Category Archives: books

10 tips for promoting your independent, self-published books – ideas that work

Hi there,

While there are many tips out there about how to promote your self-published books, I thought I would share some ideas that have actually worked, to help cut through the noise. Perhaps you’d like to check out a Sean Yeager Adventures book for a youngster in your life. Please do.

1.  On your email footer add your book title (or series) and your choice of ‘author’ ‘writer’ ‘publisher’ and your website or blog link

People will then pick up on the fact that you have written books and ask you. They will also research the book out of their interest in you as a person. It’s free. It works. You are a walking person of interest when people are intrigued. And if they don’t say anything – no problem.

2. Run an informational website or blog with an easy to remember title

To tell people about what you do, where it is, why they should care. The benefits and strap lines of your work. It needs to have strong visuals and interesting content. If all else fails, share your learnings about promotion. (Yes, the irony is not lost on me). This blog site can be free or cheap. Obviously, if you intend to attract a lot of traffic and cross-sales (how to guides) you’ll need to build and invest in this website as a brand. Who knows, perhaps you want to video-blog and post to YouTube?

3. HIre a really good book cover designer and hone your book covers and titles

These are two of your most important promotional assets. These images and titles will be used everywhere. Learn to get them honed and professional. Dare to be a little different. If your covers can stand up beside professional equivalents, you have achieved your goal.

4. Go social – on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc.

There is a theory that people who ‘see you’ online will read your books. Frankly, I’ve not found this to be true. I suspect this is because there are loads of social media echo chambers out there of people promoting books left, right and centre. However, when you engage with people as people, over time a tiny proportion of them might become intrigued. Especially if you seem interesting and have something to say about the craft of writing, promotion, life or your favourite themes. And, your covers will be seen when you do (inevitably) add them to profiles, posts and such like.

5. Run paid adverts within your pre-set budget

Big publishers do this all the time. The simple reason is – you need to be taken seriously and your book covers need to be seen about seven times for someone to become familiar with the idea of buying or at least researching your book. Where to advertise? Take your pick based on where you believe your audience to be actively open to buying ideas  (facebook, twitter, goodreads, amazon, instagram, magazines, paper, billboards (pricey), TV appearance (if connected), websites, popular blogs or tours). At the time of writiing, I am running an advert in ‘How it Works’ magazine. I’ll leave you to figure out why when you browse this amazing magazine.

How it Works magazine link

6. Write a great strap-line for each book and tune your keywords

The web is pretty much run by keywords. You need to select a good cloud of words which place your book in the right relevancy bracket. Think of these as like hast tags but for web browsers, web crawlers, internal search engines and the algorithms that power the big sites – like Amazon, Google, etc. It is both an art and a science. You may need help with this – the buzz words are SEO, keyword search and relevance. Go research books in your own target market. Also, align your keywords across all your online presence.

7. Write and edit a really great read

This should go without saying, but there, I said it anyway. If the product, price, promotion and placement are strong, you could be onto something. A weakness in the chain will not help your longer term prospects. A weak book, well promoted will lead to one sale. Not the follow-on sales of your next books. You do have a next book, right?

8. And write another one

If you are promoting yourself as a brand – which is often suggested – your brand needs a number of books. One book looks okay, not great. You might want to gradually ramp up your efforts over three or four books. Many successful independent authors write and publish several books a year. Their catalogue is growing all the time. It helps. Others, myself included, work at a more sedate pace and focus on our own take of quality. Ideally, you want both a good volume and quality of books out there.

9. Giveaways and free e-book samples

These can help. However, be aware of the consequences. You will need a volume of next books to make a giveaway worthwhile. It is all about the cross-sell (to other titles) and up-sell (to your print copies). Another consequence is that your ebook freebie may never go away. It will linger on semi-dodgy sites for a long while.

10. Appearances, visits, talks, stalls

Attend anything you can to gain visibility. But, ensure you have something of interest to say. ‘I am writer’ does not cut it. There are several angles – helping other writers, talking about trends, commenting on your learnings, literacy for children, book clubs etc. A word of caution – a paid for stall at the wrong event could waste both money and time. Flyers given away at a book fair, could help if anyone spends time engaging with your messaging and researches your work.

