The Benefits of Newsletters

Newsletters are a bit of a newer concept to me. Most of the authors I know do have some type of mailing list for their readers to keep up with them, but, if you’re a newer author like me, how do you get people to subscribe in the first place? I am going to share some tips I recently learned.

When Charlene Kowalski, marketing director, asked during a panel to a room filled with authors, bloggers and readers during Once Upon A Book convention this past weekend in Frankenmuth, MI, it was interesting hearing the various responds from those present.

What tips really stuck out:

  • Making your newsletter personal. Readers want to know more about you, and your life. They want you to feel like you are a friend versus just another author. They want different content than just hearing “buy my book”!
  • Offer a free book or short story exclusive to your newsletter subscribers.
  • Having giveaways exclusive to your newsletter doesn’t keep readers! This, I honestly found really surprising. Most authors said they found people were more likely to unsubscribe when their newsletter contained a giveaway.
  • Sales really CAN increase. I’ve heard more than once in the indie community that authors find newsletters are time consuming, tedious and a waste of time. However, one author said their sales increased by 44% simply because she had a newsletter.
  • Send your newsletter out quarterly, that way you will always have fresh content. If you send out your newsletter more frequently, it can lead not only unsubscribes, but people may report your content as spam/abuse.

 

Author Interview: Cristina Grau #Tuesdaybookblog

Today I’m fortunate to present Cristina Grau author of “Fulfil your Dreams”.

Hi, Cristina, thanks for agreeing to this interview!

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?

B1MvLhWKjyS._SY200_I was born (many years ago) and raised in Montevideo, Uruguay. However, I have also lived in the US, France, The Nederlands, and England.

Question 2) What do you think makes a good story?

A story is good when it grabs you when it makes you feel something. It doesn’t matter the genre, what is important is that you don’t want to put the book down because you want to know what will happens next.

Question 3) What inspired you to write your first book?

I have been a nomad since 2008, and many people are amazed at my kind of life. I always get many questions about why I live like this, or what made me do it, or the most common one, how can I afford it. So, I decided to write a book explaining why and how I can do it.

I wrote it hoping that I can inspire somebody to live their dreams, as I am living mine. And I am proud to say, that I have been the inspiration for some people. Some have taken small steps, some have leaped into their dreams. Either way, I am happy to have been of service.

Question 4) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

It varies. Right now, I am house sitting in The Alps in France, so I have plenty of time to write. However, this past winter I was traveling through South East Asia and I did not write at all during the six months I was there because I was too busy gallivanting. As you can see, I don’t have a schedule, but when I get into writing mode, I don’t stop. Sometimes I even forget to eat.

Question 5) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I don’t think I have one. I write whenever the inspiration comes. However, I like solitude, even that I have been known to write in a busy place, but it doesn’t happen too often. One of the reasons I like to house sit in the middle of nowhere it’s that I have no temptation to go here and there, affording me the opportunity to write. Sometimes when I do help X or work away, I don’t have the chance to write as much as I want to, especially if there are many volunteers. It all comes down to discipline, and I never been known for having much of it.

Question 6) Give us the title and genre of your latest book.

416H8lyDwkL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_“Fulfill your Dreams” is an inspirational book, and the steps needed to live your life to the fullest.

Coming soon “Backpacking my Style,” is a budget book, with a lot of history, mythology, and religion. No politics, even that in some countries it was very hard not to write about politics.

I am also sharing my experiences, and many photos of the gorgeous places I have visited.

Question 7) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

That I actually did it. Once again, it all comes down to discipline and writing requires a lot of discipline. I love writing, but I don’t like editing.

Question 😎 Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

From “Backpacking my Style”

Greece
Ελλάδα

Greece is situated in the south of the Balkan Peninsula on the Aegean and Ionian Seas. And it is comprised of over 1400 islands.

It’s often called the birthplace of Western civilization, and as you have read in previous chapters, many of these countries are known as the cradle of Western Civilization. They all want the credit.

Nevertheless, Greece was one of the most influential nations of the time. To this day, we still emulate the philosophy and politics of Greece. Democracy was born in Athens, Greece. As was philosophy, political science, literature, historiography, and mathematical principles.

Comedies and tragedies were also born in Greece. As were the Olympic Games and this year is an Olympic year being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

And don’t let us forget the food. Italy has the reputation, but most of the food’s root is Greek, Italy just puts tomato sauce on them.

Same with Mythology, the stories are almost the same, just different names and locals.
Taking about Mythology:

“Athena and Poseidon agreed that whoever gave the city the best gift would become guardian over the city. Though Poseidon thrust his trident into the rock, a spring burst forth giving the gift of water. Athena touched the ground with her spear, and an olive tree grew. The gift of an olive tree was deemed by the other gods to be more valuable.”
Even to this day, Greece is one of the leading olives producers. Some of the trees still producing olives are from the 13th century. Amazing.

