The moment that converted me to a Scrivener User

I’m not a linear writer – my main frame of the story is pretty set when I begin hammering out chapter 1, but then the twists and turns take me many places.  I had read about Scrivener but thought much of what it contained would be useless fluff.  I decided to give it a shot, though, and downloaded the free trial (you can get that here:  http://www.literatureandlatte.com).  I played with it for two days, basically ignoring the handy user guide – I’m more of a hands-on girl and way too impatient to work my way through a guide 🙂

My initial assessment was that the learning curve would be relatively steep, but I decided to try it for my next book and actually use the program the way it was intended.  Before we get to those details, here’s a little background:

I used to write in WordPerfect then in Word.  My manuscript was one document with long blank spaces where I had to work on joining two sections together.  Some days, I write the ending, other days I change the beginning, sometimes I have a random idea I stick in the middle of a section so I won’t lose it. When I changed something important that I’d mentioned earlier in the manuscript, I’d have to hunt around the document to find the section I needed to rework then go back and continue writing.  The constant back and forth made me read brief sections of my text over and over – that is a total enthusiasm killer for me because it was so distracting.

My ideas usually come to me in the early morning before I even bother to get out of bed, or (worse) in the middle of the night.  When I hit an issue in the plot where I have something to resolve I fall asleep trying to think of ways to work it out.  When I wake up in the morning I spend a few minutes still  trying to resolve the issue and sometimes it’s so clear that I rush out of bed and flip on the laptop.  I add the new thought to the bottom of the manuscript and figure I’ll find the exact place to put it later – this is how I create larges blank spaces in my document…and I lose things that way.

Yesterday morning, I resolved a huge issue in my next book (A Whisper of Feathers).  I jumped out of bed, raced to the laptop and opened my Scrivener document.  I used my index cards on the cork board – RIGHT IN THE PROGRAM – to find the right section of the story and banged out the resolved issue in a brand new chapter.  I have an outline of my book sitting right on the screen – it’s generated from my index cards so I know where I’m going and how long I have to get there. I have index cards for ideas, documents with character and setting sketches and the ability to take some ideas and throw them from Book 1 of the series into Book 2 or 3.

My chapters are labeled with the main event so I can easily find things. My cork board is filled with ideas and I can move them around as I see fit or as the story changes. All of those capabilities have made me a diehard Scrivener fan. It has given me organization in a way I can actually use it to drive my story. It has enabled me to spend those days where I don’t feel like writing just pinning index cards to my virtual cork board so when I do feel capable of writing long passages, I have a place to put them and ideas about where they’ll fall in the story.

I haven’t compiled the chapters into a manuscript for publishing yet, but so far the program has exceeded my expectations. I honestly didn’t think “writing software” could actually make me a better writer – but it did because it enables me to write the way my brain works and the software lets me put things together in a logical order and then easily rearrange it if necessary. If you want to buy the software (currently $40.00) you can click on the logo below and be taken to Amazon.com. If you’re a writer, I recommend trying it. I didn’t think I’d be a convert, but I am! 51msMSey69L._SL1000_

10 New Strategies over 10 weeks for 10 minutes per day – Marketing my new book release.

LM Image 2E with TextI’ve decided to try 10 new book marketing strategies over the next 10 weeks.  My catch is that they can’t take more than 10 minutes per day.

After I click “publish” and sit back to watch my book soar to number one (which, by the way, is overly optimistic) – I’m left with a frantic feeling that I should be doing something to push sales along.  Well, something other than obsessively checking my amazon rankings and email.  One thing indie-authorhood has taught me is that those weeks following a release are filled with angst and self-doubt instead of optimism and joy.  The reason is this:  Once the first wave of books purchased by my fans is over, those all-important rankings begin to dip lower and I feel a crushing pressure to share, sale, tweet, tweak, link and post – all things I really, really, really don’t want to do – partly because they’re boring and time consuming and partly because shameless self-promotion feels icky.

But shameless self-promotion is sometimes required, so I give in to the urge to engage in it with abandon. For two weeks. Then it’s back to business. Since promotion seems to take so much time from the main task (which is writing – in case you’ve forgotten), I have started to condense the marketing tasks into smaller chunks that feel more manageable. The first thing I’m doing is writing a short story which will be included in an anthology of works by other indie authors. That’s a task that’s way more than 10 minutes per day, so I’ve had to choose this weeks marketing strategy based on how much “extra” time I have left.

The winner this week was this: Change my categories on Amazon to get new readers.

