people are growing stir-crazy with the cold and snow. Why not buy a book by an awesome new self-publisher?

June to July:

The other time to consider is summer. In one sense, this seems odd. Why would people buy books in summer? Summer is actually one of the biggest times of the year for book sales! A lot of people vacation in the summer months and that’s the perfect time to get some reading in!

Here’s what I’m looking at for publishing next year and you’ll see that I’m paying some attention to the information in this blog and ignoring some as well. They are my books, I can publish when I want. 🙂 These dates are tentative and may change. I’m not yet releasing the names of the books as I have not settled on the subtitle of the books:

Book One – April 2, 2018 (Monday)
Book Two – June 4, 2018 (Monday)
Book Three – November 5 or 12, 2018 (Mondays)

I have some reasons for publishing on these dates. Part of this has to do with the Book Launch teams I want to run and the timing that requires. Part of this has to do with the fact that I want them all published in 2018. There are some other reasons as well. If you look below, you’ll notice that book two actually falls neatly in the best time of year to publish an adventure book (while books 1 & 3 simply do not).

In terms of times of the year for publishing specific genres, here is some info taken from selfpublishingadvice.org and blog.bookbaby.com (the recommendations from these two sites were almost identical):

January – April: Romance, Self-help, Business, Cooking, Design
May – August: Adventure, Fantasy, Travel
September – November: Academic, Horror, Paranormal
December – January: Children, Cookery, Illustrated, Quiz, Dictionaries, Novelty and quirky fun books.

Two more matters

First, if you’re working through all this information and still can’t figure out the best time to publish, consider this: books are available for sale all around the world, 24 hours a day. This means if you publish at a bad time for the Western world, it may not be a bad time for, say, India which has many English readers. Remember that the Western World is only a part of this planet. So what if you publish at a bad time for, say, the US, but sales go wild in Asia and take a couple days or a number of weeks to catch up in the US. You will still have sold a lot of books. For example, India has a LOT of readers and many read in English. Check out this article at business-standard.com for more information.

Second, keep in mind that the specific day you publish isn’t really important if you haven’t promoted your book. If you’ve promoted your book well and people can’t wait to buy it… I’m not sure it matters what day you launch it. Promotion is, by far, the key here. The day of the week/month and the time of the year is simply something that will enhance your sales.

At a later date, I hope to post about doing pre-orders for your books, but until then, happy publishing!

Comment below with your thoughts and ideas about all this!

Shawn

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