How Wattpad is Extending My Author Brand

How Wattpad is Extending my Author Brand by @kcrosswriting

While attending the Superstars Writing Conference in February, I ran into Ashleigh Gardner, the Head of Content and Publishing at Wattpad.

Okay, okay. I didn’t just “run into her.” I cornered her. For 45 minutes.

She’d just been telling us about all the awesomeness of Wattpad, but all I really heard was this is just one more time suck to take me away from writing my fantasy series. 

After I cornered her—effectively preventing her escape—she graciously talked to me, answering all the questions. Like: “What can Wattpad do for me?” and “How can I be successful?”

Her answers? It can extend your brand as an author and write, network, and write some more.

Okay, so I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, and I signed up.

If I run my business by any philosophy, it’s try everything. 

How I Started.

I started writing my first Wattpad story Bon Bons to Yoga Pants during my downtime at the writers conference, and uploaded the first chapter on Valentines Day.

Here’s the blurb. Feel free to skim.

Lexie Greene has always had such a pretty face.

Unfortunately, that’s where it seemed to stop. She’s grown up hearing her Mother’s voice constantly remind her that “beautiful girls aren’t overweight.” And Lexie is indeed overweight.

With her younger sister’s wedding on the horizon, a crush to stalk on Facebook every minute she’s not dreaming about chocolate, and working hard to win a competitive internship, Lexie’s had enough. She joins a dieting group and a gym, but as the pounds melt away, finds that life on the other side of the scale isn’t what she thought.

Lexie has to figure out the lines between healthy and skinny, all while navigating a brand new world she wasn’t quite ready for. This story is packed with laughter, tears, and a whole lot of drooling over really amazing food.

At first I was just learning the Wattpad ropes and figuring out the culture, so I started following other stories and threw up an easy cover for my own that I made on Canva.

Bon Bons and Yoga Pants

Yes, the hot pink has a purpose. 

Finding readers started out slow enough, but the more I read and commented on other people, the more response I had on mine, so I kept going. That whole networking thing, you know.

At this point, I was getting about 20-30 reads per day. And I was satisfied with that. But not for long.

I soon realized the importance of cover art on Wattpad, so this cover came next. Not all that different, but not so ugly either. (I also changed the title a bit).

Bon Bons and Yoga Pants-3

Things started to pick up just a bit. I was heading toward 1,000 reads overall and getting a few regulars. At that point I was posting about 2-3 times per week. I realized that I needed to up the heat because the story had a lot of potential.

So I finally got back on canva, and for $1, made this baby.

How Wattpad Is Extending My Author Brand by @kcrosswriting.

While still not perfect, it’s far and away better than the others.

I also talked with author Leona Henry, who had more experience on Wattpad than me, and learned a crap ton about success on Wattpad by reading her blog post on how to succeed on Wattpad. She went through and figured out a few tweaks that the most successful authors employed and put all the secrets in one article.

Which is great! Because then I didn’t have to :)

This was the turning point.

The Results/My Current Stats.

I can’t find the stats farther than 1 month back so I’m just going to give you screenshots of my current Wattpad statistics for Bon Bons to Yoga Pants.

How Wattpad is Extending my Author Brand

Notice the gradual upward trend of unique readers? Before April, the numbers were even lower with a less obvious upward trend. My highest number of unique visitors in one day has been 105.

The gradual increase in readers is partially thanks to BBtYP being featured on the “What’s Hot in Chick Lit” list for at least two weeks, possibly more. The spike around May 14th can be attributed to my book tour where I advertised my Wattpad story a lot with the teens.

How Wattpad is Extending my Author Brand by @kcrosswriting

I mostly show this graph to give a better idea of increased engagement over time. The spike in unique followers naturally led to more comments. Somedays I didn’t get any comments, but now I always get at least 10-20.

Current screen shot (as of Sunday, May 24th)—
How Wattpad is Extending my Author Brand by @kcrosswritingAverage reads per day: anywhere from 500-1000. (More on the weekends, I think 2,000 is my best so far).

Ranking: I haven’t seen it drop below #18 in at least three weeks. On the weekend it hovers around #11-14. The best I’ve seen it was #6.

Posting frequency: I switched to a posting schedule made of steel: Every Monday and Thursdays.

I did this because I had a lot of people asking when to expect more, and now the regulars know to look forward to it. Some have sent me messages on FB in a panic because I may not post until the evening. 

Average time spent on Wattpad: At least an hour a day responding to PM’s and comments (I respond to all of them, or at least try to. Sometimes I can’t keep up.) I still read and comment on other stories as well at least once a week.

A Few Things I’ve Observed.

1. Like all things in indie publishing, it’s taken time and consistent work to build this momentum. About 3 months, to be exact.

2. Comments/reader engagement increased exponentially when I started asking questions at the end of the chapter.

3. A lot of new readers thank me for responding to their comments. It also forms fun little friendships.

4. Traffic from my contemporary chick lit BBtYP doesn’t really leak over to my free YA fantasy novella The Isadora Interviews. (Which has only 236 reads). I have had people message me and ask about what else I’ve written and then I can ferry them to my fantasy series.

5. I started a Bon Bons to Yoga Pants Pinterest Board and put the link at the end of one of the chapters. I get about 1-2 new pinterest followers daily. Around half follow all my boards, the rest just follow BBtYP. Over time this is really adding up.

6. Chapters of about 1500 words seem to hit the sweet spot.

7. Chapters with a picture uploaded to it (I always do funny food/exercise memes) are always more fun to read.

8. Sharing my posts on FB, Pinterest, and Twitter was responsible at first for getting me an audience. Now a lot of those people are solid regulars who love the story so much they stare it on FB with their friends. Having it on my blog and a few other places has also exponentially increased my following/chances of getting seen.

