Coming out – Empowered and inspired by my first @RWAus conference #RWAus16 #amwriting #writers #emerging

Look out world – here I come!

Ain’t Love Grand was the best conference I’ve ever been to.

“Why?” I hear you ask.

I’ve been to conferences before – quite a few of them – I’ve even presented at some. History, Heritage, Architecture, Sustainability, Management – even Fossils. And there have been many with outstanding speakers, good networking, lots to learn and lots to think about. But for me, the recent RWAus conference was far more than just enlightening. It was transformational.

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I felt I changed on so many levels. Of course I learnt plenty of new info about writing and publishing. I also met lots of great people – and I think that’s where the transformation really set in. Because I’ve been a ‘closet novelist’ for years – have sat at home writing away, crafting stories, finishing books, self-publishing a few of them, building networks online and learning about the writing craft and the fraught world of publishing and marketing books, finding readers, etc, etc…. And have felt overwhelmed and alone, at times. Started to lose momentum and wonder whether I could continue existing as a writer in a parallel world that wasn’t really a reality… And then – BAM! – I meet dozens of other writers who are just like me, and suddenly it all becomes real.

So, some of the key things I learnt from attending the conference: –

  1. I am not alone. (That’s very reassuring.)
  2. Other writers are generous and inspiring – I already knew that, mostly, but now I really believe it
  3. Anything is possible, and you won’t know if you don’t try
  4. Writing is hard work and you need to treat it like a job. Take yourself seriously and give yourself permission to write.
  5. Don’t be ashamed of writing love stories – Love makes the world go round.
  6. And so much more that I’m going to need a few more blog posts to express it.

So now I am officially ‘OUT’ as a romance writer. I will tell any of my colleagues at work who are interested, and any of my friends and family. I will set myself writing goals and work towards them with gusto. I have made myself an electronic Calendar dedicated to all the work I need to do as ‘Emily Arden’. I am making this real, and I will succeed.

Stay tuned for some more posts on what I learnt from the conference, and may you achieve your dreams, or at least, always feel empowered to chase them.

 

My first year as a self-published author: Website #amwriting #website #problems #lessonslearned #authorwebsite

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This is the 3rd in a series of posts about my first year as an indie author publishing and marketing my books… I’ll be analysing different parts of the journey and will let you know the things that worked and the things that proved a waste of time.

This post is all about MY WEBSITE.

Aargh! This is one of the hard bits. I know that it’s vital for authors to have a good website. The list of ‘must haves’ probably goes something like:

  1. write good books (including using good editors, cover designers and developing a great blurb)
  2. have a decent author website!
  3. find and engage with readers (a mailing list is the most important way to do this, also judicious social media)
  4. distribute your books in the right stores, formats, etc…

Why is a website so important? I hear you ask… Essentially, it’s a one-stop-shop of information about you, the author, and your books. If people such as readers, publishers and reviewers want to find out about you, that is the place they will probably look. It groundtruths your work, and the best bit is, you can control everything that’s on it.

So how did I go developing my website in 2015? Not all that well…

On the plus side, I have moderate technical skills, so I was able to set up my own basic website in weebly while I looked around for the right designer and design to take my site to the next level. When I said on facebook and twitter that I was looking for a website designer, I got approached by a few people, but none of them showed me examples of author websites, so I wasn’t convinced.

Then I bought a website review from fiverr, and I was so impressed with the analysis and insight provided by the reviewer that I decided to ask them for a proposal to build my new website. I liked their proposal a lot, and so I commissioned them to build the website. All went well at first and there were lots of promises, but the website was never finished and delivered. I waited for months, and now they – Quanta Webdesign (don’t use them!) – have neither refunded my deposit nor finished the job. Needless to say I’m very disappointed – not only have I been scammed, but I’ve lost a lot of time. Six months! I will chase up the scam, but in the meantime, I still need a website.

