Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Legendary Author Anne McCaffrey Passes Away

Anne McCaffrey, one of science fiction's most popular authors, passed away yesterday from a stroke, her publisher reported today. She was 85. McCaffrey, who often referred to herself as "Annie," was widely known for her Hugo award-winning, bestselling DragonRiders of Pern series. She authored nearly 100 published books since 1967.

Severe health issues surfaced on her blog back in August where Annie's son Todd McCaffrey alerted her readers that she would have to cancel her appearance at Dragon*con. "What seemed to be indigestion last week has now turned out to be something more serious – some incident with her heart, the full details of which are still to be determined by tests," Todd reported.

Her final blog entry, "A Letter from Rick," accurately represents the overall positive effect she had on her loyal readers worldwide. Annie inspired countless writers and generously offered advice throughout her long and successful career. She will be sorely missed!

Rest in peace, Anne McCaffrey. You were one of a kind.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Writers: Kill the Self-Entitlement Monster

Lately I've seen a sense of self-entitlement among aspiring authors (in online forums, etc.). Some of these would-be writers actually believe that writing a book is enough and readers should automatically flock to the book and consider it a privilege to read the material. This couldn't be further from the truth! I know plenty of you know this already, but it doesn't hurt to reiterate and share: Authors are not owed customers/readers. Even if you've written an amazing book, you can't expect thousands or millions of readers to find the book on their own. You have to work for the readership. This means you need to take part in book marketing, publicity, advertising...not passively waiting for readers to stumble across your masterpiece. Effective marketing, publicity, and advertising will create a buzz around your book and word of mouth should result in lots of sales--but expect to work thousands of hours for those results! 

Kill the "Self-Entitlement Monster" now if it exists within you. If we're really honest with ourselves here, the Monster probably lives somewhere within all of us. Kill it now. Seriously. Allowing it to live will only ruin your writing career and make you look like a fool in the end. 

You are owed nothing.

(Image via De kleine rode kater @ Flickr)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

20 Valuable Writing Resources

I recently compiled a list of writing resources, including books, videos, and articles. The books, each one available at Amazon.com, provide info on writing from bestselling authors. The articles come from popular writing/publishing blogs, while the free videos--advice from Stephen King, Anne Rice, Nicholas Sparks, Michael Connelly, and John Irving--are all available via YouTube. Now...onto the list...


Monday, November 14, 2011

Is Caffeine a Writer's Friend...or Enemy?

Drinking caffeine seems to go hand in hand with writing, but have you ever stopped to think why? I mean, other than temporarily relieving sleepiness and increasing alertness, do writers actually notice any improvement in writing ability while consuming caffeine? I personally haven't found that caffeine enhances my writing skills in any way. I sometimes write a bit faster if I've consumed large amounts of caffeine, but there's never any noticeable difference in writing quality.

Obviously I'm not a scientist. I haven't tested caffeine on numerous writers to track their responses. I'm not sure anyone has, really--but there have been many broad, less targeted studies performed throughout the world. Some studies suggest that:

In conclusion, a cup of Joe each day shouldn't negatively impact your writing, but it probably won't enhance your writing, either. Maybe you should try getting some extra sleep before grabbing for that extra cup (or two) tomorrow! How does caffeine affect you?

(Photo by Philip Squires)
Top Self Publishing Company

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Top 5 Writing Lessons from J.K. Rowling

I've been meaning to blog about J.K. Rowling for a long time now... Well, yesterday I purchased and watched Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (and yes, I had already seen it in the theaters). Definitely the best of all the Potter movies, in my opinion. But I'm not here to blog about the movie itself. No, I'm here to discuss the special features on Blu-ray, specifically "A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe," which revealed the answers to some big questions and also indirectly offered fantastic writing lessons. Here are my top 5:
  1. Persist: Here's where some aspiring authors fail. They get caught up in a get-rich-quick mindset and expect overnight success. They hear stories about how the idea of a spectacled wizard boy popped up into J.K.'s mind...and then they hear about the billion dollars she's made and see her name all over the media. According to her own words, writing the complete story of Harry Potter was a 20-year process! 20 years! Maybe you're struggling with writer's block at the moment or you've developed some doubts. Please, don't give up. Persist. Don't give up after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 5 years, a decade, two decades, three decades, four decades... If you love writing, write and persist. Don't expect overnight success. It's a marathon, not a race, okay?
  2. Treat your characters as real people: "They're in your life the way real people are ... I love writing dialogue ... I miss Dumbledore the most ... He was telling me things I needed to hear sometimes ..." Notice the connection J.K. Rowling has with Dumbledore. She apparently misses hearing from him like she would a far-away friend. As a writer, you need to form a special connection with your characters. Let yourself go and allow each character to speak his/her own dialogue without interruption. Don't get in the way of your characters.
  3. Know where the story's headed [SPOILER ALERT]: "Within the first year of writing, I wrote a sketch for what I thought the final chapter would be... I knew we were always working towards the final battle at Hogwarts. I knew that Harry would walk to his death..."
  4. Stay true to the story and yourself: "I went where my pen took me, and bad though it may seem to some people, I never really considered my readership in that way... I wrote what I wanted to write..." Rowling didn't allow critics or readers to influence her writing. 
  5. Focus only on relevant backstories: Many writers, especially newbies, get lost in backstory. They write as though the reader needs to know everyone's backstory in excruciating detail ... Now, many of us heard through the media that Dumbledore is gay. Rowling never mentioned his sexual preference in the Potter books, but did confirm that he's gay: "The relationship he [Dumbledore] has with Grindlewald--he fell really hard for this boy... His [Dumbledore's] one great experience of love was utterly tragic. It was with someone who was dangerous and demonic [Grindlewald]...so that was my idea of Dumbledore's tragic backstory..." But why didn't she add this backstory to the books? Because it wasn't relevant to the story, she implied. I also gathered from Rowling's conversation with Radcliffe that Professor McGonagall had a somewhat tragic backstory as well, but Rowling ultimately felt that that backstory wasn't relevant to the story either.
(J.K. Rowling image via Daniel Ogren)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Formula for Conquering Writing Distractions

I'm convinced this is the Age of Distractions. If you're like most Americans, you encounter distractions every day. The technology that most of us own has created a stay-connected mentality, ensuring that we're always ready to return text messages, answer emails, respond to comments and messages, tweet and retweet, watch the next TV show on Netflix or movie on demand, etc. Understand this: I love staying connected and enjoying the benefits of technology. Really, I do. I'm a huge technology and social media advocate and I LOVE how the Internet has made lives easier and free book marketing accessible to writers everywhere...but all of this can also become an huge distraction for writers....

