Amazon Featured Book of the Week

Here’s this week’s Featured Book-of-the-Week available now on Amazon.com!


Ravs Are Rarely Wrong: The Kinowenn Chronicles Vol III

by Rachel Ronning

(5 Stars – 10 Customer Reviews)

Price: $16.95

Rachel Ronning’s “Ravs Are Rarely Wrong: The Kinowenn Chronicles Vol III.” Return to the land of Kinowenn in Book 3 of this imaginative series. Join the crew as they travel through the mists, facing damp misery, flesh-eating insects, and nightmare creatures to uncover the source of malice bent on the destruction of the free lands of Kinowenn. The King of Lerramorre struggles with his kingdom reign and Lucy faces difficult decisions as she grows into her magical powers. Can Lucy help her friends unite diverse kingdoms to fight a common foe?

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Please note that product prices and availability are subject to change. Prices and availability were accurate at the time of this posting; however, they may differ from those you see when you visit Amazon.com.© Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Amazon, Amazon.com, the Amazon.com logo, and 1-Click are registered trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Amazon.com, 410 Terry Avenue N., Seattle, WA 98109-5210.

 

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Building Your Platform, Part Two: Making Room On Social Media

These days, it’s entirely reasonable for consumers to expect their favorite companies as well as their favorite celebrities to have an active and responsive presence on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And while your favorite won’t be able to respond to each and every tweet or Facebook post lobbed their way over the course of a day, the fact that they respond to any tweets renders any person or company a more accessible figure to the average American.

The same principle applies to self-publishing authors and social media, even before they publish their first books. This is because your social media presence is a conglomerate, or a compendium, or sum total of your engagement online. If you haven’t engaged with potential readers before your book is published, you won’t be able to take advantage of those critical preceding months to announce your book’s release and build interest. And once your book is released, potential readers like to do their homework on you and your web presence before committing to buying your book. After all, if you wouldn’t want to spend time with a person in real life, why would you pay money to spend time with their voice, perspective, and favorite characters? Your web presence and your personal brand help readers get to know you and make an informed choice.

It is vital that authors know the ins and outs of Facebook updates and feeds and public profiles and so on and so forth, as the vast majority of any author’s potential readers will have Facebook accounts; however, it’s just as vital for a self-published author to establish a certain degree of comfort with at least a couple of the lesser-used platforms, because they will be both more “discoverable” and more visible without the throng of other authors competing for attention. Thus, the list of quote-on-quote “major” social networking sites we’ll address in this second installment of our “Building Your Platform” three-part series includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. It also, however, includes reference to some of the “up and coming” social media websites, including Tumblr, Snapchat, and Goodreads, because ultimately, it’s the tools we’ve neglected that end up most surprising us with their unexplored possibilities.

Facebook:

Facebook isn’t just a big deal for authors, of course. Some days, it seems as though everyone is using Facebook for twenty different things, and this social media website regularly makes headlines with both its successes and failures. While Facebook’s developers are constantly tweaking the algorithms and codes and format of things (it’s true, we must admit), the website itself remains fairly stable in a number of ways. First of all, the fact remains true that Facebook is where the people are — the people, the relationships, the possible connections, and the real market for your books. The people are staying put, and sticking by Facebook, despite the not-uncommon doomsday forecasts to the contrary. But that’s not the only aspect of Facebook that is stable: the features may alter a bit in form and function, but the concept of what you’re using those features for remains the same. It capitalizes on the four fundamental pillars of the online experience: findability, adaptability, usability, and authenticity. If any of these four aspects is missing from an author’s social media presence, they’re bound to suffer. If, however, you are conscientious in maximizing your Facebook presence, then you’re practically guaranteed to grow your reading audience.

Of course, you have to separate your personal usage from your professional usage, and this is the greatest hurdle of all. If you need a private place to vent among friends, make sure to keep that on your personal account, and to keep your personal account settings zeroed on “private”! Set up an author page dedicated to your upcoming book, however, and make sure to post to it regularly. Scheduling your posts to specific days of the calendar week is one of the most successful tips we can give, and it’s one of the least utilized. And of course, utilize Facebook’s event, photo gallery, and community features rigorously.

