ACTRESS AND FORMER NBC PRODUCER SHARES AN INSIGHTFUL Q&A ON SUCCESSFULLY BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT AUTHOR

As a book cover designer and illustrator, I have the privilege to meet and work with countless authors and talents. One of my clients, former journalist, Ginger Marin, sat down with me, and shared some of her insights in becoming an author, her goals and of course the importance of branding.

Here are five questions I asked Ginger that I’m sure will inspire many authors out there!

  1. How (and why) did you choose your style of writing for the Adventures in Avalon?

I’m a former TV news journalist and currently an actor. Overall, my left analytical brain is fairly well balanced with my right creative brain. But I’m happy to report that as a fiction writer, I’ve successfully tipped the scales to the right. Years ago I had an idea for an animated TV show about the crazy capers of a small town police department. I even went so far as to write three episodes. But getting them into the hands of Hollywood agents and producers proved difficult so I decided to go another route and turn the tales into a book series. But a single TV episode is too short for one book and I really wanted to keep the dialogue largely intact. So, I decided I needed a vehicle to tie my crazy detective tales together. I then had the idea of creating my Ginger character, a reporter who gets stranded in a community of cartoon people. That way I could report on the community as a journalist might but fit the commentary to the realm of this fictionalized place and, by extension, also be able to comment on the absurdities of the real world, yet in a very humorous fashion. I think my detective tales then slip in nicely because their world is as nuts as ours.

  1.       What do you want to achieve with your books?

My style in “Adventures in Avalon” is a mixed genre. It’s an animated TV show in book form as far as the detective tales are concerned but it’s satire when my Ginger character speaks. I love writing in first person and for this book I loved writing very simply. I think Ginger’s voice meshes completely with the simplicity of the other characters. The subtitle of my book is “An Offbeat & Quirky Adult Bedtime Story”. If there’s one thing I want to achieve, other than success, it’s giving adults a chance to straddle the space between reality and downright silliness. I want to put smiles on people’s faces. Of course, that’s what I want to do with this book series as it develops. Beyond that, as I tackle other topics, I’d like to make people think about our world and the ramifications of our actions.

  1.       The feedback/success you’ve experienced thus far

“Adventures in Avalon” is my first solo book but I’ve been writing in one form or another since around the age of twelve. I worked at NBC News for eighteen years then moved to Los Angeles to act and write. I’m certainly not the first person to say it’s tough making it in this town. But each time I get involved in a project, acting or writing, it turns into a wonderful learning experience. Last year I helped a friend write his memoir, a much darker subject about his time as a subcontractor for the CIA. It was his project, in fact, that gave me the impetus to turn my own thoughts into published books. I have a nonfiction nearly ready for publication then it’s back to fiction. Next up is a collection of short stories for children. The feedback I’ve received for my work has been terrific. Success takes time, though. So even if it’s just one smile at a time, I’m okay with that.

  1.       Why it’s important to build yourself as a brand?

We live in a world that’s overcrowded on every level with people and things. The competition is astounding and it grows with each passing year. It takes time and effort but it’s absolutely essential to build a brand to get noticed above the fray. Decide who you are, what you want to say and then move full speed ahead.

  1.       Why will you keep doing what you’re doing with your books?

There’s a wonderful quote by artist Andy Warhol that is now my mantra. He said “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

And this is why I love my job – meeting clients like Ginger, and working with them to achieve the covers they deserve – and setting standards for branding in a very competitive market.

 Happy writing everyone!

 “Adventures in Avalon” is available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Avalon-Offbeat-Quirky-Bedtime-ebook/dp/B01HFTVELMie=UTF8&qid=1466981451&ref_=la_B00V7EDT24_1_2&s=books&sr=1-2

AdventuresInAvalon_MEDIUM

About the Author of this Article: Jeanine Henning (Twitter: @JenVinci)

Jeanine’s extensive professional background includes 17 years’ experience in cover design, children’s book illustration and publication, comic book publishing and editing, console game design, and writing. She has worked with editors, authors and artists on many continents over the span of her career, adding to her diversity and flexibility as artist and designer. Jeanine still works closely with traditional publishers on cover and book art.

