Tag Archives: publishing

Literary Speed Dating

Did you know such thing even existed? No, it’s not authors dating authors, although maybe that’s not a bad idea either. It’s an event organised by an author society, where about a dozen publishers get to hear 3-minute pitches from writers that want to traditionally publish their books. I’ve known about the one organised by Australian Society of Authors for years now, but it has always sold out in a matter of days if not hours. This year, however, I get to go!

How did I do it? As usual, with dogged persistence. When I missed out last year, I went ahead and put a recurring reminder into my calendar to check the website for the next year’s announcement. Because I was told it would happen “early next year,” the reminder started on 1 January and repeated every day until now. I kept checking the website and was starting to lose hope when voila! There was the announcement and the web form. I tried to submit it a couple of times, but it didn’t work. When I called them, the staff member was in shock because she did not know it was already published on the web, it was supposed to get her approval or something. She took my credit card details (the event costs $50 AUD) and after much begging from me, sent me an email confirming that yes, I’m in.

So yay! On 24 June I get to finally meet those elusive publishers who so far managed to hide behind their assistants and template rejection letters. I have four months to finish my new book and to plan my assault. Me thinks I will be pitching not only the story, but myself too – the doggedly persistent author of not one, but three books. Gimme a contract for three novels over two years! I will deliver!

I will be posting about my experience, of course, and whether the event was worth the $50 (plus the membership with Writers Victoria). If you live in Australia, you may want to put a reminder in your calendar for next January or get onto the waiting list. If you live elsewhere, contact your local author society to see if they are doing something similar, or suggest that they do.

I know it’s a long time away, but the deadline got me even more energized to continue writing, and that alone is worth the fifty bucks. So far I’d managed between 800 and 1,100 words per day over the first three days, and that’s after long, hard days at work. let’s just see what happens over the weekend.

Hope you are well and that the Muse has visited you too, if not in the shower, then maybe in your dreams, or in the long boring meeting. Whenever it is, invite her in.

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My experience with a NetGalley co-op by Patchwork Press

If you’ve seen my Super-Duper List of Book Advertising Websites, then you may have noticed my moaning about the $399 NetGalley signup fee. That’s just so you can give your book away for free to book bloggers and other professionals, in hopes that they will post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Needless to say, I was in no mood to take that big of a financial hit, until I came across another author mentioning Patchwork Press and the NetGalley co-op service they provide. Basically, instead of paying $399 to list one of your books for six months, you get to try the service for much, much less – in fact, a year-long listing through the co-op would cost only $360. You can try NetGalley for one month for just $50. It sounded too good to be true, but I can spare a fifty, so I was willing to try it.

I listed Shizzle, Inc for one month from late July to August. To simplify things, I’ve decided to break my review into two parts: my experience with Patchwork Press and my opinion of NetGalley.

Patchwork Press:

  1. First of all, the co-op is not a hoax! Yay! Shizzle, Inc was listed on Netgalley as promised (the listing is now archived). The reason you pay less is that (I assume), Patchwork Press (PP) pays a publisher fee and gets to list a large number of titles, at a fraction of a cost for each.
  2. PP has a responsive customer service – all my emails were answered promptly. There was a glitch when Shizzle, Inc was not posted on the day I wanted, but I got a prompt apology and the listing was extended as a bonus.
  3. Great customer service continued throughout, not just until I paid the bill – something was wrong with my epub file, but PP offered to sort it for me. I was given an option to provide a Word file, which they converted.
  4. PP did all the assessments of requests and chose who should or shouldn’t get a copy of my book. You may prefer to have control over this aspect of the service, but I was happy to let them use their experience and judgement.
  5. Every time a review was posted, I got an email from NetGalley asking if I wanted to have it added to the book’s page. I had to forward this email to PP if I wanted the review to be added, and they did so very quickly (in less than a day).
  6. There’s no option to use NetGalley’s marketing services, but I’m about to ask PP if that option exists but is not advertised by them.

