Jennifer Aderhold

7 Spring Cleaning Tips To Refresh Your Author Brand

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Apr 042016
 

By Jennifer Carvlevatti Aderhold

Between polar vortexes, big snowstorms, and ice all around, it’s been a long winter. Hopefully you’ve been able to curl up in your own cozy home, either with a good book in hand or writing one of your own. I’ve always been partial to a cup of coffee by the fireplace.

But now the snow has mostly melted, the grass is turning green, and the flowers are starting to bud, which can mean only one thing: spring is finally here! Of course, with spring comes the dreaded spring cleaning. Odds are you’ve packed a bunch of stuff away over the holidays. Well, now it’s time to get rid of it. No, I’m not talking about your house this time—I’m talking about your author brand.

Unfortunately, if you don’t keep things fresh, your author brand can become stale. That doesn’t mean your brand is a problem, necessarily. It’s more like it needs a fresh coat of paint. With that in mind, here are seven ways you can freshen up your author brand this spring.

1. Adjust Your Plan

Ten years ago, self-publishing was an afterthought. Five years ago, people weren’t sure how the Kindle would do on the market. Now, thousands of books are self-published every day, the Kindle is a superstar, and life keeps getting better for authors. Things change and you need to adjust. Look at how your brand has changed over the past year—both positively and negatively—and adjust your plan accordingly.

2. Take Risks

Us writers, by nature, are usually risk-averse and introverted. Unfortunately though, in order for great success to happen, you need to take big risks. Make a list of all of the risks you’ve been putting off in your publishing career and choose one that you’re going to take this spring. Write down the first step to taking that risk and then do it. It’s going to be scary, but taking a chance can do wonders for your author brand.

3. Use Infographics

For those that don’t know, infographics are images that display a variety of information about a particular topic. Rather than reading an article, readers get the basic stats by looking at an image. Infographics are continuing to grow in popularity, which means you need to take them seriously.

Think of infographics as the gateway to your brand. They’re easy for readers to consume, and if readers enjoy your infographics, they’ll come back for more. You could create an infographic about the books you’ve read, your favorite authors, or something else entirely. Websites such as Piktochart can help.

4. Out with the Old

Imagine you’re going to purchase a vehicle. Now, would you prefer to use information that is five years old or information that’s been updated within the last hour? Your author brand changes as time passes and some things may no longer reflect who you are. Spring cleaning is the perfect time to get rid of those old blog posts and photos. Go through your website and blog and archive anything that doesn’t reflect your current brand.

5. A Makeover

Your readers want to build a relationship with you, and one of the keys to building a relationship is keeping your readers up to date. Update your headshot and touch up your website design. Change your Twitter header. Fix your biography to accurately reflect where you are right now. Talk to your readers about recent changes in your life.

6. Keep the Highlights

Of course, not everything needs to be tossed or updated. If you have some work you’re proud of, keep it around! Put it in a place where readers can see it. Perhaps you have a blog post that was exceptionally popular. If that’s the case, why not create a hall of fame on your website where all of your best blog posts go? To earn new readers, you need to put your best foot forward, so show off your highlights!

7. Try a Different Road

Spring is a time for adventure. The snow is melting, opening up mountain passes. If you’ve been driving down the same road and getting nowhere, now is the time to alter your course. The next time you hit a fork in the road, take a different direction. Try something new. Instead of novels, write a few short stories and publish those. Or, if you’ve always blogged about the same topic, write about something new.

Your Author Brand is Always Changing

Whether you realize it or not, your author brand will always be in flux. It could be something small—maybe you started your career writing contemporary romances, but now you write historical romances. Or perhaps you switch genres entirely. Whatever the case may be, it’s your job to clean up your brand to reflect your authenticity.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Spring is the perfect time to fix things that have been feeling stale. Use the seven tips above to spring-clean your author brand and help take your writing career to new heights. What have you done to freshen up your brand?

Head over to the Be A Best Seller Facebook fan page and let us know. And as always…

Voice matters. Dare to share yours. Impact the world!

5 Internet Marketing Skills Every Entrepreneurial Author Needs To Possess

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Mar 282016
 

By Michaela Zanello

From a business standpoint, so much of what matters—in terms of publishing and promoting your work, engaging with customers and fans, and keeping track of your sales and expenses—happens online. Therefore, no matter what field or niche you’re in, you need to continuously enhance your digital chops if you want to succeed.

As an entrepreneurial author, your Internet marketing skills need to be on point in order to build up your author brand and put your work in front of as many targeted fans as possible. This is how you’re going to increase sales. This is how you’re going to make a name for yourself. And the online world is ever-changing so there’s always room to become a better version of yourself as a professional.

Below, we’re going to delve into five Internet marketing skills that you definitely want to add to your aptitude catalogue if they aren’t already in there.

eCommunication and Relationships

Whether it occurs through a social media channel or via email, your first point of contact with a new customer, client, or fan is likely to occur online. Therefore, it’s crucial for you to hone your digital communication skills.

