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June Featured Author: Denise M. Colby

June 7, 2019 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , , ,

Denise Colby |The Writing Journey

 

Denise M. Colby loves to write words that encourage, enrich, and engage whether it’s in her blog, social media, magazine articles, or devotions. With over 20+ years’ experience in marketing, she enjoys using her skills to help other authors. She treasures the written word and the messages that can be conveyed when certain words are strung together. An avid journal writer, she usually can be found with a pen and notepad whenever she’s reading God’s word. Denise is writing her first novel, a Christian Historical Romance and can be found at www.denisemcolby.com

She’s a member of RWA, OCC/RWA, Faith, Hope & Love Chapter of RWA, ACFW (where she is a semi-finalist in the Genesis contest Historical Romance Category), OC Chapter of ACFW, and SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference (where she will be teaching two workshops in June – Brand and SEO Marketing for Your Website).

 

In addition to Denise’s column The Writing Journey on A Slice of Orange, you can read some of her magazine article here.

 


 Denise M. Colby’s Books

 

 


 

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June Featured Author: Denise M. Colby

June 1, 2019 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , , ,

 

Denise Colby |The Writing Journey

 

Denise M. Colby loves to write words that encourage, enrich, and engage whether it’s in her blog, social media, magazine articles, or devotions. With over 20+ years’ experience in marketing, she enjoys using her skills to help other authors. She treasures the written word and the messages that can be conveyed when certain words are strung together. An avid journal writer, she usually can be found with a pen and notepad whenever she’s reading God’s word. Denise is writing her first novel, a Christian Historical Romance and can be found at www.denisemcolby.com

She’s a member of RWA, OCC/RWA, Faith, Hope & Love Chapter of RWA, ACFW (where she is a semi-finalist in the Genesis contest Historical Romance Category), OC Chapter of ACFW, and SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference (where she will be teaching two workshops in June – Brand and SEO Marketing for Your Website).

 

In addition to Denise’s column The Writing Journey on A Slice of Orange, you can read some of her magazine article here.

 


 Denise M. Colby’s Books

 

 


 

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Dear Extra Squeeze Team: What the Heck Is a Platform?

January 31, 2019 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , ,
Platform | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, I’m working on my first book. I go to a local RWA and everyone is taking about platforms. What the heck is a platform? Why do I need one? How do I get one?


Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze
Rebecca Forster 
USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

You’re in luck. The queen of platforms is Robin Blakely so I would read her answer first. If you’re reading this one, then my simple explanation is that a platform is who you are as an author. Are you queen of erotica? Are you the definitive word on thrillers? Were you a cop and write police procedurals? When you build your platform you are looking for a way to consistently communicate who you are as an author and what a reader can expect from your books. Keep writing and refining your voice. Write in the same genre. Determine what sets you apart from other writers and there you have it – a platform.


H.O. Charles
Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array

I’m not sure I know either. Sounds a bit like business jargon!


Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange
Jenny Jensen
Developmental  editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and
indie.

A platform is that giant, flashing interactive sign hanging in Times Square that says, “Here I am! I’m a writer and this is what my books are about. You want to read them all!”

A platform gives you visibility as an author. It gives the means to speak to your audience, to gain and nurture a following. You get a platform by building it yourself. It’s a process; there is no ready recipe. And it takes time to build up your presence so there’s no reason not to begin long before you publish. You’re going to need it because that’s how and where an Indie writer markets her books.

Social media is the tool, from your website to blogging to Facebook, to engaging with on-line writer groups to Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter— the whole gamut is possible. Your message should include your unique story and voice. The content should target your audience so that you can reach them directly with an option of back and forth communications.

If you haven’t published yet, consider writing a few short stories and offer them for free. Post links on Face Book, or Twitter etc. to get the word out. Join and engage with writer’s groups. Use those short stories for award entries—the more accolades and experience you garner, the more powerful your platform. Blog about your writing process. Join groups with other new writers. It will all work to build your name and credibility.

It takes time. But so does writing a good book. Like all things in life, time management is critical. Decide how much effort toward building your platform is doable without taking too big a bite out of your writing time. But know that every little bit will grow your presence and when you’re ready to publish you’ll have a platform from which to dive into the market.

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange
Robin Blakely
PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

You need a platform so that you can elevate and protect your brand. To help you wrap your brain around a concept that can be very confusing, try this . . .

