Cat Glossary

Cat Bag

cat-tack

the art of hiding under the bed behind the bed skirt, clawing at unsuspecting passing feet.

cat-ag-er

because man is clearly not the animal best-suited to the art of management.

cat-ti-tude

an elephant-sized personality packed into a miniature feline.

cu-ri-o-kit-ty

the reason that cats need eight extra lives.

door-side

you think the cat is scratching the door because she wants to go outside, until she scratches the other side of the door, in which case you think she has changed her mind and now wants to come back inside; but what she really wants is to lie down right smack in the middle of the doorway, which obviously is the best side of the door to be on (or, rather, in).

in-san-kit-ty

this is your kitten’s brain on catnip.

in-ves-ti-cat-or

no news is too dangerous for a cat to abandon its present occupation, scramble through the feet of beasts twenty times its size, and be first on the scene.

mo-tor-cat

the way to find a kitten is to walk into each room of the house, say her name, and listen carefully for the tell-tale purr.

rep-e-kit-ten

getting stuck in, and rescued from, the same tree three consecutive days.

ser-vant

fools who think they are becoming cat owners.

99 cents Versus $2.99: Pros and Cons

Great analysis straight from an author who has experienced both price-points firsthand.

Legends of Windemere

After working with a $2.99 book and the two 99 cent books, I’ve noticed some obvious differences.  Others not so obvious when I started.  Now, this isn’t to say one is better than the other because that’s for the author to decide.  That and I’ve had that conversation so many times this year.

Pros and Cons of 99 Centers

  • PRO-  For a first time author with no reputation, this can be appealing to some readers.  There is the idea that all indie authors are unpolished, so this pricing can be enticing.
  • CON-  If you start at 99 cents, it’s difficult to go higher.  People might wait for you to get frustrated and drop the price back down.
  • PRO-  Several advertising sites require that you have a 99 cent pricing.  This opens up more doors even if it’s for a sale.
  • CON-  You need to sell a lot to get higher…

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The Author is Omnipresent…

Here is a handy chart to study before you start writing a novel. 🙂

Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

Omnipresent -definition: present everywhere at the same time

Flow Chart

When we create a narrative, our first priority is to decide on which point of view we want to use, the narrative perspective or mode. First person, second or third. Each has it’s own guidelines and enables us to manipulate the reader into the mindset of the character or characters  we wish them to sympathize with. As the author we are the omnipresent voice, the one who directs the action and reveals the plot.

Nathan Bransford wrote about the comparison between the third person omniscient versus third person limited here: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2012/11/third-person-omniscient-vs-third-person.html

Another good link, which assists with choosing your narrative style is here: http://www.thewriteturn.com/whats-your-point-of-view-how-to-choose-the-right-narrative-perspective-for-your-fiction/

No matter which mode you use, you decide on the direction of the tale and what to reveal and what to hide throughout the story.

Which mode do you use?

Have you tried all narrative modes?

I had…

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Authors: Pretend You’re the Customer

You

Try to put yourself in the shoppers’ shoes. See their perspective.

Search for your book on Amazon. (When it’s first published, the ‘Last 30 Days’ filter on the left, once you’re searching in Books—not All Departments—will help you find it with a wise choice of keywords.)

Study this page of search results. Look at the thumbnails, titles, subtitles, authors, publication dates, and review tallies. For customers browsing on Amazon, this is how they will first see your book. How does your thumbnail look among these others? Try different searches that pull up your book.

They Aren’t the Competition

Realize that these are complimentary titles, not competing titles. Only a fool would view the other titles as obstacles to selling his or her book. (Unfortunately, there are some fools out there.) Rather, these similar books are opportunities for sales. Books tend to sell together as teams much more than solos. It’s usually not the case, “Which one do I buy?” but, “Which books will I buy?” and weeks after the purchase, “Where can I get more like those?” Those Customers Also Bought lists are valuable marketing tools.

Fools who succeed in thwarting the sales of similar titles often shoot themselves in the feet because fewer sales for that team means fewer sales for each title on that team. You don’t get to pick your team; similar titles form their own teams.

Well, you do have control over the packaging. The way to get on a different team is to study a variety of books similar to yours. Look at the covers, blurbs, biographies, product pages, reviews, look insides, and sales ranks. Your packaging needs to be a good fit for your book’s content, but it can also put you on a better-selling team (however, wearing the uniform of a hot team while not having content to match will be a disaster).

