Targeting genre

Joe’s Post #158

cs lakinToday, I want to repost an article by one of our followers. C.S. Lakin.

Actually, I could probably repost about 10 of hers as she is one hell of a blogger. No. Seriously. She rocks.

Now, this is a bit ahead of where we 5/5/5 are at currently, but I love reading about what to do when we reach the publishing stage. It’s like chocolate for the soul. Keeps me thinking about the future and not the past.

If you want, please check out her other articles here on Linkedin. Or here on facebook.

cs lakin bookOr, check out her website. It’s amazingly well done. I am super envious of her abilities. She won the 2015 award for being one of the top 10 blogs for writers, and one look at her site or her posts and you’ll see why. She’s good. Very, very good.

She also has a newsletter that’s worth signing up for and a few pretty cool books, even, dare I say it, quite a few novels.

Anyway, here is the article.

Targeting Genre Using the KDSPY Chrome Tool

I always wondered just how much genre had to do with a novel’s success, and when I did my “experiment” a couple of years ago by writing in a genre that purportedly “sold itself,” I proved to myself (and perhaps to many others) that genre really matters. (If you didn’t read my blog post on The Book Designer that went viral in the writing world, take a look at it here. )

My aim was to write a novel that carefully fit a big-selling genre and see if it would sell with little effort on my part. I used a pen name, and although I did a little bit of marketing—similar to what a new author would do—I was astounded by the sales I saw. Way more than all the sales I got from my other half dozen self-published novels.

Whether You’re in It for the Money or Not

You might not care about making money off your books. But some of us have families to support and bills to pay. I felt guilty for years writing novel after novel that didn’t sell, “wasting precious time” (my assessment) when I could have been working at Wal-Mart for minimum wage and at least bringing some money in.

Before throwing in the towel and giving up what I loved most—writing novels—I decided to give this writing life one last-ditch desperate effort. I promised myself that if this new book I planned to write did not make me any money, I would never write another novel again (believe me, this wasn’t the first time I vowed this, but I really meant it this time!).

You may be in a situation to write whatever you want, regardless of market potential. You may not need the money. You may, like me, love experimenting and mixing genres and fleshing out those crazy ideas and structures you know probably won’t turn into best sellers.

For you, maybe it’s not about the money. Maybe you want the recognition. You want lots of super fans and for your peers to acknowledge what a great writer you are. Most of us want this, regardless of profession. We want to be recognized for our talents and abilities. We want to feel successful, that all our hard work shows. I don’t believe there is anything at all wrong with this. We need validation and to be encouraged by results. We don’t want to feel like failures.

So regardless of the reason, you might want to achieve some success with your book sales. And targeting genre is a great way to do it.

The Difficulty in Researching Hot Genres

In the aftermath of my viral post on targeting genre, a lot of writers contacted me and asked me how they could figure out which subgenres sold the best. I knew basically that some general genres sold well on Kindle: romance, mysteries, suspense, fantasy. But those are very general categories, and the niche I targeted was a very specific subgenre.

I asked experts in marketing what their thoughts were on this, and basically, after all my research, I came up with a blank. The bottom line is it would take a lot of participating in K-Boards and Goodreads discussions to find the threads that showed readers decrying a lack of novels in their subgenre.

This implies greater demand than supply. Which is a factor in big sales, to me. If there are a gazillion readers clamoring for books in a certain subgenre, and there aren’t all that many books being released, those few authors are cashing in. This is what I see in the sweet Western Historical Romance subgenre (although now the competition is growing—probably the result of my blog post!).

The Best Tool I’ve Seen for Authors

So imagine the thrill I felt when I learned about KDSPY. It was exactly the app I needed to uncover all the info—accurate data, not guesses—on which subgenres sold well and why.

Called “The Ultimate Kindle Spy Tool,” KDSPY is probably one of the most valuable tools an indie author can utilize. This unique software application essentially reverse engineers the Kindle marketplace and shows you which niches sell well, which have much or little competition, and how much revenue the top-selling books in that niche have made in the last thirty days.

There are so many features that I love with this app:

  • It’s easy (and inexpensive!) to load and use, and integrates into your browser for easy access.
  • It gives you gobs of pertinent info that will help you determine what niches are selling.
  • It allows you to look at any author’s page and see her actual book sales and rankings for every book she has on Kindle for the last thirty days.
  • It shows you the main keywords used by the author for a particular book (which is also broken down by use in title and in description).
  • In seconds, sometimes with just one click, you can see a wide landscape regarding genre and revenue, helping you make marketing decisions for your book. Or helping you decide what your next book will be.

And, once you’ve gathered data for the category you’re interested in, you can click on the keyword button that will give you a word cloud that shows all the words that the best-selling books use in their titles and descriptions.

Why is this great? Because this data can help you tailor what you write, or market what you’ve already written, by giving you proof (not claims) of what’s already working for other Kindle publishers. KDSPY shows you the best-selling niches to go after, and even shows you the words to use in your book titles.

