Homework for Writers

What is homework for writers? It’s when you need to learn something new, and instead of going the easy route by asking writer friends for answers, you do the research yourself. It’s okay to ask for advice and input but don’t expect to learn everything there is to know.

Homework for Writers

Where Should You Start?
Listserves can be a great source of information. Join your professional writing organizations, set your posts for daily digests, and scan the topics. Any time something pops up that you might use one day, copy and paste the information into a file. Then when the time comes, you’ll have a rich source of data that you can mine.

Blogs, podcasts, and webinars are another great source. So are your group’s newsletters, writing workshops and conference classes. Collect all the data and file it for when you need it. I’ve done this with just about every marketing topic I’ve ever needed to address.

Launching a New Venture
So now you are ready to get started self-publishing or putting your indie book into print or applying for a BookBub deal or trying an Amazon ad. Scour through your information on the topic and eliminate any links or material that’s outdated. See what applies to your situation. Then organize your tasks step-by-step. This gives you control and is more manageable than facing the entire job, which can be overwhelming. Once you’re ready, you need to ignore the fear of failure that might be holding you back and take a leap into the unknown.

Examples
On the loops, I’ve been reading about authors who get wide distribution for their audiobooks via Findaway Voices. I have corresponded with a few of them regarding the switch from exclusive to non-exclusive on ACX. That’s the first step to do if you’ve paid up front. As instructed, I also downloaded the audio chapters for each of my four audiobooks.

Next, I went onto the Findaway site and wrote down their requirements. Figuring my books would work, I requested the change from ACX support and am waiting for this to go through. Then I’ll do the upload to Findaway. At that point, lots of new promotional opportunities will open. I have notes on these also. My goal is to gain new listeners and hopefully get into the library market with my audiobooks. It’s all a big gamble, but then, what isn’t in this business?

I am also approaching my first sale with trepidation. Now that all of my mystery backlist titles are on board, I can start doing price promotions. But the idea seems overwhelming. You have to set a date, book ads around that date, notify the vendors, create memes and ads. It’s a lot to do, not to mention social media blasts to get the word out.

The only way I can approach this adventure is to be supremely organized. Again, I’ve studied my files, reviewed blogs on the topic, asked other authors how they’ve done it, and then wrote a step-by-step guide on what to do. I rechecked links on ad sites that might have gone defunct since I started my files and picked the best places based on what other authors have mentioned.

And that’s how we take the next step forward. We listen. We research a topic. We verify links and search out new ones. And we move forward. There’s no magic bullet for what you want to do. You have to collect the data and organize it to suit your needs. It’s part of the business of being a writer. Do. Your. Homework.

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Share with us one of your goals that will be a new experience or that you’ve managed to accomplish on your own.

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A Writer’s Job is Never Done

Authors have all sorts of administrative tasks, from answering emails, to fielding workshop requests, to creating book ads, to keeping up with social media and writing blogs. These behind-the-scenes duties can keep us busy from morning to night.

A Writers's Job is Never Done

When I’m in a creative phase, the writing comes first. But right now, I am taking a moratorium from writing to get these other jobs done. Yesterday, I spent the morning updating all the buy links on my website. This was necessary since I’ve added my full-length Bad Hair Day mysteries to Ingram. Readers should be able to order the entire set in print at their local indie bookstore. The paperback editions are also available at Barnes and Noble, but they have to be ordered online because they’re coming from another distributor.

Meanwhile, I finished the final proofing for my first futuristic romance trilogy that required substantial editing. I’d written these traditionally published books years ago and needed to bring them up to my current standards. These will need new covers and reformatting. Hiring a cover designer is next on my agenda. If I have to help search for images, that could take hours. At least I already have a concept in mind for each series. I’ve also asked ACX for my audiobooks to go non-exclusive so I can put them “wide” in terms of distribution. Once I get the rights cleared, I’ll kick this project into gear.

Price promotions and box sets are on the horizon also, but these will involve a learning curve. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but had to get all my books uploaded first.

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As you can see, these are full-time tasks. Once they are completed, I can move on to new works. Or maybe by then, this virus will be gone and I’ll want to enjoy life and being a grandma. Who knows? At the moment, we have to take things day-by-day.

