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.

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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!

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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

PreOrder Memoirs of a Dilettante 2

It’s a Baby!

So this happened.

:D

Baby Cross: comin' atcha August 2015. Now Mom's, tell me all your secrets. How are you author AND Mom? @kcrosswriting #newmoms #authors #mommatobe

This handsome little child will be comin’ atcha August of 2015. Are we ecstatic? Totally.

Ready for this? Oh, aren’t you adorable?

Freaked out? Way more than I should be. A previous miscarriage and too many months of trying to get this sweet pea here makes me a bit gun shy.

Nowadays I dream about peanut butter and Great Harvest Bread. I wog (walk/run) because the Spawn is taking all my O2. (Don’t worry: I dominated the 5 mile trail run today, so it’s coming back now that we near the end of the trimester of death.) Maybe I’ve gone to bed at 7:30 more times than should be legal, and don’t get me started on how many times I’ve cried for irrational reasons.

3 in the past 3 weeks.

And then there’s the writing career to worry about.

Moms and Dads: How do you write AND parents at the same time? Give some advice to this soon-to-be-Mama. @kcrosswriting #newbaby #author #entrepeneur

So Moms (or Dads) give me your best advice: how do you balance a full time career with full time baby?

*cracks knuckles*

Cuz I’m ready to hear the strategies.
Thanks guys. You da best.

Book Bub vs. Book Gorilla

Book Bub vs Book Gorilla: a look at using email subscriptions to market your indie published book. @kcrosswriting #bookbub #bookgorilla

It’s not news that one of the “tricks of the trade” these days for getting your book out there is to use email subscription services like Book Bub, Book Gorilla, Book Daily, or Book Bear to advertise your book when you put it on sale. But every service is different, with different prices, audiences, and ways of doing it. I’ve only used two so far, so here is a comparison side by side.

Book Bub.

I paid $280 for BookBub to send out an email notification that MMSFG would be $0.99 to their fantasy email subscribers.

A few facts.

– They only plan for a month out. So if you want it on sale March 7th, you can’t request it until February 7th

– BookBub is notoriously fickle in who they choose. Typically, you need to have about fifty reviews, most of them five star. If you don’t get picked, don’t feel bad. It happens ALOT.

– They are a bit pricey, but most people make their money back.

The ad ran October 14th, the day before I released my second book, Antebellum Awakening. Doing it the day before was key, I think, to the successful launch of AA. Pre-orders increased to almost 40 and downloads of my novella boomed.

Here are a few numbers. Book Bub sent out the email in the morning, so by noon, I’d already started selling hundreds of copies at $0.99. That evening, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls flew to the top of the Fantasy list for books and the Kindle store.

Book Bub vs Book Gorilla: a look into marketing your indie published book via email services. @kcrosswriting. #bookbub #bookgorilla #indiepublishing

Book Bub vs Book Gorilla: a look into marketing your indie published book via email services. @kcrosswriting. #bookbub #bookgorilla #indiepublishing

But that wasn’t the only effect I wanted. That also boosted my author rank the day before I knew sales would increase for Antebellum Awakening

Book Bub vs Book Gorilla: a look into marketing your indie published book via email services. @kcrosswriting. #bookbub #bookgorilla #indiepublishing

A BookBub Summary:

In the end, I made back the $280, and more. I sold roughly 2,841 of MMSFG, 268 of Antebellum Awakening, and 706 of The Isadora Interviews on Amazon US alone. The snowfall lasted for at least a month (sorry, no graph to show it) and the increased sales meant that Amazon advertised my book a lot more than expected.

Like advertising it on Kindle. (Imagine my surprise when I picked up my ancient Kindle to see this!)

Book Bub vs. Book Gorilla: how I used email subscription options to increase my exposure. @kcrosswriting #bookbub #bookgorilla
Would I use them in the future? Definitely.

Book Gorilla

Book Gorilla is not BookBub, and they don’t pretend to be. I decided to try them to give my book a little boost in the months after Christmas after tweaking the categories that I’d listed MMSFG under.

A few facts.

– They plan out farther in advance than BookBub

-They are not nearly as expensive: and you can name your own price. I paid $30.

-They send a lot more suggestions and offers per email (I subscribe to all the email services that I want to attempt on my own book. I’m eyeing Book Daily now, but am not too impressed with their terms thus far.)