9. Regular updates (at least once a week) are always very appreciated by people. A lot of Wattpad stories are abandoned or forgotten for long periods of time, so consistency pays off huge dividends.

A Few Story Recommendations

Finding good, well written stories on Wattpad can be difficult because there’s a lot of sludge and crap to wade through. Even the stories with over a million reads can be horrid.

Here are a few that I’ve found and still follow: Just click on the photo.

A Stolen Kiss: Read it free on Wattpad!

Oscar Tweed: A String of Novellettes: Read it free on Wattpad!

Tess: A Wattpad story you can read for free by Claire Duffy!

Tess by Claire Duffy

The Emperor of Time by Holly Heisey- read it for free on Wattpad!

 

My Future Plans with Wattpad

Things have gone so well with BBtYP that once it’s finished, I’m going to have it copyedited and published as a paperback and ebook. (Several fans have requested it and I had tentatively planned it if all went well.) It will still be available on Wattpad to read for free.

Because BBtYP has such a dedicated fan base and is getting so much attention, and I’ve come to love my characters so much, that I’m planning a whole series (The Health and Happiness Society Series) that will all originate from Wattpad.

Have any questions/comments/ideas? Drop them in the comments and let me know what you think!

MUAH.

My Idaho Book Tour: Statistics and Results.

As an indie, I don’t have the luxury of traditional publishing distribution and connections, but I do have connections.

Since Baby Boy Cross is coming in August, and I’d had some people in my hometown of Idaho Falls asking for appearances, I decided to make a week-long book tour out of it while I could still travel.

Here’s a breakdown of how I did it, how I connected/arranged these events, how many books I sold/gave away, what I learned, and what the results are. 

Stats and analytics from my Idaho book tour by @kcrosswriting.

School Presentations

I’m going to lump these into one grouping.

How I connected: I emailed the beautiful Ellen Duncan (the head librarian at my old high school IFHS) and she set me up with a presentation at Taylorview Junior High and Idaho Falls High School.

Taylorview Junior High:

The presentation: One of the teachers in the school sent me a list of suggested ideas for speaking to the kids.Statistics and Analytics from my Idaho Book Tour. @kcrosswriting. So I put together a presentation that combined most of those elements, a lot of memes and pictures, and talked about the writing process and what it was like to be an author. (If you want a copy of it, shoot me an email or a message and I’ll send it your way.)

*Important note: in order to get a pertinent audience, the librarian organized it so that a few students from each grade/class that were interested in writing and reading came to the library.

Outcome- Gave away a set of books during each class.

—Had bookmarks to give out to each student.

—Reached about thirty kids per class. In all, I probably taught and met about 100 students.

—Had posters/slide advertising my public library appearance and book signings.

Connections made: Out of curiosity, I polled most of the students to ask their favorite social media site, and found it to be Instagram. Most didn’t care about Facebook.

—A lot of the students were on Wattpad.

—I pitched my story Bon Bons to Yoga Pants and increased my following by 20 people. I followed back, read, and critiqued).

Worth it? 

Definitely. This was a perfect way to find my target audience and not only get Miss Mabel’s in front of them, but connect, make friends, and learn more about the reading/writing habits/ interests of kids that age.

Idaho Falls High School:

How I connected: My old history teacher Mr Morris is an author—although a more noble one than I, because he writes nonfiction in order to preserve WWII history—and wanted to have me in his classroom as a guest speaker.

The Statistics and Analytics of my Idaho book tour. @Kcrosswriting

The Presentation:

—Focused on the daily life of an author, how to put a book together (I showed them cover progressions like you’ll find here and went through the editing process, marketing, etc.), and why writers write.

—I presented 5 times. 4 history classes (Mr Morris’s), 1 Honors English, 1 regular english class. About 175 kids.

The Outcome: 

—The favorite social media sites were Facebook and Instagram. Most didn’t care about twitter. Several had Wattpad.

—I gave away 20 books (one set each class and a few others at the end).

—I sold about 10 books.

—Gave away at least 100 bookmarks.

—Mr. Morris was kind enough to copy the flyers announcing my book signings and the public library event to distribute to those interested. At the end of the slide show, I had a slide with my contact info. Lots of kids took a picture of it.

Worth it? Definitely.

The kids who were most interested spoke with me after class. Many of them emailed me portions of their writing, or messaged me on Wattpad to ask for feedback (which I have given and am in the process of doing so).

I had around 7-10 people attend the public library event because of these two schools combined.

Emerson Book Club

How I connected—Through a friend of my brother. He worked at Emerson school, took a book to the library when it released, and the librarian decided to do it for their book club. When he found out I was coming, he asked if I’d make an appearance.

Presentation—This was the most laid back because it was on the students lunch break, I just talked to them and answered their questions. No powerpoint.

—Met about 10 students and 3 adults/teachers.

—Gave away bookmarks, discussed writing.

—2 of these students came to the public library event.

Blue Sage Writers of Idaho

Statistics and Analytics from my Idaho Book Tour. @kcrosswriting

This was taken from their blog website. Click on the photo if you’re interested in more. 

How I connected: I googled ‘writing groups’ 2 months before the book tour and found them. I emailed a sweet lady named Karen at the address on the blog and asked if they were meeting. To my luck, they were meeting the week I was in town.

Presentation: I did not do a presentation for them. Since they are a writing group (and have been for twenty years) I mostly wanted to meet them and talk with them, which I did. This was definitely a highlight of my trip! It was really fun getting to know them and hearing their experience and organizational strategies.

I ended up just hanging out, participating, and finally chatting with them about my experience in indie publishing. Many of them had been published in the nineties, so we were able to discuss how things had changed.