YouTube:

What is YouTube? It’s a video storage and hosting service which allows pretty much anyone who signs up for a free account to upload video files for public consumption (or private; like every other good social media platform, YouTube allows its users to toggle a number of privacy settings for each individual video as well as for their profile pages). Once a video is posted to YouTube, fans and followers can distribute the link themselves, which makes it a great platform for viral campaigns. And because videos are visceral in a way text sometimes isn’t, they make a fantastic impact on viewers’ — and readers’ — imaginations. Chances are, nine out of every ten video links you’re ever going to click (in this decade, at least) will link to something on YouTube. And self-published authors quickly found a myriad of ways to put this video hosting social media service to work in creating buzz about their upcoming books! It’s never been easier to put together curated video playlists of material relating to your book, or put together a book trailer (we even have a service to help with that!), upload behind the scenes footage of you working on your latest manuscript or delivering an impassioned excerpt reading before a rapt audience, or conduct a tour of book video blogs, giving interviews as you go. Details matter, but authenticity counts for more than pixel quality when it comes to using YouTube.

Twitter:

This social media platform is often described as a “microblogging” website, a descriptor which implies that Twitter users manage their feed and profile content the way they would a blogging website — only in smaller chunks. This is only partially true, in that some Twitter users who also have blogs may use the same parameters to manage both platforms, or in that some Twitter users treat the site as a tool for unspooling narrative. The keys to a successful presence on Twitter include setting up every detail of your account, from your picture to your avatar to your biography to your Twitter name or “handle,” in full … as well as setting yourself a daily and weekly Twitter task to drive traffic, using a third party website to schedule your tweets and keep them consistent, listening to your followers and engaging with others using hashtags and replies, and incentivizing interactions on Twitter by publishing “behind the scenes” information on your next book.

Instagram:

Instagram may just turn out to be one of the most useful social media websites out there for up-and-coming self-publishing authors. And a lot of established authors have created authentic and dynamic relationships with their fans on this website. All social media platforms present opportunities to connect in this way, but Instagram in particular has found a dedicated and loyal user base, and industry professionals are beginning to recognize that Instagram’s model of encouraging its users to post images of day-to-day activities is something we can rely on to stick around, unlike some other quote-on-quote “faddish” platforms. It’s also incredibly easy: snap a picture on your smartphone, then upload it with some filters for added visual effect, and maybe some text … and voila! It’s easy to build your Insta-presence early, even before you start self-publishing.

Tumblr:

Tumblr is kind of a big deal. Such a big deal, in fact, that even the White House has one, and the President of the United States has done a Q&A on one. This microblogging platform quite literally causes and feeds a frenzy of conversations, many of them controversial. And with over 81 million new posts going up every day, spread across more than 243 million individual blogs, the potential heft of any given piece of content is massive, particularly since Tumblr’s graphic-driven interface makes “reblogging” the posts of others so incredibly easy. Tumblr counts as an “up and comer” when it comes to the best programs to build your personal brand and web presence, but it has incredible potential to reach readers if your ideal audience includes teens and young adults.

Pinterest:

Pinterest is another heavyweight in the self-publishing world. Why? Because books are first and foremost a tangible object with incredible visual appeal, and Pinterest is a social media platform designed and built to showcase beautiful things. Emphasis on “things.” Pinterest is often described as a kind of digital bulletin board, and whether or not you actually use bulletin boards in real life, it is a powerful tool for collecting objects, most of them real and actual physical objects, together into one easy-to-access-and-modify place. It may not have been specifically designed for books, but Pinterest is definitely a book-lover’s dream … and a haven, too, for self-published authors. We love mood boards and “fan cast” boards as tools both to assist in the writing process and to engage with potential future readers.

Here’s the trick to being a self-published author on social media: You must always remember that you are, first and foremost, a writer. If social media helps you write your next book and spread the word, then it deserves a couple minutes of your time. It is our hope that by putting together this series, as well as our rich tapestry of social media services, we may take some of the guesswork and fear out of launching yourself into the world of platform-building, and find a new home, a new community, and an engaged readership in some unexplored corner of our digital universe.

Coming Soon … What Comes Next?

That’s all the room we have for this second installment of our three-part series! We’ll be back in our next and final post to discuss just how critical a fully-fleshed-out presence on Amazon can be for you, a self-publishing author, both as an independent part of your web presence and as an offshoot of a well-crafted biography and press release.

Interested in more helpful information about writing and self-publishing? Call Outskirts Press at 1-888-OP-BOOKS, chat with us via the online chat on our website or make an appointment with a Publishing Consultant.

Amazon Featured Book of the Week

Here’s this week’s Featured Book-of-the-Week available now on Amazon.com!