Surely, there has to be some formula for conquering writing distractions, right?

Try this: As a writer, have you ever logged the amount of time you spend on the Internet (including social media, browsing, chatting, whatever); watching TV and movies; texting; emailing, etc.? Go ahead and give it a try, even if just for a day or week. I bet the results would shock you...and perhaps motivate you... For example, say you're like most Americans and you watch TV for about 4 hours per day and tool around the Internet for 1.85 hours per day as well. That's 40+ hours per week, 2,080+ hours per year, or 86+ days per year--and we didn't even count texting, movies, or your misc distractions (I bet many exist)! I'm not encouraging you to remove all distractions from your life. Some distractions are necessary and balancing.You'd live a sad life if all you did was work. But how about cutting those distractions in half? How much writing could you accomplish with an extra 1,040+ hours per year?!

This post is just as much for me as it is you... I'm working on this. Will you?

(Image via Flickr)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Defining Success

I communicate with authors every day, and I've found that one of the most popular topics is success. Of course every author wants to be successful, but since success is so incredibly subjective it's crucial for an author to define success. For Author A, success might mean selling 1,000 copies. Author B might focus more on touching lives. And maybe Author C considers the act of publishing a success and anything beyond that is gravy. Perhaps Author D is a bit of all of the above. That's why I constantly ask authors for their definition of success. I believe it's important for the author to have a clear goal in mind so the author can strive to meet his/her definition of success and recognize "success" when it arrives. I believe it's the same with life, really...

Do you have a clear definition of success in your mind? Let me know...

MindStir Media Launches SelfPublishForLess.com

SelfPublishForLess.com, an imprint of MindStir Media, provides paperback-only self-publishing and distribution ... for less. There's one simple offering, an inexpensive package that includes all the basics: Template book cover (choose from a catalog of pre-designed themes & (optional) submit your own front cover image); ISBN; barcode; unlimited online availability through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and numerous international sites; fast printing; complimentary copy; quarterly royalties; book discount program; and more.

MindStir Media, the parent imprint that I originally founded, will continue to serve authors who want a custom publishing experience in multiple formats (e.g. paperback, e-book, and audiobook) as well as marketing, mentoring, and professional editing services. MindStir also offers royalties up to 100% and a full array of author services such as ghostwriting, author website design, virtual book tours, press release development and distribution, and national television advertising.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Publish In Hardcover?

I know lots of authors are in love with the hardcover format. For them that love affair needs to end. It certainly is a neat feeling to see your book in hardcover, but most avid readers are unwilling to pay hardcover prices nowadays. Self-publishing authors need to keep that in mind! Why will readers pay $24.95 for hardcover when they can buy a paperback for less than $15 and eBook for less than $10 (sometimes less than $5)?

I've always said that it's wise to publish in multiple formats (you've probably heard me say it). I believe the most important formats are paperback, eBook, and downloaded audiobook. Why?
  • Paperback: The majority of readers still prefer physical books over digital. Offering the paperback format caters to printed book lovers while keeping the price affordable. Without this format, you will miss out on sales!
  • eBook: We've all heard and read about eBooks, their impact on the publishing and book selling world... Major publishers are either scared out of their minds or embracing the new digital technology (or both) and physical bookstores are going out of business as book buying becomes less expensive and more convenient... Last time I checked, eBooks account for somewhere around 20% (probably less, but all reports I've seen differ) of the US book market. You don't want to ignore this part of the market!
  • Downloaded audiobook: This format is popular among commuters. Folks driving to work enjoy listening to a good book (and it's much safer than trying to read and drive!). And don't forget people who love to listen to books while exercising.... Audible.com was one of the biggest things to happen to audiobooks. If you decide to publish in this format, make sure your audiobook ends up on Audible.com!
Don't get me wrong, though... Hardcover still controls part of the market (I just don't consider it as important as the other formats). If you insist on publishing in hardcover--and it'd better be along with the other formats--use the hardcover format as a "special edition," in which you include exclusive goodies like deleted scenes or back stories, maps, character images, a link/code to redeem something at your website, etc. Basically help readers justify spending the extra money on your hardcover.

(Hardcover image via Horia Varlan)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MindStir Media Helps Authors Advertise Books on National TV

MindStir Media has kept me very busy working on exciting new projects, including this one that allows authors to advertise their books on national television and reach around 500,000 viewers! Yes, the service is available for self-published titles (ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook)! Please share this with your author friends! : )

Friday, September 2, 2011

An ATM for Books: Espresso Book Machine

Many of you have probably heard of DVD ATM machines such as Redbox, but have you ever heard of an ATM for print books? Introducing the Espresso Book Machine... The EBM uses "digital files to produce physical books, and by matching supply to demand at point of need, the Espresso Book Machine® (EBM) enables retailers and libraries to sell (or lend) more titles without the extra inventory, eliminates supply-chain costs, and opens up a new market for retail self publishing. With the push of a button, the technology prints, binds, and trims a bookstore-quality, perfect-bound paperback book, in any language, with a full-color cover, in minutes while the customer waits." 

Will this change the publishing industry? Will we see more of these EBMs popping up around the world? As of now, there are less than 50 of these units worldwide. Feel free to comment by clicking here.

Watch this video. If you're an email subscriber, click this link to view the video: http://youtu.be/ZDe_Jy4HnMY. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

MindStir Media Author Paula Wiseman's Contingency Wins Award

MindStir Media author Paula Wiseman -- Congrats! Paula's debut novel Contingency: Book One: Covenant of Trust Series just captured the 2011 Readers Favorite Gold Award in Christian Fiction.

Author, Where's Your Email Address?