Greek is one of the oldest languages in the world as it has been spoken for more than 3,000 years.

Greece has been under the ruling of many empires and countries.

Greece was under the Ottoman Empire until 1829 when finally achieve independence.
In 1940, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini attacked it but was defeated by Greece, just to fall under Nazi Germany until 1944, when with the help of Britain, they defeated the Nazi forces.

However, Greece did not gain freedom until 1973 when it declared itself a republic.
It also had wars with Turkey, the Crusaders, Russia, and many more neighboring countries. It also participated in WWI and WWII.

The most famous Greek war was the Trojan War circa 1200 BC. And we all know the story of Helen de Troy.

Just in case, here it goes…

Question 9) What can we expect from you in the future?

After I had written “Fulfill your Dreams” many people asked me how can I say that I don’t have much money, or that you don’t need that much money to travel the world. So, I keep track of all my expenses for a year, and I wrote: “Backpacking my style.”
In this book, I wrote about the history, the customs, and everything I did in all the places I have been. And of course, all the expenses I had, so everybody can see how much I spend in each place and the total for the year.

The English version is finished, and it will be published soon. Now I am translating it to Spanish.

Question 10) What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

When I make some money, I will let you know.

Question 11) How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

http://www.amazon.com/Fulfill-Your-Dreams-Cristina-Grau/dp/1518856683

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N74LJZB/
Blog: https://gradmaswanderlust.blogspot.com
Blog: https://laabuelitaviajera.blogspot.com
Blog: https://asmallgangofauthors.blogspot.com/

If you want to laugh, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoVmvxOlcp8 to see me dancing with a camel.

Doha, Qatar
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George Town, Penang, Malaysia

19970469_1978540868830143_75621387_n

Hội An, Vietnam

19904791_1978542125496684_1553342788_n (1)

How To Gain Exposure Through Book Awards

Bewitched Book With Magic Glows In The DarknessOne of the ways you can help your book get more exposure is through book award contests. These contests help get your materials out to people who may have never known about you or your book, and can ultimately lead to a frenzy of media exposure.

 

It gives your book a new sense of creditability. For example, it may perk a reader’s interest, who otherwise would have skipped over your book due to you being an unknown, enough to give your book a try.

This can lead to more sales and even bestseller status. And, if you end up one of the winners, it can also lead towards finding agents, publishers, movie/television offers, as well as help convince book sellers to carry your book in their store(s).

What To Watch Out For:

Before applying, make sure to do your research. While it may seem like entering multiple contests is a great idea, you want to make sure these are:

  1. Not one where everyone automatically earns a badge/prize because they entered.
  2. Has a high cost to enter.
  3. Is reputable and real.

For example, my first book award contest, which shall be nameless, was a contest where the winner was supposed to be announced at a conference.

To this day, I still don’t know who won. There were no badges, no announcements of runner ups, nor any congratulations mentioned on any of this site’s social media platforms. It was as if this contest never existed. (Maybe it really didn’t).

What Are Some Good Contests To Enter:

According to Scott Lorenz, President of the PR and marketing firm, Westwind Communications, some of the top book awards contests in 2017 for indie authors include:

  • The National Book Critics Circle Awards
  • Indies Choice Book Awards
  • The National Indie Excellence Book Awards
  • IndieFab Awards

Reviews: What Not To Do

One of the most challenging parts of being an independent author is getting reviews. If you’re an indie author, you are already familiar with that uncomfortable feeling of having to practically beg people in order to get them.

“Reviews are marketing tools that are necessary if your books are to sell and extend their shelf life beyond a few weeks.” – Sally Cronin, author.

We are born into the publishing world as an unknown. Readers who are not familiar with our work may decide to skip over our book simply because we’re not part of the Traditional 5. This is where reviews and other people’s helping spread the word about our books becomes essential. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool for an indie author. Without it, our chances of becoming successful quickly dwindles.

The quote above comes from John Winston’s, author of IA: Initiate, five-star review of my book The Rite of Wands. Continue reading to discover tips for both authors and readers on the process of asking for and receiving reviews.


Readers:

  1. Be consistent – If you’re going to leave a review for an author make sure to be consistent. Do not leave feedback/rating on one site and then leave a completely different review/rating on another. This not only comes across as confusing, it sends the message to the author that you are uncomfortable to tell them what you really thought of their work.
  2. Leave feedback for the author – If you use Goodreads, you are already familiar with their star system. You can leave a rating for an author’s book simply by rating their book between 1 and 5 stars, without having to leave actual feedback. Do not do this. You will find readers often look at these “ratings” as fake due to the reviewer not bothering to tell the author what they liked or disliked about the book. Also, an author cannot work on improving their craft if you do not inform them what you did or did not like.
  3. If you’re going to review, do it! – I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone offer to read and review someone’s work and then the other party never does. This is something I have had to learn the hard way, falling into the category myself as a reader more than once this year. My best advice, do not underestimate how much time you will have to spend on reading and do not over commit. If you offer to review, make sure you actually do!