NetGalley:

  1. I don’t know how many requests Shizzle, Inc had, but I got 5 reviews in the span of a month – 4 positive and 1 negative.
  2. Turns out that people have the option to vote on the cover. This was an added bonus, as I’ve designed the cover myself and continuously worry if it’s good enough. The cover got 9 “thumbs up” and 1 “thumbs down.”
  3. I can’t weigh in on the marketing option (which is an additional $200 for your book to be included in a newsletter). NetGalley claims to have 30,000 subscribers to the newsletter, so I would imagine it would be a huge difference in the number of reviews.
  4. You may choose not to add the negative reviews to your book listing (as I did). However, you can’t control what gets posted on other platforms, so I got one negative review as a result. Bummer. But I did get four positive reviews, including one after the listing was archived. That’s an average of $10 per review, via an acceptable and perfectly legal platform.

Overall, I would recommend trying a co-op service. Apparently, there are others out there, such as Victory Editing for as little as $40/month. If you know of any others, please let me know!

May the positive reviews be with you.

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Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.

Happy belated birthday to Shizzle, Inc!

With all the recent health drama going on, I completely forgot that on 4 September was the one-year anniversary of Shizzle, Inc (Isa Maxwell Escapades Book 1) hitting the Kindle “shelves.” My brain is slowly returning to its usual programming after I finally heard the three sweetest words in the English language – “it was benign.” While I’m facing several more weeks of tough recovery – I still can’t stand up straight or walk for more than a few minutes at a time – it’s nothing compared to the agony of anticipation and anxiety.

I’ve been a published author for just over a year. How crazy. I have a bottle of champagne in my fridge, which will pop as soon as I’m off the cocktail of painkillers. Too bad I can’t have a sip right now, because I do have quite a few reasons to celebrate. I transitioned from a decade of dreaming about being a published author to having two books self-published. I took a massive five months off work to pursue this writing dream. I started #ComedyBookWeek and saw the inaugural event soar with 117 participating titles. I have made lots and lots of connections with other authors, have learned from them, and shared my experiences in turn.

Speaking of experiences, few things compare to the joy ride of getting your first book published. The high of seeing it on Amazon. The low of pathetic sales. The high of doing something about the low sales, be that paid advertising or trick after marketing trick. The low of realizing this is one of the worst ROIs you’ve ever had. The high of the first 5-star review. The low of the first (and second, and third) 1-star review. It doesn’t end, and it doesn’t get old, and eventually you learn to accept it for what it is. The learning curve is very steep in that first year, and I have learned lots, namely:

  1. I have improved as a writer as I continued to work on the second novel, so it’s been difficult (but necessary) to let go of the first book and stop trying to fix it. I did hire the fourth (!) editor to clean out Australianisms, but will not worry about it again. I will move on and write more, because Ana’s opus is yet unwritten.
  2. I have learned A TON about marketing a book. From cover design to launching, to which paid advertising sites work, and which don’t. If you haven’t seen my Super-Duper List of Book Advertising Sites, check it now. It may save you a few bucks. I haven’t hit NY Times list yet, but while Shizzle, Inc sold 12 copies in it’s first week, Indiot sold over 100 in the same amount of time.
  3. Speaking of sales, Shizzle, Inc sold a total of about 800 copies in its first 8 months, at $3.99, then $2.99, and finally $0.99. Its permafree now and thousands of free copies have been downloaded (I wish I kept a better eye on the numbers, as I can only look back at the last 90 days). It was hard work to push these sales along – I have not made my money back on all of my paid advertising experiments, and even the free downloads have withered down to nothing over the last few weeks, without ads. Just for fun, here are the last month’s charts: Shizzle, Inc free downloads shizzle-on-12-sept …and Indiot paid sales indiot-on-12-sept
  4. Going permafree was a difficult, but exciting decision, and one I still stand by. No, it’s not helping to pay back the investment, but Shizzle, Inc now has 73 reviews, and I am inching my way towards that elusive BookBub promo. Indiot is not doing too shabby, either, with 12 reviews in its first two months of existence.
  5. Speaking of reviews, I’ve learned to accept them as they are. At first, the 1-star reviews hurt so much that I’d even written A Simple Guide to Overcoming 1-star Review Grief. Now I just make sure that I read those bad reviews only once. The 5-star reviews, however, I read again and again. Kid you not, some of the early positive reviews I’ve read at least twenty times, and will undoubtedly read again. They have been a healing balm and a fuel to keep me going.
  6. I’ve learned that moving a book in a brick-and-mortar store is practically impossible. It was a thrill to see my book on a bookstore shelf and then into the bookstore’s front window, but I sold just two copies that way. From now on, I will concentrate on electronic book sales, until one of the big publishing houses offers to take this chore off my hands.
  7. Social media. Oh, boy, what have I not tried with social media? I went wide, and now there are dead accounts on just about every platform. My main lesson there was not to spread myself thin and to concentrate on just a couple of venues, which are this blog and Twitter for me. I did learn a lot about Goodreads, but Found Instagram and Facebook to be too much of a chore with little return.

