Writing to Market Update #2: The First Draft is Done (And What's Next)

That series I've been writing to market? 

Find out how it's coming along in today's video! After tons of time following Chris Fox's book, Write to Market, and doing tons of outlining and writing, the first draft is finally done! 

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However, as you'll find out, this is just the beginning, and there's still a ton of work ahead of me. Find out what's been going well, what I'm struggling with, and what's next as I aim to hit it out of the park with this new YA romance series.

WRITING TO MARKET UPDATE #1: THE RESEARCH PHASE, WHAT TO DO, AND WHAT I'VE LEARNED SO FAR

WRITING TO MARKET UPDATE #1: THE RESEARCH PHASE, WHAT TO DO, AND WHAT I'VE LEARNED SO FAR

Today I want to give you the first official update as I write my first series to market. This is something I announced a while back, and I’ve come a long way since then. 
In this video, I’m talking about the research phase of the write to market process, what exactly I’m doing when I say write to market, exactly what I did, and everything I've learned.

My Plan for Finally Becoming a Six-Figure Author

My Plan for Finally Becoming a Six-Figure Author

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on something new with my YA fiction.

But what’s really exciting is that, for the first time ever, I’m going into this writing project with some specific business goals and an entirely new mindset.

If you’re in the same boat as me, where you’ve been in this indie publishing game for a few months or a year, and you’re still not seeing the sales that you want, then stick around because you’ll definitely find this helpful.

MY AUTHOR JOURNEY: How far I've come since selling a book a month

I've come a very long way since I got started as an indie author on New Year's Eve 2013.

In today's video, I'm giving you the biggest takeaways I've learned throughout the years and starting out selling maybe a book a month, including:

  • the most important things I've learned
  • the very first steps of my journey and how I became a lifelong reader (thanks to a very special teacher)
  • the very first thing I wrote 
  • the favorite stories that inspired me to become a writer
  • what I did for years before ever writing a single word 
  • why I took writing seriously in college and my first NaNoWriMo
  • how I found out about self-publishing and why writing became a lot less scary
  • what finally motivated me to write my first book
  • what happened to my very first book and what I wrote after that
  • the hard lessons I learned as a newbie indie author and the denial I went through
  • the specific things I did to turn things around and finally start selling some books
  • where I am now and what's still scary for me 

3 THINGS YOU SHOULD BE DOING (BESIDES WRITING) FOR AUTHOR SUCCESS

In today's video, I share three super important things you should be doing if you want to see success in your author business.

Not just the writing. Or growing a mailing list. That's a given. 

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Here's what else I talk about:

  • which books in your genre you should be reading
  • what to pay attention to while you read them (& how to figure out why your book might not be selling)
  • why you should always be learning
  • some of my favorite resources for authors
  • how to be ahead of the curve when it comes to marketing your books
  • why meeting other writers in real life will change your career (and why it's more than worth it)
  • check out all my favorite resources here

2016 Goals: What's Next?

There are SO MANY things I want to accomplish this year ? My number one goal is to start writing full-time. That doesn’t mean that I’m already making enough money off of my books and editing business, but I’m on my way. My plan is to give up my day job starting this summer and take the plunge into writing and editing full-time.

I work part-time (with close to full-time hours), so luckily it’s just a part-time income I’ll be working to replace at first. We’re also going to work on cutting expenses as a family, including childcare, going back to couponing, and eating out less, but these are things I’m glad to do anyway.

Once I can write full-time, I think it’ll be much easier to replace my day job income and more because, right now, what’s holding me back the most is the lack of energy and time after I get home from my day job.

Below, I outline everything else I’d like to do this year. It’s been two years since I started taking this writing thing seriously and self-published my first book. This year, I’d like to accelerate my growth as an author and get closer than ever to making a living on my writing. I’d like to aim for $1000/a month consistently, and after that, the sky is the limit!

(By the way, the first step I’ve taken to accelerating my growth as an author is joining Monica Leonelle’s VIP Igniters group. I can already tell that being part of a group that will hold me accountable and push me forward is going to be crucial for reaching my goals this year!)