Another problem I’ve encountered is with my domain name. I bought ‘emilyarden.com’ a few years ago from CrazyDomains, and I also paid for DNS forwarding, which means it is supposed to forward to my weebly site or wherever I tell it to go. (Emails to emily@emilyarden.com are supposed to forward too). Unfortunately this often hasn’t been working properly and it usually just goes to a dead page. When I have rung CrazyDomains to get them to help sort it out, they make it sound as though it is fine at their end and must be my problem. But I know it doesn’t work from lots of different computers. So that’s another battle I need to sort out.

What have I learnt in 2015?

  • Be careful with web designers. Don’t pay up front unless you are SURE they can be trusted.
  • Be careful where you get your domain from – some don’t work very well. Probably best to buy a domain from your website buider/host rather than a random provider.
  • Weebly is a good free site for a basic Webdesign, although some aspects of design are a little clunky.
  • Find websites you like and that work well, and use that to inform what you want.
  • My new website will have great information about my books, links and feeds to my social media, latest news and deals, photos of some of the locations for my stories, and ‘call to action’ buttons for buying my books and joining my mailing list. (I may even set up a shopping cart – not sure about that yet)
  • Having a blog linked in to a website looks good and keeps current info flowing through the site. I will explore setting up my new website in wordpress so it can link seamlessly to my blog.

What am I looking forward to in 2016

  • 2016 will be the year that Emily Arden’s great new website will be published! Stay tuned…

My first year as a self-published author: Blogging #amwriting #blogging #indie #author

blog-wordleThis is the second in a series of posts about my first year as an indie author publishing and marketing my books… I’ll be analysing different parts of the journey and will let you know the things that worked and the things that proved a waste of time.

This post is all about blogging.

Learning about blogging has been a steep learning curve for me. I started by designing a very pretty Blogger blog in February 2013 and enthusiastically posted some posts about my writing journey. And what happened? Zilch – nada – not a thing. Everything I did just seemed to get lost in the ether – no followers, no likes, no comments… That was very disheartening. It wasn’t until the middle of 2014 that I decided to start again.

It was my teenage daughter who put me onto WordPress, and within a few days of starting the blog I already had a few followers. So that felt much better.

Here is my first blogpost

I knew what I wanted to blog about – my writing journey and all that I was learning along the way. I wanted to take people with me on that journey, to learn with me as I explored the world of writing, self-publishing, staying motivated and productive. I wrote about the things that seemed interesting or important to me in that journey. I also sometimes wrote about my books. I guess I am fairly modest so I have found it hard to promote my own work, it’s something I hope to do more of in 2016.

blogging-is-goodFinding some of the great writing blogs and following them was a great way to learn more about blogging and about my writer’s journey. There are so many inspiring writers out there, and best of all, writers tend to be extremely generous with their advice and information. They’ve all been there – unknown and unpublished. They know how hard it is to get started. That is very reassuring for those of us starting out. I have learnt so much from authors such as Joanna Penn and motivators such as James Clear. So much. Generally I would have to say that blogs are the best source of information about becoming an indie author that I have found. Because there is such a range of perspectives and info out there now – more than you can get from reading a book on the subject.

I decided that I was more attracted to blogposts with a picture than not, so I started to add a picture to every one of my posts. It seemed to help. I also learnt about adding hashtags to the title – that way they’ll come up in twitter searches (given all my blogposts are automatically sent as tweets). My daughter helped me to add feeds to the margin, and I am now pretty happy with how my blog is working.

The stats are still pretty modest, still, at least they are slowly growing. I have over 100 followers now and over 1,000 views. Something to build up more in 2016.

So in summary – what has worked?

  • Changing my blog platform from Blogger to WordPress
  • Be clear on what your blog is about. Who is the audience? What do you want to cover? In my case – it’s all about writing and being an indie author. There is so much to learn, and I want to share the best of what I discover.
  • Finding other inspiring bloggers to follow and learn from
  • Posting more often (where possible)
  • Re-blogging other great blogs and sharing the joy plus creating links with other bloggers
  • Commenting and interacting with bloggers and readers
  • Making sure every blog has a picture
  • Learning what works and what doesn’t from the stats (such as best days and times to publish, and most popular content)
  • Make sure you link your blog to other social media sites such as facebook and twitter so that every post is shared through each platform. A quick way to ensure you are posting regularly to all three places and reaching a wider audience (plus reducing effort – always important for busy authors!)

