self-publishing

How and Why to Give Away a Book for Free + Free Checklist

If I'd read this title a year ago, I would have said, "Give my book away? You're crazy!" But now, I'm happy to tell you that since I've listed my book for free, I've had an increase in overall sales. In fact, my book(s) have been downloaded every day since the launch of my free prequel, when previously, I'd go weeks with no activity. 

As a self-published writer, it can be tough to get your book visible to your audience. How many times have you seen the "buy my book!" on twitter? How many times have you posted on Facebook with only a 3 person audience reach? Not the most effective method, my friends. 

The truth is that social media doesn't sell books. You need a good, actionable strategy to get your book to the forefront. Now, let's get started! 

How to Give Away Your Book For Free | Blots & Plots.jpg

Why Should You Give Away a Book For Free? 

1. To generate interest in you. 

Pretty self-explanatory, right? If you're self-publishing, you have to view yourself as a risk. Because there is no built-in marketing team to generate buzz for you, readers are taking a chance by investing in your creative work. 

How do you get them to choose your book out of the million other books? A few ideas: 

  1. Great product. I'm talking an awesome cover, a professionally edited manuscript, and top notch formatting.

  2. Great reviews. Reviews not only help to sway your potential reader, but they also help boost your books on the rankings. (Amazon, primarily.)

  3. A super smart strategy. Yep, you guessed it. The free book idea.

2. To generate interest in your other books. 

Congrats! Your reader downloaded your free book. Now, what? 

Maybe your reader will read your free book. Maybe she'll like it and explore your other books on her own. But what if she doesn't? What if she moves on to the next book, and accidentally forgets to check back to yours? 

You need to make sure you hook your reader in with a free book, and keep them coming back for more. Here's how: 

  • Offer a second free book/short story/etc. This technique comes from Nick Stephenson. If your reader signs up for your email list, they'll receive a second free book. For more information on this technique, head over here.

  • Create a hashtag for your book. Even though social media doesn't sell, a hashtag helps to unify your readers and create a community.

  • Discount your second book. With the first book free, you can offer your second book at a lower-than-normal rate. This can be done with kindle countdown deals or a permanently lower rate.

3. To reach a broader audience. 

Like I said, reaching an audience is no picnic. It takes strategy and a bit o' luck to get your books into the hands of your readers. Let's set you up for success, shall we? 

A few ideas on how to up your selling ante: 

  • Facebook ads. This form of advertising has proven to be extremely effective for authors. If you have a targeted campaign, you can reach your ideal reader.

  • BookBub ads. Though it's tough to get approved for these, BookBub advertising is awesome.

  • Write more books. Easier said than done, right? Having a library of books helps to keep readers coming back for more.

There you go! The end!

So, what do you think? Would you list your book for free?

Three Reasons Why I'm only Reading Self-Published Books in 2016

Can I be honest with you? I love books. All books. The fact that there are entire stores dedicated to housing these amazing word-holders kind of blows my mind. I mean, don't even get me started on libraries. 

But this year? My book-reading will take a narrowed focus. This year will be a year dedicated entirely to self-published books. Here's why.

1. TO SUPPORT INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

When I first created this blog, I had a very limited view of the publishing world. I thought that if I wanted to write books, I would need to spend hundreds of hours perfecting my query letter and spend years waiting for a literary agent. And getting a publishing deal? Might as well be decades. 

This reality was not exactly accurate for a couple of reasons: 

  • Traditional publishing doesn't necessarily take eons. It's part luck-of-the-draw, part talent-based. (I can only comment so much on this platform because *spoiler alert* I self-published.)

  • Self-publishing exists. And it's awesome. (You can find a list of resources on self-publishing here.)

This year, I self-published my first book called These Are the Moments. (You can read the first ten chapters fo' free over here. I need to stop having side conversations with parentheses.) I completely fell in love with the process and made incredible friends that were starting their writing journeys the same was that I was.

This year is a year I want to dedicate to my friends and their stories:

  • I want to help dispel some of the outlandish self-publishing myths.

  • I want to write reviews and cheer on the people who have come to mean so much to me, while making new friends along the way.

  • I want to drink coffee. (I think I lost my point here. I also forgot the stop the side conversations.)

