Hey, Sarah: Release Day Plans

This week's video is full of more oddness. My camera kept doing a very strange auto-focus thing. also, it apparently moved down lower and lower as the video went on. I think we should all just become accustomed to these videos being pretty low when it comes to production quality.

Here's hoping you enjoy it anyway. :)

Crunch time: What to do release week

This is it. One last post for the books before Monday, which officially kicks off release week. So I thought now would be a good time to talk about what my plans are for next week.
Later on today I'm planning to record the video for what I'm doing on the actual day of the release. But that's just one day. I realized a few weeks ago that there was going to be too much to do in those days leading up to release. I knew something would have to give and I was concerned that "something" would be this blog.

At this point, I've got most of the must do items complete. I, sadly, still have a few guest posts to write. Apparently those are harder to do than I imagined. In the past, all my guest posting was done at blogs where I talked about being an agent or marketing. This is the first time where I'm talking to audiences about my book that aren't you guys. You guys are safe, you get that I'm a bit weird, and pretend that we have conversations as if you were sitting in my living room. But these new readers don't know me. So writing for them has been a new challenge. Lesson learned, start guest posts super early. In fact, I would suggest writing some up now, no matter where you are in the process. It can't hurt to have a few of these in the bank. Plus, I was only given direction on topic from one blogger. Everyone else left it up to me, so you can really pick any topic. When I finish these, I'll be brainstorming new ideas and putting together some talking points for future guest posts.

I've got the first round of blog tour letters out for the great folks who are up in the first week and a half. Next week, I'll send out the other half. I wanted to put a little space there so someone wasn't getting a reminder email three weeks before their post.

My books have finally arrived so I've got a trip to the post office in my future. I have various folks to send these to and I want to get them out as soon as I can. Also, now that I have physical copies, I'll be heading out to my local book store next week to see if I can get a few stocked there. I feel like the importance of this varies depending on your genre and age group. Our local store always has teens browsing the aisles and they will sometimes put up a local authors table in a prominent spot in the front. This extra exposure is well worth the effort, but it might not make a difference for you. This is one of those, no one-size-fits-all situations.

I'm also off to the local library to offer a few donated copies to them. Our teen librarian is fantastic so while I'm there I'll also talk to her about possibly offering a workshop or Q&A with her teen groups, probably some time after the new year.

In addition to all of this and a few other ideas I'm tossing around, the tour kicks off on Monday. That means I'll be busy updating the website with live links, visiting blogs and answering any questions that pop up and promoting all the fantastic bloggers and booktubers who are helping me spread the word about Rite Of Rejection.

So keeping the blog going in the midst of all that felt a bit like overkill. Plus, I thought you guys might be getting tired of me talking about this book launch already. Seriously, you guys have been fantastic, but I'm even sick of it and it's my book.

Instead of letting the blog go dark, I decided to use the open space to help give some other authors some much deserved promotion. While I'm off trying to convince the world to take a chance on a no-name debut indie author, four really talented authors will be here to share their experiences with Rejection (because I can't help myself).

I'll be back at the end of the week, probably in a state of exhaustion and delirium, to talk about the launch. Alright, I'm off for more pie and something unproductive, like Lego Harry Potter video games. Sounds like a plan. 

Thanksgiving: Book release edition

Today official marks one week until Rite of Rejection releases out into the world. I'm a little extra grateful/crazy this Thanksgiving.

I'm not going to post much today, since hopefully all of you here in the US are not reading this. Instead, I hope you are stuffing your faces full of turkey that someone else cooked, feeling the buzz of wine glass number two and prepping your sweatpants for dessert.

I just want to take a minute to say Thank you!

When I announced that I would be publishing my first book and blogging the process I had no idea what to expect. Would people question me about the whole self pub vs. traditional debate, would I be able to market my book and share valuable information at the same time, and would anyone even care?

Your outpouring of support and well-wishes was more than I could ever hope for. Several of you have reached out privately to tell me how much you are learning from these candid post. I don't think I could ever adequately describe how much that means to me. This blog has always been a passion of mine and knowing that it is helping other people achieve their book world dreams is a dream come true for me.

Thank you to all the amazing bloggers, freelancers and just generally nice people who have been willing to review my book, talk it up on social media and tell your friends about it. I'm going to do a release-eve post on how the whole pre-release sales have gone, but I can say that your efforts have helped me immensely. I'm not hitting the NYT list anytime soon, but I'm just ecstatic that anyone is buying it.

And finally, to all the readers! Thank you for your enthusiasm. Any author will tell you that writing is something they just have to do and they'd do it even if they were the only person on earth. But I gotta tell you, it's a lot more fun when there are people willing to actually read your words. Thanks for make this all worth it.

I'll be back tomorrow with a decidedly less sappy and more informative post about something or other. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!

Why you shouldn't give away a book for your blog tour

Let's be frank for a minute. What is the goal of a blog tour?

1. Exposure. I really can't drive the importance of exposure in enough. If you are a debut author, or even a mid-list author, no one knows you. That includes me. Harsh, but true. Though I may have a small following here in my little slice of the interwebs, I am a nobody. The main objective of the blog tour is to start changing that.

2. Sell books. Not to underscore the importance of exposure, but organizing a blog tour is a lot of work to not sell any books. In a perfect world, readers will see multiple posts from their favorite book bloggers and rush to buy their own copy. I'd take a slow meander, but you get the idea.

So why then do so many authors insist on using their own book as the giveaway during their blog tour? Because here's what happens. Readers find out about a book that sounds interesting to them, so they jump through the various hoops to enter the giveaway and hope they are the lucky winner. And then promptly forget about that book, because there are other books to check out. They are not going to rush to buy your book if they are also waiting (sometimes for several weeks depending on the length of your tour) to find out if they won a free copy.

"But Sarah," I hear you hesitantly ask from the corner in the back, "didn't you just do a book giveaway." Yes, yes I did. And I think you should do them as well, just not during your blog tour. I did my giveaway for a few reasons. One, the paperback was finally available and I was pretty excited about it. Two, it was my birthday and I wanted to celebrate. Three, I wanted to do a little something to say thanks to all of you. I knew that wasn't going to be a huge giveaway with thousands of entries. That wasn't the point. It wasn't about exposure. Blog tours are different.