Thankfully, as a writer, this doesn’t mean much in the way of adjustment. Our normal routine is to stay home in front of the computer. Since we are in forced isolation, we can get even more done if we focus on our work and not the daily news. So batten down your hatches. Make a list of all these nagging tasks you’ve been meaning to do as a writer. And get to work! Use this time to your advantage. What will be the first item on your list?

Buying and Assigning ISBN Numbers

ISBN stands for International Book Standard Number. It is a globally recognized identification number for your book. As an indie publisher, you need to think about this option before self-publishing your work.

Why should you use your own ISBN numbers?

  • Control over metadata
  • More professional – Your imprint is the publisher
  • Better availability to retailers, booksellers, and librarians
  • You need an ISBN to get a barcode, which may include pricing information.
  • Certain book distributors may require you to have your own.
  • Some writing contests and library promotions require you to have an ISBN.
  • Your book’s information will be stored in the Books In Print
  • Resource: http://www.ingramspark.com/blog/owning-your-own-isbn-in-self-publishing

Legalities – DBA or LLC

If you want your own imprint, create a publisher name and see if the domain is taken. If not, reserve the domain name. Register with your State as a “Fictitious Name” or “Doing Business As” company. You can do this online. Or establish an LLC. Check with your accountant to see which one is right for you. It looks more professional for your book to be published by “XYZ” Press than by the author. Apply for a county business license/tax receipt if required. Finally, open a business bank account so you can receive royalty payments through direct deposit.

This does not necessarily apply if your plan is solely to publish e-books through Amazon. Then you have the option of skipping this whole process and using the distributor-provided ISBN. But know that you are limiting your options for later if you choose to go wider with your books and take advantage of the opportunities listed above.

Where can you buy an ISBN number?

How to Assign Title Data to Your ISBN:

  1. Make sure you have your metadata, book cover, author bio, & pricing info ready.
  2. Sign into https://www.myidentifiers.com/ with your username and password.
  3. Go to the My Account dropdown menu.
  4. Click Manage ISBNs.
  5. Click Assign Title next to the ISBN number you wish to assign.
  6. Complete all fields marked with red asterisks.

Upload Cover Image

Title Information
Book title, subtitle, main description, original publication date, language, copyright year, optional Library of Congress Control Number

 Contributors
Your author name goes here along with your bio.

 Format and Size
Medium, i.e. E-book, Digital, Print, or Audio
Format, i.e. Electronic Book Text

Subjects & Genres
Primary Subject, i.e. Fiction, Mystery and Detective, General

Editions and Volumes
Previous Edition ISBN or New Edition ISBN. This is when you issue a second edition, for example. Then you must manually change the Title Status on the older ISBN to Out of Print.
Series Title Info (name of series) and Series Volume Number
Total Volume Number – number of products in a multi-volume work (i.e. box set)

Sales and Pricing
Where is the title sold? United States
Publisher and Imprint – Put your DBA or LLC company name as the publisher.
Title Status: Active Record
Publication Date: This can be in the future.
Target Audience, i.e. Trade
Price: Currency (US Dollars), Price (3.99) Type (Retail Price) 

Hit the SUBMIT button.

NOTE: Except for the ISBN number assignments, you can change most of this material, including adding a cover image, at a later date.

Use CLONE on the Manage my ISBNs Dashboard when you wish to copy this information to the next available ISBN number. This is helpful when you’re registering e-book and paperback editions for the same title. Review the data on the new form and adjust accordingly.

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Library of Congress Control Number

After you have an ISBN, you can apply for an optional Library of Congress number. This allows librarians to catalog books before they’re published and to add the digital record into their search program. If you have an imprint that buys ISBNs in bulk from Bowker, you can set up an account with the LOC. You have to buy at least 10 ISBNs and list a U.S. city as the place of publication. Get started at https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/ about two to four weeks before you do the final formatting. LOC will ask for the book title and ISBN. They will email you the LOC number and tell you how to add it to the copyright page. Check for ineligible works here: https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/about/scope.html

Now that you have assigned an ISBN number to your title and filled in the basic metadata, you are ready to put your book into production. Add the ISBN number to the copyright page and move on to final formatting. Next we’ll be discussing publication choices.

