Targeting Genre

2015-11-18 target bulls eye darts arrowsI’ll say it upfront, I don’t know much about genre targeting. I also have a funny feeling I’m doing pretty poorly at it. (Although I had another author suggest that what I’d done was create my own sub-genre, “family suspense.”) I guess time will tell whether the reading public are interested in my family drama/suspense style of writing–cuz I’m also stubborn-minded enough to pursue this idea. Everything’s worth a shot once, right?

However, I really ought to learn a thing or two more about proper genre targeting. And I’ve found a great way to do that!

2016-03-30 Targeting Genre

What Is Genre Targeting?

2016-03-30 weather vane, arrow, target, direction, sky, windAs I understand it, targeting a genre means you learn your chosen niche well enough that you understand reader expectations for that genre, then you write to satisfy those expectations. That doesn’t mean writing to fill a cookie cutter; just that there are certain rules–from cover art to plot line–that should be followed to cue your reader in to what kind of story this is. For instance, it wouldn’t be romance if the primary plot weren’t about two people falling in love.

Where Can You Learn More About Genre Targeting?

2016-03-30 target bulls eyeI’ve just admitted, I don’t know much about the topic. But fortunately, I know someone who does, and her course looks pretty darn interesting! C. S. Lakin of the popular Live, Write, Thrive blog is the instructor on a new course all about how to sell better through targeting your chosen genre. Here are seven new skills you’ll learn in her course:

  • identify top-selling genres
  • pick a genre to write in that you’ll love
  • deconstruct best sellers in your target genre
  • structure your novel to fit perfectly into your target genre
  • pick a perfect title and cover design for success
  • prepare your online product pages to jump to the top of best-seller lists
  • price your book for your target market

As mentioned by one of her testimonials, she even goes into the very important topic of how to land your book in the right categories at Amazon!

If that looks as interesting to you as it does to me, I’d recommend you go check it out.

Targeting Genre for Big Sales

P.S., that’s an affiliate link, so Carrie and I will get part of the proceeds if you use it. But I know you love us. (Grins.)

So tell us, do you use genre targeting for better book sales? How does it work for you? Or are you going to give C. S. Lakin’s course a try?

How to Create Ebook Files with Scrivener – And Why You Should!

2016-01-20 books ebooks ereader ipad kindle reading readerI’ve been quickly falling in love with Scrivener, a word processing software specifically for long-form projects like novels. But I originally bought it because I heard it could be used to create your own ebook files – meaning I didn’t have to depend solely on the conversion processes at retail sites like Amazon and Smashwords. If I had my own, private ebook files, I could do a number of things with them, such as send copies to book reviewers, use free copies as incentives to email list subscribers, maybe even sell books directly on my website.

2016-03-23 How to Create Ebook Files with Scrivener

So I bought Scrivener …

Then I basically let it sit and rot on my laptop. Truth be told, I couldn’t find the energy to learn yet another piece of technology. It seems like that’s all I’ve been doing since I became an indie author!

A couple of months ago, I finally sat down with a small project – a short story I wanted to give away on my author website – and looked up a tutorial on how to create ebook files with Scrivener.

I could not believe how easy it was. Here’s the tutorial:

So, why should you generate your own .mobi and .epub files?

Build Your Mailing List

2016-03-23 mail boxes, letters, mailing listLet’s say you want to give readers a free book in exchange for their subscription to your newsletter. (Building your email list is THE number one thing you should be doing to secure long-lived sales, by the way.) For the longest time, I was sending my subscribers over to Smashwords with one of their handy-dandy coupon codes.

There were a few problems with that, though. For starters, people have to create a profile with Smashwords before they can download their book. Extra steps involving a third party? Bleh! I consistently noticed a difference between the number of subscribers I was picking up and the number of people actually downloading my freebie.

Another problem lay in the terminology. A really good Facebook ad or popup will say, “Just tell me where to send your free book.” And then it’ll have a field for you to fill in your email address. They then get an auto-responder … which does not contain the ebook. It sends them to Smashwords with a coupon code. Well, la-de-da. You could have given them the link up-front and they wouldn’t have had to give you their email address!

It’s just smoother all around to be able to include the book itself as an attachment in an email. They give you their email address. You give them the book. Boom. Done.

Send Copies to Book Reviewers

2015-04-01 KindleHave you ever been offered a book in exchange for an honest review and been given a PDF? Great. Now you’ve got to read it on your computer – which just isn’t as cozy as curling up with your Kindle! You can always sideload or email the PDF to your ereader, but the formatting on a PDF is fixed – meaning the text won’t reflow and you can’t change the font size. The PDF page will be squished on your ereader, forcing you to squint. (Trust me, I’ve done this!)

Wouldn’t it be so much simpler to send .mobi and .epub files so your reviewer can comfortably enjoy your book on any reading device? Who knows, maybe a more comfortable reading experience will even result in a better review!

