5 Things Every Writer Should Be Doing To Sell More Books

It’s easy to be distracted by the shiny, new thing. Every day, there are hundreds of posts about the latest social media tool or the software that provides the most seamless writing experience. Writers are often guilty of spending more time keeping up with those posts than they actually do in the writing chair.

New fangled gadgets fade in and out of our consciousness, but the best advice is timeless. Successful writers often say they turned their careers around when they came to a certain realization or when they read a particular blog post or book. This article is an attempt to distill those evergreen lessons in one place that you can refer back to over and over again.

Here are five things every author should be doing to realize his or her best potential career:

1. Develop Writing Habits

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There are authors who put out such a ridiculous amount of content every year that their peers can’t help but feel inadequate by comparison. Other successful authors don’t write a novel every month, but they do have the right habits in place to do a little bit of work every day. When you feel like you’ve hit the wall as a beginning author, creating a set of strong writing habits will give you the tools you need to finish multiple projects.

There are many examples of writing habits that’ll help you start and finish more work. You could develop a practice in which you write 500 to 1,000 words per day of stream-of-consciousness first draft material. You can set aside a certain time of day and a specific location for your writing. You may consider buying an electric typewriter or getting an old laptop without Internet capability and do all of your work on it.

Adding just one of these habits to your life will make a major difference to the amount of work you complete. Combining all the habits together could lead to a writing breakthrough.

You need to complete a task approximately 30 days in a row before it becomes a habit. Get a separate wall calendar for the writing habits you want to add to your routine. Use a green and red marker to indicate days you’ve completed the task and days you’ve fallen short. Keep pushing yourself until you’ve successfully completed the writing habit for 30 days in a row. From there, see how long you can keep your streak alive.

2. Increase Your Speed

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Once you’ve added multiple strong writing habits to your routine, it’s time to think about producing more content per year. Everything is a business, and writing is one of the best for creative types, because it’s part art form. The most successful authors do a fantastic job at both the business and artistic sides of their vocation.

There are many ways to improve your business as an author, but the one that works over and over again without fail, is writing more books. If you can write books more quickly with the same or better level of quality, then you will significantly improve your chances of success.

Author Russell Blake is well known as an indie author who gets on his treadmill desk for 10 hours a day and writes all day long. By the end of a writing shift, he might have more than 10,000 rough draft words with which to work. That is an overwhelming number, but you don’t have to be nearly that productive to be successful.

There are some basics to follow if you want to increase your speed.

Become an outliner by writing out detailed story beats before you start on your first draft. Turn off all potential distractions and disconnect yourself from cellular and Internet services while you’re writing. Practice typing as fast as you can so that when you’re in the zone you can put a lot more words down in your document.

When you take an author with strong writing habits and teach him or her to write 1,000 to 2,000 words per hour, you’ll end up with someone who sells a lot of books.

3. Schedule Your Books

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Once you consistently produce more content, you can start setting deadlines for when you’ll complete your upcoming projects.

A lot is made about indie authors being like one-person publishing companies. It’s the truth. The most successful indies stick to hard and fast deadlines for their projects just like publishing companies. When you know approximately how long your books will be and how many words you can write per day, setting due dates is a simple matter of division and addition. If your book is 70,000 words long and you can write 1,000 words per day, you’ll finish a rough draft in 70 days. Then, add on a certain number of days for editing and formatting. That’s it. That’s how you schedule a completion date for your book.

If your writing projects don’t have deadlines attached to them, you’re less likely to finish. The sense of urgency that comes from deadlines is compelling, even if you’re the only one who knows about the due date. If you take the extra step of telling your readers about it, this can inspire you to spend more time in the writing chair.

Since you’re going to start thinking like an author running his or her own publishing company, you’ll need to set deadlines for the next several books. To see the entire calendar year at once, you can buy a year at a glance one-sheet calendar to put up on your wall. Add in basic details like when you’ll finish draft one, when you’ll send the book off to beta readers, and when you’ll begin the formatting process.

Scheduling out books takes a fair amount of time itself. You have to consider trips out of town and other responsibilities. You’ll make mistakes at first. Everybody does. Once you get the hang of it, however, you’ll be able to see your multiple books into reality.

4. Use Calls to Action

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Now it’s time to work on your marketing skills.

If you truly put in the time to publish more high-quality books per year, you’re going to find an audience. At least, you will if you make it easy for readers to find you.

The only way to get readers to contact you and seek out your upcoming work is to tell them how to connect. A call to action is the best way to get readers to do something. A call to action consists of a request you make to readers followed by a way for them to do what you want.

One example of a call to action is a request for readers to sign up for your email list. Many authors put these calls to action at the back of their books. The authors might write, “If you want to know when the next book in the series is coming out, sign up for my email list. Click here to join.” The second part of the call to action is making the phrase, “Click here to join” a link and pointing to a page where readers can sign up.

You need to ensure both parts of the call to action are set up properly. Give readers a clear action to take. Create attractive pages or offers to excite readers once they click through.