What Are You Looking For?

As an author, you love your book, you’re focused on your book, and you’re focused on sales. When you shop for books, you tend to be selective and critical.

Put yourself in the mindset of the shopper:

  • Does your thumbnail appeal to you? Is it easily readable? Do the key words stand out? Do any parts of the cover bother you, even slightly? Pretend you know nothing about the book: Does the cover depict the right content?
  • Does the blurb grab your interest and engage it throughout? Do the words flow well? Does anything bother you?
  • Check out the look inside. How does the cover look on your pc monitor in this large size? Is it pixelated? Do you see any problems here that you don’t see in the thumbnail? Does the front matter, including the copyright page, look professional? (Compare with a variety of other books.) Does the beginning grab your attention? How do the words flow?
  • Also check out your photo and biography. Imagine you don’t know yourself. Do these make a good impression? Does anything bother you?
  • Consider the book as a whole. Will it meet the readers’ expectations? Will it seem like a good value? Will it please the target audience? Is it likely to produce word-of-mouth recommendations?

You should do this every few months. Sometimes you catch a few typos when you haven’t read something for a while. Sometimes your future self can be a little more objective or critical looking back at your former work.

Objectivity

No matter what, though, it’s still your book. While you need to look at it, and need to try your best to be objective, you can’t look at it with the same perspective as a customer.

You really need feedback from other people. Friends and family can give you some, though that won’t likely be completely objective either. However, someone may offer you some helpful suggestions or show you something useful that you hadn’t realized. Try to find people who can be objective to look at your thumbnail, cover, blurb, look inside, and product page. Have them search for your book and see how your thumbnail compares to others. Have them read a few other blurbs and compare those with yours.

Honest feedback can be quite valuable. It can also be self-contradictory. It won’t all be helpful. You’re faced with the task of determining what is worth changing and what isn’t, with the problem of being biased toward things that reinforce what you’d like to hear. However, if you hear the same thing repeatedly, you should be thinking that many customers are apt to feel the same way.

About Me

I’m Chris McMullen. I have a Ph.D. in physics, but don’t let that scare you. I love to read and write. If you just look around my blog or at the books I’ve published, you’ll see that I love to write. I’ve come to understand and appreciate the marketing aspect, too. I didn’t like it when I first started publishing, back when I naively thought marketing meant salesmanship and advertising. Now that I realize that marketing is more about branding, showing that you’re a person and not a name, and letting your target audience discover your passion—and more meaningful and subtle things like these—I’ve come to enjoy it. I hope to reveal the enjoyable and fascinating side of marketing—the parts that aren’t so obvious—to other authors. Focus on this side of marketing, and you may find yourself more motivated to do it, the process more rewarding, and hopefully better long-term results.

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

4 Tips to Blog Your Best (and Make Blogging About You): No Matter Your Topic

These are four great tips. 🙂

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

1165446_blog_1Blogs and bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of different interests, but good bloggers share some characteristics in common, and that’s what this post is about.

I happen to be an independent author with a history of dissecting literature in grad school, so I blog about fiction: what makes good fiction, and what things we authors should avoid (for the most part).

That’s just me, though. People blog and read blogs about all kinds of things: some of my favorite blogs are faith-focused or philosophy-based, or comment on current events, because let’s face it, none of us has only one facet.

Now, marketing your blog is a separate subject. To have success marketing, though, you first need a solid product to put out there. Here are 4 quick tips to make your blog the best it can be content-wise:

1. DON’T BLOG TOO OFTEN FOR YOUR…

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All I Could See From Where I Stood

Here is a valuable perspective on marketing. It’s worth keeping this in mind when sorting out all the marketing advice out there (including the ideas you read on my own blog).

mishaburnett

I have come to the conclusion that there are two main philosophies of “self-publishing”.

All broad characterizations are perforce oversimplifications, and this one will be more so than most, so be advised that many–probably most–of self-published authors won’t fit exactly into either category.

However.

Granting the inexactitude of what I am about to say, I believe that there are two basically incompatible ways to define the relationship between self-published authors and traditional publishing.

The first group defines “self-publishing” as “an author acting as her or his own publisher”.  That is to say that authors are emulating the model of traditional publishers.  These authors tend, to be honest, among the most successful financially. They tend to write in clearly defined genres, with traditionally designed covers, and often judge their work against the standard produced by traditional publishers.

