The Role of Your Pre-Launch Team

One of the things I keep going on about, and am often asked to explain further is the concept of having a great pre-launch team, or Beta Readers.

Who are they?

Maybe friends, family, colleagues, or other writers.  Maybe perfect strangers.  But often the best people to have on your team are fans of your books.  People who will give you  straight up advise and feedback about what they do and don’t like about your manuscript – before you publish it.  You can recruit fans in all sorts of ways, but mostly I get mine through my social media accounts.  When I’ve finished a manuscript, I post about it, and ask for beta readers.

These people may offer editing tips, and tell you about the many mistakes you still have in your manuscript, but taht’s ok.  Forewarn them they will be there for finding.  This process is usually part of your pre-edit phase.

Invite them to tell you what they do and don’t like, what they would suggest you add, change, or think about.   Invite them to review your manuscript formally with a letter outlining your expectations for their getting an advance look at your latest work in progress.  (If you sign up for my newsletter, you can obtain a copy of the beta readers template I use, among other resources available FREE on this site – just head to the bottom of the screen.)

Their Responsibility

You must remind them that editing and proofing is not what you’re seeking – but that all errors will be gratefully noted.  And invite them to look out for the finished version which will be published and available etc.   But also ask if they like the book, to please post a review on Amazon please.

And most of all, remember to thank them for their time and response.  You might put this into the acknowledgements, or send them a personal note, and a printed, autographed copy when it’s published.

Most of all, the value of having a good team of beta readers is that the dozen or so key readers – some people invite more, but I find that hard to manage – is that they are fresh eyes on your manuscript.  Even your editor and publishing coach can end up getting too close to your work to be able to step back and see some of the missing bits or overplayed parts easily.

Fnally, a warning.  You have to be thick skinned if you want real objective feedback.  You may not like the critiquing, but it’s worth having.  And then you will have additional writing to do.    But chances are you will also have a much better book as a result.

It takes a whole village…

Who is on Your Team?

Writing a book is not a ‘one-man’ job, and if anyone tries to tell you differently, they are wrong.  In fact, the ‘writing’ part is only a part of the process  and even that is team effort.  Now for anyone reading this so far and thinking, ‘Hold the Phone… I am the writer of my own words’ this is not a debate about all writers are authors and not all authors are writers*.

Let’s take the writing part of the process of writing a book.

When you are writing a good book, the primary writer is the person who sits at their keyboard and creates the story or commits the information to paper/computer and in that way he or she writes the manuscript.

A good writer will then use readers (often these are friends, family, or colleagues) to give feedback and help them to hone and refine the content.   See my other blog about Beta Readers Here

Then the writer is able to fine tune the manuscript to the point where they can hire the services of a professional manuscript reviewer who will help the writer apply the final polish to their manuscript.

An editor will also be engaged to ensure that the manuscript is very reader-friendly, suited to the audience the book is being written for, and is ready to publish.   In some cases, a very robust system of writing under the care and guidance of a book writing coach may diminish the need for some levels of editing.

When the manuscript is finally ready for publishing, a proofing editor will be required, reviewers who can endorse and recommend the book will be sought out, a cover designer, internal typesetting services, and printing services will be needed to get the book into the finished product.  If you are also preparing the book for online publication, you may need help to ensure the book is eBook ready and uploaded to the appropriate channels.

Finally, you need a good Public Relations plan and the help of professional marketing people to ensure your market knows about your book.

A book shepherd helps the writer work through the whole process from start to finish and engage the right people along the way to do their parts and take the guesswork out of the process.  A book shepherd helps the writer work through the whole process from start to finish and engage the right people along the way to do their parts and take the guesswork out of the process.  Many books make it to market without the help of a book coach or book shepherd, but I highly recommend using one of these as there is so much you won’t know as you start the journey of writing and publishing a book the first time.

It takes a whole village to raise a child and it takes a whole team to get a book written and published.[/pullquote]

Who do you already have on your team and who do you need on your team?

*Some authors are not the writers of their own books and hire ghost writers to put their words together for them, and many writers choose not to be authors.   

How Long Does it Take To Write a Good Book

How is it possible to write a book in one weekend?