Ask a book blogger and they will tell you that giveaways bring more traffic to a blog tour post, so you'd be crazy not to do one. You'll just need to get a little creative when it comes to prizes.

You can go with a traditional gift card prize, but unfortunately, that's going to cost you. Because so many authors offer a gift card, readers have been desensitized by them. You're $10 or $20 offer will likely be considered not worth the rigamarole to enter. Readers like to see the big money. The downside of a big prize is that you are also going to attract a lot of traffic that has no interest in your book, or maybe any book. This is also why I don't recommend big ticket items like Kindles or iPads.

The sweet spot is finding a prize that is going to be attractive to readers without drawing in all the people who aren't your audience. Because you want a reader to win. A reader will tweet or post about winning, maybe even share a picture, all of which earns you additional exposure. A non-reader is not going to do that.

I've decided to give away a #RiteOfRejection Reader Survival Pack. Yep, I'm pulling out the hashtag again. :)

I'm excited about this because it offers one of a kind items that readers will hopefully want, but won't be all that attractive to someone just scanning the web for prizes. So here's what I'm giving away.

1. A Chapter 17 tissue pack
Because that's when you'll need them (Sorry, but not really). Once you have them out, it's probably a good idea to keep them handy. You know, just in case.

2. A jumbo sized chocolate bar
Real food of any kind inside the PIT is a major find. Chocolate is a minor miracle. I shudder to imagine living in world without chocolate.

3. An orange scented candle
This one is courtesy of Rebecca's fondest memory from home. I wish you could scratch 'n sniff your screen. It smells soooo good.

4. A dandelion pen
Obviously, from the cover, dandelions have a significance in the book. I don't want to give too much away, but using this pen should make you smile.

5. Handcrafted Molly bag
Named after the character responsible for sewing them in the book, these are the bags used by the main characters to carry everything and anything they need in the PIT. And yes, I did make this one.

6. $10 Amazon gift card
On it's own, it won't draw much of a crowd. But as part of a larger prize pack, it's a nice addition that gives the winner a little something extra for their stocking this year.

I was able to keep costs low by making some of these (the pen and the bag) and selecting items that aren't expensive, but are unique and/or have some special significance to the book. In total,I put all of this together for less than $20. That's a completely reasonable amount to spend on a blog tour prize pack that will hopefully draw hundreds of new readers to learn about my book.

When it comes time for your own tour think about locations, special moments, symbols and physical items from your book that would make good prizes. It's a good idea to create a mix between practical and meaningful prizes. Even if you don't spend a lot, you want your prize to have a high perceived value. Including an item that is limited in quantities (like the handmade bag) can really bump up how valuable readers think your prize is.

If you aren't crafty or lack the creativity gene outside of word slinging, ask your early readers for ideas. The book should be fresh in their minds and, ideally, they represent your target audience. You might be surprised with what they come up with.

So what do you think? Is the #RiteOfRejection Reader Survival Pack a prize you would want to win? What are some unusual items you've used or seen in author giveaways?

Pre-publication week checklist

Next week is the official release for Rite of Rejection. This isn't a huge deal in terms of the actual book since the paperback has been available for the past two weeks. However, all my biggest marketing efforts really come into play during the week of the release, so it has significance to me.

I've been sitting here making my massive to-do list and realized that you all might find this informative. What exactly does an author do the week before their book releases? So, in no particular order, here are all the book related things I need to do this week before the real madness hits next week.

1. Finish up the last few items for my tour giveaway prize (a post on this is coming soon). I have everything I need, it's just a matter of getting it all together.
2. Take a nice picture of the prize.
3. Finish answering questions for the interview posts that are part of the tour.
4. Finish writing the guest posts for the tour.
5. Update tour documents for bloggers with the tour banner, rafflecopter link, prize picture, and html formatted post of the book blurb, cover, my picture and bio.
6. Send individualized emails to over 50 amazing bloggers with attachments of all the items mentioned in #5, an updated link to the tour page, any additional content (interviews & guest posts) and a huge heaping of my sincerest thanks!
7. Finish video project I'm hoping to share on my release date (more on this later).
8. Follow-up with some fantastic writers who are going to take over my blog on release week (more coming).
9. Send local press release out (I'm so behind on this. I hang my head in shame).
10. Write November newsletter for all my fantastic subscribers.
11. Write email for all the non-blog tour folks reading my book to remind them about posting reviews.
12. Record Hey, Sarah video on what to do on a release day (what a timely question you guys sent me).
13. Do one more tinkering on Amazon keywords to see if I can get in those last few categories before the release.
14. Follow-up with my blurb writers.
15. Take Thursday off to enjoy a family focused Thanksgiving with my hubby and kiddos who've had to deal with my scattered brain the past month.

So, you know, not much. Did I mention this is in addition to my normal agency work, reading submissions for two contests going on right now, and just life. This is why I say to start early and why I wish I had started even earlier than I did. Although, I think I could have started the whole process last year and still have a huge to-do list this week.

Yet, despite all this work, I am seriously having the best time. Getting awesome emails from early readers who have truly generous words to say about my book is a special kind of writer high.

Someone asked me recently if being an agent and knowing about marketing has made this release any easier. Yes, but only in the sense that I knew exactly what I was getting into. Unfortunately, it hasn't made the work any easier. Still, it's been such an amazing ride and I feel like I'm just getting started. Thank you so much to all of you for going on this journey with me.

Categorizing you book

So, you know how it's hard sometimes to figure out what genre a book is in? Like is it fantasy, or magical realism, or urban fantasy, or paranormal? And even when you've got it figured out, the definitions can be so grey that other readers will completely disagree?

Now magnify that by seven and you'll have the issue of categorizing your book on Amazon.

If you've never uploaded a book to Amazon, here's how it works. You get two BISAC categories which are an industry standard and pretty basic. Think Juvenile fiction, Science Fiction. In addition to these categories, you get seven keywords that Amazon will use to put you into more detailed categories. And there's the rub, you don't get to select these more detailed categories. You have to know the right keywords to use in combination with your BISAC category to get you there.

Why is this important?
Regardless of your feelings about Amazon, you can't deny they are the biggest player when it comes to book sales. And for an indie or small press author who might have difficulty getting stocked in brick and mortar stores, they are going to account for the majority of your sales. Getting your book into the right categories means it will be easier for readers to find you. The more categories you're in, the more opportunities for readers to stumble across you while browsing for books.