My ad with Book Gorilla went out January 28th and peaked at 59 copies (I sold MMSFG for $0.99 again). You may be interested to note that my KDP unit “borrows” in blue are almost zero when the price is down, even when it’s at $1.99. Green is how many free units went out.)Book Gorilla vs Book Bub: a look into email subscription services to promote your indie book. @kcrosswriting #indiepublishing #bookbub #bookgorillaMy goal with Book Gorilla was NOT to rank like I did on the BIG lists with BookBub. It simply doesn’t have the following. And I only paid $30. #reality

But my goal was to get MMSFG higher in rankings on the smaller lists because I had changed my ‘categories’ under which MMSFG is listed so it could be visible for longer.

This was taken at 1141pm the day the ad ran.

Book Gorilla vs Book Bub: a look into email subscription services to promote your indie book. @kcrosswriting #indiepublishing #bookbub #bookgorillaThe next morning at 0745

Book Bub vs. Book Gorilla: how I used email subscription options to increase my exposure. @kcrosswriting #bookbub #bookgorilla

As of today, February 4th, the rankings stand as follows:

Book Bub vs. Book Gorilla: how I used email subscription options to increase my exposure. @kcrosswriting #bookbub #bookgorilla

Book Gorilla Summary:

So, a week later, MMSFG is dropping, but still a bit higher in lists like ‘sword and sorcery’ and ‘girls and women’. For paying $30 . . . not that bad. They were easy to work with, I liked naming my own price, and the emails they send out have a lot of options.

Would I use them in the future? Probably.

Have you ever used Book Bub or Book Gorilla? What are your thoughts on finding deals via email subscription services?

Using Goodreads Giveaways for Exposure

How I Used Goodreads to Increase My Book Exposure. @kcrosswriting #goodreads #giveaways #MissMabels

Seriously, I wish I could contact Goodreads and see if I could get some kickback or ad points for writing this post. Show the little guy some love, Goodreads.

When I first released Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, I decided to do one giveaway (of 5 paperback books) per month for the first few months. I figured, hey, people can add it to their to be read pile. Then other people will see it, and maybe add it to theirs. Even if it wasn’t a perfect system, at least my book would be seen. At the very least, five people who wouldn’t have gotten my book before will get it, and maybe they’ll tell a friend.

My whole goal was exposure to new people.

Well, I liked it so much that three months turned into every month. Here are the results.

The Math.

First of all, the breakdown of cost isn’t as heavy as you think, but it’s not cheap either.

I can get paperback copies of my book for about $3.50 a book in bulk order. USPS ships via media mail (within the US) for about $3.53 per book. Including the padded envelopes I buy—which you can get wholesale for supah cheap—it works out to about $8 per book.

So, per month, I’d be doling out about $40 for giveaways, give or take. (Months I opened it to Canada meant higher, but I only did that when I had allowance for extra funds based on sales the previous month.)

Because moolah doesn’t grow on trees, especially for an indie, I planned this into my budget every. stinking. month. At the beginning, before MMSFG was making much, it got a bit tight. I’m not lying when there were days that I was scraping together loose change in my car and from between my couch cushions. $40 is a lot of money when you live paycheck to paycheck, and my royalties around last July-August were nothing to brag about.

The Breakdown.

How Goodreads Giveaways gave my book exposure. A breakdown with @kcrosswriting. #goodreads #giveaways #indiepublishingAs you can see, my highest month for entries was November of 2014, with 1973 people requesting. 1892 people requested Antebellum Awakening before it was even released. Right now, the highest request giveaway books on Goodreads tally in at 3969 requests.

These are the stats provided by Goodreads on MMSFG.

How Goodreads Giveaways gave my book exposure. A breakdown with @kcrosswriting. #goodreads #giveaways #indiepublishing

I wish I could give a more definitive breakdown of how the giveaways correlate with ‘adds’ to TBR lists, but this graph below is the best I can do. Those large green spikes correlate with the end of a giveaway, but all the ramping up TO those spikes are also adds to TBR lists.

Currently, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is on the TBR list for 5056 people. It has 289 ratings and 109 reviews. It’s pretty small sauce compared with, you know, Outlander which has 338,302 ratings and 23,682 reviews or Harry Potter which has 3,017,967 ratings and 45,130 reviews, but I can definitely say that a good portion of my ratings came from the Goodreads Giveaway program.

The Other Stuff.

– I met my biggest fan (who later started the Miss Mabel’s Instagram fan page) Samantha Shaw because was a giveaway winner and loved the book so much she tracked me down and wrote me a sweet letter. We besties now.

– I met my current typesetter, Chris Bell (click on his name to check out an awesome guest post on typesetting your book!) with Atthis Arts, because his wife, author E.D.E. Bell received one of my books as part of the Goodreads Giveaway.

