How To Craft the Perfect Holiday-Themed Book

It’s almost December, and that means one thing is most definitely on everyone’s minds: the holidays. We’re in the final stretch to Christmas, with New Year’s already peeking in over the horizon. And while it may be too late to crank out an entire new holiday-themed book for publication by Christmas, this does make the perfect time to talk about what it is that actually makes for a successful holiday-themed writing project! After all, the good thing about the calendar is that it keeps bringing the good things back around again, year after year.

There are two key things to keep in mind that are specific to writing holiday-themed books: saturation and genre. Genre is important because there are several which are known for holiday-themed installments, particularly romance, non-fiction and children’s picture books. The first two provide opportunities for additions to ongoing series, featuring beloved characters or ideas but with bonus added holiday appeal, while holiday-themed children’s picture books offer bountiful opportunities for rich illustrations! And while any genre can definitely be enriched with a little extra holiday appeal, you will have to choose between writing in a genre where your book will have lots of competition but also a massive built-in readership, and writing in a genre where you will be the innovator and trend-setter. Pick wisely, and with your heart!

Secondly, when we use the word saturation here, we refer to the degree to which the holidays figure in your book. It is vital as you set out to craft a holiday-themed book that you don’t get so carried away including festive imagery and festive language and festive references to Frosty the Snowman and so forth that you forget all of the other vital elements of craft: plot, characterization, style, and voice to name a few. It’s best to set a couple of guidelines for yourself going in, to outline––even if you don’t outline your entire book––the specifics of what will give your book a holiday appeal. Before you pick up your pen or open your laptop.

Keep these two guiding stars in your constellation of inspiration, and you’ll produce a book which has massive sales potential around the holidays––and which will also hold lasting appeal, regardless of the season!

Not sure where to start? It may be time to lean on an expert. If you’re looking to write and publish a holiday-themed book, there’s never a better time than now to inquire. Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com where you can chat with a Publishing Consultant or call us at 1-888-672-6657.

To see our staff picks of amazing holiday books from many of our authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.

Announcing the New & Improved Marketing COACH

Long before Outskirts Press became the fastest-growing self-publishing company and became rated #1 by Top Consumer Reviews, we were doing something differently, something better: We were taking a serious interest in the success of our authors and their books after publication by providing each and every published author with consistent online advice, coaching, and help — the acronym for which we trademarked as The Marketing COACH.

Browse our testimonials or talk to our published authors through our Facebook community and you’ll consistently find rave reviews for this exclusive (and included) marketing offering from Outskirts Press.

Well, the Marketing COACH is about to get even better!  In January, the New & Improved Marketing COACH is launching for all our published and soon-to-be-published authors. Now, fiction writers will get marketing advice geared just for them, while children’s book writers will receive marketing tactics focused on promoting their juvenile books.  Different genres require different marketing tactics, and the New & Improved Marketing COACH will only send you the marketing information you need for YOUR book.

Of course, if you’ve published multiple books, in multiple genres, as so many of our authors have, the Marketing COACH will help you with each genre you’ve published under, from among four encompassing categories:

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The New & Improved Marketing COACH joins the extensive array of included (free) book marketing support provided to all Outskirts Press authors, like…

  • The Free Book Marketing Resource and Bookshelf
  • The Book Marketing RoadMap and Tip Sheets
  • The 7 Tactics of Successfully Published Authors
  • The 28 Day Launch Calendar

If you’re an Outskirts Press author, keep a look out for your first contact from your New Marketing COACH during the week of January 9th. Happy holidays!

Does your book say BUY ME?

Picture your customer. They’re scrolling through books on Amazon, looking for a good weekend read. They stop and look at your book, pulled in by the perfect cover design. They take a sip of their coffee and click for a closer look, to see if what you’ve written is something they’d like to invest their time and money in.

Now what do you envision? Do they add your book to their cart…or do they move on to the next book in their search results?

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If your front cover is your book’s first impression, your back cover synopsis is a very valuable second; you’re targeting your reader, pulling them in, and convincing them that this is a book worth investing in. One typo or missing element could make the difference between your sales being “okay” and “wow!”