When I initially entered my book, I didn't pay attention at all to the magic combinations and just entered in a bunch of keywords that basically accomplished nothing. I knew that, but with so many other moving pieces to loading the book, I had to let some things go. So now that all the final files are loaded and just waiting for release, I've gone back in to tinker with my results.

These are the results.

Before (with generic keywords that were already covered by my BISAC categories)

 After (with more specific keywords)
Sorry for the blurry images here. You'll see I definitely ended up in more categories, though I'm not sure I really expanded my reach by much.  Also, I have no idea how I ended up in Literature & Fiction. That sounds like the broadest possible category ever. There are still a few categories that I would like to be in that my changes didn't generate. From here, the next step is probably to reach out to Amazon directly to ask how to get my book in those categories. 

Until then, we'll see if this generates anymore activity.

When it comes to your categories, it's good to experiment here and see what works best for you. I've seen category changes make a huge impact on a book's ranking which can dramatically alter how often your book is seen and enhance your sales numbers.

But like everything else, be sure to make changes in moderation. If you go in every day and change your categories, you aren't giving your book enough time to see if the changes help or hurt. And, I can't stress this enough, you need to be honest with your keywords. There are some really small categories out there I could put my book in that would be sure to send me right to the top of the chart. But that doesn't do any good if Amazon browsers discover my book is nothing like the others in the category. You never want to trick your readers into buying your book. This should go without saying, but I'm putting it out there anyway.

While book category sounds administrative, it is definitely marketing and shouldn't be overlooked. Remember, discoverability is our biggest challenge, so anything we can do to increase the likelihood of readers finding us is a big step in our marketing efforts.

Hey Sarah: PreQuery publication & Space Opera

After over a month with no videos, I'm back at my YouTube channel with a new installment of Hey, Sarah. I'm giving fair warning that this video has horrible lighting, an annoying background noise and almost zero editing. Seriously, I pretty much cut out the beginning and end where I turn on and off the camera. All the repetitive rambles, verbal flubs and other awkward hand gestures are still included.


Finding my readers

Because I write YA, I realize that my teen readers are most engaged in sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. According to a 2013 PEW survey 90% of young adults (18-29) use social media. So yeah, it's important.

While teens are still using Facebook, I think it's harder to engage readers there unless you go on a binge with your personal account and start friending random teens. Yeah, that's not creepy at all. So Twitter is still a big player in my book. Knowing where your readers are is a big part of knowing your reader. And you can't market to your reader unless you know who they are.

Anyway, I am doing a lot of promotion on Tumblr and Twitter and I wanted to find ways that I could get more exposure in front of my target audience. This isn't about getting bigger numbers. I want to get more teens who self identify as big readers as my followers so I can share my message with them.


It's also important to remember that you can't wait for readers to come find you. Until I have big name recognition (I'm talking John Green level author fame), I need to be the one finding my readers, not the other way around.

So I went searching for ways to find my readers on Twitter and I came across this article from The Book Designer about 6 minutes to more twitter followers. The title grabbed me, but the info inside was genius and so simple. Plus, it's smart and doesn't feel spammy to me.

The gist of the article is this. Every day, pick one author who you feel is a good match for you. In other words, I think their readers would also enjoy being my readers. I also target authors who I admire and who are doing awesome work on social media. Set the timer for six minutes, or however long you have to give, and start following that author's followers. Ideally, many of these followers will become your followers, too.

Now, a few ground rules.

Because I am looking for potential readers, not blind numbers I don't follow everyone. Here are the reasons I don't follow:
- It's an egg account. Meaning instead of a profile picture they still have the generic Twitter egg picture.
- The account looks like a promotional site.
- The bio doesn't mention anything about books, reading, fandoms, authors, writing or anything book related. This is a deal breaker.

Here are the reasons I do follow:
- The account holder identifies as a reader or fandom lover that is YA related. I love all readers, but if you only read the classics or WWII poetry you aren't in my target audience. This isn't being elitist, this is not wasting the time of people who aren't going to want to hear about what I have to say.
- Their bio picture or background picture has books or bookish related things. Bonus points if those booking things are Harry Potter related.

It's that simple. I want readers, so I'm going out and finding the readers.

After a few days, I have tons of new followers. And the best part is that I know they belong to my target audience. Plus, I've already had some really great interactions with several of my new followers.

I am absolutely going to keep doing this. In fact, I wish I had started sooner. Knowing that my tweets are getting seen by people who will be genuinely interested in my book makes me all kinds of happy. I feel like Chuck Woolery*. If you don't know who that is, Hey there, target reader!

Now an update: Next week is the last week that I'll be having daily status reports on my marketing efforts. The week after that is my launch week and the start of my blog tour, so I'm going to have some guest posts on the blog instead. They are all going to be awesome and keep me from just getting on here everyday and shouting about my book.

After the release I'll be back to a more regular posting schedule, including a return of Agency Lessons, but I'll still keep you updated on my post-release marketing efforts and my progress toward my goals. :)

*Chuck Woolery was the handsome television personality and hilarious host of The Love Connection which aired its last episode in 1994.


Two Weeks! Two weeks until the official release of Rite of Rejection. I keep vacillating between feeling like I have everything under control and feeling like I am so far behind there aren't enough hours left to catch up. This switch happens every couple of hours so I never know where I'm going to be when the panic sets in. Truly, it's a thing of beauty.

In the interest of honesty, last week one of my CPs had to talk me down off the ledge. Like, I was ready to pull the book back (as if it would be possible to pull the book back from hundreds of Netgalley members I don't know). Why, you ask?

Because I got a so-so review. Nothing scathing or even harsh. Instead of the "How could they be so wrong?" reaction I was expecting, I launched into a "They are so right. How could I have ever thought this book was ready for public consumption?" string of thoughts. It wasn't pretty, people.

Luckily, I have a wonderful support network that keeps me grounded and gives me the emotional espresso shot that authors need from time to time. So before I talk about today's marketing effort, let me add some bonus advice. Surround yourself with people who support what you are doing before you even think about publishing. This goes for indie and traditional. Whether it's your spouse, your family, your friends, your agent, or your next door neighbor. Find the people who will let you vent and then hand you coffee and/or alcohol and tell you it's all going to be okay.