One Way This App Helped Me

Here’s just one example of how this tool helped me make a decision. I write historical Western romances. I spent time researching using KDSPY checking the best-selling titles and their keywords, wondering just which keywords and categories would be best for my books.

Since my books could go in the inspirational romance category (because my characters do express their faith, attend church, and pray), I wondered if I should choose that as one of my two categories on Kindle. When I peeked at the best-selling titles and authors in my subgenre and compared the general market sales and competition to the inspirational market sales and competition, there was a huge difference. Overall, the inspirational market monthly sales revenue for a best-selling book was about one-tenth of the general market. I decided not to use that category, since it was clear the market I’d be targeting was smaller and afforded less opportunity for big sales.

Other Perks

Another thing I found very helpful with KDSPY were the short video tutorials on the site that showed me exactly how I could effectively use this tool. There are so many other ways you can benefit. For example, you can use the book-tracking feature to tag certain books and track their sales via a daily sales rank and revenue chart.

You can imagine how useful this is when looking at your competition. You can track your own books as well to examine the results of your marketing efforts, or to see if your sales go up and down when you change your keywords.

I am continually shocked to see how few sales many best-selling authors are currently experiencing, or how only one book in their arsenal is making a killing, whereas their other book sales are flat. In contrast, some first-time authors are making big five-figure sales per month per book. I wanted to know why and how. This app gives me insights into their success.

Of course this is only showing you Kindle sales and not print sales, or sales from any other online venues. But Kindle accounts for most authors’ sales these days, and for me, this is the data I need, that will most help me in my book sales.

KDSPY is a Chrome browser extension that is compatible with PC and Macs. Firefox supports this app as well, but at this time, these are the only two browsers you can use. All the data is exportable so you can put the results in a folder to refer to.

This app is great for both fiction and nonfiction books, and while it’s not useable in every country, KDSPY has now been opened up to allow results to be pulled from the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. The customer support is excellent, which means a lot to me.

The cost at the time of this post for this app is only $47 US. I feel it’s one of the best investments for authors, worth way more than this. I’ve never promoted a product on my website, so that should tell you something about how valuable I think this tool is. GET YOURS HERE! and start benefitting from this amazing tool. And I’d love to hear how it’s helping you sell more books!


Pretty cool stuff, right?

Here’s a quick bio for her.


Me and Coaltrane

I’m a novelist, a copyeditor, a writing coach, a mom, a backpacker, and a whole bunch of other things.

I write novels in various genres and help writers at my blog

I teach workshops on the writing craft at writers’ conferences and retreats. If your writers’ group would like to have me teach,drop me a line. I live in California, near San Francisco, just so you know how far away I am from you and your writer friends. I also enjoy guest blogging, so contact me if you’d like me to write a post on writing, editing, or Labrador retrievers (just threw that in there; I’m not an expert but I love them). I am, however, quite the expert on pygmy goats. I ran a commercial pygmy goat farm for ten years and delivered a lot of kids! So, if you need some goat advice, I’m your gal.


How a writing group travels apart and stays connected

Karalee’s Post #112

gardening trellis

Last week I was in the East Kootenays helping friends and family with their spring gardening. They have had such storms over the winter that, they had to consider many a greenhouse glass replacement option, I helped them with that.  I’ve also ventured back into the working world again where I’m having a great time meeting new people and reconnecting with others I haven’t seen for years.

This means that at the moment my retired physiotherapist and stay-at-home-mom life has changed. Relegating my time has changed too.

I chose this new path. Why?

Writing is a solitary activity, even if my comfy-zone workplace (as Silk puts it), is pretty good. I craved a change and stumbled onto an amazing company with an amazing product (Nerium International) that gave me the opportunity that absolutely requires getting out of the house and meeting new people and stretching me beyond my comfort zone!

I’ve come to realize I’m more social than I thought. Now that my children are flapping their adult wings, I want more challenges in my life. The prospect of becoming a respected published author is still in my sights, but I’m craving something more immediate and more tangible. And augmenting my retirement fund is a bonus.

Turtle LakeMaybe some of it is missing the face-to-face get-together support and critiquing from our 5Writers. Over the last five years our group has gone from meeting monthly, to well, not meeting much at all. Our lives have changed as most people’s do, and we’ve become separated seasonally, geographically, and with family circumstances.

We’ve become a traveling-in-5-different-directions writing group!

It is difficult enough to write while on the move  and even more difficult to round us up to remain a cohesive group.

But that is what the 5Writers have done. We’re determined to stay together and we’ve morphed from the physical to the virtual, which has become a “real” connecting point for us. So much so that we are embracing the blessings of (rather than cursing the time-draining aspect of) the internet. Our blog, social media, and email are keeping us together, traveling over the wavelengths around the globe.

Oh, it hasn’t been easy when we all strive to, and would still prefer to, come together face-to-face. Just ask Silk!