Health

  • exercise 3 times a week minimum
  • keep up portion control and continue eating healthy
  • Drink lots of water and avoid juices and soda as much as possible

Writing/Publishing

  • finish writing/revising YA book from NaNoWriMo 2015
  • write two new books
  • publish two books
  • publish Changing Hearts series boxed set

Marketing

  • promote permafree book every 3-6 months and buy ads
  • put other books in series on sale every 3-6 months (price pulsing) and buy ads
  • keep in touch with readers primarily via email list once a month and 1-2 social media sites (looking into Instagram and Snapchat as #1 choices)
  • keep up reader giveaways, ARCs, sales for email list, etc with new releases
  • keep growing email list with permafree book and front/back matter
  • work on accumulating more honest reviews using email list
  • add 2 new products to my inventory and grow sales to consistent $500 sales a month
  • promote series boxed set (add to autoresponders, buy ads, email readers list, etc)

Reading

  • read 26 books again, more if possible
  • go back to reading daily (been in a rut) and make it a priority

Editing Business

  • set up autoresponders for writers list
  • sale/giveaways every 3-6 months
  • grow editing business for additional income starting this summer when I give up the day job
  • aim for consistent $500 a month in editing income (my website and Upwork)

Daily Habits/Weekly Goals/Quarterly Progress Checks

  • schedule downtime every so often plus holidays
  • keep up quarterly progress checks (complete on time)
  • record daily and weekly goals/progress (on calendar then record in evernote)
  • weekly goal:
    • if I’m crazy busy: 1000 words a week
    • if I’m busy but it’s manageable: 2500 words a week
    • if I’m off from day job/on fire: 5000 words a week
  • schedule blocks of writing and marketing time each week, including time to catch up; create non-negotiable weekly schedule

What are your 2016 goals? Share in the comments! 

2015 in Review: What I Learned, Where I Failed, and How I Finally Started Making Money as a Writer

So 2015 is over, which means it’s time to reflect back on how we did with our goals during the year. Did we make as much progress as we had planned and hoped? Where did we fail and what can we learn from it? How can we make 2016 a better year? 

(Tip: Go back to your previous goals/progress updates and celebrate how far you’ve come! Here are my January 2013 postmy January 2014 post, and my January 2015 post. I can't believe how far I’ve come since then.)

Here were my 2015 goals:

Yearly Goals

Publish 2 more books (Unfailing Love and next book in Unbreakable Love series)
Write next book in Unbreakable Love series
Write YA fantasy book 1 (not fantasy but did write another YA book; well, like 95% done)
Kindle landing page/call to action (see setting up buckets below)
Get 20 reviews on each book (nope, but significant progress)
Lose 10 more pounds
Email auto responder series for readers (room for improvement but a good foundation)
Make books into audio books
Add books to Goodreads
Complete Blog To Do List (incomplete but majority/most important tasks complete)

In order to set myself up to succeed, I broke these yearly goals down into monthly and then weekly goals:

And here’s some deeper insight on how I did in each of the following categories. It’s important to add that some things, especially, the rebrand and relaunch of my YA series wasn’t even in my original goals but something that came up throughout the year.

Changing Hearts Series Rebrand/Relaunch

  • I had planned on launching book 3 in this series in May, but I was having issues with the cover and feedback on it. I went ahead and decided to ask for input as to why books 1 and 2 were not selling. I put the book 3 launch on hold when I realized the entire series needed to be revamped. I made plans and executed them over the entire summer when I was off work. It wasn’t easy and I wanted to be working on new words, but I’m glad I stuck with this.
  • I designed new covers, wrote new book descriptions, and created new titles for the existing books, including a new series title. I also made significant revisions to the now prequel (previously book 1) and republished. Book 3 (now book 2) came out with a new title, All In, and cover aligned with the rebrand.
  • I made the new book 1 (Without You) permafree at the end of July when it relaunched along with Better Off, the new prequel. I also published All In, book 2.
  • I paid for a bknights ad. I had calls to action in the front and back of the book for readers to get the free prequel, Better Off, if they signed up for my mailing list. I announced the relaunch to my mailing list and sent them the free prequel. Without You got a nice bump. See specific numbers below.

bk knights promo ranking without you

  • July (about 5-10 days): 464 free downloads on Amazon, iBooks, and Nook and also 10 paid sales, more than I had seen in one month before. Paid for a bknights promotion.
  • August: 11,095 free downloads of Without You; 153 sales, most of them All In, still my best-selling book of the entire series; this was the month I paid $20 to knights. I made $64.86 (I’d made about $40 total in the past year and a half.)