So you have a website for your author brand... Your book covers are visible. You've got the social media icons proudly displayed. You even have ordering information, plus links to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, etc. Good job! But what about your e-mail address? Is it there, too? It should be!

I'm amazed at the amount of author sites that don't list an e-mail address. I understand why some big brand name authors don't list an e-mail (they'd be deluged with mail), but come on--if you're an independent author or mid-list author, you need to have your e-mail address somewhere on the website, preferably within a CONTACT section. Believe it or not, plenty of readers enjoy e-mailing authors instead of/in addition to interacting via blog and Facebook comments and tweets.

Remember, your "author brand" needs to be accessible. That's good customer service. Your author brand, like any brand, must practice good customer service or ... out of business you shall go!

List. Your. E-mail. Address. Period.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

MindStir Media Will Provide eBook Publishing Packages

I'm sure you're aware that eBook publishing has become extremely popular lately. Most of you have probably heard numerous author success stories surrounding eBooks... As the CEO & President of MindStir Media, I continue to hear from writers who want to publish their work solely in the eBook format. These writers generally stay away from do-it-yourself (DIY) self-publishing because they would rather spend their time writing and marketing books than studying and learning formatting, design, distribution, etc. That's when a self-publishing services company--MindStir Media, for instance--comes in handy.

When writers like the ones mentioned above contact me, I try to steer them toward publishing in multiple formats. I believe readers want choices. To publish in only one format (I've "preached" this before) will limit sales most of the time. However, these authors--hearing the success stories of Amanda Hocking, etc.--usually have their hearts set on eBook-only publishing... My official response as of this moment: Well, if you insist. Soon I'll make it easy for you....

Forthcoming eBook Publishing Packages from MindStir Media will include:
  • Custom cover design (no templates used)
  • Expert eBook design/conversion 
  • eBook distribution
  • Readability on the Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, Apple iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, PC, and Mac.
  • MindStir Media bookstore inclusion
  • Advertising/marketing
  • And more
Details will be posted at the MindStir Media official Web site very soon. If you're on Twitter (@mindstirmedia) or Facebook, you might want to follow/like MindStir Media, as the launch of these eBook Publishing Packages will be announced on FB and Twitter as well.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

MindStir Media Celebrates Award Finalist

Hey, folks...just want to share this exciting piece of news from a press release distributed today:


HAMPTON, NH - Aug 18, 2011 - Paula Wiseman's Contingency (MindStir Media; ISBN 9780981964829), which has spent time on Amazon.com Christian Fiction bestseller lists (paperback and Kindle), can now add "2011 Readers Favorite Award Finalist in Christian - General Fiction" to its impressive list of achievements, including two National Indie Excellence Awards in May 2011.

To view Contingency's placement--and the full list of finalists--visit the Readers Favorite Web site: http://readersfavorite.com/2011-award-contest-winners.htm. Winners will be announced September 1, 2011. 

Author bio:

After working several years as research chemist, Paula Wiseman was blessed with the opportunity to stay home with her children and follow the writer’s path. Contingency: Book One: Covenant of Trust Series, her debut novel, frequents Amazon.com bestseller lists. Indemnity Book Two: Covenant of Trust Series, which has also landed on bestseller lists, is her second novel. Official Web site and blog: http://www.paulawiseman.com.

About MindStir Media:

MindStir Media provides unique Mind-Stirring Publishing Solutions that help authors successfully self-publish, distribute, and market books. J.J. Hebert, bestselling author of Unconventional and founder of MindStir Media, works closely with MindStir authors in order to supply unparalleled self-publishing mentoring and one-on-one support. MindStir focuses on paperback book, e-book, and downloadable unabridged audiobook formats. Authors retain all rights and receive royalties up to 100%. Web site: http://www.mindstirmedia.com.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

MindStir Media Launches Tumblr Blog

MindStir Media, custom self-publishing company, just launched a new Tumblr blog, which will feature MindStir Media news, book release information, author posts, and self-publishing & book marketing tips. Please follow the blog and/or bookmark it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Release A Free Podcast Novel With Podiobooks.com

Ever hear of a "podcast novel"? It's basically an audiobook and podcast combined. Also known as a "Podiobook," it's usually read and recorded by the author and then released to the public as serialized audio downloads (each "episode" represents a certain number of chapters). The concept is about 6 years old, I believe. Evo Terra, Chris Miller, and Tee Morris -- co-founders of Podiobooks.com -- created a Web site where (mainly science fiction) authors can share free podiobooks with the site's 81,000+ members.

Back in 2009, TIME even published an article entitled "Podcasting Your Novel: Publishing's Next Wave?" in which they mentioned Podiobooks.com and some of the site's hugely successful authors, including Scott Sigler and J.C. Hutchins. Sigler is now a NY Times bestselling author with Crown Publishing. Hutchins is with St. Martin's Griffin. Both authors attribute much of their success to their free Podiobooks and the thousands of fans who downloaded them. Building a fan base is one of the toughest parts of being an indie author, but Podiobooks.com makes is pretty easy to grow an author brand. I even released a free Podiobook version of Unconventional. It's a Christian novel, so the audience on Podiobooks.com was limited (compared to the science fiction titles), but the Podiobook still attracted thousands of downloads (and appeared on the Podiobooks.com charts), helping me create a fan base. Unconventional has been the #1 Inspirational Book in the Kindle Store (it peaked at #102 overall in the Kindle Store) numerous times and the paperback has landed on several Amazon.com bestseller lists as well. I owe a great deal of this success to Podiobooks.com for helping me form a fan base early on. Mark Jeffrey's Max Quick: The Pocket and the Pendant first reached an audience as a free Podiobook which was downloaded over 2.4 million times. HarperCollins noticed the success and decided to sign Jeffrey. Max Quick is now available in bookstores nationwide, thanks to the deal with HC.

So why not consider releasing a free Podiobook version of your book? I know the word "free" scares some authors, but the concept works. Just ask any of the authors mentioned above.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kindlegraph Helps Authors Digitally Autograph Kindle eBooks

Kindlegraph, created by software developer and entrepreneur Evan Jacobs, is quickly becoming the place for readers to obtain inscriptions and digital autographs from their favorite authors. As of now, Kindlegraph is just shy of 1,000 authors and 5,000 books, according to the official @kindlegraph Twitter. Speaking of Twitter, it seems to be exploding with tweets regarding Kindlegraph. Twitterers all over have a lot to say about this innovative idea of digital inscriptions and autographs.

