Be my guest …

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Today’s post is a bit of a shout out to all bloggers out there!  I’m on the hunt for a few friends to join me here on the blog at the end of November and I was wondering if that might be you?  Possibly?  Ok, read on …

1. Guest Post
Would you like to write a guest post to appear here on Frankly Books?  Awesome! It needs to be somehow related to self-publishing but other than that it is up to you.  You need to have your own blog for me to connect back to and I won’t be taking articles containing affiliate links.  I’ll even put an ad for your blog on my sidebar for the month of December.  Too easy!

2. Review copy of Ruby Marvellous
Do you write book reviews on your book?  I’m on the hunt for reviewers for Ruby Marvellous. I’m happy to send through either a paperback or a e-book copy for you, but you’ll need to have time to read and review it on your blog in Dec/Jan (and preferably on Amazon/Goodreads/etc too).

3. Book Blog Tour
Just like I did with the launch of Diary of a Penguin-napper, I’m really excited to announce a blog tour coming up for the last week of November/first week of December.  If you’d like me to drop by your blog (and provide a giveaway copy of Ruby Marvellous for your readers) then let me know!

If any of the above appeals to you, please don’t hesistate to drop me a line at sally [at] frankly-books.com and let me know what you’d be keen for. It’s going to be (ruby) marvellous!

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Twitter 101: What the #hashtag are hashtags?

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Being a writer can be a bit of a lonely business.  Or rather, it used to be before the advent of social media.  Now it is super easy to connect with writers all over the world through sites like Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.  Something I often talk about with writers (and also  in my other life as a teacher) is just how valuable Twitter is as a resource.

Twitter is regularly referred to as the ‘water cooler’ of the social media world and this is such a great analogy.  It is a brilliant place to gather share ideas about common interests, drive traffic to your blog and to learn a lot from other peoples’ suggestions and tips.  I definitely wouldn’t have sold the number of books that I have without Twitter and the resources that I have come across by interacting with people on there.

One of the best ways to come across new people to follow and information or ideas out there in the Twitter-sphere that may be of interest to you is through the use of hashtags.

 

What on earth are hashtags?

The best description for a hashtag is to think of it as a keyword with the # symbol at the front.  They can be at the beginning, middle or end of a Tweet.

 

Why should you use them?

There are three great reasons why you should think about using hashtags in your tweets:

  1.  It is a way of categorising or organise tweets and it helps them to show up more easily in a search.
  2. People who follow that particular hashtag may come across your tweet, enjoy it and follow you.  It also means that you can become part of a conversation that is centred around or connected to that keyword.
  3. Thirdly (and perhaps my favourite reason) is that they can be used cleverly to add humour to your Tweets. #ifyouarecleverenough

 

Compose first, hashtag after 

The most important part of your tweets is the content of the actual tweet, not the hashtags.  In fact, it is actually pretty irritating trying to read a tweet that is made up almost entirely of hashtags, particularly if it then doesn’t really make much sense.  My recommendation would be that you compose your tweet, add a link (if needed) and then add one or two relevant hashtags (again, if needed). Relevance is key!

 

And what are some good hashtags for writers?

To get you started, possibly the best and most commonly used hashtags are #amwriting and #amreading (to refer to when you are talking about your writing or reading).  For those interested in self-publishing, I recommend that you take a look at #selfpub and #indiepub.

There is also #ww for Writer Wednesday and #ff for Follow Friday (which is a great way of discovering new people to follow).

And if you write for children like me, don’t forget to check out #mglit, #kidlit and #kidlitchat as great hashtags to follow too.

So, today I’d like to know: what’s your favourite hashtag?

Planning your blog posts

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Now I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t exactly my strong point.  If you look back through my last six months worth of blog posts you will notice that they are just all over the place.  Lots here, then not too many.  Then consistent for a while.  Then chaos!