Connections made: I now have a great set of writers that have invited me back anytime to visit with them, which I will whenever I come to Idaho. They also were very intrigued by my book after hearing all about how I published it. I sold about 10 books for them and their grandchildren.

—2 of them came to my presentation at the library.

Worth it? Absolutely.

I learned a lot about how a writing group works as well as how publishing has changed.

The Idaho Falls Public Library

How I connected: I emailed the fabulous Jennifer (about two months in advance) about doing an author event. Over the next few weeks we worked this idea out:Publishing and Writing 101 with @kcrosswriting at the Idaho Falls Public Library May 14th, 2015

Jennifer was a bit wary because attendance to author events is usually very low and minimal, but I was confident with the right marketing, we could pull something off.

#nailedit

How I marketed it: Announced it at every appearance beforehand. (Schools, book club, writers group).

—Asked local friends to share it on Facebook.

—Facebook ad targeted to the Idaho Falls area.

—Promoted pin for the Idaho Falls area (I ended up paying $3.42 and it had 1, 667 impressions, 8 repins, and 9 clicks). I don’t know if anyone came based on finding it from Pinterest.

—Community calendars online (at least three- the first ones that came up on Google).

—NPR radio (announced it over 5 stations) and one of the other local radio stations that reports community events.

—Newspaper.

The presentation: Powerpoint slideshow. (Click here to let me know if you want a copy).

Lasted about an hour and a half.

—Printed out contact sheets, provided a sheet of paper, a pen, a bookmark, and a free Miss Mabel’s Caramel.

Statistics and Info from my Idaho Book Tour. @kcrosswriting
Statistics and Info from my Idaho Book Tour. @kcrosswriting

All of these books were sitting at the front and were sold or given away (only 4 of MMSFG remained) as door prizes by the end.

Outcome: 40 people attended. I had only anticipated and hoped for more than 10. We ran out of tables and had to line chairs along the edges.

—Only 4 were my family members.

—I knew/had some connection with only half of the people who came. The rest were organic.

Money made: I didn’t separate cash from different events, but I’m guessing around $200 from book sales. Some in cash, some in check, some from credit cards taken from my square register.

Connections made: I met a few of my Facebook followers in person for the first time from the local area.

—Sent traffic to my website- no further blog subscribers so far, but I didn’t emphasize my website as much as I had originally planned because this wasn’t necessarily an “indie” market.

—Gained 3 more people who are “following” me on FB

—Increased my Wattpad followers.

Worth it? Absolutely. I met many people I would have never met before, gave away copies of the presentation (that will have my name attached and contact info for the future if they have questions) and extended my brand for Antebellum Publishing.

Book Signings

Statistics and Analytics from my Idaho Book Tour. @kcrosswriting #indiepublishers

Hastings

How I connected: I called Hastings and made the arrangements over the phone about two months in advance.

Marketing: Facebook, handed out flyers at presentations, and word of mouth.

Results: The store manager said this was the most successful book signing he’d ever had because he’d never seen an author interact with people so much before. Most authors usually sit there, don’t make eye contact, and read their own book. I told him that my secret is giving away free caramels: I draw them in with sugar.

—I sold 15 books

—With a 60/40 split, I made $160. 80% of my sales were organic: I had friends come by to get their books signed, but most of them already had books that I then signed.

—Gave away at least 50 caramels and bookmarks.

—Connected with about 5 other writers (some of which emailed me later that night).

—One of the students from the Junior High came by.

Starbucks

How I connected: My old high school friend Courtney worked at Starbucks. I worked through her to get permission from her manager, who was only too happy to let me come.

Marketing: Facebook, handed out flyers at presentations, and word of mouth.

Results: thanks to a rainy, gloomy day, traffic was low to minimal and I had to leave a little early because I started to get sick from being 6.5 months pregnant 😀

—Sold 12 books

—Gave away 5

—Had visits from two students from the junior high.

Overall Numbers

Total money made: at least $450. (I haven’t tallied all of it up from checks, cash, and credit card). I also gave discounts to students, teachers, and friends.

Round trip flight: $440

Total books sold: Uncertain, but around 70.

Books given away: around 50 (to students mostly).

Effect on ebook sales (amazon only): After pulling out of KDP, my 5-7 sales a day (not including borrows) decreased to an average of 1 sale per day. During my book tour, I sold at least two books per day.

This does not reflect my sales on Kobo, Nook or iTunes, which also saw an increase.

Statistics and Analytics from my Idaho Book tour by @kcrosswriting.

Effect on Wattpad: My following increased by about twenty followers. My story, Bon Bons to Yoga Pants continues to rank anywhere between #11-18 in chicklit, but my number of Unique Visitors increased to 105 in one day.

Statistics and Analytics from my Idaho Book tour by @kcrosswriting.

In Conclusion

The only thing I would have done differently is schedule the public library event for the weekend (it wasn’t available) after the book signings. Book signings bring in a lot of writers, so I could have extended the reach of people coming.

All in all, using the contacts from my hometown made a significant increase in visibility for my brands. It was a lot of work and planning, but I believe will pay off in networking and visibility alone.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and share with any friends (especially YA authors) who may be wondering about ways to reach their target audience!

#youarethebest

Why I Love MailChimp More Than Chocolate

Once upon a time I relied on WordPress for all my email subscription needs to KCrossWriting. It was a wonderful, beautiful time with unicorns and rainbows and PFFT.

Yeah right.

More like a nightmare.

I’d heard a lot about MailChimp, so I decided to switch over for ease of managing my stuff. I was tired of doing blog posts “blind”—IE—not knowing who was opening the emails or what was working.

