Writer Susan Kiernan-Lewis has a nice blog spot on speaking and how frightened people are of it. I think sliding toward the edge of a 200′ foot cliff in winter outside of Park City, Utah counts as scarier…but statistically, this isn’t true for most people.
Today marks the one week anniversary of a little experiment of mine: posting my fantasy short story Sword of Kings for free with two different mobile reading services, Wattpad (http://www.wattpad.com/3237579-sword-of-kings-part-i) and Scribd (http://www.scribd.com/doc/79242254/Sword-of-Kings).
If you haven’t heard of either service, don’t feel bad. I’d vaguely heard of Scribd before but only came across the possible sales and promotional potential of both it and Wattpad after reading David Gaughran’s attempts with both his own short stories and serially posting his novel A Storm Hits Valparaiso.
In essence, both services offer a variation on the same theme: they facilitate the process of writers finding readers. Writers post their work (though Wattpad is almost exclusively fiction and poetry) without charge; readers can download those works for free. The reasons why writers might want to offer their work for free are many: to find beta readers, to “field test” an odd-ball idea, to stimulate interest in your writing so that it leads to sales of other works, to simply spread your ideas.
While Wattpad and Scribd may seem like just another internet fad, consider that Wattpad claims 1 million users, 3 million comments/votes per month, and the average user spends 30 minutes twice a day on the site. The top stories in each genre of the “What’s Hot” category routinely register over 1-2 million reads. That’s exposure.
(This blog post is the second in a two-part series. Read Part I here!)
In the first part of this post, I discussed the important of having blurbs or varying lengths for your book and a set of cover images ready for any occasion. You might also find the following handy to have around when you’re neck deep in promoting your newest title.
Almost every online opportunity to display a book also includes a chance to show off the author. Don’t miss this chance to sell yourself!
- Short bio
I haven’t seen any particular requirements here, but think of it like your book: having a one-sentence description of yourself as a writer can never hurt. If you come up against a “describe yourself in twenty words or less” request on a site, you’ll be ready. Bits like this can be useful for Tweets and Facebook posts, as well.
- A medium bio
This is handy for the Amazon “About the Author” section. Mine is 99 words long, is chunked into two paragraphs for easy reading, and mentions two of my novels (though both are currently unpublished. I would recommend having a “generic” bio that doesn’t assume your book title(s) are nearby, as mine are in my Amazon bio). You’ll find you’ll need this description for author bio sections on Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Librarything, ScribD, and many more sites.
- A long bio
Your medium bio will probably be your workhorse. However, I’ve seen interesting one-two punches on authors’ personal sites where they have both a short and long form. The more interesting the author, the more likely–and useful–a long bio might be. Use your best judgment: if you write spy novels and have twenty years of experience as a CIA operative, you can get away with 400 words on yourself. But probably not if you write cookbooks.
- Awards and testimonials
Have your testimonials and award nominations ready. Check spelling, dates, and facts. If you are lucky enough to have multiple awards or testimonials, arrange them according to impact or length; you may not have the luxury of using them all.
This is a little nerdy, but I have a .txt file of all the URLs that matter to my career or to my books. There are many occasions when you may want to include in an email or blog post not just the URLs where readers can buy your books but also your Goodreads profile, a positive reader review, or a place readers can review/rate your book directly.
Here’s an excerpt:
AMAZON/KINDLE [Author page] http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00642SZQO [Three Shorts] http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0062OM416 [Hard Way] http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0062OMHD6 [Match] http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0062OMGBY [Kind] http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0062OMW9A
The primary objectives here are convenience and accuracy: you don’t want to have to Google your own Amazon page or try to type these things from memory with the chance that you’ll screw it up and send valuable readers to a “404 Not Found”.
(Again, I use a text file to avoid unnecessary errors; since you’ll often be using this text file to copy and paste links into websites, don’t take a chance that hidden word processor formatting will mess up your links.)
(Also, make sure you keep the “http://” in the URL.: many sites do not add it for you, with the result that if you copy and paste just the “www.” part of the URL into an input box, for instance, it will error.)
As a former IT professional, I can tell you that this next piece of advice is normally a security no-no: keeping your usernames and passwords written out. But let’s face it: you’re going to have a half-dozen or more (maybe many more) accounts related to your writing career and its promotion that have nothing to do with your “regular” online life.
I didn’t have any of these accounts before I started epublishing:
- Web host and (separate) email address
- Amazon KDP/Author Central/Amazon Affiliate
- Twitter (separate from personal)
- Bing Webmaster Tools
- MailChimp/Constant Contact/TinyLetter (mail programs)
- A half-dozen writer-centric accounts that existed before the epublishing jazz began (Sisters In Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Virginia Writers Club, etc.)