If you missed the previous posts on this topic, see the following:

Adding Front and Back Material to Your Indie Published Book

Preparing Your Book for Self-Publishing

Why Self-Publish Your Book? 

 

 

Website Updates

It’s not often that we have to update our entire website, but that’s what my designer has been doing for me. She’s switched my hosting system to Managed WordPress, changed my blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, and updated my ancient webmail to the Office 365 Email program. We’re still ironing out the kinks, but we’re getting there. I highly recommend Laideebug Digital if you’re looking to update your site.

This post is a test to see if you receive it. Let me know if you have any problems. Please re-subscribe to my blog if you got dropped in the transfer. Once I am assured this post got received as intended, I can go ahead and resume my regular blogs. So let me hear from you. Did you get this in your email inbox or by coming over to my site?

Revisiting Earlier Books

I’m revising my very first published novel, Circle of Light. This title won the 1995 HOLT Medallion Award and blends my love of science fiction with romance. When I was a fledgling writer, it gave me great joy to let my imagination go wild and create this soaring fantasy. This story began a trilogy and was one of four books I did with Dorchester writing as Nancy Cane.
coverCL
The story follows the hero’s journey in that first we see attorney Sarina Bretton in her natural habitat. She is kidnapped from Earth by Captain Teir Reylock of the Coalition Defense League. His mission is to deliver her to the alliance for her marriage to Lord Cam’brii, a stiff politician. Through this union, Sarina will become the Great Healer and save the galaxy from a devastating plague. Sarina, unhappy about being forced from her home, refuses to cooperate. But after an encounter with one of Teir’s enemies, she crosses the threshold and accepts the challenge. Along the way, she falls in love with Teir instead of the councilman she’s destined to wed.
Oh, what fun I had creating this tale! It brings me great pleasure to reread this story and make it even better. It’s amazing how much a writer’s skill advances over the years. Revising may be a tedious job, but it’s necessary to polish a book to perfection. I might be writing mysteries now, but these stories were my first love. They’ll be available to you again with new covers and bonus materials in my revised Author’s Editions.
Tropes: abduction by a hot alien, space travel, starship captain, political intrigue, betrayal, psychic ability, strong female lead, royalty, star-crossed romance, legends & prophecy, secret identity.
What are your favorite elements in the books you read?
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Writing Goals for 2019

Setting goals is critical if you want to get things done. For a writer, making a list of what you want to accomplish each year will put you on the right path. In an earlier blog post, I reviewed my goals for 2018. We discussed what got done and what didn’t. Authors can break down their goals into creative and business oriented tasks.
goals2
So now let’s take a look at 2019. This might seem less ambitious than last year, but revising and reissuing my backlist titles is my main goal. That project could take the entire year, because I go through each book to tighten the writing and then do a full read-through once for any further changes and again to check for conversion errors after formatting. It takes time, because I want each book to be the best possible version. So I am not going to set myself too many tasks beyond this one.
CREATIVE GOALS
Reissue remaining backlist titles (6 romances + 4 mysteries)
Write and publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
Write and publish a Bad Hair Day recipe book
BUSINESS GOALS
Enter latest releases in writing contests
Carry on with newsletter, blogs and social media
Update website in terms of hosting and other behind-the-scenes decisions
Bundle books into box sets
Consider wider distribution for audiobooks
LEARNING GOALS
Learn how to use various book production tools as new opportunities arise
Learn how to plan and promote book sales after all my backlist titles are under my control
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Five years ago, I wrote a list of long-term, five-year goals. I am pleased to say that I am on target with most of these items. Once this year’s goals are met, it will be time for a career reassessment. Only by resetting our overall goals periodically can we gain clarity on the best path to take next.
What is the main item you want to get done this year?
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Year-End Goal Review

