A to Z Prepare-athon 2020

To celebrate National Prepareathon Day and the final day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I thought I’d offer A to Z Reasons Why La Yacata is the Place to Be in Any Disaster: A Prepper’s Guide to Mexico FREE for the next few days.

prepper-cover

You can read about how our family has prepared for everything from the Apocalypse to Zombies, including pandemics, economic collapse, and kakistocracy while you practice social distancing.

This compilation was a result of my participation in the A to Z Challenge in 2016 and my first blog to book project, so yet another reason why it’s a fitting end for the series of posts on Content Creative this month.

Thank you for joining me this month!

Blog to Book Project — Back Up Your Manuscript

I know this step seems like a no-brainer, but today we are going to spend just a few minutes talking about why you should back up your manuscript, even after you’ve uploaded it to the publishing site. 

Let’s start with the book template Pressbooks which allows you to access your completed manuscript, edit it, and download it to your computer. Pressbooks, as amazing as it is, might run into technical issues or be hacked. All your hard work will be lost, unless you have a backup version. This could happen no matter which online book template you use.

Saving to your computer isn’t enough. Be sure to save your manuscript to an external memory device like a USB stick and to a cloud storage platform. Computer can suddenly die. USB sticks can become corrupted. Cloud storage can disappear. However, if you save to all three, odds are that at least one copy of your manuscript can be salvaged. 

Now, let’s talk about Amazon. Although Amazon insists that you retain all rights to your work, that isn’t completely true. When you use the Kindle Create program, your .kpf file can only be used on Amazon. If you decide to move your book to another publishing site, you’ll need to start from scratch. Incidentally, this is another reason to use a seperate book template site like Pressbooks rather than Kindle Create.

Amazon may also remove your book and close your account if it believes you have violated one of its ever-changing policies. If this happens, you can publish your manuscript to another platform only IF you have a copy of your manuscript someplace on file. 

Inexpensive or remote server backup options include:

Even if you are only planning on getting one copy of your book for personal enjoyment, having a backup copy will also make it easier should you wish to run a second printing to give as gifts. 

Assignment: Back up your manuscript.

Blog to Book Project–Examining the Drawbacks to Self-Publishing on Amazon

There are a number of excellent self-publishing platforms out there, but Amazon is by far the largest. Although no one knows for sure, many experts estimate that there are currently 6 million eBooks and a total of 48.5 million books available for sale on Amazon. Amazon has cornered the market on approximately 40% of the self-published eBook market. This overreading vastness can be both a blessing and a bane.

Amazon has made it easy to self-publish. However, Amazon also sets the price you can sell at. If you notice, most eBooks listed on Amazon that are not written by authors like Toni Morrison or Stephen King are under $5. As an author, you get only pennies for books read through KOLL and Kindle Unlimited.

On the other hand, forcing you to keep your eBook price low can work to your advantage. As an unknown author, readers may be more apt to take a chance on your book at bargain prices than they would if they had to shell out more than $10 to get their hands on it.

Print book prices are also set by Amazon. You can not offer your book for a price lower than what Amazon decrees, which sometimes prices your book far outside of the average person’s book budget. Which in turn, encourages readers to enroll in Kindle Unlimited where they can read an unlimited number of books for a set price while you get shafted on royalties.

With the sheer number of books that are available on Amazon, your contribution to the literary world may get overlooked. Amazon offers to help you out through paid advertisements, but it may not be worth the money you invest in them, especially if you are just starting out. You’d do better to devote more time on marketing strategies outside of Amazon even if you are redirecting potential readers to your book listing on Amazon. We’ll talk about ways you can do that in the course too.

As you can see, publishing on Amazon can be a writer’s dream-come-true or nightmare.

Blog to Book Project — Author Website

Having a website establishes you as a credible author. It’s a great place to showcase your writing. And it provides a way for you to establish a fan base through followers.

Since you are already blogging, you are ahead of the game here. You may want to consider a second blog or website though depending on your audience. 

For instance, my blog Surviving Mexico focuses on ex-pats in Mexico, some of whom may be interested in my books. I have a variety of ways that those readers can find my books including landing pages, featured posts, and sidebar ads.

My blog, Content Creative, is my author website where I give tips, post book reviews and author interviews and feature my books too. My target audience at Content Creative is other authors and book lovers. It’s a newer blog and I don’t have as many followers there yet, but it’s growing.

Here are some important things to consider when designing your author website. 

It should be easy to find your name or brand on every page. Creating the perfect header is the best way to do this.

Notice on my Content Creative header, my author name C.E. Flores is clearly visible. While on my Surviving Mexico blog, the name of the blog and a pithy tagline “Adventures and Disasters” are shown. The emphasis on that blog is on the theme “Surviving Mexico” rather than me as an author. 