11. As a bonus – bring it all together with a plan

A clear approach and tag line will help you to focus on your target audience. Who are they? Where do they hang out? What benefits does your work bring them? How can you entice them to be curious about your books? What angles do you have to stand out from the vast swathes of people doing the same? The better you know the answers, the better you can refine your approach across all the above. If one approach does not work, reflect, regroup and try a different angle. For example, if you want to collect email addresses and send out newsletters, you’ll need a plan about what you’ll be sending out – promotions, tips, news, insights.

Best of luck and feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts.

D.M. Jarrett

Author of Sean Yeager Adventures.

www.seanyeager.com

 

 

 

An epic, fantasy, action, adventure series for ages 8 to 14+

Sean Yeager website

 

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Smart books inspire smart youngsters 🤗 Say ‘no’ to dumbing down

Hi there,

This is a message to all parents, carers and mentors of children. Children are amazing and talented. They can achieve pretty much anything with guidance, learning and practice. Please inspire them and raise the quality of what they are given to read. As the saying goes – aim for the stars.

My message is simple – rubbish in, rubbish out. You create what you shape. If you genuinely want the best for the children in your care, please think it through carefully. A child of 8 could easily develop a reading age of 12 and be at an advantage in their development. Give them a book with a reading age of 5 and where will that lead? Whereas, inspiring a love of learning and reading will broaden their horizons and inspire them to greater things.

Are you in need of convincing? In case this sounds like ‘elitist nonsense’, here are some links from well established sources expressing their thoughts on the subject:

Anthony Horowitz article

Geraldine MacCaughrean – Carnegie Medal Winner

New York Times – smarten up the kids

Stop dumbing down books for teens

And so, over to you. We can choose wisely and help guide the young minds in our lives. We have that opportunity and there are plenty of great books out there from all eras – often in libraries, secondhand and charity book stores. What were your best reads?  I shared Biggles with my 7 year old son, and in later years, Asterix, Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemmingway, and a little Shakespeare. Reading can be fun as well as mind food. Next, he read through Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and moved on to Tolkien. Once a love of reading has taken root there is no stopping it.

Enjoy the challenge.

D.M. Jarrett

Sean Yeager – the book series so far

Hi, a quick recap on the Sean Yeager Adventures series for newcomers. And boy are you missing out 😉

The stories circle around Sean Yeager and his friend Emily Campbell, who find themselves caught up in present-day England with two factions fighting a secret and ancient war for control of the Earth. Far from being the ‘chosen ones’, Sean and Emily must discover for themselves their place in this ancient struggle between the nearly good and the clearly far more evil. And what it has to do with them. (Best to avoid Dr Vex I’d suggest.)

DNA Thief – Sean comes home to discover a hole in his bedroom wall and his comics stolen. He is invited by some hapless agents (meant to be protecting him) to go after the thieves. They set off in a hi-tech flying car and bite off more than they can chew. Mrs Yeager goes crazy and Sean discovers he is wanted by a mad-man – Egbert Von Krankhausen.

Hunters Hunted – Sean and his mum are moved to a safe house, where he meets Emily. While exploring the stately home, Sean and Emily discover clues to a mysterious treasure which calls to Sean in his dreams. They leave the house and wander into a series of skirmishes with Sean’s evil nemesis – Darius Deveraux.

Claws of Time – Sean and Emily become bored and trick their way into a hidden study. Here, they find a clue linking Sean’s father to a familiar agent. While returning to school, they are caught up in a chaotic confrontation and given a choice – to help rescue the now missing agent or take their chances at home. They choose the mission.

Each story is self-contained and told at a breakneck speed from multiple perspectives – the good (Founder), the bad (Deveraux & Vrass) and the indifferent (Dr Vex). Things go wrong with gizmos and people’s decisions.

Book 4 (in preparation) builds on the origins of the ancient struggle and explores a whole new dimension to the back story (no spoilers here though). Sean and Emily find ‘themselves’ and meet several new, amazing characters, while doing their best to thwart Deveraux and his minions. Dr Vex? Hmm, let’s just say he’s up to his old tricks.

Happy reading

DM Jarrett

One simple way to plot out your story

Hi there, a quick tip about how to plot your story in a very easy way. And bear in mind you can always refine and elaborate it later when better ideas arrive. It is a starting point or a fresh way of thinking.

