Monday, 28 November 2011

Cyber Monday Ebook Deals

Today is apparently the day to go shopping online, so while you're stressing out about what you're going to get your great aunt Mavis for Christmas, why not pick up a little something for yourself? I've got everything from guilt-free freebies to a very special treat. Go on, you know you want to...

Romance / Contemporary Lit - $2.99

Suspense - $2.99

Women's Fiction - $4.99

Horror - $4.99

Military Fiction - $0.99

Short Stories - FREE

Paranormal / Fantasy

YA Romance - $4.99

Action & Adventure - $2.99


Medieval Adventure / Time Travel - $2.99

Gay - $0.99

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Self-Publishing Tips & Tricks #10: Conclusions

So we've come to the end of our journey. I'm going to use this last post to tie up all of the points I've made so far into a "must have" checklist. I'm also going to throw in a few bits and pieces that didn't really fit anywhere else, and give you some pointers on what to do once your book starts selling in order to maintain your momentum. The rest is down to you, so good luck!

Getting your book ready
Never spend too long preparing your book for publication. Hire an editor if you can, or alternatively get as many people as possible to proof it for you. If you don't know how to use an apostrophe or a semi-colon then learn. Now. Make sure your cover is as slick as you can possibly make it. Make sure you stick to the conventions of your genre. Write a perfect blurb and tag, tag, tag. Work out what you're trying to achieve and price your book accordingly. Only once you've done all of this are you anywhere near ready to press "publish".

Make it discoverable
Don't rely on purchases from friends and family. Using tags, Shelfari, your author profile and social networks get the news out there about your book. Start a blog and keep it up-to-date and interesting. Join review sites such as Goodreads and Librarything. Consider other networks, like LinkedIn and Kindleboards. Wherever you decide to participate make sure that you do just that - don't just shill your book.

Interact with other authors
Join the KDP boards, ePC and the Book Marketing Network. Work with other authors to promote each other's work. It will pay dividends in the long run. On the KDP boards especially the authors are a friendly, approachable lot who will spend a lot of their spare time helping you if you ask.

Social Networking
Get on Twitter and Facebook as a must. Remember to engage with your audience, be witty or relevant or interesting. Don't make it all about your book or you will put people off sharpish. A good way of keeping track of where people are mentioning you is to set up google alerts. Type in your key phrases, e.g. your author name and your book titles and google will send you a daily email of new sites it's found that mention you. Don't forget to put specific searches in "inverted commas". That way if someone comments about you on a site you're not a member of you can still find it.

Publish everywhere you can
Don't limit yourself to Amazon alone. It might be the daddy, but all those other sites will give you valuable webspace, even if you don't make any sales there. Remember, it doesn't cost you anything to let people distribute your book.

Make yourself the celebrity
It's not all about your book, it's about you. Sell yourself and your book(s) will take care of themselves. Make yourself interesting and funny and engaging. Do interviews wherever you can.

Stand out from the crowd
There's a million indies out there all doing exactly what you're trying to do, so make yourself unique. It doesn't matter how you do it, just do it. ML Stewart had the right idea with his blog. It's hilarious. He's got a great persona, and a brilliant USP (Unique Selling Point). Who cares what he's like in real life or if what he writes is true or not, it makes him different. I'm telling you about him now because of that.

Play the internet
Get a personal site set up (even if it's only a blog like this one) and then drive traffic to it, and keep them coming back. Update regularly, and make sure that you do everything you can to improve your SEO so that more and more people find you. Get as many links to your site and your book out there as you can.

Once your book has been published, if you've followed all of my Tips & Tricks you should be seeing sales coming in. The volume of those sales is dependent on a million factors, including how well you market and, ultimately, how good your book is. I know it's the great unmentionable, but if you've written a crappy book then you're never going to be a multimillionaire bestselling author, no matter what you do. That is the cold, hard truth, and every indie needs to hear it and accept it. Sometimes books take a long time to get noticed and really take off, and there is no point losing heart waiting for that to happen, just keep plugging away as you are doing and remain hopeful. Some books just sink and die and there's nothing anyone can do to revive them. Sometimes books that really don't deserve it end up being inexplicable bestsellers. Whether your book is a bestseller or not, at some point you are going to have to deal with every indie's worst nightmare / wet dream: reviews.

Do not, ever, under any circumstance, shill for reviews. No-one wants to hear that your nan loved your book, and believe me, they'll be able to tell if it was her who wrote it. A gushing 5* review can do more damage to a book than a dozen spiteful 1* ones. It took a month for me to get my first review of Blood & Ash ~ 5*, but this review all-but killed the book. I have since spoken to the reviewer on facebook, but at the time I swear I didn't know her. (BTW, I have never mentioned the review to her. She left an honest opinion of my book and I am eternally grateful to her for that. It's not her fault if people interpret that differently). You wouldn't guess that I didn't know her from the review, and that's the problem when a review seems too good, it doesn't seem real. In comparison my first review of Fenton (which I waited 5 weeks for) coincided with a spike in sales. Why? It's also 5*, but it started with a complaint that my blurb wasn't clear. Because that reviewer had faulted my book in the review, people knew that it was genuine.

Sometimes reviews come in astonishingly quickly. This is generally a bad thing, because again, they seem false. I got my first review of Four Chances within hours of the book going live. Again it was 5*, but thankfully it doesn't seem to have harmed the book at all. In fact, quite the reverse. Within 24 hours of Four Chances going live I had 3 reviews, all 5* ~ 1 on Amazon and 2 on goodreads. Dumb luck? Maybe. Canny networking? More likely. This is my fifth book and I would hope that the cogs are so well-oiled by now that I can generate interest in my book and get people to buy it and leave feedback on it. It would appear that I am right.
As a rule, genuine readers with no vested interest in the book will leave a review for 1 of 3 reasons:
1. The loved it so much that they simply have to tell others all about it
2. They hated it so much that they simply have to tell others all about it
3. They belong to a review site and they review everything as par of the course

My first ever review for Danny's Boy was a 2* left on goodreads, but wouldn't you know it the person who left it was part of the "new literati" and copied it onto Librarything and their own blog and god knows where else. At the time I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. That review is everywhere, and it haunts my sleep. Once I'd climbed down off the ceiling I read it properly and realised that the book had been marked down because my pronouns were confusing. (It's not always easy to make it clear who is doing what when you're writing "he kissed him"). I re-read it and wouldn't you know, the reviewer was right. Danny's Boy got a full edit and re-write, focusing on the pronouns. Yes that shitty review is still out there, but I know that my book is now a far superior product as a result.

Fenton has had no less than three 1* reviews (to date!). I knew that this book was going to be divisive because the main character is asexual, and not everyone is going to get on board with that or understand it. Imagine my reaction when I got a very, very wordy 1* review that, after a lot of waffle, came down to the fact that Fenton does not conform to the conventions of a short story. You have to learn to let that kind of nonsense roll off you like water off a duck's back or you'll go insane. Another 1* review repeated the entire plot without any kind of spoiler warning and then at the end put "not recommended". What are you supposed to do with that??? The third just left 1* without leaving a review - harsh in the extreme.