Getting There

by Teri Franklin

(5 Stars – 4 Customer Reviews)

Price: $16.95

Teri Franklin’s “Getting There.” She thought she would never find trust. He thought he would never find love. Set in Martha’s Vineyard, two heavy-hearted people discover a passion neither thought possible, an eroticism neither can fully disclose, and a complex relationship of dominance and submission they can’t control.

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Please note that product prices and availability are subject to change. Prices and availability were accurate at the time of this posting; however, they may differ from those you see when you visit Amazon.com.© Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Amazon, Amazon.com, the Amazon.com logo, and 1-Click are registered trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Amazon.com, 410 Terry Avenue N., Seattle, WA 98109-5210.

 

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Author Poll: Joseph Bronson Needs Help Choosing a Cover

Joseph is self-publishing a book with Outskirts Press and wants your help deciding on a book cover.

Book Summary

From Bandon Dunes to Ireland and Pebble Beach in Between

Shots in Spots from all over the World

Through the Green is Joseph Bronson’s second book on the game of golf.  Joe’s writing about golf is to bring the game to the amateur with insights that really impact all players.  Joe comments on the current state of the game and then immediately delves into playing Pebble Beach hole by hole.  Many golfers from all over the world have Pebble Beach on their bucket list.  The book proceeds hole by hole how an amateur or a professional would play the course.  There is an entire section on Bandon Dunes and selected courses in Ireland.  The book then provides an in-depth commentary of the major championships of 2017 in a very unique and detailed manner.  A big surprise is the section on driving ranges and practice areas.  An entire section discloses the hardest, most enjoyable and worst golf holes he has ever played.

The book concludes with a fictional short story of a senior amateur player trying to qualify for a USGA championship. This may have been a one-time personal goal that will remain unfulfilled.

About the Author

Joe is a member of Monterrey Peninsula Country Club in Pebble Beach, California and Cordevalle Golf Club in San Martin, California.  He and his wife, Linda, live in San Jose, California with another home on the Spyglass Hill Golf Club in Pebble Beach.  Joe’s love for the game shines through in his second book.   Through the Green takes this passion for the game of golf to another level from his first book, Golf Chronicles.  Joe’s resume includes playing golf for over 40 years at courses all over the world—88 of the top 100 US venues to England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, China, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and Israel.  He has a website with a corresponding blog at josephbronson.com which discusses various professional and amateur tournaments.

Please take a look at two possible covers below and then vote on the choice you recommend.

Click on the thumbnail below to enlarge each cover.

Cover A

Cover B

 

 

How Early Is Too Early to Prepare for Holiday Marketing?

Is your book ready for the holidays? Yes, those holidays! It may seem strange to start thinking about Christmas marketing while summer is still in full swing, but it’s never too soon to prepare. After all, there’s so much hustle and bustle during the holiday season that it’s easy to let your book fall to the wayside — and just when your bookselling opportunities are at their peak!

Remember, not everyone waits until Christmas Eve to make a panicked run through the mall for “leftovers.” In the days and weeks after Halloween when stores start their Christmas push, early birds will already be looking for books to give to the readers in their lives! If you wait until Thanksgiving to get in gear on your book marketing, you may miss the boat with hordes of readers.

To keep your book at the forefront, Outskirts Press is offering our annual Holiday Marketing Bundle, including a spot in the coveted New York Times Book Review Holiday Co-Op Advertisement — an ad that could reach untold numbers of the Times’ 1 million-plus readers.

In addition to a dedicated spot in our New York Times Book Review ad, this valuable Holiday Marketing Bundle includes:

  • a feature spotlight on the Outskirts Press blog, Self-Publishing News
  • your own book trailer video
  • Annual Digital Hosting-Storage Fee waived for 2019
  • Amazon Listing Optimization for your selling page to capture potential sales
  • a custom graphic to use in your holiday marketing efforts
  • 5 hours with a Personal Marketing Assistant

Hurry — there are only 12 spots available for this special offer, and spots are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Marketing Your Book on Amazon – Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Part Two of a three-part summer series focusing on successfully and efficiently marketing your book on Amazon. Last time in Part One we discussed writing reviews for other products and books and explained why it is an important part of book marketing. Part two will discuss soliciting reviews for your book and how to do it properly. Part three will explain why reviews (both giving and receiving) can “tilt” Amazon’s search algorithm in your favor and how you can tilt it further by taking other simple steps.