Calls to action aren’t just for email. They can work for social media or for buying later books in your series. You can use calls to action to get readers to leave reviews on Amazon or to share your work with their friends. It may seem silly to work so hard on marketing when you don’t have many fans to begin with, but the number of people who seek you out will grow over time if you have the right calls to action in place.

5. Perform Experiments

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The first time a creative individual tries a new tactic, it has the greatest chance of being successful. Of course, that doesn’t mean the idea will be a success. Failures happen every day, but when you’re the tenth, hundredth or thousandth person to try the same idea, you’ll have reduced results when compared to the person who devised the original experiment.

Multi-author box sets and Facebook events started out as an experiment. The first few people to have their books posted on BookBub were part of an experiment. You can be a part of the next great book creation experiment. You just have to keep trying things.

There are new social networks popping up every single week. Test them out. There are new book formats and apps that let you reach readers in ways that you never thought possible. Give one of them a go. Has an idea for a way to find new readers struck you in the middle of the night? Write it down and spend the next month making your brainstorm a reality.

You can never guarantee that an experiment will be a success. The only guarantee is that the second person who tries out an incredible way of doing something will rarely be as successful as the first.

Experiment with the above tactics. Find a way to do them that fits with your time constraints, genre, and personality. Keep adapting until you can produce regular content and tap into a growing base of fans. Once you’ve got a method that works for you, use your creativity to come up with the next great idea. It’ll be hard work, but it’ll just have to replace your old blog reading time. No big loss.

So what do you think? Do you agree with these suggestions? Leave a comment below.

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Promotion and Authors

by Roxanne Rhoads

Promotion- it’s a bad word for many authors…downright evil… but a necessary evil.

A small percentage of authors revel in the spotlight and have no problem talking, promoting, and selling.

But most of us…well we’d rather be writing. And not writing about our books or ourselves, just writing the books.

What happened to the days when the reclusive author typed away in their little hermit like abode, sent the manuscript off to a publisher who handled everything and the author sat back and got rich while writing more books?

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I think that image is a fairy tale, I’m not sure if that was ever a reality at all but when I was young that’s how I envisioned the author’s world. Then I started writing books- and thought that once a publisher accepted and published my work the hard part was over. Boy was I wrong.

Thanks to the internet and technology more books than ever are being published every day- and it’s very easy to get loss in the ever growing a sea of pages and book covers.

What can an author do to stand out from the crowd?

Promotion.

Yes, there’s that damn word again but honestly it’s what can make or break your book. The other, I swear, is simply luck, and maybe a pact with the devil.

I’ve seen amazing books totally tank in sales and crap books, poorly written with sentences that run on and are hard to read, make the bestseller list on Amazon, repeatedly.

Why? Promotion.

For the past several years I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about the book business and book world, from all angles- author, editor, publicist, reviewer, book blogger, even publisher (I self-published a short story collection this year)- and I’ve learned a lot.

So what words of wisdom can I share with authors who are looking for the secrets to book success?

First of all- web presence.

What’s the first thing many people do when they hear about something- whether it’s a book, business, or new product?

They Google it.

That’s why an author should have a website- a good one, a professional one that showcases their author/book brand. If you write paranormal books your website should have a hint of the paranormal in it- should it showcase screaming skulls and blood dripping fangs? Probably not. Keep it tasteful and professional while making it clear you are a paranormal author, or romance author, or whatever.

Your website can sell you and your books 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all over the world. Nothing else can reach as wide an audience 24/7.
The author website should have 6 key things to be successful- a way to contact you, your bio, your bookshelf (if you write in different genres or have a couple different series then you should have separate pages for each genre or series), a calendar or schedule of author appearances whether in the real world or online, a page of fun stuff and/or links that relate to your books, and your media page which should contain an author photo, media ready bio, sample author Q and A, links to all your social media sites and your most recent book cover and blurb.

I also suggest having a regularly updated blog and newsletter that readers can subscribe to. The blog and website can be combined into one if you have standalone pages that link to the key things an author website needs. Visit http://www.roxannerhoads.com/ to see a website/blog in one. It’s still a work in progress but it has the basics.

Also be sure to utilize Author Central at Amazon, you can add your links and blog feed to your author page.

Which brings me to the next thing an author needs to utilize…social media- Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads- these are some of the most popular social media outlets for connecting with readers and other authors. The idea is to build is solid foundation of reader and author followers. Do this by posting fun and informative tweets and updates- not just promo. And you can link all your accounts together through apps at Twitter and Facebook or through outside apps like HootSuite.

An author should also stay up to date on what’s popular and working in the online book world- for example: book trailers, book soundtracks, Twitter parties, virtual book tours.

Do book trailers or soundtracks sell books? In my opinion no, but they are great tools for sharing your book (these would fall under that fun stuff category above to include on your website).

Virtual book tours, however, are one of the best ways to spread the word about your book. You can reach a worldwide audience without ever leaving your home at a tiny fraction of the cost of a real world book tour.

The goal is not just book sales but reaching out and gaining new followers. After a book tour you should see the subscribers list to your newsletter has grown, you have more Twitter and Facebook followers, and the number of blog followers you have has increased- and hopefully your book sales have skyrocketed.