This was an intense year, and I could probably go indefinitely with the dot-points, but I think the most important thing is that I’m still here and still kicking, despite now being well aware of the realities of self-publishing. It’s difficult, it’s often discouraging, expensive, time-consuming, and confusing. Good thing that it’s also liberating, empowering, educating, and inspiring. I’ve been a self-published author for one year, which is both a long time and not nearly long enough to count any chickens yet. I like to play this game sometimes, where the future me has something to say in terms of advice or encouragement. I’d like to think that Ana 2020 would thank me for not giving up on this dream the way I gave up on sculpture or breeding rare fish (okay, that one was a doozy).

Happy Birthday, Shizzle, Inc. I’m so glad to have you in my life.

 

 

 

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Quick How-To: get 1,000 Goodreads followers with 5 minutes of effort

Have a gander at these here numbers: I now have 1,020 Goodreads friends!

Ana Goodreads stats

How did I manage this, you ask? Well, about a week ago, I had 200 friends, as a result of a year of giveaways (total of 8, which are also responsible for the staggering 2,424 of my books on people’s to-read shelves) and also because of two months of madness advertising #ComedyBookWeek. Then I discovered something most of you probably already know.

Goodreads lets you connect to your friends on other social platforms  en masse.

So, if you already knew that, then why didn’t you tell me? For those that didn’t, here’s how you can connect to thousands of your Twitter or Facebook friends with a few clicks (assuming you have thousands of Twitter or Facebook friends):

  1. On Goodreads, hover over your picture in the top-right corner. When a menu appears, click on “Friends.”
  2. Find this in the top-right corner of “Friends” page:                                        Ana Goodreads stats
  3. Click on each platform’s icon and send out invites by clicking on “Add Friends” button.

That’s it. Now they all will see your general updates, comments you’ve made in groups, and you can invite them to your groups or events. Like, I dunno, you can invite them to #ComedyBookWeek group. Just sayin’.

You’re welcome.

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I wrote 2.8Kwords today. And 2.6K yesterday. What’s changed, you ask?

Well, Josh has been asking that. Every time I’ve bragged about kicking my goals the last few days, or that I’ve written almost 20K words in less than two weeks, he inevitably asks what’s changed. That’s because I’ve struggled to deliver on my ambitious long service leave writing plan, averaging only about 500 words per day, with occasional bursts of 2-3 thousand per day. Those were usually followed by days of writer’s block.

So what has changed? I decided to examine the last few months, and these are my thoughts:

1. TOOLS.

I credit Scrivener with helping me get my third novel off the ground quickly. I wrote Shizzle, Inc and Indiot in Word, which is fine, but I can only now appreciate how difficult it was to plot a full-length novel with subplots, multiple characters, and several plot twists, in a linear document. Scrivener, if you’re not familiar with the tool, allows you to chunk and organise your novel, so you have a clear “skeleton” of acts, chapters, and even scenes onto which to add finer strokes of your prose. I’m not sure why I’ve never tried it before, especially because it’s free to try for 30 days, and only costs $40 to purchase outright.

(Note: I googled and found a 20% coupon, so it only cost me $32. The coupon is WORDSWITHJAM and only works on the full version, but it may stop working soon. If that’s the case, just Google another one.)

I have also purchased a much more expensive Dragon Naturally Speaking narration software, but I’m finding that it’s difficult for me to use it at the moment. Some of it is my accent, so I will have to invest some time into training my Dragon. The other problem comes from twenty-plus years of “thinking through my fingertips.” I’m not giving up on it, though, and hey – just used it to type out this sentence!

2.  MOOD.

I had a personal drama unfold earlier this year, which meant that I spent my February crying, and March elated when it finally resolved. Try writing comedy when the world is dark and tears are literally streaming down your cheeks almost constantly. Try writing anything at all when you’re so happy, you don’t care about anything, including your goals and aspirations. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you have pressing issues of any kind, concentrating on something else is difficult. All you get are fight-or-flight, not sit-down-and-write response.