Now being more structured and organised with my blogging is something that I really want to achieve, not only for my own sanity and stress levels, but also because I think that consistent posts is a great way of building up a relationship with your readers (Hi there!) Plus, I believe that planning leads to better writing, which is pretty important when you are trying to market yourself as a writer. Go figure!  So I have been working on perfecting my blog planning skills over the last year and I’m definitely getting better at it (which is definitely good!)

I follow a variety of different bloggers and I’m always interested when they share the ways that they plan for their blog posts – particularly when they sometimes have multiple blog posts with loads of amazing images that go live on the same day.  (And on a side note, I always feel a bit robbed by bloggers like that because they’re either (a) full-time bloggers and so have time to be putting together lots of posts, (b) there are lots of people working on the same blog, or (c) they’re like an octopus with arms going everywhere to get things done!)

Today I want to share three different, but great  ideas to plan out your blog posts that I think are both really flexible and really practical (and hence, could really work for you!)

1. Elise Blaha and The Stendig Calendar

I absolutely love Elise’s blog (I know, I know – I say that all the time, but it is totally true!) and a while back I came across a post where she talks about how she plans out her blog content using a large Stendig calendar and mini post-it notes.  It is a pretty simple system and it is one that I’ve been wanting to try out for a while – but do you think I can find a Stendig calendar anywhere here in Australia?  Nope! So I kind of gave up on trying it as an idea.

When I was researching this post, I was reminded of Elise and her calendar and I decided that I still really wanted to try it out for myself.  So I printed off an A4 page with the numbers 1-30, another with 1-31 and a third with 1-28 on it and ran down to Officeworks where I blew them up to A3 size and bought some mini Post-It notes.  I took a quick photo of what I’m calling my faux Stendig this morning (and it is now the photo at the top of this post).  I’d suggest you read more about how she uses it.

I’m loving it so far because it is really flexible – I’ve planned out two months worth of posts, but because they’re on sticky notes I can move them around to come up with a combination that I’m really happy with.  The only kind of annoying thing is that I haven’t lined up the dates with any day of the week, so I’m constantly having to count on from the first page to work out the days of the week (as I’m aiming to post on Mon-Wed-Fri).  If I were to do this long-term, I’d totally have to buy a proper Stendig or take the time to make another faux one labelled with the right days and months.

2. Elsie and Emma  and their two-week whiteboard

I haven’t tried this one myself, but Elise & Emma over at A Beautiful Mess do make blog planning look easy with their marker board.  They’ve just bought a whiteboard and divided it into 14 sections (two rows of seven) with black tape, then used lettering to mark out the days of the week.  At their blogging meetings, they can then talk about what they are going to post about and where it is going to fit into the coming week.  A pretty simple idea and, again, very flexible – if something isn’t going to work out for whatever reason then just rub it out and put something else in their place.

I haven’t tried this one myself, but it looks well organised and function, both of which are important elements of whatever blog planning technique you choose.

3. My free blog planner

Back when I first launched Frankly Books, I made a blog planner to giveaway to new readers.  I still regularly use this blog planner to help me to plan out my blog posts and it is still really functional. What I’m thinking about doing in the future is to combine the weekly three posts aspect of the planner with Elise’s planner on the wall, as I really like to be able to see what is coming up without having to leave my desk or hunt around for my blog planning folder. You can watch this video to how it works and then download your free copy to make your own.

Have you got a tried and true method for planning your blog posts?  Share it now –  I’d love to hear from you!

Diary of a Penguin-napper has gone free!

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I’m pretty pleased to be able to be able to let you in on a poorly kept secret:  for the next 72 hours, Diary of a Penguin-napper will be available to download free as an e-book for your Kindle.  That’s April 1-3, 2013 and it’s totally free!  Think of it as an Easter present from me – just without being made of chocolate, or being a bunny shape, or wrapped in shiny paper, or having any connection to Easter at all.  Awesome!

Go and download yourself (or your kids!) a copy and I really hope that you enjoy it.  The kids might even laugh when reading it, making you the most awesome parent/teacher/godparent/generous stranger ever.

If you do read it and enjoy it,  please tell all of your friends to download it too.  And you could even leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads and share the love even further.

