Write More Books or Create More Content?

This article first appeared on The Book Designer.

I remember feeling liberated after publishing my first novel on Amazon and Smashwords. Almost miraculously, within the first hours of release a few sales happened. This came after years of investing time, effort and money to get the novel written, so those initial sales exhilarated me enough to share the news with anyone who would listen.

During a phone call that evening, my dad said, “Now you can sit back and watch the orders roll in.”

He’s right, I thought. Those books are going to sell themselves.

I’ve been wrong countless times, but that moment was a milestone in the bad assumption department as I later realized a continual marketing effort would be required to sell my book, even in discouraging amounts. It’s not enough to write a great book, unless yours is so hypnotically contagious that everyone insists it’s a must-read. You will also need to market well or suffer the author’s greatest fear: obscurity.

Eventually advice from writing sages enlightened me of the secret to selling books, and I was not thrilled to hear it: write more books!

Um, okay, easier said than done, especially when the first one took several years. Anyone who’s written a full-length book knows how taxing it is. Those three little words, write a book, roll off the tongue with ease but performing the task can be a Herculean effort. An author may feel spent after producing one, two or even three books, and then she is told to produce another. Is there ever an end to it?

ebook growth chartUnfortunately the rule of thumb says no; an author must continue to write new content. This has always been the case, but the advent of digital publishing has taken it to a higher level. Every year the total number of authors and books grows exponentially while the number of readers remains primarily the same. To stand out from the crowd, an author needs a larger platform and more books. Reminiscent of the cliché, best of times and worst of times, Dickens’ opening paragraph for A Tale of Two Cities perfectly illustrates the indie author dilemma.

But wait, there is some good news or at least advice that’s more pleasant, and a clue exists above. Instead of only focusing on writing more books, think about creating new content. While I agree that having multiple books is paramount, creating new content is a close second and has hidden benefits. Let’s discuss some less intimidating projects to accomplish that goal.

Here are some non-full-length-book examples of writing new content:

  • short stories
  • blog posts
  • guest blog posts
  • articles and essays
  • novelettes and novellas

And hey, if you have more books aching to be expressed, by all means go ahead and write them. But you may want to mix it up, do other projects simultaneously that are faster and also help you market existing titles while the next book comes together. Think of it like an athlete cross-training to get stronger overall, even though he excels in one sport.

Most authors have short stories that were written years ago. If you have a few and they’re just sitting around doing nothing, those shorts are wasted opportunities for content and marketing. Why not get them on Smashwords and then Amazon for free? Ebook readers download freebies far more often than they pay for books, and when readers discover a good author they often pay for the next book on the menu. I don’t have many short stories on Amazon, but the free ones I have there get downloaded in bunches, and sometimes those readers buy my other books. At present time, Amazon won’t let you set a price for free (the minimum is 99 cents), but they have a price-match guarantee. Since Smashwords does let you price a book for free and distributes to Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc, then Amazon will price-match your book to free as well. (You may have to ask a few people to click the Tell Us About a Lower Price feature at Amazon to get the switch made, and still it might take a few days or longer but usually works.) All you need is to format those shorts stories and get a simple cover made. The results may be a pleasant surprise.

Blogging is a fantastic way to create new content. Blogs provide a venue to write about anything, and you can update them whenever you have time. I’ve written more words in blog posts than in all my books combined—they’ve been the driving force for strangers around the world to find my articles and then books. Blogging also gives literary freedom. Many of my successful posts have been on topics that aren’t my specialty, like things I find interesting about the National Football League. However, for topics that are a specialty, like self-publishing on a budget, a blog is ideal for regular articles. Perhaps the subject matter of your books could be the foundation of your blog. The other nice thing about blog posts is that people will find you via search engines for a range of new keywords.

If maintaining a blog feels like too much commitment, write “guest posts” for other people who have blogs on similar subject matter. Or you can submit articles and essays to online publications like Ezine Articles or Technorati.

What are novelettes and novellas? They’re longer than short stories and smaller than novels. Novelettes are usually 8K to 20K words, and novellas go from there to around 50K words. It’s all subjective, but many readers prefer shorter works these days as reading time is scarce. Amazon has created Kindle Singles where authors can submit these shorter works for review and price books between 99 cents and $4.99.