So how do you deal with reviews? You read the good ones and you put them on your blog, your facebook, you tweet them, you print them off into great bloody banners and you hire light aircraft to fly them all over the world. You hug them next to you as you fall asleep. They are the reason why you are a writer, after all.

You read the bad ones, and you calm down. You leave it long enough that you can read them again in a more rational frame of mind, and then you go back and you analyse them. Do they have a valid point? If so, that reviewer has done you a favour and you need to amend whatever it is that displeased them. If their point isn't clear, or isn't valid: if they just didn't get your book, or didn't like your style, or your characters, or hell, you, then let it go. It's easier said than done, but for the sake of your sanity you have to. Check out my earlier blog Pity The Reviewer if you want to feel better about yourself. Check out the list of literary classics at the bottom with their count of 1* reviews. Those of us who have them had better wear them with pride: we are part of an elite club.

Accept, above all, that your book cannot be all things to all people, and move on.

Opinion is divided as to the extent to which you should engage with your reviewers. I mentioned in Guerrilla Marketing how Damon Suede used goodreads to connect with readers and reviewers to positive effect. On sites like goodreads I recommend it, because author-reader communication is part of the point and is encouraged by all. On sites such as Amazon I would steer clear of it. I left a positive review for a book on Amazon because I do review occasionally just for the hell of it, and the author left a comment on it, very polite, thanking me for my review and telling me when the next book was out. I was mortally offended. Irrational as it might seem, I had never considered that the author would try and interact with me (she wasn't an indie either, BTW) and somehow I just felt it was wrong of her to comment on my review of her book. My review wasn't for her, it was for other readers. I would never review another book of hers as a result, because it now feels like she's "spying" on the reviews. What if I hated the next one??

Yes this is all paranoid nonsense, but it matters. Before interacting with a reviewer - even one who has left a glowing review - consider the forum where they left the review in the first place. If it's not a reader-author forum, I'd just smile and leave it be.

Never engage with a negative review. Wherever you get them. However abusive and unfair and spiteful. In fact, especially if they're abusive or unfair or spiteful. As difficult as it is, let it go. Everyone has a right to their opinion and they are entitled to air it. Getting involved in a discussion about it makes you look paranoid and aggressive and will generate more bad publicity than anything else you could do short of strangling a kitten and posting the footage on youtube. Don't waste your time trying to get Amazon or wherever to take the review down, or get others to comment on it on your behalf. Check out the Amazon bestsellers - there are always a number of them that have average ratings of less than 3*, and they're still selling in shedloads. Credit readers with a bit of sense: if someone leaves an aggressive, irrational outburst against your book then they'll see it for what it is and ignore it. I love reading 1* reviews, they're genuinely the most entertaining thing ever, and I'll happily waste hours on Amazon trawling through the lowest-ranked bestsellers and chuckling over their reviews. I even buy some of those books as a result.

The best and last piece of advice that I'm going to give you is one that I've said before but is worth repeating and repeating again. Write more books. You're a writer, aren't you? Well get going then. I've demonstrated the maths in earlier posts showing why it's a financially sound idea. My little piece above about the success I've had with the launch of Four Chances should demonstrate that point. Four Chances is my fifth book. My others have launched OK, but nothing like this one. I'm #40 in the hot new releases section and #1 in gay short stories. That makes my book officially an Amazon bestseller (in its own small way!). That sort of thing doesn't happen on its own. I have networked like crazy for every release, and the cumilative effect of them all is this launch. There are people listening to what I'm saying now that weren't back in June when Blood & Ash went live. There are people that I know will buy pretty much whatever I choose to publish, and will probably review it favourably too. They will tell their friends about it. I've already got new followers on my facebook and goodreads pages since Four Chances went live, and it's only been out for a week. (Two days ahead of schedule, thanks to Amazon being far too efficient!) I planned the launch for 21/11/11. Imagine my dismay when I saw it had gone live on 19/11/11. I had to do some serious emergency networking, but it worked, because people are looking out for me now. I got my first sale within half an hour of firing off a load of emergency tweets and posts, and my first review only hours later.

Now Four Chances is live I'm concentrating on another work. It was going to be the 5th story in Four Chances (so I'd have needed a different title!) but it grew and grew and I'm letting it develop in its own time now. It's another contemporary m/m story, about two star-crossed businessmen. My readers and betas are already begging me for a HEA. I've promised nothing. I will update this blog with extracts and teasers soon, but until then I'll leave you with some choice extracts from my reviews. After all, this is my blog, and I want to show off. Someday soon you will have quotes of your own to show off, if you haven't already. Good luck.

Lost Realm ~ Blood & Ash, Fenton: the Loneliest Vampire, Fire & Ice
4* ~ "First time I've ever read anything like this...Can't wait to find out what's happening next. Recommended." (Goodreads)
4* ~ " It was a story of loss and heartache. The setting and scenery were meticulously described, so much so, that at times, it felt like I was there with the characters." (Smashwords)
4* ~ "Wonderfully, artfully written. Kate Aaron is a talent. A vivid writer." (Smashwords)
4* ~ "The asexuality is an interesting perspective and even in less than 8000 words, I found myself rooting for Fenton." (Amazon US)
5* ~ "Just finished reading Fire & Ice and absolutely loved it!!! ...Can't wait to read the next book (hopefully there will be another book!)" (Goodreads)
5* ~ "It very accurately portrayed asexuality and all of its frustrations, with the vampires thrown well into the mix. I highly recommend it!" (Amazon US)
5* ~ " was quite an unusual approach to the vampire and fairy worlds, I shall definitely be looking out for the sequel." (Amazon UK)

Four Chances: A Short Story Quartet
5* ~ "This is a great deal for the price. Four stories about four different relationships. Sometimes love can conquer all, sometimes it isn't enough." (Amazon US)
5* ~ "Now and then we get to read an anthology where all stories are great. This one is one of those...This probably is more realistic than most m/m romance out there." (Goodreads)
5* ~ "Can’t say enough about this... I think my heart hurts too much. Four Chances is a must read." (Goodreads)

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Friday, 25 November 2011

Black Friday Books

Eaten too much turkey? Well grab yourself one of these books, relax and enjoy the rest of the holiday!!