– At least five reviews have mentioned being giveaway winners and reviewing. They’re really cute about it too, almost always starting with ‘First of all, I won this through the Giveaway program.’ I don’t keep track of all their names, but I know more people have reviewed that receive the books.

My Conclusion.

This is not necessarily a ‘thing’ for everyone, I know. Trust me. I get it.

When it comes to cost/time, it can be challenging. It was challenging for awhile, but all in all, I feel the returns are justified. This was just something I’ve tried, and found relative success with, that may be of interest to you or others. I’m putting this information out there for those who have wondered or tried it themselves.

In the end, it’s different for everyone.

Give me your thoughts.

Have you tried this with less success? Are you wary about giving away that many books? Have YOU won from the giveaway program?

What Have You Sacrificed for Your Career?

What have you sacrificed for writing? #writing #authorlife @kcrosswriting

I’m not all author . . . and I suspect none of us are.

I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity of spending lots of time in ER’s, OR’s, hospitals, MD offices, and medical places in general the past week or so. (All is good, BTW.)

But it reminds me of a time in my life when I wasn’t KCrossWriting. I wasn’t author, creator, fantasy-writer, or small business owner. I was nurse Katie, healer of small children and comforter of terrified parents.

Of course, some kids called me monster. Husband still does.

My life as a nurse.

Once Upon a Time I was Nurse Katie, not KCrossWriting. What have you sacrificed for your writing career? #writing #sacrifice @kcrosswriting

This is me at 6am taking over as charge nurse for 1 of 2 pediatric hospitals where I worked. I’m on the right, and yes. I SO miss my highlights :)

Most days I spent 13 hours on my feet. I had guitar hero tournaments with teenagers, was shoved by an angry, desperate grandfather, and administered CPR to a two year old who didn’t make it, sometimes all in the same shift. My life was filled with meds, syringes, and charge nurse meetings. I often didn’t eat lunch until 4 pm because I was busy reassuring a frantic parent who didn’t understand the terminology the doctor used. The haunting beep of a low sat alarm often woke me from a dead sleep. I worked for and with people.

And I loved it.

Life happens, however, and I spun onto a different trajectory that lands me right where I am now: Katie Cross, Author and Small Business Owner. That’s another post, another day.

So this last week, sitting in an ER, bantering back and forth with docs and surgeons about medications, vital sign trends, and pain control, put me back into nurse Katie mode. I knew what I was talking about. I felt comfortable. I felt good. The nurses and docs helping knew that I had experience in the medical world, and that quiet respect and acknowledgment felt awesome.

This, I kept thinking, is the world that I loved that I also left. Why?

What’s haunted me more than any other question is this:

Would I give up writing to go back?

Reconciliation

After days of living on a few hours of sleep, long trips to the hospital, and the stress of uncertainty, I managed to wiggle in a few minutes to work on my current WIP The Ambassadors Assistant, if only just to get away.

Suddenly I remembered all the nights I left work as an RN just to climb in my car and scream or else I’d sob. I remember the frustration of dying children, or parents I couldn’t calm because the truth was just too ugly, and the awful havoc that working three nights in a row while only sleeping four hours in between wreaked on my body.  I remember wishing I didn’t have to stretch myself too thin, or be the leader at 22 of nurses twice my age. The pressure, while somewhat addicting, was damning.

But in the midst of all the chaotic stress of being RN, I remembered I had also been a writer. I’d write stories and email them to myself during late nights to go over when I was more lucid the next day. I read constantly because I couldn’t stop. I imagined all the wheelchair bound, mentally delayed children that I worked with really living in a different world while the rest of us took care of their broken bodies. To escape the intensity of some shifts, I went home and buried myself in stories to forget.

So really, I was never all nurse either.

In the end, I am not all author . . . nor all nurse.

I’ll never stop being an RN, not really.

I’ll never stop being an author, not really.

I’ll always be a weird hybrid of the two. When I was a nurse, I sacrificed my time and emotional energy to take care of others instead of creating. Now as an author, I’ve sacrificed my experience as a nurse to fulfill a creative instinct.

And for now, that’s just fine.

How about you?

What have you sacrificed for your writing career? Time? Money? Relationships? A job you love? The security of a paycheck?

Lay it down, guys. Tell me what you’ve given up, and if you’d go back.

Because I love you guys, I’m offering up 25 FREE audiobook copies of my first novel, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls. Just go to the official website here to see how to enter (you know it’s easy).

Who Wants to Win a Free Audiobook? Enter at www.missmabels.com #free #audiobook #fantasy @kcrosswriting

 

Marketing Outside Book/Writing Blogs.

