Tips & Tutorials

Need some tips and tricks?  Insider hints?  Want to know how to wrangle Amazon's Look Inside the Book?  Look no further. Chances are, we've already discussed it here. We also happily welcome suggestions for articles and how-tos, so don't be shy.  


 

How To Write An eBook

Getting Started:

One of the questions that I am frequently asked is about how to write an ebook. The great answer to this is: it's not hard, and it's not different than any other kind of book, pamphlet, or document. You simply sit down and write. Is it actual, real work? You betcha. I can tell you simply from writing all the web and FAQ articles that I have to create that writing isn't magical; it's not easy-peasy, and it's not a get-rich-quick scheme, but it does work. Like anything else, you simply have to put in the effort.

Is there an eBook on How To Write an eBook?

I don't think that there are any specific books on "how to write an ebook," particularly. And if there are, I probably wouldn't recommend them--that would sound like one of those "get rich quick" type things. To write a great eBook, you simply have to write something that's great to begin with. One of the best "how to" books on writing that is still around and taking names is the "Writing Fiction for Dummies" book by The Snowflake Guy, Randy Ingermanson. It's in ebook format, so in addition to being a how-to book, it's an ebook itself. You can buy it in Kindle Format from Amazon.  Another book that is hugely popular and, I've been told, the "right stuff" is Barb Asselin's book,  Write a Kindle Bestseller: How to Write, Format, Publish, and Market a Kindle Bestseller (Writing Non-Fiction and Fiction Books).

Is writing a How-To Book different than Other books?

We convert a lot of "how-to" books. Another question I hear fairly often is, "how to write a how-to ebook," to be sold on Amazon's Kindle platform. Again, this isn't any different than writing any other type of book. Marketing that type of book, though, might be a completely different task than, say, marketing a fiction book. One of the best marketing books out there, for non-fiction books, is Mike Alear's "How To Make a Killing on Kindle," (although Mike disagrees with me about blogging--but that's his prerogative as a successful author!) which gives you pretty good advice on strategizing a) what types of books to write, b) how to find the best keywords on Amazon, and c) how to market your efforts, using those precious ebook keywords and keyword strings.

How To Get Started Writing How-To Books:

One of the things that many authors don't think about is "how to" blogging, as a platform. A place to start. A way to start thinking about, experimenting with, and creating valuable interaction with your market base. What's a better place to use, from which to sell your "how To" book? An author page on Amazon, one of millions, or an active blogsite, that already has thousands of folks that come by, to see what you--a self-help guru who has established herself--has to say?

Not only does blogging give you writing experience--it helps you find out what people want to KNOW. And how they want to know it. Do they need long, detailed blog posts? Detailed instructions, or short, less-demanding pieces of the instructions?

Consider blogging, to find out what your audience wants, if you don't already know. And if you haven't established yourself as a guru, now is a good time to start. It will help drive book sales, in numerous ways.

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28 Book Review Sites for the Self-Published Author

Below is a list of 28 websites, ezines, and blogs, whose contributors post more in-depth reviews of featured books and ebooks. Again, the sites are ranked by Alexa number: the lower the number, the more popular the site. You can submit your work to all of them, although it goes without saying that a submission will not necessarily result in a review, favorable or otherwise!

 

 

Give 'em a try, and let us know if any of these are particularly fabulous--or particularly bad.  We like to keep our clients and folks who drop by updated!  Thanks!

 

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How To Use Twitter

Steve explains how to compose an effective profile bio, what #hashtags are, why you should use links, and offers up examples of good, bad, and ugly self-promotional tweets.

1. Create an informative, concise, and unique bio.

You want potential followers to know who you are, what you do, and why you do it, without appearing arrogant, hasty, or a bore. Think like a (micro)journalist: answer the obligatory who? what? when? where? and why? as briefly as possible. Alternatively, think like you're filling out an online dating application. What kind of followers are you trying to attract? Bloggers? Reviewers? Agents? Readers? Ex-cons? Marine Biologists?