Kindlegraph is expected to continue to grow at a rapid rate, especially since "it took two months to get the first 2000 [books] and one week for the next 2000." If they remain at this pace, 2,000 eBooks added to Kindlegraph each week, they'll have around 45,000 books listed by January 2012. That's some huge growth!

Paula Wiseman, Amazon.com bestselling author of Contingency and Indemnity (published by MindStir Media), didn't waste any time getting on board. Both her books are listed on Kindlegraph.

How exactly does Kindlegraph work? Evan Jacobs created an easy to understand video right here. It's free to sign up at Kindlegraph.com and you sign in with your Twitter account.

So what do you think? If you're an author, will you sign up? If you're an eBook lover, will you start requesting digital inscriptions and autographs? I welcome your comments. Top Self Publishing Company

Monday, August 8, 2011

What Are People Saying About You?

As your author brand continues to grow, more articles, blog posts, etc. will appear on the Internet. This is great but can become a bit overwhelming... How in the world will you keep track of it all? Two words: Google Alerts. Google Alerts will email you every time your name is mentioned on the Internet. This will allow you to closely monitor what people are saying about you.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How To Get Book Reviews On Amazon

Many self-published authors will tell you that one of the most difficult aspects of self-publishing is trying to get their book reviewed. If you pay close attention, you'll notice that the average self-published book has fewer than 5 customer reviews on Amazon.com. That doesn't need to be the case with your book! I've mentioned giveaways via Goodreads and LibraryThing, using those tools to get your book reviewed, but here are some other proven methods to get your book reviewed on Amazon.com and stand out among the crowd:
  • Hold a contest on Facebook: Use your Facebook page (not your profile) to post an offer of free copies to fans who answer a question that you posted. Let the fans know when you plan to select a winner. You'll need to contact the winners directly to obtain their addresses (or they can email you). At that time, kindly encourage them to post reviews on Amazon.com after they've read your book. Don't be pushy, but do tell them that every review helps you tremendously.
  • Hold a contest on Twitter: People love free stuff on Twitter more than anywhere else, I'm convinced. I don't know why. Here's what you need to do: Devise another contest similar to your Facebook contest and post the contest and its rules on your blog. Maybe the entrants have to tweet an answer to a question you ask? After you've blogged about the contest, tweet the post's link and a very brief description of the contest. Your followers will notice the contest and hopefully start tweeting entries.
  • Contact book bloggers: Search for book blog directories and directly contact book blog owners. Politely ask them to review and/or feature your book on the blog. Of course, you'll probably have to provide free review copies. That's standard... Most book bloggers will post their review on Amazon as well as their blog. If they don't automatically end up posting the review on Amazon, just ask them nicely and I bet they'll do it.
  • Contact Amazon.com reviewers: Why not contact Amazon.com reviewers as well? They are listed here and most of them can be reached by email.
Have you used any of these methods? Will you? What has worked for you? I welcome your comment(s).

Good luck!

Friday, August 5, 2011

More Free Book Marketing Tools For Authors

At the beginning of last month, I posted the Top 5 Online Marketing Tools for Authors. Today, via MindStirMedia.com (home of MindStir Media, self-publishing and book marketing company), I'd like to share several more free book marketing tools (some mentioned on this blog before, some not) proven to help authors increase book sales without spending more money:

  • LinkedIn: This professional social network can help you connect with other authors, publishing professionals, reviewers, etc. Networking is definitely a form of book marketing. There are plenty of author/publishing groups you can join on LinkedIn as well.
  • Author Central: Amazon.com offers this free book marketing service to all types of authors. Use Author Central to “share the most up-to-date information about yourself and your works with millions of readers.” Author Central gives you your own author page, and via that page you’re able to add your biography, photos, blog, video, tour events, Twitter. Need more info? Learn all about Author Central.
  • MailChimp: This free service enables you to store up to 2,000 email addresses from your opt-in subscribers. Reach all of your subscribers with an e-newsletter or occasional email updates. A perfect email marketing service for authors on a budget! No book marketing campaign is complete without email marketing.
  • Readers Favorite: Many authors find it challenging to obtain book reviews. Readers Favorite will review your book for free within 10-12 weeks. The review will be posted at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and ReadersFavorite.com. If you’d rather not wait 10-12 weeks for your review, Readers Favorite does offer an Express Review in 2 weeks for $40.
  • IndieBound: Market your book to local readers and booksellers by using IndieBound. If your book is listed at Amazon.com, it’s most likely listed at IndieBound. Contingency by Paula Wiseman, for example, has its own page on IndieBound. From that page readers can buy the book online from an indie bookstore, supporting local business and independent booksellers instead of large chain stores.
  • Kindle Boards: A fantastic place to engage with Kindle/e-book lovers and market the e-book version of your book for free. Check out Nook Boards as well.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Self-Publishing A Book For Your Family: No Book Marketing Necessary

Some writers--maybe you included--would love to create your own book of family history for your family to read and hold. Perhaps you don't care if anyone but your family actually reads the book. You just want to ensure that your grandmother(s), grandfather(s), mother, father, aunt(s), uncle(s), every--single--family--member gets a copy. Self-publishing a book will preserve your family story... If you've been reading this blog for long, I'm sure you've noticed all the talk about book marketing, its importance. This scenario is the exception. You won't hear me say this ever again: You don't need to market your book. That's right, I said it. If you only want your family (and/or friends) to read your book, you don't need to bother with book marketing. It's a waste of your time and energy.