Four Chances: A Short Story Quartet - Kate Aaron $0.99
The Amazon #1 Bestseller. Lust, Love, Longing, Loss, four erotic tales of attraction and angst; seduction and separation.
Genre: Gay (m/m)

Also by the same author:
Blood & Ash - gay fantasy
Fenton: the Loneliest Vampire - gay fantasy
Fire & Ice - gay fantasy
Danny's Boy - gay contemporary

Big Dragons Don't Cry - C. M. Barrett - $0.99
Big Dragons Don't Cry is a delightful fantasy that offers imaginative characters, spectacular imagery, laugh-out-loud dialog, and a killer plot.
Genre: Fantasy

Also by the same author:
Animals Have Feelings Too - Non-fic
Dance with Clouds - Fantasy

Cleanse Fire - Anastasia V. Pergakis - $4.99
Cleanse Fire is a fun, fast read full of adventure and romance, heartbreak and honor, danger and happily ever afters.
Genre: Fantasy / Adventure

Hope for the Holidays - Dana Taylor - $0.99
Three uplifting and enjoyable holiday stories.
Genre: Seasonal / Christian

Also by the same author:
Royal Rebel - Historical / Adventure
Ever-flowing Streams of Healing Energy - Spiritual Healing
Ain't Love Grand? - Romance
That Devil Moon - Romance

Life is But a Dream: On the Lake - Cheryl Shireman - $2.99
Thought provoking, sometimes frightening, and often funny, Life Is But a Dream is the story of a woman redefining herself and taking control of her life.
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Also by the same author:
Indie Chicks: 25 Women, 25 Personal Stories - Short Story Anthology
Life is But a Dream: In the Mountains - Contemporary Fiction
You Don't Need a Prince: A Letter to My Daughter - Women's Writing
Broken Resolutions - Women's Fiction

My Enchanted Life - Laura Eno - $2.99
An American teen finds herself thrust into a world she never knew existed in England's magical community of Wode Gate.
Genre: Fantasy

Also by the same author:
Stone of Destiny - Romance
Realms of the Red Rabbit - Fantasy / Adventure
Realms of the Red Rabbit - Jake - Fantasy / Adventure
Don't Fall Asleep - Sci-fi / Adventure
Seducer of her Dreams - Romance

Transport Tales, Volume 1: Novan - PJ Port - $3.99
A collection of erotic sci-fi romantic tales, with mostly polite language.
Genre: Sci-fi / Romance

Also by the same author:
Assorted Shorts - Short Stories
To Touch Ice - Romance

 Shades of Night - R. G. Porter - $2.99
 If mystery, danger and vampires excite you,then this is a must read!
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Also by the same author:
Shadow of the Wolf  - Paranormal Romance

Death Wish Book 1: The Vamp Saga - Danielle Blanchard Benson - $1.99 (Sale)
A new breed of vampire sits at the top of the food chain and they’re hungry for something more than mortal blood.
Genre: Parnormal / Urban Fantasy

Also by the same author:
Forever 27 - Fantasy
The Beautiful People Book 1: The Proposal - Contemporary / Romance
The Beautiful People Book 2: The Hook Up - Contemporary - Romance
The Beautiful People Book 3: Heartbreaks and Lust Aches - Contemp. / Romance
The Beautiful People Book 4: Red Carpet Dreams - Contemporary - Romance

The Book of Lost Souls - Michelle Muto - $0.99
When teen witch Ivy MacTavish changes a lizard into her date for a Halloween dance, everything turns to chaos.
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Also by the same author:
Don't Fear the Reaper - YA Horror

Shrike - Jeff Carlson - $4.99
Shrike is the story of one young woman's overcoming tremendous physical, emotional and logistical adversity to defeat evil incarnate.
Genre: Crime

The Bridge Club - Patricia Sands - $2.99
How far would you go to help a close friend? Is there a place where you might draw the line and simply have to say no?
Genre: Women's Fiction

Chosen - Jolea M. Harrison - $0.99
Chosen is a fantasy adventure - location; Hell, Purgatory, the Demon’s Lair, and Hell is everything it’s cracked up to be.
Genre: Fantasy / Adventure

Finally, if you can't make your mind up and want a little bit of everything...

Holiday Collection - The Indie Eclective - $0.99
“The Holiday Collection” is the second anthology of short stories from the Indie Eclective: A group of nine authors crossing genres. These holiday-themed stories range from serious to humorous, and all express the sentiments of the season in their own “Eclective” way.

Enjoy & Happy Holidays!
Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Self-Publishing Tips & Tricks #9: SEO

I've mentioned this enough comes the basics. This stuff is most useful if you've got your own website, but is also handy if you're just running a blog (like me). Remember that a lot of this gets pretty technical if you get into the whys and wherefores of what works and what doesn't. I'm not even going to pretend that I understand any more than the basics of it, I'm just going to tell you what works and what doesn't. For further information, consult a tech geek.

Even if you've got your own website, get a blog on it. This gives you a platform to add content on a regular basis, and it will expand your website. Without it you're probably not going to have more than half a dozen pages on your site. With it, over time you could generate hundreds or even thousands. Search engines love new content, and the more pages you have, the more you can cross link them to each other. Search engines love that, too. Plus, a blog is a platform that people can interact with, meaning you've got more chance of hooking their interest and getting them to return to you again and again.

Be unique
Google bots look for relevant, unique content. If you publish your blog on your website and on another platform then you run the risk of one of them being automatically discounted by google because it's duplicate information. Equally, you need to keep the content of each page of your website / blog unique. Don't post the same things over and over, because search engines are only looking for the most relevant sites, and will ignore duplication. Equally, ignore repetative wording. Don't publish the blurb of your book on every single page of your site, no matter how good it is, because it will lower the uniqueness of all of your pages in google's eyes.

Use footer links
At the bottom of most big websites you'll see a list of links: About Us, Our Prices, T&Cs, etc etc. These links are repeated on every page and cross reference the website back and forth with itself. Footer links are a way that big companies get plain text links onto their pages when they're probably using JavaScript or Flash for the rest of their site. If you've got a site similar to this blog it's not such a big deal, as long as you employ plain text links, like this on each page. Footer links are a great way of doing this without having to remember to do it every time you create a new page.

Make multiple pages
See all my pages at the top (Home, My Books, KDP Blogtour, Self-Publishing Tips & Tricks)? Well search engines love these because they love taking you to the most relevant page for your search. Google "Kate Aaron" and it'll take you to my Amazon author page, not to Amazon's homepage. Same here: if someone is looking for self-publishing information, google might take them directly to that page. Useful if we're six months down the line and I'm currently blogging about the colour of my dog's eyes. (Brown with a blue spot, btw). Make sure you put keywords within the webpage titles so that they rank higher.

Use keywords
All over this blog I've repeated certain words and phrases again and again: "self-publishing", "indie author", "selling your book". These are the kind of thing that people type into google day-in, day-out. The more I have, the more relevant my site looks in google's eyes. I can do that pretty organically while I'm writing this series, but at other times I might have to think about where I'm going to use them a bit more. Consider what the target audience of your site is: you'd better have one. Everyone thinks that blogs are just there for people to wax lyrical about whatever takes their fancy. NEWSFLASH: Unless you're Brad Pitt no-one cares what you ate for breakfast, or what you think about Coronation Street. Keep your audience in mind at all times. If you're writing gay vampire books, you'd better be blogging about gay stuff or vampire stuff (or both). And so on. (We are discounting this series from that for a minute because this is a Public Service and therefore allowed). By all means throw in the odd post about other stuff just to let people know who you are and what you're like, but keep the majority of it relevant. It'll be much easier to use keywords organically if you do.