If you don’t enjoy it, please tell all of those friends that you don’t really like or your mortal enemies to get themselves a copy. Then everyone still wins!

Happy Easter everyone!  (Get it now!)

Can’t keep up? 3 ways to simplify marketing your novel

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When setting out to market your book, it is easy to get overwhelmed.  There are just so many different options and things to try:  Should you be on Facebook? Twitter? Have a newsletter? A blog? A book site?  Are you signed up to Goodreads? Library Thing? Is your book in your local independent bookstore? Local library?  Have you written a press release?  Contacted your local paper?  The list goes on and on!

1. Set achievable marketing goals.

If you’re a regular reader of my posts here at Frankly Books then you’ll know that I’m a massive goal setter.  I’ve always got something that I’m working to achieve in an aspect of my life (or usually several aspects at once! Here are my 2013 goals)  Setting yourself some goals can be a great way of making marketing manageable.

My goals, for example, are to try to update my Author Facebook page once a day, to tweet regularly and to aim to produce 2-3 blog posts a week.  These things don’t always happen, but they are what I am working towards achieving and they are manageable targets for me to try to hit.  In addition, I try to use at least one marketing idea that I haven’t tried yet each month, such as having a launch party, a giveaway, making a donation from book sales, that sort of thing.  It helps to keep things fresh, exciting and interesting!

If you are new to social media, you might decide to focus on mastering just one new tool every 6 months.  I’d suggest starting with getting an Author Facebook page up and running.  Just stick with that to begin with.  Then, you might add in an author website with a blog or you might join Twitter.  Practise balancing these two together for a while before adding in something else.  If you find that you’re not a fan of Facebook, then ditch it. There is no point carrying on wasting time with something that isn’t working for you!

2. Give yourself a daily or weekly time limit to spend on marketing.

It is very, very easy to get sucked in to spending hours and hours on book marketing.  It tends to go something like this.

– I’ll just update my Facebook page quickly.

– Oh look, someone has put a link to something mildly interesting on there. I’d better click on it.

– Hey, that reminds me. I was going to look up a baby site for girls names for a character in my next book.

– Harriet … no. Hattie … no. Oh Hermione.  Well I clearly can’t use that.  But that reminds me that I should pop by Pottermore and take a look.

And suddenly 2 hours of writing time have disappeared!

I suggest that you limit yourself to a maximum of 30 minutes per day.  During those precious minutes, you should aim to:

  • Post an update to your Author Facebook page
  • Fill your Buffer with interesting tweets
  • Reply to any book related emails
  • Jot down any ideas for blog posts that come to mind.

On Sundays, I give myself 2-3 hours to write and schedule my blog posts written for the week.  The amount of time this takes really depends on the ideas that I have jotted down and things that have happened during the week to inspire me.  Getting my posts at least mostly completed on Sundays (even though I might look at them and tweak them before posting during the week) has been a great way to free up writing time on week nights.

3. Use tools that enable you to work smarter, not harder.

One of the best tools that I was ever introduced to is Buffer.  It allows you to add tweets into a queue, which will then be tweeted at designated times later on.  This is fantastic for two reasons:  Firstly, if you come across something interested whilst you are browsing the web, then you can add it to your Buffer as a tweet right away and secondly, you can schedule your tweets to appear on Twitter at a time when people are most likely to read them.  I’m based in Australia and if you look at my tweets, you might think that I’m up at 3am tweeting to people in the US or UK.  I’m not, it is Buffer doing the hard work for me!  You can even use Buffer to send updates to your Facebook page too.

Using the scheduling function when you are blogging is another clever way to keep things ticking over.  As I mentioned earlier, often I’ll schedule 2-3 blog posts on a Sunday and these will then appear later in the week.  Sure, I could log in to my computer at 8am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to click post, but this way, I don’t have to.  It might only save me 10 minutes, but even those few minutes over the course of a week quickly add up!

What tips do you have for other writers when it comes to not letting marketing your novel take over your life?