Firstly, imagine a steep hill.

At the top of that hill is your protagonist’s goal. They do have a goal right? You need a clear goal. What does your protagonist need? What will they die for / strive to achieve? What do they want more than anything?

To achieve that goal your protagonist must climb up the hill and overcome every challenge you can throw at them. The harsher the challenges, the more engaging the feat. There need to be setbacks. There need to be barriers. There need to be twists.  BUT and THEREFORE are your friends. X wants something BUT and THEREFORE X does this…

Now, find a big piece of paper (A3 or bigger). In pencil, draw a steep sigmoid curve from bottom (left)  to top (right)  – this is your Plot Hill.

In pencil, at the bottom of your hill write the protagonist’s starting place and their status. These needs to be pathetic or loathsome and far from their goal.

Starting at the bottom, add each step in your protagonist’s journey up the hill, one on top of the other. Add the challenges and the setbacks. Add whatever places, people, events you like. Include your twists in position.

When you have a continuous journey from ‘nowhere’ to your protagonist achieving their goal, you have the bare bones of your story. And now you can refine it, add to it, or start over again, Because it is visual and a mind-dump, it should freshen up your thinking. It should also be fun,

For other character’s sub-plots, draw a fresh hill with a fresh goal and add the relevant steps. The two Plot Hills can be later intertwined into a larger hill. And then you can write it up as a sequence from your beginning to your middle to your end. Bear in mind, that you might want to start telling your story in the middle.

If you have ideas with sufficient drama, you will already have low points, barriers, confrontations, set-backs, twists and such like. If not, back away, find a fresh piece of paper and try again a few days later. And note – you need a clear goal that is difficult to attain and lots of intervening sub-challenges and events. The rest is your protagonist’s journey up your Plot Hill.

Here’s a quick example (read from the bottom up):

Hilltop Goal : Recover the Black Pearl

Sails the Black Pearl away, leaves the captain

Defeats the Pearl’s captain & steals his booty

Boards the Black Pearl at night with his allies

Lures the Pearl’s captain to a deserted cave

Tricks the Pearl’s captain with promises of gold

Reaches Tortuga and finds the Pearl’s crew ashore

Pleads with Calypso to raise the wind

Becomes becalmed at sea, with no wind

Follows his magical compass

Sets course to find a hidden island in the fog

Escapes from the British

Steals a British Naval ship by tricking some soldiers

Recruits a miscreant crew from a rowdy public house

Finds Gibbs and sobers him up

Escapes from jail

Convinces someone to help him

Pirate, in jail, waiting to be hanged

         START HERE – and read back up the hill

Try it and see how you get on. It should be quick and painless, provided you have enough ideas. If not, come back later when your subconscious has got to work. And don’t worry about the order of the events – you can refine those later.  What is more important is getting down the main elements of the story you have in mind and refining it. You did write in pencil?

Happy plotting.

D M Jarrett

Author of Sean Yeager Adventures
Awesome books for bright, young minds

 

 

 

Self-editing your novel

Hi there,

Happy 2017! I’ve been busy lately with family matters and editing my third book – Sean Yeager Claws of Time. Here are some thoughts collated from the arduous task of self-editing and the further research I did before kicking off the same:

What is self-editing?

It seems self-explanatory, but let’s define our scope. You’ve written your first draft from start to finish and now you want to edit to the stage where it is good enough to present to either a) a professional editor b) your agent / prospective agent c) your self publishing platform d) your beta readers.

In the main, I suggest it is a combination of a) to d) depending on whether there is a commercial partner expecting to have approval, and have their editor work with you prior to acceptance of a manuscript for publication.

The nature of the editing will vary from simple typos, to wholesale changes to scenes and structure. In my experience, it is wise to expect a lot of rewriting and improvement until you reach the happy place of being satisfied with the words on the page, and of course the flow. Or until your publisher says ‘yes’ we’re going to publish your work.

Stages of self-editing

Leave it in a drawer edit

Yes, leave your draft to one side and read other people’s work for a while. This will help to create a sense of separation from your work and a mental benchmark of what ‘good’ looks like. Once your mind has absorbed enough outside works and experiences, you’ll be ready to properly read your own work with fresh eyes. This is vital.