Build backlinks
The biggest factor that will generate search engine traffic to your site is backlinks from other sites. Let's say that each link to a particular domain (e.g. counts as 1 vote. Just stop and think for a second how many links there must be out there in the big, wide world that lead back to Think of all the affiliate sales people plugging away all over the net, indies like you and me who are frantically linking to our books, everyone who has a marketplace seller account, everyone who is showing their friend a new book or DVD by emailing them a link to have a's staggering. That's how many votes Amazon has got in google's eyes, and why it appears without fail at the top of nearly every search for consumer goods. Now think about how many links there are out there to your pitiful offering. Suddenly it pales in comparison, doesn't it? Don't worry, all is not lost. Get those links out there. I showed you in Social Networking 101 how to link your blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads, amazon author page and all the rest together using plug-ins and RSS feeds. Make sure that you keep them going - RSS feeds will automatically update, but don't forget to tweet from your blog / website; post to your facebook wall and all the rest. Get friends and network contacts to post your links about. Link swap with people who run other websites, and never miss an opportunity to drop a link on a forum (as a sig line is a non-offensive way of doing it) or even on your emails. You'll generate more links than you'd realise. Make sure you always have great content that other people will want to link to. If someone finds an interesting post on a blog they'll share it with their social networks, who might share it on, and so on. Make people laugh / cry / think, or teach them something valuable, and they'll share it with others.

Google has a great SEO Starter Guide (pdf) which will give you more in-depth information on stuff like metadata and tags. This is more useful if you've built your own website than if you're using a third party blog hosting service, but it's still worth a look. Google explains it all far better than me, which is why I've linked to it rather than repeated it.

So we're coming to the end of the series...I hope you've all learnt something new (I know I have!) and I hope it proves useful when you're marketing your book(s). And please remember to remember me when you're #1 on the Kindle store!

Self-Publishing Tips & Tricks #10: Conclusions, coming soon...

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Self-Publishing Tips & Tricks #8: Guerrilla Marketing

Sometimes you need to do something a bit different to get noticed. With so many authors out there all trying the same things to get attention, it's difficult to stand out from the crowd. Sometimes it's difficult even reaching readers through the mass of authors. Anyone who's done a twitter exchance will know that most of their followers at first are other authors hoping for a follow back. *Not* your target audience. Not that authors aren't readers, but they don't care about your book, they care about their own. They're never going to be receptive to your advances.

So how to get noticed? Here follows a list of off-the-wall suggestions for making your voice heard. Some will work, some won't. Depending on where you live, some might get you arrested, so please, all advice is given with the best of intentions, but don't sue me if you get nicked. You're a grown-up, take responsibility for your own actions.

Give a book away
This can be mean making the first book in your series free, or a short story. See my earlier posts about what happened when Fenton went free at Amazon US. (It's still free, btw. What are you waiting for??) It could mean doing a promo on your own blog or website on launch day. It could mean holding a competition to win free copies. It could mean putting a coupon in the back of one book offering a free copy of another. There are a million ways of doing this.

Why does this work? Simply, people like a freebie. It gets bums on seats, so to speak, it gets people reading your book. If they like it, they might buy another. It's a gamble, but in volume it's usually one that works. Just be warned ~ people have very little respect for free stuff. They might help themselves to a copy of your book and then never read it, or not read it for months. They are more likely to be harsher in any review of it (makes no sense to me, but that's the way it is). Of course, you are losing royalties. But they might be royalties that you'd have never had anyway.

Tap your local media
If you're anything like me, you grew up in Shitsville, Nowhere, where a duck farting is news. These places have rags that are desperate for local interest stories. Call up the press office and offer your services for interview. It might only be two columns on a slow Wednesday, but it's something. Try local radio stations too, and local bookshops if you're published in paper. Do book signing and "meet the author" events.

Put up posters
These can be on bulletin boards at work, in local libraries and bookshops, anywhere that you can think of. Coffee shops, bus stops, you name it. Places where people congregate. Make an appointment with your doctor and when the receptionist abandons you for hours on end (she will) plaster your book cover all over her noticeboards. That'll teach her. Go to Vistaprint for reasonably priced posters, flyers, banners, postcards, business cards etc etc. You don't have to put up A4 posters everywhere: leave little A5 flyers on display tables in bookshops; leave business cards in bars and coffee shops and restaurants and hotels. You can get away with anything if you're brazen enough, just don't sue me when you're done for flyposting!

Get a QR code
Don't know what that is? It's this:

You've seen these, haven't you? They're popping up everywhere. iPhones read them. If you've got an iphone, read this one ~ it's genuine (and no, it won't put a virus on your phone or take you to a porn site). These are great because they'll take you straight to a specified URL. To make your own go here. KILLER TIP ~ these things are most often read with Apple devices: so if your book's on iTunes (and if not, why not? get yourself over to Smashwords sharpish!) make the QR code lead to your book's page on the iTunes site. Presto! Instant sale. Alternatively link to a page on your blog or website and give away a free short story (even a flash piece) with links to your other works from there.

Again, QR codes work best in places where people congregate. I am not telling you to print them onto sticky paper and put them up on your local bus stop. I'm certainly not allowing you to use my blog as a legal defence if you do. You're an adult ~ use your own imagination as to where these can go.

Pimp your library
I already mentioned putting flyers up in your local library. Ask them about a book signing or an author event. Maybe give a talk about self-publishing. Donate a couple of copies of your book to them. You know those flyers and business cards you invested in? They'd fit just perfectly inside library books of the same genre as your own...Not at the front, dufus, the librarian will open the book to stamp it! Bookmarks instead of flyers work even better. Bookshops and charity shops are usually receptive to you leaving some free bookmarks with them for customers to pick up.

Take advantage of students
Live in a college town? Get yourself down to the arts department and plaster their noticeboards with your work. Don't get arrested for loitering. Speak to someone in charge and see if you can do a talk on self-publishing, or authorship in general. Colleges love that shit.

Turn yourself into a walking advert
Who needs the Gucci winter collection when you can do your shopping in a T-shirt with your book cover on it? Or carry a bag with a link to your website. (God love Vistaprint!) What about a bumper sticker for your car? Hell, make a sandwich board and go round your town centre crying O-ye, O-ye, if you think it'll help. It'll get you attention, if nothing else.

Join up with other indies
Got an indie friend in the same genre who's selling better than you? Beg and plead and offer to have their babies if you can have a chapter of your book in the back of theirs. "Liked this author? You might also like..." kinda thing. You can always return the favour for them. Remember: other indies are not the enemy! Get others to include you in their blogs, twitter, facebook, goodreads and all the rest.

Put your book on your website
I mean your whole book. The one you're trying to sell. I know, I know, this seems totally alien. Stay with me...the success of the bigger bookshops such as B&N comes from the fact that they have created an environment where people want to linger and read. They let them pick up books from their shelves and read as much as they want before committing to a purchase. That doesn't mean that everyone goes into B&N, finds the book they want and stays there reading the whole damn thing. They might read a chapter or two, but eventually they'll buy it to finish at home. This is a similar theory. Reading too much on a computer screen is uncomfortable on the eyes: no-one, but no-one, is going to read an entire novel that way. So put the whole thing on your site, and at the end of each chapter give them a little nudge - "read this on your Kindle at..." etc. with all your links. The people who get into the book will eventually want to read it more at their leisure and they will buy it, even though they can have it for free from your site. Trust me. Just disable the right click "copy all" function if you can ;-)

Become an expert
Trust me, everyone is an expert on something (or thinks they are...) You might know an awful lot about the Death's Head Moth, or quilting, or growing giant pumpkins. Whatever it is, your knowledge will be useful to someone. Join HARO (Help A Reporter Online). Here journalists who are looking for specific experts gather for sources. In return for your expert knowledge, you can usually wangle a line at the bottom about your book. Especially helps if your book is relevant to the topic in hand, but it doesn't have to be. Think about it: I could go on there as an "expert" in self-publishing. Or in queer theory. Or literary theory. They're all relevant to my writing and they're all something I can wax lyrical about. You can pay for advanced membership of HARO, but even with the free membership you'll get three emails a day with relevant requests for experts.