Imagine getting five strong-willed, mobile, opinionated and independent people to send their suggestions to one another, read them and resend, etc. It felt like we were trying to glue air to something. Somehow we had to decide how to work as a virtual group.

But with a lawyer in our midst and another very strong list-maker and mediator, we have been able to put our intentions into writing (pun intended). I believe our connecting points work because of our already-made relationships, much like how characters relate with one another in our stories.  We know each other’s back-stories, and that knowledge allows a deeper understanding and sharing between us.

Very cool!

We write to each other every week, a Monday morning “coffee” check-in that sometimes stretches to a late night whisky shot or occasionally a next-day grovelling check-in (me…).

Heck, every Monday is more than our former once a month face-to-face! I see it like the old-fashioned letter writing. There is a delayed response in our interactions, but it is still real communicating.

The traveling 5Writers write to meet-up!

How does your group stay connected?


Writing Progress: Writing is in my blood and there’s not a day that goes by without me thinking about one of my stories. Our retreat in June will get me back on track.

Books I’m reading: The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

What I’ve learned: 

  • being outside my comfort zone can be either terrifying or exhilarating and I can choose which direction to take.
  • being grateful for all the positives in my life can keep my life in balance. My son was in a car accident last week. Everyone was okay and I concentrated on that rather than any negatives or what if’s.
  • I think about my writing and my story frequently!
  • my dogs really miss me when I’m gone.

Perspective Photos:

helmet reflection







water glasses









Happy writing!

Writing a story like an 8-year-old

Joe’s Post #125

writers blockOk, so as I struggle to get writing back in my life, as I overcome all the barriers I have largely put in my own way, the youngest brings home a story he’d written. He’s 8.

Like me, he’d spelled a few things incorrectly and, like me, his grammar was kinda hit and miss in a few areas.

But he’d written a whole story, found an amazing picture for the header (even looked up how to do a header) and somehow managed to type it all out. Now, you have to understand that at his age (for some reason), they are not taught typing. So to get a page done, he would have had to use two fingers, learn about fonts and paragraphing, then figure out how to get the words out of his head and on to the page.

And he did.

It was a great story, too, combining his two most favourite things in the world. 5 Nights at Freddy’s and Mario.

Lemme back up a bit, give you some context.

5 Nights at Freddy’s (1) is an apps game, a massively successful one, where you are a security guard, at night, trying to fend off unbelievably spooky animatronic animals that have malfunctioned. Oh momma, is this game scary. You have only limited power to keep the lights on and have to track all the animatronics on the security cameras. One mistake and they jump in your face and kill you.

It’s an amazing game with a detailed and complex backstory so deep that someone could make a movie about it. Or write a story.

So, that’s what he decided to do. He didn’t know about plot arcs or character development or theme or stakes or anything. He just sat down and wrote it. With Mario as the security guard. You know, Mario? From Super Mario fame?IMG_6559

Hey, that’s what they do in Hollywood. Mix and mash.

I loved the story in the way only a struggling writer could love a story. It was writing in its purest form. Writing for fun. Writing to entertain. Writing because something inspired you and you needed to tell THAT story.

Oh holy hell, how could I have forgotten that pure pleasure? How could I have gotten so lost in all the techniques and advice.

It’s easy, really.

Lack of success will force you to try to figure out what you’re doing wrong. How you could do better.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s not about the technical aspects of the story as much as getting it on the page because you want to get it on the page, written not for an editor or a market, but for yourself, your friends and your family.

It’s why I love blogging. It’s a purity of writing. It’s fun.

Now, how do I write my novel with that same sense of fun, like I was 8, again?

I’ll have some more thoughts next week.


Best show last week – The Fallen, with Gillian AndersonBest serial killer in a while. Nothing flashy, but dead creepy.

Book that I’m reading at the moment – Alan Furst’s, Mission to Paris. About a movie star to goes to France in 1938 to counter the German intelligence machine set up there.

Pages written on new book  30 (oh so painfully slow, but still going.)

Social Media update – What in the world is kik? I had to look it up. And Tinder and snapchat? and… and, oh forget it, i’ll just keep doing what I do here..

Health Ok, never try to play soccer with an 8 year old if you haven’t run in, like, 10 years. It’ll cripple you for days.

Best thing last week  Yet another amazing dinner for Ukrainian Christmas. So much for losing weight.

Worst thing  Pain. Or maybe old age. But you can forget how many muscles you have until you pretty much hurt them all.

Surrey International Writers Conference – social media

Joe’s Post #116

Ok, so there’s like twitter and linkedin and tumbler and blogs and youtube and something called vines and snap chat and *head explodes*.

dressupNow, understand that I grew up in a world where we had to actually get up off the sofa to change the channel from Mr. Dressup on the CBC to whatever the heck the other channel was, where our phones were connected to a wall, where computers that now fit in our iphones filled entire buildings, and where we read newspapers to get our news.

So all this new technology and social media is a bit of a challenge, especially for a writer trying to figure out how to expand his online presence.

