Five More Free Tools for Authors

Indie authors wear many hats including writer, publisher, book designer, production manager, publicist, marketing manager, and social media manager. It’s a lot to do with multiple tasks to keep track of.

The more help you have with these tasks, the more efficient you can be. Following are five free tools to help you in your Indie author roles.

1. Organize Your Brainstorm Ideas.

All authors brainstorm ideas. Brainstorming is an important part of developing a book. But, where can you put all those ideas and organize them? Enter mind maps. Mind maps are a graphical representation of ideas and concepts. They are a visual thinking tool for structuring information, helping you to better understand, remember, and generate new ideas. You can use the Bubbl.us mind map online for free.

2. Find Out How Amazon Kindle Sales Rank Translates to Actual Sales.

Every Kindle book listed on Amazon has a sales rank. How does this sales rank correlate to daily sales? You can now find out with the Kindle Sales Rank Calculator by Kindlepreneur. This free to use tool helps authors understand the connection between Amazon’s best sellers rank number and Kindle ebooks sold per day. Try the free KDP Calculator.

3. Know the Tone Your Words are Communicating.

Written words carry tone, which conveys emotions. To make sure your next email, text, or social post carries the correct tone, use the Tone Analyzer tool. Just copy and paste your message in the box and click the “Analyzer” button. The Analyzer lets you know what emotion your text conveys.

4. Save Stuff from the Internet to View Later.

If you are like me, you probably stumble over lots of interesting things on the web that you don’t have time to digest at the moment. If you use your browser bookmark tool, it can become unwieldy. A better way to save and organize anything on the web—articles, videos, social media posts—for later enjoyment is Pocket. Once saved in Pocket, your list of content is visible on any device—phone, tablet, or computer—for viewing. The service has free and premium options.

5. Find Out Which Libraries Carry Your Books. 

Have you been pursuing library sales for your books? Do you want to know if any libraries have ordered copies of your books? You can find out which libraries have copies of your book in circulation at WorldCat database.

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Photo courtesy of RawPixel.com.

 

How Readers Choose Books

If we could figure out the formula for how readers choose what book to read next, then almost any author could write and publish a bestseller. Sadly, no formula exists. After all, we are humans and formulas rarely describe human behavior.

So, how do readers choose books? —and if we have an answer to this question—how can it inform us to better market our books so that they are the ones readers choose?

A book reviewer recently conducted an informal poll on fiction reader behavior. She asked a group of Christian fiction readers how they decide what book to purchase next. Here is what the survey found were the top five criteria driving what book readers choose to read:

  • The book was written by a favorite author.
  • The book was classified in a favorite genre.
  • The book sported an attractive cover.
  • The back-cover copy was appealing.
  • The book was recommended by reviewers and bloggers.

Remember, this is not a formula, rather it is a loose guide of what draws readers in to choose a certain book. I believe there are a few marketing takeaways from the answers to this survey. None of these takeaways are new, but reminders are useful and help us keep our minds focused on what is important.

1. Fans are important.

Every author needs fans. Especially with fiction books, fans are necessary to sell more books. Many readers read authors they have read in the past and know they will deliver a good story. For fiction authors, cultivating a group of fans who love and promote your books is crucial. Find ways to reward your fans and keep them engaged between books.

2. A professional, engaging cover design is a must.

Your book cover is your number one marketing tool. Don’t skimp on your book’s cover. Use a professional designer to develop an engaging, eye-popping cover that fits your book’s genre. Test your cover design. Offer your friends and fans two designs of your upcoming book’s cover and have them vote on which one appeals the most to them. You can use a quiz generating service like Interact to run your poll.

3. Crafting a great description for your book is crucial.

People read fiction books for entertainment. They want to read a compelling, memorable story. Good fiction always has tension that comes from the challenges that the main characters face. These characters desire something deeply, but an obstacle stands in the way of allowing them to achieve their desire. In crafting a book description for fiction, show the readers these elements and promise them an intriguing story that they can relate to. Then, make a promise to readers about what they will find in the book. This promise should be intriguing so that the reader wants to read the book to find out more.