Be nice to fans
You will get them. I promise. I have several, and it still makes me grin like a fool when they contact me. Offer them additional freebies, and engage with them properly (not just "thank you for liking my book"). These people can be fiercely loyal, and they are the best marketing tool that you will ever have. 90% of advertising is word of mouth, and there is nothing so strong as the endorsement of a book by one reader to another. Whatever else you do, and however mundane your everyday life is, to people who like your writing you're a kind of celebrity, as surreal as that may seem. If your readers feel strongly about your work, and more importantly like you as a person and feel that they know you to some exent, they will go out of their way to promote you all over the place ~ and these people can have influence in a massive number of networks that you haven't even tapped. You are never, ever too busy to answer a message from a fan - even if it's just a tweet - because you never know where it might lead. If someone leaves you a positive review on Goodreads then be sure to "like" it.

An example of this in action: an author called Damon Suede has written a book called Hot Head. I'd never heard of him or it until two weeks ago, when the moderator of the Goodreads M/M Romance group sent a group-wide email announcing that it had been nominated for the goodreads romance book of the year award, and was the only m/m book nominated to boot. Damon is a member of the group, hence the support from the moderator. I voted for it in the first round. I then decided that I should probably read the book I'm voting for, or at least have a look at it on Amazon, so I did. I spent £5 on it (about $7.50) and wouldn't you know it's genuinely the best book I've read all year. Mr Suede now has my cash and it can all end there. However as I'd discovered it through goodreads I rated it and was moved enough by it to leave a review. The next day he "liked" it. My heart warmed. I copied the review and also left it on Amazon. I recommended it to people who were looking for book suggestions on the Amazon message boards. I'm now blogging about it. (Seriously, buy it. It's a fantastic book). This is a book that has 1000+ 5* reviews on goodreads alone. The author doesn't need to engage with any of them, the book is clearly selling well enough on its own. But because he did I've gone a couple of steps further than I otherwise would have done, and who knows, he may get some more sales as a result. Multiply that by 1000 and suddenly that's a lot of sales and a lot of money. And I might never have heard of it at all if he wasn't part of the same goodreads group as me.

Lesson for the day?
Never underestimate the domino effect of readers communicating with readers.  

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Self-Publishing Tips & Tricks #7: Paid Advertising

When all else fails you can always buy advertising. Every website and its founder is queuing up to take your money off you, so make sure you do some research beforehand.

First things first, set your goal.
What do you want to achieve? Yes, I know you want to sell a million copies of your book, but aside from that. How much money can you afford to spend? Are you prepared to write the advertising costs off as a necessary loss, or do you want to actually turn a profit from your campaign? How long are you prepared to commit to a campaign? All of these factors will impact on what is possible, and what will work for you. All I'm going to do here is run through the most popular options, giving the pros and cons for each. You need to work out the answers to the questions posed above to decide which route is best for you.

Google Adwords
The daddy of all search engines has it's own advertising feature (see those blue boxes on the right whenever you enter a search? That's what you'll be buying). Your first decision will be to go with pay per view or pay per click advertising. Which you go for is a bit of a gamble. If you pay per view you'll be charged a set rate for a set number of impressions (the number of times an ad is shown) e.g. for simplicity let's say $1 per 10,000 impressions. With pay per click you'll only be charged when someone actually clicks on the link on your ad, say $1 per click. You then set a daily budget, let's say $20, and a timescale for how long you want your ad to run, let's say a week. Now with pay per view google will generate up to 200,000 impressions each day. You might get 200,000 clicks from that, you might get none. With pay per click google will generate as many impressions as it takes for you to get 20 clicks. This could be after 20 impressions, or 2 million.

The pros to pay per impression is that if you've got an ad with a high click volume you'll get more clicks for your money. The con is that you could be paying for nothing, because no-one might be clicking. The pros to pay per click is that you're only paying when someone actually engages with your ad, so you have a better chance of seeing a return on your money, but the con is that you could end up with far fewer clicks than the other method, depending on how successful your ad is.

Note that google will charge you up to your limit, and all impressions are generated in response to a relevant search. When you design your ad you'll associate keywords with it (google has a great tool which will guide you in picking the most popular keywords as you do this) e.g. I might run an ad for Blood & Ash and I might assign a keyword "gay vampire". Every time someone types that phrase into google there is a chance that google will show an impression of my ad. Hence why you make your keywords both as generic and as specific as possible (not always easy). If there aren't enough relevant searches made in a day to show your set number of impressions, or you don't get that many clicks, you'll only be charged for what you've actually used.

As a general rule if you're paying for impressions then make your tagwords as specific as you can, if you're paying per click you can afford to be a bit more general.

Your ad is a living, breathing thing. If you're not happy with it you can always change the wording. The best ad campaign I ever ran described Blood & Ash as "Brokeback Mountain meets Twilight." Not entirely true, but not entirely a lie, either. Entirely successful though. Standing on the shoulders of giants is always a good idea.

The biggest advantage to advertising with google is that it's the most popular search engine on the net, ergo you have the biggest possible audience (which you can limit to area if you so desire). In addition, people are only on google because they're looking for something, making them open to any suggestions that your ad may make. They aren't on google to stay on google, but to get to somewhere else. Just make sure that somewhere else is your book page.

The social networking giant also has an advertising feature. I've already stated that I don't think a facebook fan page is the best place to start making your name as an author. I am equally doubtful that facebook advertising is the way to get people to your book, either. Unlike google, facebook is an end in itself, the people on there are networking, or spying, or playing games. They are not looking to go elsewhere. Be honest, how many times have you clicked on a facebook ad? And how many of those times did you click by accident and immediately go back to where you were?

The facebook marketing tool works in the same way as google's, although you get the added bonus of having an image included as standard, so if you do decide to go down this route, your decisions are pretty much the same as with google adwords: pay per click, and pay per impression. Facebook also uses it's users' "likes" to generate more options to narrow your target audience. Be warned, facebook's payment reporting isn't as slick as google's, I found it pretty difficult to see exactly what I had spent on any particular day, and as facebook will just take the money from your paypal accout when your bill is due it's all too easy to spend more than you anticipated.

This has to be the daddy of kindle reader networks. They have two advertising options, a banner ad across the top of the site, or being the "book of the day". The banner will set you back $40 per day, book of the day $35, with an option to save a bit if you buy several days at once. Both options are heavily subscribed: at the time of writing the banner ads are fully booked until Mar 2012, and book of the day until Sep 2012, so this isn't a short-term idea.

