Using Short Stories to Build your Platform

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Throughout my career I have belonged to many writers’ groups which I consider the most important tool a writer can have to improve their skills. The one thing I loved critiquing as a writers’ group member was short stories.  Standalone short stories are not easy to write.  To produce a beginning and ending with a full engaging plot in the middle with a limited number of words and getting an audience to love it is almost impossible for me. Yet, in all writing groups I have participated in, most members came up with awesome short pieces. I always wondered what would happen to these stories, and often asked if they were part of a short stories book project. More often than not, the answer was disappointing as I was inevitably told that there were no publishing plans for them. They were actually just the product of exercising their writing skills. In very seldom cases would someone tell me that their short story actually inspired a book length project they were working on.

Knowing what I know now about promoting, I wish I could go back to all those writers who were just exercising their skills and give them some ideas on how to re-purpose those short stories for platform building. Here are a few tips:

·         Blogging. Many believe that bloggers only post articles, poems or essays. But, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is through blogging that writers have the opportunity to share themselves with the audience. Creating a blog that features the author’s short stories among other things is an awesome way to generate a following.

·         Another way to build a following through short stories is by publishing them in local newspapers.  Finding out the publication programs of local media as well as other digital publications relevant to short stories is not only a way to build a follower platform, but it is the best way to build a writer’s resume, just in case one decides to embark in an agent search at some point.

·         Invest some creativity in the short story delivery. Blogs don’t have to be completely in writing. There are also podcast and video blogs. So the short story author could actually perform the story as a skit on the blog. This could be done live and made interactive; it can even be promoted through social media, which in turn promotes the blog, generating even more followers.

Short stories are a quick read for an audience who lacks the time or attention span but still enjoys reading, viewing short audio or listening to video clips. Giving away short stories to your audience will pay off when the full-length book is ready as they will already be loyal fan. For information how we help authors visit us at www.readerviews.com or email us at admin@readerviews.com.

Letting Book Videos Tell Your Story

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

As a reviewer I find myself rooting for those special books that allow me to see each scene in my mind run like a film, because it is a very difficult thing to do.  I remember when I came up with the first book video for my first edition, the moderator of my writing group said to me that he wished he could have watched the video before reading the excerpts of my manuscript because it puts everything in perspective. That got me thinking…maybe he is onto something here! Here are few reasons why we should let book videos tell our stories…

·         A book video highlights what the story is about, much like a movie trailer. The reader has a chance to get a feel for the plot, and even characters, and other information about the book, such as awards received and where to purchase.

·         The audience gets a call for action that is motivated through the sensory information combination (visual, audio, and creative imprints and soundbites) which is designed to linger in the minds of the audience, improving the chances of convincing potential readers to check out the book online.

·         It is the fastest, and most effective way to hook or call attention to a book online and give a lasting first impression, as well as creating expectations for the book.

Having said all of the above, it is vital that a book video is produced by a knowledgeable and skillful video producers who will work with the author to achieve the author’s goals through their creative input as well as technical skills. Even though the author is hiring the video producer for their service, the nature of the relationship should be more like a collaboration to get the desired results. For more information on how we help authors visit www.bookbybookpublicity.com. To check out our book video service click here.

 

 

What to do with your Backlisted Title

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

This is a question that has been nagging me for a while. When I first published my first edition, I knew nothing about the Indie publishing industry. Yet my book, did not do bad at all, considering it was filled with flaws! A few years later, I met Irene Watson who became not only my boss, but my mentor and friend; she also walked me through the process of revising and -re-publishing my book. As my revised edition came out, and I started getting speaking gigs to promote my new release, Irene fell ill. At that time, I made a choice I never regretted. I put my projects on hold and spent her last months by her side. After I mourned her transition in 2012, I took over Reader Views, and dedicated my life to her mission, which is now mine…to help Indie authors get their words out into the world. Yet, my own words still need to go out, so my title keeps nagging me.

I present to you my backstory because I just found out that my backstory is a common reason for -re-releasing an old book; as I read in Penny C. Sansevieri’s book “How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book.” In fact, I was remembered that, I even wrote an editorial last year about pursuing a revised edition. Yet, at that moment it didn’t click in my brain how strong I felt about re-releasing my book. I am grateful to Sansevieri for getting me excited about it with her well-written, how-to guide, which I recommend in my review as a five-star read. I also want to share some points I learned from her book as I encourage all to check it out. Below are some lingering thoughts in my brain, inspired by “How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book” by Penny C. Sansevieri:

·         Many authors decide not to pursue a revised edition on their less than perfect title thinking that the opportunity has passed them by or that they have already gotten all the sales they could from it. But this is not true at all. All books fiction or non-fiction can be updated, enriched, revised…etc.

