How to Write a Bestseller and Feel Good While Doing It

Focus on what you want in your life, not on what you don't want.

Focus on what you want in your life, not on what you don’t want.

Act as if it has already happened. Focus only on the end result. For example, “I have written and published the first in a series of island-based mysteries, and I feel (insert emotion here, such as elated, powerful, satisfied, ‘on my way’). Repeat this practice often, feel imbued by its exhilaration, surf the blue-green waves of happiness and send any dark-eyed doubts packing.

Be not bashful – gleefully share the news with your loved ones and tell everyone you know of what you have begun to create.

Thoughts become things. Visualize the book gracing your mother’s proud coffee table, seeing its YouTube trailer go viral, or pitching the debut novel everyone is talking about on your favorite talk show.

As the saying goes, “It is not enough to stare up the ladder, one must take the first step,” so map out a game plan of action steps to bring your goal(s) to fruition and do them. Carry a symbolic reminder such as a crystal in your purse or wallet, tape notes on your bathroom mirror or photos of what will be, and BELIEVE it can happen.

You create your own universe as you go along.~Winston Churchill

How to Jump Start your Writing

If we were to modify a popular expression, we could say, She who hesitates gets no writing done.  Natalie Goldberg exhorts writers to “burn through their first thoughts, coming to a place where you are writing what your mind sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see and feel.”

If the act of starting to write is hard for you, begin with I remember and keep going. If you get stuck, repeat the phrase and move forward again.

Keep your hands moving. Don’t re-read the line you have just written or try to wrangle control of what you are saying. Don’t revise as you are writing. There will be plenty of time for that later.

Don’t edit, censor or cross-out.

Don’t correct typos, punctuation or grammar. That too can happen later AFTER your first thoughts are on paper.

Don’t think or try to be logical. If the naked and the scary and horrible emerge, invite them in for a cup of tea and take down their stories.

Now…that your first draft is down on paper, literally or digitally, let me know how it went, and share your tips and tools for plowing forward.

Thanks for visiting and come back often.

R. R. Harris, author of Double Take, a romantic mystery-thriller set on the Big Island of Hawaii and soon to be available on Amazon.

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT: What is Your Fodder for Writing?

Double Take, a mystery thriller set on the Big Island of Hawaii is loosely defined by a love triangle that devolves wickedly into a red-hot flow of despair, frustration and anger.

Double Take, a mystery thriller set on the Big Island of Hawaii is loosely defined by a love triangle that devolves wickedly into a red-hot flow of despair, frustration and anger.

CSI, Law & Order, Criminal Minds and NCIS are all shows that have thrilled, enraptured and captivated audiences and garnered ratings and the all-important advertising dollars, but as a budding writer of thrillers, I don’t watch them. Am I making a mistake? Could they provide me with who-dunits and how-dunits and the all-important why-doits?

I just served as a criminal trial juror on a case in U.S. District Court that was 2 ½ years in the making. Not a capital murder case, there were no bullet-riddled bodies growing fish at the bottom of the bay, no double-crossed drug deals, no vengeful ex-lovers with long memories and arsenic on their breaths and definitely, no smoking guns – only an empty magazine for an elusive automatic weapon that was never recovered.

Instead, even in a short, four-day trial, there were reams of transcribed phone conversations, dozens of photos of suspicious individuals at crime scenes, a hard-working, flat-footed waitress with a floor safe bulging with $171K in tip money, exhibits of boxes, briefcases and bags in the hundreds, some damning, some almost peevish in nature. The only knife in the case was an all-pink one (I am not making this up) brought in by a well-meaning juror to cut the red velvet cake that she baked to share with the jury members and court staff.

In short, it was not a front page case, especially since during this trial, a nationally notorious, fugitive ex-policeman was holed up cross-country in a mountain lodge, perhaps with hostages and seemingly bent on suicide by cop. So, no bleached-blonde reporters in dangerously high heels lurked outside our hulking courthouse, no helicopters buzzed insistently overhead or satellite trucks dotted the manicured lawn like mushrooms after a rainy spell. Inside Courtroom #6, a usually smirking defendant twirled his caterpillar of a moustache and pulled up his mismatched socks, the harried public defender’s neckties were more convincing than his arguments, the spit-n-polished prosecutor suffered not even the tiniest detail out of place, and a note-jotting jury hoped their kids made it home from school and that their forgetful spouses remembered Valentine’s Day.

