Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Google Keywords and Insights - Valuable Tools For Indie Writers!

Every once in a while, I have to admit I'll buy those certain self-help books. You probably know the kind I'm talking about. They're the kind of books geared specifically toward people who have the dream of writing, of being a best-selling Kindle author like Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, J.A. Konrath, etc., and every single one of those books purport to tell you how to get there, how to rise to the top, and how to successfully market your book.

Of course, there is no blueprint path to success. Well okay, there is a blueprint, but it's largely dependent on how you build the house and use the materials that counts.

That's not to say that none of those "how to be successful!" books contain important advice, because many of them do. I have one on my Kindle written by H.P. Mallory herself, entitled Quit Your Day Job: A Guide for the Self-Published Author, in which she explains all the various starting points we all are pretty much aware of. You must have a Facebook, a Twitter, a personal blog, professional-looking books and covers, and perhaps the hardest rule to master: use tag words appropriately.

Now that sounds pretty simple and straightforward, right? Not necessarily.

I know this for a fact, because I've changed my keywords many times with varying results until I started to finally get steady sales. Now I am by no means an expert on this, nor have I sold loads of books myself. What I have learned, however, is that keywords themselves are crucial, as are the keywords you can assign to your book on the Amazon product page for people to agree with. If more people start agreeing on the tags, your book has greater chances of getting noticed. The catch is, you only have so many ways to really get this right. The better side? You have an infinite number of chances to do so.

First, let's look at Amazon KDP. You are able to choose up to 7 keywords to help direct people to your book. On the product page, you can use up to 15 under the "Tags Customers Associate with This Product" section. Of course the question we all have to ask ourselves is, "How should I tag my book?". It sounds like a simple question, right? Not always. Here's an example:

My book Blue Car Racer is currently tagged with the following: teen, gay, domestic violence, abuse, high school, adolescence, young adult. These are all simple terms of course, and my trial/error method of getting to them wasn't easy.

Now here's the tricky part. Should I be tagging it "domestic abuse" or "domestic violence"? They almost mean the same thing. "Gay" or "homosexual"? Should I even be tagging it as "gay", being that it's more of a minor theme in the book? Should I use broad search terms or more targeted ones?

Thankfully, you can dispense with the headache for a bit, because Google provides two extremely helpful (if underrated) tools that can aid you in placing all the pieces right in this horrendous puzzle called self-publishing. They may not guarantee you success, but they will pave a path to figuring out how to be successful, and trust me...in the end, you'll find yourself putting down that self-help book of advice, because there's more than one way to be successful. I haven't seen any indie author that used the same straight-cut formula to become successful. We all should use the same basic tools, but it involves a lot of trial and error.

That said, here's one of the things H.P. Mallory suggests in her book on the section about tag words.

Google Keyword Tool - This tool can be used to type in your tag words, and a list will pop up telling you how popular those search terms are. It even suggests other keyword ideas for you, and gives stats on global and local monthly searches using your terms as well as highlighting the competition level for each. The more you can use that fit your book and preferably are rated low under the competition column, the better. Try to use both specifically-targeted as well as more broad keywords.

Google Insights - What this one does is a bit similar, but this is for after you've compiled your list of keywords. Basically, you can type each one into the search field and filter results for the category, location, and any period of time ranging from 2004 up until the current month. What then pops up is a graph that shows you the popularity of the term over the period of time you specified. It also breaks it down into regional interest and top searches using the term.

I haven't exactly tried this method yet, but in my opinion, these tools can really help if you're confused about how to tag your books, and I frequently am.

Before you try all this though, here's a few good books I recommend that have helped me along the way:

- The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey
- Quit Your Day Job: A Guide for The Self-Published Author
- Social Media Marketing for Writers

Good luck and happy marketing =)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My book "Blue Car Racer" made it to ABNA semi-finals!!

So I know I don't write enough on here, but usually I'm so swamped with work and trying in vain to squeeze out bits of writing I'll actually be satisfied with lately, I either don't have the time...or I forget about Blogger completely. Sometimes I do that, and it's admittedly not something I'm proud of.

However, this time I do actually have some good news! I feel like such a cheapskate for copying this from my Tumblr, but unfortunately I use that much more than my blog here because Tumblr is simply more entertaining and easier to use. Sorry, Blogger =/ I don't think I even mentioned that I entered my book Blue Car Racer into Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (ABNA), but I did. And I'm increasingly glad I did, because I'm now one of 50 semifinalists culled from 1,000 manuscripts in the Young Adult category, and this is only my first year doing this. In case you don't know, the winner of the contest gets a publishing contract with Penguin Books and a $15,000 advance against future royalties. I'm sure those with bad experience in traditional publishing would balk and/or question such a deal, but for where I'm at in my life right now, this would really be a blessing.