2. TO CONNECT READERS TO NEW AUTHORS

Let's test a theory, shall we? Open a new tab and head on over to Pinterest. In the search bar, type in "best books to read." Now, scroll down until you see the same book twice.

I bet you didn't get very far, did you? I was halfway through my first scroll when I saw Gone Girl for the second time. What's wrong with this picture? In 2016, let's usher in a new wave of authors. Let's play matchmaker with little-known authors and bright-eyed readers.

This year, I'll be tracking my reading journey in a few places. You can keep up with me here:

  • Instagram. I love posting photos over here. This year, I'll promote these self-published books as I read them via pictures. And maybe a little bit of review, too.

  • Goodreads. I don't know how I read books before Goodreads. I love that I can track what I've read each year, while setting a goal for myself. Be my friend!

  • Twitter. Who am I kidding? I spend the majority of my life on Twitter. So you're bound to see updates over there.

3. TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS

If I only read self-published books in 2016, will the world dissolve into a book-less existence and I will be blamed for singly-handedly destroying the written language? Uhh, no. I don't expect anything drastic to come from this challenge, but I would like a few answers to questions I have:

  • What makes a book, well, a book? Do you need a movie deal in order to be considered successful? Do you have to sell 1,000,000 copies to be valid? (I know the answer to this, but only from personal experience. I want exposure to other people's journeys too, because I'm nosy.)

  • How do we encourage future writers? Is buying an author's book the best means of support? What does it take to be a true fan? (Again, I may know this answer.)

  • How many people can I get on board with this?

THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN.

Reading challenges are fun, but they're way more fun when you have people to share in them.

Discussion Time: What books are on your to-be-read list for 2016? What are your thoughts on independent publishing?

Createspace Advice: Tips to Mastering Print Publishing

Hello, friends. It's lovely to see your bright, smiling faces this fabulous Monday morning. So yesterday was my birthday, but that wasn't the most exciting part of my week. Last Wednesday, I received the first print copy of and I nearly died of excitement. (It's an actual possibility. Look it up.)

As a self-published writer, you have to ask yourself some big questions. Which platform are you going to use? Are you going to print copies or just stick with ebooks? When I first decided to use Createspace to print my book, I was a little overwhelmed. What size book should I pick? What kind of cover should I use? 

After months of research, I finally pinned down all of my preferences. Here's my best Createspace advice:

Set a Publishing Timeline

As a first-time self-publisher, the last thing you want to do is rush yourself. After you finish writing your book, try to make a flexible publishing timeline. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Developmental Editing: Two to three weeks depending on your editor. Tanya Gold takes two weeks, and helps you outline a schedule.
  2. Book Cover Design: This is the big one. It can take anywhere from two to four weeks depending on adjustments. Because I fell in love with my original design by Natalie Olsen, it only took two weeks. Note: when picking a designer, find someone who is familiar with Createspace and the dimensions, etc.
  3. Proofreading: This can be overlapped with the book cover design, as mine was. For me, it took about two weeks. Note: Allot for a week or two between receiving your developmental edits and sending the updates to the proofreader.
  4. Interior Formatting: Interior formatting is what makes a book look like a book. I formatted my own book, using Joel Friedlander's Book Design Templates. This took me about a week to navigate. Need help? Try Crenel Publishing.
  5. Print Time: Since I'm kicking off the book release with a book launch party, I need to place a bulk order. Since Createspace is a print-on-demand service, this can take a while. I made sure to give myself at least a month of print time, just in case.

Buy Your Own ISBN

Okay, some of you may disagree with me here. Through Createspace, you have a couple options. You can either use a free ISBN from Createspace or you can purchase your own at Bowker. Let me break it down for you:

  1. Free ISBN: pros: You get to keep your money. cons: You most likely won't be able to sell your book in bookstores/lend them to libraries.
  2. Bowker ISBN: pros: You are your own publisher. With the free ISBN, Createspace is listed as the publisher. Also, this is a universal ISBN. It's accepted by Ingram, Createspace, wherever. cons: It costs money. Too much money.

For more information, read this post from The Book Designer or this one from Ksenia Anske.

Order a Print Proof

The Createspace website is very user-friendly. It's designed in a series of steps, and helps you to navigate your way to a published print book. You upload your files directly onto the site and within the next 24 hours they will approve them. Once this is completed, you'll view the digital proof.