·         If the author owns the rights, an old book can become a new opportunity by re-publishing it as a new title or a new edition, depending on which way makes more marketing sense to better maximizes sales.

·         There are many ways to present the content of an old title to the market. In a different format, as a Revised New Edition, as a new title, as installments of the story published as a series.

·         On the same token, Installment types of publications can also be re-released as a special Edition in one book.

·         Some books can be enriched with more chapters which were previously not included…which is the one I believe applicable for my book. These could be presented as a new edition…or in my case as a new Title.

I can’t begin to explain the spark lit by this little book, but I can guarantee, that my re-release will be happening soon. The publishing industry is a work-in-progress and being flexible and creative is the name of the game. Don’t give up and keep writing! But most of all…keep reading. You never know what a good book can spark!

GUEST POST - A Problem Facing Both Readers and Dragons

Skyler Boudreau Editorial Contributor

Skyler Boudreau
Editorial Contributor

Like many fantasy lovers, I like dragons. That includes both the Western and Eastern mythological portrayals of them. All versions of the dragon have their charms and quirks, and today, I am going to discuss one that these fearsome beasts and readers have in common. Care to hazard a guess?

If you said, “their tendency to hide in dark lairs for long periods of time,” you aren’t exactly wrong. But the answer I was looking for is, “their treasure hoards.”

There are any number of stories about fearsome knights or cunning tricksters sneaking into a dragon’s lair and making off with as many valuables as they can carry. Come near a reader’s hoard, and they might just might breath their own fire at you! Rather than gold, they collect long, often physically manifested lists of books they would potentially, at some point, maybe someday, like to read. They are affectionately termed “To Be Read Lists.”

Sometimes a TBR List is just that; a list written down in a notebook or tracked on a website like Goodreads. Other times, the reader will collect actual copies of all of their potential reads. These book hoards will spill off of shelves and across floors and take up every available surface until you are left with no option other than stacking your unread books up to the ceiling (which can be pretty inconvenient)!

Some books can languish in a reader’s hoard for years at a time before the reader decides to pick them up. I definitely have a few of those in mine. I have a habit of buying a book on my Goodreads “Want to Read” list and then becoming absorbed in a completely different read. Do I feel guilty for abandoning a newly purchased book to my hoard? Yes. Will I ever put a permanent stop to it? Absolutely not.

Yesterday evening, I decided to take action against my hoard. My plan is a self-ban on buying new books. For the next three months, I am going to try and focus only on books within my hoard. That way, rather than potentially adding to it, I should be making steady progress towards eliminating it. This ban will not include books sent to me for review or received as gifts. After three months, I’ll reevaluate and examine how much progress I have made. This book buying ban will go into effect immediately. My last book purchase was April 2nd. (a collection of Oscar Wilde’s short fiction, if anyone wants to know), so that means the reevaluation of my hoard will not come until summer.

I’m unsure of the methods a dragon takes when the need arises to cull her hoard (perhaps a ban on ransacking kingdoms?) but we shall see if my own method works. Wish me luck, fellow book hoarders, and consider dusting off your own collection and joining me.

Which book has been buried in your hoard for the longest?

Are Literary Awards and Book Reviews Relevant to Sales?

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

We all know that many readers check the reviews before deciding on a book, so no wonder most authors rush out to get book review requests even before the launch of their new title. We also know, as it is evident, that non-fiction books such as Self Help, Health, and Spirituality have the author’s credibility and certification as their foundation and thus winning awards plays an important part of credentials confirmation as well as credibility to the title. When it comes to fiction however, all bets are off, as praise for creative work is such a subjective matter. So are reviews and awards really relevant to sales when it comes to fiction? In my opinion, yes!

·         We all are very particular about what we like, but at the same time we always ask others about their experiences and opinions when it comes to food, hotels, movies, books, and anything or place that enriches our lives. When it comes to subjectivity, just who likes or dislike an item or place will give or take away credibility. This is why designers give fashion to celebrities to wear, advertisers hire celebrities to feature products, and authors hope for good reviews and endorsements. This is also why the Oscar is so important in the film industry, as is the Emmy in the music Industry and the Pulitzer in the literary world. Within this context I believe that reviews and awards can and will influence some buyers to purchase or not purchase a book. But I must be honest – I also believe that it is not the decisive factor. It takes the buyer’s opinion of the product that is right in front of them when they are considering purchasing a book.

·         With the Indie’s boom, the pool of fiction books to choose from is limitless and all new books need to stick out in the crowd more than ever in order to make some sales. Famous authors and celebrities stick out just by their name alone due to their fan based platform. Authors published through the big publishers stick out with their publisher’s platform and distribution system, but Indie authors have their work cut out for them. This is where reviews and awards can help. More and more readers are venturing into the Indie pool as it offers variety, which is the one thing the traditional system is not offering to the market. So, having reviews and awards seals to back up the title can make the difference when it is being considered by a reader.