Here’s why I adore MailChimp for my indie author business.

1. I can manage subscriptions from two different websites in one account.

(And the emails show up from different places). Not actually sure what the ratings mean yet or how I got them, but the three stars has always been there as a subtle blow to my fragile ego.Why I Love Mailchimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

 

2. All The Analytics.

What blows my fragile ego gets from the mysterious low rating always feels better when I see that upwards of 62 % of people are at least opening my emails, something I definitely didn’t get with WordPress/Jetpack.

Why I Love Mailchimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

The double bonus is that I can then analyze and figure out which email titles grab the most attention. The one you see highlighted here is when I announced I was having a baby. It also gives me a better idea of what content my audience is actually interested in, which is key to success, IMO.

They also have fun features like this:

Why I Love Mailchimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswritingMy mom is definitely in the top five, for the record. *waves* HI MOM.

Why I Love Mailchimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

Why I Love MailChimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

3. Pain-free Switch from WP to MailChimp

I’ll give WP some credit: at least they let you download your already existing subscribers into a CSV file so I can then switch my loyalty to MailChimp. Like right here under the Site Stats page.

Why I Love Mailchimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

All you have to do is click on ‘Create List’ under MailChimp.Why I Love Mailchimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

And then once you’ve filled in the details, you hit import subscribers.Why I Love Mailchimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

And click on the CSV file. (Or there are many others that you can import from, like an excel file, Google Drive, etc.Why I Love Mailchimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

That’s pretty much it.

Just don’t forget to disable your other email subscription widget on wordpress. Because if you don’t you’ll be sending two separate emails about the same post and no one likes spam.

*a little side note—I only imported email subscribers from my wordpress account. The web/wordpress followers will still be notified of my posts through their WP dashboard.

4. They Throw Me An Email Party. . .

. . . every time I get a new subscriber.

Why I Love Mailchimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

Which is nice because then I can directly keep track of, and be aware, of who has subscribed. You can’t see it here, but they also list the email address. Sometimes I recognize the emails, most of the time I don’t. Which is the best. day. ever.

5. I can customize the emails that announce the blog post.

So they aren’t an exact replica of the post (or have the strange formatting that WPess seems to love). That way I can include small snippets in the headings such as this:

Why I Love MailChimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

6. I can easily send out emails not attached to blog posts for email subscribers only.

Such as the email I sent out with the link to the YouTube video for the So You Want To Be A Writer: An Inside Look at Indie Publishing seminar with Quill Pen Editorial.

Why I Love MailChimp More Than Chocolate. @kcrosswriting

The Downsides to MailChimp

I can only find one so far.

I have to customize an email after I’ve already done a blog post, which takes a little more time. It’s not a big deal, but sometimes I get dramatic and act like it is.

#dramamama

Who here loves MailChimp?

Let’s hear your shootouts in the comments. Or if you don’t let your email subscription service, let’s bash them. JK, guys. JK.

Be cool. Keep it family friendly.

10560333_10100601156785714_8565122733714974256_oKatie Cross really likes pumpkin flavored things, and not just in the fall, either.

When she’s not writing for her chick lit serial story on Wattpad, Bon Bons to Yoga Pantsthen she’s probably hiking. She does that a lot.

Check out her kick @#$*(! YA fantasy book, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls.

Publishing and Writing 101 Presentation

The Idaho Falls Public Library and I have teamed up!

We’re providing a free presentation on the basics of writing and publishing your book!

Come hang out on May 14th, 2015 at 7pm.

There will be door prizes.

#obviously

Publishing and Writing 101 with @kcrosswriting at the Idaho Falls Public Library May 14th, 2015

Topics covered:

– How to write a book (stages/drafts, finding inspiration, sticking with it, word count expectations, the length of the average novel, etc)

– The editing process (how to find an editor, the different stages of editing, what is edited and when, typical costs.)

– A day in the life of a full time author

– Different publishing avenues (indie publishing, traditional publishing, small press, etc)

Why I’m Scared to be a Mom and an Entrepreneur

Why I'm Scared to be a Mom and an Entrepreneur by @kcrosswriting #indiepublishing

As many of you know, Little Boy Cross is coming this August.

#throwsglitter

Why I'm Scared to be a Mom and an Entrepreneur with @kcrosswriting #indiepublishing

I’m stoked, truly. So, so excited. Pumped. Gung-ho. Ready to meet the little parasite that’s pummeling my insides day and night.

BUT SERIOUSLY I’M TERRIFIED.

Setting aside the fact that I was a pediatric RN for the first six years of adulthood and saw everything that can and does go wrong, I also started this great little idea called indie publishing. 

Right now, publishing is not only a hat I wear, but almost a child unto itself.

I spend all day with it. When I’m not working on it, I’m probably thinking about it, or forcing my time away from thinking about it because I need a break. Writing is what brings me joy, happiness, depression and frustration all in the same day. It keeps me up at night, prevents me from sleeping in, and alters my social life.

Luckily, I can take an easy break from wearing the publishing hat for a little while. Little Boy Cross?

#notsomuch

Little Boy is bringing a whole new hat to my world. One that will probably look like this:

thanks to www.everydayfunny.com

Why I’m scared to wear both hats.

1. I don’t want to lose career momentum.

2. I don’t want to be so motivated for my career that it weirds out my relationship with Little Boy. I have a tendency to get intense and do things in overdrive to prove myself.

3. My pretty flexible schedule is about to get whacked.

4. I thought a mortgage was a big commitment, but this child thing brings in a whole new dimension. Thinking about how much I rely on my own Mom even at 28 (hi Mom! *waves*) means this raising-a-child party isn’t ending soon.