Admittedly, I decided to give it a shot based on a whim. So I spent a whole morning crafting my pitch and perfecting things as much as I could, and I'm surprised I actually made it this far in the contest. My family tells me I shouldn't be because they think my writing is amazing, but of course I generally disagree. I never thought Blue Car Racer was a particularly strong manuscript, though I'm glad some people believe otherwise. It's really given me renewed confidence in myself =) Anyway, I'll just cut to the chase now and let you read my re-post from Tumblr.

I’ve honestly never felt so blessed in my life. During this contest, at the end of which the winner receives a publishing deal with Penguin Books and a $15,000 advance, I’ve been both nervous and excited, as well as feeling somewhat unworthy of such praise. But I’m extremely proud of myself for taking this chance, and I just want to say the following.

To those who have made the cut, congratulations and I wish you the best of luck. To those who didn’t, please don’t give up on your literary dreams! The opinions of one critic may differ quite substantially from another, so keep doing your very best and I have faith that you’ll get to where you want to be. You owe it to yourself to never give up =) And I fully intend on reading some of the novels that didn’t make it. You all have so much talent. Please keep writing, and I’ll definitely be reading!

And now, I want to share with everyone the Publishers Weekly review of my manuscript:

“Few young adult novels manage to convey an adult sense of the contradictions of the real world while remaining grounded in a teenage sensibility, but this manuscript accomplishes this delicate feat with skill and plausibility. Colin Dirk’s first day of high school recalls the sting of being an outsider during adolescence. Hounded by the class bully, Aaron Kinkirk, Aaron’s half-brother, Luke, and buddies Eric, Jonny, and Matt, Colin is wondering how he is going to survive the year. Then, unexpectedly, Eric, his former tormentor, defies Aaron and seeks to befriend Colin. Up to this point, Colin’s only friends are the memory of his dead father, a soldier killed in Iraq, the blue Hot Wheels car that was his father’s last gift to him, his mother, and the occasional sympathetic teacher. Colin is excited and needy, but wary. Why him? The answer that plays itself out over the next 300 pages is as complicated and incestuous as life in a small working class town in Montana can be. Colin’s world is fully realized in this novel, and by the time the reader completes Colin’s bus ride to school he has the full sense of being trapped by youth and circumstance. Colin’s days are a maze of evading bullies, teachers, and school administrators. Colin’s tormentors also have tangled private lives, which provoke them to sadistic acts worthy of the “Lord of the Flies,” and yet these are performed almost reluctantly in a desperate attempt to rid themselves of their demons. Nicely done.”

I’m so excited! Even if I don’t make it, I’m definitely not quitting what I love to do, and I certainly won’t be disappointed. I’ve come a long way, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

So have the rest of you, for that matter. We take a risk in putting our work out there for people to read, but just having that courage makes you strong.

Again, all the best of luck to everyone. Never stop sharing your stories, hearts, and minds with the world =)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

LAST DAY to get "The Orphaned Ones" FREE for your Kindle!!

So the past few days have been great and so far as of now, 505 people have downloaded my book!!

You can check it out here: http://t.co/qOFCKolN

It's a vampire novel set in World War II in case you haven't caught my previous posts about it. There's no romance or sappy teenage angst, just a lot of suspense and most importantly, it's a horror novel.

Anyways, definitely go check it out, I'd really appreciate it.

Everyone have a great day and Happy Leap Year!!

And if you have anything you've written or that you want me to read, put it in my comments. I'm always looking for new stuff, especially if you're a fellow indie author =)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Free Kindle ebook giveaway - The Orphaned Ones

As a promotion, I'm making the first book of my vampire horror series "The Orphaned Ones" available completely FREE from tomorrow (2/24/2012) until Monday (2/27/2012) as part of Amazon's KDP Select program, after which the price of $1.99 will once again be in effect.

If you're interested in a good vampire novel that keeps to the roots of horror without all the angst-ridden romance that dominates the market today, and you like Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles or John Ajvide Lindqvist's "Let The Right One In", then please take a look at my novel The Orphaned Ones.

I promise you won't be disappointed, but even if you are, you can't go wrong if the book is free, right?

Get it while you can!! =) I have one other day to make it free again in the future, so if you miss it now, I'll let you know. But check it out and let me know what you think.

Have a great day and I'll keep you guys updated on everything as always =)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My new Kindle series "Burntown", plus some writing/self-publishing advice =)



Since I vowed to start this up as soon as I could and keep with my plan of posting one part of the story per month (with a total of about 5 parts), I recently finished the first part the other day. The Chronicles of Burntown (Part 1) is now available on Amazon Kindle for your reading pleasure =) I should also note that I'm currently posting all my books and series up on WattPad.com for free as well.