Part Two: Soliciting Reviews For Your Book

Once your book is published and available for sale on Amazon, one of the first things you need to focus on is getting (positive) Amazon book reviews. “Positive” is in parentheses because it is typically frowned upon to out-and-out ask for a “positive” book review, but let’s face it — only the positive ones are doing you any good! So that’s certainly your goal — acquiring book reviews in the 4-5 star range. Ultimately, however, as you get more Amazon reviews, your average star-rating will be out of your control. So, all you can really do is seek out Amazon book reviews via the methods below, and hope your book is good enough to secure the “positive” reviews you need. Here are three great ways to get reviews:

1. Reviews in Exchange for Free Copies

A widely accepted and common practice for acquiring Amazon book reviews is giving away copies of your book in exchange for reviews. This is usually the most successful when performed in person, when you literally hand a paperback or hardback copy of your book to someone you know and say something like: “If you enjoy this, I would really appreciate it if you could post your review on Amazon.”

Offer to sign it. Then write something like, “I hope you enjoy this! ” as a “subtle” reminder. Not everyone you give your book to will write a review for it, but this has a high ratio of success. Obviously, the better you know someone, the more likely it is they will write a review. You can limit the number of free copies you give away by only offering copies to people who will appreciate or value your book. Don’t give your hardcore horror novel to your grandmother, for example (unless you happen to know that’s her cup of tea).

You can also do this online by offering your ebook edition to a community of readers in exchange for a review. Facebook is full of communities with this purpose, and Goodreads is another good choice.

2. Reviews in Exchange for Reviews

If you’re at an author event and you are following the suggestion above by handing out copies of your book for reviews, don’t be surprised to be on the receiving end of a similar request. This is a stroke of luck! Other authors are your most likely candidates for a book review, because they want you to write a review of their book, too. Swap copies, vow to swap reviews, and sign each other’s books! This type of networking is part of the benefits of being a published writer; take advantage of it by broadening your reading library, widening your network of colleagues, and increasing the number of reviews you receive.

Again, you can also do this online, where you offer to swap reviews with other writers. How do you suggest an online review swap? By asking for one. “Hello, I’m so-and-so, author of such-and-such, and if you’d like to swap Amazon book reviews, please get in touch with me.” You can either vow to purchase each other’s books (thereby increasing your respective best sellers rank and getting your author royalties back), or you can exchange digital editions.

This is a great way to build camaraderie in your writing community, but only if you follow through. Don’t participate if you don’t intend on fulfilling your end of the bargain (i.e., purchasing the book, providing the e-book, or writing your reciprocal review). It only take one rotten apple to ruin the bushel.

3. Amazon’s Top Reviewers

Contacting other readers within reading communities is all well and good, but what would be even better? Contacting REVIEWERS within reviewing communities! Reviewing communities? Is there such a thing? Not only is there such a thing, there is the best thing — a community of the top reviewers on Amazon. These are the individuals that Amazon has identified as consistently writing the most frequent, most helpful reviews.

There are two different listings of Amazon’s top reviewers: A listing of Amazon’s “Hall of Fame Reviewers” and a listing of Amazon’s “Top Reviewer Rankings.” You can find both lists at http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers.

Being identified as a “Top Reviewer” is a lifestyle for some of these individuals, and the only way they can maintain their ranking is by continuing to write reviews. That means they are highly motivated!

Some of them are impossible to contact; others are not. Some of them are very specific about the types of products they review; others are not. Some of them provide very specific instructions for how to solicit a review; others do not.

But if you start at the top of each list and work your way down through the profiles of each reviewer, you will identify candidates for your book review. Pay attention to the types of books they enjoy, since your chances of receiving a (positive) review will increase dramatically if you send them the type/genre of book they’ve reviewed positively in the past. Follow their instructions for contacting them to the letter, and always be respectful.

Stay tuned for Part Three where we explain how “activity” around your book can improve your Amazon search rankings. And, if you missed Part One, click here.

5 Paths to Finishing Your Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

Writing science fiction and fantasy is not, said the late Ursula K. Le Guin, like writing any other kind of fiction. Le Guin, a titan whose legacy still looms large over both genres, became famous for taking the time to nurture and advise young and new authors, even as she approached the end of her long life. She was famous, too, for eschewing the trappings of mainstream authorial success (“I didn’t want to be a writer and lead the writer’s life and be glamorous and go to New York. I just wanted to do my job writing, and to do it really well,” she told Paris Review in an interview). And in the wake of Le Guin’s death earlier this year, many readers and writers of science fiction and fantasy have been taking a page out of her book and finding ways to pass on their advice to up-and-comers interested in these two genres, so often paired together but also so uniquely distinct from each other.

If we have to give you any advice as an author of science fiction or fantasy, what would that advice be? Much of it can be summed up in five suggestions.