5. I was an awesome nurse, I loved my job, and I may know how to take care of babies and children, but that doesn’t mean I know how to do it 24/7.

6. It also doesn’t mean I’m good at it 24/7.

7. Everyone likes to talk about their terrible experiences either in labor or child raising, which I get. People vent. The truth hurts. Parenting is sucky sometimes. It’s tough. But it’s getting to the point where I’ve stopped bringing Little Boy up in conversation because I just can’t handle the insinuation that having Little Boy means I lose all sense of personal gravity or hygiene. (Seriously). This happens ALOT. ALL THE TIME. NONSTOP.

This helpful advice throws me into mini panic attacks.

“Kiss your life goodbye. You’ll never sleep again. Hope you function well on three hours for the next two years. Did you like exercising? Cause that won’t happen when baby is here. Date your husband now because you won’t get alone time for the next eighteen years. Take pictures of your body now because you’ll never get it back. Your life will never be your own from now on out. Don’t plan on publishing books for a long time after having kids because you’ll never have time. Your dogs are about to become just dogs because you won’t have time for them. Get ready for labor because you feel like you’re split in half. You’re going to lose all the curl in your hair so enjoy it now.”

To be fair, not everyone is like this. My bestie Tara, my mom, and watching my sister Sarah (who still showers and sleeps) with my 4 month old Nephew, Caleb, helps calm the panic.

7. Being a nurse means I know where things can and do go wrong in a child’s world. I’ve given CPR to babies. I’ve watched parents lose their teenage child. I’ve seen children cry in pain that can’t be stopped. I’ve seen sapped Mothers sobbing because they’re on their last straw because we couldn’t find out what’s wrong with their once perfect child. And that changes a person.

Quantifying how I feel about this whole merging the entrepreneur hat with Little Boy hat isn’t all darkness and angst, however. I don’t feel like I have to wear only one hat at any given time. My hope is that I can still wear the entrepreneur hat, but maybe keep it underneath Little Boy hat, which will obviously be bigger and consume more than anything else.

Let’s be fair: while I’m sincerely frightened of this whole parenting process, I’ve also never been so excited for something in my life.

I’m going to end this on a note of happy reality.

Why I’m NOT Scared To Wear Both Hats.

1. Little Boy is going to be a runner based on how much he moves now, which means he’s going to party in the mountains with me all the time, which means I have another partner-in-crime and a clone of my husband. #wildchildinthemaking

2. I already really like this little terrorist.

3. I love a good challenge. Seriously. While it will be difficult to wear both hats, I’m determined to make it happen because I want to prove to Little Boy that working for dreams is worth it.

4. The fact that he’s half Husband means he’s going to be a stud. A serious stud. I’m stoked to have another Husband in my life, except that will exponentially increase the number of farts in my world. My husband is a major hottie, if I haven’t said it before.

5. Fresh baby smell far outweighs New Car Scent. By 10,000.

6. Because my mom told me that having kids was the best thing she ever did, and when I freak out because I’m not sure I’m ready to do this, she’s the first person I turn to for comfort, and that means something really cool about Mom’s.

Why I'm Scared To Be A Mom and an Entrepreneur by @kcrosswriting #newmom #writing

Isn’t she the cutest Mom ever?

Tell me your thoughts on the hats in your life. Or mine. Or give me MORE delightful tidbits on why parenting is the rockiest road on planet earth :)

In the meantime, check out this yummy Paleo Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe that I made for dinner tonight. #seriouslygood 

How to Grow Your Group Blog

Let’s just say that I girl crush on Ericka ClayUnkept, a novel by Ericka Clay. @tipsylit #newreleases #fiction

Not just because she wrote this fabulous book that was lyrical, poetic, and downright addicting, but because she has put together, established, and run an amazing blog/website/new imprint business.

On her own.

She’s one of the people in indie publishing that I keep an eye on (my first introduction to Wattpad was through her), so I’m ecstatic to have her here to post today on how she’s grown her blog, Tipsy Lit, from 1 follower, to over 14,000.

Wow us, Ericka.

______________________________________

How to Grow Your Group Blog by Ericka Clay. @Tipsylit @kcrosswriting #socialmedia #blogging

It’s no secret that keeping your blog updated, fresh and, well, read, is a down and dirty job.

There’s posts to write, tweets to tweet, sandwich boards to wear while outside of your favorite coffee shops begging people to like your Facebook page.

What?

So growing a group blog can seem like multiplying all that times ten, but fortunately in my experience, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, in some ways – dare I say it – it’s easier.

IT’S ALL ABOUT TRIBE

Take for instance the fact that you have a tribe. You have a tribe right?

You know, that amazing group of human beings that read and share everything you write and may or may not be led by your grandmother (Hi Grandma! Be sure to let me know when that new order of sandwich boards comes in!).

Chances are, if you’re thinking about starting a group blog, your fellow bloggers have already established their own tribe. So basically, put all of those tribe members together, and you have one amazing group of people who are your personal cheerleaders.

They like your posts, share your message, and they do it all because they believe in you. That kind of support is priceless, folks.

There may even be a few members who would like to specifically focus on sharing what the group blog is dishing out, so you may want to come up with a system the way Tipsy Lit did. 

Another great way to keep tabs on your tribe is to set up a Facebook group for them.

You can add your latest blog posts to the group, which makes it easy for your collective tribe to read and share them with their followers.

In fact, inviting your other readers to this group is also a smart move. It let’s them know how much you value them, and they may even thank you by spreading your message even further than they normally would.

DO WHAT YOU DO BEST

Using your group’s online talents is a must.

 Is one of your bloggers a Tweeting rockstar? Put them on Twitter duty. Do you have a blogger in the group who has a great rapport with your readers? Have them respond to Facebook commenters or the comments on the blog.

