Writers' Forum - June 2021






Why Kindle Vella Isn’t Going Away

In April we talked about the roll out of Kindle’s new exclusive serialization option Vella, which is set to start in the coming weeks. Monica Leonelle’s article on Medium explores why she thinks Vella is here to stay in comparison to some of Kindle’s other now defunct writer programs like Kindle Serials, Kindle Worlds, and Kindle Scout. Do you remember any of them? One of my author friends is all set to use Vella as soon as she can and promises to let us know how it goes. With her help, I shall report back!

17 Readers Share the Book They Still Think About Years Later

I’m such a reading voyeur. I love to know what other people are reading. When I travel I’m always surreptitiously tilting my head to catch a glimpse of book covers, so this article (by Elizabeth Cui for BookBub) played to my nosiness. Are you curious, too? Check out the 17 books these readers are still thinking about years after reading them for the first time.

Laurie Stevens Asks Do You Outline?

I’m fortunate to be a member of a fabulous group of writers called the Blackbirds. I loved this article about outlining from fellow member Laurie Stevens—or perhaps I should say her failed attempt at outlining a particular way. The main take away here is that every author has their own organizational process. What’s yours? (Check out all the Blackbird blog posts.) 


Nathan Bransford is both a writer of fiction and nonfiction and a key advisor to writers in the grand community of writing folks. His nonfiction focuses on writing and publishing and his blog posts are treasure troves of information. He’s been a part of the publishing industry in many different roles, which gives him the unique ability to guide authors through this sometimes-confusing business. He offers editing and other critiques and brainstorming sessions to writers. Subscribe to his blog!

Bio from his website: Nathan Bransford is the author of the writing guides How to Write a Novel and How to Publish a Book and the middle grade novels Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space KapowJacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe, and Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp. Nathan was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. He started blogging in 2007 and his blog has consistently been named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writers Digest. He’s dedicated to helping authors write what they love, navigate the publishing process, and successfully market their books. After leaving publishing, Nathan went on to help companies such as CNET, Freelancers Union, Bridgewater Associates, and Uber develop online community and social media strategies to achieve business objectives and recruitment goals. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Follow him on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.















Crafting Characters

Starting your Novel with Character: 3 Strengths and 3 Challenges” by Susan DeFreitas

Deepen Characterization by Mining Your Own Reactions” by Tiffany Yates Martin

Both of these articles from Jane Friedman’s blog are excellent plunges into crafting great characters and the challenges to doing that well. Many of us start our books with character and that can help us in many ways, including making the reader care about the main character early in the story. The challenges include potentially slowing the plot too much and possibly making your character too perfect to allow for a solid character arc/growth. Read the full article HERE.

Tiffany Yates Martin’s advice for writing authentic character reactions is also super. How often do we really pay attention to our own (specific) reactions to different situations? Using your own emotional experiences and reactions as a guide can truly deepen your scenes by making your readers truly feel your characters emotions.

The Benefits of Collaborative Writing

Fiction writer Chantelle Atkins talks about her writing collaborations and why working with other writers has been a positive experience, allowing her to write faster, keep her momentum, be less of a procrastinator, and more. If you’ve ever considered teaming up with other authors this is a great read.

Freelance Writing

How to Get Your First Freelance Byline (and Why Even Fiction Writers Should Freelance)” by Catherine Baab-Muguira is an incredibly helpful article aimed at expanding writing earnings between book-length projects. I like the mindset of using freelance gigs as ‘little wins’ in the world of publishing. We need those.

How to Be a Good Beta Reader

Dawn Field’s article for BookBaby written back in 2016 is still solid advice on what to do (and what not to do) as a beta reader. My favorite tip here is to ask the writer which type of feedback they’re looking for before beginning, but the whole article is worth the read:


When Two Editors are Better Than One

Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula podcast has great information (always)! In this episode, “James Blatch and his two editors, Jennie Nash and Andrew Lowe, walk us through the process of taking The Last Flight from first draft to published book and what James learned about writing novels along the way.”