The pros are that this is *the* place where kindle owners meet to discuss books. The site gets 80-100,000 page views per day (figures as of 2010.) The banner ad will rotate on every page of the site, generating approx. 40,000 hits (there are 2 banners per day in equal rotation). That's $1 per every 1000 impressions, which might seem a bit steep compared to google / facebook's rates, but you are already right in front of your target audience, which in some eyes justifies the premium. Kindleboards will also provide you with satatistical data about your ad after it has run. The book of the day features at the top of every page, smaller than the banner ad, and gets about 50,000 impressions. If you use the site as a member and have a thread in the Book Bazaar they'll sticky it for the day so that it's always at the top while your book is being promoted, encouraging more discussion. I have shamelessly borrowed Kindleboards' graph showing the book ranking figures of 13 "books of the day" for your information.

Now no-one promises that your book will become a bestseller, but this clearly demonstrates that advertising in the right place can really help. Although it is worth pointing out that the lowest starting ranking was about 115,000. That's maybe a sale every other day. There is no data for the effect that this advertising has on books that are struggling with total obscurity.

There are other places that are worth considering. I have given a summary of the three biggest sites, but there are dozens of others. Kindle Nation has a number of "sponsorship" options, starting at $59.99 and running to $399.99 (which includes paying for a Kindle Fire for a members' competition). So not cheap, but again you're speaking directly to your target audience, and their options are more flexible than a small ad on a website.

Blogs are also worth considering. Every blogger and his dog is trying to turn a profit these days (except me ~ see, no ads!!) and some of the bigger ones are very, very popular. Kindle Author runs a sponsorship programme for $75 per day. Looking at the sales stats of some of those authors from the past week the effect, if there is one, is not lasting. Most of them have sales ranks lower than me, and I've not forked out $75 on advertising this week. Or at all, for that matter. The problem with Kindle Author is that every author and his dog is on there, but I'm not sure how many readers that site actually attracts. Google blogs in your genre (e.g. I might google "vampire book blog" or "mm romance blog") and have a look at the top sites. How many followers do they have, how many pageviews do they generate? Again, you're speaking directly to your target audience by advertising with them, and the vast majority of them have advertising options.

The big question, which everyone wants an answer to, is does paid advertising work? There's no hard-and-fast answer to that. A correctly applied ad campaign can be very, very effective. Another ad campaign might sink without trace. So many people spend so much time flitting about on the internet that getting their attention and holding it is always difficult. Consider where they are starting (i.e. the place where you are advertising) and make sure that it's somewhere that people will be willing to leave ~ like a search engine, rather than a social networking site. Think long and hard about how to target your audience as specifically as possible, and what the best way of reaching them is. Then write an ad that they simply cannot not click on.

No ad campaign, wherever you launch it, will guarantee you success. If it could, we'd all be doing it. Sometimes all the networking and the advertising that you do will fall on deaf ears. Sometimes you need to do something drastic. #8: Guerrilla Marketing, coming soon...

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Four Chances: A Short Story Quartet

~~ Now Available from Amazon & Smashwords ~~

Lust, love, longing, loss...Four erotic tales of attraction and angst; seduction and separation. 

Mark is hiding a terrible, shameful secret. Nobody knows, not even Adam, his best friend. When a teambuilding exercise forces him to confront his darkest fears, Mark finds himself in a situation that's out of his control. He needs a hero: will Adam be the man to rescue him?
Jason and Archie have been at it for months: ever since they started rooming together. Sex comes easily, but Jason knows that he wants more. He finally plucks up the courage to tell Archie how he feels, but Archie isn't alone. Has Jason left it too late for love?

Alex loves his partner of two years with all his heart, but Nick's possessiveness is suffocating him. Their relationship is at crisis point when Alex heads off for a night on the town. He's not looking for anything other than a good time with his friends, but a steamy encounter with a beautiful dancer might be too much to resist.

At twenty-one, Tom has finally got his life the way he wants it. He's just started his dream job as a fireman, and he's mastered the art of having affairs without falling in love and making a fool of himself. His reaction to Mike, his new boss, is purely physical. Isn't it?

36,000 words (145 pages)
Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Self-Publishing Tips & Tricks #6: Social Networking 101

So you're on twitter, facebook, goodreads and god knows where else. You've got a blog. What next?

Firstly, get all of your networks linked. Sites like twitter and facebook have loads of plug-ins that will let you link your other sites to them (see those links on the right prompting you to 'like' this blog, or follow me on twitter?) Every time someone clicks that they 'like' this blog, a link to it will appear on their facebook wall. All of their friends will see it, and there's another hyperlink back to my blog in cyberspace. I regularly tweet updates from this blog, and my facebook page is automatically linked to my twitter account via an RSS feed, so whatever I post on facebook also gets tweeted. All of these accounts also link back to my Amazon and goodreads author pages and automatically update there.

Once you've done that the wheels are in motion for you to be able to cross-promote your different networks with a minimum of effort. This way you are ensuring that you are reaching all of your followers, however they choose to follow you. Now you just need the rest of the internet to get on board and start helping you. Firstly, ping your blog. No, that's not a euphemism. In lay-speak, 'pinging' your blog means that you're sending it to the search engines directly, rather than waiting for their bots to come to you. Very useful when you're working with a medium that updates pretty regularly. (You are updating your blog regularly, aren't you?) Use sites like Ping-O-Matic! or Ping My Blog, all you have to do is add your URL and they'll tell the search engines all about you. The handy thing with these sites is that they also feed blog-specific search engines, as well as the more generic ones.

You should already be engaging with people on twitter, facebook and all the rest, and participating in discussions on sites like goodreads. Getting a bit overwhelmed? Well help is at hand! Thanks to a lovely little site called Social Oomph you can schedule tweets in advance. Very handy if (like me) the majority of your audience lives in a different time zone to you. No more getting up at 3am to tweet! Social Oomph has loads of great technology to really help you get the most out of your twitter account. Some of it is subscription-only, but there's enough available for free that you can utilise at the beginning while you decide how far you're going to take it. Another handy site is Manage Flitter, which will show you who is and who isn't following you, and how active those people are. A word of warning: twitter dislikes you mass unfollowing people, so it's not a good idea to go onto a site like that and delete 100 accounts at a time. Plus, it just makes you look antisocial. However it is useful to see if you're following people who haven't tweeted in the last six months. After all, what's the point of following them anymore?

Never underestimate the power of retweeting. Look which of the people that you follow have the biggest number of followers. Retweet their tweets, and chances are they'll return the favour.

If you haven't already, link your twitter account to your mobile. That way if you're scheduling updates you can stay on top of them when people tweet back or retweet them. After all they have no way of knowing that your tweet was scheduled, they think you're online and they're trying to talk to you. Ignoring them is rude. (You can tell twitter not to text you in the middle of the night so you won't get woken up at 4am to read a tweet saying something inane like "I agree").

Don't forget to use all of those tweet and share buttons on your Amazon page, B&N, Smashwords and everywhere else either. Remind people about your books - just don't do it all the time! Remember the golden rule - be interesting. One of the most successful twitter campaigns I ran was when I scheduled a series of tweets each repeating one of the top 10 jokes from this year's Edinburgh Fringe. Number 1 ("I needed a password with eight characters so I picked 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves'") got retweeted across the globe and my number of followers spiked.