Now, on to what I've been up to on the marketing front...

I recently signed up for a HARO account and so far so good.

If you aren't familiar, HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out and the concept is kinda genius. The account is free and by signing up I get three emails a day (morning, noon, and evening) with a list that usually has around 35 requests. The requests come mostly from reporters, but sometimes from people writing books, radio stations and TV Shows.

These folks are all looking for one thing: the knowledge you already have.

Each request specifies what the reporter is looking for and who qualifies. If that matches you, you just reply to the email and send along your information. Pretty simple.

The emails are organized in a really clear way so that it takes me less than 2 minutes to read them and see if anything applies to me. So far, I've responded to three requests and passed one along to one of my clients who I thought would be a good resource. That's in just a little over a week.

Now, there's no guarantee that any of these reporters will use my quotes or the answers I sent. I'm not even sure if they'll let me know if they do. What I do know is that the whole process takes less than ten minutes of my day and with that, I have the chance to get real, national media exposure for me and my book. And it's free.

I'm all about opportunities that are free and have a low impact to my time schedule. Plus, if I have a day that is really just crazy I can wait to read those requests the next day or just skip and delete. No one will ever know. To me, it's the worth the few minutes for the possibility of something big.

I'll let you know if I ever get any responses on this, but in the meantime, you might want to check it out.

Why you shouldn't give everyone a book

Up until now, I've only mentioned my book casually on Facebook. I talk about it on my fan page, but not really on my personal page. These are people don't tune in to hear my marketing advice. My friends there are actual friends and family.

So Friday was a bit unusual. I shared the link to my blog post about giving away a free paperback. And then, whoa nelly, folks came out of the far left field.

Most of the responses I got were gracious and congratulatory. People excited for me and looking forward to reading the book.

Others, were...a bit more self-serving.

I was surprised at the number of blatant requests for books.

I imagine this is how lottery winners feel, when family and friends come out of the woodwork with a hand out. Friends who I've only exchanged pleasantries with since high school wanted to know if I could send them a book.

No, the answer is no.

Now here's the deal. I've made it clear that I have no problems sending my book out into the world at no charge. I sent it to tons of bloggers, made it available on netgalley, offered it to my newsletter subscribers...you get the picture. I do that with the understanding that those individuals at least have intentions of leaving a review or promoting the book, even if that doesn't happen.

I'm not saying you can't give your book to people without expecting anything in return. When I ordered my copies I made sure I had enough to be able to give them to several people who probably won't ever log on to Amazon and leave a review. And that's okay. These books are gifts. A way of saying thank you to these individuals for their help, support, love and friendship.

Yes, I want my book out there in the hands of lots of readers. But this is also a business. At some point I need people to actually buy it so I can recoup my investment and maybe make a buck or two. And the economics doesn't add up to give your book to non-readers.

How do I know these are non-readers? Because they didn't ask for a copy when Rite of Rejection only existed as an ebook. I had several friends make comments about looking forward to the release date so they could load their Kindles. I sent those friends copies. Many of them still pre-ordered a copy because they are awesome. But these newly interested Facebook friends didn't show up until there was a physical copy.

So what will these people do with a physical copy of my book? Put it on their shelf where they will sometimes point to it when they have company, mentioning that they are old friends with the author. They will not read it. They will not recommend it to others. It will become a nick-knack.

As an author, you would be out the cost of the copy, the cost to ship it to the friend, the cost of any revenue you might have made if you had been able to sell the copy and you lose out on any promotion you might have gotten even if you'd given the book away. It's a lose-lose for everyone except the person you barely remember from high school.

Should you give your book away? Yes, absolutely. Get that thing out there in all it's formats. But do it smartly and make sure it's worth the cost.

Why I gave my biggest fans my book for free

 A few weeks ago I sent my newsletter subscribers an email offering all of them a free ebook copy of Rite of Rejection in exchange for an honest review.

Now, handing out copies of your book for reviews is not a new idea, but many would balk at the idea of giving it to people who are the most engaged in your audience.

After all, some would argue that since these are the people most invested in me, they would also be the most likely to purchase a copy. So giving them the book for free is lost sales.

You can think of it that way, but I don't.

These are my most loyal fan base (if I can claim to have a fan base), but instead of considering them customers who might buy my book, I took the approach of considering them ambassadors. My goal in giving them a free book was two fold.

1. As a way of saying thanks for being awesome
2. As a way to make them bigger fans. Up until now, the vast majority of the readers of this blog have been authors looking for marketing tips. I'm fine with that. But I recognize that authors are also readers and I had the opportunity to turn some of these fans of my marketing lessons into fans of my writing.

And fans talk to other readers about books they love. It's a win win for everyone.

So I offered up my newsletter subscribers my book, and many of them took me up on the offer. I hope they love it. I hope they review it. I hope it makes them hungry for more books from me. And I hope it makes them feel appreciated for being fans before there was much of anything to be a fan of.

Now, I realize that many of you may be wishing now that you had subscribed to my newsletter so you too could get a free eBook.  Well, you're not too late to the party. If you subscribe to my newsletter anytime before the Rite of Rejection release date (Dec.4th), just send me an email from the email address you used to subscribe. Be sure to put "Newsletter Subscriber" in the subject line so I don't miss you. In return, I will send you one shiny eBook for your reading pleasure.

And thanks to all of you for being fans and generally awesome people!

Pull Quotes

First up, Thank you to all of you for your kind birthday wishes. I had a fantastic birthday weekend, and after a mini-getaway, I'm feeling revived and ready to kick butt this week. Also, congratulations to Monique on winning a signed copy of Rite of Rejection!

For those of you who didn't win, the paperback version is now available on Amazon. And since they don't offer paperback pre-orders yet, it is shipping now. If you want to know why it's out so early, you can read the full story on how that happened. Also, let me say that the process to get the eBook and Paperback linked together (which you absolutely want to do) was easy and painless. I emailed Amazon through my author central account and they had the whole thing taken care of in less than 24 hours without any issues. So far, I've been super impressed with the author experience there.

This past week, I was feeling a little bit in a void. The blog tour is coming up and everything is pretty much locked and loaded. I'll have more work to do right before the tour when I send out reminder emails and all of that, but really I just have some guest posts to write and interview questions to answer. I'm also in an in between place, because I have several marketing efforts that I can't do until I have my books in and they have hit the extended distribution on Create Space. I haven't yet figured out how to tell when that happens so I'm in limbo at the moment.