And while you may be thinking, “Um…sending emails and posting tweets and Facebook messages isn’t exactly rocket science,” just because you know the technological basics of getting in touch with people online, that doesn’t mean you’ve optimized your digital communication skills.

eRelationship building requires finesse, and successful digital marketers have a flair for making faceless interactions feel dynamic and personal. Crack jokes, ask authentic questions, and take a genuine interest in the lives of the people you interact with online.

Social Media

If you’re a writer or any kind of entrepreneur, social media savoir faire used to be a bonus skill to have, but that’s no longer the case—now, it’s a necessity. At a minimum, you need to have a polished LinkedIn profile and a working knowledge of how to use the big six: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr.

You don’t need to have an active presence on each one—use the platforms that make the most sense for what you do and the niche you’re in—but you do need to know what they all are. And even if you don’t update your account regularly, it’s a good idea to set up a simple profile on each platform, just to demonstrate a basic presence.

If you’re out of touch with social media these days, you’re going to come across as a dinosaur.

Basic SEO

You don’t need to be an expert. But you should understand the elemental factors that lead to higher page rankings with Google searches. For instance, you should know the following:

  • The difference between an advertisement and an organic search result
  • That it takes time to establish yourself as a legitimate, reliable website
  • Google isn’t a fan of websites that try to cheat and take shortcuts
  • Popular keywords need to be used to naturally in order for SEO to work
  • The best way to ascend the rungs of the page rankings ladder is to consistently add high quality, original, and relevant content to your site.

To learn more about SEO, check out this list of free online resources.

Graphic Design

Stellar content is great. But the accompanying design elements—whether it’s your book’s cover or the layout of your website—need to be great as well if you want to attract more fans and hold their interest.

The colors, font, and images you use represent you and your brand and you want them to deliver the right message. Learn how to use design software like Photoshop, and to expand your design expertise even further, take a look at this list of graphic design courses for beginners.

The Digital Hustle

The online world is constantly in flux. And so, your digital learning never ends. You need to get ahead of the curve by researching developing trends and staying abreast of new opportunities. Writers aren’t just writers anymore. You are a jack-of-all-trades, incorporating design, marketing and business skills into your grand scheme for success.

And while it may seem overwhelming, just take it one step at a time, reading up on advice and emerging developments a little bit each day and scouting out free courses to take.

What do you think about this list of essential Internet marketing skills? Are they aptitudes you possess? Can you think of any others you’d like to learn? Let us know on the Be A Bestseller Facebook fan page.

What’s In A Pen Name? Should You Use One, Or Not?

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Mar 212016
 

By Jennifer Carlevatti Aderhold

Mark Twain is one of the most famous authors in the world. Virtually everyone has heard of Tom Sawyer and his adventures with Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain’s name is etched in the history of American literature and will likely pass through several generations. So, if you met Mark on the street, how would you greet him? Well, if you were one of his closest friends, you’d say something like:

“Hey Sam, how’s the writing coming?”

“Mark Twain” is, in fact, the pen name of one Samuel Clemens. It’s not the only pen name he used either. Back in 1863, he went with “Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass” for a series of humorous sketches. While he was one of the first novelists to use a fake name, he certainly wasn’t the last. Nora Roberts  writes under the pen name J.D. Robb, and Stephen King has several novels published under the name Richard Bachman. If you have a favorite pen name, be sure to share it on the Be A Bestseller Facebook fan page.

4 Reasons You Should Use a Pen Name

Along with word count, whether or not to use a pen name is one of the most heavily debated topics in the writing community. While deciding whether or not to use a pen name is up to you, here are four reasons why you should seriously consider it:

1. Protect Your Privacy

One of the scariest things about the Internet is that we’re a lot more accessible. People can easily learn personal information about you by checking your Facebook page or by following you on Twitter.

And if you put your real name on your books, becomes gets even easier. While 99.9% of readers are awesome people who would never consider invading an author’s privacy, there are outliers. Using a pen name gives you an extra layer of anonymity.

2. Write in Multiple Genres

When you release a story, your readers tie that story to you. Think of it like a restaurant: You call and order a pizza one night and the most delicious pepperoni pizza arrives at your door. The next night, you call and order a pizza again, but this time, Mexican food arrives. You might love burritos but you’ll still feel tricked.

This can happen with your writing, too. Your readers fall in love with your work and they come to expect a certain kind of story. And when you change that story without warning your readers, they feel tricked and you damage your author brand. Using a pen name for each different genre helps prevent this.

3. Hide Productivity

A lot of writers consider productivity a virtue. Unfortunately, a lot of readers don’t look at productivity the same way. They hold an idea in the back of their minds that a quality book should take a certain amount of time to create.

So if authors publish several books in that time, they’ll be seen as hacks, and regardless of the books’ quality, readers will think the books are a lower value. Using a pen name hides the fact that it’s one writer doing all the work, and the value judgment is avoided.