Give up on the idea of having 5,000 followers who will all head straight off to Amazon and buy your book if you prompt them enough. It's not gonna happen. What you need to do is use social networking to get people interested enough in you to follow up on that. Pique their curiosity. Twitter is great for driving visitors to my blog (how many of you came from there?) and this blog is a much better platform for pushing my books. Here I have unlimited webspace to grab people's attention and get them hooked on my writing.

Market subtlely. If you're part of a forum such as Kindleboards then don't forget to use your signature line to link to your books. It's an unobtrusive way of promoting your books, and if you engage properly you should be able to get people interested enough to want to see what you've written. For other forums that don't automatically include a sig line you can still make one. A little basic HTML will make it look more professional. See how I can make a LINK that highlights a word and will go to another website? You can do that yourself, using the below code (which I've had to add as an image because otherwise the webpage will 'read' it and just display the link!):

(I know it's small, click on it and it'll go bigger!!)

The advantage to all of these links darting about and cross-referencing each other is that search engines love them. The more you have, the more you will appear in google et al, and the higher up the ranking you'll be.

You don't have to interact with readers all the time: when was the last time you spoke to another author? The indie community is a vibrant and welcoming place, so if you're not a part of it - why not? (This advice comes from the biggest cynic on the planet. I don't do cute and cuddly. I don't do holding hands and gathering round the campfire to sing songs. If I can get involved, so can you.) The author forum on Amazon's KDP platform is excellent: there is more help and information on there than I can ever impart in a hundred blog posts. See the top tab next to Bookshelf and Reports, the one called Community? Get in there, get there now! Another great platform is ePC, they've got some teething trouble with the forums, which are very slow to update, but if you post your books in the categories where you're told to they will roll them out across the web and help you with your SEO. Scroll to the bottom of this screen and you'll see their banner ad for some of their authors' books - yours truly included.

Remember: there is no competition between authors. No-one is making a reader pick one book and stick with it for life. So someone is outselling you in your category: the people who buy their books might buy yours next. The indies I have spoken to are without exception friendly and helpful people who will give you all the advice that you could ever need.

There are other - slightly underhand - ways that indies help each other. If you've been studying the way that Amazon works, you'll have noticed that the first and hardest hurdle you have to cross is getting initial sales. Once your book hits the top 20,000 or so across the paid Kindle store (easier than it sounds: a couple of sales a day will get you in this ballpark) you will notice that you suddenly rank in the Top 100 of a string of weird and wonderful sub-genres, the existence of which you'd never noticed before. This means that if someone is browsing by that genre, Amazon will present them with your book. Get onto the first page (Top 12) of those sub-genres and chances are that sales will start to beget sales. If your book is popular Amazon will pick it up and start to actively promote it for you.

So how do you get those initial sales? You can tweet until your fingers bleed, but there's a much easier way. Get a list of people - ideally you want about 50 - and 'gift' them your book from Amazon. To do this go to your book page and underneath 'buy this book' you will see 'send this book as a gift'. You need to warn your receievers that they are going to get an email from Amazon gifting the book, because it doesn't count as a sale until they log on and accept it. The more people you can get to accept the book on the same day, the better (because ranking is updated hourly). This will cost you money - you actually have to buy the book for the full purchase price every time you gift it - but think of this as an advertising cost. If you gift 50 books at $2.99 it will cost you $150 but you'll get $100 back in royalties. You can spend $50 in a single week advertising on google, and this will get you a far better return.

If it works, your book will rocket up the rankings and appear in the Top 100 (usually the Top 12) in a number of different categories. Once you've got that kind of visibility, you just have to cross everything you've got and hope that people browsing those categories think your book looks interesting and buy it themselves. Chances are, they will. Those sales will keep your book high in the rankings, meaning that more people will see it and buy it, and so on. The Amazon model pretty much guarantees that sales beget sales.

There are other ways of helping yourself out. Generate some excitement before a new release. If you're not thinking about marketing until after your book is published then you've already missed the boat. Start a month in advance, reminding people that the book is coming soon, the date it will be published, the title, what it's about. Add sample chapters to your blog and to goodreads. Garner as much interest as you can, and then on release day go all out on every network that you can telling people that it's arrived and urging them to go out there and be the first to buy it. People like being the first anything, so some will take you up on that if you prompt them.

Whatever forums you engage with, remember the golden rules:
  • Engage with others and participate fully
  • Be interesting
  • Make sure your contributions add value
  • Do favours for other people - they'll return them
  • Don't just shill your book(s)
  • Keep your communication audience-appropriate (there's no point advertising your book to other authors)
  • Link all of your accounts to each other and cross-promote them
There are other ways of getting more out of social networks, blogs and search engines, but these usually cost money. Stay tuned for #7: Paid Advertising, coming soon...

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Self-Publishing Tips & Tricks #5: Selling Yourself

This is the hardest thing that most people will ever have to do. It's relatively easy to market your latest book, but marketing yourself is much more difficult. It feels egotistical and just wrong. The fact of the matter is that you are an author: that makes you a kind of celebrity, however unlikely that seems. Start acting like one!

No, I don't mean wear sunglasses indoors and talk about yourself in the third person. You're an author, not a pretentious tosser. You can spend all of eternity marketing your most recent book, but all of that will go to waste as soon as you start marketing your next book. Or the one after. The key to this is making your name known in its own right, that way people will look for you, not one specific title.

Of course, I am assuming that you have written more than one book. Let's face it, you're not going to have written the next To Kill a Mockingbird, so if you want to make anything like serious money out of this venture you'd better have written more than one. Or be planning to. Why? Well the numbers speak for themselves. Let us assume that you sell one book per day, at $2.99. That gives you an annual income of approximately $730 per year. It's a holiday, but it's not a retirement fund. Now say you have two books that each sell one copy a day, at the same price. That's $1460 a year. That's a month's rent or a mortgage payment. Twelve books selling a copy a day and suddenly you can afford to go part-time at work, giving you more time to write, which means that you can publish more books. The effect snowballs.

It has been calculated that to earn a median salary of $35,000p.a. you need to be selling about 48 books at $2.99 per day, or 290 at $0.99. I know to most people they seem like completely unobtainable, pie-in-the-sky figures. But they're not. Honest. Not if you've got several books available. 48 copies a day of one title is hard ~ damn hard. With those kind of sales figures you'd be pretty close to the top 100 across the Kindle store, and most people are never going to reach those lofty heights. But if you've got two books available, that's 24 copies of each one (1 an hour). If you've got four, that's only 12 copies of each book. And so on.

That doesn't mean that I am advocating just hammering books out and throwing them onto the web. People have to like your books for this to work, after all! Take as much time on them as each book needs, but always keep the end goal in mind. It might mean only publishing a book a year, but over ten years that's ten books. (I never promised that this was a get-rich-quick scheme, did I?) The advantage to having more titles available is that if people like one, chances are they'll buy more. I've had emails from people already saying that they've read all of my books and they want to know when the next is out. (End of this month, my pretties!) The first and last question that a reader always asks is what's next? That can seem like a very cruel question when you've just poured your guts into a book and feel like you've been physically and emotionally drained, but never knock enthusiasm for your writing, however much you might feel like crying.