Let’s imagine that your platform is a three-legged table and your brand is a glass ball on top of that table.  It seems like the glass ball is the thing to focus on, but really it is the table and its three legs that provide the support and elevation your brand needs. If the platform isn’t solid, the table top will teeter and the glass ball will roll and possibly break.

So, let’s keep the brand safe and secure.  Let’s look closer at the platform’s three legs.

One leg is all about promotional outreach—you must effectively tell readers about your work. One leg is all about resources—you must manage your time, money, and helpful people wisely.  One leg is all about constantly developing the core talent and skill to produce the best products and services you can create—you can’t sell what you never finish.

You need each leg to do its part and at about the same level. In the platform world, the most common problem is that people figuratively build their platforms using table legs of three very different lengths. One leg is typically very long and well-developed, one leg is quite short and under-achieving, and one entire leg may be practically missing. Take a closer look at those three areas of your creative business.  When the three table legs of your platform are forced to operate at uneven lengths, it will feel like your success is teetering and wobbling—that your professional life is unbalanced and uncertain—that your brand is fragile and in jeopardy.

Put an end to topsy-turvy, out-of-control feelings by building a platform to elevate and protect your beautiful talent-driven brand.  As you learn to level out the structural legs of your platform, feelings of uncertainty will be replaced by feelings of stability. Promotional opportunities will become better in both quality and abundance. As a result, your platform will command attention in your industry.  Your brand will be clearly showcased, elevated, and protected.

Sound impossible? It isn’t.


The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

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Let’s Get This Year Started With Rebranding

January 5, 2019 by in category Pink Pad by Tracy Reed tagged as , ,
Facebook Ads| Tracy Read | A Slice of Orange

Welcome 2019!

It’s five days into the new year and I still don’t have a production schedule.  I hear your screams.  It’s not like I’m clueless.  In fact, I’ve been thinking about it.  Unfortunately, right now I feel a little like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz….”If I only had a brain.”  I’ve got a brain, but right now it’s full of the other things I need to get done before I can figure out what I want to write.  Okay, that might not be exactly true.  I have a completed book I held back for a few reasons.

Last year, I had the privilege of attending an amazing conference, Romance Author Mastermind.  When I say incredible, that is an understatement.  I spent three days and evenings in total fan girl mode.  I couldn’t believe I was sitting next to Lauren Blakely in one session and Carly Phillips in another.  CD Reiss is so down to earth and funny.  I tried to maintain my cool when I spoke to Skye Warren.  And I was so excited to see Brenna Aubrey on a panel and leading roundtables.  Wow!  There were so many others I can’t even call all of the names.  I also got to spend time with Maria Seager and Christine Ashworth.

Once reality set in, it was time to get to work.  When I say I’m still buzzing, it’s not an exaggeration.  I got a major wake up call.  I went into the conference with a sense I was going to need to make a few changes.  After the first session, I knew few was an inaccurate word.  A lot of changes were going to be required.

Let me clarify.  I don’t have to make changes.  However, Whitney G…yes, I met her too.  Side note, she was so nice and she brought the most delicious cookies for everyone.  She asked us a simple question, “What level of writer do you want to be? Three, Four, Five, Six or Seven Figure Writer?” I have to paraphrase the next part.  She said if you’re told you need to change your cover or make some other change how you respond will indicate what type of writer you’re on track to be.  The three and four figure writer will hesitate and not make the change because they’re attached to the thing that needs to be changed.  The five figure writer hesitates, but makes the change.  The six and seven figure writer is making the change before they get to their computer. 

I want to be a six, seven figure writer.  If that means a rebrand is required, then so be it.  Someone asked CD Reiss, “What about the readers who already bought the book? Won’t they be upset you changed the book?”  I won’t use her exact words [Smile], but she said they already bought the book, you’re trying to market to those who haven’t.

Like I said, I went into this knowing there was a strong possibility I was going to have to make a few changes.  However, when I sat down with Brenna and Olivia Rigal and asked their honest opinion about one of my covers, I braced myself for their feedback and got confirmation. CHANGE WAS NEEDED.  I went upstairs and got to work.  The following morning, I had a new cover.  However, it’s not the one I’m going to use, but it got my juices flowing.  