1. Don’t be afraid to get into your “lump of concrete.”

Sometimes the going is easy, but often … it’s not. Science fiction and fantasy are deeply rooted in thorny political, philosophical, social, spiritual, and personal conversations. Every author in every genre is likely to run into the occasional roadblock, but authors in these genres are more likely than most to run into a tangle of complications related to one of these conversations. In her Paris Review interview, Le Guin described this kind of struggle as like trying to work with a “lump of concrete,” and it very often feels like that, doesn’t it? But if the lump of concrete is recognized for what it is — the prickly but necessary exterior to a rich and complex interior, worth navigating through and not insurmountable — and not mistaken for something that is rock through-and-through, then you know that there’s an end in sight. And it’s oh-so-much-easier to go forward knowing that it’s worth doing so, and that the dreaded Writer’s Block and all those other thorny problems are not permanent. The first step to finishing your science fiction or fantasy book is knowing that it can be finished, and that it should be finished.

2. Revisit your favorites.

Le Guin is just one of many fantastic authors of science fiction and fantasy, and no doubt you can think of at least a few others whose names simply roll of the tongue. Rowling. Tolkien. Martin. Asimov. Okorafor. Card. Sagan. Who are your favorite authors in the genre? What books became your refuge when you began growing into your voice as a reader and writer of science fiction? If you’re struggling to finish your book in one of these two genres, there’s no better way to remind yourself of what you want to do than to revisit a few of these influential voices in your own canon of best genre writers! Pluck a couple of your most beloved favorites off of the shelf. These are where you started. These are what first made you fall in love with words. You can simply enjoy them, or you can start breaking them down and analyzing them for what made them work on you so powerfully in the first place. Either way, you’ll have a new (old) place to start your next chapter.

3. Beautiful sentences matter.

There’s no substitute for good craft, is there? Whether you’re reading a thrilling work of crime fiction, a glorious romance, an epic fantasy, a compelling work of non-fiction, a masterpiece of literary fiction, or a spectacular work of science fiction, the art of writing is worth cultivating. Readers recognize it on the page when they see it, and their pocketbooks show the difference. If you’re looking for a path forward to finishing your next book of science fiction or fantasy, don’t forget to use craft as one of your constellation of guiding stars. And if you’re looking for inspiration, look to the books and blogs and other creative outlets that your fellow writers of science fiction and fantasy have used to chronicle their own artistic processes. If you’ve hit a brick wall in executing some element of your plot, perhaps it’s time to shift gears away from the scaffolding of your book and time instead to focus on the minutiae: the beauty of each sentence on the page. Doing so may just shake loose a new idea or two.

4. Be an escapist.

Sure, writing is definitely hard work, and no one is more aware of that fact than an author of science fiction or fantasy, the two genres most often described as “escapist” by readers everywhere. This dichotomy is the irony which underpins everything authors of these genres do; how is one to create the ultimate work of escapism while being tethered to the often-humdrum writing process?

Maybe it’s time to have a little fun, and to remind yourself that writing isn’t just work. It’s something more. It’s something which brings you joy, and if you’re having a hard time finding that joy right now, first of all that’s alright, and second of all it’s okay to take a step back or slow down (this isn’t a race, after all), and thirdly, you deserve to have fun. That’s right … fun! And while it’s hard to predict what bit of fun is likely to break through a bad day, it’s worth experimenting with all of the options. Maybe it looks like changing your voice or adding a new character. Maybe it looks like shifting the setting to a new planet or ignoring a few fundamental laws of physics. Maybe it looks like literally picking up your laptop and making a run for it and enjoying a literal as well as a metaphorical escape to the hills, or the beach, or your local coffee shop.

5. Shoot for the top.

We so often get in our own way, don’t we? But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fear doesn’t have to hold us back. When we consider the heroes of our own stories, whether science fictional or fantastical, we are reminded that fear of failure is not the end of a good story. Consider, for a moment, what book you would write if you had absolutely no fear, if you could do exactly what you want with your book. And isn’t that what self-publishing is all about? We really can and must shoot for the top, as Le Guin put it, and only in doing so can we truly appreciate where we started, where we’ll end up, and all of the various points along that path which connect us to these genres we love so much.

And there you have it: five fresh ways to hone your craft as you draft your next book! Still not sure what you need to get started publishing your next science fiction or fantasy manuscript? Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com to chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657 to find out how to finish your manuscript and get it ready for publication. To see our staff picks of amazing science fiction and fantasy books from many of our published authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.