For more information on Jeanine’s background and testimonials, visit her site at: www.jeaninehenning.com and author testimonials at:

https://jhillustration.wordpress.com/author-testimonials/

Click here to visit JH Illustration website now to learn more and find lots of sample covers.

 

EVOLVE AND FIND YOUR READERS: The game has changed, and so must you

We’re well into 2015 and the year is booming with new authors and books. Already my schedule is filled with authors pushing out manuscripts and setting publication dates with cover design briefs. I can honestly say I am overjoyed to experience this level of professionalism among authors!

So imagine my surprise recently when I heard that there are still readers out there who do not know HOW to find or choose indie books. This was very concerning as by now indie publishing should be a norm. Right?

I was having a chat with copywriters who work for big marketing companies when the topic of eBooks came up. One of the copywriters is an avid reader, and had just made the big leap from her beloved printed books to a Kindle she’d received for Christmas. I of course asked her if she’d read any indie books lately. And she said – no.

Why not?

Turns out, she really wants to support indies – but didn’t know how to find an indie author she’d like in a sea of hundreds of thousands. Then, she asked me how to find indie authors she’d like.

And that’s when I realised something: HOW do you reach that new eBook reader, who wants to find your book? It is clear that just Tweeting and Facebooking is not enough anymore. These are excellent tools, but, indies need to branch out.

Being an indie in 2015 and going onward is fantastic. We have access to potentially 1 billion readers out there thanks to smartphones, tablets and e-readers. Social media has made marketing so much easier and we literally have a global market at our finger tips.

But, there is a new reality to this industry:

  • E-reader sales have begun declining. A balance between traditional printed books and the e-reader is establishing itself, but e-readers aren’t flying off the shelves like they used to.
  • Some indies report that their sales with Amazon have declined since the introduction of Amazon Unlimited. For just $9.99 Amazon offers its customers 700 000 free eBooks. Most of these are supplied by indies. So now Amazon customers have 700 000 reasons NOT to go looking for your individual book and pay for it.

See why it just became more difficult for that new Kindle reader to find her authors?

This is EXACTLY why writers should not shrivel away from ‘statistics’ but rather embrace this new phase in the indie publishing industry. THIS is how business works. Trends come and go. Stats rise and fall. Right now authors need to switch on their business idea lamps.

There are hundreds of apps, links and tips available to authors for book promotion. BUT, the vital part of navigating towards successful marketing – starts with the author’s own evolution and idea expansion:

  1. Release your book on more than one platform

Avoid limiting your own audience! There is a whole world out there with space for your book. If you’re sticking to just (for example) Kindle, you’re missing out on Kobo, B&N, iBooks, Smashwords, audiobooks, Oyster and a whole bunch of libraries that want to offer indie books on their shelves. Remember that even if you have a handful of sales per e-reader – the numbers still add up!

  1. Quality book = word of mouth

This is a marketing tip you will find everywhere – because it is truly powerful. It is up to YOU as author to make sure you write a book that appeals to people’s emotional experience. This includes presenting a book with a fantastic cover, clean edited manuscript and a great ending befitting the story. Your reader, having been moved by your creation, will tell every other reader he or she knows about your book on every possible social media platform, and even at the dinner table.

  1. Be patient as a creator. Be a storyteller

Literally. Become patient as a writer. Hone your craft. Polish that book. Reread and rewrite until that book is great. Learn from mistakes, embrace the criticism and enjoy the feedback. Then write the next book and make that one excellent. EMBRACE the essence of being a writer. Writing is an explorative journey. If an author chases the buck instead of the story, unfortunately, it will show in the book.  After all, that’s what you are – a storyteller. Always be aware of ‘how’ you want your reader to feel while they’re experiencing your story. If you give them an awesome experience, they will come back for every book you write.

  1. 30 second sale? Nope. You’ve got 5 seconds now!

A few years ago, sales and marketing presenters all believed in the holy 30 Second Sale. These days, you barely have 10 seconds to sell anything to anyone. We’re in an iBrowseFast #hashtag #youmissedit society where people hastily flick their screens, pausing ONLY when something exceptionally appealing catches their eye. YOUR book cover has to be exceptional. Among a sea of covers, yours must capture the browser’s eye in 5 seconds and less. The cover is your voice saying “Hey! Look at me! I’m more intriguing than the book next to me!” And after that – your story premise must be so well written and polished that the author won’t hesitate another second to CLICK and buy.