Authors:

  1. Bullying – This is something I have personally have encountered on more than one occasion. Before my book even came out, I was bullied on Goodreads by an author who expected everyone give her nothing less than a 4-star review on her book(s), whether they deserved it or not. If you did not comply, she would make sure to create a dozen of fake accounts to knock your author rating down, and then proceed to follow you all over social media. As an author, it is our responsibility to be aware that not everyone is going to like our book. That comes with the territory. Not a single best-selling author has ever had all five stars on their book(s). Authors, when asking for reviews, do not bully your readers to give you 5 stars. If you cannot deal with criticism or receiving a bad review, this field is not for you!
  2. Swapping – Do not offer a fellow author a review in exchange for reviewing your book. This is against Amazon’s rules, and is only bound to get that review deleted as well as other genuine reviews caught up in the process!
  3. Gifting – This strategy has been quite common with giveaways. It is one of the ways authors can guarantee they will receive a future verified review from the winning recipient by paying for an ebook. Unfortunately, that strategy is no longer effective on Amazon due to Amazon now viewing gifting as another way of paying for a review.
  4. Launch Groups – One of the most effective ways of gaining reviews is setting up a Launch Group. These groups contain readers who are given ARC versions of the book in exchange for an honest review at book release time.

 

Writer’s Block: Fact or Myth

 

When I sat in the writing panel of #1 New York bestselling young-adult author Rachel Caine at Wizard World Chicago in 2015, Caine presented the idea that there was no such thing as writer’s block. She explained there is nothing actually physically blocking you. Instead, YOU are blocking yourself.

“There are legitimate reasons a writer has to go idle,” Caine recently told Bubblelife in a recent author interview“illness, whether physical or caused by less obvious things like depression, are very valid and would be just as valid in any job in the world. But when we talk about a “block,” we’re externalizing an internal problem. Sometimes that problem can be solved by taking a vacation for a week and coming back fresh. Sometimes it’s the wrong idea or worked on in the wrong way. But regardless, if the story isn’t coming, change what you’re doing and try again. As the writer, you control the problem and the solution. You are the block.”

This, at first, I honestly had a hard time believing myself. I mean, it only took me thirteen years to write the first book in The Rite of Wands series! However, now that I have gone through the experience of publishing a novel, I can say what Rachel Caine preaches about writer’s block is true! The key is discovering the root cause.

So, you may be asking, what took me so long to write my debut book? Though at the time I didn’t understand the real reason, I later reflected and discovered it was because of a combination of issues: not giving myself the time to work on my series consistently, obsessively re-writing my story to get it just right (which led to an even further fascinating discussion on writing with Caine), and writing the character, Mierta McKinnon, the wrong way. Now, using Caine’s argument, how many of those things did I actually have control of? The truth is, all of them.

I could have found time to consistently write. Instead, I made excuses. While obsessively re-writing my story did eventually lead to how the story looks today, I also was permitting myself to delay my finished product. And then the issue with Mierta, well, he wasn’t convinced that I was serious to write his character until my encounter with actor Matt Smith.

Tips On Overcoming Writer’s Block:

  1. Write – Write about what you did during your day. You never know how doing something as simple as that may help to jump-start the muse.
  1. Erase the last thing you wrote. No, I don’t mean permanently. Save what you have already in a fresh document. Then make another document, copy and paste everything into that and then erase to the beginning of the last scene you wrote. Re-write it! It may take you in a direction you never expected.
  1. Look at books and websites of writing prompts. For example, I am writing two new short stories in The Rite of Wands universe for RustCity Book Convention, following the prompts origins and treasure. This has allowed me to explore and further develop characters that were already well-developed in the original novel, as well as led me to the answer to the burning question I’ve been asked by fans: what did Armand do to upset Mierta?
  1. Use a writing program like Write or Die. Yes, just the name can sound intimating, but if you’re looking for something that will force you to write without stopping, trust me, this program will do the trick! Rachel Caine uses this program to meet deadlines, and even I used this program this evening to complete this entry!

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.” – Maya Angelou

Whether you believe writer’s block is real or not, the key is to keep writing, even if it’s just writing something simple like a grocery list.

 

What Not To Do At An Author Event

Summertime for an independent author symbolizes more than just getting outside to enjoy the warm weather after a long, cold, winter, or getting the opportunity to write outdoors. It represents the beginning of one of the most significant times of the year: travel season. Comic cons, writing workshops, panels and other exciting opportunities which help to get out yourself out there to network and sell your book! After all, there’s no one out there who can sell your book better than you. You are the brand!