But that was just the beginning.  We’re still talking covers.  I was introduced to “Exclusive Cover Images.”  Sweet Baby Jesus…I had no idea this world existed.  Side note, I have been using stock and there is nothing wrong with stock.  Hey, you have to crawl before you walk, but entree into this world comes at a price. [I’ll do a post about that later.] I didn’t know you couldn’t use stock on certain types of marketing materials [i.e, book marks, postcards, posters, etc.].  Let me clarify, you can if you purchase an extended license.  That additional cost is plus for using an exclusive image.

Before attending RAM, I made a few drastic decisions.  I shut down all of my ads…Facebook, BookBub and AMS.  I wanted a clean slate once I put everything I learned in to play.  Only thing is…you know how they say actions have consequences?  Well, here’s my consequence to my drastic move…no ads, equal no sales…no money.  However, I did have a clean slate.  

I thought I knew a few things, after all, I do my own covers and graphics.  I have decent book sells.  But sitting in a room filled with women who have achieved the level of writing success I want, was contagious.  I don’t see how it was possible to leave without wanting to get to the next level.  

This all leads back to why I don’t have a production schedule yet.  I completed the sequel to my best seller A SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN before RAM.  When I got accepted to the conference, I made a decision not to release it until after the conference.  I am so glad I did, because if I had, I know the release wouldn’t have produced the results I desired.  So here I am with a book on deck, but first book one needs a major facelift.  

So this year, my blog will focus on my steps to rebrand and what I learned at RAM.  

First step, rebrand Tracy Reed Author.  I know who she is, but am I conveying that to my readers?  I’ve been reviewing my covers and blurbs…first steps in the re-branding process.  I like my covers, but RAM taught me, they could be better.  I made a list of all my books and took a hard look…images, fonts, colors.  Then I looked at them as thumbnails.  Then I looked at the  top books in my category.  Doing the comparison was difficult.  I took the things I liked and figured out how to apply them to my covers and style.  

I’ve tried to do artsy covers.  Artsy is nice, but in my case it wasn’t selling as many books as I would like.  Funny thing, the image I selected for A Southern Gentleman Book Two, is one I  had considered originally for book one.  Apparently, I was on the right track.  I went with another one because I thought it was too steamy.  Talk about full circle.  

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been as open to change the cover if it hadn’t been for what I learned in the graphic design session with Regina Wamba and CD Reiss’ openness about her covers.  I didn’t think I was the abs author until I was on my way to a signing talking to my mother.  I have one book with abs on it and thought it was being down loaded daily because it’s free.  This book has been out since Summer 2016 and hovers in the top Free 100 on Amazon daily.  Occasionally it will spike to the top 15 or slip a little below 100.  It didn’t occur to me it was doing well because of the cover.  Who knew a shirtless man could sell books?

I selected a book that wasn’t moving to start the rebranding process.  THE NIGHT I FELL IN LOVE, has a new cover and blurb.  I posted the covers in the RAM FB Group for feedback then tested the options with my reader group and was surprised.  Next was test ads on Facebook and BookBub.  I made two ads, one with a shirtless man and the other with a blurb and the book.  Do I even have to tell you which one worked?  Next step is to make it live.  Because I’m changing several books, I want to wait until more are ready.  Anyone who tells you rebranding is easy, is removed from reality.  In addition to the books and marketing graphica, I’m also tweaking my website, another reason I’m waiting before I make the new covers live.

Next month, I’ll share the evolution of my first covers to undergo rebranding and possibly my production schedule.

Happy writing.

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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, How Do I Price My Novel?

July 31, 2018 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , ,
How Much | The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, I’m ready to self-publish my first novel as both an ebook and a paperback. It’s a romantic suspense novel and about 90,000 words. How do I figure out what to charge? I don’t want to be too cheap, but I don’t want to be too expensive either. Help! How do I price my novel?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

I love that this author has provided so much information. Her query is objective, communicated the pertinent information and is focused. Kudos. Many authors – first time and seasoned – simply calculate how much money they can make at different price points and choose the highest one that they believe the market will bear. What they don’t take into account are market forces and there are plenty of them.