  1. Mingle with other authors – partner up with box-sets

This is such a fun collaborative option. Quite a few indies, and even indie publishers, box-set a series of individual authors’ books, offering the reader 5 to 10 different authors in one set. This whole process offers so much cross-marketing, fan-base exposure and diversity, not only to the author partners, but also the readers. Plus, it is FUN. As an indie author it is your privilege to have FUN while getting your hard work out there!

Conclusion

There isn’t a lack of marketing strategies and channels, at all. There are MORE than enough apps and media sites to help you along. It is just a question of HOW you position your book and yourself in those channels. The industry WILL change as we go forward. It’s up to you to keep up, and remain adaptable to navigate very exciting times ahead.

So how will all these tips get your book to the copywriter I met? By being exceptional, polished, professionally packaged and consistently marketed by you. Evolve, grow, never give up, keep learning and ENJOY this next phase in indie publishing 🙂

About the Author of this Article: Jeanine Henning (Twitter: @JenVinci)

Jeanine’s extensive professional background includes 17 years’ experience in cover design, children’s book illustration and publication, comic book publishing and editing, console game design, and writing. She has worked with editors, authors and artists on many continents over the span of her career, adding to her diversity and flexibility as artist and designer. Jeanine still works closely with traditional publishers on cover and book art.

For more information on Jeanine’s background and testimonials, visit her site at: www.jeaninehenning.com and author testimonials at:https://jhillustration.wordpress.com/author-testimonials/

 

WHY YOU MUST TREAT YOUR EBOOK AS YOUR READER’S FIRST DATE: When considering whether to edit, or not to edit. Plus 11 Editing Tips!

The First Date

Imagine now. You’re on a first date. You want to be impressive, witty, clever and intelligent. Let’s face it, first impressions do count. Your hair is styled and you’ve shaved whatever needs to be shaved. You’re wearing your best shirt. You’re feeling sexy. You are ready. But as you look down…

… You’re not wearing any pants.

Visualize, now, how your date must react and feel? Maybe awkwardly. Definitely let down!

Now, imagine, how a reader must feel, when they buy your (unedited) book. You used a clever synopsis to lure them as a pick up line. Even paid to get a decent cover designed (if not, you should!). Your Kindle price is an attractive $5.99 and the POD is $13.99.

Charmed by your prices and allure, your reader goes out on a limb and says yes to your book. But when they start reading, what do they get? Badly edited content – like you without pants on your first date. That is very disappointing for the reader. And you know what? That reader will not easily say yes to your books again.

This may be a long analogy to reach a simple point. And that point is this: if you want to be taken seriously, now, as an independent author, the time of getting away with not editing is long over!

Say yes to Editing

Ebooks have been available for years now, and indie publishing is a thriving industry. Readers have begun to trust indie books! Many indie authors are selling books for more than the traditional $0.99.

In fact, personally, I like to buy an indie book that is over $7.99 because that says to me: the author invested in an editor and cover designer, and maybe a formatter too. That means I get a quality novel – on par with a traditionally published book – for my $7.99 or more.

When a reader buys your book, they are not just investing their money. They are also devoting their time on YOU because they have a need for escape and entertainment. They are trusting the book they purchased from you to fill that need. Now, if your book is badly edited, you are not fulfilling anyone’s needs. It only creates disappointment and annoyance.

All that said – yes – editing can be expensive. However, there is an editor for every author out there. You just have to find the right one that matches your budget and requirement. And as I have repeated many times over – an author simply cannot avoid getting a decent cover designer and editor anymore. Books ARE often bought based on cover design, and reviews ARE written about editing and bad grammar.

Here are 11 Useful Editing Tips for you as author to use

Before approaching an editor, you can make his/her work easier and your budget lighter by applying these 11 tips first before submitting your manuscript:

1.   Be consistent

Retain consistency while writing. Avoid losing track of minor plot details, character details and even time lines. Readers do notice small detail or plot mistakes.