Food for fodder? Write and tell me what sparks your mystery-writing juices? What are your ideas for getting ideas?

Thanks for stopping by.

R. R. Harris

Author of Double Take

Bad Covers = Bad Sales or Why it is very important to Hire a Professional Cover Designer

                                                                                                                                        

LoveSin_SmallLilith's Secret_SMALL

While writing your novel, you are a creator. A wordsmith. An artist. But, as soon as that novel’s finished, you’re about to take the next step in publishing business. Yes, you’re becoming not just an author, but an entrepreneur. You are creating a product that has to contend with literally thousands of other products.

Our guest blogger today is Jeanine Henning, whose extensive professional background includes 15 years experience in cover design, children’s book illustration and publication, comic book publishing and editing, as well as console game design and writing. Her work with editors, authors and artists on many continents has added to her diversity and flexibility as artist and designer. In addition to her Indie Author clients, Henning continues to work closely with traditional publishers on cover and book art.

Recently Jeanine published her 1st Kindle book on Amazon – Nhakira “Chosen” – 4 more books are soon to follow!

Can you, as author, afford for your product – your work of art – to be any less than visible or desirable? No.

What is one of the key selling points of any product? The packaging.

What is a book’s packaging? The cover.

So, what’s the purpose of a cover? Many writers will say: “To get customers to pick up the book, or click on the download button.” This is true. BUT, if the customer is to pick up or click and read the book’s summary, and realize that the cover and story have nothing to do with one another, then back goes book to shelf, or, the next eBook is clicked on. You lose a sale.

Yes, the cover must entice the customer. But the full purpose of a book’s cover is to:

  1. Get the customer to notice the book;
  2. Pick up or click on the book;
  3. Buy the book;
  4. Read the book;
  5. Talk about the book;
  6. Repeat for next customer.

If your name is “Stephen King”, then that book can have a blank cover with his name, and it will sell. But until you reach such status, your name is not yet known, so your book’s title and cover art alone carries the day.

So where do you start? You start by pretending you’re telling someone why they should buy your book. Point out the book’s strengths, its genre, its core, what it’s about and what makes it tick. These elements are your unique selling points, and should be conveyed through your title and cover art. And the ultimate purpose is to precipitate an emotional response from your customer. And the outcome? A sale. This is exactly why a professional designer is needed.

Starting to re-realize the importance of your book’s cover? You should. Because it’s not just about a pretty cover anymore, is it?

A good cover will reinforce the customer’s initial attraction. We also do this by adding blurbs – which will tell the customer; “Yes, you have made a good choice, and this blurb rewards your decision, as the book is THAT good.” Every detail on a cover must be thought out and planned. Even the placement of the title and writer’s name is extremely important. Again, this is exactly why a professional designer is needed.

Look at your current book’s cover. And if you don’t yet have one, then think about book packages that work for you. Are all the elements of the cover presenting accurately, attractively and powerfully the appeal of the book?

So, in designing your product’s package, or, framing your work of art, realize the importance of your book’s cover. You must not just want a pretty cover – your book deserves a professionally designed package that will represent you, your story and product congruently.

And YES, you can get an exclusively designed cover by an industry professional for your book:

 JH ILLUSTRATION & COVER DESIGN offers:

  • Cover design for any genre including mystery & suspense, thrillers, horror, fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, young adult, non-fiction and poetry.
  • Illustration and digital painting for exclusive and one-of-a-kind special covers.
  • Young Adult Fantasy & Fiction cover design and interior art.
  • Children’s book illustration and cover design.
  • Graphic novel cover design.
  • Different file formats and sizes of covers to assist authors with their marketing strategies.

And perhaps most important of all, Henning, still believes in “the personal touch” when working with clients, and creating covers that represent the true story of the book

Visit http://jhillustration.wordpress.com/ to view book cover samples and illustrations.

