Write what you know, and what you don’t know

It’s a known saying to “write what you know.” And it’s true, your very best writing will come from areas of your life that you’re most familiar with. I’ve followed this advice in my own books – from writing about child loss and poverty in The Road to Hope,  to actual stories of my life in Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows.

But if you only wrote about stuff you knew, your book topics would be severely limited. How would books like Harry Potter come about, where the magical world of wizards is completely made up? Or Twilight, where humans fall in love with vampires and befriend shape-shifting wolves? Or my novel, A Symphony of Cicadas, where the majority of it takes place in the afterlife – a place I don’t plan on going for a very long time…

albert-einstein-imagination

While it’s important to use familiar themes in your writing, it’s probably a fair assessment that your story will include stuff you know nothing about. And that’s okay. That’s more than okay, that’s fantastic!

That’s where you get the opportunity to learn something new.

For instance, in The Road to Hope, one of the characters ends up at a winery in Sonoma County where she must learn the ins and outs of working in the vineyards. I grew up down the road from the winery I described in the book, and adding it in was like writing a love letter to my childhood.

However, I don’t know the first thing about working in a vineyard.

To compensate, I researched my patootie off. I studied what happened at each part of the season, how to graft vines…everything I could to learn what it would be like to work the fields at a winery. I think that was my favorite part about writing that novel, learning something I might never have known about before.

As you write, don’t be afraid to throw in a few interesting things you’re not an expert on. But follow a few rules when doing so:

Find an expert – You might not know much about that particular topic, but someone else does. Buy them a cup of coffee, and then have them tell you everything they know about the subject you’re writing on.

Read books – Become the expert on what you’re researching by taking from other people’s personal experience.

Search the net – This is my favorite, and easiest, way to find out information. Of course, be careful when you do use the internet to learn about your topic. Sometimes information can be a bit…wrong. Make sure you find several notable sources on your topic to ensure the information is correct.

Do it yourself – While you can’t exactly enter a world of wizardry to learn the ins and outs of attending a school like Hogwarts, you can work the fields at a vineyard when writing about being a winery worker. Take a class on your subject, grow something, travel, do whatever you can to get closer to knowledge on whatever it is you’re writing about. Don’t quote me, but you might even be able to get a tax write-off for your “research” expenses (so you should probably explore what it would be like to travel to Bali).

If you go off the cuff and write about something you don’t know anything about, someone who DOES know something about your subject will read your book and call you on your ignorance. Your whole book will be discredited just by stating misinformation as fact. So make sure all of your facts are in sync with what the reality would be through detailed research.

Have you learned about something new when writing your novel? Share in the comments!

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12 steps toward seeing results in your book stats

book stats

Hi, my name is Crissi, and I’m a stats-aholic.

You might also be a stats-aholic if you do the following things:

  • Check your book stats numerous times a day, whether it’s reviews or sales.
  • Obsess about whether it’s moving or not.
  • Spam your social media accounts to create movement in your stats.
  • Repeat.

So why doesn’t this work? Let’s put it in terms of dieting.

You want to lose weight, and so you purchase a scale. You then proceed to eat the food you always eat, and spend the majority of the day enjoying sedentary activity. The next day, you check your weight to see if there were any changes, and are surprised that the number hasn’t decreased. The rest of the day, you continue your regular routine. Except this time, you weigh yourself several times a day. Still, nothing is happening!

Why? Because you’ve done nothing to actually lose weight.

It’s going to take more than checking your stats obsessively to actually sell your books. And no, spamming your social media accounts won’t help.

So how can you stop the obsessive stats checking and use your energy to actually spread the word about your book? Here are 12 things you can do now.