So what do you do during a book tour? You’ll write guest posts, fill out and interviews, and sometimes participate in live chats and podcast and radio interviews at different blogs and sites around the web. The book tour company will schedule everything.

The key is choosing the best company for your book- find a company that has handled many books in your genre and that shows a good track record. If you only see one or two previous tours done by this company perhaps you should move on to the next book tour company- and new ones pop up every day. Do your homework before laying down the cash. While no book tour business can guarantee sales or great reviews they should be able to provide you with proven capability, organization and a certain amount of tour stops based on what you paid for.
Are real live book events things of the past? No, not at all.

By all means go out to local book stores, libraries, seasonal and holiday events and set up signings, schedule fun events that will bring people in- work with other authors to create group things that draw a crowd.

For instance if you write paranormal books- get out there at Halloween events and sell your stuff. Set up tables for sales and signings at Halloween reading and parties at local libraries, (schools too if your book is kid oriented), hayrides, even haunted houses. Work with your community to promote your book. You might be surprised at how many local businesses and event planners will be thrilled to have something unique and special (like an author) be a guest at their holiday event.

And be sure to bring business cards, bookmarks or even the hot new thing in real world book promo- book trading cards, to all your live book promotions. Pass them out at local libraries and bookstores too.

The key is- get out and promote. You are not going to get anywhere as an author being a hermit and hiding in your house tapping away at the keys of your computer.

Publication is only the beginning of the process…promotion is the road to success.

~Roxanne Rhoads is the owner of Bewitching Book Tours and is a paranormal romance author, book blogger, and book reviewer.

Keys to Superb Dialogue

by P.C. Zick

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Dialogue in fiction is essential, and good dialogue is crucial. Nothing kills a book for me like poor dialogue. The plot might be intriguing, the characters worth getting to know, and the setting gorgeous, but if the dialogue is stilted and poorly executed, I’m ready to put the book down. I want to read and write dialogue that sings.

Here’s my best advice on dialogue: Use it, but do not abuse it. All writing benefits from strong dialogue. It moves the plot along, and it develops character better than any other technique in the writer’s toolbox. However, many novice writers abuse it by not understanding how to write it.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years about writing dialogue.

Learn the mechanics of dialogue. This helps the reader understand. Some contemporary authors are trying new techniques for displaying dialogue with novels, but it only confuses me and causes me to pay more attention to the punctuation or lack of it than to the pleasure of reading a story. Here is a correctly punctuated line of dialogue:

“Leave me alone,” she said.

Avoid dialect to characterize characters. It only detracts from the reader’s understanding. It’s been done superbly, but unless you know you can do it, leave it alone. I attended a writer’s workshop several years ago with Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek, a book set in the Appalachian Mountains one hundred years ago. He said rather than use the dialect of the time and setting, he had the characters use certain words that gave their speech distinction rather than using gonna, goin’, ‘bout. For instance, the character would most likely use the word “fetch” instead of “get.”

Do not put a “he said” or “she said” after every line. If two people are speaking, it becomes clear to the reader which character is speaking the alternating lines. Interject after several lines to remind the reader. Here’s an example of two characters, Simon and Caroline, in conversation in my novel Trails in the Sand:

“No easy days in sight,” Simon said.
“That’s very true, but we’ve weathered worse,” Caroline said.
“Like the time we capsized the canoe and lost our oars?”
“I have never been so cold in my life.”
“You should try ice fishing in Pennsylvania in January. Then tell me about cold.”
“That’s just unnatural and the very reason I live in Florida.”
“So you wouldn’t move back to Pennsylvania with me?” Simon asked.
“Not on your life,” Caroline said.

You can go for a bit without using the names and “he said/she said,” but don’t go too long without injecting it or the reader becomes lost. I read a novel recently where they didn’t use any designations about who was speaking. The reader was left to guess who was speaking. It guessed me right out of continuing to read the book

“He said” and “she said” are the best to use, if not overused. Do not add qualifiers, such as “he said with a smile on his face.” Also, don’t use adverbs to describe how it was said: “Leave me alone,” she said sternly. Write the dialogue so it is clear that the speaker is smiling or speaking sternly. Let your words show the story without you telling the reader.

Leave out interrupters such as “Well,” “uh,” “um,” etc. It slows down the reading.

Listen to others speak. We rarely speak in complete sentences. Listen to the differences in speech patterns with different speakers. Try to distinguish your characters by their speech. Perhaps there is a phrase they use or a way of speaking that not only distinguishes their speech, but also creates characterization. However, be careful with this technique. If it’s overused, you’ll surely annoy the reader.

Read your dialogue aloud. Would real people speak in the way that you have written it? Using the dialogue of real people is certainly easier than fictional characters, if you really listen to them. We usually create characters that come from composites of real people, so why not create dialogue that comes from real people as well.

Your goal in writing is to make the reader forget they’re reading. You want them lost in the story and if your dialogue sings, they won’t even notice the agonizing pains you took to make it so.

I know there are many other techniques out there. I learn every day I write, and I’d like to learn from you as well. What makes dialogue sing for you?