Example of a good profile bio:

Ellen Jones   @ellenjones
Oakland-based motorcycle rider and author of the Jane Smith YA mystery series. Read more about Jane's latest adventures: www.janegoestowashington.thebook.com

Why this bio is good:

It tells us that a woman (presumably) named Ellen lives in California, likes to do crazy things like ride motorcycles (without obnoxiously proclaiming "I'm wild! I ride motorcycles!"), and writes a mystery series of young adult novels about a girl named Jane who most recently took on Washington. If I'm curious, I can click on her link for more information. Short and sweet.

Example of a bad profile:

Joe Smith   @joesmithcool
My name is Joe Smith. I am an author. I have written 4 books. Two were published with Book Publishing, Inc. One is self-published because I'm trying to stick it to The Man! My books are, without a doubt, some of the bestest books in the whole wide world!!! Read more about "The Awesome Series" (including tons of 5-star reviews) on Amazon!!

Why this bio is bad:

It tells us that an author named Joe Smith has written 4 books, is bitter about the fact that only 2 of them were traditionally published, and is (likely unfoundedly) convinced that he's an extraordinary writer. The extraneous exclamation points take up unnecessary space and suggest he might secretly be a 6th grade girl. I know the title of his book series, but if I want to read it, I have to search for it on my own. This bio is long-winded, immature, and ineffectual.

2. Self-promotional tweets

When tweeting to promote to your followers, be it an event you're publicizing, a blog entry you'd like them to read, or a product you'd like them to buy, tread carefully. In a world ripe with bombarding advertisement, it's difficult to convince people that your self-promotion is any different from or better than everyone else's self-promotion. Make it your goal to pique interest. Promote creatively, humbly, and concisely. Come up with 140-character phrases that would make even the busiest, pickiest reader just have to know more.

And... Never underestimate the value of hyperlinks and hashtags.

For the uninitiated, a hashtag consists of a # sign followed by a word or words that categorize a tweet (no spaces in between). #books denotes a tweet about a book or books. #Obama2012 denotes a tweet about Obama's reelection campaign, including event listings, press coverage, and commentary. Anyone can employ any hashtag at any time. Hashtags that are trending as I write (you can find trends on the left hand side of your Twitter home page) include #MayWeather, denoting tweets about thunderstorms and sunshine, and #AJBurnett, denoting tweets about whatever sport that dude is playing right now.

Hashtags authors commonly use:

#books
#ebooks
#kindle
#nook
#amreading
#mustread
#read
#bookclub

Hashtags useful in promoting KDP free days:

#freekindlebook
#freebooks
#freeebook (that's "free ebook")
#free

Why these hashtags will help you:

If I'm searching for a new book to read, I can type "#books," for example, in the search field located in Twitter's upper right hand menu. Twitter will send me to a page listing all tweets including the hashtag #books, whether I'm following those users or not. If I'm looking for a replacement for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I've just finished reading, I can search for #thriller, #crimenovel, or #SteigLarsson.

This search feature works for promoters as well. If I've just written a crime novel I would compare to Larsson's series, I can run searches for those books in Twitter and use hashtags I find in my own future tweets, such as #MillenniumTrilogy.

Apart from using by the book (no pun intended) categorical hashtags, use your imagination in your tweets! Don't be afraid to be funny.

Bad self-promotional tweet:

Back to Basics is free today! Please Retweet you guys! I love you!

Why this tweet is bad:

It's lacking information. Remember that people use Twitter for various reasons, not just to find books they'd just like to buy and read and share with their friends. We have no idea what "Back to Basics" is. A book? A work-out video? Even if I were to assume Back to Basics is this author's book, there's no link to it, which means I'd have to search for it. Then he asks me to retweet to my followers with the additional qualifier that he loves me. Not only am I annoyed, I'm a little creeped out.

Good self-promotional tweet:

#freekindlebook: Back to Basics www.amazon.com/backtobasicsbook A case for resuscitating the electric #car. #books #nonfiction #amreading #green #energy #algore #hybrids #free

Why this tweet is good:

Right off the bat, it informs followers that the tweet is about a free kindle book. It gives the book's title, a direct link to where it can be purchased, and a phrase explaining what the book is about. Hashtags in the tweet explain that the product is a book, is nonfiction, and pertains to energy policy, green energy, that it is related to hybrid vehicles, and that it is a free product.