Self-publishing, for these authors, is generally a choice made on the basis of time…

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Breaking the Genre Boundaries

Genre

A New Genre

People like to try new things. They’re looking for something new.

At local restaurants, though they know the menu by heart, diners hope to find a new dish. Listening to the radio, people hope to hear a new tune. Shopping for clothes, customers want to see a new style.

Do people really want to keep reading the same kinds of books? The truth is, readers are hoping to discover something new. All the different genres came about from brave authors who tried something different and succeeded.

Ah, but people won’t try anything just because it’s new. It must not only be fresh, it must also be very good, appealing, and easy to find.

Traditional publishers like to see books that are fairly similar to what is already established. They want to find new ways of doing much of the same. They know which books have a history of success. They know there is an audience for those books.

Indie authors have the freedom to try something wildly different. Fortunately, there are readers who are looking for out-of-the-book writing. The trick is to help those readers find the ground-breaking novels.

These are the hurdles you must overcome:

  • Which category will you choose?
  • How will your book signify its genre?
  • How will people discover your book?

The Category Problem

If you write a book that defines a new genre, none of the standard genres will quite fit. The next best thing may lead to disappointment. For example, if it’s not quite romance, but you list your book as contemporary romance, suddenly many loyal contemporary romance fans will pin their contemporary romance expectations on your book.

You can try to explain this in the blurb, but then you may lose some sales from customers who are thinking, “Oh that’s not what I was expecting.” If you don’t make this clear in the blurb, you may get some reviews that criticize your book for not being as expected.

No category is perfect, but you must choose some category. You just have to go with the closest match. Choose a genre where the readers are most likely to appreciate your new genre. Make it clear in the blurb that your book isn’t the same old thing, but try to do it in a way that will catch the interest of readers who may be looking for something new.

It would be ideal if Amazon had a special category for books that are exploring brand new genres. I bet this would be a popular category for readers if it had the right name. For example, eBay has special categories for Strange and Bizarre. The trick is to combine name appeal with product appeal. If a bunch of standard items are listed as Bizarre, for example, people will stop browsing that category.

Amazon lumps things that don’t fit into Other and Everything Else. This just doesn’t have the appeal of Strange or Bizarre. It’s the island of misfit products that nobody will ever discover.

You can’t change the categories. (But you can send Amazon a suggestion to make a new book category like Fresh New Genres. With enough requests that show Amazon the potential of doing this, maybe it will happen someday.) All you can do is make the best use of what’s available.

Or we indies can get together and create a website for misfit books. There are many authors who write outside the standard genres. If we could succeed in spreading the word, we may be able to attract readers and authors to our website, making it easier to match readers who would like to try something fresh with authors who are writing different kinds of novels. What do you think? Or just get on Google, and you might find there are already some websites (or Facebook groups) that do this.

The Marketability Problem

Highly effective covers tend to clearly signify the correct genre. Readers who are looking specifically for detective novels, for example, know what the covers of detective novels typically look like, so these are the kinds of covers they will be looking for when they shop.

But how do you signify a genre that doesn’t yet exist? How do you design a cover that will attract readers?

If the cover is indicative of a standard genre, you run into the problem of shoppers expecting one thing, but getting something different. Nonetheless, this may be the way to go. That is, design a cover that attracts the audience who is most likely to try your book out, then in the blurb show that your book is different, but in a good way.

An alternative is to create a cover that is different, but do it in such a way that it may catch plenty of attention. This is a much tougher challenge. It’s not just the difficulty of creating an eye-catching cover. There is the additional challenge of appealing to your target audience. Your cover basically needs to imply, “This is a brand new genre, and it’s worth checking out.” It’s a tough message to get across effectively on a thumbnail image.

In between these two ideas, you can design a cover that’s similar to the category that you select, but just different enough to show visually that your book isn’t quite the same old stuff.

Realize that authors who write standard stories in standard genres have great difficulty designing highly effective covers. You’re trying to do something far more difficult if your book doesn’t fit into a standard genre.

It’s possible for a short subtitle to help, but even this is a challenge.

The Marketing Advantage

Marketing will be your best friend. This is your opportunity to meet people in your target audience and help them discover your book firsthand. You’re interacting with these people, so you have a chance to get them interested in your book idea without having to worry about them finding your book in a category that doesn’t exist.