Three ‘must have’ promotional items for authors

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There are lots of different promotional materials available for writers out there and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming knowing what (if anything) to choose.  When I first started out, my budget was much tighter and I decided to spend very little on promotional materials.  I made my own cheaply printed business cards and had some postcards printed. That was it.

Now, a few months down the track and with book sales still steady, I’ve recently decided to dabble in some additional promotional items and these are my current ‘must haves’ for any writer:

1. Business Cards

I’m in the habit of always carrying around a copy of my book, just in case.  Last weekend, I managed to sell 5 paperback copies to friends at a wedding, purely because I had them with me in my suitcase.  For those times that you don’t have a book with you, business cards are a great alternative. My first business cards were just designed on my computer and then just printed onto stiff card, which is a great cheap alternative.  Having used all of those up, I decided that it was time to step up and get some professionally made ones.

These little beauties were made by Moo.com and I’m absolutely in love with them.  The colours are even more vivid than what you can see and the colours work in really well with the colours that I’ve chosen for the new Frankly Books look.  They’re matt with rounded corners and are totally memorable, which is important.  I’ve already been using these when dropping samples of my book into bookshops for them to consider stocking it.

2. Postcards

When Diary of a Penguin-napper first came out, I went to Vistaprint and got 50 postcards with the cover of the book printed on one side and blank on the reverse side.  All I paid for was the cost to upload my design and the postage (which came to around $15 altogether).  Having them blank on the back meant that I could print a variety of different things onto them at home.  I’ve used them as ‘Thank you’ cards when I’ve sent ARC copies of the book  or to give people who have helped me along the way. I’ve printed the blurb and other information onto them to giveaway at bookshops, plus I always put one onto the fridges of people I know when I go to visit.

3. Bookmarks

These are pretty much a no-brainer as far as writers are concerned.  They’re a great promo – particularly for middle grade authors as kids just love them and are sure to use them.  I’m yet to find a place to get these printed for a reasonable price in Australia, but they’re on my list of things to get.  What gives the postcards the slight advantage over the bookmark is that you don’t need to get a special long design made up to print them – you can just print your book cover onto the postcard without any modification.

Bonus inclusion: My ‘Signed by …’ stickers

I used to think that these were a bit of a luxury item, but they’ve recently moved up in my opinion.  Why?  Well I’ve discovered that people *love* signed copies of books and that they’re definitely more enthusiastic about buying a book if they know that you’ll autograph it for them.  I am yet to discover if this leads to more bookshop sales (with people picking up my book because it is a signed copy), but I’m going to be adding these stickers to all copies that I sign from now on and I’ll let you know how to get on!  These stickers are also from Moo.com and I got them in four different colours – not because I’m indecisive but rather because I’m not sure what colour my next book cover will be and I wanted to ensure that I had some to match (whatever colour it ends up!)

These are my current picks. What are your favourite promotional materials?  Have you tried anything really unique and special to capture the attention of your readers?  What are your ‘must have’ promotional materials?

How to get your book into a bookshop

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So the exciting news that I have to share with you this week is that Diary of a Penguin-napper is now available in a bookshop!  Yep – you can now buy a signed copy from BookTalk in Richmond, Victoria (Australia, for those of you reading this abroad).

Back in October, 2012, I talked about setting goals for self-publishing and one of the four categories in which I set myself a goal was called “Pinch me! I’m dreaming!”  To have my book available in a local, independent bookshop was my goal in this category and I’m totally over-the-moon delighted to have achieved it.  When I got the phone call from the manager at BookTalk telling me that he’d be interested in stocking my book, I seriously had to pinch myself to ensure that I wasn’t dreaming! (And I didn’t stop smiling for about a week afterwards!)

So, how did I do it? (And more importantly, how can you do it?)

Well, the very first time I tried to get my book into a store, it was a total disaster. I’m not going to lie. It was A-W-F-U-L. Going in and selling myself and my book is something that absolutely doesn’t come naturally to me. Before I visited BookTalk, I tried another bookshop first.  Although I thought I was prepared, I ended up getting absolutely nervous and tongue-tied when I got in there. I essentially flung the book in the direction of the manager and dashed out of there as fast as possible.  No surprises that I have never heard from them again.