First of all, big shout out of thanks to all those who have been patiently dealing with me the past couple days. With some last-minute plan changes and family stuff, I’ve been out-of-touch and have hundreds, literally, of emails awaiting me.

Your continued patience is amazing.

A lot of authors ask me how I advertise my book releases and/or my books.

Well, I have many  methods, so I’ll visit just one of them today with a bit of explanation.

Blogs Unrelated to Writing or Books.

Most visitors to my blog are authors, fans, or aspiring authors that are on the indie journey like myself. Awesome. I’m grateful for every one of you. But lets face the truth: you aren’t my book audience.

My goal for Antebellum Awakening was to reach outside my incredible field of friends and reach fans I wouldn’t otherwise. I decided to branch away from book/writing blogs, and go into others.

I have a lot of blogs that I follow that aren’t author-run, book-geared, or how-to on writing, and one of them is SisterWives Speak.lurve these women, and it’s all Beth Teliho’s fault. They receive lots of interaction, comments, and all the people write raw goodness.

SisterWivesSpeak is an uncensored, open-heart blog that everyone should follow! #blogs #bloggerstofollow

When I released Antebellum Awakening, (now available on Smashwords!) I wanted to try something different to reach outside my already established audience, so I came up with a killer idea for a blog post, and approached the SisterWives on my knees while saying, “Please, please let me do a guest post 1-2 days before my book release.”

They said, “We shall bestow this honor on your unworthy shoulders.”

And then I screamed.

How I Made it Epic

My post Hotness Scale Rebel (included at the end of the post) is something I’ve been thinking about for the last three years. It’s sensitive, hysterical, short, and something that nearly every human can relate to. (I say nearly because there are a lot of ridiculously beautiful people walking around out there.)

I also put a really embarrassing photo of me on it, which always draws people in. I call it my “bowling ball face phase.”

I was frump girl.

@kcrosswriting went through a 'bowling ball face phase' for 20 years. #selfesteem #selfacceptance #humor

I put my first book, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls on sale for $0.99 3 days prior to the book release of Antebellum Awakening and made sure that the links to my books were at the end of the post.

The Results

I knew this post would intrigue new readers, which could help spike sales, especially if the price was right. And, in fact, it did.

Preorders for AA shot up, and I sold 4x the copies of MMSFG on the day that post came out than I had nearly all week. It was easy to share on FB, and was something that new people, and people that knew me, loved.

I also met a lot of new people that I’ve loved interacting with, and following the comments was a blast.

Overall, this is a strategy to break into new audiences that I’m definitely planning on continuing. A couple of people commented on the writing style and visits to my blog from Sisterwives Speak rocketed.

Click here to read the original article on SisterWives Speak, or continue scrolling to read Hotness Scale Rebel.

Hotness Scale Rebel

Where the scale of hotness is concerned, I broke the rules.

I married someone way hotter than me.

Before you throw tomatoes at me with You’re Beautiful Just The Way You Are written on them, let’s turn down the Bruno Mars song and have a frank discussion.

I grew up with a bowling ball face, a frizzy mess of curls a mile wide, and what curves I did have certainly weren’t in my chest. While I never had the curse of braces, the tune of ‘you’re just big boned,’ whistled in my ears from total strangers.

Trust me, that’s way worse than braces ‘cuz you can’t change bone structure.

I’d walk down the halls at school and hear my teachers say, “She has a great smile, doesn’t she?” While my brothers friends said, “Well, she’s not the brightest bulb on the tree.”

Fast forward a decade and I landed on my feet, a full-time RN, living in a downtown and working with kids. My career made me awesome, but not enough. Here’s the shocker: I was single. I dated all kinds of guys. I mean all kinds. I got an Air Force guy who yelled at me for not being willing to pick him up for our first date; a gentleman that worked for the forest service who was so quiet that I had to lean over my pasta to hear what he said; then there was Mr. Medical School Man. He used me for a few rides, a couch to crash on, then broke up with me over a text message.

Classy.

The common thread besides being total a**holes was this: they were all pretty much my facial equal. Attractive enough, but nothing so beautiful that I wanted to attach to it with suction cups and scream, “Never let me go!”

Then I met the most beautiful man I’d ever seen.

I was twenty four. We’d been emailing for weeks via eHarmony before he flew out to see me. I’d already had a good feeling about this one, and I was a pro about dating vibes. I pulled out all the stops and dressed in my power outfit: black yoga pants, a vest with fuzz on the inside, and hiking boots.

Yes, hiking boots.