Also, while I’ve managed to write about 30K words of Indiot in November-January, I had to eventually conclude that those particular words were garbage, and I was continuously rewriting/editing/deleting as I progressed further with the first draft. So even if I wrote 2-3K on a good day and then deleted as much of the old stuff, the resulting word count was insignificant. And that’s just the nature of writing. I’m thinking what I wrote today is pretty good, but I’m not sure how I will feel about it in another month or two.

3. ATTITUDE.

This is a weird one. Some credit is due to bad reviews and people on KBoards advising me to scrap my cover, scrap my series, and write in a different genre, because chicklit is dead. Those comments hurt, but then they give me some kind of angry energy and desire to prove those people wrong. It also helped that a few days ago I’ve downloaded DMX’s X Goin’ To Give It To Ya and I jump up and down to it whenever I’m starting to feel low. To paraphrase DMX, “Ana’s gonna give it to ya” and “First we gonna write, and then we’ll write more!” DMX is not for everyone, but damn! Listen to it enough, and next thing you know, you just want to drag race and smash things, and maybe challenge strangers to a dance off…like I said, not for everyone.

4.PRIORITIES.

I’ve let my social media stagnate a bit. What can I say, I was an addict. I still reply to messages, but only once a day, and only after I’ve done my daily writing quota. It’s great to have an active following, and I’m not going to let it stagnate into a deadpool, especially not with #ComedyBookWeek coming up, but I think I now have my priorities straight. Writing comes first. Everything else is after.

5. ROUTINE.

Ah, I left the seemingly boring, but very important thing to the last. It’s also related to setting priorities – now I get up early, have my coffee, walk the dog, and sit down to write. Today, I had my first thousand words by 9am. The feeling of accomplishment is like a drug – I had the 2.8K done by 1pm, and then decided to quit for the day, out of fear that I may burn out.  I still had the energy to burn – you should see my sparkling kitchen.

Tomorrow the goal is 3K. Ana’s goin’ to give it to ya!

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Murder and Wine and the Oblong Door

Hi, everyone,

Something different today. My brains have been turning into a mush from the continuous editing of Indiot, plus I’m in constant pain from something going array with my back (due to too much sitting and editing). Well, for whatever reason, I was having some kind of a crisis today, and prescribed myself a dose of “something different.” I sat back down in front of the screen with an intention to write a spanking-brilliant new promo plan for Indiot, and instead, I wrote a short story with a prompt from Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog. The task was to write a story based on a title – I chose Murder, Wine, and the Oblong Door. I’ve never done flash fiction before, and I intended for it to be something completely different, but alas, it’s about Isa.

Here it is.

Murder and Wine and the Oblong Door

“I could get away with murder.”

“Right.” Harden sipped his beer as if I was just going on about school drama, like I usually do. We were in the bleachers, with a six-pack between us, and the whole Saturday night to kill.

“I mean it. If I had to, of course. Like, if a gang killed my parents when I wasn’t home, and then the popo just gave up on the case, and I had to become a vigilante.”

“What do you have against your parents, psycho?”

I punched his shoulder. “You’re not listening. I love them, so I would kill for them, get it? But I would be smart about it, like that girl from that movie, you know the one? She got raped and then she plotted revenge for years. Something like that.”

“Okay, this is enough for you,” he made a move to grab my bottle, but I snatched it away. “Two beers, and you’re wasted? You’re a cheap date, Izz.”

“I’m not wasted,” I said and demonstratively took another sip. “You’re just closed-minded. And this is not a date.”

I couldn’t see his face, but I heard him puff. We hardly ever talked about Brad, ever since Harden tried to convince me that a jock was not a good boyfriend material and we had a huge blow-out. Still, I could tell what he was thinking, even when he chose to swallow the words.

“I’d use poison,” I said.

“Jesus! On whom?”

“The gang members, silly. I’d be like Poison Ivy, seductive, but deadly. Charm them, then slip a potion into a wine glass, and boom!” I threw my arms up to show the explosive effect my weapon of choice would have on the gastro-intestinal tract of wrong-doers.

“Those are some posh thugs,” Harden said. “I’ve never heard of gangstas passing around a bottle of fine Cabernet Sauvignon.”