  • September: I booked an ENT ad for Without You and saw a great bump in rankings and signups to my mailing list. The book was ranking very well on iBooks. Without You free downloads: about 7,000, mostly across Amazon and iBooks. Close to 200 paid sales across all sites. I made $121.08. I also launched book 3 of the series, Letting Go. I had about 5 excellent honest reviews from ARC readers thanks to my mailing list.

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  • October: about 2700 free downloads across all sites, and I made $114.55. I thought this was great.
  • So that’s how the series has done in the first few months since the rebrand/relaunch. I haven’t booked any more promotions but will be soon to get sales back up. Actually, sales have picked up on their since Christmas and New Year's Day (this is the first time I'm likely to make over $300 in a single month and perhaps just from Amazon), but I don't expect it to last. The plan is to keep promoting Without You every 3-6 months and also put the other books on sale every so often to keep sales up. It’s a matter of scheduling promotions periods in Asana and making sure to execute.

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  • One of my goals this year was to get 20 honest reviews for each book. I definitely did not meet that goal but Without You has 15 reviews, Better Off has 8, All In comes in last place with 3, and Letting Go has 6. I’m offering free review copies of All In to my mailing list via an autoresponder, and I’ve gotten some interested readers. I plan on pushing this a bit more in the next few months. However, I’m finally at a great place where I have enough reviews on almost all of my books to be able to book promotions and get exposure.

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  • I also want to share how the books are doing overall across the various retail sites. At first I started doing equally well on Amazon and iBooks, but as time has passed, Amazon has come out in front as the place where I sell the most books. However, they’re also the two places where I sell about 95% of my books. I’ve had a very difficult time getting traction, sales, and reviews on Nook and Kobo, but hope to work on that this year. If I could get traction on those two sites, that could add significantly to my income.

Sales at Kobo.

  • Oh, and I also redesigned new paperbacks with the new covers. This was the hardest part of all but I actually am seeing a few sales here and there of the Without You paperback, and I wanted them for my bookshelf and to giveaway anyways.
  • Overall, I have to say that I’m REALLY happy with the how far my sales have come since the relaunch/rebrand and since I published my first book on January 1st, 2014. I’m nowhere near making a full-time income yet, but I’m getting there. I’ve set up a lot of things this year to help me get there, and I feel like now it’s a matter of keeping up the growth on my mailing list, interacting with readers through the mailing list, and putting out more books consistently.

Setting Up Buckets 

  • Email List: I mentioned earlier that when I relaunched the series, I put calls to actions in the front and back of all my books to get readers to sign up for my mailing list. I also created a separate mailing list for readers and another for writers. With all the downloads from the permafree book, I’ve gone from having 2 people on my mailing list (including me) to having over 630 people on that reader list. And I get emails from readers all the time, which I still can’t believe.

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  • I’ve set up autoresponders so readers can get to know more about me and my books and I’ve even set up a separate list that my most devoted readers can join: the Awesome Review Team, which gets free advanced review copies and additional giveaways and stuff.
  • Setting up all of these different lists, placing calls to action on my books, website, and social media, and just getting everything in place was not an easy task. It took a long time but I realized it was something I should have done a while ago. Now, my mailing list and website are working for me and I just need to keep up the interaction and maintenance. 
  • Website: I redesigned my website and focused on readers, not just writers. There are calls to action all over the place, including the home page, bottom of posts, sidebar, and book pages so readers can sign up for my readers mailing list in exchange for a free book. I see growth to my mailing list every single day, and part of it is because of people who stumble across my website and want to find out more about the books I write.

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  • Front/Back Matter of Books: I keep thinking about the Self-Publishing Podcast guys and how they say but WHY are you doing this. This is the whole reason behind going permafree on book 1. It’s an investment so I can get more readers and make more money in the long run. Readers find me with that permafree book and they immediately see calls to action for my mailing list. Sign up and you get another free book. Front and back matter is so valuable, and I use it wisely in all of my books. What do I want my reader to do next? Not buy the next book. That’s great, but I’d rather they join my mailing list first. What value can I offer them so they’ll do that?