It amazes me how often authors forget to do this—for all of the content you create, remember to include:

  • links to your website and/or social media
  • links to your paid books

Whether you’re writing more books or creating new content, procrastination will still creep in. It’s an odd thing: have you ever noticed how hard it is to start writing, but once you’ve begun it feels wonderful? The timer sounds reminding you to get going, but you may find yourself cleaning doorknobs, rearranging a closet, doing anything other than sitting at your desk. At moments like these remind yourself, I always feel better as soon as I begin writing—it’s the starting part that is so hard.

I make an effort to write new content one hour a day—that’s it. Not a lofty goal compared to most authors, but this is actually a mind-trick to get the juices flowing. One hour is mentally easy to commit to, and once the hour has passed I usually keep going. And even if only one hour of writing happens, it’s amazing what comes together by the end of a month. If you have another day job and a tight schedule, make a goal to write for 20 minutes. That amount can lead to surprising results in just a few months. A mountain can be climbed one step at a time, even with baby steps, and books can be written a few paragraphs at a time.

Tips to help with creating new content:

  • Write content that supplements your books especially in a blog.
  • When writing on other subjects, use keywords wisely.
  • When releasing new content, let readers know via your social media channels and email subscribers.
  • Encourage conversations. Pose questions, even if it’s aimed at broadening the topic in a humble way. What have I missed? Please share your input.
  • List all of your books in the beginning and at the end of your books.
  • The digital versions should have working links, especially the Amazon Kindle version. For other retailers, you can link to your website, blog or social media page. Make it easy for readers to find your books with one click if possible.
  • Include the first chapter of the next book in a series at the end of your book, and also include a link to purchase.

What are your ideas on this? Share them in the comment section.


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Writer’s Digest Webinar for Ebook Authors, Critique Included Plus Q n A

Maximize Sales and Advance Your Writing Career With Ebooks

Register today to attend this live webinar!

Live Writer’s Digest Webinar Date: Thursday, April 10, 2014

Start Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT

Length: 90 minutes

Price: $89.99

Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for one year. You do not have to attend the live event to get a recording of the presentation. In all WD webinars, no question goes unanswered. Attendees have the ability to chat with the instructor during the live event and ask questions. You will receive a copy of the webinar presentation in an e-mail that goes out one week after the live event. The answers to questions not covered in the live presentation will be included in this e-mail as well.

ABOUT THE CRITIQUE

All registrants are invited to submit a choice of 1 of the 3 options below for evaluation and critique. All submissions will be evaluated and are guaranteed a written critique by Jason Matthews.

Option #1: An actual ebook’s formatting and design. Submissions in MSWord.

Option #2: Amazon or other retailer’s book link to ensure they’re discoverable in regards to keywords for titles, description and categories.

Option #3: A link to the blog/website that serves as your main marketing tool for a critique of what is presently useful and what’s missing or recommended.

Please Note: Even if you can’t attend the live webinar, registering for this live version will enable you to receive the On Demand webinar and a personal critique of your material. Purchasing the On Demand version after the live event will not include a critique.

ABOUT THE WEBINAR

Ebooks are revolutionizing the world of authors, readers and retailers. The advent of digital publishing enables any writer to reach her/his audience all over the world instantly and free of cost to the author. Royalties are far better than those of traditional publishing, with most retailers paying authors 70% of each ebook sale. Because of this, ebooks are exploding with opportunity. It’s never been a better time to be an author and sell ebooks, but it’s also necessary to do it wisely. The successful author must do more than just write a great book; they also need to understand aspects of book production and make themselves visible to a global population of readers.

This new live webinar teaches how to be successful with ebooks. Topics include the ingredients to a great ebook, formatting, cover design, uploading to retailers, using websites and social media. Discussion covers the art of doing-it-yourself when possible and also hiring out affordably for items like editing and cover design.