4. Original Name

If you have an exceedingly plain name, like “John Smith,” you may need to use a pen name just to stand out. If you check Amazon and discover that several authors have the exact same name as you, you become more difficult for readers to find. Obviously, this is bad, as you want to be as easy to find as possible. It doesn’t matter how good your book is if no one can find it.

4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use a Pen Name

The four reasons above may have you convinced that you should use a pen name. However, the decision is not that cut and dry. Here are four reasons you should not consider using a pen name:

1. It’s Not Your Name

One of the biggest thrills in every writer’s career is the first time they see their name in print. To be honest, that thrill doesn’t fade with time. It’s a great feeling going into a bookstore or flipping through a magazine and being able to point to a publication and say, “That’s mine.”

That feeling is impossible to match, and it’s just not the same pointing to a piece that you wrote under a pen name. Plus, it might be more difficult to convince your more skeptical friends if it’s not your name on the cover.

2. Legally, It Does Nothing

First, the standard disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. So nothing I say here should be taken as legal advice. That being said, if you think using a pen name allows you to write with complete anonymity and take shots at whomever or whatever you want, you’re mistaken.

A pen name will not protect you from anything. It’s still your legal name on the contracts you sign, and you’re still accountable for anything you publish under your pen name.

3. Marketing Becomes Harder

Readers crave authenticity. They want to connect with an individual, and by using a pen name, you’re adding another fence between you and your readers. If you also refuse to show your face, it becomes even more difficult. You won’t be able to attend readings or sign books or do interviews. Using a pen name can severely limit your marketing ability. 

4. Rights Become Complicated

The more pen names you have, the more complicated your business life gets. You need to be vigilant, managing all your pen names, knowing which rights you have for which pen names on which stories.

In the darkest, worst case scenario, if you die, it’s a lot more difficult for your family to hold onto your writing, especially if you haven’t told them about your pen names.

Your Decision

Choosing to use a nom de plume is one of the toughest decisions a writer can make. If you’ve used a pen name or are thinking about using one, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Be A Bestseller Facebook fan page.

5 Writing Tools No Serious Writer Should Do Without

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Mar 142016
 

By Michaela Zanello

As any writer can attest, there’s always room for improvement. Writers will often write something they think is pure gold only to cringe and tear it apart with cuts and changes a few weeks later, wondering how they could have ever thought that was a high quality piece of writing.

As we read more and have new experiences and as our writing style and voice evolve, our writing expertise continues to be challenged and we get better and better at our craft—a fact that is both empowering and scary to think about.

It’s scary in the sense that while we could edit and modify our work basically until we become so married to it that it turns into an “until death do us part” situation, preventing us from meeting deadlines or publishing our work at all.

Knowing there’s always room for improvement is one of those things that writers need to learn to just accept. Yes, you may discover a misplaced comma or a word that’s better suited to your meaning after the fact. But in order to become a successful writer, putting your work in front of an audience is far more important than nesting on it until it’s perfect, because news flash: it won’t ever be perfect and that’s okay.

This is a difficult mental hurdle to overcome. Fortunately, however, a number of resources are available online that can help you as a writer to overcome analysis paralysis, be more productive, and speed up your writing and editing processes in general.

1. Grammarly for Chrome 

While you can always use the spell-check in Microsoft Word, Grammarly takes editing to a new level of effectiveness. Not only will Grammarly show you any spelling mistakes, it will also help you to catch grammatical errors as well as stylistic mistakes, including confused word choice and miswritten words.

Grammarly is free to use for critical errors. But if you want to see more advanced issues, such as compound and complex sentence punctuation, wordiness, and excessive use of the passive voice, Grammarly offers three paid plan options:

1. Monthy – $29.95/month

2. Quarterly – $19.98/month (billed as one payment of $59.95)

3. Annual – $11.66/month (billed as one payment of $139.95)

2. Hemingway Editor 

This tool is highly recommended for any long-winded, run-on sentence addicts (like myself). If you’ve ever read Hemingway before, then you know his style is hit-you-over-the-head simple and to the point. So what this tool does is it helps you to exemplify its namesake’s penchant for bold, clear prose in your own writing.

The Hemingway Editor color-codes its suggestions to point out difficult-t0-read sentences, phrases with simpler alternatives, superfluous adverbs, and back-to-back instances of the passive voice. Plus, it offers a readability meter that lets you know how challenging your writing is to understand. And if you’re aiming to emulate Hemingway’s iconic style, then any score above “Grade Level 10” is considered too complex.

You can purchase the Hemingway Editor for either Mac OSX or Windows for $9.99.

3. OneLook Reverse Dictionary

When you’re writing, this happens all too often: you’re thinking of a word that you know would be just perfect but it’s stuck on the tip of your tongue. So frustrating!

But OneLook Reverse Dictionary is the solution, allowing you to search for the concept you have in mind and then providing you with a list of related words and phrases, which it compiles by indexing hundreds of digital dictionaries, encyclopedias, and reference sites. Odds are the word you’re looking for is among that list along with several other good—perhaps every better—options.

Problem solved! And the best part is OneLook Reverse Dictionary is completely free to use.