A blog is more than just a series of WordPress posts. It also includes your social media platforms, the place where people catch wind of what you’re writing. And using your bloggers individual social expertise can pay dividends.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

You know that old saying, “write what you know”? Same concept applies when it comes to blogging. Each member of the group blog has a niche, a background in an area other bloggers may not be familiar with. By capitalizing on your bloggers’ experiences, you can build a website that’s a useful resource tool for your readers.

And everyone knows that useful information is information worth sharing!

SNAG THOSE INTERVIEWS AND GUEST POSTS

Everyone knows somebody, including your fellow group bloggers.

By using the connections within the group to interview fellow writers or have these writers guest post, you’re given the opportunity to have their following integrate with yours. In return, you’re helping other writers increase their own following which increases their online exposure. This kind of social currency is invaluable and will only to serve strengthen your blog.

STAY TRUE TO YOUR BRAND

When you create a group blog, you’re essentially creating a brand. The best piece of advice I can give you? Stay true to that brand. Don’t worry about what other bloggers are doing. Worry about what your readers are doing and the kind of content they’d like to see you from you.

And if all else fails?

I can totally hook you up with my sandwich board guy.

Ericka Clay, author of Unkept and D is for Dysfunction. @tipsylit @kcrosswritingEricka Clay is just a girl who loves writing, reading, and glittering cats.

You can check out her books here at her blog, Tipsy Lit, or support her on Patreon.

If nothing else, you must follow her on twitter, because she tweets like a mo’fo’.

 

Top 5 Cover Design Do’s and Don’ts

Top 5 Cover Design Do's and Don'ts with Jenny @ SeedlingsOnline

Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts

1. Do your research.

Whether you’re going to tackle your cover yourself or hire a designer, spend some time looking at covers in your genre and analyzing what is and is not working for you personally. Artwork always has been and always will be hugely subjective, so giving this step due consideration is really important. There are some universal keys to good design of course, but having a clear direction from the beginning, for me, always results in a more successful cover.

2. Don’t forget about type.

Type can make or break a cover design as easily as an image, but it’s something that in the indie and self-publishing arena I think often comes second in order of importance. I would argue that type and image should always hold equal weight in the design process, as they both can profoundly affect the overall look and feel of the cover. There are certainly times when one of the two is featured more prominently, but all the questions you ask yourself when choosing an image should be asked when considering typefaces as well. Does it communicate the feel of the book (sweet, funny, dark, gritty, etc.)? Does it accurately reflect the time period? Is it eye-catching?

3. Do keep it relevant.

This may seem like stating the obvious, but I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve noticed a disconnect between story and cover design. Girls in enormous, flowing dresses when not a single character in the story wears anything remotely similar. Extreme facial close-ups that don’t match the character’s description. We’ve all seen covers like this, and while they can be beautiful, the job of a cover is to effectively represent the story in a visual way. Consider it your book’s job interview, there to ensure a reader takes a closer look at your story, so it should be not only enticing but fitting as well.

4. Don’t get distracted by special effects.

Photoshop is an amazing program. I’ve been using it for years and I’m positive I’ve only barely broken the surface in terms of its capabilities, but my advice is to use it with purpose. There are hundreds of ways to combine the various filters to glorious effect, but those same filters when overused read nothing but amateur, so as with writing, editing is highly recommended.

5. Do stand out in a crowd.

There are always going to be design trends, and while I wouldn’t suggest ignoring them entirely as there’s a reason they’ve become trends in the first place, make sure your design takes that trend to an entirely new level. If your story is romance-heavy, how else could that be communicated without resorting to the almost-kiss cover or a close up of a couple holding hands? If a girl in a dress actually does perfectly suit your book, what are some ways that concept could be turned on its head and pushed further? This is where your research will come into play; knowing what’s already out there is the perfect motivation to take what’s known and bend, twist and ultimately elevate it beyond what you thought possible.

Top 5 Cover Design Do's and Don'ts with Jenny @ SeedlingsOnline Visit Jenny at her blog, Supernatural Snark, or here on Twitter!

Her design studio website is here at Seedlings Online.

 

Thanks to Jenny, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and The Isadora Interviews (now available in paperback!) just got a brand new look.

The Network Series so far by @kcrosswriting @missmabelsschoo

So You Want To Be A Writer? Free Webinar! @kcrosswriting #webinar #indiepublishingDon’t forget to sign up for the free webinar “So You Want To Be a Writer? An Inside Look at Indie Publishing.” It starts tomorrow evening. Just click on the little red box to sign up, or share to invite your friends!

Free Webinar on Indie Publishing!

Who wants a free Webinar?

Just click on the pretty red box. It will redirect you to the Quill Pen Editorial newsletter subscription page. Sign up and get into the webinar for free!

So You Want To Be A Writer? Free Webinar! @kcrosswriting #webinar #indiepublishing

 

Catherine from Quill Pen Editorial and I are doing a free webinar titled “Want To Be A Writer? An Inside Look at Indie Publishing” on April 14th at 7pm CST.

I’ll basically be laying it down. *smack* Just kidding.

We’ll chat about indie publishing, and the top five things I wish I’d known about being an indie author before I ever got into this crazy-awesome-pull-my-hair-out world. Things like number of sales to expect, how to find an editor, and what it’s like setting up an LLC to form your own imprint.

Please share with your friends and sign up now!

___________________

 

Read my Wattpad story "Bon Bons to Yoga Pants" for free!PS- I redesigned good ‘ol KCrossWriting. Do you like it? Big shout out to Cristina for the tips and advice. If you want an expert blogger and social media guru to help you tweak and perfect and hone your blog, just click here and she’ll help you out!