While it's not necessary, you should order a print copy. I chose expedited shipping, and received it in three days. It's really important in order for you to see what the book actually looks like on paper. From there, you make changes and approve.

Sort Through the Details

With print publishing, there are a thousand tiny details. It helps to have a good concept of these before you start the process. Here's what I've got for you:

  1. Trim Size. Yes, you'll have to choose the size of your own book. You'll need to have this fairly early so that your cover designer can fit the proper dimensions. I chose the 5.5x8.5" option, which is pretty common. Tip: Createspace provides templates that you can provide to your cover designer to help with sizing.
  2. Page Color. This one is a pretty easy choice. For fiction writers, cream colored paper is the standard.
  3. Pricing. This gets a little trickier, because it involves royalties. Thankfully, Createspace provides a handy little calculating tool to figure out just what you are making. For me, I'm pricing my book at $12.99. (The ebook will be $2.99.)

Set a Book Release Date

For this one, you'll want to set a release date far out enough that you can get print copies delivered to you—if you're planning a launch party, that is. Additionally, you'll want the extra time for promotional/marketing reasons. If you're a first time self-publisher, you don't need to do any mega-marketing. Focus on writing more books. Still, you'll want to get the book wherever you can. More to come on this later.

Discussion Time: What are your Createspace questions? Do you have any Createspace advice to share with us?



How to Find a Book Cover Designer

Good morning, friends! When I was searching for a cover designer for These Are the Moments, I did not know the first place to start. A great cover can make or break a book sale for you. Let’s dive into the process!

Like learning how to find a freelance editor and how to find book bloggers, I had to find out where to search for a cover designer.

First up? The best places to look for designers:

How to Find a Book Cover Designer

Do The Research

Google is your friend.

I'll be honest with you. I didn't have the first clue about where to find a cover designer when I first started the publishing process. I knew that I wanted a good quality designer at an affordable price, but beyond that, I was clueless. 

When it comes to finding a book cover designer, take it to the search bar. Make sure to search based on your unique need. Try "affordable book cover designers" and "book design for self-publishers." Where should you search? A few suggestions: 

  • Search Engines. Because, obviously.

  • Pinterest. Fun fact? This is where I found my cover designer. Probably not the most effective way, but it worked for me.

  • Amazon. Have a crush on a book cover? Pay attention to who designed it! From there, you can contact the designer for rates.

Use your resources.

If you have friends with self-publishing experience, ask about their experience with their chosen designers. Take to Twitter with the hashtag "selfpub" and see what kind of response you receive. 

Try Reedsy.

There's an amazing new website called Reedsy, by my friend Ricardo. (No, that's not an affiliate link. Just a total fan over here.) Reedsy is a simple way to connect writers with cover designers and editors.

You review the designer/editor profile, and then reach out to them with your project. From there, they'll send you a bid with a price suggestion, and you'll make your choice.

How to Choose Your Designer

When it comes to choosing a designer, there are three things you need to consider:

  1. Affordability. Know your budget before you even begin to look. Think of this as wedding dress shopping. You may fall in love with the fancy Vera Wang, but your savings account may be left crying.

  2. Experience level/reviews. You want to make sure your designer is a professional. Browse their portfolio and their customer reviews. When communicating with him/her, pay attention to the response times and the way he/she handles business.

  3. Your book. When you browse through this designer's work, can you envision what he/she could do for your book? So much of choosing a designer is gut instinct. It's taking a leap, and praying that you stick the landing.

Be Prepared

Have Your Book Ready.

There's a great chance that your designer will want to read your book for inspiration. Have an edited copy prepared to send, as well as ideas of what kind of design you may want. 

Know Your Timeline.

Designers can take anywhere from two to three weeks, so make sure to budget this time into your publishing plan. There are definitely designers who can accommodate a faster turnaround time, but for your sanity, make sure you give yourself ample time.

Be responsive. 

This is someone's livelihood. Make sure you are responsive and clear about what you're looking for in a design. If your designer reaches out to you with a question, be ready with an answer!

Images vs. Illustrations.

Personally, I didn't want a stock image for my book cover, so I made sure to seek out a designer who could accommodate this.

Discussion Time: What do you know now about how to find a book cover designer that you wish you had known before? If you're looking for a designer now, what are your struggles?