And, it’s important to realize that “back cover synopsis” content isn’t solely for the actual back cover — it is also the “sales copy” (otherwise called “the annotation”) for the detailed sales page on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  If you believe people will never see your “back cover synopsis” because people don’t see back covers of books anymore, think again.  Most book buyers thoroughly read the “sales copy” of the books they are considering.

Yes, you can write your own back cover copy, but should you?  Writing something that educates or entertains is different from writing something that sells. As a professional author, it’s important to know when to ask for help.

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The skilled team behind the “Cover Text Refinement Option” at Outskirts Press knows what it takes to transform a browser into a buyer. With this optional production option, you’re telling your readers that your book is worth their time and money because you’ve made it the best it can possibly be, both inside and out.

While editing your back cover synopsis is important and sets the tone for the rest of the book, that’s only a piece of the puzzle. The Outskirts Press copywriters will do what it takes to hook your readers by professionally summarizing your manuscript and creating an eye-catching headline and compelling author biography.

You’ve written the book you’ve been thinking about for years – don’t let your hard work go unnoticed. An amazing back cover and sales annotation can make the difference between someone scrolling past your book…and someone buying it.

5 Do’s and Don’ts for Formatting, Grammar, and Spelling

At Outskirts Press, our passion is helping you publish the book of your dreams. And you can help us. Even though we will strive to ensure that your book is perfect when it is done, there are little things you can do with your manuscript prior to the publishing stage that will go a long way toward helping us publish a perfect book later. Just five little things…

#1. Don’t insert hard paragraph breaks after every line. You can see where hard returns are in your Microsoft Word document by holding down CTRL-SHIFT-8. That bold “paragraph symbol” shows you where the hard returns are. They should be only at the ends of paragraphs.

#2. Don’t manually insert hyphens. Your word processor should hyphenate words automatically, unless you have that function turned off. But even turning off auto-hyphenation is preferable to manually inserting a hyphen yourself. A manually-inserted hyphen will cause all sorts of problems during interior book formatting, so be sure to remove them from your manuscript before submitting it to us (or to any publisher, for that matter).

#3. Don’t use ALL CAPS. You may be tempted to capitalize words for emphasis, or for book titles. In both instances, italics are preferred.

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Readers appreciate error-free books.

#4. Do spell check your work. All word processors have built-in spell checking. Even if you plan on having us professionally edit your manuscript before publication (which we STRONGLY recommend; oops, I mean strongly recommend), it is a good idea to run your spell check program over your manuscript prior to submitting it to us, just to fix all the “easy” errors.

#5. Do check your grammar. Most word processors also have built-in grammar checking, although they are admittedly poor. There are better (and free) alternatives on the Internet. Our favorite is Online-SpellCheck.com. Simply cut and paste your manuscript, a chapter at a time, into the online form and Online-SpellCheck will not only identify spelling errors your word processor probably missed, but it will also catch other common grammatical errors such as contextual misspellings, commonly switched words, typographical errors, and more.

Even if you plan on ordering our optional editing service to have your manuscript professionally edited, this procedure with Online-SpellCheck is an important one to complete prior to submitting your manuscript. And if you choose to forgo our optional editing services (which we recommend against), this step with Online-SpellCheck.com is basically mandatory. It’s quick and free, so do your future readers a favor and double-check your manuscript now.

Special Note: Be sure to bookmark Online-SpellCheck.com when you are there, so you can access it during the production phase at Outskirts Press. You will be entering information into your Publishing Center (like your synopsis, back cover copy, and online sales copy). It’s best to run those paragraphs through Online-SpellCheck.com before submitting them during the pre-production process.

Additionally, there is a popular Chrome extension to consider: Grammarly (at www.grammarly.com). This browser extension runs in the background on the Chrome Internet browser and checks spelling and grammar “on the fly” as you enter words into online forms. This is very useful for completing your publishing process error-free.

Obviously, there is no substitute for a professional human editor, but complementing our professional editing services with Online-SpellCheck and Grammarly is the perfect hat trick to almost guarantee an error-free book.