2.   Use simple grammar

The correct use of the period and comma use is a very common mistake in dialogue writing. Also, keep your grammar simple as most authors are not grammar experts, but neither are most readers. However, readers notice and do mention it on reviews!

3.   Formatting

This is so important. Polish your book. Add formatted titles, subtitles, text font and an index (for eBooks). This is the ‘dressing up’ part of editing and presenting your book, and readers do appreciate it.

4.   Narrative arc

These are the simplest of basics that indies get wrong. A story must have a: Beginning. Middle. End. Have the end goal posts in mind when you start the book and be sure to flesh out the middle without giving away the end too soon.

5.   Tense usage

Choose a tense and stick with it. Past-to-present/present-to-past happens easily. Be aware and avoid confusing your readers as it makes reading choppy and unpleasant.

6.   Read out loud

Read your text out loud. Especially dialogue! This helps catch mistakes and sentences that don’t flow. And you can ‘hear’ your characters’ voices and tweak where needed.

7.   Proofreader(s)

It’s fine to ask family and friends. But find someone who can give you objective and constructive feedback. You will need fresh eyes after months of creating this written world of yours.

8.   And then some more feedback

Accept feedback – even if critical. By now you’re in love with your book, and will need an objective point of view to catch inconsistencies and fix plot mistakes. Don’t just fix input where you want to, really consider all the feedback that you receive.

9.   Cut out dead chunks

This is a very hard thing to do – but so vital. Read through every paragraph, and ask yourself “do I need this?” Sometimes authors go into over-explanation and over-writing. It’s not needed anymore in modern literature. If you can master the question of “do I need this?” and implement it – you are doing yourself, your editor and your reader a huge favour.

10.   Line-by-line reading

You’ve completed all 9 points above. Now, start all over again. Read the novel line-by-line. You will be surprised at how many small mistakes you catch, and how many paragraphs you can polish to flow even better.

11.   SHOW DON’T TELL

This is the golden tip of all. This tip can make a manuscript come alive and immerse a reader into a vibrant world. Show Don’t Tell is where you as author cleverly use dialogue and narrative to pull the reader into your characters’ worlds. And this is what will have readers coming back for more, again and again.

You can read a super informative article about the 11 tips above, especially Show Don’t Tell – plus so much more – here: http://bubblecow.com/editing-your-own-book-the-top-ten-book-editing-tips

To summarize, independent publishing is a serious money-making industry now. The more you invest, the more you will see returned. So dress up your book, and woo your readers into becoming devoted fans J

Thank you for reading, and happy writing!

Jeanine Henning

Twitter: @JenVinci

 

Drakiie - Jen Mascot

 

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF… YOU DID PUBLISH YOUR EBOOK?

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF… YOU DID PUBLISH YOUR EBOOK?

Three things might happen;

First, you’ll definitely be published. That already is a positive motivator! Second, people will read your book! An even better incentive! And thirdly-

… You may even find your way to a book deal.

For many indie authors, this seems either less or more real, depending on their experiences. We all read the articles about the now famous former indie authors who have signed book deals worth millions. In reality, there were few of these authors who have inspired thousands to publish with Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo etc. However, note I used “there were few”.

Regardless of some anti-indie propaganda and online bubble bursting, this trend is changing.

My very own client, Paul Pilkington, has just signed a fantastic 3 book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. These books feature his extraordinary mystery suspense trilogy featuring Emma Holden, and will be distributed in the UK as well as other countries. Paul will continue self publishing though, which means his already 2.2 million downloaded book prestige will just be growing.

So, why not keep publishing those eBooks?

Some now infamous books and authors have been rejected in the past:

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J K Rowling (feedback was: “far too long for a children’s book”)
  • Carrie, Stephen King (feedback was: “genre doesn’t sell”)
  • The Ginger Man, JP Donleavy (feedback was: “too risque”)
  • Animal Farm, George Orwell (feedback was: “too controversial, won’t sell”)
  • Lord of the Flies, William Golding (feedback was: “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy”)

And all these books were before the advent of eBook publishing. These authors kept writing, and eventually, found their success.

Now, look at eBook statistics:

US UK Online Book Sales

See how that blue block is growing in 2012 already? Indies are taking a bigger and bigger chunk of the book selling pie.