I’ve recently been hearing about publishing coaches who offer to help people write a book in only 48 hours.   Intrigued I looked into this further and am surprised to find this really is a trend. However, having written, published, co-authored, and developed dozens of quality books in the last 10 years I can honestly tell you that there is a process, and it’s a reasonably lengthy one. Significantly longer and more complex than what can be achieved in under a week.

How long does it REALLY take to write a book?

Well some would argue that you can simply write a book by planning a few sexy chapter headings, dictate your material then give it to a publisher.  That does sound like a very good short cut way to become an author.  However the reality is that getting your content out of your head is only a small part of the process.

For a start, there are LOTS of barely average books hitting the market every day.  Millions of new titles are being released every year.   If your book is going to even see the light of day, it has to be good.  Your content has to be far better than average, well edited and reader friendly. Without these boxes ticked, Continue reading

The Road to Retirement for Professional Experts

Here’s Why you can’t rely on having a job anymore! This is the age of freelancers and consultants and investing in becoming one might be your only option for a healthy retirement.

I have two sons. One works for a very large corporate industry and it’s hard to imagine his life ever taking a turn where he can’t get work.  Or for that matter, that his current job might ever become replaced by robots.  But as the old saying goes – yeah right!  Remember the last 30 years of privitisation, industrialisation, and mass redundancies despite fierce unionisation?  Not to mention the looming spectre of robotisation of just about everything we do…

My other son is talented, creative, works in a job that is typically transient, and service oriented, and he’s working on becoming a ‘something’ in the performing, creative, or entertainment industries.  And in my opinion, he’s the lucky one.

How is that possible?  Well, he’s in a great position to learn and enhance those skills that make it possible for him to earn from a multiple range of income sources, freewheel his way through use of his entrepreneurial skills, and live by his wits.   And while I do hope he is more than a smiling barista or struggling actor in his dotage, I know that the freedom he gets to enjoy while making flexible choices will be worth it for him.

But remember when we as parents all hoped for our kids to grow up, leave school, go to college, then settle into a nice long term job with a solid company offering good prospects for promotion?  The sad reality it that the entire world has changed, and this is no longer possible for most of the kids coming through the universities and tech institutes these days.  Plus, add to that the ever widening range of choices, and the temptation to jump from one career path to another while finding your passion is an added complication.

So – what is the best course for anyone concerned about how the world works and how that work might dry up faster than a puddle in the desert for this millennium?  Find out how to embrace all your skills market them, and your Expertise, Wisdom, Experience (EWE) and get some leverage on those.  And if Continue reading

Author’s Task Lists – Getting Through It All

I love that old saying – how do you eat an elephant… one bite at a time!  But sometimes it just feels endless doesn’t it?  I mean, the very nature of this industry – writing for a living – is one that takes time to develop.  It doesn’t matter how much you think you’ve done, there’s always something more to do.  And so my daily and weekly author task list helps, but it sure is a long list!

A typical week for me looks like:

  • Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – check, post, review, reply and advertising.
  • Canva – keep developing new images for posting with blogs and social media.
  • Amazon – check stats, sales, and moderate anything that needs it in my uploads.
  • AMS – Amazon Advertising, to check, measure, and add campaigns.
  • Blogs – writing, checking, reading.
  • Keywords – adding new ones, checking what’s working and what’s not, and reviewing – constantly reviewing!
  • Mailchimp – newsletters, lists, automation, and reviews of activities.

And that’s before I even start to write! 

Plus there’s reading – the blogs and posts from other authors and those whom I follow to learn from .

Research – sometimes this can be just one more endless task too but so very necessary!

And finally – study time.   I’m currently enrolled in three new courses to ensure that this year I maximise my abilities to build up my career as a full time (well paid) author.

While these things all need time and attention, they all seem to need the same amount of input from me.   If I don’t keep on top of Social Media, I lag behind in sales.  If I skip reading blogs, doing my study program, or even just reading for pleasure (which I try to do for about two hours per week to keep my own writing skills sharp) then I notice I fall behind in sales and development, and of course I can’t afford to stop the actual writing either as I put pressure on myself to produce content.

