How To Promote A Self-Published eBook – Two Simple Ways to Get Major Results

I’m a huge fan of retro video games. Like many Reagan babies, I owned an NES, a Nintendo lunch box, ate Nintendo cereal, watched the Super Mario Bros. Super Show; I could go on, but you get the idea. After the NES faded in popularity, I went on to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, then the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, before losing interest when I attended college (Parties are more fun. Studying has its purpose too, I suppose).

Now, at 33-years-old and with a little bit of disposable income, I’ve started to collect some of the games I missed purchasing in my childhood. There are certain “brands” that I’ll buy pretty much anything from (e.g. Mega Man; Castlevania; Ninja Gaiden; The Legend of Zelda; Metroid; etc.), but what about the games I didn’t get a chance to play or that were unknown to me back then? I’ll buy a few of those too, but only if I see a demonstration on a YouTube channel, and hear some reputable voices vouch for it.

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The reason I include this anecdote is because the same methods that work for alerting me to retro video games that I should give a chance are the same ones that alert me and many other readers to self-published writers that are worth a read.

Dispel the notion once and for all that if you write it, they will come. They won’t. You have to get noticed or self-publishing is an exercise in futility if your goal is to make money and/or get people to read your writing. I’ve known many talented writers who choose to self-publish. What happens when they release their books? Nothing. It’s every self-published writer’s worst fear.

So, how exactly do you get readers and sales for your eBook? 

  1. Win over an influencer. Some think getting good reviews on Amazon or Smashwords are enough. Not true; they help, but you need to draw traffic first. The best way to do that is to have an Internet influencer promote you on their media. Who exactly qualifies as an influencer? A good ballpark figure is at least 1,000 followers on social media or WordPress, or the face behind a heavily-trafficked website that many people in your niche know about. While press anywhere helps, to get real results you need to get an endorsement from an Internet “star.”
  2. Give some of it away for free. That means giving free copies of your book to influencers. That means putting up chapters for free online. You’re not Dan Brown or Stephen King yet, so you have to earn your readers’ attention and show that you’re talented.

And that’s it. Are there other ways that you can promote your eBook? Of course. That said, if you want results in a big way and quickly, focus on the big win. Anything else is often just a tiresome waste.

Have you had success as a self-published author? Share a comment below to help aspiring authors. 

How To Balance Writing, Publishing, and Networking?

My cousin Jerry, by most any account, has a pretty good life. He’s successful doing work that he loves, makes a nice amount of money, has a beautiful and charming wife, and three great children. When I talked to him about some of the initial challenges I was facing after I quit my job as an educator and planned to make a go of it as a writer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Jerry told me a story. As a man in his early twenties, he quickly earned more than double the salary of many of his middle-aged coworkers. How? When others put in 40 hours on the clock, with maybe 10 hours spent actually doing their jobs, he put in 80 hours, working beyond what was expected. Now, he doesn’t have to work so hard, though he still puts in a great deal time in projects he cares about. Those other guys, who knows what they’re doing now?

The point of this story is simple, if you’re serious about not just writing in your spare time, but making a career of being a writer, you’d better work hard. Still, even if you put in 80 hours per week, in such a competitive position as creative writing, if you’re not working smart, you just might end up stuck in as bad a position as Jerry’s former coworkers.

chess

One of the most difficult concerns for any writer looking to not just break in, but succeed, is the balance of writing, publishing, and networking. Here are a few suggestions that should help you work smarter, not harder:

  • Above all, write. One novel, three short stories, five poems – that’s not enough. Don’t even think about publishing or utilizing contacts and networking until you have a solid body of work. One success wouldn’t make a career, and the amount of time spent doing so is counterproductive. Make writing a consistent habit, have a lot of work to show around, and then start thinking about networking and publishing.
  • Understand that writing probably won’t make you rich. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are the extremely rare exceptions. That said, many writers can make a living off of writing alone, many times even off of creative writing alone. It helps if your budget isn’t extreme. If you are single and live in an area with a low cost of living in the United States, you could probably get by on around $1000/month. While you wouldn’t be living well on that, you could survive. Then, through perseverance and building your reputation, you could make a good deal more.
  •  The Internet is your friend. Creating a blog centered around your writing, or other topics of interest to writers, could be a great way to attract attention. Taking a participatory role in the culture of the writing community online will open yourself up to many new opportunities. Helping others will lead them to helping you. Websites like Upwork and Craigslist present many opportunities for publishers looking for ghostwriters. The pay may not be great, but with a body of work, a high-character approach, and determination, you can get those jobs and build traction. Do so.
  • Don’t be an outsider. Jumping off the previous point, many communities on the Internet are niche. If you write science-fiction or romance or mysteries, find where those writers and readers gather and become a part of their communities. Above all, help as many people as you can. Being a self-serving renegade can kill your chances of succeeded in today’s literary world.
  • Understand your markets. Don’t submit a 80,000 word science-fiction novel to an avant-garde poetry site. Respect publishers by being familiar with the writing that they publish and reading a significant amount of it. When you read the work that publishers put out, you’ll quickly know if it’s similar to your own. If it’s not, don’t waste your time and the publisher’s time with a submission. There are so many magazines and publishers that there is bound to be one that’s a good match for your style. Use Duotrope, Poets & Writers, or the Writer’s Market and find it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a favor. In the words of new wave singer Morrissey of The Smiths, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” If you have a friend or other contact that could potentially lead to a solid break, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. The worst they can do is say no. Of course, make sure that you’ve done the basics first. Above all, follow their suggestions afterwards. Nothing burns out a good contact more than asking for a favor and not following through after someone does what you ask.