The whole waiting makes me feel anxious so I decided to put that energy to some good creative uses. I made some of the items that are going in the blog tour giveaway. I'll have to do a post on that because I'm super excited, but you have to wait until I can take some pictures.

I also worked on my pull quote images and got them all done. So I thought I'd share my thought process and how I did these.

First, I decided to save time and pick my quotes while I was proofing the final print copy. As I went, if there was a good quote I put a little sticky note on the page. Once I was finished proofing, I went back and made a huge list of all the quotes I loved when I was reading the book. The initial list was 33 quotes, which is way too many for me. Even if there was enough time to space out that many quotes, I didn't want to dedicate that much time to making them. Remember, a good marketing strategy is recognizing where best to use your time.

Once I had my list, I eliminated the ones I didn't love or that weren't as good outside of their context. I figured out how many I could realistically make and distribute before the release and then decided on my final choices. I ended up with 16.

I used Morgue files to find most of my images, though one is a heavily edited picture from my wedding. To make the quote images I used a combination of Gimp, Pixlr and Photoscape. It just depending on how much I needed to edit the image to make it work for me. All of these are free to download and really easy to use.

I've been posting the images on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule on Tumblr which also auto posts to Twitter. I also share them on my Facebook fan page and about once a week I post one to my Facebook personal account. Remember that the people you are friends with on Facebook did not sign up to be marketed to (really this is a good tip for any social media platform). I added a Rite of Rejection page to my Pintrest account, but I'm not really promoting this. I did it because it's easy and I already had an account. Sometimes, it's a good idea to target the low hanging fruit if it doesn't take any extra time. You never know when a reader will find you in an unusual way.

Here's what I've put in each image.

1. A CC usage picture. This is so important. Do Not Steal Work. You can't google an image and swipe it off the internet. That picture belongs to someone. There are plenty of sites out there with great CC pictures so you should have no problem finding what you are looking for.
2. A good quote using a clear contrasting color that can be easily read against the background. I also used the same font for all of the images to create a consistent look.
3. Hashtag. I am seriously using my hashtag of the book title (#RiteOfRejection) for everything. I want everyone to see this and think "Oh, yeah, I've heard of that".
4. A link. You can't embed a link into the image unless you are posting to a website or blog. So instead I include a purchase link in the comments or description depending on where I'm posting. A good quote doesn't do you any good if people don't know where to find the book. I've been alternating between my Amazon page and the author page of my blog that has all the buy links. Use what you think is best here.

Here are a few examples of pull quotes I've been sharing.

This has gotten long so I'll sign off for the day. I'd love to see examples your pull quote images. Feel free to share a link in the comments! :)

It's my birthday, who wants a book?

So, tomorrow is my birthday! Yeah! And I get to spend it working a book signing with my talented client, Vicki Leigh! Double Yeah! If you're going to be in Austin on Saturday, stop by and say hello!

I love my birthday, even though I am getting older every year and heaven knows I'm not a spring chick anymore. But there is just something wonderful about a day that gets to be all about you. Plus, I can eat all the bad things I want and not feel guilty...because it's my birthday!

In honor of the day of my birth, I think it's only fitting that I give you a present, too. How does a signed book sound? 

Awesome. I'm going to do a flash contest for a signed print copy of Rite of Rejection.

All you have to do is tweet about the giveaway. That's it. The contest is open all day today and tomorrow and will close at midnight (central time) on November 15th, my actual birthday. The contest is open internationally because I love all my fantastic readers from across the pond, too. I'll post the winner when I get back into town on Monday!  

Have a fantastic weekend and may the odds be ever in your favor!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Before it was a book: the making of Rite of Rejection

I've talked a lot about what I am doing to market the book now that it's a real thing that exists as a finished product, but if I'm being honest, the marketing started well before then. Because all of these efforts will achieve nothing if I don't have a quality book.

I realized while going through my notes, that I've never talked about the process I went through to get Rite of Rejection ready for publication. Time to fix that.

Like every author on the planet, I start with a rough draft. That is actually the shortest part of the process for me. Total writing time for that initial draft was about six weeks. I tend to write sparse, so it was around 60K words (the finished book is a little over 80K). Before anyone even sees a single word I go through a rigorous self-editing process. I leave myself little notes as I'm writing so editing means fixing all of those issues and well as searching out more. For this book, I used Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass to dig deep into the story. One of my favorite scenes in the whole novel came from a prompt from that book.

CPs and Beta Readers
I honestly can't even tell you the number of people who graciously read drafts of this book. It was a lot. Once I feel like the story reads cohesively and I'm happy with the way the plot runs, I turn sections over to my CPs. They read about 5K words at a time and then I edit them while they read the next section. My CPs are awesome. After I incorporated all those changes and rewrote some sections I turned it over to my Beta readers. These fabulous readers really helped me to cement my character motivations and made me prove everything in the story. I wasn't allowed to phone in the world building details and it's a better book because of them.

Professional Editors
I worked with two editors on this manuscript after I felt it was a good as I could get it. They pushed me even more ensuring that every word, every sentence captured what I was trying to achieve. Big shout out to the wonderful, talented folks at Teen Eyes Editorial for all the hard work they put into this one.

Once I knew all the pieces of the book were not going to change, I hired a proofreader. Unfortunately, I don't think I hired the best person for the job. My proofreader did find tons of grammar mistakes that I completely missed and helped me with my issue of never knowing when to use a comma. That said, I also felt a lot was missed and ended up having more post-proofing errors than I would have expected. This is one of those areas that can absolutely kill a novel. Too many mistakes can mean a reader getting jerked out of your story and possibly deciding they don't want back in. Sadly, too many authors self-publishing skip this step. My advice, don't skip it and be willing to pay for a quality editor.

Cover Time
This was both my favorite and most hated part of the process. With the edits, I at least felt qualified to make decisions. The cover design process was when I most wanted a publisher. I know so many authors bemoan the lack of decision making when it comes to their authors, but I would have loved for someone else to tell me which one to pick. I solicited opinions from close friends, avid readers and fellow writers. Everyone liked something different for different reasons. In the end, I absolutely LOVE my cover, designed by the talented team at Deranged Doctor Design and they were a dream to work with. The pressure of deciding how readers would view my book for the first time, I could have done without.