·         Finally, reviews and awards are truly the one feedback from the audience that can note what the author’s target market thinks about the title. If the feedback shows a problem with the product’s quality, the author could fix it and publish a revised copy, or simply improve the production on their next title. If the feedback reveals that the title is being targeted to the wrong market, then that feedback can help to point the marketing strategy to the right niche. There is really no negative feedback if it is utilized to make and increase sales.

For more information on how Reader Views can help visit www.readerviews.com. For information on our Literary Awards Program click here.

 

How to Make a Good Story for Readers

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Why do some books remain memorable, their characters living in our minds as time goes by from the time we first put the book down? We all look for knowledge and wisdom in books. But why do we read novels? I personally think it is because of the memory of our genes. Since the beginning of humanity we related to each other through storytelling. As we develop into more and more complex societies, storytelling remains the way we connect with each other. Our minds, being capable of more complex thoughts not only relate to others, but also to our own desires. I believe fiction novels satisfy the need of daydreaming. Of imagining a world different from our realities that allows us to experience a life story different than the one we are living or shows us how life is for others.

But what makes a story so good that will touch readers looking for different things?

Although we tend to compartmentalize literature into genres, when it comes to fiction, authors in my opinion, shouldn’t depict life as is. Even a photographer waits for the right light, the right person, the right view to represent a certain feeling, mood, basically to represent his own vision. The artist is using reality to portray creativity. As a writer, I believe we should do the same thing. Here are some things to think about when writing a story.

  •  Is the story about something you are passionate about? Without passion from the author, the story goes flat. Passion about what you are communicating is a must. How can you capture the attention of an audience if your own interest isn’t evident? Therefore, the advice of many accomplished authors is writing about what you know.

  • Create genuine characters. Many think that characters need to be real for people to relate to them and in tune with their role to be believable. This is true to a certain point. In my opinion characters need to be genuine to be relatable. When creating a main character, we tend to day-dream, and unwillingly create our own ideal super human being. If we are writing a super hero story, this can work if we make the super powers genuine to the character. This is why in most super hero stories we see a backstory on how those powers came to be. But that is not enough, the character’s personality needs to be genuine to who this character is. Is he or she funny, kind, cocky, proud? How did they become the way they are? In the Marvel movie Thor for example; Thor is the son of the god king. He is a warrior, charming, handsome and next in line for throne. So, his cocky, self-entitled personality is a match to his background making the character of Thor genuine, and thus likable and relatable. The fact that he is a mythical God and comes from another planet makes his super powers believable.

  • Tell a real story through your own angle or vision. In order to engage the audience, the story must be relatable to a certain degree to their reality and lives. But does it need to be a picture of real life? My answer is no. We all experience life in a different way, so each of us has a different reality. This is why the author needs to present the story through his own vision, yet in order for the audience to relate with it, the story must have life’s elements that we all go through. Love, hate, war, poverty, wealth, relationships, crime, good, evil, fear, you name it. Any real element through the author’s creativity lens.

  • Finally, the audience must experience change, be moved, or inspired to reflect. Without affecting the audience in some way, there is no point in reading the story. Many crime thrillers and horror authors use gruesome details to shock the reader, but that is not enough to make a story. Within the gruesomeness they should experience growth. This usually happens through the growth experienced by the main character. There should also be a positive resolution that can inspire the audience and keep the story lingering in their minds. I say positive as a personal preference, as it is my experience (as an avid Sci-fi, thriller, and horror reader); that a positive ending (even when a continuation hook is evident), keeps the story in my mind as I am able to relate to the fact of life and human endurance. Also it reflects the growth of the characters that survived, growth that I can relate to as I survive my own life challenges.

Generally, a good story can mean different things to each of us, yet the items I presented above are pointers on things that might be determining factors for most of us as human beings who love to read and grow through stories.

Making the Most of Amazon When Selling Your Book

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Let’s face it, no matter how many Indies consider Amazon a monster, without selling on Amazon, Indie books have very little chance. Readers prefer to purchase on Amazon, as it is the most convenient and reliable way to shop these days. Many will visit local bookstores and browse, but most of them will buy their pick on Amazon in search of the best possible price. So why not make the most of it!

Amazon offers basically three ways to sell your book at its online store: 1) listing the book at Amazon and then shipping copies to Amazon, 2) having a seller’s account, or 3) selling your book for Kindle. I personally have created, The Kindle Account for my Innocent War Book and the Seller Account. The difference between having Amazon sell your book and creating a seller’s account to sell your book yourself at Amazon is basically whether or not you have enough copies to have Amazon sell and ship, or you prefer to keep a few copies at a time and sell and ship them yourself as they sell.  I chose the latter one as my book was Print on Demand and I could get a good deal on buying them directly from Lighting Source. Below is a quick view on each method.

Kindle Account – The Kindle account is created when you convert your pdf to Kindle format and list through Amazon. You can have a third party do the conversion for a fee and the upload or you can follow the directions on Amazon and do the conversion yourself through them. I chose the first one as I found doing it myself was tricky. So, to guarantee better results I had a third party do it for me and paid a one-time fee for it. Doing it this way instead of submitting the PDF to platforms like Smashwords, I kept all publishing rights and get paid for the book price minus Amazon fees instead of just royalties from a third party.

List Your Book for Amazon to Sell - You can do this by creating an “Amazon Advantage” To join, you need copies of your book, an ISBN, and a bar code (which you really need anyway for print books if you plan to sell on any store or online platform). Then visit www.amazon.com/advantage. Follow the steps but read the fine print. Amazon charges an annual whether any of your books sell or not, plus a commission. Amazon will notify you to send books and how many. Once Amazon receives your books and starts selling them, you don’t have to deal with mailing out individual orders.

Be an Independent Seller Through Amazon – Even as an independent seller your book needs to be listed in Amazon, which creates the Advantage Account as well. However, you can also sign up as Independent Book seller whether your book was listed by the publishing platform or by yourself as an Independent Author/Publisher. Once your book has a listing at Amazon, you can open a seller account with Amazon to sell your book independently. To do so you need click on: Sell on Amazon at the bottom of their Home page, and follow the instructions. If you sign up for an Individual Account you pay no monthly fee, so that would be the way to go until you reach sales over 40 items per month.  You can list as many copies available as you like, provided you have that many copies in stock. Customers can now buy the book directly from you rather than Amazon. You pay nothing to Amazon until the book sells.

Create an Author Central Account. -  This is a must no matter which way you go with Amazon. This account is what will allow you to connect and inform your audience about all of your activities and books. Yo can link it with your social accounts and blogs, you can upload book videos and any event video as well as interviews…etc. Basically, not using this sales tool is like boycotting your own work. So sign up and put in time to learn how to use it.

As an author, you need to determine which selling option at Amazon is most beneficial for you. In my opinion, listing yourself as an independent seller is the better choice and Amazon’s best kept secret, but as I said, without using the Author Central feature, you will be reducing chances to motivate readers to buy your book. For more information on how we help writers visit www.bookbybookpublicity.com.

Authors Can Make a Difference in the Community While Promoting Their Books

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Many authors do not realize that by publishing a book, they have reached a somewhat “celebrity” status which they can use not only to promote their books, but also to make a difference in their communities. So instead of volunteering in a soup kitchen or just donating money, which are admirable in their own rights, authors can find other creative ways to contribute to their communities while helping to promote their books. Below are some ways authors can give back:

1. Senior Citizen and Veteran Centers or Assisted Living Homes. Visiting senior citizens and veterans is an awesome way to give back to a part of the community that is often forgotten, and it is also a great promotional effort for authors, as seniors also are one of the biggest reading audiences. They also appreciate visitors and interacting with others, and they are likely to tell all their friends and family members, who include children, grandchildren, great-nieces and nephews, in-laws, and cousins, about a book they like. Authors can plan a speaking event or even volunteer to read to seniors at these facilities once a week or month. Seniors and veterans, will for sure read, show and tell and recommend books they buy to their visitors. Seniors and veterans also have great stories to tell—material for future books.

2. School Career Day Events. There are opportunities for adult books authors to speak at schools and colleges. Even though they may not sell many books during these events, they can get some local media attention by announcing the event on the community calendar and get their books in front of the audience of parents through their newsletters. Offering to speak to high school students or college freshman at career day events, or participating in events like Young Authors, is a great way to give back to your community and provide the encouragement needed that you received or wish you had received as an aspiring young author. Authors of non-fiction books can also speak to future historians, doctors, businessmen, or other groups of students whose field of study is relevant to their books’ topics, giving back to their own career communities as well as inspiring young writers to keep at it.

3. Donating Books. Donating books may seem like a financial loss, but it is also an effective inexpensive way to get publicity while providing a benefit to a charitable organization of your choice or a community organization. Many libraries, for example, will take a photo of the author donating the book for their newsletters or even the community spotlight sections of local newspapers—great publicity in exchange for one donated book. Donating books as raffle prizes can also be effective. For example, if your book is donated for a church bazaar’s raffle, everyone who buys a raffle ticket may see it listed as one of the prizes. That could be hundreds of people who see your book title, and while only one person might win the donated book, several others might decide to purchase the book for themselves.

There are many ways for authors to give back to their communities. Even if their giving doesn’t result in more books being sold, it will contribute to their platform building. But the icing on the cake is that in an isolating career such as writing, authors will come away feeling good about themselves and knowing they’ve made a difference, the results of which can never be measured or underestimated.