So. Maybe the question shouldn’t be “what would happen if you did publish your eBook”. I think the question is “what’s taking you so long?”

To read about how Paul got his book deal, as well as a few tips on self publishing, follow this link to the article featured on BBC online:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23682885

Happy writing everyone!

Jeanine

Image Source: BBC News & Ass. of American Publishers and Nielsen

Rejected Books Source: BBC News

THE OTHER 4 TIPS FOR AUTHORS: Tips many may practice, but won’t admit to doing.

THE OTHER 4 TIPS FOR AUTHORS: Tips many may practice, but won’t admit to doing.

The internet is overflowing with marketing and sales tips for independent authors. Some of it is daunting when you read an indie’s blog about how he or she used social media and SEO to boost sales by 4,000 to 6,000 a day. Or downloads exceeding 100 000! My client, Paul Pilkington, for whom I have had the honor of doing 5 covers so far, has a trilogy out that has now exceeded 2 MILLION downloads! In his case, his books are GOOD. His fan base built itself. But each author is unique however.

Another client, Kim Hornsby, released her book on Amazon. Sales and downloads could have been better. So we did a cover redesign, she placed her book in the KINDLE SELECT program and overnight it went to #15 in Kindle Free, #4 in Romantic Suspense and #1 in Ghosts. She had over 7,000 downloads in about 12 hours! Plus, she works VERY hard at her promotions.

So, here we’re not going to discuss ‘normal’ marketing tips for writers. There are MORE than enough out there and I am sure you need fresh thoughts rather than strategies alone. Let’s look at THE OTHER 4 TIPS for authors, tips many may practice, but won’t admit to doing 🙂

1.  Talk about your book to EVERYONE.

Even the grocer. Dog walker. Random dude or girl at gym. Guy in the beer queue behind you. Every single author client I have has told me how they sold books just by showing off a new cover design to some random person or family member, who then tell other people, who then tell more people. WOM: word of mouth. STILL one of the most powerful marketing tools. So yes – blab! Mention you’re an author to EVERYONE you meet. Drop your book’s name, and -> get the person’s email address so that you can email them the link for your book’s release, and the book after that 🙂

2.  Speaking of beer… Combine your book with product.

This happens in the big commercial world every day where brands and stars merge to sell and promote. If you have a friend who is into craft brewing, or has a beauty salon, an art gallery, or custom clothes, coffee shop or whatever the product or service may be – why not combine promotions with them? The awesome thing about independent publishing is – THERE ARE NO CONTRACTS that bind you w.r.t marketing! In return you can name their brand in your book, or promote them on your advertising pages. Whatever the deal – cross promotion is awesome. Other blogs say authors should promote authors. Great. But many then promote authors to authors. You want READERS. My author client, Dan H. Kind, his book features beer. A lot! While designing his cover – I DRANK CRAFT BEER and loved it! My one friend is a craft brewer, and guess what – he downloaded Dan’s book. Just because of beer 😉

3.  DO give your social pages swag.

Yes OK so we said no normal marketing talk. This isn’t normal marketing talk though. It’s superficial but important. Before you pay for the Facebook ad campaigns, make sure your Facebook and Twitter page headers are congruent with either you as author, or the book(s) you are promoting. Avoid using low res images or images that have NOTHING to do with your book or you. More and more authors are now paying that extra $20 to get 2 Facebook banner variants, and a Twitter header. It looks GOOD. It looks professional. It adds to your marketing campaign and cover reveal. And yes, let’s say it – it is indie swag and we love it ‘cos we can!

4.  Authors…for creative sanity:

DO get out the house when you can. Go sit in a coffee shop. A bar. A park. Somewhere where you can tap into yourself and wherever that creative gift core of yours is located. I think, we authors need to be more selfish sometimes. Yes. I said it. We need to be more selfish with our time and space. Because we are the storytellers that make people buy Kindles, download books, go into book shops and have something to keep them entertained with new worlds and characters. Too often indies put their writing time aside for ‘social’ purposes or expectations. So let this be the devil’s advocate in saying: go to your favourite coffee shop. Disappear for an hour. Or two. And WRITE! It’s your gift, and your right to write.

Thank you for reading, and happy writing!

Jeanine Henning

Twitter: @JenVinci