“Okay, whiskey glass,” I conceded. “The point is, they wouldn’t know what hit them. I’d be in and out with an alibi. Natural causes, case closed.”

He leaned in and I could see his face in the dim glow of the half-dead floodlights. I could not tell if he was mad at me or playing along. “Who are you?”

“I’m Isabella Maxwell,” I said, bulging my eyes back at him. “I may look average, but I sometimes have unaverage thoughts, so arrest me.”

“Unaverage is not a word.”

“Grammar Police.” I chugged the rest of my bottle and tossed it into the darkness of the van. “Gimme another.”

“Jesus, Isa, you know Mom will kill me.” He labored to get up and retrieve the bottle, and I took the opportunity to twist the cap off another one.

“Maybe you shouldn’t,” he said, settling back next to me.

“Maybe you should,” I said, handing him a fresh one.

We sipped in silence for a few moments.

“So you think I’m a weirdo?” I said finally.

“Yes,” he said and grabbed my sleeve, chuckling, as I pretended to flee. “I think you’re…special. In many ways. And yes, you have unaverage ideas, but that’s what I…like about you.”

“Thanks.” I punched his shoulder again, this time with more feeling.

We sipped and watched a bat glide silently overhead.

“I have them too.”

“Murderous thoughts?”

He laughed. “No. Unaverage ideas.”

“Like what?”

He hesitated. “No – they’re silly. You’ll think I’m an idiot.”

“But now you have to tell me!” I shook his arm. “Tell me!”

He took a swig. “Okay. Have you ever thought about why doors are always rectangular?”

I thought for a moment. “No. I can honestly say it has never crossed my mind.”

“It’s probably because they’re easier to make,” he said. “Somebody once made a rectangular door, and then everybody else copied it, not once stopping to think if that was the best design. I mean, have you ever met a rectangular human?”

Brad’s broad shoulders and massive frame flashed through my mind, but I honored the unspoken agreement with Harden. “No.”

“Me neither. But here we are, round pegs, pushing through life’s square holes.”

“I think it’s the other way around,” I said, hoping it wasn’t a prelude to another discussion of Harden’s round body, and how it was in the way of his dating and DJ-ing dreams.

“It’s just a metaphor,” he said. “But I’d like to one day build a house with only round doors. Well, not round, but oblong, for sure.”

“That would be cool,” I said, trying to imagine a house without hard edges. “I’d love that. I’m always running into the door corners. Make all the tables and beds oblong, while you’re at it.”

“Done,” he said and we shook on it.

I tried another swig of my beer, but it was getting warm and more than a little gross. Harden seemed absorbed in his own thoughts, probably outside of the rectangle box. I thought of Brad, who was probably off his head just then. Maybe I was foolish to let him go on Spring Break without me, but he said it would make our relationship stronger.

“You’re on the list,” I said.

“What?” He snapped from whatever dusk-dream he was having. “What list?”

“The list of people I would avenge if they were murdered by thugs. It was only Mom, Dad, and Felicity, but now it’s you, too. You should be honored.”

I couldn’t see his face, but I heard him puff.

“I am.”

I hoped he couldn’t tell what I was thinking.

 

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How many words a day should you write, and other things I’ve learned in my first week as a full-time writer

It’s Friday night here, In Australia, and Week 1 of this full-time writing experiment is drawing to a close. If you’ve seen my work plan, I was supposed to have written 20,000 words. So, how did I go?

Well, I’ve had five leisurely breakfasts on my balcony.

IMG_2806 (1)

Oh, you want to know about the word count? Well, that’s complicated…

I estimate that I’ve written 15 to 20 thousand words over the last five days. The reason I can’t report the number with my usual precision is that I’ve deleted so much of the already-written text, I’m only 2,739 words ahead. That’s less than my planned daily quota. In fact, today I’ve worked for eight hours and ended up with about 500 words less than I had last night. Blin!

I am, however, very pleased with my current efforts. To start with, I overcame a major writer’s block – Monday was hard, as I went into some kind of shock of “this is it, sit down and produce a masterpiece.” I did sit down at my new desk, but managed to push out only 1K of words, and I could tell they were not gold.

Tuesday morning was a bit better, but my afternoon and evening were taken up by babysitting my niece and a writer’s group. I managed another 1K of pedestrian dribble.