The instructor is Jason Matthews, a writer, how-to expert, avid blogger and self-publishing coach. He works with indie authors around the globe and speaks at writing conferences on these topics.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • How to stand out as an author in the global business of ebooks
  • Formatting essentials your book must have
  • How to make eye-catching covers that hook readers
  • Which retailers matter most and specifics when uploading there
  • How to use keywords so more readers find your book
  • Social media tips to limit time and maximize results
  • The key ingredients for a successful blog or website

INSTRUCTOR

Jason Matthews is a novelist, blogger and self-publishing coach. He works with writers around the world through every phase of book creation and marketing. His specialties include building author platform, selling at major retailers, social media, blogging and SEO. He’s the founder of a Facebook group with over 2,000 writers and hosts a weekly Indie Authors series on Google Plus discussing current topics and interviewing top indies. His novels and how-to guides include:

The Little Universe

Jim’s Life

How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free

Get On Google Front Page

How to Make Your Own Free Website: And Your Free Blog Too

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

  • Writers with books nearly finished
  • Writers who aren’t familiar with publishing options
  • Authors who want to sell more books
  • Writers who need to save money on hiring out
  • Authors who want to understand keywords better
  • Writers looking for resources for cover design
  • Writers who feel intimidated by the technology
  • Authors wanting new ideas for marketing

HOW DOES THE CRITIQUE WORK?

All registrants are invited to submit a choice of 1 of the 3 options below for evaluation and critique. All submissions will be evaluated and are guaranteed a written critique by Jason Matthews. Instructions on how to submit your work are sent after you officially register.

Option #1: An actual ebook’s formatting and design. Submissions in MSWord.

Option #2: Amazon or other retailer’s book link to ensure they’re discoverable in regards to keywords for titles, description and categories.

Option #3: A link to the blog/website that serves as your main marketing tool for a critique of what is presently useful and what’s missing or recommended.

HOW DOES THE WEBINAR WORK?

The webinar is broadcasted via the internet with live audio delivered through your computer speakers or over your telephone. The live webinar’s visual presentation is displayed directly from the Presenter’s computer to your computer screen. The Q&A is managed through a chat-style submission system with questions being read and answered by the Presenter for the entire class to hear. In the event some questions are not answered during the live session, an e-mail with questions and answers will be sent to all webinar attendees. By attending the live webinar and/or asking questions, your full name may be stated during the live event and captured in the recording.

REGISTER HERE

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When We Die with Dr. Lani Leary Ph.D. Indie Authors #71

Dr. Lani Leary Ph.D. is an author, speaker, psychotherapist and hospice counselor. She has assisted over 500 people and their families during final days.

Amazon pages:
http://www.amazon.com/One-Has-Die-Alone-Meaningful-ebook/dp/B005GG0MGU/
http://www.amazon.com/Jason-Matthews/e/B004A8W4BG/
http://www.amazon.com/Marla-Miller/e/B000APJYSE/

Websites:
http://drlanileary.com/
http://www.thelittleuniverse.com
http://marlamiller.com/

G+ Pages:
Dr. Lani Leary – https://plus.google.com/103693740233696643278/posts
Jason Matthews — https://plus.google.com/+JasonMatthews/posts
Marla Miller — https://plus.google.com/104880672110890238358/posts

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NOOK Press Opens to European Authors

Nook PressAuthors living in many European countries just got another avenue opened for selling ebooks. Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Press self-publishing wing has expanded its reach. What do you think–hooray or it’s about time? From the retailer:

You may notice some changes the next time you log into NOOK Press. We’ve been working hard to get NOOK Press ready for some new guests – starting today, publishers in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium will be able to publish with NOOK Press and reach Barnes & Noble’s millions of book-loving customers. This means even more great indie content for customers and increased visibility for you and your NOOK Books in the months to come!

The changes we’ve made for this international expansion mean you can now:

  • View nookpress.com in 7 languages: Work and publish in US English, UK English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Dutch. Select a new language in the dropdown from any page in NOOK Press.
  • Set your EUR (€) list prices. If you have indicated that you have Worldwide Rights, we’ll automatically convert the EUR list price from your USD list price as we do for GBP prices, or you can enter your own EUR price.

Thanks to the changes we’ve made, your titles will soon be on sale in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium if you’ve selected Worldwide Rights in the NOOK Book Details of your project. Because we have a very high volume of NOOK Press content, we are making your titles available in those countries over several months. We appreciate your patience as we work to put all NOOK Press content on sale in our new marketplaces.

With these expanded sales opportunities, it’s a great time to set up a vendor account and get all of your books on sale, if you have not already done so. By signing up now, you’ll have NOOK Books on sale in just 72 hours. If you are looking for self-publishing advice or inspiration from fellow authors, we’ve got you covered. Check out the NOOK Press Blog, which we’ve launched as another way to bring together writers and readers and to expand the conversation about self-publishing, both here and in Europe.