Sell Books Directly on Your Website

2016-03-23 coffee mug book ereader kindle tablet ebook pen paper journalI’m getting a little purist here, but I will not consider myself to be a truly “independent” author until I’m not entirely dependent on ebook retail platforms like Amazon to sell my books. It is possible to sell your books directly from your website. So in the case of an Amazon apocalypse, you’ll still be set to go! But you need to be able to format your own ebooks in order to sell them. Again, Scrivener comes to the rescue with how easy it is to create your own .mobi and .epub files!

All of these are the reasons why I decided to buy Scrivener and learn the trick. Like I said, it was infinitely easier than I anticipated – by far one of the simplest tech hacks I’ve picked up in years!

What would you do with your own ebook files?

My Indie Publishing Adventure to Date

2016-02-01 latte coffee laptop computer tableBrew Your Own Adventure: Post 1

We announced in the IPT Newsletter that we were about to start a new thing: Monthly progress reports on my (Danielle’s) indie publishing venture. Carrie’s and my goal is to make a full-time income writing through self-publishing. The Brew Your Own Adventure series will document my progress!

To get you oriented, this first post will summarize my indie publishing life thus far. Then I’ll end with my goals for the coming month. Let’s go!

2016-03-07 My Indie Publishing Adventure to Date

Where It All Began

I first heard about indie publishing in 2013. After some research, I realized this was exactly the thing for me. Why wait for a publisher to give me a nod of approval when I could sell directly to my readers? My research also revealed that a lot of work was involved. I wasn’t daunted. I love a challenge. And I was strongly drawn to the liberty to make my publishing decisions myself – from pricing and promotions to cover art.

My First Book

Journaling Front Cover lores (432x648)My first book happened by accident. It started as a series of blog posts here at IPT that did quite well. I decided to write up a quick booklet based on those posts. Well … it grew and became a full-length creative writing guide: Journaling to Become a Better Writer: Seven Keys to More Authentic Fiction. I self-published it in December 2014 – my first book!

How My First Book Did

I decided to go wide (non-KDP Select) and put up my book on both Amazon and Smashwords. (Smashwords is a company that will automatically publish your book to multiple platforms, like B&N, iTunes, Kobo, etc.) Like all authors, my best sales were at Amazon (which dwarfs the other platforms), especially during the first three months.

Then it kinda tanked. The 90-day cliff, as they call it. After three months, Amazon no longer promotes your book as a new release, so you’re on your own.

The old cover for Journaling to Become a Better Writer

The old cover for Journaling to Become a Better Writer

I floundered with marketing for quite a while, primarily because I wasn’t proud of my book cover. It was a home-made cover Carrie and I put together. I eventually realized I wasn’t going to market the poor thing until it sported professional cover art. So I kissed some money good-bye and hired a professional designer through 99Designs. Once I had a better cover, I was absolutely raring to go with my marketing.

One of the first things I’ve tried is Facebook ads. (Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula is the go-to for that info.) I’ve been running ads for a few months now and have been earning back my investment plus a little income over the top. Yay!

I also released a paperback edition of the book in summer 2015. Formatting it for the print-on-demand company CreateSpace – and holding my first book in my hands – were extremely satisfying experiences for me. Can’t wait to create another one!

What’s Next?

My goal is still to make a full-time living writing. I want to clarify that there’s a difference between full time hours and full-time income. I’m very lucky to have the former and still working diligently towards the latter.

DSC03349 (640x480)The more I study up on profitable indie publishing, the more I hear that you can’t expect a full-time living off one book. Having put my first out there, I heartily agree. I’m on the brink of putting out my first published fiction books, The Mailboat Suspense Series, which will contain four or five titles. Once I have multiple books, I can experiment with setting the first in the series at permafree or $0.99, see how follow-through sales go from that, and Facebook ads on the boxed set.

March Goals

2015-11-18 target bulls eye darts arrowsSo, what do I want most to accomplish in March 2016?

  • Finish edits on Book One of the Mailboat series
  • Invite fifty bloggers to read and review Journaling to Become a Better Writer
  • Mess around with a Facebook ad for signups to my personal newsletter

What are your goals for March? Let us know in the comments! I’ll check back in with you guys in April to let you know how I did!

What Is the Favored POV Among Best Sellers?

2015-02-20 Old Books (4)A guest post by Allison Maruska

– – –

Over the past couple of years, I’ve read an increasing number of self-published books. They’re often cheaper, and many of them are quite good.

BUT

There’s one thing I see in a lot of self-published books, and more often than not, it makes me stop reading: head hopping.

2016-02-01 Favored POV among Best Sellers

Head hopping is when the point of view suddenly jumps from one character to another. One minute, we’re in Bob’s head thinking about donuts. The next minute, we’re in Dana’s head thinking Bob should consider a juice diet. There’s no scene or chapter break. This happens from one paragraph to another, or sometimes within the same paragraph.

Now, there is one type of POV where head hopping is theoretically okay: subjective omniscient. Or broken down:

Subjective = we know what’s going on in a character’s head.