 

10 Effective Ways to Use Your Book Copies

Most publishers give you some free copies of your book when it is published. (And if yours didn’t, ask yourself what you’re doing publishing your heart & soul there).

Once you have those copies, the question then becomes: what do you do with them?  And that’s where today’s posting comes in, with the following free Outskirts Press tip-sheet. Just click on this graphic to open/download this complimentary tip sheet today.  Enjoy!

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Reach for the Moon and Land Among the Stars This Awards Season!

Book contests are a wonderful way for self-published authors to build upon their platforms and cultivate credibility. And yes, while they’re occasionally the hallmark of snootiness, awards ought not to be overlooked as the fantastic marketing tool they are! Not only will winning a book award (or two, or three) boost an author’s physical and social presence, they also create cross-searchable entries online and, as such, play a big role in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies.

Yes, winning awards make for a great addition to your book listings on Amazon, Goodreads, and other websites, and they also give you a great excuse to throw a party or a book reading and possibly even release a new celebratory edition of your book! Awards do all these things–and they also perform a truly critical service in affirming your hard work.

It has been hard work, what you’ve accomplished. But awards aren’t just about you, they’re also about your readers! There are so many books in the world, and such fierce competition online and in bookstores for customers’ attention, that readers can easily be swamped by the sheer number of options available. Awards lend distinction, dare we say credibility, to help your book stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Book Contests

An award win or nomination increases your exposure in several key ways, including:

  1. Fleshing out your resume, biography, and social capital;
  2. Boosting your book’s marketing presence with feature articles in publications or online, in press releases, and elsewhere;
  3. Award badges which can be featured on your book’s cover, rendering it eye-catching both in stores and in online retail listings;
  4. Last but not least, several contests (including those held by Writer’s Digest and ForeWord Magazine) are attached to cash winnings, which can go a long way toward further marketing efforts for your award-winning opus.

It’s true that many contests have deadlines based upon the book’s publication date, so it is in every author’s best interest to enter as many contests as possible as soon after publication as possible.  But there are other contests that don’t depend upon publication dates (or at least, not as strictly), so even if your book has been published for a few years, your marketing efforts would be well-served to enter contests for which you are still eligible.

Published Outskirts Press authors can browse through the free Top National Contests & Awards ebook in their Book Marketing Bookshelf from within their Publishing Center for a vetted listings of many of the best book awards to enter (many of which have upcoming deadlines for submission).   Here’s just a sample of some of the awards with upcoming deadlines:

Top National Contests and Book Awards

USA Best Book Awards

  • Deadline: Fall
  • Website: USABookNews.com
  • Details: This contest is another option to spread your marketing dollars, as they accept manuscripts up to two years after publication. All winners receive industry and media exposure.

Benjamin Franklin Awards

  • Deadline: Fall/Winter
  • Website: IBPABenjaminFranklinAwards.com
  • Details: Held by the Independent Book Publishers Association, the annual Benjamin Franklin Awards is one of the premiere contests in independent publishing today, where Gold Medal winners in each category receive an engraved crystal trophy acknowledging their accomplishment.

Reader Views Literary Awards

  • Deadline: December of your copyright year
  • Website: ReaderViews.com/literaryawards
  • Details: With numerous categories and various awards per category (including cash prizes and publicity packages), the Reader Views Literary Awards should not be missed. And it’s easy to miss them! They have the earliest deadline among all these contests, so plan early.

INDIEFAB Awards

Deadline: Dec/Jan
Website: IndieFab.ForewordReviews.com
Details: Held by the prestigious review journal Foreword Reviews, the INDIEFAB Awards are a cornerstone of the independent publishers marketing foundation. Not only are winners featured in the print and digital editions of Foreword Reviews, but they play a role in a national publicity campaign.

Eric Hoffer Book Awards

  • Deadline: January
  • Website: HofferAward.com
  • Details: One submission automatically makes you eligible for numerous category considerations, including most-thought provoking work, best cover, best first-time author, and best over-all book, which comes with a $2,000 Grand Prize.


The Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year Awards

  • Deadline: By invitation only
  • Website: OutskirtsPress.com
  • Details: Every year Outskirts Press recognizes one book as our official Best Book of the Year with this prestigious award that comes with a $1,500 Grand Prize for the winning author. The prerequisite for becoming one of the three special Semi-Finalists in this contest is winning a Colorado Independent Book Publishers Association EVVY Award.

Each award presents its nominees and winners with unique advantages, from cash and promotion in print and online magazines to possible literary representation in areas such as film and foreign rights, to promotion at public events such as the Book Expo of America.  But each award submission process also presents its own unique challenges, from entry fees to stringent eligibility requirements to the logistics of producing and mailing book copies to reviewers and judges–and as with many other marketing opportunities, this process can eat up a lot of a self-publishing author’s time, money, and energy. And with the holiday season rapidly approaching, it’s easy to get distracted and miss the submission deadlines entirely.   Don’t let that happen to you!

If you’ve published with Outskirts Press, why not let us take care of the details? We’d love to help you, and we’d love to take your book to the red carpet!  But even if you choose to do it all yourself, make sure you do it.  Winning a book award for your published book is truly one of the most amazing feelings! There’s nothing quite like it.  Here’s to your great success!

 

 

 

Explore Your Options This Columbus Day!

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

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Undated Woodcut. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

Or so the poem goes–but this being 2016 and not 1492, we know rather a lot more about navigating the wondrous wide oceans. We’ve come a long way in 524 years in many of the ways that matter most, and that includes the careful cultivation of our passion for exploration and discovery–something which we do share with Columbus–as well as our means and methods of self-expression. We don’t have to pay tribute to King Ferdinand or Queen Isabella; we have only to hold true to our vision and the desire to self-publish!

If you happen to be a touch out to sea when it comes to choosing your self-publishing company, you’re not alone. (We’re not going to wring every drop of saltwater out of these oceangoing idioms, we promise. We like you too much.) The fact of the matter is, you have come along at both a fantastic and a terrible time for indie authors–fantastic because you’re spoiled for choice, and terrible because many of the possibilities could land you in serious trouble. Not every company offering self-publishing services has your best interest in mind–many are thinking only of their shareholders, not their authors–and many offer such stripped-down services and pared-back customer support that you end up paying a lot of money for a very basic product and no sense of what comes next. And if you do complain after the fact, well … you could very well find yourself trapped in an exploitative contract with no one to advocate for your rights and royalties.

Not to be too on the nose, but Outskirts Press is different. For one thing, we don’t abandon you to the void as soon as your book–your beautiful, professionally produced, impeccably designed, and valuable book–has been run through the printers and distributed digitally. What makes us different is the people who work for us, the same people who go to the mattresses for our authors every single day to ensure their books are produced, delivered, marketed, and respected exactly the way they should be. Our Publishing Consultants and other staff are the people who make Outskirts Press such a revelation, a revolution, and an award-winning company. But so what if we win the coveted apex spot among self-publishing companies from Top Consumer Reviews? It’s what you want, need, and think of us that matters.

We invite you to find out for yourself just how a live human interaction with an expert in author services–an expert who doesn’t work in a foreign cubicle farm but here, in the United States–can change the fate of your book and help you navigate the many difficult decisions ahead. Do you have questions? Concerns? Or do you require assistance? Our consultants are more than eager to help. They have been honing their feedback and their recommendations over years and years of experience. They might point you towards one of our celebrated One-Click Publishing packages, or lead you through the steps of any one of our other streamlined bundles. Where many other self-publishing companies offer minimal interactions and distant emails, our people are insightful, kind, and fierce in their advocacy for your authorial vision. Not to mention the security of your bank account; knowing that there’s no one-size-fits-all price for the perfect book, we offer a range of solutions which can be tailored to fit your needs, financial and otherwise.

What is important to you in pursuing the self-publishing experience? Cost? Quality? Service? The only reliable way to choose a self-publishing company, we find, is to choose based on the preponderance of evidence and the weight of your own intuition. This is why we invite you to explore what Outskirts Press has to offer this Columbus Day–and every other day. You deserve the assurance that you won’t one day find yourself … on the wrong side of history.