Another Read
Even though the book was pretty finalized at this point, I still read it again and asked a few new readers to look at it. At this point, I was only looking for mistakes. A missing word, a rogue comma, an incorrect capitalization. This is where I realized I should have spent more on a proofreader. Luckily, I have some amazing people in my support team and I'm fairly confident the book is as error free as it can be. I have now jinxed myself. I also used this final read to look for pull quotes which I'll be talking about in another post.

If you have the cash, do yourself a favor and pay someone to do your formatting for you. The process of getting your word doc manuscript in the right format to submit to all the various vendors is a tedious nightmare. If, like me, you need to get your book out there on the cheap, I highly recommend picking up a print copy of Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard. She spells out the process step-by-step, with pictures and tells you exactly what buttons to push. Plus, the book has all kinds of other fun stuff that is good to know.

Pushing the button
This might have been the hardest part. With the eBook I have a bit of a buffer since self-publishers now have the option of setting a future publication date. But the print book doesn't offer that option yet. I knew once I hit the accept button, the powers that be would start working to get it out there. I had heard that this process can take anywhere from five days to two weeks. Being the paranoid perfectionist that I am, I hit the button yesterday so I could be sure the print book would be available by Dec. 4th.

In an act of over-achievement gone wrong, CreateSpace managed to get my book up on Amazon in about three hours. Yep, way to go! What does that mean? It means the paperback copy of Rite of Rejection is available to buy, right now! As in, you won't have to wait until December 4th for it to ship out! It's (a)live!

Yeah, I'm kinda freaking out, too!

The silver lining of the early posting is that now people can post reviews. The books still pull up separately, but I'm asking Amazon to group them and hopefully, that will happen soon. So, if you've received an ARC, and have finished reading it, I'd be amazingly grateful if you would leave an honest review. I've talked before about how important reviews are to a new author, so I'm not going to be shy about asking for them.

So that's the story of how this little story became a book. I imagine, it's about what you would expect. But I'm all about being transparent with this whole book launch deal. If there are other areas that you think I've missed, please let me know. I still have a lot more posts to come about my efforts, but I want to make sure that I'm not skipping over something that I didn't even realize I did. Does that sentence even make sense? Probably not.

Anyway, let me know what I'm missing and be sure to come back tomorrow. It's my birthday this weekend, so I have a surprise or two in store for all of you lovely folks!

Making a home page

This website is a blog. That's always been its function and it operates quite well that way. But a blog is a bit limiting in some ways. 

This became clear to me as I was finalizing the backmatter for my book. I direct people here and I do have a domain name so it looks a bit more professional than a blogspot link. But when they arrive, they would find themselves on a page with tabs at the top and my latest blog post. That's not really what I want brand new visitors to see.

Because here's the deal. All of you fantastic readers are accustomed to coming here and reading my blog about book promotion or working as an agent or any other number of crazy topics I happen to pick. But a brand new reader who doesn't know me as an agent or a marketing lady will probably be a bit shocked if they come to my site for the first time and read the blog. There is going to be a disconnect.

So I decided to create a home page. Nothing fancy, mind you, but something static that would be there to greet new visitors who go directly to sarahnegovetich.com. This serves a few purposes. This create a landing page that allows new visitors to become grounded in the page before dipping into my brand of crazy. 

It also gives me a chance to direct new visitors. There are a lot of tabs here. And I love that. I love that there are so many resources on this site. But that can be overwhelming. By having a home page I'm able to point new visitors to the most helpful areas. For me, I am pointing them to my book page, my newsletter and then the blog.

It took a little finagling to get the page working correctly and keep the blog from disappearing, but if I can figure it out, anyone can. Is this necessary? Certainly not! But I do think it adds a bit more professionalism to the site and allows me to avoid creating a separate static website. And, most importantly, I really believe this will create a better user experience for new visitors who will, hopefully, become new fans.

Creating a Press Kit

Now that I'm about to put myself out there in a more public way, I figured it was past time to create my press kit. I'd been avoiding it because I knew it would take time to put it all together and I wasn't 100% sure how I wanted it to look. So I took some time last week to really study the format and layout of other author press kits and then plugged away at getting it set up.

If you want to see how I did it, you can check it out in my Media Room.

So first was figuring out what to put where. I wanted a main page that wasn't just filled with links to other pages, but I wanted the navigation to make sense. I ended up with small info that would give someone a quick look on the main page, with easy to find links to additional information. For example, I made a contact area on the main page with basic contact info for me and my agent. Then, directly under that I added a link to view my full contact page. That page has all the same information in addition to all my social media links and my profile links on Goodreads and Amazon.

Another formatting trick that I picked up from studying other authors' pages is linking back to various spots in the Media Kit. For example, at the end of my long bio, I provide a link to my contact page. That way, a visitor doesn't have to navigate back to the main page and then to my contact page to find me on the internet.

Most of the time, links lead to other places on my website. But that wasn't always possible. For example, to download cover images or my pictures, I link visitors to a Google Drive folder so they can get the actual file and not a bad internet swipe.

As far as what to include, here's everything I put in my kit.
1. Brief intro line
2. Quick contact info
3. Full contact info
4. Short bio (the one on my about me page)
5. Full bio (this was so hard to write)
6. Pictures (headshot in color and B&W and a larger picture)
7. Sample video interview (For this I embedded a youtube video interview I did a while back. It gives media folks an idea of what I'm like on camera. I will probably to in and provide a link to my full YouTube channel at some point)
8. Sample interview questions (I asked myself eight questions and then answered them. Media folks can use these to get an idea of who I am or they can lift them and use them in a story. I also included a link to a downloadable PDF of this so it is easier to print)
9. Book info (Since I only have one book right now this looks a little sparse, but it is what it is)
10. Book one sheet (this is also an easily printable PDF)
11. Cover images (I provided ebook, print and the 3D rendering)

If that looks like a lot, it's because it is. Your media kits needs to have everything that anyone could need to write up a full story on you without even needing to contact you. This kit is far from perfect and I'm sure I'll be updating it as I go, but it's a good start and sometimes that's better than nothing.