Also, don’t forget to check out my free, no registration required Wattpad story about weight loss, self acceptance, and finding yourself. It just hit #34 in chicklit on Wattpad this weekend. Woot woot!

My Thoughts on Exclusivity With Amazon

I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. F’real.

Remember how they took down some of MMSFG’s five star reviews? Or when I ordered 100 books, 30 of which were lost in the mail, and the quality was so bad that I argued with them for five days over replacements and they refused? <– oh, that’s probably news to you.

But here’s the deal: they sure know how to sell books. There’s also the fact that I agreed with many of their points in the whole Hachette vs. Amazon debate.

Hugh Howey said it pretty well in his epic post Ruminations on Exclusivity.

My thoughts on enrolling in #KDP and how #Kindle has helped sell my books.

How I Decided to Enroll in Kindle Select.

Deciding to enroll Antebellum Awakening and MMSFG in KDP Select was a decision I came to with a bit of gnashing my teeth and ranting about how much I hate Amazon, but need them at the same time.

I’d suggest you read the following if you’re interested in enrolling KDP Select (as I did):

Hugh Howey’s take on exclusivity.

Joanna Penn’s take on exclusivity.

Kindle Direct Publishing page.

Chuck Wendig’s take on Kindle Unlimited.

Jakon Rath’s take on Exclusivity (he made over 100k after enrolling. Of all the posts, this may be the most informative. His Q&A at the end is awesome.)

Then I dragged author GS Jennsen to Starbucks and bled her dry of all her secrets regarding KDP Select, so naturally she was the first to start breaking me down. I also spoke with fantasy author LaDonna Cole (who has 3 books in KDP and an overall positive experience) and many others.

To say I was torn is an understatement.

In the past, I had pointed the quiet finger of scorn at LOTS of KDP exclusive authors for ‘caving in’ to the Amazon beast and pulling out of Nook, iTunes, Kobo, etc. I even told LaDonna that I wouldn’t enroll in KDP out of a moral obligation to keep my books spread out.

But then I did.

Why I Enrolled in KDP Select

Why I Enrolled in #KDP Select, and How it Helped My Sales. #amazon #kindle #indiepublishing

I approached the release of my second book, Antebellum Awakeningwith the hopes of giving it every single chance to excel. Mostly, however, I wanted to really boost the first book, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls in order to generate a greater audience to actually buy  book 2. Sales had dwindled to about 25-30 overall during the month of August because I’d thrown all my attention into finishing Antebellum Awakening.

My goals in joining KDP Select.

1. I wanted a broader audience to get the series really going.

2. I needed money to cover all the money I threw down on a BookBub ad for MMSFG, the editing, proofreading, and release-day costs.

3. I wanted to try for the sheer experience of it.

4. Sales from B&N, iTunes, and Kobo had dwindled ridiculously low. Let’s say miniscule. The highest peak I’d ever had at B&N was 45 books after they featured MMSFG in this article: 4 Books Proving Witches are the New Vampires.

5. I had fans emailing and asking if they could preorder the second book, which could only be done at the time on Amazon if enrolled in KDP. I also read this article that made me think preorders could help marketing before the release.

The Results of Joining KDP

After joining KDP and having such a successful month in October, I picked up my ancient kindle one day to see that they had put up an ad for it. I’m not saying this happened because of KDP, but it only happened after KDP.

My Thoughts on Exclusivity with KDP Select by @kcrosswriting. #amazon #indieauthor #exclusivity

Here are a few graphs to help you visualize how it changed my sales.

MMSFG Sales Trends without KDP Select.

Why I Enrolled in KDP Select. #amazon #kindle #KDP

As you can see, Smashwords and affiliates provided less and less help in selling books, while Amazon stayed fairly steady.

In the next graph, I show MMSFG sales while enrolled in KDP Select, and the comparisons of purchases vs borrowed. Special note: I don’t show a figure for purchased MMSFG kindle books in October because it skewed the graph so you couldn’t see the other trends. I sold 2, 241 with the release of my second book and a Book Bub ad.

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls Sales Trend With KDP Select

My Thoughts on Exclusivity with KDP Select by @kcrosswriting. #amazon #indieauthor #exclusivity

As you can see, overall numbers of sold/borrowed books increased exponentially.

With all that information being laid it, it would seem like a great idea to stay with KDP Select, right?

Well . . .

Why I Won’t Re-Enroll in KDP Select Again

1. I had about 4-5 fans email me in October to ask when Antebellum Awakening would be available on Nook or iTunes. While that not seem like many, that only represents people who were willing to research my email address and  reach out, not those who simply moved on and did not purchase. (To all those who did email me, I sent them a free copy.)

2. You can’t remove your book whenever you want.

Once you use one of their “promotions” such as a countdown deal or a free promotion, you cannot pull the book out. Trust me. I figured this out first hand.

3. You can’t change the price of your book for two weeks after a promotion.

*While 2 & 3 may not seem like a big deal, I don’t like the idea of KDP saying what I can and cannot do in regards to my own book, the pricing, or the selling thereof. I’m not attacking the fact that they have these rules, because I get it. Their toys, their rules. But I am saying that I don’t like being restricted. I’m an indie author for a reason. 

4. The effectiveness of the Kindle Countdown Deals shows decreasing effectiveness after the first or second one. My sales in January, as you can see above, are higher than December because I did a Book Gorilla campaign.

5. The past month of February-March, I’ve seen less and less KU/KOLL borrows, but more and more purchases. In fact, I’ll have up to 5-7 sales per day, and no borrows at all. Borrows are equating to less than 15% of my monthly output. Considering that’s only on ONE platform, I figure I’m missing sales on other platforms. Also, if I had MMSFG available on ALL platforms for the BookBub ad, my sales could have been much higher, and given me greater visibility in rankings on the other platforms.