4. Writepls

Writepls serves as an aggregated directory and email delivery service of all the best writing advice the web has to offer. There’s a lot of less than stellar content out there. And rather than sift through all of it yourself, losing valuable time while hunting for hidden gems, Writepls does the grunt work for you, emailing the most informative articles and grouping them into the following categories:

  • On writing: General
  • On Fiction
  • On Non-Fiction
  • On Emails
  • Growth Hacking
  • Online Courses
  • Books

5. Cliché Finder 

Your writing should reflect your unique voice and style. It shouldn’t be riddled with overused phrases and idioms. So to check your writing for clichés, especially clichés that are lesser known, copy and paste your text into the Cliché Finder and rework the phrases it identifies as hackneyed to make your work more fresh and polished.

What do you think about this list of writing tools? Have you used any of them before? What other resources can you suggest? Let us know on the Be A Bestseller Facebook fan page.

The Hero’s Journey Towards An Effective Author Brand

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Mar 072016
 

By Jennifer Carlevatti Aderhold

Joseph Campbell’s name is synonymous with mythology and story structure. He was one of the first people to truly study what made stories memorable by examining the great myths, stories, and characters of our time: Romeo and Juliet, Icarus, and Jonah and the Whale.

He found that each of these stories adhered to a certain structure—while the details of individual moments were different, the purpose of these moments was essentially the same. He named the structure “The Hero’s Journey.”

For a long time, authors have used the hero’s journey to either plot out stories or restructure stories that weren’t working. You can find it in stories as varied as Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings. While the hero’s journey isn’t the only story structure authors can use, it is one of the most popular and enduring, having been used for centuries.

What does this have to do with marketing your author brand? Do you need to venture into the belly of a whale to be successful?

Well…kind of.

Content Marketing

Instead of trying to build your author brand by using advertisements, you should use content. Content marketing is the process of attracting readers to you by using high quality content. The process of cultivating a following is eerily similar to that of the hero’s journey.

The hero’s journey has endured throughout the history of humankind because we’re triggered to respond to it. Think about what marketing is: you want to trigger a response in your audience. What better way to do this than to tap into a structure that’s been proven to resonate throughout history?

Marketing is storytelling, and storytelling is marketing. Your author’s brand needs to go on its own hero’s journey in order to connect with potential readers.

While the hero’s journey can be broken down into the minute details of a thirteen stage process, there are only four stages that you have to consider for your author brand.

1. The Call of Your Author Brand

Think of the call as an invitation to adventure. Up until this point, the hero has been living his or her life with no major disruptions. The call changes that—it disrupts the hero’s routine, and the hero has no choice but to respond to it.

The purpose of the call from the perspective of your author brand is to disrupt your readers’ routine—you want them to notice you. You need to get their attention and snap them out of whatever it was they were doing so that they pay attention to you.

Think about what distinguishes you from other authors. What makes you different? What is your particular call? Take some time to do this and seriously consider all of your options. Your author brand needs to tell a story. The call is the thing that is going to get your readers to pay attention to your story.

2. The Challenges of Your Author Brand

Think of the challenges as the various obstacles the hero faces on his or her journey. The hero has already accepted the call and taken the first step—and now things are going to get hard. Each of the challenges is going to be more difficult than the last, and the hero is going to be repeatedly tested and pushed to the limit.

Your author brand isn’t just for your readers; it’s for you as well. In building your author brand, you’ll face many challenges.

If you blog, you may write posts that garner no response or engagement whatsoever. The amount of Twitter followers and Facebook likes you receive may grow slowly, if at all. Throughout this process, you’ll question yourself and your skills. But remember, these challenges are all part of the process of building a successful author brand.

As for your readers, their challenges are much different. They’re going to be wondering if you’re worth following. They’ll likely doubt you at the start, which is why you need to produce great content to assure them that you are someone worth paying attention to.

3. The Transformation of Your Author Brand

During the transformation, the hero changes the way he or she thinks and views life. This is where the character’s arc comes in to play. The transformation is the change and it usually occurs at the climax of a good story.

For you, the author, the transformation occurs when you realize that your brand is more about your readers than it is about yourself.

Your brand will transform on behalf of your readers, as they’ll have a tremendous influence on you. You’ll notice what they respond to and what they don’t; you’ll notice what makes a difference and what doesn’t.

And as you notice these things, you’ll begin focusing on making sure you do the things that positively impact your brand and ignoring the things that don’t.

4. The Return of Your Author Brand

As the call begins the hero’s journey, the return ends it. Many stories are a circle, and the hero’s journey is no different. Things began with a routine being interrupted, and they end with a new and improved routine being started.

The return of your author brand happens when you’ve converted potential readers into true fans. You’ve called to them through great content and your personal story, and they’ve responded and followed you through the challenges.

The content you’ve given them has caused both of you to transform. At this point, you’re now part of their routine, and you will remain so unless one of you changes.

The hero’s journey was a part of the earliest stories we told while sitting around campfires. To attract new fans, your author brand will have to undergo a hero’s journey of its own.