Wait, you didn't write your book solely for your family's enjoyment? You want the world to read it and enjoy it? Ah hah! Caught ya! How will the world know of your book if you're not aggressively involved in book marketing (I've mentioned it before--free book marketing)? You could have the cure for Cancer, but if you don't tell anyone about it, no one will know it exists. It's that simple. Same with your self-published book... You cannot self-publish your book, sit back and expect the world to know about it. Period.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Google Plus

I'm finally on Google+. Here's a shortened link to my profile: http://gplus.to/jjhebert. I see Google+ as sort of a Facebook/Twitter combo. Instead of the "like" on Facebook, you have the +1 on Google+. Google+ and Twitter both have a "follow" option. Facebook has friends and lists and Google+ has "friends" as a circle and other default circles--with the option to create custom circles. Confused yet? There's the friends, family, acquaintances, and following circles. The idea here is separation and privacy. Each category has its own circle. You can choose to which circle you'll share information and posts. Each circle acts as a list too. Each user has his/her own profile, kind of like the Facebook wall, only no one seems to be able to post on a person's profile unless commenting or +1-ing something.

How does this post relate to self-publishing and book marketing and the overall topic of this blog ... how to publish books? Google+ matters because it's a new form of free online book marketing, and self-publishing a book should always include lots of social media for book marketing. Technically Google+ is a new "social network," but for you, Mr. or Miss Author, it's a way to put your book in front of some new faces. Go sign up at http://plus.google.com or I can send you a Google+ invite if you're unable to get in. It might be in invite-only stage right now (still). Not sure. Comment with your email if you want in.

On a side note, MindStir Media's website was recently updated with the +1 button for sharing purposes. I believe it's important to give folks sharing options. Some instructions if you want to add the button to your website: http://www.google.com/webmasters/+1/button/.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why Self-Publish?

Aspiring authors email me all the time, and one of the most common questions is why self-publish (in addition to how do I self-publish?)? My answer has been placed on the MindStir Media website and I plan to direct folks to it in the future. Thought you might want to take a look:

Why Self-Publish?

Self-publishing will allow you to publish quickly, usually within 90 days. Average turnaround time for publishing with a traditional publishing company is around 1-2 years.


Traditional publishing offers royalty rates somewhere around 10%. Self-publish with MindStir Media and you’ll earn royalties up to 100%.


You keep all rights to your book.  You wrote your manuscript and you’re financially investing in your work, so it only makes sense that you retain all rights! Since you own your material, you also control your book design, content, and much more.

Prove Marketability

Many writers choose to self-publish to prove that there’s a market for their books. Literary agents and major publishing houses may be more willing to publish a title after it has sold well as a self-published book.


Your self-published book will be a long-lasting part of you that future generations can treasure.

How To Publish Books: www.howtopublishbooks.info

I acquired www.howtopublishbooks.info the other day and assigned it to this blog for $10. So, you can access the blog via that URL from now on. Since the phrase how to publish books receives about 74,000 global monthly searches on Google, I figured buying the domain (e.g. .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, .us) could only help with SEO (i.e. Search Engine Optimization). Plus, the domain matches this blog's content quite well. If you don't know what Search Engine Optimization is and you're an author with a Web site, it's time for you to do some research... I suggest you buy and read this book. Understanding and implementing SEO tactics can convert into many book sales! Studying it is worth your time, trust me. Or if you'd rather hire a search engine optimization company, I highly recommend that you select Page SEO Company. They're the #1 Portsmouth NH SEO agency and experts in gaining massive organic traffic from major search engines.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Top 5 Online Marketing Tools For Authors

Many authors ask me: When and how should I start promoting my book? The first part of the answer ("when") is yesterday. As with any product--and yes, a book is a product!--it's unwise to start promoting/marketing after the product releases. Here's the second part of the answer ("how"): Prior to publication, I'd say about 3-6 months before the release date (maybe even a year if you're really serious), you should already be actively utilizing these TOP 5 Online Marketing Tools For Authors (notice how I said "should." There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and some authors can certainly find success even if they begin promoting/marketing after the release, although it'll be more difficult):
  1. Author website/blog - I remember launching my website/blog back in 2007, two years before the release of my bestselling novel Unconventional. This gave me plenty of time to get acquainted with my site and learn the ins and outs. Ultimately, you want to use all of your other online tools to drive traffic to your site/blog.
  2. Facebook - Read this post--Facebook For Authors by Cindy Ratzlaff--to understand the personal profile, the fan page, and the benefits of using the leading social network as an author. Over 600 million people use Facebook nowadays, so it's not a tool you can ignore! Facebook ads are also highly effective for recruiting fans/selling your titles. FB ads allow you to target just about anyone based on interests, age, gender, location, etc.
  3. Goodreads.com - I'm a huge advocate for this, the #1 social networking site for book lovers. This site, from an author's perspective, is all about targeted marketing and networking. You can network with tons of fans from your genre; include your book in Goodreads' giveaway program (which they promote to their members for you!); customize your author profile after signing up for the free Goodreads Author Program; launch a targeted ad campaign with self-serve advertising; and more!
  4. LibraryThing - Much like Goodreads, you can run a giveaway on LibraryThing.com (LT), but I feel the LT giveaway program is superior. Here's why: You can give away e-book downloads, which cost you absolutely nothing but help you gain readers and reviews.
  5. Twitter - Technically a microblogging site, Twitter limits each post (i.e. tweet) to 140 characters, thus encouraging short bursts of info. This is an ideal place to quickly network and form relationships with other like-minded individuals, help them and they'll help you (through "retweets," etc.), share the behind the scenes moments of your life (not so "behind the scenes" anymore), spread some of your links, etc. Amazingly, you can do all of this on the go. Just install a Twitter app on your cell phone. Twitter does offer a Twitter 101 "course" at their site. Check it out if you're trying to figure out how to get started.
Remember, you're only going to find success in publishing if you self-promote like all the other successful, entrepreneurial self-published authors out there. You can't expect the book to sell itself. That won't happen.

Monday, June 13, 2011

When Will E-Books REALLY Take Over?

There's been a lot of talk about Amazon's announcement that Kindle e-books are outselling paper books at their Web site. Many uninformed folks have taken Amazon's claim and started spreading a loud rumor that E-BOOKS HAVE TAKEN OVER PUBLISHING.

They haven't.

E-books in general account for around $69M of the market, while adult paperback and adult hardcover combine for about $212.5M, according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP). March 2011 sales figures showed that print books as a whole equal somewhere around $338M while e-books (as mentioned previously) are at $69M.

When will e-books really take over?