And for more information on Jeanine’s background, testimonials and main art gallery, visit her site at: http://www.jeaninehenning.com

Connect with Jeanine on Twitter: @JenVinci

Thanks for stopping by. Please consider Indie Author Counsel for your Copy Editing, Manuscript Critiquing and Proofreading needs. We offer professional service with a quick turnaround at reasonable prices!

R. R. Harris, Editor and Author of Mystery Thriller, Double Take

info@IndieAuthorCounsel.com

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Why Self-Publish?

Kris Wampler, author of Love Train, interviewed Becca Chopra on why she chose to self-publish. Kris is an author and provides an e-conversion service, E-Literate. Here’s what appeared on her blog: http://kriswampler.wordpress.com:

Becca Chopra chose self-publishing rather than bother with sending out query letters to traditional publishers.  Find out which vendor she recommends for her marketing materials and learn about a website with free advice for indies.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

Chakra Secrets is a memoir and more.  Follow me on my path from aspiring actress to yoga teacher and chakra healer.  Navigating betrayals and loss, tormented by guilt, I explore kundalini, tantric sex, past-life regression and mind-body tools as I earn my credentials as an energy healer and finally find love and light.  You’ll not only learn my personal secrets, but the “instant” healing tool I learned in Hawaii that you can use anytime, anywhere to eliminate pain, stress and clear the path for healing on all levels.

 

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I didn’t have the patience to send out query letters to agents.  Rather, I decided to self-publish and save myself a lot of time.

3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?

No.  I haven’t tried – but I won’t turn down a traditional publisher if they approach me.

4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?

There was a learning curve, of course, to make sure my books looked professional, but I’m happy with the results I’ve gotten from my editors, book cover designers and CreateSpace publishing.

5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?

While my books are dramatic stories, they weave in chakra and yoga wisdom.  And I find most of my audience is interested in just that – being entertained while learning how to balance their lives.  So, I’ve offered free chakra meditations for download on my website and offer lots of useful information on both my website and blogs – resulting in a list of people interested in my next offering.  Also, using KDP Select to offer free books has helped my Amazon rankings and word of mouth about my books, increased customer reviews, and resulted in more sales.

6. Which services or vendors do you recommend for the marketing methods you used?

For giveaways, such as yoga tote bags, note cards, T-shirts and calendars with the cover of my book on them, you can’t beat the prices at Vistaprint.com.

7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?

That you have to find your niche and continually interact with it.  You need to set aside time for social networking and marketing efforts as they are just as important as writing a great book.

8. Indie authors face the challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie just starting out?

Read all the free advice online from other indie authors.  For instance, download the free book marketing checklist from IndieAuthorCounsel.com.  Even most traditionally published authors have to do their own marketing these days.  So we all need to be experts at writing press releases as well as books.

9. What are you currently working on?

Now that I’ve published Balance Your Chakras, Balance Your Life on Kindle to expand on the self-healing technique I describe in Part II of my memoir, Chakra Secrets, I’m producing a DVD which will take viewers step-by-step through the process.

10. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?

Balance your chakras, balance your life!

THANKS FOR THE GREAT ADVICE,

Roger Harris

info@IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Is It Time to Have your Book Edited?

Dear IAC, I’ve finished my first draft and would like to have my novel edited. And I don’t want to miss your summer sale. Should I send you my manuscript now or wait till I’ve revised it as well as I can myself?
Confused at the Computer

Dear Confused, It’s always better to refine your script as much as possible before forwarding it to an editor. Then, they can offer a fresh eye on your plot and characters if you’re writing fiction, or the organization of your information if you’re writing non-fiction.

Here’s an excerpt from Joanna Penn’s blog, The Creative Penn, in which she interviews editor Matt Garland, that explains this further.

“If you want to be a successful independent author, I believe that editing is one of the top things you can do to set yourself apart from the pack.

There’s only so far you can go with self-editing, and critique groups sometimes don’t quite hit the mark. In today’s interview, I talk with Matt Gartland from WinningEdits about his tips for editing.