We want to assure you that we’ve been working hard to implement the new features at NOOK Press – including testing, testing, testing! As we open up NOOK Press to international publishers, our primary concern is to make sure that your experience is seamless. In case we missed something, please let us know so that we can fix it right away. We’ve added a new contact form so that you can send our support team an email directly from within NOOK Press.

We want to take this time to thank you for being a valued partner, and to wish you continued success in your self-publishing with NOOK!

Will B&N stay afloat in the ebook business? What are your thoughts?


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PeopleReads for the Best Ebook Deals

PeopleReadsPeopleReads sends emails and tweets announcing the best free and bargain books. For readers, it’s a great way to find specials. For authors, it provides more bang for your advertising buck as well as free promotional options. I had the pleasure of interviewing site developer and author, Van Heerling.

Van, your site advertized one of my novels, and sales that month went up by 461%. It was surprisingly worthwhile. What are you hearing from other authors who promoted on your site?

One of the greatest compliments is when I hear the author has broken new ground in regards to their Amazon ranking. Or that they finally received that new review they have been waiting for. Personally I am always happy to see an author come back to PeopleReads to submit a different title or the same title to run again. Perhaps I am not wasting my nights after all!

How did PeopleReads get its start?

I am a big fan of the Indie movement. I have probably over a hundred (genuine) author friends all over the world now. PeopleReads began out of frustration and an impulse to help authors. I was getting frustrated with the larger book promotional sites. After being rejected a few times myself (despite 100+ reviews with an average rating of 4.3 or better) I felt there was something missing. So I took my fate into my own hands and built a site that would be more amenable to the Indie Author (traditional books are welcome too of course). That’s really it. I treat my readers and authors like human beings and I go out of my way to help. I know how hard all of this can be. I am right there in the mess with all of them.

There are many sites promoting new books; what makes your site different?

Besides offering standard listings I also offer New Release Listings. It can be difficult to get a new book in front of an audience. The New Release Listing does just that. There isn’t a review requirement. This means a book can have zero reviews and still be listed. However I should mention that if a title does have reviews it must have at least 3.9 stars to be considered.

In addition to this, I have a Non-Guaranteed Listing. These are free for the author; however, I do not list all Non-Guaranteed listings. The Non-Guaranteed listing gives almost anyone a chance to be listed. I donate literally dozens of hours a month to these listings. (Please note: Non-Guaranteed listings are not as far reaching as paid listings of course).

How do you use social media (e.g. Twitter) to spread your message?

I belong to a great group of writers. We all promote our books. It has become quite extensive. Generally a tweet will be RTed at least a dozen times. I have seen as many as 25 RTs in some cases. This really helps to get the word out. (Follow @PeopleReads for these deals.)

Your prices are so reasonable; do you expect that to change as PeopleReads gains even more followers?

Yes, as the costs go up so do the fees. At the moment this is more of a labor of love. I work well into the night. Sometimes past 3 a.m. Most of the revenue is put back into Giveaways and operational costs. I don’t mind working for “free” if I am building something. I have been in business for a long time. I know that it takes time to build. My philosophy is to help others pursue their dreams and eventually I will be carried along as well. It’s not a perfect philosophy but it has served me well.

What do readers like most about PeopleReads?

You have to remember this is a thankless business for the most part. The reader opens their daily email and clicks on their interests and moves on to Amazon. I don’t hear from readers all the time, but those who have contacted me seem to like the layout of the site and the Giveaways.

Kindle PaperwhiteTell us about your monthly giveaways?

At the moment PeopleReads is giving away a Kindle Paperwhite, and also a fifty and twenty-five dollar Amazon gift card. For a chance to win, all one has to do is subscribe before March 30th. Three separate winners will be chosen. Here is the link: http://www.peoplereads.com/for-readers.

Van says, “I would rather live seeking my own dream and fail everyday, than to live one day pursuing someone else’s dream, for which I carry no faith.

Van Heerling is the author of Malaika, Dreams of Eli, and Desert Pigeons. He lives in California with the lingering spirit of Redford—his adopted morbidly obese cat, which was more of a paperweight than a feisty feline, his wife and boy and their very alive kitty—Abigail.

Van Heerling Van Heerling Malaika Van Heerling Dreams of Eli Van Heerling Desert Pigeons
Thank you, Van.


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