There are a lot of guesses, of course, but no one knows for sure. If the transition from print to e-books compares at all to CDs and MP3s in the music industry, it could be only a couple years until e-books really take over. On March 2, 1983, CD players and discs were released in the US and other markets. Audio Highway released the first MP3 player in 1997. Certain studies show that digital music will finally overtake CDs by 2012, which means consumers will have taken roughly 15 years since the introduction of the first MP3 player to "switch over" to digital music.

The first e-reader, the Rocketbook, released in 1998.

Is 2013 the magic date for the e-book takeover, then? I don't think so, but it's fun to create an educated guess, isn't it? When do you think e-books will rule the world?

On a side note, I don't believe paper books will ever disappear. People are too attached to that format to let it go entirely. I think e-books and paper books will coexist for many, many years to come! Both are incredibly important to the publishing world.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Twitter Tips

Having a great, relaxing weekend but wanted to stop by and share a post ... 5 Twitter Tips For Authors And Publishers by Cindy Ratzlaff. Some good food for thought for every tweeting author ... Click here to read.

Reminder: Twitter Kindle contest from MindStir Media: Win a Kindle Wi-Fi, along with some bestselling paperbacks, and a valuable coupon. Get the details here and please spread the word.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Exceptional Customer Service from Authors

Whether you want to believe it or not, writing is a business. It's lots of fun but you should remember in the back of your mind that you need to make a profit in order to stay in business. What do all successful businesses have in common? Exceptional customer service. Great customer service creates happy and loyal customers. Make them happy and they'll keep coming back for more of your books. These sales generate profits. Treat your customers badly and you'll ultimately go out of business. 

Here are some ways to provide quality customer service as an author:
  1. Use social media, e.g. Facebook and Twitter, to communicate with current and potential customers. Be polite, always. The key word there is "communicate." Don't talk to them; talk with them.
  2. Take Gary Vaynerchuk's approach and respond to negative reviews (on Amazon.com, for example) with an apology and offer to refund. I know this may sound crazy, but you'd be surprised how much respect you will earn. Read this.
  3. Throw in a bookmark or some complimentary item with every book sold at your website. Sign the book, obviously, and also the bookmark. Include a short note with your email address. Sign the note as well. Ask the customer to get in touch with you after they're done reading. Let them know you'd love to hear from them. When they email you, make sure to respond. This type of personal customer service will gain you many repeat customers!
Any other ideas? 
Top Self Publishing Company

Get A Free Kindle Wi-Fi

I've mentioned the Kindle here on my blog several times and wanted to let you know that you can win a Kindle Wi-Fi, along with some bestselling paperbacks, and a valuable coupon. Get the details here and please spread the word.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Promote Your Book & Track Sales with Amazon's Author Central

It was a nice day here in NH but now I'm getting blasted with a nasty thunder and lightning storm, so I'm going to make this short and sweet (I don't want to risk my computer getting fried): If you're an author and your book is listed at Amazon.com, you can use Amazon's Author Central to update your biography, add publicity photos, video, a blog, and events to your Author Page. Author Central is very user-friendly. If you use any form of social media, you'll have no problem with Author Central, which also allows you to track your book sales! Click here to sign up for a free account with Author Central.

Authors, it's important to understand that the sales tracking system within Author Central isn't always completely up to date and lacks sales figures from libraries, Ingram, Walmart, used books, pre-orders, and more. Kindle and other eBook sales data is not included either. The Bestsellers Rank History chart is really neat, though...showing you a complete history of your book ranking at Amazon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Support Independent Booksellers and Authors By Using INDIEBOUND

Most books (MindStir Media titles included) listed on Amazon.com, BN.com, etc. are also automatically listed within IndieBound's database and linked to indie bookstores' websites, making it easy for book connoisseurs to buy books from independent booksellers instead of the corporate giants. Each book listing has its own page. Indemnity by Paula Wiseman (the listing is still "processing"), for example, has green and blue buttons directly next to the book cover. They're pretty self-explanatory, but my favorite button is BUY ONLINE FROM AN INDIE BOOKSTORE. Click that button and you're brought to a screen that requests your zip code. Enter the code, hit GO, and you'll see a host of indie bookstores where the book is being sold. Select your favorite local bookstore and BAM...there's the book, ready for checkout at Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport, MA. If you're an author, give this a try with your book(s).

I encourage you to join the IndieBound community. It's free and easy to sign up. IndieBound also offers an option to become an affiliate (I'm not one, but I think I'll sign up shorty). Looks like a valuable program which could be great for indie authors and publishers!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

MindStir Media - Self-publishing With A Personal Touch

Nowadays, indie authors are able to bypass traditional gatekeepers of the publishing industry and self-publish, presenting their books to readers much faster than ever before. This can be extremely liberating and rewarding for authors if done correctly and with the right self-publishing company.
Many leading self-publishing companies are so large that authors quickly get lost in the crowd, and what should be a liberating and rewarding experience instead becomes frustrating. These large self-publishing companies are notorious for poor customer service, rushed services, and erroneous or missing royalty payments. Don't get stuck with these corporate self-publishing giants. There are many other options for indie authors... One option is Mindstir Media.
Mindstir Media, the self-publishing and book marketing company I own, specializes in paperback, e-book, and audiobook publishing and distribution. Authors retain all rights and receive royalties up to 100%. Royalties are always paid on time...accurately. Publishing starts at $199 with the Design It Package, which allows an author to design his/her own book, self-publish, and distribute in the United States via Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, BooksAMillion.com, and many more online retailers. The author's book is even distributed through Ingram and Baker & Taylor.
For serious authors with larger budgets, Mindstir offers premium packages which include design, editorial, global distribution, and marketing services. It's very important for an author to have the most professional product possible, meaning the cover should be eye-catching and comparable to covers designed by major publishers, and the editing must be done professionally. Mindstir's designs are extremely eye-catching and its editors have freelanced for Simon & Schuster, Princeton University Press, Barbour Publishing, and other well-known "major" publishing houses.
Regardless of the Mindstir publishing option an author chooses, the author will enjoy unparalleled personal customer service. Never will a Mindstir author be tossed from one rep to another. Each author deals with one contact for all publishing support needs, and for many Mindstir authors, J. J. Hebert (me), bestselling author and president of Mindstir Media, is the primary contact person. How many other self-publishing companies offer mentoring and customer service from a bestselling author? Only one: Mindstir Media.
Mindstir Media is also the only self-publishing company providing unabridged audiobook publishing and distribution. The audiobook format is unfortunately a mostly forgotten format in self-publishing today despite the audiobook's recent increase in popularity.
Finally, Mindstir supplies authors with several very valuable a la carte services such as a Convenience Book Tour, website design, book signing kit, press release creation and distribution, and more.
For more information about Mindstir Media, please visit www.mindstirmedia.com or call 800-767-0531 to speak to a live person.