10 Book Launch Don’ts

Steven Spatz via the BookBaby blog gives a ‘keeper’ of a list for what not to do during your book launch. My favorite item is Do Not Rush. If you’ve ever been in one of my indie pub classes, you’ve heard me say this, too. But there are other key items on this list like, don’t ignore Amazon, know your target reader, and more . . .  read the full list here.

What is a Soft Book Launch?

Have you heard the phrase soft launch and wondered what that is? Sandra Beckwith defines the term and gives the reasons why you might want to do this to gain reviews, check quality, and gain early feedback that helps you adjust your strategy for the full launch. I really like the concept of a soft launch, particularly when there are sometimes difficulties right now with production delays that mean books can’t always ship on a specific date. Get the full soft launch guidance here.


8 Marketing & Sales Takeaways from U.S. Book Show 2021

The inaugural virtual publishing conference hosted by Publishers Weekly took place in late May, and Diana Urban via the BookBub blog summed up the discussion with key points, including; backlist books have been major earners for publishers during the past year (often utilizing BookBub to drive interest to these titles), “marketers are refreshing books’ metadata to align with trends, virtual events are here to stay, supply chain issues have been problematic for booksellers,” and much more. Good recap: https://insights.bookbub.com/marketing-sales-takeaways-us-book-show-2021/

How to Develop a Marketing and Promotional Plan as an Indie Author

There’s so much to love about Emma Lombard’s extremely transparent article detailing her indie pub marketing, but I do have a couple of problems with the plan offered in this article and as a word of caution want to offer a differing opinion on those areas. Lombard is choosing to sell her ebooks wide, which means the ebook is not exclusive to the Kindle platform. That’s fine for sure—I’m wide with my ebooks right now. However, for those of you publishing a new title, I encourage you to consider at least one 90-day enrollment in Kindle Select during your launch phase to take advantage of the benefits offered with a Kindle Countdown deal (or freebies) and potentially making a bigger impact on your ranking on Amazon along with the additional reviews you may capture by being in Kindle Unlimited. But that’s not the most problematic issue in this article. Lombard mentions that she is using IngramSpark to distribute her physical book to the Amazon platform and Draft2Digital to distribute her ebook to Kindle. Please don’t do this. Please! 

Instead, use the KDP dashboard to upload your paperback and ebook files for distribution directly to Amazon so you 1) earn the higher royalty rate that you deserve 2) have the dashboard available for Amazon advertising, and 3) can avail yourself of the extended metadata keyword phrases and additional categories that help you book become more findable on Amazon.  Lombard did reply to my comment on her post that she was streamlining things to avoid feeling overwhelmed during her initial launch phase, and I agree that the nice thing about indie publishing is that you can change things up as you wish. My advice; take the time initially to use that KDP platform for those direct sales to Amazon. It’s worth the extra time.

Read it here: https://www.janefriedman.com/marketing-and-promotion-plan-indie-author/

How to Market Your Book to Get Worldwide Exposure

The tips mainly focus on BookBub promos but do include gaining market share through social media promos, region-specific giveaways, and being featured on blogs with an international readership. While Amazon remains the worldwide leader in book sales, other platforms have bigger market shares in other countries than they do in the US. Interesting info. https://insights.bookbub.com/ideas-for-getting-your-book-more-international-exposure/

5 Ways to Encourage Direct Book Sales

Do you sell books directly to your readers from your website? Do you wish you did or do you wish you sold more this way? Mark Dawson gives five quick tips on upping your direct sales game. My fav advice here is offering bonus content to readers who buy direct from you. 

Why Bad Reviews Are Good for Authors

While this may be hard to believe, Mark Dawson (again) offers positive ways you benefit from bad reviews, including helping you build thicker skin, potentially improving your writing, validating your writing (because we’re skeptical lot when there are too many 5-star reviews), and more. If you’ve ever gotten a low review (and who hasn’t??), take a quick read here. Better yet, bookmark this article to re-read the next time you receive a low review. It will be the perfect antidote to those squiggy feelings.