What hasn’t worked?

  • Using the ‘Blogger’ platform – don’t bother.
  • Blogging less frequently (you tend to fall off the radar if you blog less than once or twice a week)
  • Blog posts without pictures
  • Blogging at the wrong time of day (generally, thinking about US time is more useful than Australian time)
  • Not sure how well the feeds on my blog work? I have added quite a few (facebook, twitter, goodreads, etc) but haven’t seen much traffic between. Something to look into more in 2016…

What will I be concentrating on in 2016?

  • Scheduling regular posts – I’m hoping to aim for two per week, plus re-blogging other posts I find inspiring or helpful.
  • Linking my blog into my website – watch this space
  • Providing more info about my actual books. What is happening in my story at the moment? What motivates the characters? What motivates me? I did a few posts on this in 2015 and they were generally well received. I need to do more of them and stop being so self-effacing about my books!
  • Finding new ways of interacting with followers, such as competitions, feedback loops or inviting guest bloggers onto my blog
  • Running a series of posts exploring an interesting theme.

That’s enough to be going on with! If you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you.

2015 – what worked, what didn’t? Part 1 -Writing #amwriting #review #writing

writingThis is the first of a series of posts where I look at how 2015 went – my first full year as a self-published author… I’ll be analysing different parts of the journey from publishing, social media, websites and marketing. I’ll let you know the things that worked and the things that proved a waste of time.

First cab off the rank – writing.

I love writing. It’s why I started out on the crazy ride to achieve my dream of becoming an author – one who people would love to read. And now I’m one year closer to achieving that dream…

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What’s worked well this year?

  • I finished and published ‘The Tangled Web’, a long novella – number 5 in the Deception Series.
  • I finished my first historical romance – ‘Isabel’s Choice’. It is now ready for publishing (I just need to sort out the marketing (especially my website) and get it converted to eBook format). It is ready for CreateSpace – cover and all.
  • My second historical ‘Sophie’s Promise’ has been edited and is with the beta-readers. I am very happy with this book – it is my personal favourite of all I’ve written so far. It is wonderful to have finished Sophie’s story at last (one of my favourite characters.
  • ‘The Secret Life of Eloise’ has been edited and is back with me for corrections (yep – that’s on my ‘to do’ list for the next few weeks). This was a fascinating book to work on as Eloise is so different from my usual heroines – a bit of an anti-heroine. It was wonderful to finish her story though – cathartic in a way. I am excited to have written something that is ‘out of the box’ and can’t wait to see the public reaction
  • I completed over 80% of my next contemporary romance ‘The Wedding Singer’. I am hoping to finish that story early in 2016!
  • I wrote down a few other ideas for books and have them stored neatly away awaiting their turn…

What didn’t work so well?

  • I had actually planned to finish AND publish at least 4 books in 2015, so the fact that I only published one of them was a disappointment. I try to console myself with the number of other things I achieved this year, and that at least I finished the writing…
  • A lot of my ‘writing time’ (such as some of the days I took off work to write) were overtaken by other distractions, such as marketing, social media, etc. This is always an issue when trying to cram a lot in…
  • I finished a book that I am not happy with – and neither are the betas. But I think I know what’s wrong with it now, and there is work that can be done…

What have I learnt?