What should you do before engaging an editor?

  • A certain amount of editing should be done by the author before it is handed over to an editor. A good editor still can’t save a bad book, or bad writing. But a book after editing should have more ‘weight’ to it in terms of the characters for fiction, or the content for non-fiction. A professional approach to maturing the concepts as well as the language of the text is part of the editing process. But we sometimes lose perspective when we try to continue editing on our own. We fall into patterns that sometimes it takes someone else to see.
  • First drafts vs. what you give to an editor. Matt quotes Neil Gaiman – first drafts don’t matter but it is a continuous struggle to think this. We naturally want to self-edit as we write that first draft material. But take what’s in your head and as a non-sequential, creative process, just get it on the page. Worry about refining later. The first draft is just about getting something down so you can work it in the subsequent drafts. I talk about struggling with my own first drafts in terms of getting the stuff from my head onto the page. But no one is going to see this draft so we should stop worrying so much. 
  • It is important to only engage an editor when the book can’t go any further in your own hands. You need to mature your ideas on your own. Then pay someone to take it further. This will mean you get the best service and the editor can do the best job.
  • Try using beta readers, lovers of your genre who will read and critique the book which will help improve it before using an editor. Matt recommends friends and family but I think it must be people who enjoy your genre first. They read for free and often, finding authors in your genre to swap books with will help. They give feedback from a reader perspective e.g. plot points, characters, what they liked, what they skippedThen you can revise from there.”

Check out The Creative Penn – Joanna inspires us all to reach for success as Indie Authors. And be sure to create a market for your work as you pen your masterpiece. Download our Free BOOK MARKETING CHECKLIST and other useful info, available when you join our Indie Author Council FaceBook community.

Happy writing!
Roger Harris, editor and consultant

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

CHECKLIST FOR BUILDING YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM

Q: I’m writing a self-help guide; what marketing activities should I be starting now, before publication?

A: Building your author platform is the first step to find your readers. Here is a checklist of activities from our Free Book Marketing Checklist.

The goal is to create and launch a platform that quickly communicates your genre and entertainment value if you’re writing fiction, and your expertise and credibility if you’re writing non-fiction, such as your self-help guide.

  • Build your bio – Succinctly tell people about you and your work, including credentials, credits and awards. Turn it into a one-pager to use in your book, whenever you pitch your book, in your publicity package, on Amazon Author Central and on your website.
  • Author website – You need a hub, a place to connect with your audience, offer free information and excerpts of your book, and sell your book and other services. If you use a blog-based site, such as WordPress.org, which is easy to set up and use, you don’t need an expensive setup or a webmaster to update your site – you can get going immediately.
  • Author blog – Your blog could be separate or a page of your website. It’s an important place to connect, enlighten, entertain, and capture a following of readers interested in learning more about you, your topic and your books.
  • A signup list – Create a list of future readers by offering a free excerpt of your work, a newsletter, eBook, or video/audio product on your website/blog. This allows you to start building a list of people who are interested in your book or product. Check out Aweber or Mail Chimp to handle your lists, emails, autoresponders, and newsletters.
  • Follow other blogs – Stay up-to-date with the latest information in the industry and to leave comments that establish your platform.
  • Join professional associations – Seek out and join ones related to your topic, target audience or professional goals.
  • Establish your expert status – Teach through workshops, online webinars, podcasts and/or videos, in-person speaking engagements, articles using tips from your book to industry publications and other print and online media sources. This provides you the ability to establish yourself as an expert, and market your book in the author’s information box.

If you’ve started writing, it’s never too early to start building your Author Platform. Download your Free Book Marketing Checklist from Indie Author Counsel.

Happy Writing!