That took about 10 minutes to research what categories other books similar to mine are listed under and maybe two extra minutes to go in and change the categories on my own books to match those. If I were not such an avid reader in my genre, I might not have known which categories to select – but since I read so much, it was a pretty easy task. For the next two weeks, the first book in my series will be listed under humor as well as contemporary fiction. At the end of the two weeks, I can decide if I want to move it back to just fantasy (debatable, since my books are funny – just read the reviews!). Ten minutes might net me a whole new group of readers – we’ll see!

Marketing Plan – Step 2

Once you have all of your links listed in one convenient location, you need to figure out where to put those links. That is the challenge because you need to get noticed somewhere or you’ve just wasted all of your hard work.

I’ll admit, I absolutely DREAD marketing my books. I can spend hours online, posting all over the place and sometimes I feel like I accomplished nothing. It’s frustrating! Now, my whole focus is on marketing in short bursts to keep my name/work in people’s minds…but not just posting “buy my book” links all over the place. Personally, I rarely buy books from those links that are all over facebook – but I do buy books from people who have something to say which amuses me or strikes a chord in me.

Although I’d love to build a reader base by simply making pithy comments on facebook and twitter, I know as an author I have to plug my book and post those annoying “buy my book” links sometimes. In order to make myself feel less narcissistic, I try to post free giveaways and sales instead of random ads. I don’t think I’m losing money by doing that – I think I’m exposing new readers to my work. Here’s a list of site’s I’ve advertised on recently:

ebooklister
bookgoodies.com
Indiebookoftheday.com
fkbooksandtips.com
freebooksy.com
frugal-freebies.com
thereadercafe.com
itswritenow.com
http://communitybookstop.blogspot.com
ebooklister
Orangeberry Free Me
ebookshabit
ignite your book
The Book Preview Club
Pixel of Ink
list my ebook
Kindle Book Deals
Indie Author Land
One of my favorite sites is http://awesomegang.com and I’m on there frequently – doing way more than just pushing my books. More on that in Part 3 of my “marketing special”.

There’s an awesome tool on http://www.authormarketingclub.com/ where you can just click the logos and list your books. There are also tons of places on Facebook to list your book promos. In fact, there are too many to mention because every day I find new sites. I do want to give a shout out to two of my facebook favorites, though: http://www.facebook.com/NerdGirl.NG and mad about books http://www.facebook.com/Madaboutbooks. These two sites have been awesome to me, and they have a fan for life. Stop on by their pages and give them a wave from me – these people work hard to keep their content fresh and their sites inviting and they have welcomed this indie into the fold.

How to build the initial marketing plan for your book

Last week, I promised to post my marketing strategies in the hopes that other indie authors would find them useful.  I’m still analyzing which were most helpful, but this will give you an outline about how to set things up so you’re not hunting around when you’re posting. 

I use a word document to list all of my links – both long versions and shortened links.  I use bitly to shorten my links, but there are several services out there which you can use (owly and tinyurl come to mind)

Here’s what you’re going to need links for: 

You book on Amazon.com, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and any other site where your book is listed for sale.  For Amazon, you might want to get a universal link so people can find it in the US, UK, AU, DE, etc. stores easily.  BookGoodies has a universal link generator that’s very helpful.  You can find that here: http://bookgoodies.com/geotargeted-amazon-link-tool/

 

In addition to your books, you’ll need a link or info for your entire on-line presence. These are the most common ones:
Your email address
Your Facebook link
The Facebook link for your book page (if you don’t have one, you might want to build one!)
Your Amazon.com author link(if you don’t have one, go here: http://www.amazon.com/authorcentral)
Your Twitter link
Your Twitter handle (different sites will ask you for different things)
Your Pinterest link (if you have one)
Your Pinterest name
Your Shelfari link
Your GoodReads link
Your blog link
I compile all of this info before I even start posting, so when I’m posting about my book I can just copy and paste the links rather than going hunting for them. The first time I did a marketing blast, it took me forever because every site wanted different information. When I discovered that little gem, I opened a word document and went to town. Now, I have all of those links handy so I can just copy and paste.

The other thing you’re going to need is at least three different book descriptions. These should be different from your back cover description as well. This is the part that generally takes the most time for me. I try to craft each one with a different first sentence, different “action” words, and a different “feel”. I’ve heard the the search-bots love unique content so I don’t post the same description on every site. Here’s an example for Legendary Magic.