Consider ways of increasing your output without compromising the end product. I've been a busy bee writing my Lost Realm series since the beginning of this year, and have just published the second of three novels that are going to make the trilogy. The third is coming together in my head but there's no way it will be out any time before Feb 2012. After hitting publish on Fire & Ice back in early October, I simply couldn't face writing another novel again immediately. Novels are hard work, and take a long, long time. I reckon (conservatively) I've put at least 500 hours into Fire & Ice. It literally took over my life.

To keep my hand in, I've written five short stories. They will be published in one collection at the end of this month. A short story can have a pretty quick turnaround. I can finish the first draft (say 10,000 words) in five hours or so. I can do that in an evening after work, or at the weekend. It only takes my betas an hour or two to read, and then it's back to me, usually the next day. I can then revise it. Most of them are now sitting around the 12k mark. I've got one left to finish, it probably needs another 4k adding to it, and then it needs to do the rounds with the betas and have a final revision. Then it's done. The whole collection comes in just shy of 50,000 words (so the length of a novel) but has taken me six weeks (up to this point). There is no way I could produce a full novel of the same standard in that time.

So you don't have to write novel after novel after novel. Consider short stories. Consider poetry (I know it's not a massive seller, but if you can do it, why not?) A series can be useful in keeping your momentum up because you've already got your characters and your scene, you just need a new plot. However, sometimes writing a sequel can be the hardest thing of all, because your readers already know what they expect from the characters. Mess with that too much and they'll never forgive you.

Whatever you decide to do, just keep writing. Having other works available will benefit you in a number of unexpected ways. Not only does it make that goal of 48 books a day more achievable just by virtue of stacking the odds more highly in your favour, there are also the incalculable benefit of people liking one of your book and buying your others. Amazon will help you out by including your other books in "what customers bought after viewing this item" section (if others have bought them, of course!) Once someone's bought Blood & Ash, Amazon now actively prompts them towards Fire & Ice.

Once you've got more than one book out, then promoting each title singly is a waste of your valuable time and effort. Instead, you need to promote yourself as the superstar author that you are. Let people find you, and then they can take their pick which of your books they read first. To do this you are going to have to get over yourself and start blowing your own trumpet a bit. If you've taken my advice from Self-Publishing Tips & Trick #4 then you're already got yourself started on a number of social networking platforms. Now is the time to ramp that up a gear. You see this blog? It's all about me. My books, my ideas, my advice. This entire series is a SEO wet dream. (And there you were thinking that I was just a sweet, selfless indie wanting to help others!) If you've not got a blog, get one. I'm sure you're just as interesting as I am, so find something to write about. Tip - Don't write about writing! It's boring as hell. No reader cares. (Yes, I know, I know. I'm writing a series about self-publishing. Discount that for a minute. All my other posts are about my pet subject - queer theory. And announcing when I've got new books out, or offers on. That's the kind of stuff you want to blog about).

Give your blog a theme. I studied queer theory at uni, and my books are all in the gay & lesbian genre. I know what I'm talking about in this field, and it's relevant to my writing, so the more I blog about it the more potential readers I attract. Everyone is an authority on something, so have a think about what you are passionate or knowledgeable about. The point is to get people to read your writing and want to learn more about you. See how I end every post with a sentence about what I write and a link to my Amazon author page? That's my sign-off. It's unobtrusive, but if someone has read to the bottom of my post they'll keep reading that last line, and you never know, they might just click on the link.

Just because that's not enough me, me, me for one day, consider joining a blog tour. Check out the one I hosted: the KDP Blogtour 2011. People are always keen to conduct author interviews, just join a couple of author forums and jump in. The advantage to the blogger is that every author who has been interviewed will want to promote the interview, and therefore the blog. The advantage to authors is that it's free publicity. I've done three recently, on Kindle Author, Isabella Tyler's blog, and Cyndia Rios-Myers' blog. Google my name and all three come up on the first page. It really was incredibly simple to do: each blogger emailed me a list of questions, and I did my best to answer them in as entertaining a fashion as possible. Each post ended with a brief bio of me and links to all of my books.

Sales are a tried and tested marketing ploy, and you'd do well to get involved. Goodreads has a great platform for offering freebies and giveaways, and hosting competitions. Some blogs will promote your book(s) if you provide a number of free copies for their readers. Smashwords will let you create coupons to discount your books, or to even give them away. Publish limited-time offers on your social networks. Giving the offer a deadline will create a sense of urgency and encourage people to take you up on it. Here it helps if you have a hard copy of your book to give out, but offers still work if it's ebooks that you're distributing. Consider dropping your price on Amazon for a limited period and broadcast the news everywhere. Don't be swayed into giving out free copies of your books to bloggers left, right and centre in return for reviews or publicity. Always check how likely you are to get a return for your investment, and remember that the bigger bloggers are innundated with people all offering the same things that you are.

Add value to your books. If you've written a series, consider making an omnibus edition ~ it will sell, I promise. Make Special Edition versions of your books. For $1 extra include some additional information at the end: deleted or extended scenes, a Q&A with the author, excerpts from new / upcoming publications, a list of discussion points for a reading group, maybe a short story or a spin-off from the book, or even an alternative ending. I know people who have done this and the Special Edition version has actually sold better than the original. The key is to include quality material that people will want to read and that does give your readers something a little bit special, and best of all it's probably stuff that you've got lying around anyway.

In summary:
  • The more books you write, the more books you will sell
  • Time spent marketing yourself will pay greater dividends than time spent marketing individual books
  • Use social networks and personal blogs to engage with potential readers
  • Never waste an opportunity to leave a link to your books / author page!
  • Get interviewed - it's not just for A-Listers anymore
  • Run limited time offers and giveaways
  • Add value to your books to justify a higher price
Finally, never underestimate the personal touch. Your blog and your social network profiles are your opportunity to engage directly with your target audience. If people feel like they know you, they'll be more inclined to check out your books. If they think you are an interesting person, they'll want to know if your writing is interesting, too.

Getting someone to buy one of your books is the start of your journey, not the finish. There's still all of that lovely blank space at the end of your book that you'd be a fool not to use. I'm sure you've already got an author bio there already. Have you got your social network links there? A link to your blog? A list of your other titles? If not, why not? If someone has taken the time to read to the end of your book, they'll keep reading whatever else you put there. It's a great place to put a money-off coupon for your next book. It's also a great place to put a couple of sample chapters from your next book.

Encourage readers to communicate with you and engage with them. There is nothing like an email from a fan to cheer up a dull Monday morning. Even if it's just an extra follower on twitter, it's someone who will be paying attention to what you say - and to what you publish in the future. Reward loyalty with acknowledgements and vouchers. Someone tweeted me the other day to say that they'd read Fenton and loved it. I tweeted back thanking them and they've marked my tweet as a favourite. I think I've made a friend for life. Someone else contacted me when Fenton went free asking why they couldn't see it for free in the UK. I explained it was only free in the US but offered them a free copy anyway. They promptly purchased both Fenton and Fire & Ice. You can't buy that kind of loyalty or advertising.

For more on how to get the most out of social networking, stay tuned for #6: Social Networking 101

Kate Aaron is an author of queer and fantasy novels and short stories. Find all her books on Amazon now