Where are you on the hero’s journey for your author brand? Let us know on the Be A Bestseller Facebook fan page.

Let’s Sell More Books And Amplify Your Marketing Buzz

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Feb 292016
 

By Michaela Zanello

So you wrote a book, published it; you’re pleased with how it looks and have been experimenting with various marketing techniques. But a few months have gone by and you haven’t made all that many sales. A few have trickled in here and there, but they’ve mostly been from friends and family.

You thought you were doing everything right. But your book still isn’t selling. Why not? You worked really hard and now you feel like screaming, “Buy my book! It’s good, I swear!”

If this sounds like a situation you’ve experienced, you’re not alone. But instead of continuing to repeat the same behavior, expecting different results—which is the definition of insanity, by the way—it’s time to evaluate, assess, and see if you can diagnose where changes can be made to improve your results.

You Have An Inappropriate Or Lackluster Book Cover

Even with books, physical appearances matter. Maybe it’s shallow, but that’s the way it goes. You need to have a professionally designed cover, end of story (use Fiverr.com if you’re on a budget).

Furthermore, you need to make sure your cover is appropriate for your genre and works well with your book’s theme.

For example, if you write horror or suspense novels, your cover probably shouldn’t have a pastel cover scheme, as that would create a disconnect for your readers. You’d be better off using a cover with darker, more ominous colors.

When it comes to cover design, the goal isn’t to reinvent the wheel. Browse other books in your genre and look for reoccurring colors, images, layouts, and font styles and incorporate those standout elements into your own design.

You Neglect Your Book’s Description

This is a big no, no. Your book’s description essentially serves as its sales page. And just like your book itself, your book’s description needs to be typo-free and use good grammar. Your description should also contain key words to help readers be better able to find your book.

Four of the most useful types of keywords include the following:

  • Setting (Eighteenth century France)
  • Character types (businesswoman, cowboy)
  • Plot themes (forbidden love, sacrifice)
  • Story tone (post-apocalyptic, sarcastic)

You want to get inside your readers’ heads and think about what types of words they might plug in to the search bar when they’re prowling for a new book.

It’s also a good idea to include testimonials in your book’s descriptions, especially if they are from other writers or people who are experts in their field. Display quotes in block-form rather than sprinkled throughout your description to make them stand out more.

You Aren’t Leveraging Social Media As Much As You Could

In addition to the biggies (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), on which having an active presence is a must, there are other social networks that can be real whip-crackers when it comes to driving traffic to wherever your books are sold, namely Pinterest and Instagram.

Pinterest ranks #2 (behind Facebook) in terms of referral traffic, driving three times as much traffic as Twitter. And Daniel Hayes from UPI.comreports that Instagram now has even more users than Twitter.

Here are six ways that you can leverage Pinterest and Instagram to drum up traffic and increase your book’s sales.

Pinterest:

1. Make a dedicated board for each of your books

This can include pictures of settings and events that you mention—or, if you are a fantasy or fiction writer, pictures of things that are reminiscent of the happenings in your book. You can also add fans as “contributors” and ask them to pin pictures they think make your book’s characters and events feel real.

2. Create an author board

Here, you can add pins related to who you are as an author, including a picture of yourself, things you like, your favorite books, and important photos from your website.

3. Host a contest

Challenge your fans to take pictures of themselves in unusual places while holding your book. Then, have them submit the photos to you so you can select the best one and give that fan a prize, such as an Amazon gift card.

Instagram:

1. Follow other authors and bloggers who review books

When you follow book-bloggers and fellow authors, you increase your chances of making important connections with like-minded people, which can lead to getting more reviews for your books, guest-posting on relevant blogs, and engaging in joint venture projects.

2. Give your fans an insider’s peek into your life and writing process

Post pictures of yourself writing in your home or at a coffee shop along with excerpts from completed chapters in your book. Additionally, you can add character sketches or potential cover art for your book.

3. Use humor and creativity

Connecting to readers through laughter can be an effective marketing strategy—although, the humor angle is probably best suited for books concerning lighter thematic content.

What other advice can you share about how to sell more books and inspire more marketing buzz? Let us know on the Be A Bestseller Facebook fan page.

5 Ways To Get Your Writing Confidence Back, Baby!

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Feb 222016
 

By Jennifer Carlevatti Aderhold

In the August 5th 2013 BAB issue I shared the story of how I lost $20,000 to a con artist.

It’s been over two years since I was scammed. I’ll wear the scars forever.

However, in life, it’s not the defeats that matter: it’s how you frame them. In my case, this isn’t the story of how I lost $20,000 to a con artist. It’s the story of how I learned to heal my wounds and grow stronger from the experience.

Rejection Is the Job Description

As a writer, your confidence is going to take more hits than a punching bag. And the hits will come from friends and family doubting that your writing is anything more than just a hobby. They’ll come from rejection letters. When you get published, rejection will come from snarky reviews and anonymous blog comments.