While it’s a full time job to be a writer, no one ever said that more than half of an author’s time is spent doing everything but actually writing.  But that’s the way of it now.  The Ernest Hemmingway fantasy of sitting over a typewriter Continue reading

The Forumula for Getting and Engaging With New Fans

I was asked this week to comment on the following email by the wife of a client, and so I’ve tried to simplify the response as best I can while ensuring the gist of the information is as clear as possible. You see there really is a formula for growing your database, getting and engaging with new clients, and getting the ball rolling in terms of:

  • Read the article
  • Visit the website
  • Sign up for the newsletter
  • Autoresponders with more engagement
  • Send ongoing news and information of value and interest.

Here’s what she wrote (Q:), with my responses (A:) in italics:

Q:I’ve made some changes to my website to jazz it up a bit and I now need some help understanding my options for loading/distributing new articles/quotes/videos/etc online and directly to my database.

A: Ok – there’s a pretty simple formula for this…  1) Upload the articles into LI, as a variation of a ‘blog’ or article post in your website… maybe an extended version on the website and so a ‘for more on this, click here’ at the bottom of the LI version.  That directs to your website.

Q: I only want to use my website, Linkedin and a “newsletter” type distribution to my mailing list.

A: So you’ll need to also dangle a pretty good hook for visitors to your site to get them to sign up on your Mail Chimp database.   Again it’s a bit of a formula.  Simple version is this:  Have a ‘video, white paper, report, checklist or something of perceived good/high value’ for readers to want enough to give you their email address for.  They sign up, they go to a landing page which they can download the ‘thing’ from, then they get a download link.  Continue reading

Author Resources You Will Love

One thing that I’ve learned through nearly a decade of working in the book business, is that you can never have too much help to market your work.   So I’m going to share with you some of my favorite author tools – and some of these are recently discovered.

Scrivener:  I can not rave on enough about this program.  I have introduced it to a number of people and they all say the same thing… it makes the planning and writing so easy!  If you do not yet have Scrivener, or are curious about it because you have heard about it being one of the very best tools ‘on the planet’ for authors, then check this out.   You can also enjoy 30 days (not just consecutive calendar days either) for FREE, then it’s only the cost of coffee and cake with a couple of friends to get it after that.  (Use this link to get the free 30 days option… )

And best of all, you can pay just a couple of hundred dollars for one of THE VERY BEST training programs I’ve ever come across to Learn Scrivener FastClick here for details.

First: Booklaunch.io is far and away the VERY best landing page platform imaginable for authors. These make launching a new book so easy, and they look great too.

Second: if you are into technology, or not even hugely so but know it’s a necessary way to bring customers to your door, then you have to spend some time on these platforms:

  • Amazon – create an Amazon Author page – it’s easy, powerful, and you’ll love what you can do with it to help drive book sales and awareness campaigns.
  • Twitter – yes it does work, yes it is worth working hard to get followers, and yes you do need to post regular updates on it.  This is not a passive platform, but when you work it well, it starts to really create buzz around your books.  My Twitter feed is here for my author page.
  • Mobile Apps – I’ve had one of these for my business alter-ego Maria Carlton Marketing Coach for years, and it’s been a great way to ensure I could share information with clients and promote my brand to prospects, but since that was created the technology available to create these apps has become outstanding.  I’ve just discovered COMO and within hours have created an app that features my books, my services, and my links to all other platforms I use for marketing.
  • Amazon Marketing Services:  If you want to really ramp up your Amazon sales and promote free books or special offers, you can’t go past AMS.  It’s easier to use than Facebook Marketing options, and dedicated to book sales.  It’s still relatively new, so lots of beta testing still going on as they refine and improve, but well worth being an early adopter for this.  Here’s the link.

One thing to remember when it comes to marketing tools for authors is that people want to engage with you, and you want to reach out and engage with them.   These tools help you do this easily.   But you have to work on these constantly – just like that great novel you’re working on marketing is a constant work in progress.

And like my old mate Winston Marsh always says – you have to be a better marketer of what you do than a doer of what you do! When it comes to effectively marketing your books – both non-fiction and fiction – you have to build a following.  Branding is critically important and so is having a great marketing strategy that keeps you focused on the best results oriented social media options to suit your product.