Why have one?
A media kit gives people who are considering giving you and your book free exposure what they need. This is a good thing. And that's why we need a media kit that is all encompassing AND easy to use. If your kit is missing info, a reporter will move on. If everything is there, but is tricky to navigate, a reporter will move on.

In addition to making things easier on our media contacts, the media kit provides another, less obvious, benefit. A good kit can show you are a professional. With a well organized, professional kit you set the stage right from the start that you are a serious author. Very few authors ever get to that household name status. For the rest of us, our media kit might be the first time someone sees us. It's crucial that we don't look like some johnny upstart writer who piece together a cover on Microsoft Paint and threw their first draft up on Amazon. A good press kit is more tangible proof that we are among the authors who take our work and ourselves seriously, and are worth media attention.

Yes, a press kit is a lot of work. It took me some serious time to research my options, gather up all my content and get it laid out in a way that didn't make my eyes bleed. But it's worth it. Now I know that I can send out press releases with confidence and know that reporters and producers will find a media page I can be proud of.

Calling in Connections and Favors

When I teach my marketing plan class at conferences I ask attendees to pull out their cell phones and open up their contact lists. Then I tell them to write down the names of people they know who might be able to help them with some of their marketing plans.

Even the most introverted among us (hi, there! Yes, you over in the corner) knows people. In fact, I bet you know way more people than you realize. After moving all over the country for the past decade, I know my list of contacts is quite large.

We are not going to reach out to those people and ask them to buy our book. This is tacky on the grandest scale. There is nothing wrong with reaching out and asking for help. A friend of mine, who stealthily reads this blog, recently chastised me for telling all of you that it's okay to ask for help, but let myself get overwhelmed and didn't ask for help. So this is me, once again, telling you it's okay to ask for help and reminding myself the same.

So on the docket is a few things.

One, my stealthy friend watched my children on Friday. This may seem like a small deal, but to a working/homeschooling mama with two kids who are constantly underfoot, it's a huge blessing. Don't overlook the help a friend can give by watching your kids, bringing a meal, doing internet searches for images or contact names. Not everyone who helps you is going to be related to the publishing world, and sometimes these favors are the ones that give us exactly what we need.

Next up, I have a local friend who self-published a novel and managed to get it into the local Hastings. This might not be a big deal for some genres, but I still think physical discoverability in a book store is a big deal for YA. There is a social element of book buying for some teens and I'd like to get a piece of that. Plus sometimes, our store will do a featured table of TX authors and that would be sweet. So I asked her for some contact names and advice on how to proceed. As soon as my print copies are in hand, I'll be off to the book store. Yeah!

Third on my list of favors was reaching out to a mommy friend. This woman is busier than I am, but is the sweetest person you could ever want as a friend. In addition to being the kind of mom who's just generally involved in her kids' schools, she is also on the local school board. I asked her if she would introduce me to any teachers she knows that might be interested in having an author come speak in their classroom. Just as soon as she finishes the loose ends from a mom conference that she ran this past weekend (Did I mention she's busy), she's going to put me in contact with several.

Last, I'm planning to reach out to the local university, where the hubs is a professor (more name dropping to follow) to see if there are any film students looking to pad their portfolios. I'd love to get a trailer made, but this is one of those "nice to have" marketing items that I don't really want to spend a lot of time and/or money on. If I can get a film student who wants to make one and give him/her complete artistic control, I might get to have a trailer without investing any money and very little time. Sounds good to me.

Out of the list of folks I'm asking for help from, only one is a fellow author. The rest are a product of my situation and the wonderful people I've met in my life. Everyone's situation is different, but unless you're a hermit who avoids the internet and public places, then you know people. If you aren't sure if anyone you know has any connections, ask.

Don't be afraid to just tell your friends what you need. Let them know what you're doing and what you need, then ask if anyone has any connections. You never know who has a connection that can help. And don't worry about your friends being offended. On the contrary, don't be surprised if they are honored and excited to help be a part of your future success.

Do you need a cover reveal?

The big cover reveal was on Monday and, as you know, I was pretty on the fence about the whole thing. So I thought I'd do a quick run down on how it went and my thoughts on having a cover reveal.

Here's what happened right after the release:

1. I got several more adds on Goodreads, which is nice, but not necessarily a big deal.
2. Blog traffic has been up since announcing the book, but Monday had a nice spike that hasn't dipped back down yet. Yeah for more site visitors.
3. I got a handful of pre-orders which is a handful more than what I was expecting. So that's nice, but I'm not swimming in a pool of money gangsta-style yet.

I also had a few take-aways for things I would do differently if I were going to have another cover reveal:

1. I would have put a trackable link in the blog posts so I could see how many people clicked over to read the first chapter from a cover reveal
2. I would have done the reveal earlier so I could get it out before loading to various sites (this is a timing thing).

So would I do it again...maybe.

In the end, I can assume that a lot of eyeballs saw my cover. This alone isn't really enough to pull in sales. The exception here is if you are a big name with a large established fan base that's waiting for your next book. You know, so next time I release a book. ;)

But remember how I said the biggest challenge facing new authors is discoverability? Well, this is part of it. By itself, a cover reveal is pretty pointless. But, when my blog tour starts next month, hopefully some of those same people who were exposed to the cover will see a review, or guest post, or interview. And because the book isn't new to them, they'll be slightly more open to reading it.


Here's the deal. It would be easy to get caught up in trying to figure out what works and what is going to drive more sales. And this is important to think about when you are considering a tactic that will be either expensive or time consuming. But the cover reveal was neither. I simply added it in to my request to review bloggers as an FYI in case they'd like to participate. I asked for participants here and in my newsletter. Again, simple. For the actual reveal, I was going to create a post on the blog no matter what so I could share the first chapter. It was easy enough to send that post out to all the bloggers who agreed to be part of the reveal.

In terms of cost and time, this was a simple action that maybe added another hour of work to my schedule. It didn't create a massive surge of sales, but I didn't think it would. Hopefully, it planted a seed of interest in potential readers that will pay off as I continue my marketing efforts.

 Here's my advice. If you want to do a cover reveal, go for it. Do it early enough that you don't have to worry about holding back other marketing efforts in order to keep the cover a secret until the reveal. And only do it if it's something you think you can do with minimal effort. If the thought of contacting bloggers for a reveal and then contacting them again for a review sounds like too much work, then skip it. There is nothing wrong with doing a reveal on your own website and asking your friends to help you spread the word. You might also reach out to just one friend who has a large platform to host the reveal for you. 