Monday, May 2, 2011

MindStir Media Author Enjoys Bestselling Success

Wanted to share a brief but exciting press release which was just distributed:

On April 25, Christian Fiction author Paula Wiseman's Contingency (ISBN 978-0981964829) and Indemnity (ISBN 978-0981964836) landed on Amazon.com Christian Fiction bestseller lists. Both books, part of the Covenant of Trust Series, center on infidelity and marriage restoration and are available at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and other fine booksellers. 

About the author: 

Paula Wiseman is the author of Contingency and Indemnity. She currently resides in Illinois with her husband and children. Visit her website: www.paulawiseman.com. 

About MindStir Media: 

MindStir Media, a self-publishing and book marketing company, supplies authors with Mind-Stirring Publishing Solutions to help them successfully self-publish and distribute books. MindStir specializes in paperback, eBook, and downloadable audiobook formats. Authors retain all rights and receive royalties up to 100%. Visit MindStir's website: www.mindstirmedia.com. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Facebook Security

I thought I was all secure on Facebook. I never give out my password and I'm usually careful what I click, but it appears that I was the victim of identity fraud on Facebook recently. I woke up this morning to see odd and offensive messages with photos in my Facebook account from a person that recently friended me. Now I don't know if that person's account was hijacked too or what, but when I went to block the person, it looked like she had already been blocked (or maybe she lost her account?). It also looked like words were exchanged via messaging, leaving me to wonder how long my account was hijacked and whether someone has been sending malicious messages to my real friends on Facebook. This is a sad day in cyberspace for me.

My point is that this craziness can happen to anyone, no matter how safe you think you might be. I've changed my password and adjusted my privacy settings to ensure that I browse Facebook with https which is supposed to be more secure than http. I've also decided that I will no longer accept friend requests from people I don't know. I'm sorry everyone has to suffer for this, but I just can't risk it.

The photo tag virus, chat virus, and others are getting out of hand. Have you noticed lots of photo tagging among your friends lately? Photos that do not relate to your friends? DO NOT click on them. Have friends been sending you odd messages on chat with suspicious links? Shut down chat and contact your friend immediately about the issue. Check out this article from Yahoo! regarding Facebook chat being hijacked. Scary thing is, once someone has hijacked your account, they can use it to do whatever they please.

Here's some security info directly from Facebook Security that I'd like to share with you: Helpful tips here and some common threats mentioned here. Be careful, and good luck!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Promote Your Book with LibraryThing.com

Been discussing self-promotion on the blog and realized that I hadn't mentioned anything about LibraryThing, a social network for book lovers (much like Goodreads) which has around 1.2 million subscribers vs. around 5 million subscribers at Goodreads.com (love the customizable author profiles there). I've played around with LibraryThing (i.e. "LT") in the past but only recently signed up for an actual J.J. Hebert member profile, followed by my author page. Simply visit http://www.librarything.com and sign up for an account. Then, if you're an author, search the site for your book(s) and click on your name. That click should bring you to your unclaimed author page. Look at the right sidebar--click "Is this you?" to claim your author page. Once you've done all of that, take advantage of LT's amazing giveaway feature...one of the reasons I finally decided to register as J.J. Hebert...

LT, unlike Goodreads, allows authors to post eBook member giveaways. In other words, as an author you can offer your eBook to readers in exchange for reviews! You can provide as many free copies (i.e. "downloads") to the LT community as you want. You'll just be responsible for contacting the winners with a way to download the eBook for free. You could email each winner with the eBook attached (e.g. PDF) or point the winners to a download link or supply them with a coupon for 100% off...

Why give away your book for free? Like any new product, it's important to get your book into as many hands as possible early on. You're probably not a brand-name author at this point, so giving away free copies gets your name out there and helps with word of mouth. I've done three separate giveaways at Goodreads for my book Unconventional, but I was forced to give away paperbacks, which cost money to print and ship to the winners. I believe I only provided six copies total during those three giveaways at Goodreads because of the costs. That means only six winners read my book for free and then posted reviews. At LT, I've seen authors offer two hundred free eBook downloads in exchange for reviews, and the authors didn't have to pay a dime to print or ship those books! (You can also submit physical copies of your book(s) in the giveaways at LT)

Need help with book publishing? Contact MindStir Media book publishers today! Top Self Publishing Company

Friday, April 15, 2011

Successful Authors Act Like Professionals

Yesterday I mentioned James Boice regarding authors self-promoting. Today James sent me a couple very kind and professional emails, which reminded me: Successful authors don't just self-promote...They act like professionals, too! Mr. Boice is the epitome of a professional as is Gary Vaynerchuk (remember him?). Check out Boice's official Web site and buy his new book on June 14 or pre-order today! He also has a few signings scheduled. Go see him if you're able!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Successful Authors Self-Promote

There's this terrible myth still floating around that published authors can just write and cash royalty checks. Wrong! Major publishers now expect authors to self-promote, and self-published authors must self-promote in order to be successful. Today's reclusive writer (J.D. Salinger-like) is usually an unsuccessful writer (saleswise).