Taking these suggestions into account, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your writing career. What do you think? What advice would you give to a new writer seeking to follow their dreams? Let’s start a dialogue.

 

Writers Need To Capitalize On Opportunities

One of the foremost problems that new writers who are intent on breaking into the literary world face is the quick realization that there is tremendous competition. Sadly, many aspiring writers who are not cognizant of the nature of their profession end up quickly demoralized, as they see that their writing is not reaching an audience, not being published, and being heavily critiqued by those who do read it.

I started my career as a writer primarily as a poet. My friend Russell Jaffe offered me the opportunity to open at his poetry reading if I were to write a few poems, and I took him up on the offer. I realized, free from the constraints of an organized creative writing program, that I had some talent. From there, I started writing many poems, and later on, getting many of them published once I realized how to find and effective target literary magazines.

After finding success as a poet, I was desirous of publishing short fiction. I was working four different positions at an academic institution, spread out over six days. I didn’t have much time or energy left to write when I was off from work. My opportunity came when a friend of mine who believed in my writing offered me free housing in rural Pennsylvania and promised to edit my writing. I took her up on that offer, and produced an assortment of short stories that met my standards, and were published.

At present, I am a communications partner for a new startup. My duties entail that I be responsible for producing any accompanying books related to the startup once it goes public, in addition to more mundane duties related to day-to-day correspondence and copywriting. As anyone who has previous experience with entrepreneurship knows, sometimes it can take a bit of time for a venture to go public. Being that I lead a pretty Spartan lifestyle, one that is supported through freelancing my services as an editor and publishing consultant, and that the startup needs some time before it can reach fruition, I have a significant amount of off time. During this time, I have been writing screenplays.

The reason that I’ve chosen to write screenplays, again, boils down to opportunity. My cousin Andrew Friedman works at FOX. He regales me with fabulous stories of parties with Method Man and Seth Rogen. His mother worked for 25 years in sales at Paramount Pictures. Furthermore, my girlfriend Lauren Rubin, as a graduate of Vassar College, has an assortment of high-powered contacts in the film industry. Her mother, Joanne Larson, through her business dealings, also has access to a multitude of producers and other film professionals. This access, and the potential for serious rewards from success as a screenwriter, has led me to conclude that this is the perfect opportunity for me now.

So, in short, to quickly ascend as a writer, leverage any existing opportunities immediately. 

If you are unsure of the nature of the opportunities around you, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who do I know who has offered to help me?
  2. Who do I know who has a foothold in any way in the writing community? Would they be willing to help me if I asked them?
  3. Are there any opportunities local to your area or current life related to a particular type of writing?

I wish you success in capitalizing on your opportunities.

p.s. I strive to present all the tools necessary for writers to dramatically improve their craft and chances of publishing through my blog posts, free Q&A service, and free fiction writing 101 course. However, if you require more personal attention, please consider my editing and/or publishing consultancy services.

 

Writers, All You Have to Do is Ask!

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While there are plenty of great editors and publishing consultants that you can choose to work with (and if you’d like to go that route, I would certainly hope that you would consider my services), sometimes all an aspiring writer needs to get themselves on track is to leverage their contacts. In the words of Morrissey in The Smiths’ song Ask, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” 

There are many steps to the writing process, but it can be broken down most simply to this:

1. Formulate an idea 

2. Outline that idea (optional, but strongly recommended)

3. Write like your life depended on it, and don’t look back. Any writer, if they’ve already done steps 1 and 2, can complete 90% of the work of capturing their idea without poring over every detail. Leave that to an editor, or if you want to take on the chore yourself (though it can be very difficult to be objective about your own writing), do it afterwards. Don’t waste time. Just write.