Rejection will also come from you—you’ll reject ideas, and you’ll have days when you feel like you’re the worst writer in the world.

At some point, writing will break you. Stephen King tossed his novel Carrie into the trash bin before his wife rescued it and made him finish it. People always say a writing career is a marathon, not a sprint—and they’re right. Just like running a marathon, at a certain point in your writing, you’ll hit a wall.

Confidence Is a Muscle

When you hit the wall and your confidence breaks, everything in your body will tell you it’s okay to give up. You gave writing your best shot. You just didn’t have the talent. Or the time. Or the muse. Excuses will fly through your mind, and some of them will sound great.

This happens to all writers at some point. However, the difference between people who write for a career and those who don’t is that the career writers push through! They recognize that their confidence is a muscle and that even after it breaks, it can be built up again.

Here are five ways to flex your writing muscle:

  1. Write

If I said that I wanted to be stronger, what would your first piece of advice to me be? Probably to lift weights. The more you lift, the stronger you get.

Writing is no different. Let’s use a daily word count as an example. If you’re just starting out, and you set your goal for 2,000 words a day, you’ll probably fail. You don’t have the strength. If you set your daily goal to 50 words, however, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

Then, you begin to build up your strength. The next week you set your daily word count to 100 words. The week after that to 150. Slowly but surely, your writing muscle builds until you do reach 2,000 words a day.

  1. Love Rejection

Rejection isn’t just part of the job, it’s a part of life. However, like my experience with the con artist, it’s all about how you frame the rejection. Instead of letting it hurt you, celebrate it. Rejection can only happen if you’re putting in an effort. You know what else can only happen if you put in an effort? Publication! With each rejection, you’re one step closer to publication.

  1. Fear Is Energy

Whenever you do something that’s out of your comfort zone, it’s natural to be afraid. Courage can exist only where fear lives, and publication comes to only those who display courage.

Think of your confidence not just as one muscle, but as several muscles working together. If confidence is your arm, then each rejection works your bicep, and each time you overcome fear, that works your triceps. Each time you overcome fear, you prove your courage.

  1. Read Everything

If you keep doing the same exercise over and over again, you’ll eventually plateau. Your muscles don’t grow as fast. The same thing happens if you don’t read, or if you always read the same thing.

You need to change things up, step outside your comfort zone. True creativity happens when horizons meet, and if you’re not expanding your horizons, it’ll be harder to be creative.

  1. Relieve the Tension

One of the most important parts of the muscle-building process is rest. The same is true of building your writing muscle—if you’re working all the time, you risk burning out.

Find some time when writing is the last thing on your mind. Go for a walk, paint, take pictures, spend time with your family. You’ll come back to your manuscript with renewed energy and a stronger writing muscle.

Confidence Is Key

Your writing confidence will grow or weaken depending on how much you work on it. It’s a muscle—use it or lose it. Naturally, every writer has different tricks for building their confidence. To see what other writers do, and to share some of your own tips, head over to the Be A Bestseller Facebook fan page.

 

 

Don’t Lose Viewers! Make Your Blog More Readable

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Feb 152016
 

By Michaela Zanello

You take painstaking measures to ensure the content you provide is high quality, that it’s well-researched, informative, and entertaining. You pour your heart and soul into every post you publish. Your blog is an extension of you, your business, and your brand after all, so there’s no room to do anything halfway.

But even still, the data shows that your click-through rates are low and the average visitor spends only a few seconds on your site.

“What am I doing wrong?” you wonder.

Well, the answer may be related more so to aesthetics than to your actual content. Think about your own perceptions when you visit other people’s blogs. What qualities make you want to hightail it out of there thinking, “There is no way I’m reading anymore of that”?

Maybe the writer’s style or tone was genuinely off-putting. Or maybe the content really was no good. But more often than not, we flee websites and blogs because there’s something about the way they look that we find boring, confusing, or just too overwhelming, such as being greeted by a giant block of straight-up text—no thank you!

So if you’re providing great content but you’re still having trouble attracting and retaining eyeballs on your site, maybe it’s not your writing that’s the problem—maybe it’s how your writing looks.

Sure, it’s shallow. Great content should trump aesthetic appeal. But with waning attention spans, your visitors need content that’s easy to read through and digest.

Below, you’ll find five strategies to increase the readability of your blog.

1. Add More Whitespace

When it comes to readable blog posts, whitespace is a good thing to have. It’s the empty space found on a page. Whitespace makes your content appear less cluttered. Thus, your content becomes easier on your readers’ eyes, making it easier to read.

Whitespace helps readers to zero in on your content, serving as a frame of sorts, drawing readers in to where they should be focusing.

2. Include Section Headers

Section headers are useful both to readers and to you as the writer. Section headers are like content milestones, marking the significant sections of your text and helping you keep your content organized.

For your readers, section headers act as a super brief summary of the content to come, thus promoting easier comprehension.

Plus, if readers are interested in a specific sub-topic of your post, they can immediately jump down to that portion of your content. Or, if readers want to jump around the post or refer back to specific parts later on, section headers make post-navigation much more convenient.