Here are two contrasting examples:

I remember reading about debut novelist James Boice in Writer's Digest back in 2008. The article/interview, entitled The Silent Type, posed a question: "Can a writer who just wants to be left alone to write make it in today's extroverted publishing world?"  Boice, at 24, was the youngest person to publish fiction in Esquire and his debut novel, MVP, was published by Scribner in May 2007. Very impressive! However, Boice did not embrace the spotlight or self-promotion. In the previously mentioned interview, he said that he didn't want to go on book tours, and when asked if he'd perform some publicity on his own, he replied, "I don't have to do anything. The whole process has been a trial. I just want to write." Since then (after seeing low sales numbers), it appears that Boice has changed his tune a bit. In a post on his Web site, Boice admitted, "Sales started off okay then diminished," referring to MVP. Now he's finally taking advantage of video streaming/sharing, Twitter (became an active user in Feb.), and Facebook (created fan page 2/22/11) ... I guess he kind of answered the interviewers question; new writers can't "make it" in this extroverted publishing world by being anti-social. Boice's new book, The Good And The Ghastly, releases June 14. Let's hope he decides to promote himself this time. I should note that I have nothing against James Boice. He's a talented writer who seems willing to adapt. That's a good thing.

Then you have NY Times bestselling authors like Karen Kingsbury (Zondervan & Simon & Schuster), who fully embraces social media/online publicity and engaging with readers. Karen is active on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, her Web site, and she is constantly doing book signings and holding special events, etc. Yet...she still finds time to write, releasing more than one book per year.

What do you think? Comment here. Top Self Publishing Company

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bookstore Sales Up Nearly 10%

Despite the Borders bankruptcy/store closures, increasing e-book sales, and breakout self-published stars like Amanda Hocking, bookstore sales rose 9.3% in February, totaling $1.11 billion according to a report by the Census Bureau published this morning. That's right, plenty of readers are still buying print books!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Who Should See Your First Draft

I'm going to make this somewhat short and sweet: Only you should see the first draft of your manuscript. Please, please, please do not submit your first draft to publishers, agents, and never self-publish it for the public to see! Do your career a huge favor and at least self-edit and revise before you submit your manuscript anywhere. If you plan to self-publish, hire a professional editor before it sees the light of day. I understand that paying a qualified editor is quite expensive, but your book (and career) is worth the investment. I promise you that the majority of the most successful authors in the world do not turn in their first draft. It's simply not a smart career move.

I swear I'm not one of the Quality Police. Really, I'm not. I just wouldn't want anyone claiming that you've produced "bad literature." Don't give the Quality Police any more fuel!

Have you ever read a book that appeared to be a first draft? Comment.

Have you ever submitted or self-published a first draft? What kind of response did you receive? Comment.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Adventures of the Hypocritical Quality Police

Here we are in 2011 and there are still traditionally published authors and literary agents squawking about self-publishing, some even claiming--or suggesting--that self-pubbed authors are arrogant because they choose to bypass the traditional publishing "system" and go straight to print. The "pay-to-publish" concept drives those individuals crazy. Why? Mostly because they believe self-pubbed authors (and their books) are actually devaluing literature and threatening the publishing industry by bypassing the system in place. Don't get me wrong, many traditionally published authors (and even agents!) understand that self-publishing is a viable option and it is hard work. Barry Eisler, for instance, recently walked away from a $500,000 deal in order to self-publish. No joke! But the complainers out there, lots of them are self-appointed "quality police," judging self-pubbed work and making insane and unfair generalizations about self-publishing. Ironically...or hypocritically...the Quality Police come off as arrogant (the very thing they accuse self-pubbed authors of being) by basically implying that no one is "really published" unless they've gone the traditional route.

Some authors feel the desire to be validated by a literary agent and/or traditional publishing house, and that's fine.  However, many authors in the world don't have that desire. They don't care what agents and traditional publishing houses think. They believe their work is good and publishable, therefore they publish it and allow the readers to do the validating. This does not mean that these authors are arrogant.

The fearful Quality Police keep trying to stigmatize self-publishing. They act like schoolyard bullies by constantly telling the world that indie authors (i.e. self-published authors) aren't cool or talented. That, my friends, is not cool! The Quality Police should really lighten up and trust that the consumers will decide what's good and bad. Bad books exist in both the self-publishing and traditional publishing business models (as do good books). Self-publishing doesn't devalue literature; bad literature does!

So what do you think about all of this? Feel free to let me know...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Your DAILY Routine As An Author

Yes, I said it: daily routine. As an author you should be doing something every day to promote your book(s). I'm not saying you have to spend eight hours per day promoting your work. Most authors simply don't have time for that. But how about an hour per day? Yes, one hour. Send some emails, tweet away, interact on Facebook, participate on Goodreads and forums--you know, all that good stuff.

What's that you say, you don't even have one hour to spare? It's time to prioritize! There has got to be something you can remove from your schedule to make room for an hour of book promotion. Take a moment and write down your schedule and take a long, hard look at it. See anything there that doesn't need to be?

You and I both know that you'll eventually miss a day (I know I certainly have), but that's okay. Just move on. There's always tomorrow. Tomorrow becomes today--and that just happens to be right now. So what are you going to do (or what have you done) to promote your book(s) today? Seriously, tell me...

P.S. Of course, all of this is in addition to writing daily!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How Should Authors Respond to Negative Reviews?

If you're an author and you find yourself wanting to respond unprofessionally to a negative review of your book, shut down your computer, walk away, and never look at that negative review again ... Today I came across an instance where an indie author received a 2-star review by a blogger and then decided to go on a tirade in the comments section of the blog (click here and scroll down a bit to see what I mean). Commenters greeted the author with criticism for acting so unprofessionally in a public forum (I should note that some of the commenters weren't professional, either). Eventually, things got really ugly when the author cursed at one of the commenters for stating the truth. This author lost respect and sales (many commenters actually said that they would not buy her book because of her response). Now her book has attracted nearly fifty 1-star reviews at Amazon.com. Some appear to be a direct result of her conduct at the blog. Ouch. What a mess. As an author, you're better off not responding!

On the other hand, you have Gary Vaynerchuk (Vay-ner-chuk), a New York Times bestselling author, social media consultant, and owner of the multi-million dollar company Wine Library. He's taken a totally different approach to negative reviews ... In most cases, he comments by offering the reviewer a refund and asking if there's anything he can do to rectify the situation. This comment thread from Amazon is a great example of how authors should respond to negative reviews...if they decide to respond at all. Gary has gained a ton of respect from his professional approach and rightfully so! If you're going to respond to bad reviews, this is how you should do it.

How do you respond to negative reviews? Join the discussion here. Top Self Publishing Company