People should be able to figure out how to subscribe to your newsletter, follow your blog, or find you on other social media sites.

On my sidebars, I have a way for people to sign up to receive emails when I post and link to Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram. I created Widgets for each of these components. 

Your About or Bio page should be easily found. Some experts suggest having a short bio in the sidebar and then a longer About page.

On Content Creative, the home page is my bio while on Surviving Mexico, the About page is found from a drop-down menu.

Readers should be able to contact you, either through a form on the About page or on a separate Contact me page. You never know when someone will have something awesome to say about your books and you want to make it easy for them to share it with you.

You should also have information about your books.

Make a landing page for each book even if you have one page that lists them all. Include the book blurb, the cover image and links to your book on Amazon and Goodreads. 

Keep readers coming back with engaging posts! Aim for regularity. It doesn’t have to be every day, but once a week or twice a month is good engagement. Remember to share useful information and interesting stories rather than plug your book every post. 

Blogging may have come naturally to you but you may be wondering what should you write about as an author. Here are some suggestions.

Write about topics that are related to your book or other things you can be considered an expert on. Have you become an expert on Japanese teas? Talk about it. Is your book based in Japan? Then use that as an excellent way to segue into your book. 

Keep up with current news events and find things to comment on in your post. Is the local library sponsoring a Read-A-Thon, well then, let the world know you’ll be there!

Interview other authors in your genre. Review other books that you think your readers would enjoy. Talk about the writing process. The point is to provide quality content to followers. 

Offer book giveaways every now and then. Nothing piques a reader’s interest like a FREE BOOK! It’s easy to do using giveaway generators like Rafflecopter. Is your book on sale or free to download on Amazon? Share that information! 

Make sure to share your posts on your social media sites. WordPress has a way you can set up automatic shares but look for opportunities on your own as well. Is today Boot Scootin’ Booty day and your book is about a cowboy finding love? Share it with appropriate hashtags. #bootscootinbootyday #cowboylove #nameofyourbook

Your author website will become your home platform, no matter which social media sites you use. Make it attractive and interesting!

Assignment: Set up your Author Website or adapt your current blog to meet the needs of an up-and-coming author (YOU)!

Blog to Book Project — Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a subscription service available to some customers in select countries where subscribers can read as many ebooks books as they like and keep them as long as they like as long as they pay the monthly fee. KU can be used in the U.S., U.K., France (Abonnement Kindle), Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Canada, India, Germany, Australia, Italy, and Japan.

When someone signs up for KU and goes to the detail page for your book, the Kindle Unlimited price of $0.00 will appear. 

When you enroll in KDP Select, your book is automatically available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. It remains enrolled unless you choose not to have your book registered in KDP Select. 

You don’t earn royalties on books read via KU, however you will receive a share of the KDP Select Global Fund based on the number of pages a KU member reads in your book the first time. You can find information on how many pages KU or KOLL members have read each month on your KDP reports page under the subheading Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP).

Assignment: Sign up for KDP Select to take advantage of Kindle Unlimited.

Blog to Book Project — Titles

Coming up with the perfect title isn’t easy. Even the best writers have had some duds before deciding on a winning name.

F. Scott Fitzgerald went through a number of possibilities before deciding on The Great Gatsby. Some rejects included The High-Bouncing Lover, Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby; and Trimalchio in West Egg.

John Steinbeck considered Something That Happened before settling on Of Mice and Men. The original title of War and Peace was the phrase “All’s Well That Ends Well” from Leo Tolstoy. The author of Lord of the Flies, William Golding, wanted to call his book Strangers from Within

So know you are in good company if the perfect title of your book is being elusive. 

Your title should be short, easy to pronounce, simple to remember, and descriptive. It could be funny or indicative of the book’s genre. Is there any doubt about the theme of these books by Annabel Chase?

Consider these questions when creating a title:

  • What is your book about?
  • What problem does your book solve?
  • Who is your intended audience?
  • Are there lines, themes, or phrases that repeat?
  • Is the story told from a unique perspective?
  • Do you have an epigraph that would work as a title?

Some books reference a well-known title or phrase but with a twist. Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler is a variation of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, a popular coming-of-age story by Judy Blume. Or what about Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, the upside-down phrase based on the local meteorologist’s weather prediction. For the book, In the Midst of Winter: A Novel by Isabel Allende, the author takes the title from a quote by Albert Camus which in turn is the epigraph for her book.

Scroll through Wikipedia’s list of best-selling books and Goodreads’ Best Book Titles. See which titles jump out at you and why. Are they funny? Dramatic? Surprising?

To help you think outside the box, play around with a random title generator. Reedsy has one that you can find here.