My curly hair is an entity until itself, so after an hour-and-a-half battle, I’d tamed the tresses into long, highlighted strands, then arrived at the airport with my hands steepled in prayer, begging the gods of first dates that I wouldn’t get sweaty pit stains. Which I so did.

He strode off the plane and right into my heart. The moment I saw him my mouth dropped open, my hands turned to ice, and all I could think of when I stared at his strong jaw and crooked smile was, hot damn.

He is way too attractive for me.

Although I stood there like a mute, he put his muscled arms around me in a warm hug. I melted like butter in southern Alabama on a hot July afternoon. My heart fluttered. Is this real? Is this a joke? He’s too beautiful. I could feel the suction cups forming on my fingertips. He wasn’t Calvin Klein model perfect: he was rugged, manly, five-shades-of-stubble-in-the-morning perfect.

I pulled myself back together, managed a somewhat coherent mumble, then started toward my car so I didn’t have to see his face. We enjoyed a forty five minute drive up a mountainous canyon to the famous Ruth’s Diner for brunch. My eyes never strayed from the road. His gleaming, angelic face would certainly blind me if I looked over.

More than that, I didn’t want to face the reality behind the voice in my head.

He’s way too hot! Scale of hotness is tipped! Must. Stop.

We sat across from each other at a shabby table and ordered eggs benedict with toast and OJ. I glanced up to find the truth again. He was beautiful. He was everything sturdy and strong that I ever wanted. The voice screeched on in the back of my mind.

You’re breaking the rules!

Never mind that we hit it off like a pair of gloves missing their mate. Never mind that his eyes sparkled when he laughed at my snarky comments because he thought I was funny. Never mind that he held my hand that night and it felt like coming home.

All I could think was: I can’t do it. I’d never match up. I have big hips and volatile hair. Doesn’t he see the issue here?

To my dismay, he didn’t seem to get it.

It would have been a lot easier if he would have just stepped away after the first date with a kind smile and flippant let’s do this again! just like the rest of them. But he didn’t. He wanted to see me in the morning, so I took action into my own hands. This handsome man would not be forced into an unequal relationship that surely he’d regret.

The next day, after styling my hair back into full-scale-curly-haired-massive-glory, and ensuring it was full and wild, (because who wouldn’t that scare off?) I picked him up from his friends house. My plan was already in action.

“Want to go for a run?” I asked.

That’ll show him, I thought with smug superiority. He’ll see my wobbly legs and butt trying to get up the hill and he’ll realize what I’ve known since the beginning.

“Of course!” he said, as I knew he would.

We ran up a mountain trail (where I practically reached down and grabbed handfuls of dirt to rub on my face as I went) and then back down. We laughed when he accidentally embarrassed himself by farting. We swapped stories about nightmare dates. We enjoyed the sun and crisp mountain air. He didn’t turn away in disgust, the jerk.

No, we just kept having a great time.

Three days later, my heart broke as I watched him walk back into the airport on Valentine’s Day. Our weekend of sharing frozen yogurt, cuddling up to Finding Nemo, and star gazing from the top of a mountain had altered my universe forever.

He’s my perfect match in all ways . . . except one.

I wouldn’t hear from him again, I already knew that. And really, who would blame him? The scale of hotness never lies. It cannot be broken. There was a Mrs. Perfect with blonde hair and blue eyes waiting for this Mr. Perfect. Except she was probably wearing heels, not hiking boots, and spreading her divine glitter over orphaned puppies. I couldn’t deprive the world of their stunning children, so I drank in his perfect smile and brown eyes until he disappeared from view.

Every heartbeat on my drive home caused me pain. Just as I was sitting down in front of the TV, Lifetime movie at the ready, a barrel of fun sized Snickers and a box of tissues in hand, the doorbell rang.

“For you,” a delivery man said, holding out a long box that said 1-800-Flowers on the side. I dropped the Snickers, snatched the box,  slammed the door in his face, ripped through the cardboard layers, and found a dozen red roses nestled inside. A note accompanied them.

Thanks for the perfect weekend of running, laughing, and playing. I can’t wait to see you again. I’ll call after my plane lands. Let’s talk all night.

My hands trembled. I blinked in disbelief and fell to the chair behind me.

The letter, and the gorgeous red flowers with dark veins running through the petals, were from him, there was no doubt. But how could that be?

The scale of hotness never lies.

Right?

After 3 years of gritty-faced runs, listening to him say I love your beautiful face, wife, and staring at his stubbled jaw, I’m finally beginning to see that perhaps the scale of hotness I judged myself by was never really a thing after all.