NaNoWriMo 2015

  • The plan was to participate again. I won last year. It was super crazy with family and work, and I fell behind, but I managed to catch up and win. This year, not so much. I added 30,000 new words of new YA book, possibly a series, but I ultimately did not finish the first draft as I had planned. 
  • This book, being new, turned out to be incredibly difficult to write. The story and characters eluded me, but at least I got close to the end.
  • I still have the end to write, which may seem ridiculous, but not when you don’t know what the end is. I’ll have to set aside time at the beginning of 2016 to finally wrap this book up, no matter how scary it is and whether it’ll ever be a series or not.
  • So I believe I revised one book this year and wrote two more. Could have been better. Could have been three books, but I’ll take it.

Daily Work Habits

  • I started using a printed calendar to mark off every day that I worked on my writing/publishing business. Some days, I got to mark off that day if I sat down to work 5 minutes. Other days, I set higher standards. As you’ll see, I was successful most of the year, but there were long gaps where I did not work on writing at all. Those were times when I was just so mentally and physically exhausted that I couldn’t come home and work on writing stuff (especially towards the end of the year. In the summer, I took time off to travel, visit family, get married, and go on my honeymoon. Which I’m fine with :)

  • This year, I’ve bought a 12 month calendar in which I’l write in more detail what I accomplished that day. I’ll add up minutes/words at the end of the month and take pictures for Evernote as an additional record. I also want to schedule in down time. I think I’m learning that sometimes I need to take a couple of weeks off to just read or watch TV or relax with family. Time to recharge creatively. I don’t expect myself to write every single day anymore. It’s just not realistic, not when I have a day job, family, household chores, and a million other things to do. 
  • My plan is to be able to start writing full-time starting in June, and I expect to see a rise in productivity after that, but it’ll be an adjustment, and I’m okay with that. Right now, my job takes up most of my time and energy. As much as I love what I do, I love writing more and my goal is to be able to do it all the time. I’m exciting that I can finally make the transition. We’ve been working a lot this year on cutting down expenses while saving. I think it’ll still be hard financially, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Reading

 
  • I met and exceeded this year’s reading goals for the 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge by reading 38 books out of 26 (146% of goal). I read so much, and it was great.
  • However, I’ve been stuck in a rut towards the end of the year (due to mental exhaustion/burnout) and haven’t been reading at all since late November. I could never just not read, though, I’ll be finding a good book again soon and diving into another world.

Health

  • I lost 10 more lbs by continuing healthier eating and portion habits, as well as exercise 6 times a week. I haven’t weighed this amount in a long time, and in 2015, I never felt more heathy and active. The plan is to keep that up, even if I don’t exercise with as much intensity.

To sum up, I accomplished most of my goals in 2015. Even though I’m happy with the progress I made in all areas of my life, I think there’s still room to learn and improve. I still think I should be producing more words so that I can be closer to earning a full-time writing income, but that’s only gonna happen when I can write full-time, even if I need to supplement with editing jobs. However, I’m ecstatic for 2016 because I’m closer than I’ve ever been to becoming a full-time author (zero sales to consistent monthly sales).

How far did you come in 2015 with your goals?

Creating a Writers' Mastermind Group (And How It Can Help You Become an Infinitely Better Writer)

So I've been listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast, which I highly recommend (although it has tons if profanity so you've been warned; it's hilarious, though), and episode 24 talks about the importance of writers' mastermind groups. It's amazing what Sean, Johnny, and Dave manage to do when they push each other. By the way, these guys are actually the authors of Write. Publish. Repeat. which I've been wanting to read for a long time and which I finally bought this week because the podcast is already value-packed, I can't imagine the book.

There is so much you can learn from these guys, and I think one of the most important factors of their success is their mastermind group. They work together on a lot of stuff, but even when they don't, they're always bouncing ideas off of each other and somehow create tons more than they would individually.

So the idea of a small writer's mastermind group seems amazing to me, and while it would take some time (I already have a pretty full plate), I think it would only boost my productivity by several factors. I'll explain why.

What can a mastermind group help you do?