Try these catchy phrases for your potential title:

  • The Art of…
  • Confessions of …
  • How to…
  • The Myth of …
  • Where the…
  • The End of …

Non-fiction books these days also have subtitles which tend to clarify the main title. A subtitle may identify your book’s central idea, who the book is for and what problem it solves. Take a look at these intriguing titles. 

Would you buy them based on the title alone? Why or why not? 

A catchy title is one of the most important determiners whether your book gets read or not, so take some time to find the right one.

Assignment: Come up with several working titles for your book. 

Blog to Book Project — Social Media Schedulers

When I go on vacation, I use social media schedulers to keep things rolling while I do other things. Social media can take over your life if you let it. Promoting your book, sharing interesting articles by prominent writers, highlighting book reviews and so on can take time away from your next book project. 

In this post, I’d like to talk about the different social media schedulers that I use. Each has free and paid options. I suggest trying the free version first to see if it will work for you before signing up for the paid version. This list isn’t all-inclusive. You may find other schedulers that work better and that’s just fine. This post is meant as an introduction to the concept of social media schedulers. 

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Social media sites have limits on how often you can post per day. I’m not nearly close to the upper limits even using schedulers. I average 2-3 posts per day at most. 

The first scheduler I use is Postfity. I can schedule up to 10 posts in advance with the free version. That works for now. For a while, I did use the paid version because it is substantially less expensive than the other schedulers but I went back to the free version. Postfity is also less complicated to use than Hootsuite which is a great thing for beginners, like me.

The second scheduler I use is Buffer. Buffer is pretty similar to Postfity. The free version also lets me schedule 10 posts ahead of time. So with these two schedulers, I have 20 days, one post a day all set. 

Hootsuite is the most expensive and most comprehensive scheduler I use. With the free version, I can schedule 30 posts in advance, which is perfect for one post a day for the entire month. 

So using these three schedulers, I can provide interesting content for my followers without having to spend time on social media daily. 

Assignment: Check out different social media schedulers and see which works for you. 

Blog to Book Project — Book Reviews

I’ve mentioned a few places, like the back cover, author page and website, where you can highlight what others have said about your book. Amazon ranks your book based on the number of downloads and the number of reviews you have. The more reviews you have, the more Amazon promotes your book, which in turn means more sales and more reviews. 

So let’s talk about how you can get some reviews to highlight, shall we?

First, let’s discuss what NOT to do. If Amazon finds out you’ve done one of these things, it will remove your book and ban your account. 

Don’t:

Pay someone to leave a review. 

Offer a free gift (including a free copy of your book or gift cards) for reviews.

Participate in review swapping where someone reviews your book and you review one of theirs.

Have your mom write a review. 

If you are in doubt whether Amazon will allow it or not, check out the Author FAQ page.

An example of a Verified Purchase book review.

Amazon is looking for authentic reviews which can be used to gauge the quality of a product honestly. Verified purchase reviews hold more weight than those that are not in the Amazon algorithm. A verified purchase means the person bought your book on Amazon on a day that it wasn’t listed at a promotional price. Unverified reviews are also valuable but don’t carry as much weight in that mysterious algorithm. 

Do: 

Ask people in your target niche to read and review your book as Beta Readers.

Include a request for a review on Amazon at the end of your book. 

Ask for reviews on your book’s landing page on your website. 

Contact Book Bloggers. 

Be patient. 

Beta Readers

Beta Readers are people who you believe would not only enjoy your book, but provide constructive criticism so that you can make your book better BEFORE the official book launch. So although you can ask your mom to look things over, if she wasn’t an English major, her input might not be as helpful as say, well, an English major. 

Once someone has agreed to be a Beta Reader, you want to keep in regular contact with them. Your initial email will be a genuine thank you as well as specifics on what you are looking for from them, error correction, help with foreign language expressions, continuity issues and so on. Include a digital copy of your book, unless they specifically request a print copy In that case, you can send them a proof copy. Also be specific as to when your book is launching and when you’d like final commentaries so that any changes can be done before the book launch.

Beta readers are a great source of authentic reviews. You made a personal connection with the Beta reader through the editing process and know for sure that he or she has read your book completely. You might even have an idea of what he or she thought of your book. 

After a Beta Reader has finished reading your book, go ahead request he or she post a review on Amazon specifying it can be either positive or negative. A Beta reader probably received an advanced review copy (ARC) so make sure to ask your Beta readers to include a statement to the effect “I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book” in their review. Disclosure is extremely important here. 

Ask for Reviews

You can ask for reviews at the end of your book and on your book’s landing page on your author website. 

Readers who have made it to the end of your book probably enjoyed it and might be so inclined to give you a shout out via an Amazon review if you make it easy for them. Include a direct link, but not an Amazon affiliate link, to your book’s detail page on Amazon in your ebook. In a print book, usually just the request is enough. If someone spent money for a print version of your book, odds are good they have something to say about it, whether it is positive or negative. So they may well be interested in leaving a review on Amazon if you ask.