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(From the 2017 Ann Arbor Book Festival from left to right – Mackenzie Flohr, Richard DuMont, J.S. Bailey)

I have emphasized before how being an indie author has its own unique challenges. You must work extra hard to get your book out there, and even convince some people why they should pick up your book when they do not even know who you are. Author signings are one of the best opportunities for this. You will get to meet readers excited to learn about you and your book. There’s nothing like getting to see the look on someone’s face after purchasing your book and seeing you personalize their copy for them!

I find at each author event I attend, I learn something new. And I’m equally surprised by how many things authors continue to do that they shouldn’t. If you’re an author, discover if you may be guilty of doing any of these things, and readers, think about how many times you may have seen an author do this.

What Not To Do:

  1. Presentation – The presentation of your author table is important. You want something that helps bring readers over to your table. Don’t just stack your books on the table! It not only looks sloppy, but readers are not going to want to waste their time picking through your mess. Is that message you want to pass onto your readers? If you only have one title, the most you will want to put on the table is a max of six books. Then, include other things such as your business cards, bookmarks, brochures, etc.
  2. Avoid being pushy – You will find just like any other sales environment, some people are just there to look. They may not even want to acknowledge your presence. Respect their boundaries. Don’t alienate your customer by making them feel uncomfortable! Not everyone is there to buy your book. Instead, encourage them to take your business cards. You may be surprised how many sales you get after the event simply because you permitted someone the opportunity to take their time looking over your materials.
  3. Network – There are going to be down times. Use that opportunity to network with other attending authors! Don’t sit behind your table playing or texting on your cell phone.
  4. Engage – Remember that most of the attendees will have no knowledge of who you are or what you write about. Don’t sit behind your author table! Stand. Smile. Say, hello. Find ways to engage in conversation. New readers will feel encouraged to speak with you when they know you are approachable. Ask them about what they like to read, favorite authors, etc. Leave them with a good, lasting impression! For example, after my latest book signing on Saturday, I actually read on facebook one of new readers say about me, “I really enjoyed talking to her…fun!”

Author Brands Are Important – Part 2

Which brand would you like more: one that says that it is nice or one that does something for you?

– Author of the Social Brand

Before I had found a publisher, my friend and former colleague, Frank Tobin, from when we worked together for actress Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki Newman, The Young and the Restless) back in the 2000s, advised me to start thinking about creating something to market with my book. Originally I had thought about creating a replica of the king’s Bynoch, which is similar to the manifested quartz crystal I wear around my neck. But then I realized I wanted something a bit more “cool”.

In 2016, I commissioned Magical Alley, known for their beautiful, custom designed wands, including Pottermore wands, and there great customer service, to craft the wand known in my series belonging to the warlock, Mierta McKinnon!

Magical Alley started in 2004 as a dream to have a company that would be creative and fun, designing wooden products of the utmost craftsmanship and at a price that would be affordable. Their unique items range from lathe turned magic wands, many various hand carved or crafted artistic items. They offer one on one consultation with their customers, to create their very own custom designs for wands, wizard or walking staffs. Head of Magical Alley, is master craftsman Timothy Wood. He has been a professional craftsman with 30 years of woodcraft skills, ranging in Antique Restoration to Cabinet Making. Check out the video below of Tim demonstrating his craftsmanship!

Then, something “magical” happened. I learned actor Matt Smith, who inspired my main character, Mierta McKinnon, was going to be appearing at Wizard World Cleveland, which is where I grew up and my parents still live. A thought started to turn around in my head that maybe I could bring the wand to him and he could sign it! Then for the rest of my days whenever I needed some extra inspiration, I could look at the wand or even hold it, knowing it would forever be a special moment for me. I contacted Magical Alley and asked them if they would be able to get the wand to me by then for I had someone I needed to bring it to.

Literally two days before the convention, my wand showed up at my door. I brought it to Matt, laid on the table in front of him, and just became lost in the moment. At first I don’t think he even knew how he was going to sign it. The wand cost the same as much as Matt’s VIP (just to give some perspective) due to rarity of the Gabon ebony wood. He stared at it for a while before signing it, picking it up, and swinging it at me. That moment is what changed my wand from just looking nice to doing something for me.

Over the past year, this story has gone viral around social media. One of the authors of BHC Press had learned of my story and passed the word onto her publisher. That is how the beginning of my journey began. Sometimes one must give to the universe and sometimes the universe will even give back.

Since, my brand, and my story has led me onto fantastic opportunities and connections with Genesee Davis, Rachel Caine, James Morris, Mini Matt Smith, DrWhoOnline, and Jake Dudman.

I’m excited to see what the future has in store for me and thrilled to have you, my readers, along for the ride.