 

  • Accountability/Productivity: even if no one in the group is published, if you've only recently started writing, a mastermind group can help keep you accountable. It's easy to not write or respect deadlines when it's just you, but telling someone that you didn't meet your latest deadline or you haven't written in a month, now that would suck. Another thing, a mastermind group could help you create a production schedule and/or stay on top of one.
  • Beta Reading for Each Other: Here, I'd recommend at least a 2-3 members of the group write in the similar genre, but imagine how awesome it would be to know you have at least one or two people you can bounce ideas off of or give your manuscript to for a quick read and diagnostic. And of course, you'd be available for beta reading, but that would only help you become a better writer anyway.
  • Marketing and Publishing Support: Again, similar or same genres would work best here, but at the very least, being a mastermind group means having someone to ask about things like how to publish and where or editor and cover designer recommendations. Having people in the group that write in the same genre would only make the possibilities infinitely better because then you can create boxed sets, plug each other online, or trade free samples to place at the end of each other's books. You can discuss what's worked and hasn't worked for you marketing-wise.
  • Emotional Support: This is one of my favorite things about a mastermind group and why I think it would help me the most, even. You see, I'm not very open in real life about my writing. So online for me is perfect for getting the support I need, talking about writing, and just sharing how things are going. I bet I'm not the only one. Am I right?

Can you see how the potential of a mastermind group can be absolutely multiplied in comparison to just one person? THE COLLECTIVE WISDOM.

How would it work?

The group would meet via Google Hangout or Skype once a week. Actually seeing and talking to others, I think, would be the push I need (and you might need) to take my productivity and publishing business to the next level.

Another important thing to mention is the number of people in the group. I think a minimum of 3 people would work. With two people, it's easy to let the group die off.

However, I think it's just as important to not let the group get too big. Maybe a max of 6-8 people, just depending on the different personalities. I've never done this before, so maybe I'm wrong, but 3-8 people seems like the right range. Four to five people could be the sweet spot.

To sum up, the purpose of a mastermind group is to check in with each other, bounce ideas off of each other, and provide support to each other, whether it be for productivity, writing/editing, publishing, or marketing.

You become part of bigger whole that contains much more potential than the sum of the parts.

Serious About Joining a Mastermind Group?

I am so excited just writing about the possibilities. I'd really love to start an actual group. I write Young Adult and New Adult, though, so I'd prefer for this group to be in one of those genres for the reasons mentioned above.

If you're highly interested, though, be sure to let me know in the comments or via email. I'm serious about starting a mastermind group, though, so be ready to show up consistently and give help as well as receive it.

Do you have any other thoughts regarding mastermind groups? Did I miss something? Also, if you found the post helpful, it'd be great if you coud share it. Thanks.

7 Money-Saving eBook Formatting Links For the Indie Author

how to format an ebook, formatting, save on formatting an ebook, formatting tutorial, ebook formatting tutorial, ebook publishing Part of being an indie writer means you have to pay for the entire production costs of your ebook. This includes a book cover, editing, and formatting (at a minimum).

Not to mention a marketing budget for a few giveaways or an online ad, and suddenly, you're looking at spending at least a thousand dollars if not more.

You want to keep overhead costs low while still making your book look professional.

The faster you recover your initial expenses, the faster you start making a profit on your ebook.

One of the ways many indies save on ebook production costs is by learning to format themselves. These days, formatting often starts at $150 and goes up depending on the number of formats you're requesting.

Instead of using that cash to pay for formatting, consider learning to format yourself and using that money towards an awesome book cover or editor instead. Once you learn the ropes, it can take as little as an hour or two to properly format your own ebook.

There are tons of books and online resources to help you learn, sometimes for free! Here are six ebook formatting links to help you save and start making a profit sooner:

1. How to Format an Ebook: Here are some good pointers to keep in mind when formatting your manuscript.

2. How to Format an Ebook Starting with Microsoft Word: This is a step-by-step tutorial on how to format an ebook using Microsoft Word.

3. Backpacked Week: A New, Improved, Even Easier Way to Format Your E-Book: Another step-by-step tutorial (with screenshots!) from a blog I especially trust and follow.

4. Guido Henkel's Series on Ebook Formatting: This is the link to the Intro of the long-trusted nine-part series on ebook formatting. Another must-read resource.

5. eBook Conversion: A website full of articles on ebook formatting and conversion as well as other topics, such as typography and HTML & CSS.

6. How to Format an eBook For Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords in Two Hours or Less: A recently published ebook on Smashwords. Not yet reviewed but worth a look at $2.99.

7. How to Format Your Ebook For Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and Everything Else: An ebook with a handful of positive reviews at Amazon. Also $2.99. Here's more info from the writer.

Got any other good formatting links you can recommend? What are some other good ways to save when self-publishing?