Omniscient = we can know all the things in the story, including what’s going on in other chatacters’ heads.

BUT

I said theoretically for a reason.

I see head hopping so often in self-pubs that I started doubting my own advice to my CPs – namely, don’t effing head hop. It’s harder to relate to the MC and it can be confusing.

2016-01-20 books ebooks ereader ipad kindle reading readerI’ve been reading nothing but self-pubs for a while, so I decided to do a little research with this question in mind: what is the favored POV among traditionally published best sellers? If they use subjective omniscient, maybe my preference for limited third or first – where you’re inside one character’s head and only know what he knows – is just my own preference and I need to give my CPs a break.

But maybe – maybe – my decades of reading have taught me something. Maybe there’s a reason head hopping bothers me.

I know there are some self-pub authors who couldn’t give half a crap about traditional publishing standards, and that’s fine. You can write your book in Sanskrit if you want. Just don’t expect to sell as many books if you do that.

The point is this: if you wanna play with the big dogs, it’s a good idea to know what they’re doing.

So I read chunks of every well-known, best-selling book in my kindle. Then I went to Amazon and read the sample pages of some top selling novels I don’t own. I’ve arranged the list this way: author – title – POV

But first, a couple of disclaimers:

1. This is a minuscule sample size compared to the total number of traditionally published books. There may be some out there that use subjective omniscient. Feel free to look around and comment if you find one.

2. My inclusion of these books should not be viewed as my endorsement of them. Yes, I loved most of them. But two were so poorly written that I stopped well before the 50% mark in spite of the tight POV. I won’t tell you which ones those were. That’s not the point.

To the list!

Stephen King – The Stand – limited 3rd

Steven Becker – Wood’s Relic – limited 3rd

Marissa Meyer – Cinder – limited 3rd

Dan Brown – Da Vinci Code – limited 3rd

Stephen Chbosky – Perks of Being a Wallflower – 1st

Ted Dekker – The Circle Series – limited 3rd

Dean Kuntz – Lightning – limited 3rd

Douglas Adams – The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – omniscient

Suzanne Collins – Underland Chronicles – limited 3rd

Stephen King – The Shining – limited 3rd

Kathryn Stockett – The Help – 1st

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games Trilogy – 1st

Sandra Brannan – In the Belly of Jonah – alternating 1st/limited 3rd

Jerry B. Jenkins – Riven – limited 3rd

Stieg Larsson – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – limited 3rd

Naomi Novik – His Majesty’s Dragon – limited 3rd

Matthew FitzSimmons – The Short Drop – limited 3rd

David Baldacci – The Guilty – limited 3rd

Janet Evanovich – Tricky Twenty-two – 1st

Philip K. Dick – The Man in the High Castle (1962) – limited 3rd

Vince Flynn – The Survivor – limited 3rd

Kristin Hannah – The Nightingale – 1st

And for fun, let’s include some self-pubs:

Hugh Howey – Wool – limited 3rd

Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant – Invasion – limited 3rd

I was originally going to include fifty books on this list, but I think you get the point with half that number.

Side note – many of those limited third titles did include the POV of more than one character, but not within the same scene. A break of some kind occurred before jumping to a new head.

One book was written in omniscient POV – Hitchhiker’s Guide. It’s told from the view of an omniscient narrator, like someone telling a story around a campfire. We occasionally know what a character thinks or feels, but there isn’t the inclusion of what I would call head hopping. If you’re considering writing a book in omniscient POV, please read this classic as a guide.

So what conclusion can we draw from this exercise? For me, I’m more confident in my stance that limited third and first work better for storytelling (perhaps to the chagrin of my CPs). For you? Well, that’s for you to decide.

What is your favored POV for storytelling? Does this list sway your opinion?

About the Author 

Allison Maruska headshotAllison is a YA and mystery/suspense author, writing/humor blogger, teacher, mom, wife, coffee and wine consumer, and an owl enthusiast. She published her debut novel, The Fourth Descendant, in February, 2015, and it has been on Amazon’s historical mystery best seller list since April. Her newest book is a YA dystopian/urban fantasy called Drake and the Fliers, which she released on November 20th, 2015.

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About Her Book

Allison Maruska - The Fourth DescendantWhen Michelle receives a call from a Richmond historian, she sees the chance for a much-needed adventure. All she has to do is find a century-old key.

Three others – a guitarist, an engineer, and a retiree – receive similar calls. Each family possesses a key to a four-lock safe found buried in a Virginia courthouse, though their connection is as mysterious as the safe itself. Their ancestors should not have interacted, had no apparent reason to bury the safe, and should not have disappeared thereafter.

Bearing their keys, Michelle and the other descendants converge in the courthouse basement and open the safe, revealing the truth about their ancestors – a truth stranger, more deadly, and potentially more world-changing than any of them could have imagined. Now it’s up to them to keep their discovery out of the wrong hands.

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