The section devoted to reviews on my author blog on one of my book’s landing pages.

You book’s landing page on your author’s website or blog is yet another place to ask for reviews. The landing page should have the book blurb and the front cover image. On my book’s landing page, I have included a review from Amazon and one from Goodreads under the book blurb with links to Amazon and Goodreads. I also have a contact form right there, so if someone wants to say something about my book, they can.   

Book Bloggers

Book bloggers are an untapped gold mine for self-published authors. The blogger’s unbiased opinion is posted on his or her blog and you can select quotable points to include on your author blog, in your book as a testimonial, and on Amazon–not as a traditional review but in your book blurb (description).

This was an email sent to me as a request to review this book. The book fit my blog’s reader demographics so I was happy to review it. Notice that the publist included the full press release, including cover images, for me to use on my blog.

Before contacting a book blogger, read their book review policy. Make sure that your book fits into the genre the blogger enjoys reading. In your initial contact, reference a book review from their site that you enjoyed reading. Include your book’s blurb and any deadlines you might have (launch date).

If the book blogger accepts, be sure to thank them and send the electronic version of your book (unless they specifically requested a print version) as an attachment. The blogger will usually let you know when their review of your book is live. Be sure to send a follow-up thank you and promote the blogger’s review on your social media accounts.

Be Patient

Potential readers like to know that someone found your book to be worth and time and effort to read and you’ll be happy to oblige them, as soon as you have some reviews that is. 

You might not have many book reviews initially. You’ll need to be patient. Book reviews will come and when they do, showcase them here, there and everywhere! Use snippets from book reviews as testimonials on your back cover. Use quotes from Beta readers as promotional copy. 

And remember, the more authentic reviews your book has, the more probability that the right readers will find your book. 

Negative Reviews

Your book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s just fine. Try not to let it get to you emotionally. It’s not the end of the world. Really.

I know you’ve put your heart and soul into this book, but let’s be practical here. Does the reviewer have a valid point? Did you leave out a key point? Do you need another round of proofreading? Are there formatting issues? 

If there is something you can do to improve the quality of your book, do it. Then upload the new version of your book. Anyone who has purchased a digital copy of your book through Amazon will get the revision. Neat huh?

There are a few things you can do to prevent some types of negative book reviews.

You can reduce negative book reviews by offering the “Look inside” option so readers can preview before buying. Readers will know what they are getting into ahead of time.

You should also make sure your book description is accurate. I know if I have purchased a book and find out it’s only 20 pages long, I get irked. So, if your book is short, include that information in the book blurb. 

Make certain your book delivers real value to the reader. If your book is entitled: How to Become a Millionaire in 30 Days, then you’d better have something in it besides links to your course on becoming a millionaire. 

Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! If you have a plethora of spelling and grammatical errors, it’s a turn off for any reader. After a certain number of errors in a book, I typically stop reading. If the author didn’t invest any time in creating a quality product, I’m not wasting my time by reading it. 

Then there are readers who are just negative and extremely vocal about it and there’s nothing you can do about that. You aren’t a real writer until you’ve negatively affected someone, so think of a negative review as a badge of honor, if you will. Chin up, buttercup. Your perfect readers are out there!

Assignment #1: Add a request for review to your book’s landing page.

Assignment #2: Add a request for review to the end of your book.

Assignment #3: Find Beta readers and ask for their feedback.

Assignment #4: Contact book bloggers in your niche. 

Blog to Book Project — Discussion Questions

If you think your book would be something a class or book club would enjoy discussing, consider adding a section with open-ended questions in the back matter.  This part might be called Discussion Questions or Book Club Guide or any number of imaginative monikers.

The questions might talk about the theme, historical significance, character development or symbology. Don’t be hesitant to pose questions about controversial themes. The idea is to provoke further thought and meaningful conversation. 

Make sure the questions you include can be answered either through something the reader can find in the text or with a bit of research. Other questions can be expressed opinions. 

Try to include a good mix of the following:

  • Why…..?
  • How would you explain….?
  • What is the importance of ….?
  • What is the meaning of …?
  • Compare….
  • Contrast …
  • What is the difference between…?
  • What is the similarity between…?
  • What are the causes of …? 
  • What are the results of …?
  • What connection is there between…?

You can divide the questions by chapter however try to keep them in the same order as the topics appear in the text. You can choose to number the questions if you like.

Designing discussion questions is a great way to put yourself into your reader’s shoes. Is there something that should be explained more or is unclear in your book? Now’s the time to go back and edit it.

Assignment: Even if you don’t plan on including this section, take the time to create at least 20 questions that would be useful in leading a thought-provoking discussion about your book. Are there things you need to change?