3. Up Your Paragraphs

There’s nothing more off-putting about a blog post than huge chunks of text.

Considering how in recent years the average person’s attention span has decreased from twelve seconds down to just eight (that’s less than a goldfish!), the typical online reader has neither the patience nor the stamina to read through giant, dense paragraphs.

But that’s not to say that you should write less.

This issue actually has nothing to do with word count or post length. You simply don’t want your paragraphs to appear longer than they are wide on your page. In fact, in blog writing it’s completely acceptable to have a single sentence serve as a stand-alone paragraph.

So forget the rule your elementary school teachers taught you about how all paragraphs should have at least 3-5 sentences. That rule doesn’t apply to blog writing.

4. Try A Different Font

When it comes to font choice, clarity is what is most important. Fonts fall into one of two broad categories: serif or sans-serif.

Serif fonts are those that have tiny embellishments, aka serifs, on the top and bottom of each letter. Examples of popular serif fonts include Times New Roman and Courier.

Conversely, sans-serif fonts do not include these tiny embellishments, making them straight, clear, plain Jane, and easy to read. Therefore, you should choose a sans-serif font for your blog posts.

The serif fonts may add a little je ne sais quoi to the look of your posts, but given the way that people access content on a variety of devices with varying screen sizes, you want to keep it clear and simple.

Two of the most popular sans-serif fonts are Ariel and Verdana.

Also, make sure whichever font you choose is large enough to be seen without making readers squint.

5. Use Bullet Points And Numbered Lists

Your “readers” should actually be called scanners, as there’s a very good chance they don’t read every word of your posts, scanning it instead to nab the most important information.

Accordingly, bullet points and numbered lists help readers/scanners do the following:

  • Access important information quickly
  • Process that information more readily
  • Feel less intimidated by your posts’ content

And here are three tips to make your bullet points and numbered lists more effective:

  1. Make each point brief
  2. Link to additional content if appropriate
  3. Begin each point with the same part of speech and keep the same grammatical form.

What do you think about these techniques to make your blog more readable? What are you doing to optimize your blog traffic and click-through rates? Let us know on the Be A Bestseller Facebook fan page.

Get To Know Your Editor (The Success Of Your Book Depends On It!)

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Feb 082016
 

By Dennis De Rose

Recently, Mr. Disappointed-Writer published his first novel. Upon closer inspection, however, he realized the book could have been written better, and he later discovered that his sales were minimal. He began to think about his writing process, and he sent an e-mail to his editor.

Here are three reasons why writers should get to know their editors in order to make a blasé book shine:

1) The “Fit”

Writers and editors must be able to work together. Therefore, take the time to choose an editor who will be the best fit for you, making sure that he or she has experience working with your book’s genre.

Ask potential editors for references and follow-up to see what other people think about their ability to edit carefully.

Call potential editors on the telephone and discuss their accomplishments.  Go fishing—talking about anything you like in order to get a “feel” for the person on the other end of the line.

Pose specific questions: about editing style, years of experience, turnaround times, and the types and number of books the editor has previously worked on.

Get the editors’ details: rate per hour—do they charge per page or per word; payment plans—do they require money up front, payment after the job is complete, or in segments; their preferred communication style—would they rather discuss projects over the phone, through email, or in person.

2) Communication

Writing a good book is more than just putting thoughts down on paper. If a well-written book could speak to the reader, one of the things it would say would be what happened behind the scenes; communication is crucial.

Writers and editors need to communicate frequently in order to make their books the best they can be, leaving readers satisfied.

As a writer, if there is a word that should be replaced or a paragraph that would improve the flow if it were placed elsewhere in the text, help your editor understand what has been written and why but be sure to do so in a courteous and respectful way.  You may be an expert on your book, but editors are experts in their field too.

Effective communication, or lack thereof, can produce a bestseller or a dust-gatherer. Plus, a lack of quality communication can lead to damaged relationships and a loss of time.

3) Teamwork

The writing process should not stop once a manuscript is sent to an editor. Writing should be a two-way street, whereby the writer and editor work closely together and learn from each other.

A writer and editor may even decide to read each chapter together after it has been edited. This process, although time-consuming, can help create a near-perfect book, as the writer and editor find errors and discuss how to improve the writing flow.

Additionally, writers should work with their editors about cover design, back cover blurbs, introductions, author blurbs, glossaries, and acknowledgments. Plus, they should discuss the publishing process, how to find a publisher and format their book, and even ways to save money while doing all of this.

Everyone has weaknesses.

As a tip for writers – allow editors to make suggestions about ways to improve your writing. Editors can even suggest particular books that can help improve upon a specific writing weakness—the use of commas, for example (check out Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss).

The creation of a solid team allows for criticism, both ways; all criticism should be constructive, not destructive. If a book is so poorly written that it cannot be edited in a cost-effective way, editors should politely tell writers to go back to the drawing board.

Rest assured, the writer will contact the editor at a later date, assuming the framework of a solid team has been established.