R.R. Harris

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

SIX SUPER INGREDIENTS TO PUBLISHING SUCCESS

Into your literary cauldron, throw locally-grown talent (raw, fresh or seasoned in with the right dash of character traits and a generous dollop of opportunity, stir in a finely diced cast of characters or a paste of must-know, how-to. Cook over a carefully tended, dancing flame of desire until it’s “ready” and you’ve got a stew that may be the Brunswick or Irish Stew of books or…

1) TALENT

“Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

 

2) RESPONSIBILITY

“The writer’s only responsibility is to his art.” ~ William Faulkner

 

3) PERSONAL EVOLUTION

“The truly wise know that what is behind them could just as easily be in front of them. What successful people possess in abundance is the ability not only to survive adversity but to be transformed by it.” ~ Jeff Herman

 

4) PLANNING

Once I planned to write a poem entirely about the things in my pocket, but I found it would be too long and the age of epics is past.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

 

5) SHOWING UP

“Many writing books advise writers to figure out their most productive time of the day and to set out to write during that time or times. Experts also say to find the place you are most comfortable when writing and match time and place. Great. It does work for some. Not all.

“I do have a place where I write. It’s my local coffee shop. I write at different times during the day: morning, afternoon, evening. So, I do the conventional writing with time and place matched.

“But. Yes, there’s a ‘But.’ Many of my poems, and a short story recently, have been written in bed at two in the morning. I spring out of bed sometimes to write down an idea, or a rough draft of a poem or story. I keep a notepad with a pen resting on it near my bed. No coffee, no table, no laptop, and very little light.

“Some of the poems I’m most proud of have been written on the subway, in parks, in stairwells, and on my bed. No specific time, no specific place.

“Be flexible. Set your time and place, have no time and place, just write.

Show Up: read, re-read, write, re-write, submit, publish, and do it all over again.”  ~ published by Blackcoffeepoet.com

 

6) PASSION & INNER ALCHEMY

“The fire of one’s art burns all the impurities from the vessel that contains it.” James Lee Burke

 

(Adapted from Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents: http://amzn.to/L1px0G)

 

Happy Writing!
Roger Harris, editor and consultant

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

 

 

Building Your Author Platform – Part Two

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, most recent book by Barack Obama, with Loren Long

An Author Platform is a way to quickly communicate your genre and entertainment value if you’re writing fiction, and your expertise and credibility if you’re writing non-fiction. Here are additional suggestions on how to achieve an “Expert Author” status:

1) Grab a Partner or Two – Find a few friendly authors in your niche or social media circles and reach out to them. Find them by replying to commenters on your blog or those how have opted-in to your menu of scrumptious freebies. You can help each other by reviewing each other’s books, doing guests posts on each other’s blogs, and participating in each other’s promotional activities.

2) Invite Guests Over for Tea – List a series of questions being asked on forums and blogs. Then, entice media pros or top-selling authors to guest blog with their thread focusing on the interests of your list. Ask them to share in advance with their readers where they will be blogging that day. The advice they leave behind will not only set up your blog as a repository of memorable content in the reader’s mind but your work will be introduced to the guest’s following, hopefully luring some of them to join your ranks too.

3) Ask, Don’t Tell – Use a poll to get your readers involved by querying them for an answer to an obstacle you have faced, perhaps even one you have already solved. Publish a summary of their submissions, and include what worked best for you.

4) Wind the Clock – “Host” a contest on a regular basis with a writing prompt specific to your genre. Frame the contest rules with a firm time deadline and give away a prize related to your niche, or a book bag, workout shirt or coffee mug imprinted with the cover of your book. Ask the winner to send you a photo of them with the item and publish it to gain momentum for the next contest.

5) Get a Second Opinion – Use the free tools at www.grader.com to optimize your website, author ranking or SEO. For example, the analysis may conclude that your website/blog needs more content or inbound links or that your Twitter presence is weak.

6) Be a Gatherer, Not a Hunter – Compile a list of resources such as websites, free downloads, social media, publishing or marketing advice and share it. Ask your readers for their reviews and experiences.

7) Save Yourself – Know that building your platform will take time and effort so decide how much of both you are willing and able to expend, then create a schedule and stick to it. Being a successful Indie author is a marathon, so save some energy for Heartbreak Hill and your run to the finish line.

If you’ve started writing, it’s never too early to start building your Author Platform. Download your Free Book Marketing Checklist from Indie Author Counsel.

Happy Writing!