  • Tricks for time management and avoiding distractions – such as turning off email and social media when writing.
  • The more you write (and listen to feedback), the better you get.* Many other writers talk about this and I must say I believe it is true. Certainly, that’s the feedback I’ve been getting from my readers so far – that every book is better than the last, characters become more nuanced, etc. Feedback has been vital for helping to develop my style and grow as a writer.
  • The more you read, the better you get. You can learn so much from the good (and even the bad) writers out there.
  • The more you think about a book (in all those spare moments between writing), the better the story is likely to be
  • When you have a good writing flow going, make the most of it. You may not have another for weeks! Nice as it would be to write consistently every day, for some of us (such as me) it is more realistic and effective to write in concentrated bursts when I’ve had a chance to become fully submerged in the story. I try to be disciplined about doing something related to my writing career every day, but not always creative work. Depends on where I’m at.

*Keep on writing One of the main messages I have really taken to heart is that we have to keep on writing. The more you write, the better you get. I’ve been reading lots of articles about the importance of getting on with the next book rather than obsessing about trying to ‘perfect’ the first, and that is so true. My experience over the past year has shown me that. 

That is not to say that my first books are not still good books. I am proud of the stories and the characters, but I can also see that if I was writing the same stories now, the writing style would be different. I feel my style has matured and gained depth. And that’s not a bad thing – it’s natural progression.

I’ve read some of the early books of some of my favourite authors, and some of them are not all that great. You can definitely see the seeds of what is to come, but also the room for improvement. I wonder if one day I might revise my early books and re-release them? I’m not sure. I’m more interested in working on new stories and new ideas at the moment. I guess, I’ll see what sort of feedback I get from my readers.

What will I be focusing on in 2016?

  • Becoming more focused when I write. Having more days where I make time and energy for writing and refuse to get sucked in by the enticement of social media.
  • Publishing my first three historical novels (including final tweaks and edits based on feedback).
  • Finishing at least two of the shorter historical novels that I started this year and will be intrigued to finish. One involves a spy and another a Princess, so I’ll be stepping into some new territory – can’t wait!
  • Finishing ‘The Wedding Singer’ and the controversial ‘Seduction in Stone’ (which has needed more rewrites than anything I’ve written, but is getting closer).
  • Writing at least one thing that I am not expecting and do not yet know anything about 🙂

What are your writing goals for 2016?

Don’t miss my next post on the good the bad and the ugly of 2015. The topic: Blogging!

Want to be a whiz on google plus? #googleplus #socialmedia #writing #tips

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I found some of these tips really useful – just need to take some more time to implement them.

Great tips for making an impact on google plus (quoted from Author Marketing Experts)

Follow Trends:

To the degree that it fits your topic, try to comment or follow trending topics. You can find this by clicking the “Home” button and then going to “what’s hot”. This will show you what’s hot within your circles but also what’s trending on G+. If you can tie your message into one of these topics, it could be a good way to get noticed.

Hashtags Rule:

Hashtags are no longer just for Twitter. They are a great tool to pull in relevant audiences. Even better: got a trending topic, use the hashtag!

Tagging People/Brands:

I always recommend that you tag relevant people in your post. When brands and people are tagged, they get a G+ notification and this can lead to additional engagement.

Images are Key:

Using images (preferably full-sized) can really help your posts stand out. Thumbnails and smaller images don’t have as much pull so whenever possible, use full-sized ones.

Communities Rock:

Finding relevant communities is so important and it can help you pull in a larger audience, more engagement and better traffic to your G+ page. Find some great communities and contribute your expertise!

Here are a few to get you started: http://www.thesocialmediahat.com/article/best-google-communities

Creating and marketing your box set #writing #book #boxset #marketing

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I definitely need to tap into the following advice when I set up my first box set. There are many articles out there that explain why box sets are a good idea and how to maximize their marketing potential. Here is one of the best:

Bookbub article

Do you have a box set currently available? Has that worked well for you? What are your best tips?

Writing a great blurb! #writing #amwriting #writers #blurb #description

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Check out this excellent advice from bryan cohen. All writers need to know how to shorten their work into a few succinct lines that will attract readers. Sometimes the shorter the harder – often takes a surprising amount of effort.

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/09/14/book-sales-description-bryan-cohen/