Cover reveals are fun and if you have a quality, professional cover, they can be a nice confidence booster (nothing beats hearing gorgeous cover all day). But they aren't going to be a huge boost to your marketing efforts. Keep that in mind when deciding how you are going to share your cover with the world.

What are my goals

I talk a lot about goals on this blog and how it's important to set them and know where you are going.

I actually wrote down goals for myself a while ago, but I forgot to share them with you, which was a blunder. Because a marketing plan makes more sense when you know what the goal of it is.

I gave myself three goals because I felt that was a manageable number of targets to keep track of. Here they are:

1.Garner 50 reviews on Amazon in first month
2. Earn back expenses in first three months
3. Sell 1,000 books in first six months

Let's break those down.

1. Garner 50 reviews on Amazon in first month
This is the goal I feel I have the most control over. And the one I feel I'm the closest to achieving (which is silly because no one can even leave a review on Amazon yet). I have a ton of people reading the book between the tour bloggers, Netgalley and a few other sources, but I know that only a percentage of them will leave a public review. And because I can send the eBook for nothing, there are no barriers to keep me from sending the book out to as many readers as I need to in order to get a good number of reviews.

Of course, I'm hoping for organic reviews to trickle in once people have bought and read the book, but I'm not factoring them into my efforts.

There are other places readers can leave reviews, like Goodreads, so why Amazon? Because they are the biggest players when it comes to book purchases. When I am checking out books to read I always check out their reviews on Amazon, even if I plan to buy the book at my local book store.

2. Earn back expenses in first three months.
For my expenses, I'm planning to include everything I spend on the creation and promotion of the book. If it's money I wouldn't have spent if I weren't publishing a book, it counts. This means I probably have some expenses tacked on to this book that will make it more expensive than other possible future books. I'm okay with that.

Here's how my expenses to date add up:
Cover design: $225
Editing: $383
Proofreading: $187
Domain name: $42
Proof copy: $8
Netgalley: $80
Total: $925

With an ebook earning right around $2 per purchase, I need to sell about 463 copies of my book to break even. Can I do that in three months? I have no idea. Having never done this before I don't have a baseline for myself. I can take a look at other author's sales numbers, but that doesn't mean anything for me.

I also know that this number is going to go up. I still have to purchase my blog tour prizes, I'm planning to do a Goodreads giveaway and I want to order some bookmarks. As I go, I'll add to the total so I can easily track where I need to be come March 4th.

3. Sell 1,000 books in first six months
There isn't anything tied to this goal like the last one, this is just a personal goal for me. 1K is a nice round number, and for some reason, it lodged in my head that I'll have done a pretty decent job with this whole writing thing if I can convince 1,000 people to plunk down their hard earned cash for my words.

You'll notice that each of my goals is Specific, Measurable, Active, Reasonable, and Time Sensitive. I know exactly what I want to happen, how I'll determine if I succeeded, and what I need to do to meet the goal in the time allotted.

At the end of the day, I may not achieve all of these goals. Of course, I want to, but I'm trying to be realistic enough to know that I might miss the mark. The point of having goals isn't to punish us for being sub-par. It's to give us a focus and keep my actions driving me toward success.

Once the book goes live, I'll keep you guys posted on how my goals are going. And if I don't, I want you to remind me. Staying accountable keeps me from fudging the numbers or losing direction. Success or fail, at the end of the day I'll know I did everything I could.

How I got my book on Netgalley

Netgalley used to be reserved for the big players in publishing, but not any more. New plan options have opened the door to indie authors creating all kinds of new opportunities. So let's talk about this.


First off, if you haven't heard of Netgalley, it's a place where reviewers, book buyers and librarians can request eARCs of books in order to write a review for the book or consider purchasing it for their store or library. It's totally free for the reviewers, but publishers pay a pretty penny to get their books listed. We're talking thousands of dollars a month.

That high price tag used to mean that Indie authors were out of luck. Until Netgalley opened up options for authors to list their books directly for a reduced rate in the several hundred dollar range. Now, that's still big money in my book for a marketing effort. But, with the change in pricing, many authors are choosing to form a co-op.

And that's what I did. I am working with Patchwork Press to have Rite of Rejection listed on Netgalley for two months. I send them all the information and my files. They handle working directly with Netgalley, getting everything loaded, screening the requests and sending out the book. I get to sit back and wait for the reviews to come in.

So, is it worth it? I would have to say a resounding "YES"!

First, let me say that the folks at Patchwork Press are outstanding to work with. They answered all my questions super fast and have made the process painless. They've also done a great job keeping me updated on the progress of the book.

In the first week of being listed, Rite of Rejection was requested by over 250 reviewers. I didn't have a frame of reference for that number, but according to the super helpful folks at Patchwork Press, that's a great number. So I'm stoked about that.

A note, with these requests, bloggers see your cover and your blurb, so it is super important that you have these polished up like a professional before trying to put your book on Netgalley.

It's too early to tell how many reviews I'll get out of those requests, though I can say that my first review on Goodreads came from a reviewer that got the book off Netgalley. So that's a win.

But here's the deal. Even if I don't get a lot of reviews, I am getting a lot of exposure. People I don't know, and might not have access to, are able to see and request my book. For a debut author, the biggest obstacle is discoverability. No one knows who you are, so you have to work extra hard to get your book in front of fresh eyes. By listing Rite of Rejection on Netgalley, I'm getting all kinds of exposure that used to be reserved for only books published by the bigger houses.

So far, I haven't done any promotion of the Netgalley listing. I let the bloggers who are participating in my blog tour know about it and asked them to pass it along to any reviewers they thought might be interested. Now that I've got the cover reveal behind me, I'll probably do a little link promotion to get the word out a bit more, but I don't want to go overboard here. I'm going to be talking about the book a lot in the next month on social media and I don't want to burn folks out with references to a site that most of my followers don't use. Especially now that the book is available for pre-order.

I'll keep you posted on this as more numbers come in, but please let me know if you have any questions about how it works. Also, if you know any reviewers, librarians or book buyers who you think might enjoy the book, please let them know they can now request it on Netgalley.