Indie Spotlight on Traci Sanders: Ten Tips I Learned About Publishing a Book

Today’s guest post is from author Traci Sanders, on the topic of publishing. Her new book, Beyond the Book” is currently available at Amazon in both print and digital. Take it away Traci.

At the time of writing this book, I have self-published eight books in various genres. (romance, parenting, children’s, and now nonfiction/tutorial) Each book that I released taught me a little more about the industry, my strengths and weaknesses as an author, and relationships with my friends and family.

Here are a few things I have learned since becoming an indie author:

1.      Writing the book, for most authors, is the easy part.

2.      Some authors edit their own work, and do a great job. But I have learned that professional editing does pay off, and IT’S NOT THE SAME as general (or even college-level) editing. These guys know more about comma splices, fused sentences, correct tense, passive and active voice, and the use of single and double quotation marks than most authors. Most of them became editors because they enjoy the technical side of writing, whereas most authors simply enjoy the creative side. This is not to say that there aren’t some excellent author-editor superheroes out there. But chances are, they either received formal training on editing, or they took the time to research the process and became better with each book they published.

3.      The cool thing about researching editing tips is, once you learn them, you tend to not forget them, which saves you time and money on future published books.

4.      Most authors are too close to their own work, and too emotionally invested in it to be able to edit thoroughly. Many times, it’s because they know their story inside and out, and tend to skip right past common errors – such as passive voice, proper tense, and omitted words.

5.      Asking for reviews from friends and family is like asking them to help you move. They love you, and want to help, and even want to be able to come visit you in your new home from time to time (i.e. – read your book); but if it conflicts with their lives or schedule, it’s probably not going to happen.

6.      Friends and family are not always going to tell you when your book needs work, again, because they love you.

7.      Marketing is an everyday endeavor that most authors dread; however, the greater level of online presence and engagement you have, the higher your sales will be. And you will receive more reviews.

8.      Success doesn’t usually happen overnight, but new connections that lead to success, can!

9.      Supporting others goes a long way in the industry. One hand washes another. Eventually, YOU will be the one with clean hands! Until then, you must keep digging in the trenches.

If writing is your dream, just keep at it. Passion tends to be an infectious thing … it eventually spreads to others. If you write what you are passionate about, eventually, you will find others who share your passion!

From Writer Chick: If you have any questions about indie publishing, please feel free to post them in the comments and Traci will respond.

 

Traci Sanders is a multi-genre, multi-award-winning author of ten published titles, with contributions to three anthologies.

An avid blogger and supporter of Indie authors, she writes parenting, children’s, romance, and nonfiction guides.

Her ultimate goal is to provide great stories and quality content for dedicated readers, whether through her own writing or editing works by other authors.

 

13 Reasons Why – Review (Netflix Adaptation)

I had been anticipating the release of 13 Reasons Why, that was adapted from the book written by Jay Asher. I have not read the book so I can’t speak to how true or untrue the series is to the original story, however, the series does have merits: High production values, excellent casting and acting, topnotch writing.

Although I didn’t intend to binge watch all 13 episodes, I did find the story compelling enough that I simply didn’t want to wait to see what happened next.

Themes: Depression, Suicide, Bullying

Premise: Before a teenage girl commits suicide, she records 13 tapes that detail the 13 reasons why she killed herself and leaves them with a friend for specific distribution.

Story

Hannah Baker is an outspoken, creative teenager whose family has moved to a small town for a fresh start. She’s pretty, funny, smart, and uses humor and wit to cover her many insecurities. But we see she is somewhat damaged already in her young life.

She befriends Clay Jensen, a co-worker at the local movie theater, and they form an interesting alliance. They both dance around their true feelings for one another and never acknowledge those feelings out loud to each other. Which may be the true tragedy of the story.

The story alternates between Hannah’s narration of her tapes and the live action (both past and present) of what’s happening and what happened.

The story is largely told from Clay’s point of view, how he reacts to Hannah’s death, and how his reactions escalate as he listens to each of the 13 tapes – growing increasingly angry and anxious as he anticipates what she will say about him on ‘his tape.’ The 13 reasons are actually fellow students with whom Hannah had interacted with disastrous results. In each case, Hannah went into each relationship with the hope of friendship, love, and comradery, and in each case she is betrayed. Severely.