Teaser 1:

Dr. Arienne Cerasola might have a suspicious mind, but that doesn’t mean something nasty isn’t being planned by two of her former acquaintances. They have banded together on an archaeological expedition in the United Kingdom, and that could spell trouble for the magical community. The magical apocalypse kind of trouble.

With a blend of humor, suspense, and fascinating research, author R. Leonia Shea brings magic to the world of archaeology in the third installment of the Relic Hunter series.

Teaser 2:

As a witch and disgraced archaeologist, Dr. Arienne Cerasola shouldn’t be surprised when Kingston Pon asks her help to find a lost relic. After all, Kingston is one of the senior members of the United Coven and Alliance and Arienne is one of the few people who knows about his secret resistance activities with the Crux Crucio Orbis. When she learns her own Grandfather is involved in the C.C.O., Arienne’s more than a little angry that her family has been keeping secrets. Secrets about their involvement in the magical world. Secrets about Arienne’s legacy. Keeping secrets means creating lies and Arienne is determined to unravel the deception even if it means collapsing the foundation of her new life.

Author R. Leonia Shea brings the reader on an entertaining (and educational) quest for a legendary sword. Her unique blend of humor, suspense, and slightly neurotic characters make Legendary Magic a must read.

Teaser 3:

Caught between the clandestine world of the C.C.O., the dangers of the Alliance, and the treachery of a new magical organization Dr. Arienne Cerasola must trace the grain of truth in the legends passed down from the ancient Celts, through the Roman Empire, and right into King Arthur’s court to find a legendary sword. The legends were created to protect the truth and keep the relic from passing into the wrong hands, but other organizations are trying to unravel the mystery. Arienne must solve the puzzle first, or the whole magical community could suffer – starting with her own family.

Author R. Leonia Shea began writing Legendary Magic after a research-binge into magical swords – the final result is an entertaining romp through the world of archaeology with a magical twist. Read this book – you’ll laugh a little, learn a little, and be completely entertained.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll realize that all three teasers are slightly re-worked sections from the original book description. Once you have all of these preliminary tasks done, you’re ready to start blitzing.

Now, I have to go post about my own book for a little while. If you’ve read this far, here’s a hint: Elementary Magic (the first book in my fantasy series) is going on a freebie promotion tomorrow (9/08/14) and tuesday (9/09/14). Here’s the link if you want to grab it when it’s free:
http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00736TWKI

The next time I see the person who challenged me to do more marketing, I’m going to kick her in the shins. Twice. I’ve been diligently developing a system and as soon as I clean up my notes on what I did yesterday and today (I’m too tired to do it now…) I’ll post it here in the hopes that it helps another indie author.

The last struggles before publishing

I’m finishing the THIRD edit on Legendary Magic. That might seem excessive to some people, but it’s my usual process. I’m planning on an early September release, so the clock is ticking. For me, this is the most stressful part of self-publishing and there are many early mornings when I get out of bed in a rush because there are things that need to be done on the book before I forget. I usually think of these things right before I fall asleep the night before so by the time dawn comes, I’ve had at least seven hours to obsess.

And I do mean obsess. The last few weeks before the release mean crazy dreams. Last night I dreamed my husband and I ordered Japanese food from a food court on the North Shore for ourselves, a Japanese businessman, and a woman with purple hair from Germany. When the food didn’t arrive in two hours, I ventured into the kitchen to ask about it and nobody spoke English. Eventually, a hostile old woman began waving a ticket in my face while yelling that someone wrote one of the items down wrong, so they didn’t bother to make any of the food. By the time I found that out, all of the other restaurants were closed and I had to explain to my husband and two strangers who didn’t speak English that someone didn’t get something written down right, so we would all have to go hungry.

In the light of day, it’s clear to me that I’m afraid if I don’t get this book edited perfectly and immediately, I’ll starve and let down not only my family, but complete strangers. This is simply not reality; it’s just the stress of pre-release jitters. It happens every time I get itchy to publish my latest book.

There is no quick fix to this part of the process, but I do have a few strategies to keep me focused. I’d like to share those with you in case you find yourself in the same boat.

1.) Set a vague date. Don’t nail yourself down to a specific day until you’re sure you can get everything done by that date. If you’re self-publishing, you don’t need a deadline to strangle you. A vague date is good enough to get you on track and working toward a more specific day.

2.) Work out your pre-release marketing strategy. There are tons of places to post about your new releases, so make yourself a list of all of the ones you plan on using and set it up as a document so you can work on it in small chunks. I’ll post mine as soon as I’m up to the portion of my process (I’m not there yet – that’s the beauty of being an “indie”).