It was Wednesday when I decided to stop forcing myself and to get reacquainted with my own work. I started writing in September, and it’s been so long that the manuscript read as if a stranger wrote it. A dull, tired stranger with a dayjob that sucks all of her creative energy, living nothing for character development, leave alone comedy.

Conventional writing wisdom dictates that you’re not supposed to edit your first draft until it’s finished, but I had no choice. There was every writing faux pas imaginable – from telling instead of showing, to boring filler fluff, to characters that reacted inappropriately and/or inconsistently, to finally (gasp!) a Deus ex Machina.

A magical thing happened on Wednesday, as I mercilessly slashed paragraph after paragraph. I started falling in love with the story again. I finally knew I was on the right path when, after I cleaned up and rearranged a major scene, I had goosebumps reading it. I could not stop working that day, finally forcing myself to go to bed around midnight. I then got up at least twice to turn on the light and write ideas on a huge whiteboard I have in my bedroom, so that I can finally go to sleep. It didn’t work very well – I woke up at 4.30, tried the whiteboard trick again, but had to admit defeat and make coffee instead.

The week is technically not over, so I should be able to add to the pile in the next two days, but currently I’m at 36K words. Entertaining, quality words that I would not be ashamed to send to a structural editor or beta-reader. Considering that Shizzle, Inc ended up being only 79K words, I’m almost half-way through Indiot.

I’m not only happy with the current progress, I’m very hopeful that I might have learned something about how I work. Forget all the rules – if editing helps you avoid writer’s block, then edit. If it paralyses you, then don’t even look at the first pages. How many words should you write every day? Well, that’s also up to you. I could not help but google this and found a pretty interesting article detailing average daily word output of famous authors. The morale of the article is that you should find your own pace.

The only thing I can add to that is that you should have fun, too.

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Best Goodreads Giveaway yet – #24 on Most Requested list!

I still can’t believe it! My second giveaway for Shizzle, Inc lasted two weeks and it was requested by 1,699 people – enough to make it onto the front page of the Goodreads Most Requested list, and even climb up to #24 (there are 30 on the first page). Thank you all who’d entered – especially those who answered my plea on Twitter earlier today, when it was 37 requests or so away from making it to the front page. Amazingly, nearly 300 people requested it today alone.

As promised in the post about the results of the first giveaway, here is the comparison of the two:

Goodreads giveaway 2 results

I have added a new column to Shizzle Goodreads giveaways spreadsheet, to track how many followers I get – I was not paying attention to that number before, big mistake! I have not filled in the total cost to me – which will be huge, since the winner is in Romania and I have to get the book there within 4-6 weeks.

Also, I had a lot of fun checking my book stats:

Shizzle stats on 24 Jan 16

Did you know you can look up this chart for any book on Goodreads? It’s in the top right corner of each book’s page – look for “stats”. Just today, 175 people added it to their “to read” shelves!

So, what did I learn from comparing (ahm, staring at the charts) the two giveaways? My data seems to confirm that:

  1. You should open the giveaway to the entire world. Interestingly, the second giveaway started slower, but had more daily adds in “the middle”, the normally dead time.
  2. It is better to have two short giveaways than one long one. Heck, my short one doubled the performance of the long one! Any guesses why? Is it because it was open to all countries?
  3. I have another guess – it is actually better to give one copy than multiple. I know, I know, everybody says to give as many as you can, but I spent hours looking at most requested and least requested books, and I have a gut feeling that giving multiple copies (some people give away 25!) creates a feeling that the book is not that special. Giving one, and preferably autographed, copy creates the opposite effect – that you are competing for something rare and special.

Another thing I’d learned from looking at other people’s giveaways, that they don’t do one, or even two of those – some of the very popular titles have been on practically constant giveaways. I’m about to schedule another one, and want to test one of the factors – I’m thinking another two weeks, all countries, one copy, but this time unsigned. Does the word “AUTOGRAPHED” have any effect on the numbers?

I will let you know in about three weeks!

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MailChimp signup for WordPress explained, plus get a free prequel to Shizzle, Inc!