Coarse edit

This is the pass where you iron most things out. Typically I expect to remove, reduce, re-phrase, augment or re-write pretty much every page. Only the really good writing remains untouched. If it reads as ‘clunky’ it needs changing / improving / removing / scorching off the face of the planet. Delete as applicable.

I check for typos, perspective inconsistencies, speech attribution, adjectives, use of language, word flow issues, punctuation, scene progression, dialogue quality, plot points, character reactions, and so on. This is a heavy edit.

Tips – set your objectives clearly and write out your own editing checklist and refer to it regularly. Use a tool to check for overused words such as: that, then, with, like, towards, felt, looked etc. Consider each character’s path through your book – write it out as a brief flowchart and check that it makes sense. If it doesn’t, the chances are you have missed out necessary actions / speech / narrative, or even entire scenes.

My aims in this pass are to ensure that every section is effective and well written. I also re-consider the key plot points to check they make sense. I amend them or remove them if they don’t.

By the end of this stage, you will have a draft manuscript where you are not ashamed of the quality of the writing, and which you have begun to understand as a reader.

Structural edit

Once I have a sense of what I have actually written – as distinct from what I imagined I had written – I take a step back and review the story I am telling. I refer to my notes about each subplot and each character’s progression through the story.

The key question I ask about each sub-plot is – what does this add to the overall story? i.e. Do I need to keep this? Or do I need to move things around? Or should I delete a minor sub-plot lock, stock and barrel?

Tips: Structure – your main character (protagonist) should appear on page 1 or at least early in chapter one. Prologues usually suck and should be burned.

The key question I ask about each scene is – what is the scene’s purpose (action, fear, joy, discovery etc.) and does it work? i.e. is it effective enough or in need of a re-write?

Tips: Scene review – imagine the scene happening in real life and check how plausible it would be for actors to portray it. If it sucks, you need to augment and improve it. If it’s unclear, you may be overwriting and using too much purple prose. Short paragraphs work, pages of narrative by and large do not.

Self honesty is really important, and usually less is more. Also, it is worth recalling the established rules of writing and plotting (web research / books on the same) and breaking less than 30% of them at a time. Unless of course you never want anyone to read or recommend your work.

Removing unnecessary scenes or sub-plots can be really hard, and I don’t do so lightly. However, if you have a sneaking suspicion that the scene about the tree guardian who appears halfway through your story and does nothing except say two lines, is a bit flabby, the chances are it needs to be cut. Unless of course your story is about tree guardians, in which case they should have made an appearance on page one and regularly from that point on.

By the end of this stage, you have a manuscript draft where you are happy with your story, the major plot points and the length of the book. If not, go back and do it again…

Read aloud edit

I print and I read out loud, with a pencil at hand. I never cease to be amazed at how many outright mistakes sneak through until this stage.

The psychology is this – reading is the first pass through your brain, speaking is the second pass, and hearing what you have said is the third pass. The combination means you are much more likely to notice mistakes in your work.

Also, the flow or otherwise of what is written on the page comes across most clearly when you read your work aloud. If it flows, you can imagine what your readers will experience. And where the flow is poor, you will hasten to smooth things out out of sheer embarrassment or even boredom (as a reader). Yes, the section your always hated which dragged on still sucks – so now it’s time to edit it properly…  or cut it.

Tips: Dialogue check – do people really speak like that?  And would your character say those things in that manner? A key way to show a character is through their interactions, therefore what they say and how they say it matters. Provided of course – they had a plausible reason to say what they say. i.e. Action to reaction. What they know and what they don’t know.

By the end of this stage, you have a draft manuscript you are pretty much happy with, bar the detailed proofing. If not go back and do it again… Or if you absolutely hate the book, perhaps you need to park it for a while?

Writer’s proofing

Once happy with all the key ingredients I run the document through a couple of software tools and consider all the corrections I’m offered. Even the stupid ones which seem to make no sense at all. It’s boring and unfortunately completely necessary. The number of times I have found misused words spelt perfectly, or doubled up words in plain sight, is surprising and a relief – provided you correct them early enough. One tool alone is not enough to spot them all – for reasons I’ve never fully understood. (Software rules and such like).