4. Edit your writing to get it to 100% 

5. Find a publisher

Regarding steps 4 and 5, but most especially step 5, if you have contacts in the industry, either people in publishing, other writers, or any other relevant ins, LEVERAGE THEM

I know that most of my readers are aspiring writers, and my services, though fairly priced, are simply outside of some of my readers’ budget. I can relate. I was in the same boat. I quit my job in the English department of Monroe College to really see what I could do as a writer. My friend Rairigh Drum helped me in so many ways. She knew that my writing needed MAJOR WORK when we were students at Beloit College, but she had seen some growth, and supported me along the way, as friends do. She let me stay in a spare room in her apartment in Clarion, Pennsylvania rent-free. She edited all my short fiction, making it much better, because I knew I couldn’t do it on my own (what writer could, we really do need editors). What happened? A string of acceptances. That didn’t happen before. Why did it happen? For many reasons, but most importantly because I ASKED for a favor. 

If you have people in your network who would be able to help you along the way, free of charge, LEVERAGE THEM. I’m always there for you if you don’t, but seriously, get creative and you can start advancing and not even have to spend a cent. 

In the spirit of this post, I’m going to ask YOU a favor: If you know anyone in the film industry, please help me out. I just completed a script with my co-writer Zubair Simonson called Brooklyn Blend. We just registered it with the WGA East. Think of it like Frances Ha meets Thank You for Smoking. The script is about a deluded Brooklyn hipster who thinks he’s a great musician, but really is a total hack, and how his ruthless ambition brings down a racist politician and lands a record deal. If you can help us get this sold or optioned, let me know (theliterarygame@gmail.com). See, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Why You Should Attend A Writer’s Retreat

After I wake up, one of the first things that I do every morning is check my email. Today I found an interesting message in my inbox from Rebecca Little, a friend of mine and fellow graduate of Beloit College‘s Creative Writing program.

Becca had just returned from a writer’s retreat in the Pacific Northwest. In her email, she expounded on how much fun it had been and that I should attend it next year. I’m planning on doing so.

We all know that writing isn’t confined to any particular space (though there are some writers who swear they can only write in a library, a coffee shop…or in their mother’s basement), nor does a writer even need to be around other writers to write something sharp (In fact, a friend of mine, Russell Jaffe, yet another Beloit Creative Writing alum, joked with me about how deep down all writers hate other writers. I’ll leave it to you to weigh the validity of that claim…) Still, while attending a writer’s retreat is not a must-do, it certainly presents a wonderful opportunity for an aspiring writer looking to plunge deeper into the literary game.

Here are a few reasons to consider attending a writer’s retreat:

1. To meet other writers. Okay, being around other writers doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make any new friendships, and you may even end up proving Russell right, and dislike more than a few writers at the retreat; however, the possibility of establishing friendships with serious writers is quite likely. Developing friendships with other writers is important in so many ways, including: for purposes of networking; to learn from each other; to share “war stories”; and to help keep you sane in a world where, if you’re a writer, most people will assume you must be certified.

2. To learn from established writers. Writing retreats present a wonderful opportunity to learn from experienced, successful writers, and possibly even network with them. Who knows, one good contact may be the tipping point to launching your writing career.

3. To get away from the grind. Your life, most likely, has so many obligations beyond your writing. A vacation away from all your responsibilities to focus on your passion is a wonderful opportunity. Not only will you be immersed in a literary environment, but you’ll enjoy the beauty of a traditional vacation. What could be better?

Have you ever attended a writer’s retreat? What was your experience like?

If you don’t want to wait until your next retreat to start building community with other writers, why not join our Facebook group and start networking with other writers.

Join The Literary Game’s Facebook Group

I really want to turn The Literary Game into an interactive space where writers can learn and grow in many ways. In the hopes of doing so, I’ve started a Facebook group for us.

I’d be honored if you would join our group, and if you’d let your literary-minded friends know about what we’re doing here. I’m on the page, and so are my editors. We’d be thrilled to help with your questions or concerns, but we don’t want this to be about us – we want it to be about writers helping other writers out.

The forum is pretty open. You can use it to:

  • Ask and answer questions
  • Promote your books/writing-related projects and blogs
  • Meet new literary friends
  • Post helpful information

All the bells and whistles (like a logo) may not be ready yet, but that doesn’t matter much, right? It’s the community that counts.

I hope you join us on Facebook. Just click here. Please tell your friends.