Emphasize what makes your book special. That’s why you wrote the book, right? You saw some problem with traditional stories and found a way to improve upon them.

Get prospective readers interested in the things that make your book unique. When it comes to categories and packaging, your book is a misfit and those differences count against you. But when it comes to marketing, your book is special and the differences are on your side. Play your cards right.

Breaking Publishing Boundaries

I’m Chris McMullen, an indie author. All indie authors are breaking boundaries. We’re part of a publishing revolution.

I have a Ph.D. in physics, but don’t let that scare you. I love to read and write. If you just look around my blog or at the books I’ve published, you’ll see that I love to write. I’ve come to understand and appreciate the marketing aspect, too. I didn’t like it when I first started publishing, back when I naively thought marketing meant salesmanship and advertising. Now that I realize that marketing is more about branding, showing that you’re a person and not a name, and letting your target audience discover your passion—and more meaningful and subtle things like these—I’ve come to enjoy it. I hope to reveal the enjoyable and fascinating side of marketing—the parts that aren’t so obvious—to other authors. Focus on this side of marketing, and you may find yourself more motivated to do it, the process more rewarding, and hopefully better long-term results.

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

ISBN Poem

ISBN

Eye Ess Bee Inn

Eye Ess Bee Inn

I love to shop for books by their ISBN.

No browsing, no keywords, no searching.

Find the book instantly with the ISBN.

#

Eye Ess Bee Inn

Eye Ess Bee Inn

It used to have ten digits, now it has thirteen.

It’s like a license plate for your book.

Identify your book by its ISBN.

#

Eye Ess Bee Inn

Eye Ess Bee Inn

Not sure how to spell the title or the author?

But need to find the book instantly?

There’s no need to worry: Use the ISBN.

#

Copyright © 2013 Chris McMullen

#

What kind of a fool would try to write a poem about an ISBN?

A song can have the most ridiculous lyrics, but be amazingly popular if it simply has a good beat.

I’m guessing the same isn’t true with poetry…

Just get the song “YMCA” stuck in your head, then give this poem another shot. 🙂

(Yeah, okay, this poem doesn’t have a good beat, either… it’s just one of those days.)

What Attracts Me to Blogs of Fiction Authors

Brainstorm

Marketing fiction books and especially blogging are quite a challenge. Nonfiction authors have an advantage: They can attract the target audience with free content, seminars, etc. Very often, a nonfiction book has information that people need or will find helpful. A novel, on the other hand, may primarily serve to entertain. There are very many hot selling fiction books, but it takes a book that is highly marketable from cover to cover and, with rare exceptions, required effective marketing.

Fiction authors who take up marketing start a blog as one part of their marketing strategy, but often struggle with how to attract the target audience.

  • Much thought, time, and effort can be put into a short story that scarcely gets read. Blogs grow very slowly, and most posts don’t receive much attention until a blog has really blossomed. Most blog readers aren’t particularly looking for short stories, especially from unknown authors. And even if they are, there are many different kinds of short stories, most of which won’t appeal to a given reader. In some cases, it might be harder to get readers for free short stories on blogs than it is to sell a short story on Amazon (and that’s a challenge, too).
  • It’s hard to attract an audience when you mostly blog about yourself, unless you happen to be a celebrity (but if you are, attracting a following should be easy). Sure, once you get fans, they might want to learn more about you. Occasionally blogging about yourself reveals your personality and shows that your human. But this won’t attract an audience.
  • Posting about things that don’t relate to your book might get attention if they’re fascinating topics. However, most of the people who check these things out won’t be in your target audience. Plus, if they’re popular topics, there are many other popular resources writing about them online.

So what should you blog about?

You should have some variety. People have varied interests, so this helps you catch different people from your target audience. Variety also helps you reach new readers while also engaging fans; you want some posts for both parts of your blogging audience. (Include the url for your blog in your book; that will help attract some fans.)