4. Reviews are essential.

Word-of-mouth remains the number one driver of book sales. Positive reviews by readers and bloggers are a form of word-of-mouth. They are social proof to readers that your book is worth their investment of time and money. Make obtaining reviews one of your top priorities in your book marketing plan.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) understands the important of reviews. This is why we offer our members the BookCrash program. This books for bloggers review program helps CSPA members get more reviews for their books. In addition, CSPA offers an on-demand seminar, Book Reviews: Tips for Getting More Reviews, free for our members. This seminar teaches easy to implement steps for obtaining more book reviews.

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5 Common Indie Publishing Errors

Indie publishing is growing. Indie published titles now account for about 17% of all books sold. This is great news. Sadly, many indie authors don’t take the time to fully educate themselves on important aspects of publishing a book. Then these authors wonder why people don’t stand up and take notice of their books.

Following are five common errors that indie published authors make. I encourage you to read this list and educate yourself. Don’t make these mistakes.

1. Thinking that being self-published is a badge of honor.

Congratulations. You have self-published. Yes, it was a lot of work. It took time and dedication. However, being self-published is not a badge of honor. For years, self-published books were highly stigmatized. Most people viewed them as subpar. While self-published books have lost much of their stigma, it has not fully gone away.

If you are only marketing your book to readers, then loudly asserting that your book is self-published may not be that detrimental to your marketing efforts. But, if you are trying to obtain media coverage or reviews for your book in trade publications, then announcing that your book is self-published will ensure you do not receive coverage. Your press release or book will be thrown away. Most industry professionals still view self-published books as second-tier books. In other words, don’t announce in your press releases that your book is self-published.

2. Not purchasing your own ISBN.

Many indie authors are so happy to get their book published, that they accept the free ISBN from the publishing service they are using. This is another way to signal to the industry that you are self-published. ISBN stands for Industry Standard Book Number. Every book published receives an ISBN. This number is linked to the “publisher” of the book. If you purchase or use an ISBN from a service provider like CreateSpace, then your book is forever linked to that service.

Look professional. Get your own ISBN for your books. ISBN numbers are affordable. They can be purchased through Bowker.

Once you have an ISBN number, be sure to give the 13-digit number, not the 10-digit number when asked for your book’s ISBN number. The 13-digit is the industry standard.

3. Listing the publisher of your book as CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing.

CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing are not publishers. Let me state that again in case you missed it. CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing are not publishers. They are publishing services that allow you to take a book and get it listed in Amazon’s online bookstore. Both services also allow you to purchase print copies of your book.

These services are not publishers because they do not do the tasks publishers do of editing, proofing, layout and design, and marketing. They simply allow you to sell books that you have uploaded to their service.

Books that have CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing listed as the publisher on Amazon shout self-published. As I stated earlier, while much of the stigma over self-publishing has gone away, it has not been erased. You will have greater success hooking more readers if you look traditionally published.

If you did use a CreateSpace ISBN, at least pay the small $10 fee that CreateSpace charges to list yourself or your company or ministry as the publisher on your Amazon listing and in expanded distribution.

4. Thinking that bookstores order books from Amazon.

I previously wrote a blog post on “Amazon is Not a Distributor.” I will reiterate that here. Amazon is a bookstore. Bookstores do not order books from other bookstores. Bookstores order books from distributors at a minimum of a 40 percent discount from retail price so that they can earn money off the sale of the book. If Amazon is the only place your book is for sale, bookstores will not order your book.

5. Listing the book cover designer as the illustrator.

An illustrator is someone who has provided illustrations for the interior of a book. Most adult fiction and nonfiction books do not have illustrators, while most children’s books do. However, it is standard to have an illustrator field for metadata because those books that do have illustrators need them listed. It is okay to leave this field blank if your book does not have an illustrator. Don’t list the book cover designer. I am amazed at how many authors who nominate books for the Christian Indie Awards list their cover designer as the illustrator.

I know there are more than five common mistakes that indie authors make. I have just chosen these five to list. If you have a mistake that you have seen indie authors make and want to share it, please do in the comments section.

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Announcing: The 2018 Christian Indie Award Winners

The votes are in and counted. The winners of the 2018 Christian Indie Awards have been determined!