More examples of good self-promotional tweets:

Now out on #kindle: #Murder in #Miami, the 2nd #book in the Jan Austin #mystery series: www.amazon.com/janaustinbooks #chicklit #femalesleuth #romance #florida #mustread

Is #Twitter REALLY an effective tool for #selfpromotion? An interview with #selfpub #author @JackieJCollins www.interviewjackie.com

"Joe Jones does it again. Before There Was #Coffee is #hilarious & #moving. A page-turner to the last drop." www.link.com #books #satire #humor #capitalism #starbucks

Non-promotional tweets:

Don't use Twitter only to sell yourself! Think of it as a bar conversation with an acquaintance. Retweet (denoted by "RT") tweets you're interested in by large publications and individuals, ask your followers questions, find common ground with other Twitter users, start conversations with those you follow, make small talk about day-to-day happenings. You wouldn't talk incessantly about your job or divulge gory details about your recent divorce to the stranger sipping a beer on the bar stool to your right; don't do it on Twitter, either.

3. Quick Tips:

Twitter now has a built-in link shortener, which automatically codes your hyperlinks to take up no more than 20 characters. This means you can copy and paste links without having to worry about losing precious characters.


Running out of room in a tweet? Can't figure out how to shorten it any further? Replace "and"s with "&," and compound words w/ (hint!) contractions.

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How to Use SocialOomph.com: The Basic (and Free!) Features

How To Get Started With SocialOomph

Go to socialoomph.com to sign up for an account, which requires a username of your choice, password, email address, and a preferred time zone from which future updates will launch. You may sign up for a free account or a month-long free trial of a professional account.

Go to socialoomph.com to sign up for an account, which requires a username of your choice, password, email address, and a preferred time zone from which future updates will launch. You may sign up for a free account or a month-long free trial of a professional account.

Starting With Twitter

To synch your existing twitter account with your newly created socialoomph account, sign in and navigate via the blue menu on the left-hand side of the homepage. Conveniently, you will always be able to see this blue menu, and presumably, avoid getting lost. Scroll down to "Social Accounts." Select this option and you will be asked to authorize SocialOomph to activate your Twitter account. Once your authorization is confirmed (via email), you may begin to schedule new updates.

To schedule a new Twitter update, within the blue main menu, select "Schedule New Update." A page will appear front and center enabling you to compose the text of a future tweet, including a button to the left that shortens URLs (links) within the SocialOomph system "in-house" (This way, you can avoid using an outside link shortener, like bit.ly).

After you've reached no more than 140 characters, you can opt to:

  • save the text update as a draft
  • publish the update right now
  • publish the update a selected number of hours from now
  • or "publish at this exact date and time": you specify in the provided box

Below this update information and possible options, click on the Twitter account name you would like the update to apply to, and click the "save" button. 

To Get Started With Automation

To automate recurring messages (set the same messages to tweet itself several times a day or week), and to be able to schedule @Replies within SocialOomph (to tweet a message to a specific Twitter user), you must update to SocialOomph Professional. In the professional service of this section, you will see these features in plain view on this "Schedule New Update" page.

To automate followers, set up automatic welcome messages, and manage your @Replies Digest Email, go to "Social Accounts" in the main menu, and in the drop-down menu select "Manage Accounts." You will now see your SocialOomph-affiliated Twitter accounts in a grid, with specified automated options.

Across the top from left to right, you can see:

  • the total number of updates scheduled through SocialOomph (TOT)
  • the number of unpublished scheduled updates (Q'D)
  • whether you've automated a welcome message to new followers (MSG)
  • whether you have authorized to automatically follow those who follow you (FLW)
  • whether you have chosen to vet all your followers (VET)
  • whether you have opted to automatically unfollow certain followers (UNF)
  • and whether you have set up an @Replies digest to receive email notifications of twitter users sending you messages via @Reply.

 

To edit any of these features, click on "Edit" under the "Actions" box in the grid at the far right. Here, you can check/un-check "Auto Welcome" to send automated welcome messages to new followers; below this option, you may write your welcome message. Note: some savvy networking/marketing types suggest that your AutoWelcome message be some sort of clever question, which, depending on your purposes for using Twitter, might enable you to better facilitate conversation with your followers (i.e.: Thanks for following! What is your #1 reason for tweeting?")