Many of them can use the same user/password combo, but others have different requirements. With this kind of madness, I ignore my inner IT Manager and keep accounts listed in a document* on a secure site with one strongpassword (a capital letter, a number, a symbol, and a minimum of eight characters,). As a backup, the passwords in the document are also just strong hints for myself, not fully written out.
This saves me immense time when I’m trying to do promotion: I don’t want to waste time and energy trying to find or remember my Twitter, Facebook, and website password to promote a simple blog post.
*I treat sites that deal with my financials [Amazon KDP, where you have payment info] differently. I do not list these in the master document I describe above.
This section is entirely up to you, but I find it handy to have a spreadsheet of any part of the promotion process that is iterative. For instance, I have a spreadsheet of all the book bloggers/reviewers I’ve discovered and keep running tabs on: Name, Date Contacted, Date Submitted, Queue (i.e., wait time), email, blog URL, Affiliations (do they blog for a group or just themselves), and Notes.
For my blog posts, I keep a running tally of the Title, Date Posted, and whether it was a Guest Blogpost or not. You get the picture. Anything you might likely lose track of is often best kept in a worksheet.
With promotion being a large chunk (some might say the larger chunk) of an epublished author’s job, keeping well-written, carefully constructed information about yourself and your books accurate, up-to-date, and accessible saves time…time better spent writing the next book.
If there’s one truth I’ve found in the new world of electronic publishing, it’s that the primary task once the book or collection is written is promotion. And a corollary to that rule–one I’ve learned the hard way–is that it’s of immense value to have as much descriptive information about your project written, saved, and accessible as possible. To do pain-free promotion (or mostly so) you need to have all of your ducks in a row. The question is: which ducks?
Even modest self-promotion efforts require synopses (long and short), descriptions (long and short), author bios, and cover images (of many sizes). What might be less obvious are the record-keeping tricks that will help you down the line: a list of username and passwords for your social media accounts, the URLs to your book or books on all of the major sellers’ sites, URLs to your books on review sites, and so on.
This list is far from complete, but it’s one I’ve built up from actually slogging through the process; it’s battle-tested. If you can add to it, please give me your 2 cents in the Comments section!
I would recommend having the following blurbs/synopses/book descriptions ready and waiting in a Word document (better yet, keep them in a .txt file so you don’t get any strange formatting errors when you paste into an HTML input box).
Also, I should stress that you should work on these and have them ready before you need them. It can be depressing and enervating to have to write some of this stuff while a book blogger’s website sits there, waiting for you to fill in the required information. It’s very satisfying to simply open up the doc, copy the relevant part, and paste it in about three seconds.
- A very short description of your book
One sentence, preferably under thirty words. This is your “elevator pitch” in trad pub terms. It’s a catchy summary of your book that you can use in anything from email signatures to blog posts to Tweets.
- A short description
400 characters or so. This is the Smashwords maximum for their “Short Description” field and is probably a good length for other sites as well where length is critical.This short description was also useful for fleshing out my book description in a Librarything giveaway, where I ws competing against 75 other titles to attract readers’ attention.
- A long description
This might be called “long”, but I would still recommend keeping it under 200 words. You can use this for your Amazon description and in introducing bloggers and book reviewers to your work.
Your cover may well sell your book and the majority of online book stores and bloggers will give you the option of adding it to your book’s description. It’s critical that you catch a would-be reader’s eye with it. Thoughts:
- Understand the requirements of image resolution (72dpi for the web, 200dpi+ for print) and format (.jpg, .gif, .png for the web; for print there are many others, but usually .tif).Be sensitive to file sizes. Some sites may automatically “downsample” large files, but individual bloggers will not be happy if you send them a 12mb, 300 dpi image of your cover art which they will then have to either alter themselves or (more likely) demand you do it, anyway.
- Have multiple versions handy. I have 8 versions of my short story anthology’s cover: one thumbnail (60px tall), one small version (144px), four of varying sizes for others’ websites (200px, 210px, 216px, and 423px), the ebook cover itself (823px), and a 300 dpi version for possible posters and brochures.This is overkill, but you see where having at least a thumbnail, small, medium, and large versions might help. If you have hired someone else to do them, make sure you ask for a stable of varying sizes (and note that resizing them yourself without proper image-editing software can often result in a poor quality image).
Part II will cover what information you should have ready about the author (that’s you!) and a suggestion on a tip sheet that you might not have thought of before. Read it here.
David Gaughran is one of many authors who are participating in a tribute for epub author L.C. Evans today, who passed away from cancer earlier this month. Simon Royle of Indie Review has led the charge on the tribute.
When you buy one of L.C.’s titles on Amazon, a participating author will send you a free copy of their book in thanks. Please take a second to participate in the ebook community and pay tribute to L.C.’s memory.