You don’t want to do that.  After that experience (and once my hands had stopped shaking and my face had returned to its normal colour) I sat down and thought about what went wrong and what I could do to prevent that happening on my next  attempt. I decided that I needed to take a bit of a boy scout approach and be uber uber prepared.

Step 1. Be prepared to do your homework.

Before you stroll into a bookshop and expect them to take a copy of your book, you really need to do your homework.  Do they sell self-published books?  Do they sell books of your genre?  Who does the stock ordering? Who is the manager? When are they open? Make sure you go to the bookshop of your choice before you decide you’d like to pitch their book to them and have a really good look.  You want to make sure your book would look at home there before you try to get them to stock it.

BookTalk had been my local store for a number of years and I love it!  They sell a lot of secondhand books (and buy back ones that you’ve finished reading). Plus they’d let me sip on a chai latte whilst writing early drafts of Penguin-napper.  It is just fabulous and I made sure that I told them how much I loved the shop when I went in.

Step 2. Be prepared to have to do some explaining.

When I first took my book into the store, I explained a bit about myself as a local writer and my book to the store assistants and asked them who I would need to speak to about my book.  They told me the manager’s name and when he would be available to see me.  I ended up having to come back later that afternoon to speak with him and even then, the store was so busy that he didn’t have a chance to meet with me right then.  Luckily, I had a promotional postcard, a business card and a copy of my book with me to leave for him to take a look at later.

I had to rehearse at home what I wanted to say and I took serious time thinking about the kinds of questions that they might ask me. I wanted to appear confident in all of my answers.  And smiling a lot helped.

Step 3. Be prepared to leave a copy.

Seriously.  It is unlikely that a bookshop will stock your book without being able to take a look at it first, particularly if it is a self-published work.  I know if I owned a bookshop, I’d want to make sure the quality of your book was up to scratch before I agreed to stock it.  When you go in, take a copy of your book (along with something that has your contact details on it) to give to the owner.  It’s the best advertisement for you and your book.  Think of this free copy as an investment.

Step 4. Be prepared to wait for a response.

After leaving my card, postcard and book with the manager, I then had to make myself wait.  Let me tell you, it was really tough!  I totally wanted to call back the next day. I ended up waiting a month before I allowed myself back into the store and left my number with the store assistants, asking the manager to get in touch with me.  He then called the next day, told me that he thought the book was really funny and asked for an order.

If I’d called back the next day, I would have just been annoying staff in a busy store and it is important to allow time for them to look over your book.  That said, don’t leave it too much longer than a month before getting back in touch.

Step 5. Be prepared to leave your books on consignment.

When I took the order of books into the store, I took in an invoice.  If you use a Mac, you can easily make a professional looking invoice using Pages and I’m sure there is a way to do something similar on a PC (Publisher, perhaps?)  The invoice included:

  • My contact details
  • The order details (Number of books x Cost per book = Total)
  • Information about how to pay the invoice and a date by which it needs to be paid.  On that same date, the rest of the consignment will be collected if they don’t sell.  I also give my phone number again in this section, just in case they’d like to order more books.

Keep in mind that  bookshops buy their books at around 45% of the RRP, so you need to price your books accordingly for the bookshop to be interested.  I make a tiny margin on my books sold through the bookshop, but I still make something and that is important too.

Step 6. Be prepared to do a little dance.

Yep!  If you get your book into a shop, it is a fantastic achievement and you should definitely celebrate. Get your groove on right now please.

The day after I delivered the books, I was going out for dinner on the same street as the bookshop.  I couldn’t help but look in the window and I could actually see it on the shelf!  If you look carefully, you’ll be able to see it in the slightly blurry picture above (taken through the shop window at night). Looking at this picture, as poor quality as it is, makes me go “Whoopwhoopwhoopwhoop!” inside.

So, is your book in a physical store?  Would you want it to be? How did you get it there? And did you do a little dance about it?