Podcasts!! How to be a great guest!

Sue Campbells’ “How to Be a Great Podcast Guest: A Guide for Authors” is very pertinent. Right now, I’m helping a number of my author clients through the process of finding and marketing themselves as guests to podcasts. This is a worthy endeavor to reach specific audiences that might be much more inclined to buy your book. The article’s advice is specific for what to do once you’ve been booked on a podcast and covers all the regular things speaking engagement tips along with a bunch you may not have thought of that are specific to podcasts. (Main takeaways – make sure your tech is good, your space is quiet and be prepared, but be yourself.) 

TikTok for Selling Books

If the idea of learning one more social media platform makes you cringe, you’re not alone. But TikTok IS selling books for authors. Check out the details offered by Ashleigh Renard in her article, “I’m Selling Books on TikTok, No Dancing (or Crying) Required.” This isn’t a complete how-to for TikTok, but it gives insight into how you might gain attention there as an author. (Be prepared as the topics of Ashleigh’s videos are for a mature audience.)

25 Authors Running Fantastic Promotions on Instagram

So, are ya on Instagram? If not . . . skip this one. (But at least ask yourself if you ought to be there first. If your ideal reader is under 35, then you’d better get on over to this platform.) These authors are all crushing Insta in different ways. I found inspiration here to up my Instagram game and I’m sure you will, too.

Leveraging Your Networks for Book Promotion

Sandra Beckwith’s smart article will have you evaluating your connections via networks you’re part of including social media and beyond (colleagues/alumni assoc./friends/neighbors) . . . the question is “who do you know, and how can they help?” This isn’t about selling books to these folks; it’s about letting them know what you do and asking them to share the info if they can. You never know who is connected to who and how those connections might play out for you. (One of my author friends has an amazing blurb on his book cover from a nationwide bestselling author . . . How? Well . . . it was a friend of a friend kind of thing. Because you never know and the world is often a serendipitous place.)

Turn Your Email Signature into a Book Marketing Machine

Thanks, again, to Sandra Beckwith for this reminder to create (or do some maintenance on) your email signature. You can put a lot of cool stuff in there that helps people you’re communicating with connect with you in other ways, along with giving your street cred as a writer (or whatever you do.) Now, I realize I need to update mine!

BookBub Ads

In “BookBub: More Than Just Featured Deals” (a Self Publishing Formula podcast), you’ll learn all about BookBub advertising in a fun discussion with James Blatch and Carlyn Robertson--see YouTube video below. Once you have viewed that, you may like Robertson’s article which delves into when to use Cost per Click (CPC) versus Cost per Impression (CPM) bidding for your ads. Note: each method has benefits and tradeoffs depending on your goal for the ad you’re running.

Leveraging Facebook Ads

Now, if your head is not spinning already from all of these ad discussions—let’s briefly talk about “How Authors Can Leverage Facebook Ads to Sell More Books” by Matt Holmes. Mostly, (yes mostly), I agree with Holmes' directions in this article. But my main exception here is where he states, . . . “I have found that giving Facebook free rein on where it decides to show my ads delivers better and cheaper results. This is why I choose Automatic Targeting for Placements; every layer of targeting you add at the Ad Set level throttles the Facebook algorithm and performance can suffer because you’re not letting Facebook do its thing.”

I have found the opposite to be true. When I let Facebook do its thing with all four of the targeting options selected, my ads do worse. Typically, I only select Facebook and Instagram and deselect Messenger and Audience Network. Audience Network is Facebook’s placement of your ad in places OTHER THAN the Facebook platform. (If you’re unsure, definitely test these options to see if they work better for you.)

I’ve recently updated my Facebook ad tutorial article here.

Happy Writing (editing, marketing, and more!) - Valerie  

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