Each year, it’s important to set personal as well as business goals. And accordingly, at the end of the year, we should review how much we’ve accomplished and what needs to carry over for next time. I hold myself accountable to you, so let’s see where we stand on the writing aspect. As for the personal angle, I survived our daughter’s wedding. That is a herculean task in itself.
finish line
CREATIVE GOALS
Reissue ebook Author’s Edition Silver Serenade – January 9, 2018
Reissue print Author’s Edition Died Blonde – February 6, 2018
Produce Body Wave Audiobook – May 11, 2018
Promote Large Print Edition of Hair Brained – Aug. 8, 2018
Finish and Launch Trimmed to Death – Sept. 25, 2018
Publish Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition – Nov. 12, 2018
Write Epilogue to Hair Brained – Launched as short story Hairball Hijinks – June 12, 2018
Revise Keeper of the Rings – Reissued July 13, 2018
Revise Dead Roots (Revisions Done; Needs read-through)
Continue backlist title reissues (Revisions Done on Perish by Pedicure and Killer Knots)
Plot Easter Hair Hunt novella (In Progress)
BUSINESS GOALS
Prepare PowerPoint lectures and handouts for upcoming events (DONE)
Enter Hair Brained in writing contests (DONE – Also entered latest titles into contests)
Keep up with newsletter, blogs and social media
LEARNING GOALS
Learn how to do Facebook Ads (NOT DONE)
Learn how to put books on sale across various vendors (NOT DONE)
As you see, I did great in the creative arena but didn’t reach my learning goals. In January, I’ll formulate new goals for 2019. How about you? What were your major accomplishments this year?
 

Tips for Query Letters

Do you want to send an agent a query letter but have no idea what it should include? Or perhaps you’ve sent out several queries and you keep getting rejections. What could you be doing wrong? Here are some steps you can take to put yourself on the path to success.
Query Letters
· Check the guidelines for submissions on the agent’s website. This will tell you what genres the person represents and if they prefer email or snail mail submissions. The guidelines will also state if you should include any sample chapters.
· Make sure the agent does not require an exclusive submission. If so, you’d lose months while waiting for a response. See if the agent mentions their expected response time.
· Write a one-page snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and genre for your book, a catchy story blurb, and your writing credits. If possible, include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This means using keywords such as “paranormal” or “dystopian” or “domestic suspense” or saying your story is “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone.” If you can compare your style to similar published authors, do so without bragging about how your book is as wonderful as Ms. Bestselling Author.
· Be careful not to sound as though your writing is all over the board in terms of genres. Be clear about your focus. For example, don’t give the genre as a suspense novel and then mention that it takes place on another planet and your next book will be a vampire story. You’ll want to build your author brand by focusing on one genre as you grow your readership.
· Do not describe your life history or any personal details unless they relate directly to your book. Do include if you belong to a critique group, have won writing contests, or if you’ve attended writing workshops and conferences.
· You can also mention why readers might want to read your book. What is the value in it for them? Again, don’t brag and say it’s the most exciting book they’ll ever read, or it’s a fast-paced thrill ride. This is for readers to determine. But if it helps them appreciate family values or learn about how you can rise above past mistakes, this could be useful to include as a theme.
Basic Structure
First Paragraph – State your book’s title, genre and word count. Here you can put if you’re a published author seeking representation or a new author seeking an agent for your first book.
Second Paragraph – This is your catchy book blurb. Write it like a log line for a TV show or like the back cover copy of your book. You’ll want to engage the reader’s interest.
Third Paragraph – Here offer your biography as it applies to your writing, including works you’ve published, memberships in professional writing organizations, writing workshops you’ve attended, critique group participation. Mention any expertise or work credentials that apply to your book. You can also make marketing suggestions or mention your proposed target audience. Mention if your story is book one of a series.
Last Remarks – Thank the agent for their consideration and offer to send the completed manuscript upon request. Do mention if this is a multiple submission.
Signature Line – Here is where you can add your social media links. Doubtless the agent, if interested, will look you up to see if you have an online platform.
If you hear nothing back from the agent for a couple of months, send a follow-up email to ask if she’s received your query. Be courteous and respectful of the agent’s time. Be aware that some agents won’t respond at all, and this can be taken as a rejection. But follow through at least once to make sure your email was received. As an alternative, you can request a return receipt for when the agent opens the message.
If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note. Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry. Also respect that while the agent might offer suggestions for improvements, this is not an invitation to resubmit your work unless the agent says so in her response.
Resources
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
http://bit.ly/2OuiFX2
http://wp.me/pHSwk-3e3
 