As Clay listens to the tapes he becomes more outraged, sorrowful, and determined to make the offenders take responsibility for what they did to Hannah. And no matter how much they try to stop, intimidate, or scare Clay, he is relentless in his pursuit of the truth in getting justice for Hannah.

Conclusion

This story is heartbreaking and illuminating about the subject of teen suicide, and how bullying can lead to the deterioration of a person’s spirit. It also accurately depicts the utter nightmare that is high school. And even though it’s been lifetimes since I was in high school, the story churned up memories of my own miserable experiences as an unpopular student in high school. As though it were only yesterday when I was finally freed from that prison. As well as memories of a friend who committed suicide and the fallout that followed. It touched me deeply and I suspect it will touch you if you are brave enough to watch it.

For as damn good as this series is, it is also extremely difficult to watch. It will break your heart, remind you of your own struggles with bullies, feelings of unworthiness, insecurities, and of loved ones you may have lost through suicide. It may depress you, as it did me. It will certainly make you think and ponder about how you treat others. And examine any dalliance you’ve had with mob rule or group think.

I highly recommend this series with the caveat that it contains countless emotional triggers that may be difficult for some.

 

 

 

Celebrating the Small Stuff

This week I did a series of picture posts on my Facebook page. I’d read somewhere that pictures were more popular than links or straight text on Facebook and based on my small ‘experiment’ it does appear to be true. Pictures do seem to get more attention on my page.

For me, that was good because I spend a lot of time with text, words, concepts and sometimes, a picture really does speak better than any word you can come up with. Or maybe pictures coupled with the right word is the real winning combination.

The picture post that got the most attention is the one I used above.

So, why would that message resonate more?

Getting lost in the big stuff

I think that people get lost in the big stuff. I know I do. Chasing the dream of being a best-selling author, is a good example of the big stuff I want to celebrate. I pray I will be able to celebrate. I fear I won’t ever celebrate. And I doubt there is any author who doesn’t feel that way.

We all have dreams that we chase. Some more realistic than others but important to us, nonetheless. Despite any proximity to reality.

But the problem with getting lost in the big stuff is that we miss all the wonderful little things that happen to us, for us, and around us. The world is a big, beautiful mystical place and there are probably hundreds of moments a day we could celebrate if we chose to.

So, here is the small stuff I’m celebrating this week:

♥ Puppy Lily absconded big dog Emma’s bear (stuffed toy) and guards it with all the ferocity of a bear. Did I mention the bear is bigger than she is?

♥ Dinner with my friend Andy. It was just us barbecuing a couple burgers in my backyard and then later going to Starbucks for coffee. Then hours of talk about anything and everything.

♥ Phone call with Jenny. My best friend who lives in Texas and whom I miss terribly. Quote from her son, “I touche a Guinea pig and now I’m sick.” You just can’t make that kind of stuff up, right?

♥ I finally figured out scene 86 in my book.

♥ The grocery store had daffodils on sale – $1.99 for 10 stems, I got 20. Today they opened. What a beautiful sunny scent!

♠ I discovered tiny little tomatoes on my tomato plants. Six of them. Big news!

♥ I had heavy cream for my coffee this morning. Heaven.

♥ A favorite client contacted me out of the blue yesterday.

♥ Spring is finally here.

Maybe it’s just gratitude

Maybe all I’m really talking about is feeling gratitude in my life. And if I am, that’s fine with me. I want to feel grateful for everything in my life – even the small stuff. Even the bad stuff. Because it’s all part of this mysterious game we call life and you can’t appreciate the good without the bad. The highs without the lows. The exciting without the boring. Right?

How about you, dear reader? What is the small stuff you’re celebrating this week? Did you finally master that cookie recipe? See a beautiful baby? Hug a puppy? See an old friend? Witness an incredible sunrise? Feel free to share any or all of it.

Have a great weekend.

Annie

10 Tips for Improving Your Amazon Product Listing

Anyone who sells anything on Amazon is familiar with the many rules, guidelines and, peculiarities of writing their product listing page. It can be very confusing and sometimes sellers can have their pages suspended if they do something wrong. Often it takes a while to sort out exactly what the seller did wrong and ends up costing her sales.

Over the last 2-3 years I’ve written hundreds of product listings for clients and have developed a list of best practices when approaching a listing. If your page isn’t doing well or not converting the way you would like perhaps these tips will be helpful.