First, some background into why I'm writing a monthly series and why I'm posting my work for free. I've found that writing a serial monthly series has multiple benefits for me as a writer, so here are the reasons I'm doing that:

1) It keeps me focused on writing. I have ADD and I'm a horrible procrastinator, and putting out one part of a series per month keeps me more or less on the edge of my seat and discourages much of the procrastination and writer's block that come with creating a full novel

2) I can edit quicker since I'm not writing much more than 30 pages at a time, though it should be emphasized that this is a catch-22. I'm very careful about my self-editing, being that I cannot afford to hire a professional editor right now. I'll admit that mistakes can and will slip through in my work sometimes, but the shorter length keeps that to a minimum as well.

3) It keeps readers interested. I think we've all dealt with the disappointment of finishing a novel and yearning for more, but sometimes you have to wait for the next book by your favorite author to come out, and that could be anywhere from months to a year. In writing a monthly serial, I can keep readers in a state of anticipation for the next part of the series. And the best part is, it's only a month away =)

4) The more books on my virtual shelf space (and the faster they come), the better chance readers have of finding me. Take Amanda Hocking for example. She cranked out books like a factory (or at least it seemed that way because of when she released them). A lot of self-published authors have muddled along and never focus more on writing because they're so desperate to sell their one or two books that they do more marketing than actual writing, and I've discovered that this is often a horrible tactic. Not only will you NOT sell the titles you have, but you ruin your chances of finding more readers, which you obviously need if you want to sell your books. Writing a monthly serial fills up more space =)

Now, the reason I'm making my hard work available for free. As I've learned from J.A. Konrath, the great grand master and guru of self-publishing, it doesn't matter whether or not your books are free because someone will always be willing to buy them depending on where they find you and if they really like your work. That's no better evident than on Amazon. Konrath often posts links to get his books for free in multiple formats on his own site, and he also sells them on Amazon. The free books don't hurt his sales any, and he doesn't care if people pirate his work. He still makes great money.

So since I'm sort of a fledgling author and a bit new at this game and my sales suck, I decided that I could find more readers if I made my work available free of charge. Here's something I think all budding writers should be aware of:

NOTHING--NOT EVEN MONEY--IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN READERS!!

Because if people like your writing, they'll keep reading. And the more they read, the more they'll tell their friends, and you'll get more attention. That attention comes from everywhere, be it people who find you and buy your work on Amazon or whether you start getting comments on a site where you've put out your stuff for free. Nothing is more important than readers, because at the end of the day would you rather lose a few sales and get more fans? Or would you rather protect your precious work forever and make less money than you could have? You've got to take risks, it's that simple.

Anyway, enough about that. Let me tell you a bit about my new Kindle series =)

First and foremost, Burntown is a tie-in story for another work in progress I have going called The Swarm. The events of each novella-length piece are directly related and coincide with one another.

Burntown takes place in the year 2022 in a fictional rural town called Kentsburg, Mississippi. Seven months prior in July of the previous year, all electricity and power sources in the town suddenly and inexplicably failed following a really bad storm. Those who were outside when it started noticed a strange display of flickering red lights and beeps emanating from devices they later called "drones" that had been buried out in the fields. No one knows who put them there.

Having watched most of their parents and grandparents die off in the past year, the remaining kids and teens who are left in the dwindling population of Kentsburg soon become evermore convinced that the world is about to end. They are too afraid to leave their land for fear of what lurks beyond the boundaries.

Luckily (or unluckily) for them, a young boy named Mark Huxley rises to appoint himself as the town's de facto leader. He and his friends freely trade and distribute drugs amongst themselves and the rest of the town. But "Hux" (as everyone calls him) is a bit of a pyromaniac with a burn fetish that is quickly turning unstable.

Playing off the fear of the town's inhabitants, he starts what are known as "burn parties" to kill the time until they die. His logic is that there are too many empty barns left in Kentsburg, being that most of their livestock was destroyed by killer bee attacks in the spring. His idea is to throw a party and set fire to the barn afterwards. For a time, it works great. A party is held every weekend and everyone is eventually able to forget their problems. Kentsburg is officially dubbed "Burntown".

But when a strange old man enters the town criticizing their ignorance and explaining that the poisoning of their ground water will be next, the kids soon realize that digging up the drones may be their only chance at survival. Unfortunately this is no easy task, and their extraction comes with its own set of problems.

Meanwhile, Hux finds his sanity slowly beginning to slip away the more he does drugs and obsesses about his love of fire. By the time he realizes his friends can no longer keep him in line, it might just be too late...

If you're interested in checking out Burntown, you can find it here on WattPad for free, or you can purchase the Kindle version here =)

Enjoy and have a great day everyone!!