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After Your Book Launch

What should you be doing in the days following your new book release? Promotion doesn’t end when your book launch is over. You’ve tossed the ball into the court. Now you need to keep it rolling. Let’s say you have sent advance reading copies to reviewers and are participating in a blog tour or doing guest posts along the way.
Book Launch
What else can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Start a file for Amazon reviews and copy down each review as it’s posted, along with the date and reviewer. Do the same for Goodreads. Repeat for bloggers and other review sites. If you start getting tons of reviews, skip this step and go to item two.
  • Check these names against your personal reviewer list and mark each one as done. Then you’ll know which reviewers followed through so you can approach them with your next release.
  • Send a thank you email to the reviewers on your personal list who have posted.
  • Send a reminder to the reviewers who have not yet posted.
  • You should have already written a page of tweets and posts for your new book. For each reviewer, note their Twitter and Facebook handles. Now pull relevant quotes from these reviews and add them to your Tweet page. Remember to tag the reviewer.
  • Also write a tweet or post for each stop on your blog tour. Tag your hosts and add a link to their site.
  • Set your Twitter posts to rotate automatically at a site like SocialJukebox.com or schedule them ahead of time at Hootsuite. Space out your Facebook posts between your own pages and your groups.
  • Add quotes from reviews to your website.
  • Check your Amazon book’s page. If you don’t see reviews posted by your reviewers, you can add them as quotes via Amazon Author Central.
  • If you are doing a blog tour, return daily to each site and respond to comments. Leave your own comment thanking the host for having you there.
  • Get the specific URL for each post about your book and update it on your Appearances page. Shorten the link for tweets.
  • If you’re running a contest, don’t forget to mention this to your followers.
  • Remember to promote your friends’ books and retweet their posts so it’s not all about you.
  • If you’re doing concurrent sales on your other books, you’ll need to advertise these as well.
  • Gauge the effectiveness of the newsletter you sent out the day of your book release. Update your mailing list by removing bounces and unsubscribes.
  • If you boosted your Facebook post, was it effective? How many engagements and clicks did you get?
  • Keep meticulous records so that when you have another release, you can contact the reviewers who posted about your book and drop the people who got an advance copy but never responded. Then you can seek new readers to fill in the gaps.

I’m sure you can think of many more activities you’re doing in the couple of weeks following your book release. It’s a busy time when the pace seems relentless, but it will ease off. You’ll have to keep the promotional ball rolling, but at least it’ll be more of a steady pace than a race. What would you add to this list?

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Too Many Great Posts, Not Enough Time

Do you get so caught up in reading blogs, webinars, and posts and/or listening to podcasts, that you get nothing else done? I have been catching up on reading newsletters from my professional writing organizations, trade journals to which I subscribe, plus blogs on marketing and other business aspects of writing. If only I could clear my Inbox, I tell myself, I’d turn my focus to the nine backlist titles that I still have to reissue.
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And yet the more of these articles that I read, the more that keep popping up in my email. Moreover, reading this advice makes me feel terribly guilty. Why am I not able to do all these things? The articles offer wonderful marketing strategies and tips, and yet I’d need to be either thirty years younger to have the energy or three clones to manage it all.
Meanwhile, I am accomplishing nothing else. Is it because I’ve lost my mojo? Or is it that I can’t move on to new material until I get these backlist titles done? Then again, maybe it’s burnout and time for a break. It used to be that I put my writing goals first in the morning before glancing at email or social media. What happened to this self-discipline?
So I’ve decided to skim these articles, file the information for later, and do only what I can for now. It’s more important to move on to the next project. This means I need to practice BICHOK more often – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. Get off the couch, and go to work.
This goes for you, too, my fellow writers. Let’s pay less attention to the “should” demons (i.e. the things you should be doing) and more time to the work we can control. Your success is only as good as the next book. It’s not dependent on how many social media posts with cute memes you’ve posted.
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