This lady is a first-time author intending to publish as an indie. It is clear that she understands her genre. I will assume her book is awesome. Now let’s look at what she is going to face. There are currently about 2,500 new books published through Amazon a day. She will be competing with seasoned, midrange and newbie authors all of whom are publishing books at the same time she is. Some will offer their books for free and others for $.99. Many will leave those books at these price points for promotional purposes with the objective of getting their books into as many readers’ hands as possible. They will be hoping to garner reviews. In my experience it takes about 100 downloads to get one review. That’s a lot of books you have to sell. If you overprice your work, no one will buy it.   Spending $6.99 on an unknown will not be as attractive as receiving a free book or one at $.099. Many best selling authors (myself included) price their books at $3.99 and $4.99. Anything under $5.00 is considered a bargain book and is more easily promoted on advertising sites and book-dedicated social media sites. There are so many more nuances one can address regarding pricing but covering them all would be a novel in and of itself.

My advice to this author is to read over the above, take a look at the bestsellers in her genre and make a list of price points. I would include general thrillers in this list also because there is a ton of crossover between straight thrillers and romantic suspense. At the same time, assess how you are introducing yourself to the reading public. Do you have your website, your social media accounts, your branding in tip-top shape? Are book two and three almost done (indie publishing has taught me that readers will veer to an author with deep inventory because, if they like your work, they want to click for the next one). Does your cover scream quality? People pay a little more if it looks like the next big thing but not much.

To put this in perspective, I have published (traditionally and as an indie) over thirty books. I have experimented with many price points from $.99 to $6.99. $2.99 to $3.99 is the sweet spot (read Mark Coker’s blog post at Smashwords on pricing). You can make a good living at this price point but not without a heck of a lot of work.

Price this first book to sell, garner fans, ask for reviews, build up your profile everywhere and keep writing so that you have inventory. This is a long-haul profession. It looks like you’re ready for it. Good luck.

P.S. I price my paperbacks for minimal return. I might make $1.00 to $2.00. That is because I want them to be reasonably priced and I know that 97% of my business as an indie is in digital sales.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

Two very successful authors and one savvy, marketer share this panel with me. I’ll leave the hard marketing advice to their tried and true experience and respond as a consumer.

I’m a champion of Indie publishing. I read a lot, all genres, and I love to discover new writers. Unfettered access to any voice that wishes to be heard is the outstanding feature of Indie Publishing. I know I’m not alone in this opinion so as a new, untested voice I salute your maiden voyage.

I download work by unknown authors at least twice a week. My price point for an unknown is from 0 to 1.99 and there are several criteria that prompt my choice: a compelling title, one that invites, intrigues or amuses always gets a second look at the cover and a close read of the story blurb. It’s that book description that’s the hook. It must be revealing to a tantalizing extent (no spoilers), descriptive of some feature that sets the book apart from the cookie cutter template of the particular genre — maybe a well-crafted sentence or two that reveals a great character, an intriguing setting or a particularly unique situation. It must include something of the challenge inherent in the plot — in other words, give me a reason to want to read the story.

This short sell copy reflects the writer’s style and skill so it’s critical that the voice I’m considering spending my time with comes through loud and clear. Poor grammar, clumsy wording and typos are an immediate reason to move on, as is a dry recitation of plot points. If the cover matches the level of professionalism and care reflected in the title and the description, I bite. It sounds like my perspective buyer self takes in these criteria in an orderly way. Not so; it’s the blending of all the features that makes a work by an untried author enticing.

Considering just how fierce the competition is it’s great to have access to various platforms where you can stand out. Whether it’s an offering on a Bookbub-ish bargain site, a platform like Indie Book Nexus or a genre specific site, this is your chance to cut yourself from the herd.

There are degrees of how strong the attraction of a book offering is. I’ll always try a .00 price point book if the presentation interests me. I don’t view that as a cheapened offering, rather I see it as an invitation. If I’m going to invest up to 1.99 then I need an assurance of quality. The care and passion of the book sell copy is reflective of the care and passion in the work.  It takes an excellent presentation to move me to my 1.99 limit.  That hasn’t happen often for a new author with a stand-alone book. Of course, editorial reviews help — nice stuff if you can get it, but I don’t require that.

I’ll add that when I’ve fallen in love with a new author and she has no published work to move on to I am bummed. I vow to keep a lookout for a ‘next’, but it does not stay top of mind. A link to a mailing list for the next book’s release date is pretty good compensation.

You’ve made the decision to publish so I’m sure you’ve had the manuscript thoroughly edited and it is the best product you can provide to the reading public.

Invite every potential reader and if it’s a freely given invitation then know you’ll begin growing your audience. Wow me and I’ll pay for the next book. It’s an investment.

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