3.) Disconnect the internet. There are myriad places where indies go to chat about their books and connect with other indies (I have several, and most of the links are on the side of this page). If I can hop on-line I can see who else released what book and then spend a few minutes commenting on posts and pages. This leaves me feeling even more pressured to just FINISH! I generally complete my books in my living room (on the couch with my dog) and as far from the business end of writing as I can get.

4.) Since I publish exclusively on Amazon (that’s another discussion entirely) I can go in to my dashboard and upload my cover, blurb, details, and tags and save the draft until the book is done. That gives me peace of mind that all that’s left is the final conversion.

5.) Give your beta-readers a loose timeline. Mine know that when I give it to them, I’m itchy. They usually take no longer than two weeks to read. They’ve been with me a while now, so once the book is in their hot little hands, they flood me with emails and phone calls to point out the little things I need to go back and fix. Once I give the draft to them, we’re on short time. I edit, fix, and rephrase daily depending on their feedback. If there’s something glaring – I stop them all and fix the error – then I send a new copy out and we start up again. I’m in constant contact with them during this process and they are my salvation!

I should mention here that I have two groups of readers. The first group gets a rough copy, then I edit the draft a second time, take a few weeks off from the story, then the book goes through another round of editing. The copy that’s been edited three times goes to my second set of readers. The next time I finish a book, the two groups switch tasks (so everyone doesn’t have to read the not-perfect copy every time). While I do have a friend who edits for me (one with a Ph.D. in English), I also read the edited copy and sometimes sneak a change or two into the final draft because I am that obsessive.

As I get closer to publication, I’ll tell you where I am in the process in case something I do would make another author’s life easier. It’s hard to remember that you’re not alone when you’re an indie. You just need to work a little harder to find the tricks that make your process work for you.

Happy writing!
Leigh

Efficient Author Strategies

I keep a journal with story ideas – it has two sentence descriptions for some stories and nine page layouts for others. I have a file of book covers on my computer for books I haven’t written yet. I already have my next five writing projects outlined in my head and yet sitting down to the computer and hammering them out isn’t always easy because there doesn’t seem to be time. Most writers have a backlog of writing that needs to get done, but there are a few who seem to publish a new book every few months.

So how do writers get down to work so they use their time most efficiently? I’ve been experimenting with ways to make my own writing more prolific and here’s what has been working for me:

Disable your internet. I can spend hours popping on and off the ‘net, so I turn off my internet when I’m sitting down to write. There are also programs you can buy that will restrict your access to only certain times. It’s a huge time-suck when you’re checking you various social media sites because there has rarely been a time when I’ve logged onto facebook without finding something interesting that I clicked through to!

Keep an outline running. I write with two documents open on my screen – the manuscript and the outline. The outline is a fluid document that I add to as I work – sometimes the story goes in a direction OTHER than the one I originally envisioned. I revise my outline so I’m not spending precious writing minutes going back through the story to check a detail.

I’m also a huge fan of index cards. I like to write the plot twist on one card and then each character’s role in it on others. It makes it easy to reference those little interlocking pieces that can take hours to add or days to untwist when the story is done.

When I don’t feel like writing – I edit. I edit ruthlessly – but as my writing habits have improved, the process of editing is way different. When I wrote my first book I had to “trim” the manuscript. I found long passages where I was obviously “in the zone” and wrote for hours on end. Those passages needed to be trimmed. Now, when I’m in the zone, I tend to get better flow because I write so consistently. I don’t lose the thread of the story because I work on it every day and I edit the last page or so of the previous day’s work when I sit down to write. That keeps me brushed up on where I was going.

Set a “plot-point goal”. I rarely write without having a point in the story that I’m aiming to reach. I set plot-point goals when I turn on my computer. I want to get to the castle or I want to get to the point where I bring back Coyote. The goal focuses my writing and keeps me thinking ahead for places where I need to add things or connect threads.

Use your research time wisely. Even though I write Urban Fantasy, I do research. I have a spreadsheet that I work from and I copy web addresses of sites that are interesting to me into the spreadsheet. I code by topic, key word, and type of site (description, photo, map, etc.) and when I’m researching I bookmark sites in a separate folder and then add the information to a spreadsheet. I do this because I’ve spent hours trying to find sites that I remembered seeing something interesting on and that’s FRUSTRATING!

So go forth and write – efficiently!