Thank you, everyone, for providing advice and tips on how to get started with MailChimp! It motivated me not only to get my list and signup form organised, but also to finally publish a short story compilation. It’s a collection of three short stories that begin to shed some light on how Isa came to be the character that she is:

THIS IS WHY flat

What do you think of the cover? I was in a hurry, so will play with the title font more some other time. I found another image of the same model on Shutterstock – and by the way, I found a coupon for 10% off an order online, and it worked! The coupon code is “SS10”, in case you are interested. Anyway, back to This Is Why: this little book is NOT AVAILABLE ANYWHERE else – I will not be publishing it on Amazon, at least not until I come up with another half-dozen or so stories. It is my gift and bait to get you to join my brand new email list :-).

Speaking of which, yay! I already have 6 subscribers! That all happened while I was busy writing this post – and even before I’d made promises of the free stories. Wow, thank you guys so much – and if you didn’t get a copy of This Is Why, let me know, and I will email it to you. I promise not to spam you – the purpose of the list will be to make sure you don’t miss out on time-limited opportunities, like the next free cover giveaway, or a new book going on sale or given away for free. If interested, please click here or on the link at the top of the sidebar – I’m calling it my hush-hush VIP list…

It feels good to join the ranks of marketing gurus…and, as promised, this is how you can do it too:

I’d started by trying to use step by step instructions in this Ultimate Guide to Using Mailchimp and WordPress, but the code for the text widget did not work for me, instead displaying the naked code for all to see. An HTML-fluent person could fix it, but I certainly couldn’t.

So then I’d tried Aniko Carmean’s instructions and they worked beautifully! NOTE: make sure there’s no duplication of quote marks, or anything like that – at first my link sent me to an “oops” page, but I managed to resolve it by removing one duplicated quote mark. Technology…

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, this is what my Text Widget looks like:

Widget text

Clicking on the link will take you to this signup page. I called it Ana Spoke’s supporters – because that’s what you guys are to me:

Signup page

I chose to only ask for the email and first name, no last name or anything. As simple as possible. I also didn’t mess with any formatting, because, luckily, the font and color scheme fit nicely with my blog theme. Aniko’s directions do talk about formatting, just in case youre interested.

Next, I had to figure out how to provide the free prequel copy with the signup. At first it was a headache, because I knew which form to use, but could not figure out how to attach a file to it. Luckily, MailChimp has a guide on how to do just that – I can’t post a link for some reason, but just search MailChimp Help for “send a file to new subscribers” and you’re in business. Basically you need to start a “final welcome email”, click on the suggested sentence in a red dash-line box, which opens the editor similar to WP one. Write the message, then highlight the words you want to turn into the link to your file, click on the link icon above (again, so similar to WP), and choose “file” from the pull-down menu. After the user confirms their email subscription, they will receive a confirmation email that looks like this:

Screenshot (41)

Someone suggested setting up the gift in Instafreebie, which I think is a good idea. I’d decided to just send a pdf, as I’m not too worried about the copyright in this instance and wanted to keep things as simple as possible. If you decide to send subscribers a whole book, do look into Instafreebie and let us all know how it works for you.

Speaking of keeping things simple, I’d decided not to use CAPTCHA. I opted for it at first, but then, when I did a test subscription myself (which I highly recommend you do as well), I found it extremely annoying to have to pick which of the collage of photos have pancakes. Please! I wonder how many subscribers I’d lose at that point…

WORD OF CAUTION: apparently by law (CAN-SPAM Act) you’re required to display your physical address in every email and even when people subscribe! You can’t opt out of this requirement – believe me, I’ve tried. The address can be a P.O. Box, but it has to be a valid one, where you can receive mail. For now I’m using a friend’s P.O. Box, and will set up my own this week. You can put a fake address, probably, but why risk a $16,000 fine?

So there you go – it’s possible, relatively easy, and it works! I will keep monitoring the progress and keep you updated, as always. Thank you all so much!

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So I got myself a MailChimp…

Question is, what do I do with it? Everybody and their grandma seems to advise building an email list, but is it really that different from “subscribe to blog via email” ? I mean, would anyone want to get a newsletter from me, considering that I already document every step and event along the way? Not to mention, I can’t even figure out how to add the sign up to my WP theme…

Does anyone have experience building an email list, and if so – was it worth it? And how do I get a signup form into a template?

Sorry for this completely uninformative and uninspiring post. I promise to make it up with the next one!

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Filed under Self-publishing and marketing