Below the auto welcome section, you can check or un-check "Auto Follow" to automatically follow new followers. Alternatively, you can check or un-check "Vet Followers" to receive an email when a person follows you, placing the automation of a new follower on hold for 3 days so that you can manually approve or reject the action. If you have checked this option, in order to edit new followers, go to the left-hand main menu, and click on "Followers/Friends." Select "Vet Followers/Friends" in the drop down menu. Here you will see a list of new followers, which you can choose to follow/unfollow. You may also select "Settings" in the middle of the page to set specific parameters regarding what kinds of followers you do or do not follow, for example, based on how long that Twitter account has been in use, how active it is, etc. Presumably, this helps you filter out Twitter accounts that are likely to spam.

At the bottom of this page is an "Optional @Replies Digest Email" option. To receive an email notification from SocialOomph every time a Twitter user mentions you in their feed as an @Reply, click the "Email me an @replies digest" box.

To keep track of how many new followers you may or may not have, go to the main menu, then go down to "Social Accounts," and click "Automation Stats" in the drop down menu. Here, SocialOomph tells you how many new followers you have and how many new DirectMessages have gone out to your new followers, and how many messages are pending. These stats change every 10 hours, and SocialOomph specifies in this section how much time is left before the next turnaround in counting followers.

Using SocialOomph's free account, you may also monitor your followers by category and set up email alerts by keyword. In the main menu, go down to "Monitors" then click on Channels > View Channels. With a free account, you can view the updates of those you follow by categories provided by SocialOomph, i.e., you can view only updates pertaining to "Breaking News," "Twitter Management," or "Entertainment." To view and/or change these channels, click on the drop down arrow at the top of the page and select a channel, or upgrade to a professional account to create your own channels.

To monitor happenings on Twitter via keyword, go down to "Monitors" in the main menu then click on "Keyword Alert Emails" in the drop down menu. On the main page, you can now list keywords you would like SocialOomph to keep track of among those you follow, and you can specify how often you'd like to receive an alert by email. You can choose to use the "Power Keyword Wizard" located at the top of this page to set up exact phrases of keywords, searches by hashtag, language, specific people, and locations. This feature allows you to keep track of trends on Twitter and interact more efficiently with those you follow and those who follow you, without the burden of staying logged in to Twitter all day every day.

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Social Network Mass Management: SocialOomph or HootSuite?

Too Busy For Social Media?

In a day and age in which it is deemed important to both personal and professional networking/marketing to be consistently plugged into social networks, those of you who have other things to do (and I would hope that's most) may want to sign up for SocialOomph or HootSuite, both social network mass-management tools.  I mean, who has time to watch 7 different open tabs in a browser, trying to find out if a Twitter user is talking about their book, while someone else on Facebook is discussing a topic that's at the heart of their novel? 

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Phone Call Alert! 

(Please read, thanks.) 

Old Timey Switchboard Operator Cartoon

 

Due to the COVID-19 onslaught, we currently cannot take incoming phone calls.  

 

A notification about phone calls:  due to the COVID-19 plague, we've significantly increased our incoming inquiries--nearly double our usual volume--and the number of incoming inquiries by phone has been literally overwhelming.  Although most writers will say that their call "will only take 15 minutes," the truth is, that after 10 years of doing this, most author inquiry calls take an hour.  45 minutes at best. I'm currently receiving 7-10 calls/day, and due to that, I've had to stop accepting incoming phone calls, which my voicemail will tell you. You can leave a message--I can't call you back without one--and if a call is needed, I will of course call you.  But we have very complete and extensive email replies, handouts and our website is very informative. Almost all the questions that I receive during a call are actually already answered on our site, or are, in fact, publishing questions, not questions about our services, what we do, what we offer, or the like.  I already handle between 90-130 emails/day, as it is. I can't handle that many emails and take 7-10 hours of calls each day. I can't. So, in order to be able to answer this huge email volume, to help the greatest number of people, with my time, I've had to stop accepting calls.  I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. I'm in the process of setting up a call-appointment function, for free 15-minute calls to answer questions from new prospective customers and longer paid sessions for folks who generally want consulting on "publishing," generally (and for prospective kids' book publishers, as a special category of paid consulting).  But that functionality isn't yet set up. I hope to get that working the 3rd week of July, sometime.  

Thank you for your understanding.