Here are some things that have attracted me to the blogs of fiction authors:

  • I like to see snippets of things you’ve done as part of your writing process. Show me a scratch sheet with a word cloud, a photo of sticky notes with ideas for your book, sketches of characters, a preliminary map for your fantasy novel, etc. These kinds of things show the effort that you’ve put into your work. It’s kind of cool; something more than just a book. I like to see this whether I’m just discovering your blog or if I’m already a fan. It gets me interested in your writing.
  • Short poems don’t require me to invest too much time in an unknown (to me) writer. If I like the way you combine words together and express ideas in short poems, this gets me interested in your writing. I’ve discovered a few different authors this way. There is a lot of poetry out there, though. Your poem won’t appeal to everyone, won’t be discovered by everyone, and has to be pretty good to stand out with so many good poets here. No matter what, though, it helps you achieve variety with your blogging and provides a short writing sample to prospective readers.
  • Occasional posts to show what’s going on with your book catch my attention. Cover reveals, blurb posts, debut announcements, rare promotions, rank achievements, and so on give you an opportunity to mention your book without solely saying, “Buy my book.” I enjoy seeing highly marketable covers; they grab my interest. You’re not likely to attract and hold an audience by constantly blogging about your book. But mixing such updates about your book in with many other kinds of posts rounds you out as a complete author.
  • Support for other authors shows me that you’re not focused solely on yourself. I don’t mean that if you reblog Author X’s post, then Author X will be interested in your book. I mean authors in the community recognize other authors who are interactive, supportive bloggers in the community, and we all tend to support one another in various helpful ways.
  • Your experience as a writer and writing ideas attract my interest. I like to discover concepts that I’d never thought about. For example, I’ve read many fantasy novels, but never realized how many challenges fantasy writers face until I discovered a variety of blog posts describing them. Such posts also show me that you’re an experienced author who has spent much time contemplating complex writing problems in your genre.
  • A weekly goal post shows me that you’re organized. It looks professional. It should be a minor thing among other kinds of posts, but it’s nice to see your objectives and progress.

* * *

Follow me at WordPress, like my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

“Pretty Good for Being Self-Published”—Insult?

Insult

There are many comments out there about self-publishing, both good and bad.

Let’s look at a particular back-handed compliment: “Your book is pretty good for a self-published author.”

Halfway through this remark you feel flattered. As you prepare to express a simple thank you, your cheeks turn red, your blood boils, and you think to yourself, “Hey, what are you trying to imply?”

It’s like a husband telling his wife that she did pretty good for a girl (a great line if you want an excuse to sleep on the sofa).

On the one hand, a self-published author is challenged with many tasks: writing, editing, formatting, cover design, marketing, etc. It’s no easy task for one person to master all of this, or even to perfect a complete book after paying for some services. An indie book that’s well-written and has a good storyline, but has a few extra typos and good-though-not-perfect formatting is a pretty good book. If one of the big publishers had picked this book up, it might have only a couple of typos and perfect formatting. So wouldn’t it be fair to say that it’s pretty good for being self-published?

Now we switch hands. If you read a book, it’s either pretty good or it isn’t. A customer shouldn’t expect to make allowances and settle for something less. If the customer sees an issue and deems it to be minor, it’s still a pretty good book; if the customer sees an issue and views it as a problem, it’s not a pretty good book. Ultimately, it’s each customer’s opinion that matters. After investing money on a product plus the time to use it, you have expectations for what to receive in exchange for your investment. The value of the product depends on the quality of the product in relation to the investment. (Making allowances for where the product came from is purely psychological on the part of the customer. If you try two colas blindfolded, you might be surprised at which one you prefer.)

Of course, it would have been less hostile to say, “I really enjoyed your book. Would you mind if I offered a minor suggestion?”

You can see the cup as half full: “It’s a pretty good book.”

Or you can see the cup as half empty: “For being self-published.”

Really, the choice is yours.

By the nature of the statement, the person is obviously biased toward traditional publishing. If you get someone who favors traditional publishing to call your self-published book “pretty good,” maybe you should smile about this instead of getting frustrated about it.

Another thing you can do is use it as motivation. If you already have a pretty good book, some extra motivation might lead to a really nice future. 🙂

The last thing you want to do is look unprofessional. Don’t let a remark like this lure you into looking amateurish. Building a reputation takes time and patience, but it can be lost as quickly as losing your temper.

There is plenty of negativity out there. Find the good in it. Find some motivation in it. Learn to cope with it. Learn to stay away from it as much as you can.

There is plenty of positivity out there, too. Seek this. It’s easy to find, especially if you look for it.

* * *

Follow me at WordPress, like my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers