Word Search Puzzle for Book Lovers (Plus, How to Make One)

 

WORD SEARCH FOR READERS/AUTHORS

I made a word search puzzle for anyone who appreciates books.

Later, I will also show you how I made the puzzle.

First, here is the puzzle.

Here is the word list:

  • AMAZON
  • ANTAGONIST
  • AUTHOR
  • BESTSELLER
  • BLOG
  • BLURB
  • BOOKMARK
  • BOOKSTORE
  • CHAPTER
  • CHARACTER
  • CLASSIC
  • CLIMAX
  • CONTENTS
  • COVER
  • DESIGNER
  • EDITION
  • EDITOR
  • FANTASY
  • FICTION
  • FONT
  • GLOSSARY
  • GRAMMAR
  • HERO
  • INDEX
  • ISBN
  • JUSTIFIED
  • KINDLE
  • LEAF
  • MARGINS
  • MYSTERY
  • NICHE
  • OUTLINE
  • PAGE
  • PLOT
  • POEM
  • POET
  • PROTAGONIST
  • PUBLISH
  • QUOTE
  • READ
  • REVIEW
  • ROMANCE
  • SERIES
  • SETTING
  • SPINE
  • SUSPENSE
  • SYNOPSIS
  • TITLE
  • TRILOGY
  • TYPE
  • TYPO
  • UNIT
  • VOLUME
  • WORDS
  • WRITER

HOW TO MAKE A WORD SEARCH PUZZLE

I will show you how to make a word search puzzle in Microsoft Word or Excel.

I will focus specifically on Word for Windows, though Excel is very similar.

There are a few differences.

  • Word lets you enter the width of the columns and the height of the rows in inches so that you know they are exactly the same. The numerical measures for these values in Excel can be confusing, and unless you research what they mean you need to eyeball it. But you can still get them close enough that it doesn’t matter.
  • Word has a few formatting issues (like line spacing and cell margins) that can be problematic for the table, but I’ll show you how to deal with them.
  • If you’re trying to make a book, Excel can cause trouble trying to get predictable and consistent page margins, page headers, etc. on the final printed product. But a Word file with dozens of tables becomes a complex file prone to being slow to work with and becoming corrupt. For a book, if you can convert the tables individually into high-quality JPEGS (300 DPI) and insert these into Word (after researching the tricks to avoid having the pictures compressed), the file will be much more manageable. You can also separate the book into several smaller files and combine them together into a single PDF if you have access to Adobe Acrobat DC (not to be confused with the free Adobe Reader). Beware that many Word to PDF converters don’t have this capability, so find out what you have access to before working with a bunch of small files.

The first thing I did was come up with a list of related words. I made a list of words that relate to books, like “Kindle” and “poem.”

Next, I inserted a table in Microsoft Word using Insert > Table > Insert Table. My table has 18 rows and 18 columns, but you should pick the size that suits your table. If you need a smaller or larger table, you can easily insert or delete rows/columns as needed.

The default table has unequal column width and row height, so I adjusted this. I highlighted the entire table (but not beyond the table) and clicked the Layout tab on the top of the screen. I changed the Height and Width of all of my rows and columns to 0.25″. Depending on your font size, font style, and what suits your eye, you may need different values.

With the entire table highlighted, I also changed the font style to Courier New and the font size to 12 points on the Home ribbon. You can use a different font style or size. What I like about Courier New for a word search is that all of the letters are the same width. However, the font is a little light, so it’s not perfect. I suggest playing around with the font options, and print out a sample on paper before you commit.

There are two things you need to do in order to have good spacing and centering:

  • With the whole table highlighted (but not beyond the table), on the Layout tab select the center/middle alignment on the tic-tac-toe grid of icons in the Alignment group. This centers every cell horizontally and vertically, but it won’t be perfect unless you also complete the next step.
  • With the entire table highlighted, click the little arrow-like icon on the bottom right corner of the Paragraph group on the Home ribbon. This opens up the paragraph properties box. Set the line spacing to Single, and the Spacing Before and After to zero. Special should be set to None and the Indentation settings should be zero.

I put the CAPS lock on my keyboard since I prefer a word search with uppercase letters.

I started typing in words horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, forward and backward. I challenged myself to see how many words relating to books I could squeeze into the puzzle, and I managed to use words beginning with every letter of the alphabet from A thru W. It’s not necessarily the way to go; I just had fun doing it.

At this stage, my puzzle looked like this:

Next I added letters to the blank cells. I studied my word list, trying to create letter sequences that might make the word search slightly more challenging, and add a few letters that hadn’t been used much (like X). If you’re looking for BOOK and you see BOOI, for example, your eye and mind can get fixated on the wrong sequence and not find the right one as quickly. The more experience you have solving word searches, the more you learn about the kinds of things that affect you while solving the puzzle. But remember that other people may think differently.

Now I highlighted the entire table, went to the Design tab, clicked the little arrow beneath Borders, and selected No Border.

Then I changed the pen thickness to 1 pt (the default was 1/2 pt). If you plan to publish a book, Amazon KDP (for example) recommends a minimum of 1 pt for the thickness of line drawings.

Next, highlight the entire table, go back to Borders, and select Outside Borders. Your puzzle should look like this:

I zoomed in as far as I could and still see the whole table and used the Snapshot tool to take a picture of the table. (Pro tip: Make sure your cursor is below or above the table so that the cursor doesn’t show up in the picture of your table.) If making a book, you could change this to 300 DPI using image software like Photoshop. Beware that increasing the DPI isn’t magic: If it has to invent pixels, the picture may look blurry or pixilated. My computer takes 192 DPI snapshots, whereas some are much lower (72 or 96 DPI). I also have a very large monitor, so when I zoom in, I have a very large picture on my screen. Depending on your computer, you might get more or fewer pixels.

If your picture is larger in inches than you need, when you increase the DPI, if you also decrease the dimensions in inches, you might already have enough pixels that you don’t get a blurry or pixilated image. If you plan to make a book, you need to test this out, especially print out a page on a deskjet printer as a sample.

Since I just did this for my blog, not a book, I didn’t bother so much with this one.

Next I inserted the picture of the table into a Word file and added my word list to it, like the picture below. There is no particular reason that I put words on both sides of the table. I would recommend reading a few word search puzzle books and getting ideas for what formatting appeals to you.

Now there is the issue of making an answer key.

There are a few ways to go about this. You could just highlight the letters in the table and change the colors of those cells (for example, to a shading of 25% gray using the Design ribbon).

If you try to use Word’s drawing tools to create rounded rectangles, beware that some letters may actually move around and row heights or column widths may change slightly.

Well, there is a way around that. Insert the picture of the table into a new file in JPEG format (wrapped In Line With Text, on its own “paragraph”). Then you can make rounded rectangles and lay them over the picture without having to worry about the format of the table changing.

I created rounded rectangles (using Insert > Shapes) with a width of 0.18″. If you use a different font style or size, you may need a different width. For the diagonals, I clicked the little arrow-like icon beside Size on the Format ribbon (when the rounded rectangle was selected) and changed the rotation angle to 45 or 315 degrees.

I used a lot of copy/paste to make other rounded rectangles, trying to be consistent with alignment and positioning.

Here is the solution to my word search puzzle:

It would be very easy to make mistakes trying to make a word search puzzle book.

Beta readers would be great for creating a puzzle book, to help you catch important little details. They could also help you create buzz for your book.

There may or may not be demand for such a puzzle book, but if you really love puzzles, you would surely enjoy making the puzzles and sharing them with others.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Marketing a Book when you’re an Artist (not a Businessman)

Image licensed from Shutterstock.

READING, WRITING, AND BUSINESS

Talented authors, especially in fiction, naturally excel with the art of writing.

Talented businessman (and women) who publish their writing have a distinct advantage when it comes to generating sales.

If there were only two books in the world, where one was written by a talented writer and the other was written by a talented businessman, if this was all I knew about the books, I would first want to read the book written by the talented writer.

It just seems to be a better fit, doesn’t it?

But when you visit Amazon, there aren’t just two books to choose from. There are tens of millions. And it’s hard to tell which of those may have been written by especially talented authors, and which are appealing more because of the marketing of businesspeople and which are successful mainly because of the merits of the actual writing.

Amazon dazzles you with dozens of brilliant pictures of book covers. You see bestseller lists which make you feel that those books must be selling well for a reason. Indeed, the reason may very well be marketing. You recognize the names of big publishers and popular authors who have succeeded in a very important aspect of marketing: They have branded their names into your brain.

Think for a moment. Can you think of any movies that you feel were so awful they should never have been made in the first place, yet somehow many people you know have actually watched it (and worse, may even talk about it, and not just to complain about it)?

It happens. Too often, it happens.

Of course, it happens with books, too.

The difference is that when you visit a theater, there are about a dozen newly released movies to choose from. When you visit Amazon, there are tens of thousands of books that have been released just in the past 30 days.

There are thousands of talented authors and thousands of wonderful books. Yet there are millions of books to choose from. And those that you would consider the “best” may not be so easy for you to find as a reader.

Such that even if you write a book that may be among the best books that readers in your genre would enjoy…

It’s very challenging for a talented author to get those books to sell.

Unfortunately, it might be better to be a good writer with excellent business skills than to be an amazing writer with absolutely no idea how to market.

But that doesn’t mean that a talented writer who lacks business skills can’t develop marketing skills.

It may grow very slowly. It may take a long time. There may be pitfalls along the way.

But any author can start marketing, and even if you just put a little time into a variety of marketing ideas here and there, you can continually expand your marketing net.

INDIRECT BOOK MARKETING

What is marketing? I like to think of it as “helping people in your target audience discover your book.”

I don’t enjoy business. I don’t like selling. But I do like helping people to discover my books. This definition works for me.

Before I had thought of this, marketing had seemed unappealing to me. Now I think of it in such a way that I enjoy the idea.

I don’t like it when salespeople interrupt what I’m doing to try to sell me something.

As an author, I try not to interrupt what people are doing to tell them about my book.

I prefer an indirect approach. There are a variety of ways that you can market your book indirectly.

  • People could hear about your book from someone else (other than you). If your book is worth recommending, you should consider how to get your book into the hands of people who might recommend it. Recommendations and word-of-mouth sales can be quite valuable.
  • People could first discover you, and then discover that you’re an author. One way to go about this is content marketing. For example, if you write nonfiction articles on a blog relating to your book, you could potentially generate daily search engine traffic to your blog, and then on your blog people will notice that you’re also an author. Simply end your article, Your Name, Author of Your Book.
  • People could interact with you, and then discover that you’re an author. You don’t even need to volunteer this. During most conversations, there are opportunities to answer questions like, “What do you do?” or “What have you done lately?”

The problem with marketing is that it isn’t magic.

You’re hoping that you can put forth a minimum of effort and generate hundreds of sales.

But the reality is that most successful long-term marketing takes time and effort.

Another problem is that you’d like to spend more time writing and less time marketing.

A possible solution is to spend a little time each day with marketing. It will add up.

Even if you market effectively, the results will probably come in far slower than you want.

Plan knowing that it may take much time. Be patient. Keep trying new things. Keep building your platform.

Try to keep the costs low (look for free options) unless you’re fortunate enough to earn enough sales that you can afford it without going in the red.

MARKETING BEGINS WITH THE CONTENT AND WORKS ITS WAY OUTWARD

It’s far easier to sell content that is amazing and that seems amazing than it is to sell content that’s just okay.

Step 1. Write content that is amazing. There are thousands of highly talented authors and there are thousands of amazing books. How amazing is your content? Is there some way that you could improve it?

Step 2. Make your content seem as amazing as it really is.

  • A book with an amazing cover seems amazing. A book with an okay cover doesn’t have nearly as much appeal. This is your chance to attract the attention of readers. Send the message that your content was worth putting a nice cover on it.
  • A book description that generates interest in your story helps the book seem amazing. (But don’t give the story away or readers won’t need to read the book.)
  • A book that quickly grabs the reader’s interest and holds onto it seems amazing. A book that loses the customer’s interest while the customer is just reading the Look Inside doesn’t sell.
  • A book that readers want to continue reading through the end, and then want to recommend to others really is an amazing book.
  • Typos, writing mistakes, formatting mistakes, etc. make your book seem far less amazing than it might really be. There are too many books on the market for customers to take a chance on mistakes.

Step 3. Get neutral opinions to help you assess the appeal of your cover, description, early chapters, and entire story.

The more appealing your book is from cover to cover, the more dividends marketing can pay.

From the business side of things, for too many books, 1 out of 1000 strangers who see the book’s cover will check it out, and 1 out 100 strangers who check the book out will buy it. For a book like this, you need 100,000 strangers to discover your book every day to sell an average of one copy to a stranger per day. Put another way, if your book is selling about one copy per day to strangers, there is a good chance that 100,000 see your book each day and that your product page is squandering a great deal of potential sales.

For a rare book that really has strong appeal from cover to cover, 1 out 10 strangers who check the book out will buy it, more people who see the book will click on it, and it benefits in other important ways, too:

  • It’s far more likely to generate many more sales from recommendations.
  • It’s far more likely to generate positive reviews from strangers.
  • It’s far more likely to generate sales from customers-also-bought lists.
  • It’s far more likely to generate good visibility on Amazon.

But first it needs to get discovered and get initial sales.

You still need good marketing. But the marketing is more likely to bring long-term rewards.

A SAMPLE OF MARKETING IDEAS

  • In the book itself. At the end, encourage readers to follow you on social media, visit your website, or sign up for a newsletter. List your other current and coming books. Offer a free sample (like a short chapter) of another book if it is similar to the current book.
  • Premarketing. For example, do a cover reveal to try to generate interest in your book before you publish it. Get beta readers involved in your book as you develop it.
  • Advance review copies. The idea is to give a free copy of your book, with the hope of obtaining an honest review in return. (Amazon doesn’t allow you to offer any other incentives other than a free copy of your book.) You can run an Amazon Giveaway or a Goodreads giveaway from your product page. An Amazon Giveaway is fairly inexpensive, especially with a small number of prizes. For ebooks, a Goodreads Giveaway is actually cost-effective if you give away 100 books (you don’t have to pay for the cost of the books, too; but for paperbacks you have to also buy author copies and pay to ship them yourself). Aside from giveaways, you can recruit people to send advance review copies to.
  • Start a blog. If you love to write, this is only natural. If you can write about nonfiction topics that relate to your book (even in fiction), short articles can eventually turn into a content-rich website that attracts daily visitors through search engines. Some authors write poetry on their blogs. Some make great photo blogs. There are many ways to engage an audience with a blog. If you interact with both readers and other bloggers, you can build a fairly popular blog.
  • Social media. You should have it (Facebook and Twitter at least). You should do something with it. At the very least, for those readers who enjoy Facebook and Twitter, you should have something for them. If you put the time into the social interaction aspect of it, you can make social media work better, but at least you should have something there.
  • The personal touch. Some authors are reluctant to try it, but the personal interaction (especially, in person, but online is better than nothing) can make a difference for an author who hasn’t yet built a following. Most people haven’t interacted with many authors in person. Even though the number of authors is rapidly going, many aren’t interacting in person. If a person interacts with an author and has a positive experience, the person is more likely to buy the book and also more likely to review the book or recommend it to others (but, of course, only if the content is that good). How can you setup local and regional opportunities to meet people in your target audience? It doesn’t have to be a signing (which may be hard to populate when you’re starting out). Groups of people in your target audience probably already exist: book clubs, senior centers, schools (for children’s books), and countless others. You just need to figure out how to get involved and take the initiative.
  • Bookmarks. I like these better than business cards. If the bookmark looks nice and doesn’t seem like an advertisement, it might actually get used, and then it will be a constant reminder about your book.
  • Promotions. Discounted (and even free) prices used to work more effectively with less effort. There are so many books discounted (or free) these days, it’s not easy to stand above the crowd. It makes it a challenge (like most marketing), but there is still potential. The big question is how to spread the word about your sale price. There are sites that can help, free or low cost, but not all are very helpful. Explore and hope you find a helpful one.
  • Advertising. This is tricky. Too many new authors spend too much and don’t target their advertisements as effectively as they could. When you’re starting out or when you’re not earning much in monthly royalties, you really can’t afford to overspend on advertising. Your ads compete with authors and publishers who sell many copies per month and so can afford to invest significant money on an advertising budget. So you have to be smart about it. Refrain from the temptation to bid high. If your ad isn’t performing well, it’s tempting to raise the bid. But effective ad campaigns often make effective use of keywords or other targeting criteria, plus have a great cover and highly appealing product page (including the Look Inside). Relevance is your best friend when it comes to advertising. With Amazon’s AMS (via KDP), for example, once an ad is deemed to rate high in terms of relevance (by getting a high click-through rate and a high sales frequency), it tends to perform better than other ads. In fact, such an ad can perform better at a lower bid (counterintuitively). If an ad rates low in relevance, it tends to perform poorly, even if the bid is raised high. When you set your keywords or other targeting criteria, you don’t just want popularity; you want strong relevance. It also helps to spend time brainstorming keywords (also worth doing before you publish).
  • Keep writing. Each time you publish a new book, you get renewed visibility with the last 30 days and last 90 days filters at Amazon. Many authors have asked, “What happened to my sales?” both 30 days and 90 days after publishing. Well, if these filters had been helping you (without your knowledge; how would you possibly know?), that could be the answer. Plus, you attract new readers, and slowly build a fan base. Few indie authors publish a single book and have great long-term success. Most effective indie authors have established a platform with several related books. If you can keep writing and publishing, as long as you’re getting some sales with each book, you should keep doing it. Most of us do it because we love writing so much that we just couldn’t stop, sales or not. If you’re not getting the sales, you need to rethink what types of books you should write, how to make the cover, how to write the description, etc. When things aren’t going well, you have to try making changes.
  • What are other indie authors who are having some measure of success doing with their marketing? It’s easy enough to find authors who are selling some books, and it’s really easy to find their blogs and social media. So it’s not hard to see some of the things that work for them.
  • Do you feel creative with your writing? If so, spend some time thinking how you might be creative with your marketing. Maybe a little creativity will attract some readers. Maybe you will think of a marketing strategy that isn’t overused (yet! it will be if it works for you and other authors find out) and be the first to adopt it. You shouldn’t be a one-strategy marketing machine (unless, of course, the first thing you try is a great success, then you should do it until it dries up). You should be exploring a variety of options that can help you widen your marketing net.

Even when marketing works, it often develops very slowly. Just because you don’t get any early results doesn’t mean you should give up.

Another important word is “branding.” You’re creating a brand. When people see marketing, they rarely stop what they’re doing and run to the store.

Rather, months later when they happen to be shopping for a product, people tend to buy a product that they’ve heard of.

You want your author name, or your book title, or your character’s name, or your series name to be something that people have heard of.

You want your cover to be something that people have seen before.

(In a good way.)

When that happens, you’ve succeeded in branding readers.

GIVE KARMA A CHANCE

I know, you’re eager to go market your book.

But first, spread the word about someone else’s book.

Maybe it will give you some good karma. Or maybe you just feel like being a good person.

You’d like a stranger to recommend your book to others.

So take a moment to recommend a stranger’s book to others. This will help you visualize what you want to happen to your own book.

Plus, you get to do a good deed.

I’m recommending The Legends of Windemere series by Charles E. Yallowitz (who has absolutely no idea that I’m mentioning his series today, although I have mentioned him in years past).

I finished the Legends of Windemere series and enjoyed it for the storyline and several of the characters which appealed to me.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

A Powerful Four-word Phrase for Writing

 

REALLY INTO YOUR BOOK

What all authors want is for readers to be “really into the book” (or story, poem, etc.)

It doesn’t matter whether you write for a small niche audience or a popular genre.

If you set out to write a book knowing that your market is small, you derive motivation with the thought that even though the audience may be small, they are really going to love your book.

If you set out to write a book intending it to be widely read among a large audience, you are more likely to be successful by striving to get readers “really into your book.”

It’s amazing how much a four-word phrase can help drive success.

  • It begins by asking, “What can I do as a writer to get readers really into my book?”
  • If you want this strongly enough, you will do the necessary research.
  • You will take your time with the writing and get it right.
  • You will go through numerous revisions. “No, they won’t be really into that.”
  • When many readers would be “really into your book,” you will probably feel it in your heart and know it in your mind.
  • You will want to iron out all the little mistakes. You will want the book to be formatted well. When the book is that good, you want to perfect it.

And then once your book feels ready, it can make a big impact after you publish it.

  • When readers are “really into a book,” they are much more likely to recommend it to others or write good reviews.
  • They want their friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances to similarly experience what it was like to be “really into that book.”
  • For such a book, you just need to get copies of your book into the hands of as many readers (in your target audience) as possible and sales will take off.

Most authors are readers, too. Remember what it feels like to be “really into a book,” and also think of the times that you weren’t. What will make your book like the former and not like the latter?

When you reach a part of the book that’s challenging to write… A part of the book that doesn’t involve your writing strengths…

Remind yourself that you want readers to be “really into your book,” and use this to motivate yourself to not only get through it, but to do it well.

If, after publishing, it seems like readers weren’t so into your book after all, try to learn why. What could make your next book better?

The next time you read a book… First, spend some time trying to find a book that you’re likely to really be into. Open the book with a positive attitude.

It feels great to be really into a book. Try to get into it and stay into it. You’ll enjoy it more if you can do this.

And the next time you really are drawn into a book, be sure to recommend that book to others so that many more readers can enjoy the experience.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

That Book is a Monster

Image licensed from Shutter Stock.

MONSTER BOOK PROJECTS

There is one book that I’m wrapping up now that has grown and grown and grown… turning into a monster.

In a good way. But it has been very time consuming.

It’s a good thing that I really love to write.

That’s why, in 2017, I didn’t blog nearly as much as in previous years. I’ve been busy with a seemingly never-ending project.

Actually, a few very large book projects.

One, which I’m in the process of completing, is Kindle Formatting Magic.

The other is a series of physics workbooks/study guides.

Both projects wound up growing much, much larger than I had originally envisioned.

It has taken much more work than I had planned, but it has been worth it.

If you’re a writer, have you become involved in any monstrous book projects?

Or perhaps as a reader there is a monstrous book or series that you appreciate.

KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

You may have noticed that my Kindle Formatting Magic book has been “coming soon” for several months now.

When I first added that note to my blog, the book was nearly complete and I was expecting to publish it in a matter of weeks.

But I realized that I wasn’t happy with the organization of the book.

So I reorganized it and completely rewrote it.

That took a long time, but then I reorganized it and completely rewrote it yet again.

Third time’s a charm.

Now it really is “coming soon,” though by that I mean it’s still a matter of weeks. But this time it will be a few weeks or more, certainly not a year.

The book feels “right” now. It hadn’t before.

Once I finally got it to feel “right” to me, it continued to grow.

I realized that I needed to add a few more chapters beyond what I had intended.

And I have spent a great deal of time putting together over 100 pictures to visually demonstrate important problems and solutions with Kindle formatting.

On top of that, I’ve been editing, revising, re-editing…

Speaking of which, over the course of this project, there have been numerous changes to Kindle Direct Publishing, including the nature of the previewer and Kindle conversion, the steps and organization of the publishing process, and the organization and content of the KDP help pages.

Which has added several revisions to my revisions.

This book has grown into a monster, but I’m taking my time. Having already put so many additional months into this book, I want it to feel as “right” as possible before it hits the market.

Almost done.

It’s a good feeling to be almost done. I’m enjoying it.

Being completely done will be a nice feeling too.

This will be far and above my best formatting book ever.

PHYSICS WORKBOOKS

If I had only been working on my formatting book, I would have finished months ago.

But I also spent much of 2017 completing my series of physics workbooks/study guides.

There are three volumes, each 300 to 500 pages. (This includes space for students to work out the solutions to problems.)

Originally, I planned for my physics workbooks to include problems for students to solve along with answers.

But they grew into so much more.

I added material to each chapter to help students understand the main concepts. I added definitions. I added full step-by-step examples for how to solve similar problems. I added tables to explain the symbols and units relevant to each chapter.

This took much time, but I believe it has made my physics workbooks much more useful.

Many of my physics students have remarked that I can make difficult concepts seem clear, and that I can make the math seem easy.

So I worked hard to try to incorporate this into my physics workbooks.

On top of this, I decided to do more than simply tabulate the answers to the problems at the back of the book.

First, I put the final answer to each problem on the same page as the problem. This way, students don’t have to hunt for answers in the back. They can check if their solution is right or wrong immediately. I want students to gain confidence by solving problems correctly, but if their solution is wrong, I want them to know it so they can seek help.

In the back of the book, I typed up numerous hints to every part of every problem, and give intermediate answers to help students see where they went wrong.

The “hints and intermediate answers” section practically walks the student through the entire solution.

Again, it was much more work than I had originally planned, but I believe it has made my workbooks much better.

Just in case that wasn’t enough, I also typed up full solutions to every problem with explanations, creating three new books.

They aren’t really intended to be solutions manuals, even though they are. These are presented as fully solved examples.

Some students prefer to have fully solved examples to read, while other students prefer to have a workbook to help them practice solving problems.

Then I have two versions of every book, one that includes calculus and one that doesn’t (I call those trig-based).

I finally completed the physics series a few months back, and now I’m finishing up my formatting book.

Sometime early in 2018, I will be able to pursue something new.

It won’t be a book monster. I need a little break from mammoth book projects. I’m looking forward to working on a project that’s more focused.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online BooksellersVolume 1 on formatting and publishing

  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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NY Published Author Successfully Transitions to Self-Publishing: The Amazing Story of Cheryl Holt

After Writing 24 Books for New York Publishers, Cheryl Holt Adds 24 More by Self-publishing

This amazing, inspiring author success story needs to be shared throughout the indie publishing community.

I was very fortunate to interview Cheryl Holt, who had written 24 books for New York publishers and then successfully transitioned to self-publishing.

You can hear Cheryl’s story straight from her, and there is much that you can learn from her answers to my questions.

(1) What have you done to help market your self-published books? Was this a viable option when you were traditionally published?

When I wrote for the NY companies, I was “just” a paperback romance writer, so I got very little marketing assistance from my publishers. The biggest thing they did for me was to always buy me an ad in a romance trade magazine, Romantic Times, when I had a book released. Otherwise, I was pretty much on my own as far as handling any marketing. So from the very beginning, I had to devise my own marketing strategies, and I’ve continued to use those old tried-and-true ones as well as latching on to new ones that technology has made available.

I market my self-published books in exactly the same way that I marketed my books that were published by the NY companies. My biggest marketing tool, and the one I spend the most time on, is growing my mailing list. I started my mailing list with my very first release, and I constantly work on it. I have sign-up forms posted all over my web site, and I run contests several times a year, where I give away autographed print copies of my novels as the prize. The entrants’ email addresses are added to my mailing list. I work on the list constantly; I work on it everyday. The number one way to sell something (in any field) is through direct marketing to your dedicated customer base. So I keep track of my readers, and when I need to notify readers about a new release, that’s where I start. They’re loyal and voracious, and they’ve been very kind to me in sticking with me through all my career ups and downs. I’m always so grateful to them, and they’re the first to hear about everything that’s happening with me and my books.

There have been changes to my marketing that have come over the years. I have a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter account, but I don’t use them for personal postings. I simply post about my books, what’s coming, and what’s happening. I’ve always had a web page, ever since it became a “thing” that people could have (around 1999). I’m meticulous about keeping it updated. My readers like to know what’s coming next and when it’s coming, so I try to make it easy for them to log on and quickly see what’s happening. If you’d like to take a peek, the URL is www.cherylholt.com.

When I have a book coming, (in the month before the release date) I do a ton of promo to get myself noticed. I do blog tours at the big romance reader sites, I run contest giveaways, I do interviews, I buy banner ads, I buy spot ads, I do reader promotion at reader sites. I’ve even hosted Facebook parties with lots of guest authors and prize giveaways.

The main problem for self-published authors is that we’re being buried by a wave of content that’s swept over all of us. So it’s a hundred times harder to get noticed than it was ten years ago. There are so many books out there now, and even with my name recognition and dedicated fan base, it’s an enormous and exhausting challenge to get people to notice that I have a book coming.

For example, this was the first year since 2005 that I didn’t produce a book trailer for my new series. The web is so overloaded with video content that it’s just about impossible to justify the expense of creating a book trailer. Even with expanded distribution by a video company, any video is thrown into a sea of millions of other videos. So I’ve stopped doing them.

But otherwise, each and every year, I do more promo. It’s a constant battle to stay ahead of the game, and that hasn’t changed with self-publishing. I’m doing more and different types of promo, and I’m using more intense marketing than ever before.

(2) What advice would you offer new authors who are just learning the self-publishing ropes?

My biggest advice would be to read all about self-publishing and to learn as much as you can about it before you jump into it. And once you get going, keep reading and keep learning. The publishing industry—both on the NY end of it and in the self-publishing world—is changing so fast, and you have to keep up, or you’ll get crushed in the wave of what’s happening.

I heartily advise people to join a writer’s group (both a local one and a national one). At the local one, you can hang with other writers once a month and listen to how they’re working and adapting to this strange, new world we’re in. There are also big national groups you can join in various genres, such as Romance Writers of America or Sisters in Crime. You’ll get a monthly newsletter that contains articles about markets, trends, and changes.

If you can afford it, try to attend a big national writer’s conference. They’re always held once a year. Take all the classes and chat with other writers so you can absorb some of what they’ve figured out.

There are publishing companies, such as Writer’s Digest Books, that publish tons of “how to” books about writing, publishing, and book marketing, particularly e-book, self-published marketing. Start buying them and reading them.

Go out on the web and find some good blog sites (how about Chris McMullen’s blog?!) and other sites where authors provide guidance and advice. If you’re a tech dummy, as I am, find companies that can help you figure out how to format and publish on your own. I always use BookBaby to format and distribute my novels. I met them in the vendor’s room at a national writer’s conference, when I was first trying to figure out how I could start publishing my own books. I had no idea how to do that, and it seemed really complicated. I’m not much of a computer person, and all the processes seemed beyond my ability to figure out. At one on-line site, I was told to read their 85-page formatting manual before I tried to post anything! It was all so bewildering.

When I talked to the Book Baby book rep, he said, “We can do all that for you.” I about fainted. It had never occurred to me that there were companies out there that could provide exactly the sort of services I needed.

There are all kinds of companies now that help authors get their books published. When I first started writing novels, the web wasn’t a “thing” yet. I lived in a little town in rural Oregon, and I staggered around for years, trying to figure out how to start. It’s so much easier now to get information. Join a writer’s group! Attend regularly! Find several good blog sites, read them religiously, and absorb every bit of advice that’s offered! Read books about marketing and trends! Do some research and find companies that can help you. Read, read, read. Learn, learn, learn.

That’s always the best advice. Learn—and get smarter and better.

(3) When you made the switch from writing for NY publishers to self-publishing, what changes (if any) did you make to your writing?

I started writing manuscripts in the late 1990s, and my first books were published in 2000. For a decade, I wrote for various NY publishers, and I was a genre paperback writer. When I started out, paperbacks were really long. I’m dating myself, but do you remember books like SHOGUN? They were massive in length. So my first novels were really long, but “book length” was a factor that changed significantly in the decade that I wrote for those NY companies. And that’s precipitated the biggest changes to my current writing.

Book length is measured by word count, and my early novels were around 110,000 words. But starting about 2004, the price of paper shot up dramatically, so the NY publishers responded by shortening the length of books that they published. This caused a significant abbreviation of the size of novels, but it also caused authors to adopt major stylistic changes in our writing as we had to be able to tell much more story in a much shorter span of pages. Authors had to cut descriptive prose and tell the story using more dialogue. This brought us fast, fleet stories that were much easier (quicker) to read, but for many readers, they’ve gotten much less satisfying.

My early paperbacks were around 110,000 words, and when I finished writing for those NY companies a decade later, my books had to be between 80,000 and 85,000 words. That’s a considerable drop in book length, which brought about significant changes stylistically, so my early NY-published books are very different from the later ones.

I liked writing longer novels, and my biggest NY sales came in the beginning of my career when books were much longer and I was able to write long, emotional stories. I’m great at using emotion and drama, and I feel like I’m better at a longer length—and that my readers enjoy a deeper, more satisfying emotional story. So I’ve gone back to writing long books. With my self-publishing of e-books, I don’t have to worry about the price of paper or of page length. I’m typically writing books that are 120,000 words now, and my readers seem to really enjoy the longer length. I’m able to give them a “bigger”, more involved story with more in-depth characters and interesting plots.

My longest books, the ones I’ve published on my own, have been my biggest sellers in my career.

Cheryl Holt’s Story: The Transition from NY Publishers to Self-publishing

BookBaby author Cheryl Holt made a name for herself, as well as a respectable living, writing historical romance novels, first for a dedicated paperback publisher, then for several big mass market publishers. Her books did well, though Holt often had to come to terms with market forces beyond her control, that didn’t light her creative fire.

Holt had started writing as a young mother in her 40s. At home with small children, she wanted something to do, something that earned some money. She landed on novel writing. “I was clueless about how the money worked, or how the business worked,” she admits. Inspired by stars like John Grisham, she drew on her legal training to craft her first books. Her forays into suspense didn’t pan out, so she decided to look elsewhere.

“The romance companies back then used to find their new talent among moms who were at home and writing to earn a bit of extra money. They were essentially paperback mills who ran romance book clubs. They bought straight from the writer. ‘I’ll sell these romances,’ I told myself, ‘then I’ll go back.’”

Her seventh manuscript, a Regency-era romance, finally sold. Holt didn’t go back, but dug in, writing and editing steamy tales in the car, at soccer practices and swim lessons, whenever she had a few spare moments. She discovered something she never suspected: She could write really, really good love stories.

At the time, romances ran longer and readers devoured elaborate storylines. “When I was starting and reading, historical romances were just massive,” Holt recalls. “They had wild love stories, when the heroine was, say, taken to harem after being kidnapped by pirates. I’m not a particularly romantic person, but I got hooked on them. Romance readers have certain things they love, but I didn’t know what they were. I had no preconceived notions. Readers loved that.”

Holt’s unconventional takes on the genre led to her selling book after book to publishers. One of her early books sold out nationwide due to a hot cover that connected with fans, and soon she built herself a sizeable following. As tastes changed, Holt learned the hard way to adapt. By 2000, erotic romance was the rage, and Holt wrote what publishers asked for. But her readers longed for the sweeping romantic tales that had launched her career.

“Books were getting shorter, more erotic,” Holt says. “It was leaning toward pornographic really fast. I wasn’t into that. My sales were starting to fall. My hardcore fans kept asking why everything was vampires and erotica, instead of real love stories.”

Then 2008 hit, the economic downturn that kicked the legs out from under many mass publishers. Holt had a deal in place, but her publisher faced a daunting reality: the overwhelming majority of bookstores closed as the economy faltered, stores where her publishers had banked on selling Holt’s work. “They wrote me off as a loss,” she sighs.

Holt found herself unemployed, with a family and a mortgage in Los Angeles, one of many workers in their 50s looking for a job, any job. She was so discouraged, she thought she’d never bother with writing again, though writing had been her profession for years. “The recession cut a swath through the ranks of paperback writers,” she says. “I took it personally. The universe was telling me to go get a real job, but there were no jobs.”

Time passed, however, and Holt noticed that fans were still out there, hoping for new reads from their favorite authors. Kindle came onto the scene, and Holt began to reconsider. “I asked myself if I should start over. I was good. I was popular, but the companies didn’t really care. We writers were a dime a dozen in their eyes. There was no chance to go back that way.”

Self-publishing beckoned. The project management and production side of things still seemed daunting, however. Then, at a romance conference, she ran into some people from BookBaby, who helped her see how simple publishing her work independently could be.

After writing 24 novels for publishers, Holt has put out 24 of her own, letting her own interests and fan response determine when and how she publishes her work. An example: She gave her readers all three books in a trilogy at once, where a traditional publisher would have doled the books out over several years.

Like love, an independent career is not as easy as it seems at first. It takes work. Holt still struggles to find the right supporting team, and income isn’t what it once was during paperback publishing’s heyday. But Holt is glad she’s still able to write and reach readers, now on her own terms. “It’s a blessing to be on my own. My best sellers are ones that the publishers rejected,” she laughs. “My Lord Trent trilogy, for example, have been best-selling books of all.”

You can find out more about BookBaby and their recent Independent Authors Conference.

More about Novelist Cheryl Holt

CHERYL HOLT is a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon “Top 100” bestselling author who has published forty-eight novels.

She’s also a lawyer and mom, and at age forty, with two babies at home, she started a new career as a commercial fiction writer. She’d hoped to be a suspense novelist, but couldn’t sell any of her manuscripts, so she ended up taking a detour into romance where she was stunned to discover that she has a knack for writing some of the world’s greatest love stories.

Her books have been released to wide acclaim, and she has won or been nominated for many national awards. She is considered to be one of the masters of the romance genre. For many years, she was hailed as “The Queen of Erotic Romance”, and she’s also revered as “The International Queen of Villains.” She is particularly proud to have been named “Best Storyteller of the Year” by the trade magazine Romantic Times BOOK Reviews.

She lives and writes in Hollywood, California, and she loves to hear from fans.

Visit her website at www.cherylholt.com.

Follower her on Facebook.

Check out her latest series:

Forever Yours by Cheryl Holt

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

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

Optimistic Authorship

THE OPTIMISTIC AUTHOR

You can approach your writing with optimism or pessimism—your choice.

(Though complaints, worries, and frustrations may become more of a habit and less of a conscious decision.)

Optimism can be an asset to your authorship.

When you believe that your book will be successful, you are more likely to:

  • motivate yourself to work hard
  • stay focused while writing
  • do the necessary research
  • proofread carefully
  • put time and effort into cover design and formatting
  • put a small investment in cover design or editing
  • make a full effort to market your book
  • find a way to harness your creativity in your marketing

On the other hand, if you are pessimistic about the outcome of your book, you are less likely to put in the work needed to help make your book successful.

Thus, your outlook may pull a pivotal role in the success or failure of your book launch.

Once you start getting sales, if sales are slower than you expected, optimism can carry you through the slow times. If you are optimistic that you can improve your sales, you are more likely to try new marketing ideas and eventually discover strategies that work for you. You will be more likely to write additional books—and put the proper effort into those, too—if you remain optimistic that your writing will take off (and it sometimes takes multiple good books to gain traction). But if you are pessimistic, it’s easy to give up without really putting the effort into it.

The optimistic author will find the good in a bad review, while the pessimistic author will see something bad in a good review. The optimistic author appreciates the neutral review, whereas the pessimistic author is upset that it wasn’t a five-star review.

When a potential customer visits the optimistic author’s social media sites and blog, the customer has a positive experience.

When a potential customer sees complaints and frustration in the author’s social interactions, the customer is seeing publicized negativity.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

2017 Writing Goals #PoweredByIndie

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock

2017 WRITING GOALS

I’m trying to focus on my main writing goal for 2017:

DEVOTE MORE TIME FOR WRITING!

I think it’s a pretty good New Year’s resolution.

And I’m off to a good start, wearing out my seat cushion and rubbing off the letters from my keyboard as I pound away.

Mostly about physics for now, as I’m wrapping up a BIG project, but I have many writing plans for 2017, and I’m anxious to start on them.

I also hope to spend more time on my blogs in the near future.

A couple of other related goals include:

  • read even more indie books
  • find more time to write reviews

I have a lot of specific goals, and timelines for projects. Goals and timelines help me be productive and stay motivated.

But I’m trying to focus on the main three, posted above.

What are your writing goals for 2017?

Remember to use the #PoweredByIndie hashtag when you post about them on social media.

Amazon is sponsoring this hashtag and supporting indies.

I was lucky, as KDP mentioned my main goal (to devote more time for writing) on their Twitter site.

Check out Amazon KDP on Facebook and Twitter. You can see other great writing goals, and they often share links to valuable publishing tips.

Amazon also has indie New Year’s stories to share: http://www.amazon.com/newyearnewstories

HAPPY 2017!

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

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Write Selflessly… to Sell More Books #WriteWithCare

Selfless

SELFLESS WRITING

By selfless, I don’t mean giving away your books for free.

I mean a distinction between selfless versus selfish in how you go about the writing, publishing, and marketing.

Really, there aren’t two extremes: one who goes about this 100% selflessly or 100% selfishly. Everyone is apt to fall somewhere in between overall.

But let’s look at one possible extreme. Let’s label this as completely selfish (even though from some perspective, one might not agree with this label—don’t worry, we’ll explore this perspective, too):

  • Write whatever comes to mind.
  • Don’t write for a specific audience.
  • Write however you feel like writing.
  • Focus entirely on writing, if possible.
  • Give as little attention to formatting, cover design, marketing, etc. as possible.
  • Avoid interacting with readers or potential readers.

One way this might seem selfish is that you would be writing for you, not necessarily for the benefit of any particular reader. Will any readers actually appreciate what you’ve written?

Another way is that this ultra extreme example doesn’t entail learning or at least exploring the craft of writing itself, such as the elements of storytelling or characterization or making the writing flow.

Finally, this extreme is selfish in not wanting to meet or interact with readers, not to take a vested interest in marketing, not to add a personal touch to the reading experience, not to be willing to get out of one’s comfort zone with marketing, or to not want to take a more authoritative role in cover design, formatting, or the blurb.

Let’s compare with the other extreme, completely selfless (in a sense):

  • Considering your abilities, knowledge, experience, creativity, etc. and how to harness these to match up with real readers.
  • Thinking of ways to attract, engage, and please (or perhaps better, to wow) your audience from the front cover (the moment the reader lays eyes on your book) to the ending (that fulfilling climax and beyond). (Oh, yes! The writing and selling process is a romance, even if the book isn’t.)
  • Researching, learning, and exploring ways to apply elements of effective storytelling, characterization, communication, etc. with a style that suits your writing.
  • Looking beyond the writing itself, appreciating the challenge of trying to hook the reader with the cover and blurb, taking an interest in how the design of the book can supplement the feel of the story, and feeling motivated to share your passion with readers through marketing.
  • Wanting very much to meet readers and potential readers, and to interact with them.

To be fair, there is another perspective to consider.

If you write so much for the readers that you lose yourself… you sacrifice your own style… you write about topics that don’t strongly interest you… your writing goes against some of your own beliefs… you write in ways that you hear are best, but you don’t really believe in them… your motivation becomes to sell as many books as possible, whatever it takes… or worse, you engage in unscrupulous behavior to reach more readers… then you are apt to feel like you’ve sold out.

But somewhere in between is a happy medium, where the author retains a strong sense of identity, but where the author writes more selflessly, trying to put the author’s talents, experience, knowledge, background, style, etc. to effective use to please actual readers.

C.A.R.E.

  • C-are
  • A-bout
  • R-eaders’
  • E-xpectations

Back to the romance analogy with writing, publishing, and marketing, you don’t want a one-night stand. You’re looking for readers to commit to your book. Your series. So you need to commit to your readers. It’s mutual.

Think about how much you C.A.R.E. and how showing this impacts sales, not just now, but in the long run.

  • C.A.R.E. enough to make it easy for your audience to tell what kind of book you’ve written from a glance at your cover.
  • C.A.R.E. to dress your book up in an attractive cover, one that tells readers, “Hey! This author C.A.R.E.s.”
  • C.A.R.E. to stimulate the reader’s interest in the blurb, to not ruin the story for the reader by giving too much away, to show what kind of book the reader should expect.
  • C.A.R.E. to learn and perfect the craft of writing to become an effective storyteller, to create strong characters, to communicate clearly, etc.
  • C.A.R.E. to put the best possible book on the market, one that you will be proud of, one that readers will feel was well worth the money and time spent.
  • C.A.R.E. to find out what readers think, to meet readers, to interact with potential readers, to let your passion show, to get out of your comfort zone and help readers discover your book.
  • C.A.R.E. to think about how readers shop, how they will discover your book, what will pull the reader to your product page, what will make the reader take a chance on your book, how the beginning of the story will hook the reader, whether or not your story will engage the reader throughout, and whether your story is powerful enough to make the reader crave more.
  • C.A.R.E. to make your book so good that it leads to word-of-mouth recommendations.
  • Just C.A.R.E.

This works beyond writing books. How selfless do you write for social media? How selfless or selfish is your blog, for example? Is it meeting the needs of actual readers?

#WriteWithCare

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

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Fun with English

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

FUN WITH ENGLISH

Language can seem funny sometimes.

§

Did you know that left can be right?

Left is right when right is dead wrong.

On what side of your body is your heart?

Left is right. Right is incorrect.

§

Similarly, wrong can be right.

Wrong is sometimes correct.

What’s a synonym for injustice?

Wrong is a correct answer. Right is dead wrong.

§

Even the word literal can’t always be taken literally.

Sometimes, we use literally to mean figuratively.

I’m hungry enough to eat an elephant.

Literally! (Just not in the literal sense…)

§

I is speaking with poor grammar, right?

You can’t say, “I is.” It has to be, “I am.”

But check this out: I is a pronoun.

Find the mistake in that.

§

Everything is something.

Nothing is something.

If A=C and B=C, then A=B, right?

So everything is nothing! (Not quite.)

§

I can be here and there at the same time.

I think of myself as being here.

You think of me as being there.

So I am both here and there; it’s all relative.

§

If you don’t have anything, you have naught.

The number zero is called the nought.

The opposite of having something, of course, is not.

It’s enough to tie your brain in a knot.

§

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Comments

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