Fear not! On Friday, I had a lot of this explained to me.

I want to thank Sean Cranbury, Sarah Wendell, Chuck Wendig and KC Dyer for helping demystify it all and make it all seem possible.sarah So let me condense what I learned. First from Sarah Wendell. She said simply, remember this is SOCIAL media. Be social. Be authentic. Be generous. Be consistent.

It’s the generous part I’ve not done a good job at. Being on social media is about connecting and I think I’ve been more about entertaining (even if I failed at it) than connecting. I’ll try to do better.

She also said that writers may have to find their readers in different areas of social media. Joining a FB group that talks about Justin Bieber would be a great place to go if you want to sell a book about the death of an annoying boybrat. Ok, just kidding, it would be a great place to go if you were writing about him, but less so if you were writing and wanting to comment about the state of affairs in Iraq.

See, every form of social media has an audience. Know who that audience is. Within that media, there are groups. Find those groups. But don’t just connect to sell a book. Connect to connect. Connect to be social.

ce9f6e7f0564dc2ff07723effcd89b2c_biggerSean Cranbury said the same thing when I had the great pleasure of chatting with him for 20 minutes.  His advice, give to the community. The writing community. The reading community. The book community. Make a difference in people’s lives.

Be social.

Hard for an introvert to hear. Harder for one to do.

But I’ll try.

Lastly, when the three titans gathered on a panel, we all were given more boat-loads of great advice. Let me share a few of them.

  • Be the best version of yourself online.
  • Don’t ever buy mailing lists, make the connections yourself.
  • Follow, watch and see how great communicators do it. On twitter, try following comedians. They’ve learned how to be funny in 140 characters.
  • Social media should never be an obligation. Do it because you want to do it. If you don’t want to, then hey, don’t do it.
  • Listen.
  •  Promotion is not a dirty word. Sometimes it’s nice to know when you have a book out or what you’re reading. It’s ok. Just don’t do it as your only thing – then it’s just noise.
  • Talk about other people’s books more than your own. Be authentic.
  • On FB you are the commodity. No problem with that, just realize it.

I hope that helps out a bit. All of this is a good place to start. I still have a lot more to learn but somehow it doesn’t seem that scary anymore.

Blogs to check out:

Felicia Day – (from The Guild). Funny. Honest.

Sarah Wendell – So much cool stuff here and a great example of a successful blog. She’ll make you lol for real.

Chuck Wendig  – Love him or hate him, he’ll get you thinking and laughing.

Sean Cranbury – (and a host of other links accessable from his website). A wow site.

Best Twitter recommendations… all the above. Plus John Oliver. Sarah Silverman.

New word of the day. Dickbar (thanks Sean Cranbury). Ok a second one. Doxing. (It’s basically punishing people you disagree with online by publishing their home addresses for everyone to see.)

Some of the best tweets, check out #siwc14 or siwc2014:

Submit your work. You’re already unpublished; the worst that can happen is that you stay that way. quotes

“It tastes like dead Druids.” Scotch, with ”.

Information Doesn’t Want to be Free, ‘s keynote at cc:

Have a great writing week!

Tomorrow I write!





Pitching self-published novels to agents

Will an agent represent a book you’ve self-published?

It’s one of the things I’ve wondered about. Like could you stuff an entire apple in your mouth? But since this is a writing blog, I went looking for an answer to ‘how to pitch self-published novels to agents or editors’.

Here’s a blog that talks about it. My thoughts are afterwards. It’s from Writer’s Digest.


How to Pitch Your Self-Published Book to an Agent

chuckMany writers who’ve self-published a book for one reason or another get to a point where they want the book to be taken to the next level and see a widespread, traditional release. This is the point where they may contact a literary agent for representation. So with that in mind, I want to help explain some of the necessary basics about how to pitch a self-published book to an agent.

What Constitutes a Self-Published Book?

If you’re wondering what types of books fall under the umbrella of “self-publishing,” the answer is any book where the decision to publish the book was the author’s alone, the transaction involved the author paying any upfront costs for services, and the book is available for viewing/purchase now. This includes:

  • E-publishing—such as Smashwords and CreateSpace.
  • Vanity presses.
  • Print-on-Demand (P.O.D.) publishers.
  • Book printers.

Basically, if you think your book falls under the umbrella of “self-published” books, then it almost certainly does, and that means you must pitch it as one and disclose to the agent (or editor) that it is already available for purchase. If you self-pub the book, and it has virtually no sales, it is still considered self-published, even if the masses have not discovered it yet.

How to Pitch a Self-Published Book

If you want to pitch a self-published book to a literary agent, you have to immediately understand that you have a tougher submission road than others. That’s because when agents review a query for an unpublished novel, they’re looking for voice and story. When agents review a query for a self-published novel, they’re looking for voice and story—and they’re also looking for one or several good reasons as to why this book deserves a second life via traditional publishing. Agents look for factors that hint at money and success. You are trying to show that your book is head and shoulders above the other million items that are self-published each year, and thus it demands fresh attention. So here are 4 elements to include in a query letter for your self-published book that can impress an agent:

  1. Sales numbers. How many copies has the book sold? And by sold, I don’t mean free downloads. I mean how many copies you’ve sold for money. How many print books? How many e-books? (And since it’s assumed e-books are usually downloaded at $0.99, have wording in your query if the price was higher—such as $2.99 or $6.99.) “Impressive” sales numbers will differ from agent to agent, but you shouldn’t query before you’ve sold at least 2,000-3,000 print books or 10,000-20,000 e-books.
  2. Awards and any recognition. Did it make any online “best of” lists? Did it reach No. 1 in any category bestseller lists on Amazon? Has it collected any accolades that vouch for its content and quality? Such recognition could be a local honor, or a niche fiction award, or anything else.
  3. High-profile endorsements or blurbs. Since your book’s release, has it attracted the attention of any notable authors, politicians, celebrities, organizations, or person of interest? If so, whom? What did they say about the book? A blurb from a recognizable name or large group is a great marketing tool, and agents know this.
  4. Media attention or reviews. Has your book received a review in any mainstream publications or media outlets, such as morning TV shows (local or otherwise), newspapers, magazines, or notable blogs? If so, explain some of the greatest hits. Please keep in mind that Amazon reviews do not count.

Will an Agent Find Your Self-Published Book and Contact You?

A deep hope within authors is that, after a book is self-published and available for purchase, a literary agent will come across the work and come a-calling. Does this happen? Occasionally. Does this happen with any degree of regularity? No.

Some agents make an effort to scan through Amazon’s e-book bestseller lists and find hidden gems that are blowing up the charts. In fact, this happened to Couleen Houck, author of Tiger’s Curse. After she e-published her book and spread the word to friends, it remarkably made its way to the No. 1 spot on the Kindle children’s bestseller lists for seven straight weeks.

Getting to that spot for just one week would have been impressive, but seven straight weeks is quite amazing. Says Houck: “Costco contacted me about selling my series in some of their stores. I was contacted by China, Thailand, and Korea to see if the translation rights had been sold. A film producer e-mailed me. My world was spinning when a literary agent contacted me. He said he’d found me on Amazon and was impressed with my reviews. Two days later I had representation. Within a few weeks, I had a [traditional] book deal.”

So, as Houck’s success story shows, this possible path to publication can indeed happen, but it’s a rarity in a marketplace glutted with self-published works. And don’t forget Houck’s book was huge—and your book is likely not selling at the stratospheric levels hers was. So don’t just e-mail an agent and say, “Check out my book! [Amazon hyperlink] IT’S THE BOMB!” Understand that you’re not yet at a level where it’s that easy. Entice the agent by mentioning sales figures, pricing details, media attention, endorsements, awards and more for your book. These items don’t come quickly or easily, but including them in your query letter will immediately make your work stand out among other self-published books.

Literary Agents Sound Off on Reading Pitches for Self-Published Books

“Oftentimes a self-published author will just send a link for me to look at, which I never click, or they don’t send the book in a Word doc or PDF for me to evaluate. In addition, authors aren’t immediately transparent on sales or download info. I find self-published authors make me work too hard for the information I need. For self-published authors to get my attention, I need transparency around sales and download figures, and want a straightforward and professional query without buy links or embedded images. Don’t make me work to get the information.”

Elizabeth Kracht (Kimberley Cameron & Associates)

“My thoughts for self-pub are similar to any type of query as far as the pitch itself. It should be clear, concise, compelling (we’ll call it the 3 c’s!) and well written. As far as the self-pub background, I need to know the realities of the publication history, even if that means it’s only sold 300 copies in 4 months. Frankly, if the sales are low, I’d prefer to see a pitch for a new book—and not one that’s part of a series from the first one.”

Stacey Glick (Dystel & Goderich)

“The good news: The stigma of vanity publishing and self-published books not being good enough has been proven false by the ‘Kindle Millionaires’ and other self-published authors who are making a comfortable living going it alone. The bad news: The expectations of a self-published author are higher than they’ve ever been, both in sales numbers and in social media marketing muscle. When I receive a query from someone who has self-published a book, I want to know how many books you’ve sold yourself, how extensive is your social media presence (I will Google you!), and what your future plans are. If you’ve published the first book in a series, don’t pitch me the second because zero publishers will be interested in publishing your sequel if they don’t have the first book. And don’t tell me that you’re looking for an agent because you haven’t sold very many self-published books and you want a publisher to help you accomplish that. They are going to run into the same obstacles you are. Self-published authors need to self-write, self-produce, self-market and self-sell. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

Laurie McLean (Foreword Literary)


Personally, I think there’s a lot of junk that’s being self-published. Not that there aren’t some gems, but the trick for anyone going this route will be to separate themselves from the crowd.

How to you reach your target audience? How does anyone find you? How do you market your books on a larger scale? How do you build a following? How do you create ‘buzz’?

Also, I think this article hits home about being a professional. You want to make it in self-publishing? Boy you better know how to work sales, social media, and be largely successful WITHOUT representation. You also should know how to present yourself to agents or editors.

dexterIt’s not unlike the traditional route. There are ways to succeed and ways to ensure failure. Sending a query in written in your own blood, probably not a good idea. Threatening someone, well, yeah, that’s just psycho. Mass queries addressed to ‘to whom it may concern’ or ‘dear sir/madam’ just show you haven’t taken the time to know how to be a professional about it.

But look at that article hard and you see it’s saying that self-publishing success comes with a LOT of work. More work than traditional publishing. Look at the past posts from people who’ve been there and done that.



Self publishing – 10 things to know

Joe’s Post #107 – The More I Learn, the More I Know I Don’t Know (or something like that)

From PBS

From PBS

Having read a bit on the whole self-publishing thing, I have come to one conclusion. I need to read a lot more.

Here are a few things that I need to know more about.

Call it a top 10.

  1. Understand my rights and copyright. This is, like, lawyer stuff. Lots of big words and long sentences. This is going to be hard.
  2. Understand social media marketing more than I do. I need to know how to build audiences, get traffic to a site, and figure out this damned twitter thing.
  3. Read up on publishing options and houses that do that kind of stuff.
  4. isbnUnderstand getting and using ISBNs. I don’t even have a clue about those things, yet.
  5. Understand marketing way better than I do right now. I think most of my family will buy my book, but that’s about it. I need to find a way to market it to about a billion Chinese.
  6. Read up on the technical aspects of publishing, from formatting to layouts and fonts to computer programs and platforms. And all that design stuff. Cover. Back-cover. Art.
  7. I am the world’s worst editor (especially of my own stuff). I’ll need to find someone to help me with this.
  8. Learn how to negotiate. I can barely get someone to add extra cheese to my pizza without a surcharge, so this is going to be a toughie.
  9. I need to figure out this whole pricing thing. How much is my book worth? I’m thinking that I’ll charge $1,000,000 for one and hope like hell just one person buys it. All I need is one person.
  10. Go and talk to people who own book stores and actually buy local authors. Do these people still exist? I’ll try to find out.

But more importantly, the one thing I absolutely MUST do is write!


But I tell you, there’s a lot to learn. A lot.

Sorry there’s not a lot of answers, yet. This process is just beginning.

More coming.

Any thoughts from others?

Seven ways for writers to use Twitter

Karalee’s Post #71 — I met with my fellow 5Writer Joe this week. He asked me to share what I knew about using Twitter. It’s not that I know a lot, rather my husband David Greer is a computer geek that has embraced social media of all kinds since, well, forever. He’s an early adopter and for some reason Joe feels that since I live with a geek, some of the geekiness will rub onto me.

It has in some ways and I want to share what I know about Twitter and how writers can use Twitter in an interesting and engaging way (rather than it being a complete chore) that also increases your profile and the number of potential readers for your books.

Within the last year Twitter put the brakes on the automated following and unfollowing programs many people were using to obtain literally thousands of new followers in a short period of time. I had used one of these automated programming interfaces (API’s) too and the number of followers seemed to be what everyone was after. But, to me, it didn’t make much sense since none of those “people” knew me, or me them. Thousands of tweets flew by on my timeline every day and I really didn’t know what to make of them and how they could help me with my writer’s profile in a marketing sense.

So how do I interact with all these followers, and without API’s, how do I continue to gain followers?

Talking to my geeky husband that is also a marketing expert, he enlightened me that I need to let the Twitter world know who I am on a regular basis and offer something that is interesting and useful to my followers.

How do I do that? Does that mean that I need to be more selective in who I follow? These are my helpful hints you may want to consider:

1. Find the type of people that you want to follow and that you want following you. Twitter search subjectFor writers that could be agents and authors, but it is also important to follow people that have other interests of yours such as gardening, photography, pets, etc. This encourages more potential readers for you. To find them, do a search in Twitter and look at profiles and follow people that interest you. Note: this does take time.





2. Tweet something interesting every day. Many people develop a tag for themselves such as  using a quote, sending a picture, a daily suggestion, etc. This is one way to let your followers get to know what you like or how you think, etc.

3. Twitter your own blog posts.

4. Read other people’s blogs and discover ones that interest you and are professional and well-written enough for you to want to tweet them. You can set up an automatic tweet for all the new posts from their blogs. (My geeky husband did this for me. Thanks!)

Note: you can also set it up to automatically Facebook to your friends too.





5. Reply to people that retweet and/or favorite one of your tweets. These messages are found under Twitter’s ‘Notifications.’

twitter notificationsThis is a great way to establish a relationship with individual followers. In turn it encourages them to retweet your information to their followers, which increases the potential for more followers for you, etc, etc.






6. Retweet your follower’s tweets that interest you. This helps to connect with your followers too and adds to the potential for new followers (refer to number 5 above). For writers this is a great way to connect with agents, and if they are using Twitter as a connection point in the social media world, they will become aware of you.

7. Take time every day or so to look at the profiles of new people following you and see if you want to follow them too. To find your new followers, look under ‘Notifications’ as in number 5 above. Also look under ‘Me’ and scroll down and have a look at ‘Who to follow’ since the Twitter app suggests people with similar interests.

To help make tweeting a habit for you, you may want to check out Becky Robinson’s blog called Weaving Influence. In her Resources section she has a book to help you increase your Twitter traffic and it is also available on Amazon.

Product Details

Becky works with authors and leaders to increase their online influence and promote their books too.

Happy tweeting!


Amazing blogging advice

Joe’s Post #73

I want some. Amazing blogging advice, that is.

IMG_0831Not that I can’t find lots on the internet. There was one that boosted 101 ideas. Writer’s Digest had a few suggestions. My dog, Vegas, had some thoughts as well though they mostly involved pictures of her looking all princessie.

There are widgets and gadgets and add-ons and plug-ins. I hear I should know my audience, that I have to be savvy in social media, that pictures are a must, that guest blogging helps, that I should write in a good voice and write a lot and…

Well, you get the idea.

Thing is… there is almost too much information. 

In the end, all I want to do is write. And by writing, be read. I love writing about movies, my travel adventures, and (of course) writing. But is that good enough?

So I want to throw it out there.

Party shoes - black high heeled courts with gold ankle strap by Zara

What makes you read a blog?

If you have a blog, what works for you?

In the meantime, something for my audience.

Maybe I should write more about shoes. Or Johnny Depp.


The return of the blogbots

Joe’s Post #33 — I may be the only one in the universe who gets a kick out of all the spam, but I do. I really do. I love my blogbots. They make me smile. The make me giggle. They make me want to become a blogbot one day.

So, in absense of anything substantial to say this week, I will let my blogbots speak for me.

“Your place is valueble for me. Thanks!” – Ok, this was kind of creepy. Have they found my place?

From… “nice.” – Apparently sexyvids likes what Karalee is writing. Oddly, I am jealous.

“Unquestionably consider that which you stated.” (Will do.) “Your favorite justification appeared to be at the internet the easiest thing to take note of.” (I know, right?) “I say to you, I definitely get irked while other folks consider worries that they plainly don’t realize about.” (That irks me too.) “You managed to hit the nail upon the highest” (Hold on, where did I hit the nail?) “and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects” (errr is that good?), “people can take a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thank you.” – You’re welcome.

“Attractive portion of content. I just stumbled upon your internet site and in accession capital to claim that I get actually enjoyed account your weblog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing on your augment and even I success you get entry to consistently quickly.”  – I’m going to retranslate this back into Chinese and send it to their government.

“You ought to take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will advise this website!”  –  Advise away.

“This actually answered my issue, thank you!” – That’s my new business. Issues Answered By Joe

“Aw, this was a definitely nice post. In notion I would like to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make a especially beneficial article?- but what can I say?- I procrastinate alot and by no indicates seem to get something carried out.” – A blogblot that procrastinates? Seriously?

“Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about over a internet. You definitely know how to bring an difficulty to light and make it important. Far more folks must read this and realize this side in the story. I cant think youre not far more well-liked mainly because you definitely have the gift.” – At last someone who realizes why I’m not more well-liked. It’s cuz I’m too awesome!

“Its such as you read my mind!” (I do have that gift) “You seem to understand so much about this, such as you wrote the ebook in it or something. I feel that you simply could do with a few % to pressure the message house a bit, however instead of that, this is magnificent blog. A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.” – You know what, all I took away from this was ‘a fantastic read’ and ‘magnificent blog’. They’ll be quotes on my book, Blogs by Message House Joe.

“Youre so cool!” (I am) “I dont suppose Ive read something like this prior to.” (I’ll let this slide, you said I was so cool.) “So nice to come across somebody with some original thoughts on this topic.” (Oh stop, I’m blushing.) “realy thank you for starting this up. this web page is something which is needed on the internet, an individual having a little originality.” (That’s me, baby.) “valuable job for bringing some thing new to the internet!” – Valuable job indeed, though I don’t know how you managed to spell valuable correctly and bugger up realy.

“To be honest this was an incredible detailed post even so as with all wonderful writers there are several factors that is proved helpful after. Yet never the actual less it had been interesting.” – Once again, all I took away from this was I was a wonderful writer. How perceptive the blogbots are becoming. Skynet will not kill me when the time comes.

“highly nice post, i undoubtedly really like this internet site, maintain on it.” – I will totally maintain on it. In fact, I will make a T-shirt that says just that. Maintain on it!

Now, back to maintaining on queries.

How did it get so late so soon?

Courtesy Debug Design

Courtesy Debug Design

Helga’s Post # 27 — “It’s night before it’s afternoon. My goodness how the time has flown.” So said our beloved Dr. Seuss.