Teamwork is all about working together to make a book the best that it can be. So, as a writer, make sure that you do not undervalue the importance of your relationship with your editor.

After dealing with his first editor, Mr. Disappointed-Writer realized that he should have taken the time to make sure they were a good fit before proceeding; he chose his next editor much more carefully.

Mr. Disappointed Writer talked with his new editor for a long time and worked very closely with him, creating a solid team and collaborating to improve the quality of his book. Within one month, the book became a bestseller and Mr. Disappointed Writer changed his name to Hap E. Writer.

Dennis De Rose has been an editor, working mostly with fiction books, for six years. Plus, he is the creator of a free marketing newsletter called “Moneysaver Marketing Minutia,” which he sends out to over 600 writers. You can learn more about Dennis here and please feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

What do you think about Dennis’ relationship-building tips for working with editors? What criteria do you have when selecting an editor for your book, and how well do you think you should know your editor? Let us know on the Be A Bestseller Facebook fan page.

Book Excerpts: Generate Buzz And Build Your Author Cred

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Feb 012016
 

By Michaela Zanello

How would you like to get readers, editors, and literary agents excited about your book and eager to get their hands on it?

Easy. Publish an excerpt.

Serving as a stand-alone story, essay, or informative article, an excerpt provides your audience with a taste of your writing, enticing them to want to read more.

You may think that creating a story or essay from within your book is counter-productive or an inefficient use of your time, but the strategy works and many successful writers do it.

Reading an excerpt from the book Wild is how I first came across the brilliance of author Cheryl Strayed. The excerpt appeared in Vogue, and I remember being so struck by Strayed’s writing that I immediately googled her to see where I could find more of her work.

The next time you open a book, check the copyright section to see if the author acknowledges any small presses that previously published a selection from the book—aka an excerpt. You may be surprised to discover how often this occurs.

So, what are the benefits of publishing a book excerpt?

Book Excerpts Generate Buzz And Enthusiasm

Not only do book excerpts make readers excited about your work, they also generate interest among literary agents and editors who love seeing that a portion of the book you are pitching has been published by a reputable journal or magazine.

Book Excerpts Build Up Your Author Bio

Your author bio is essentially your resume. And in order to be taken seriously by literary agents and editors, it’s important to build up publication credits, as they show that you can manage submission guidelines and deadlines and that you have experience along with drive and ambition.

Book Excerpts Indicate That Readers Are Interested In Your Work

Having an excerpt published indicates that readers enjoy your work, which makes you much more attractive in the eyes of agents and editors, because appeal in the small press market often translates to bigger audiences and that’s music to an agent’s ears.

So, after discussing how publishing a book excerpt can be a powerful marketing strategy…

How do you create one, and what characteristics should it include?

You Can Use the First Chapter

Many authors choose to use the first chapter of their books because the first chapter contains compelling openers specifically designed to draw readers in.

If your book is more of a “how-to” or advice-giving nature, however, your first chapter may be more introductory. In which case, the first chapter may not be your best bet.

Similarly, if your first chapter contains a lot of character backstory or scene-setting, it may not be the most enticing choice.

But You Don’t Have To Use The First Chapter

That said, you can pull an excerpt from anywhere in your book that you want—anywhere there’s strong conflict, tension, or action makes for especially compelling excerpts. Try to choose a selection that embodies the theme of your book and doesn’t require too much context or backstory for readers to understand what’s going on.

Feel Free To Change the Wording Of Your Excerpts

Book excerpts typically run around 3,500 words. And it’s perfectly acceptable to make changes and adjustments to your story in order to have it still make sense and retain its essence within the parameters of a limited word count or some other set of guidelines.

Top Excerpt-Writing Tips

  1. Don’t give away major plot points or big secrets—giving away little secretes is okay, though, as this showcases your ability to build suspense and surprise your readers.
  2. Strike a balance between dialogue and narrative—dialogue is good for character-introducing and narrative helps set the scene, so give readers a taste of both.
  3. Avoid selections involving flashbacks—flashbacks jog readers’ memories of past events and they provide insight into characters’ motivations, and while flashback scenes can be both interesting and compelling, they don’t usually represent what your book is actually about.
  4. Make sure the scene can stand alone—as previously mentioned, avoid selections that require a lot of context; a book excerpt should read like a short story, with a beginning, middle, and an end, and since space is limited, you need to convey your main points quickly and efficiently.
  5. Choose a solid ending—book excepts don’t have to be like T.V. sitcoms with all conflicts neatly resolved within a 30-minute time slot; your excerpt should establish some sense of a stopping point or resolution, however.

Book excerpts are a powerful method of generating buzz for your book and attracting the attention of literary agents and editors. Plus, building your author bio with publication credits helps to establish you as a seasoned, credible author. So as you’re considering viable book promotion strategies, definitely think about publishing a book excerpt.

Have you ever published a book excerpt before? What advice can you share? Let us know about your personal experiences on the Be A Bestseller Facebook fan page.