    1. First, make a vow to stop the stats obsession NOW. The least you can do is to refrain from checking your stats more than once a day. If you’re not doing anything proactive to make that number move, it’s akin to checking your weight when you know you’re not eating well. It’s an ego boost or an ego deflater – nothing more, nothing less. By checking your stats repeatedly, you are placing your worth on your findings. But the honest to goodness truth is, you’re worth more than whatever those stats will tell you. So just stop, okay?
      ***
    2. Limit the mentions of your book on social media. The reason to have social media is to be social with others. But if you’re constantly shouting about your book, no one is going to want to interact with you. Think about it as if it was a dinner party. The people who are the most fun to talk with are those who shine the spotlight on everyone around them. They are the people who make others feel good about themselves, who ask questions, who are genuinely interested in what others have to say. But those who can’t stop talking about themselves? They are the ones everyone avoids. Be the first guy. You can mention your book now and then. But focus more on drawing people in by putting the spotlight on others, sharing something that makes people feel good, and shedding light on who YOU are instead of what you wrote. Need an example? Go to the pages of your favorite authors and see what they’re doing to draw people in.
      ***
    3. Create a website. It doesn’t even need to be anything fancy. I prefer WordPress, but there are many different platforms you can create a website on, even for free! Your website should have information about you, your books and where to find them, how to contact you, and links to your social media. (If you need help creating a website, this is just one of the services I offer. Let me know how I can help)
      I also recommend hosting a blog on your website, which brings me to step #4.
      ***
    4. Start blogging! First off, if you blog regularly on your website, it helps you with your Google rankings. It also gives people a reason to keep visiting your website (where all your book links are!). Blogging gives potential readers a glimpse at your writing style. It allows you to shed light on a topic you’re passionate about. It’s another form of connecting with others. It helps people to get to know you, and entice them to want to read the books you have for sale. Need ideas on what to blog about? Here are 50 ideas.
      ***
    5. Start a newsletter. The best way to reach readers is directly to their inbox. Social media and blog posts work, but kind of in the same way as posting an ad on a billboard. However, emailing a reader is like knocking on their door. It’s more personal. What can you include in your newsletter? I’ve posted blog posts, or excerpts from the last several blog posts. I’ve shared book news and events. I’ve offered a tip of the week. The topics are endless. How often should you send out a newsletter? That’s up to you. I suggest not sending out more than 1 a week so you don’t overwhelm people’s inboxes or make them feel like you’re spamming them. And I suggest sending at least 1 newsletter a month so that people don’t forget about you. The ideal method is to send newsletters on a schedule, like every other Thursday or on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. Need some inspiration? Join my newsletter here.
      ***
    6. Reach readers through their ears. Consider starting a podcast, or a video series on YouTube. These don’t have to be complicated at all, and they offer you something else to share on your website or social media to help potential readers become more interested in you. This blog post offers a few great pointers on vlogging, aka video blogging.
      ***
    7. Team up with other authors. Many hands make light work, especially in the way of marketing. If you want news about your book to spread, enlist the help of other authors. In exchange, share news about their book. Another benefit of teaming up with other authors is that you can help each other with otherwise-costly book services, like book formatting, proofreading, etc.
      ***
    8. Offer your services on the things you know how to do. This is how North Coast Stories came about. I am a writer at heart. But I also love editing and book formatting. Being an author, I quickly learned how expensive these services were for authors just starting out. This is why I keep my prices low, because I want other authors to have a chance to get their books published without spending money they don’t have on getting it ready for publication. I’ve even accepted trades in offer of services. If you are an expert in a certain area of book writing or publishing, share the wealth with others. After all, Karma goes a long way.
      ***
    9. Add a link to your website or books to your email signature. Every time you send an email, the recipient will automatically learn about your books.
      ***
    10. Let someone else market your books for you – specifically other company’s email lists. Author Marketing Club has a nifty list of websites where you can enter your book when it’s free or discounted, and they will email potential readers about it. It takes a little bit of time to enter them all, but it’s well worth it. Access this list here, and then scroll to the bottom of the page.
      ***
    11. Do just one thing at a time. This is serious. Know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you don’t have to do everything at once. First off, that’s overwhelming. Second, trying to wrap your mind around too many marketing ideas can petrify you into doing nothing. However, doing one thing at a time will offer you baby steps forward to real results. So make a list of all the things you’d like to do in spreading news about your book, and then vow to do one thing every day. Even the smallest steps will move you in the right direction.
      ***
    12. Need more ideas? Here are 98 of them from Bookbub.

Whether your book does well or not ultimately depends on the energy you are spending toward its potential success. Checking your book stats obsessively won’t help you sell more books. But if you focus on methods to get your books in more readers’ hands, you will start experiencing more satisfaction from your efforts than any worth you place on a silly graph of sales numbers.

___

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How will readers find you?

I was searching through Amazon today for an interesting book to read, and came across one with a great cover and intriguing title. I clicked on it and read the description of the book. It sounded good, but I wanted to know what other people thought about this author’s writing. The book had just recently been published, so it still had no reviews, so I clicked on the author’s name to see what other books he had written.

This is where I discovered two things. First, there were a lot of books under this author’s name. Second, this author didn’t have an author page set up on Amazon, so it was unclear how many of these books actually belonged to him, or if they were from another author of the same name.

Still curious, I did a Google search of this author’s name. The only thing that came up was a Goodreads list, and it wasn’t even created by this author. There was no website, no social media, nothing to help a reader find our more about this author and how they can read more books this author wrote.

How are your readers finding you?

Every author needs the following:

Website/blog: This is the part of the internet that you own. Here is where you can create a page for all of your books (complete with what they’re about and where to buy), share a little bit about yourself, and list every place readers can find you on the web. With a blog, you can draw readers in with occasional essays, thoughts, and stories. A blog also makes your website more searchable, and helps new readers to discover you.

Online retailer author page: If you sell your books on Amazon, you must create your own author page there. Same goes for other online retailers where your book is for sale. Readers who enjoy your books are going to want to know a little more about you and what other books you have written. Wouldn’t you like to control the information they find? Creating an online retailer author page is very simple, and is an absolute must.

Goodreads author page: Goodreads is where the readers are. Give them an easy way to find your books, and also to share news about your books to other potential readers by owning your author page and making sure all your correct books are listed under your name.

Social media: Having a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. helps you to brand your name as an author. It’s incredibly important for these social media channels to be under your author name, and not as a book. You are branding your name. You want people to read everything you wrote, not just a particular book. Also, having social media is just one more way for your name to be near the top of online searches. With social media, think about which ones you will honestly update, and go from there. At the very least, you should have a Facebook page, which you should try to update regularly.

What are some ways you’ve made it easy for readers to find you? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

What should you post to Facebook?

FacebookThis post is for authors just starting out with a Facebook page.

Welcome to Facebook Fan Pages! I know it’s a bit daunting to look at that blank page, the status bar telling you to write something, but you don’t know what. It’s especially hard when you don’t have many fans who will even read what you write.

Don’t give in before you’ve even started. I’d like to give you a crash course on using your Facebook page as effectively as you can, even if you feel awkward in the beginning.

First things first, make sure you have a profile picture and a cover photo. Your profile can be you, or it can be your book. On my own author Facebook page, I like to use my own photo most of the time. But when I’m getting ready to release a new book, I will change it to show my book cover. For the cover photo, you can choose scenery, a collage of your books, or anything that gives readers another clue as to who you are. But make sure the cover image is big enough to fit in that space. Nothing looks more unprofessional on a Facebook page than a pixelated image for the cover photo. The exact dimensions are 851X315 pixels.

Next, make sure your Facebook page URL is the exact name you want it to be. In your “About” section, go to Facebook Web Address and change it to the desired name. Otherwise, your URL will add a bunch of numbers to the address, making it look clunky.

Finally, fill out your “About” section with your bio, your website, and anything else you want readers to know about you. This section is checked more often than you think, and can be your readers’ first impression of you.

Now, what to post!

First, the rules.

  • Be authentic. Be yourself.
  • Don’t spam your readers with “buy my book” posts
  • Refrain from politics or hot button issues (unless your books are about politics or hot button issues)
  • Post at least once a day, if possible.
  • But don’t over-post, or you’ll lose readers.

With that out of the way, here are 10 things you can post about on your Facebook page:

  1. A blog post you’ve written.
  2. A quote from your book.
  3. What you’re reading now (NOT your own book).
  4. Something funny that happened today.
  5. Something inspirational that you saw online or in your Facebook newsfeed.
  6. A  quote from another author or influential person. (hint: go to canva.com and  create an image out of it!)
  7. A top 10 list of books your readers would enjoy if they like yours.
  8. News of an event or reading that you’ll be presenting at.
  9. News about your book release, or a sale on your book.
  10. A photo of you writing, living life, or just plain having fun.

Please note, only two of these ten items are about YOUR book. A good rule of thumb is to follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of your posts are NOT about your book, and 20% of your posts are.

Another thing to note: your page views will be small in the beginning. Don’t stress about that number. Keep posting content that people will want to like, comment on, or share, and that number will go up. You just need to   be consistent.

Have questions? Or do you have other ideas on things an author can post to Facebook? Leave a note in the comments!

P.S. Follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/northcoaststories.