As the weather and by extension people’s moods improve day by day, so does the volume of junk mail fluttering into our mailboxes. Most notably, glossy catalogues about the new spring and summer fashion, and lovely outdoor furniture adorned with sexy models that can’t be more than sixteen years old (don’t these marketing gurus realize that women make most of the buying decisions?)

I usually take the whole lot and dump it unopened or unread in my yellow recycling bag. I do this because I want to buck the trend. According to statistics, the average person (in North America) spends eight months of his or her life reading junk mail. Smack me on the head! Eight months?

Eight months that could be spent writing a novel. A reasonable time to complete a solid, four hundred-page novel.

But that’s just the beginning. How else do we fritter away our most valuable commodity, time? How many sequels could we write if we transform said squandered time into writing? Here are some examples. Trivia to be sure, but a tongue-in-cheek eye-opener all the same.

The average person spends, in his or her lifetime, three years in meetings, over one thousand sick days in bed, seventeen months drinking coffee and soft drinks, two years on the phone (I would argue that is very conservative; think ‘teens’), twelve years watching TV, three years shopping, one year looking for misplaced items, five years waiting in line, an infuriating twenty weeks on hold waiting to speak to a human in call centers, and nine months sitting in traffic.

Time we could spend writing! Not all of it avoidable, like being sick, but without doubt the TV and phone time is something we do have a modicum of control over.

So I’ve been thinking how I could harness some of this wasted time. To confess, one of my many bad habits is pushing the ‘On’ button of the remote after waking up. Just to catch the news. Time managers would tell me to stop that. By the time I am done with the headlines, I will have watched at least twenty minutes of commercials. Not good. Most is trivial anyway – really, do I need to know what Justin Bieber is doing? Or what professional athlete got arrested?

Changes were in order. I now get out of bed without news on TV (I can catch those later in the evening). Thirty minutes saved every day just by getting rid of one bad habit. That’s a lot of writing time.

On to the next time waster, one that many writers can identify with: E-mails.

Since this post is about how to waste less time, I don’t want to waste more time stating the obvious. Instead, here is what to do to stop this colossal squander: Pushing the ‘Unsubscribe’ button. Relentlessly. Who really needs all this electronic junk mail? I managed to live very well without it cluttering my in-box, so why bother with special offers on anything from… well, you know, the sky is the limit. So if anyone claims they can’t find time to write because they get many hundreds of emails per day, it’s tempting to say, get a handle on it. I realize, emails are a great tool for people who are making a living in a marketing job, but the rest of us? Control it. Don’t be a slave to your own in-box.

Because that’s time you could spend writing!

But wait, there’s more. Of course there’s Angry Birds, a no-brainer. Moving on, there’s one huge item that time managers of the not so recent past have ignored, but are catching on fast and furiously. You probably guessed it: social media.

FB image

I can’t even begin to guess how much time gets frittered away  starting the day checking Facebook and Twitter, and LinkedIn and whatever. Substantial, valuable time and mental energy. Sure, it’s tempting, it’s like listening to gossip, and it has all those pretty pictures. But really, let’s be honest. How much does it add to our education, our knowledge, our quality of life? Surely, that time would be better spent reading a good book, or doing research for the novel we are writing? I’m not saying social media has no value. It does. It allows us to share information with lightning speed and it builds communities. It has many benefits, worthy of future discussions. But for the purpose of this post, all I want to share is that I had to control it rather than allowing it to control me. I hope that I have succeeded (I  check my FB and Twitter just before bedtime. That way it  doesn’t rob me of my writing time).

If, after all the ‘wasters’ there’s still time left in the day, you haven’t counted the minutes spent on your cell phone. You can find an astounding statement on Four. Not minutes. The average person spends four hours a day on their cell phone (admittedly, it sounds improbable).

There is tons of advice on how to avoid time wasters. One such site that caught my eye as I prepared for this post is  Three items resonated with me:

–       You live online. Wasting time on Facebook. Playing with apps. Emailing and texting.

–       You network randomly. Relationships are critical to success. Networking and schmoozing are key to forming relationships. But randomly connecting with thousands of strangers online won’t help one bit.

–       You troll for Twitter followers. If you’re Ashton Kutcher or Kim Kardashian, that’s great. Otherwise, it’s nothing but a distraction–a complete and total waste of time.

Not everyone will agree.

What does all of this mean for my commitment to submit my completed manuscript to my critique group in time for our retreat? I had to seriously prune my time wasting habits to make the most of what matters most to me.  If I can stick to it, I should be able to harness my energy and a good chunk of time to spend on what’s important to me. For what I am. A writer.

Then again, I have to ask myself, whom do I write for? Because here is one more (my final) statistic: The average American adult between eighteen and sixty-four watches television five times more than they read.

A sobering thought. And while I think about it, I will take out a few minutes on my favorite time waster. Because, in spite of all the wisdom stated above, as John Lennon used to say,

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”


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