Tips: check out tools in trial form first and see if you like them. Word alone is not enough.

By the end of this stage, you have a manuscript you are willing to share with others.

Professional editor edit

In an ideal world, all books would be further edited by a professional who gets the aims of the writer and is sympathetic to the effect they are trying to achieve. This may take the form of technical editing, structural editing and further proof editing.

It’s a partnership thing. If you find a great pro-editor, cherish them and send them greetings cards. If not, find someone else if you are able to. (Me, I’m looking.)

By the end of this stage, the book is quite different to the first draft – usually for the better, though I dare say – not always.

Final, final edit

More of the same until a) it’s done or b) someone say’s it’s getting published next week. Quite often a beta reader will raise an important omission or mistake. Sometimes this reaches the writer in time… I jest, the more complex your story the more edits will be needed all the way through to published editions, and corrections to published editions.

When is it good enough?

Never. Provided a writer keeps improving as a writer, they will always want to go back and revise a lesser work until they are sick of the sight of it. Incidentally, by the fifth round of editing I am usually sick of the sight of my own work. When this happens I call a break and go and write or do something else for a while.

Golden tip?

Fresh eyes are essential, as is a sense of detachment.Take a break and read other people’s work – ideally writers who are better than you are. Edit often and in hour chunks.

If you can forget you wrote the first draft manuscript and polish what you see in front of you, you can self-edit. Once you can no longer do this – take a break and/or get help.

 

Hope my insights help. Best of luck with your writing projects. Next time, I plan to write about plotting your book, click your bookmark or subscribe and please feel free to comment.

In due course, I will publish Sean Yeager Claws of Time. Having hurried on previous books, this time I’m following all my own advice and plenty of other people’s. Please check out my website and consider the younglings in your life who are missing out by not reading Sean Yeager Adventures. They are just a few clicks away on Amazon and elsewhere, somewhere between Harry Potter, Star Wars and James Bond.

Enjoy.

D.M. Jarrett

www.SeanYeager.com

Hunters Hunted Text 2l

 

Inspiring young readers with STEM

I hear a lot of talk about encouraging youngsters into technical subjects and careers. My take on this is that hearts and minds are won early, through inspiration and positive experiences. It could be a great teacher, project or visit. Most likely it is a personal experience that is rewarding and fun. All the better if there are opportunities to follow up and develop those interests hands-on. But what really sparks the enthusiasm and motivation inside a young person’s mind?

I believe it is imagination and the space to create and build on ideas.

When I began writing I had a series of choices to make. I could chase the market and write what was most likely to be published next. Or I could play safe and fit in with the typical bookshelf of the day.

I decided to do neither.

I asked my son and his friends what they really wanted to read about in their leisure time. They talked about adventures, gizmos and technology. I set about weaving real-world science and history references around their interests, while keeping things fast paced and witty. And so Sean Yeager Adventures was born.

Here’s an example — How does a light sabre work?

Possibly you are now thinking about energy, particles, plasma, heat, contact, radiation. Perhaps batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, nuclear reactions, matter, laws of thermodynamics, the properties of light etc.

There’s no right answer. My digression was to get you thinking about science and design. Who knows, perhaps one day there will be a real light sabre? I’ve asked this question at home and our conclusions were hilarious.

I’ve heard it said that Star Trek communicators inspired mobile phones. Either way, I suspect we are far more visual than we realise. If we see it, imagine it and think about it, do we then set ourselves the tasks of concepting, designing, researching and building?

Of course the world is full of ideas. Skill, knowledge and application are huge factors, and that is where the education system comes in. Perhaps if we start encouraging imagination and enthusiasm as well, future generations will be better motivated to follow through on their ideas in technical areas?

I’ll leave that debate to academics and educators.

My aims as an author are to inspire, entertain and encourage young readers to investigate science and history for themselves. To date I’ve woven in references to Egyptology, cloning, artificial intelligence, robotics, mind training and numerous technical gizmos.

I have to say that researching the facts has been fascinating, and writing the books has been a blast!

Thanks for reading.

D.M. Jarrett

Author of Sean Yeager Adventures

www.SeanYeager.com

www.seanyeager.com