Christian book lovers and retailers voted on 189 nominated titles in 13 categories. The winners in each of the 13 categories are:

Fiction:
Waiting for Butterflies, Karen Sargent, Walrus Publishing

Historical Fiction:
Solve by Christmas, Amber Schamel, Vision Writer Publications

Romance:
An Improper Proposal, Davalynn Spencer

Christian Living:
Pizza With Jesus (No Black Olives), P.J. Frick, Lighthouse Christian Publishing

Bible Study / Theology:
The Supremacy of Christ, Dr. William McCarrell and Rev. Richard McCarrell, Grace Acres Press

Devotional:
Delight Thyself Also In The Lord, Delight Thyself Design Ministries, Delight In Him Publications

Biography / Memoir:
Go West: 10 Principles that Guided My Cowboy Journey, Jeremy Sparks, Elevate Publishing

Relationships / Family:
Helicopter Mom, Bethany L. Douglas

Children’s (age 4 to 8):
Made for a Purpose, Kristie Wilde, Wilde Art Press

Children’s (age 8 to 12):
The Kool Kids & The Land Of The Giants, James Tate, author, Jay Reed, illustrator, Beyond W8 Loss, LLC

Young Adult (age 12+):
Huntress (Life After Book 1), Julie Hall

Gift Book:
Fear Not: You are in Partnership with God To Manage His Creation, Jose Bonilla

Christian Education:
Leading by Example: A Parental Guide To Teaching and Modeling Christian Faith At Home, Rev. Dr. Tim Tooten, Sr.

Congratulations to all the winners! The Christian Indie Awards are sponsored by Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA).

Are you looking for a great book to read? Try one of the winners of the Christian Indie Awards!

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Audiobook Listening On The Rise

A recent Pew Research survey reveals that reading rates still remain largely unchanged since 2012. About three-quarters (74%) of Americans read a book in the past 12 months (in any format). Print books remain the most popular format for reading, with 67% of Americans having read a print book in the past year.

While reading rates have remained the same for years, audiobook consumption is on the rise. The Pew survey found that just about one in five (18%) Americans listened to an audiobook in 2017. This is an increase of 4% from 2016.

Currently, the vast majority of audiobook sales are fiction books. With mystery, thriller, romance, and fantasy/science fiction the most popular audiobook genres. Interestingly, these are also the most popular genres for ebook sales. Nonfiction only accounted for 26.2% of all audiobook sales in 2016.

To capture the most sales, the majority of publishers and indie authors currently offer their books in both print and ebook format. As audiobook consumption increases, it may eventually become standard for books to be offered in all three formats: print, ebook, and audiobook.

Smashwords, the largest independent publishing ebook platform, is banking on the continued growth of audiobooks sales and the trend toward publishing books (especially fiction books) in all three formats. To help independent authors produce and distribute audiobooks, Smashwords has partnered with Findaway Voices.

With this partnership, Smashwords has built audiobook creation right into their publishing workflow. With a single click, Smashwords authors and publishers can instantly deliver an ebook to the Findaway Voices platform to begin the audiobook production process. Audiobooks produced through this partnership can then be distributed through Findaway Voice’s global network of over sales outlets including iTunes, Audible, Scribd, and OverDrive.

Two of the biggest tasks in producing an audiobook are choosing the right narrator and the cost of producing an audiobook.

1. Choosing the Right Narrator

With a print book, the emphasis is on the written words. Therefore, in producing a print or ebook, choosing the right font and layout design that matches the message is important. For audiobooks, it’s all about the voice. A narrator’s voice sets the tone for the story. In choosing a narrator, finding the voice pitch and pace that fits the story is critical.

2. Cost of Production

Recording an audiobook can be a costly endeavor. Smashwords says that Findaway’s fees are based on the number of hours and minutes of the finished production. Each hour of recorded content comprises roughly 9,000 words, which means a 26,000-word novella might run about three hours and a 100,000-word book would run about 11 hours. Narrators typically charge between $150 and $400 per finished hour.

Selling books is all about creating a quality product and marketing it well. Before you jump into producing an audiobook, be sure that you already have steady sales for the print or ebook version of your book. If your book is not already selling well in print, it probably won’t sell well as an audiobook either. Don’t sink money into producing an audiobook when those dollars might be better spent marketing your print or ebook.

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Photo courtesy of PouquoiPas.