6. I spent a lot of time at the Superstars Writing Conference talking with people like Kevin J Anderson, Kobo Writing Life Director Mark Leslie LeFebvre, Dean Wesley Smith, and others specifically about exclusivity with KDP Select and whether they recommended it. It was a resounding: NoIt takes time to build up a following on any platform. If you remove it again and again, you’ll lose what ranking and following you had before.

7. Amazon has helped me build a greater following and get more books out there, but I don’t enjoy having such a narrow margin of availability. I tried it, went for it, and now I’m done with it.

For the record:

I am NOT here to say that KDP Select is a bad thing. I’m not here to say it’s a good thing. I’m here to say that it’s a thing I tried for 3-6 months and will not participate in again. I’m also not saying you should or should not do the KDP Select thing.

I’m just saying that I did try it, these are the results, and these are my thoughts.

Thaz it.

What are your thoughts on exclusivity? Have you enrolled and had a good experience? A bad one? Are you thinking of joining?

I have a new writing child on Wattpad! Check out "Bon Bons to Yoga Pants" to read more! @kcrosswriting. #chicklit #wattpadMy latest writing-child is titled “Bon Bons to Yoga Pants” and is available to read free on Wattpad! No registration, sign up, or email required. I upload new chapters every Monday and Thursday.

A Question of Entitlement: What do Authors Owe Readers?

This is Helena Hann-Basquiat. Except it’s not.

Helena Hann Basquiat reveals her true colors today at kcrosswriting.com.

Helena Hann-Basquiat is actually . . . well . . . Ken, from Canada.

Meet the real face behind the world's favorite dilettante: Helena Hann-Basquiat!

Helena is a dilettante. (And is about to publish her second book) A woman that loves music, can’t have MSG, and once ran away to England when she was 17 when she fled an abusive father and for a guy she had a crush on.

Ken is a father of 3 girls that suffers from clinical depression and loves to write. He recently told the whole world on the Sisterwives blog about the person behind the Helena mask. I was one of the early few honored to learn his secret early—thanks for the lovely phone call from Canada, Ken :) and have been so excited to have him over today.

So, without further ado, here is Ken, uh, Helena talking about the line between how much honesty authors owe their readers

How Much Honesty do Authors Owe Their Readers? with Helena Hann Basquiat. @Kcrosswriting. #amwriting #honesty

The Question of Entitlement:

The question of entitlement and responsibility keeps surfacing in my mind — how much does a writer owe their readers? Do I owe you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? When you read my stories, do you love the stories, or do you love me?

But how much of ME are you entitled to?

When I first started out as Helena, it was a complete roll of the dice, as far as my ego went. Nobody knew who I was, and the writing would either stand on its own—in which case my ego would be placated—or it would flop, at which point my ego would pack its bags and move to Tiujuana and likely overdose on some bad Mexican brown.

I had never told these stories before, but Helena could tell them. She could be that person for me. She could be vulnerable, and people would accept her—people would even love her. And I think that I have been brutally vulnerable at times—perhaps too much so. I’m always worried that by being vulnerable, I’m going to push people away.

And so I wear a mask, so that it’s not ME that’s being vulnerable, it’s Helena. But I’m not milking artificial pain for readers. My laughter and my tears are genuine. There’s a real person behind Helena.

"I am a writer of fictions great and small." —Helena Hann Basquiat @kcrosswriting

Why wear the paper mask at all?

I’m fiercely protective of my privacy, and I’m honestly a bit whigged out by the manufactured intimacy of the internet. On the one hand, it’s a great place for people to share—whether ideas, stories, etc—but it’s artificial, isn’t it?

There is a thin line between blogging and writing/storytelling — and I’d say that most of the really engaging bloggers are actually storytellers. The great thing about being Helena is that I can tell deeply personal stories — sometimes painful stories — without bleeding all over the page.

Let’s cut to the chase.

First and foremost, I am a dilettante. I have dipped my hand into any endeavour that I took a shine to. I’m a wanderer, and for the first time in my life, I’ve been in the same place for longer than I can believe.

I’ve been a poet and a painter (horrid things), a novelist, an actor, recently a playwright, an editor of a literary magazine ever so briefly. I’ve been a smoker, I’ve been a midnight toker, and more than once I’ve played the fool (I’ve got pictures to prove it). I’m a musician, a singer, a lover of wine. I’ve lived in abject poverty, and I’ve eaten food that would cost most people a week’s salary. I’m a survivor of child abuse, and I suffer from clinical depression.

I’m a storyteller — which some might say is a fancy word for liar, darlings, but I’m not one of them.

I am a creator, and I created Helena — and became her — to see if I could. What began as just a paper mask to wear so that I could differentiate myself from my writing has become my persona, and I’ve spent more time over the last two years being Helena than I have being myself.

I’ve already hinted that one of the main reasons I don’t go by my own name is because of my father —that I didn’t want to be associated with him. That is 100% true. See, he named me after himself.

My name is Ken, and for the past two years, I have been writing as Helena Hann-Basquiat (and hey, Jessica B. Bell, too).

I’m a husband, a father of three girls, a feminist, a writer, and some of you call me friend.

And I’ve been juggling all this for some time now, and my arms are tired.

I open up the floor to you, and will gladly answer your questions, so long as they’re not about underwear.

_____________

If you’re interested in more things Helena, follow the links below!

The Question of Entitlement: How Much Honesty do Authors Owe Their Readers? @kcrosswriting

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Memoirs of a Dilettante

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