R.R. Harris

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

 

BOOK COVER DESIGN BASICS

Cover created by Joy Sillesen

Joy Sillesen, our guest blogger today, is a publishing industry veteran who has designed everything from websites to event posters, but her real love is book cover design. At last count, she has designed over seventy-five covers, with no signs of stopping any time soon. She is also a multi-published author under the pseudonym Christine Pope. Visit www.indieauthorservices.com for more information and to view her portfolio.

Some Basic Cover Design Rules of Thumb

by Joy Sillesen

The indie publishing movement has empowered many people, giving them the opportunity to take the publishing process, from writing to editing to cover design, into their own hands. As exciting as this hands-on approach can be, it can also lead to covers that look downright amateurish. If you need a cover but can’t afford a cover designer…or just want an excuse to start playing with Photoshop…then there are a few basic rules you should keep in mind.

—Typography that’s easy to read

Although it can be tempting to plaster a bunch of fun fonts all over your cover, it’s not recommended. I know fonts are fun (I have tens of thousand of them in my own font library), but it’s generally recommended that you use at most two. Most of the time the title should be bigger than the author’s name, unless the author is a household name. The title should be the first element to help sell your book. If you choose a curly script font because your book is a historical romance, make sure it’s readable even at thumbnail size. A large number of people do their book buying online, and they’re confronted by rows of thumbnail-sized images of book covers. If your title is unreadable, there’s a good chance they’ll pass right over it.

—An image that’s recognizable at thumbnail size

Again, because people tend to browse online, the image on your book cover should be something that can be processed quickly. If people have to squint to figure out that that green shape is a dragon, then you have a problem. This is where learning the most effective way to crop an image becomes so important. You can be working with the most beautiful image in the world, but if it’s not placed so it creates the maximum impact, then it’s not going to do you any good.

—A professional image that’s appropriate for your genre

The images used on your cover can create a visual shorthand for a book’s genre. A woman in a big pink ball gown being embraced by a bare-chested hunk signals that you’re probably not looking at an espionage thriller. Most people these days use stock images, since the cost of custom art is so high, and there are many stock image websites out there that provide literally millions of images. However, make sure the image you select effectively conveys the essence of your book. In many cases, layering multiple images can help to customize the look of stock so it’s not immediately recognizable. Also, unless you’re a professional photographer, avoid the temptation to use your own images on a book cover. In general, snapshots can’t replace photographs taken under controlled studio conditions or by photographers with specialized equipment.

—A clean, uncluttered design

White space is your friend. A design needs those “empty” areas to give the eye a rest and also provide a cue as to where you should be focusing your attention. Avoid the temptation to put blurbs all over the cover or make the text so big that it overpowers the background image. For e-book covers especially, all those kudos from fellow authors or lengthy subheads are going to get lost at thumbnail size. Sometimes a subhead is necessary, but keep in mind that it probably won’t show up in a thumbnail. And while it’s great that someone thinks your book is Pulitzer material, save that verbiage for the book description or the “Editorial Reviews” section of your book’s product page on Amazon.

—Colors that complement one another

I’ve heard some people say that cool colors work better for e-book designs. I’m not going to be that narrow in my recommendations – after all, I wouldn’t give a book with a desert setting a cover done in greens and blues – but the colors chosen should work together. Also, certain genres tend to have predominant color palettes; black, red, and white for thrillers or mysteries, for example. Conversely, romances often have softer, warmer palettes in shades of pastels.

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone is going to agree on what makes a great cover, since people’s taste varies so greatly. However, if you keep these simple rules in mind as you’re designing a cover, you’re much more likely to create something that works as an effective sales tool for your book. Also, don’t be afraid to look around for design inspiration – there are thousands of talented designers whose covers can help guide you as you determine what works best for your book. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make sure your book cover creates the impression you intended.

Thanks, Joy! I love the book cover Joy designed for my upcoming release, Chakra Secrets, and definitely recommend professional design as the first step to creating a best seller.

For more advice on marketing your book, download our free Book Marketing Checklist.

Becca Chopra, author of The Chakra Diaries

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com