The Tips

Follow the rules. This means character limits, formatting, verboten words, and promises. Did you know that the only punctuation allowed in bullets and titles are commas and semicolons? Or that you aren’t allowed to put sales and/or discount information in bullets or titles? While you may flaunt the rules and seem to get away with it, eventually the Zon catches up with you and you risk having your listing suspended.

Reduce your keywords to 5-7. The urge to want to use as many keywords as possible is often irrestitible, but you should try to resist anyway. The truth is, if you have narrowed your focus to your ideal customer, you shouldn’t need more than 5-7 keywords. And no matter what anyone tells you, consumers do not read keyword stuffed copy. For good reason, it usually makes no sense.

Search reviews of your own product and competitors with similar or the same product for benefits, phrasing, and language that will resonate with your prospect. You may even find inspiration for an awesome headline. Look for phrases, features and, benefits that come up repeatedly in the reviews – these are the things that are resonating with the consumer or your product. Also, check the headline on the reviews, they may spark a great idea for an awesome headline.

Never, ever, ever, ever pay for reviews. This includes review swapping (I’ll review yours if you review mine), hiring ‘services’ that will do reviews, etc. Amazon has really cracked down on phony reviews in the last couple of years and in fact are suing several parties who were selling Amazon reviews. If you have fake reviews on your account you risk being banned from Amazon. They are that serious about it. This article about paid reviews you may find very illuminating.

Don’t waste bullet points on guarantees or bonuses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bullet points that talk about bonuses, sales discounts, and guarantees. It’s a waste of a bullet. There is ample room elsewhere in the listing to mention these items. And if you can’t come up with at least 5 benefits of your product perhaps you are selling the wrong product.

Stop using ALL CAPS. Ditto on stars, check-marks or other fancy symbols that you think will make your copy stand out. In fact, ALL CAPS when used in the Internet means you are yelling at a person. Do you really want to yell at your prospect? Honestly, these marks and symbols don’t do anything to highlight your product and it looks amateurish.

Don’t waste your product description. Many sellers spend all their time on titles and bullets and then just toss a generic paragraph of unimpressive sales copy down in the product description. It’s an absolute waste of space to do that. Your product description gives you the most room to really regale your product and speak directly to your prospect. Use your product description to take your prospect through the sales cycle, all the way to the call to action.

Ideally a product description should have: An attention getting headline that speaks to the prospects problem; A second para with appropriate subhead that regales the features and benefits of your product and how it solves the prospects problem; A short bullet list; Your guarantee and bonus (if you offer one) and; A call to action.

Educate yourself on copy writing. Whether you write your own copy or hire someone to write it for you, you should know the basics and understand the elements that need to be in your copy to be effective. An excellent (albeit huge) reference on copy writing is Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. It is available for purchase and though the price is prohibitive I highly recommend it. If your funds are limited you can probably find a used copy or even check it out at the library.

Stop making your copy about you. I hate to break it to you but there isn’t a prospect anywhere on Earth who cares about you—they care about themselves. They are considering your product because it will potentially benefit them. Your copy has to be about them, their problem, their pain and a solution to said pain or problem. Your product listing has to clearly show your prospect what’s in it for them.

Slant your copy toward your ideal customer. No matter what your product is, there is NO product on Earth that is for everyone. While everyone may be able to use your product it doesn’t mean they are looking for it or want it. You need to do your research and determine who exactly does need and want your product. Kitchen gadgets are for people who love to cook, entertain and nurture others. Health products are for people who are health conscious or are trying to solve a health issue. The bonus here, is that the more specific you are in narrowing down your ideal customer, the more you will sell and the more your listing will appeal to those people.

How about you? Have you had a hard time figuring out how to write your listing? Did you eventually learn what worked and what didn’t? Feel free to tell us your story or share your successful tips in the comments below.

Favorite Irish Sayings, St Paddy’s Day Traditions & Corned Beef

Happy St. Paddy’s Day everybody. I love this day because I love green, I love fun, I really love beer and it’s also my birthday. But in case you aren’t Irish, then I have a quick crash-course, that Faith and Begorrah, will convince everybody you are.

Irish phrases you should know

Kiss my ass!

Spelled: Póg mo thóin!

Pronounced: pogue muh ho-in

Cheers!

Spelled: Sláinte

Pronounced: slaan-cheh

Ireland Forever

Spelled: Éirinn go Brách

Pronounced: Air-in guh braack

May the cat eat you and the devil eat the cat

Spelled: Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat

Pronounced: guh nee-ha on cat hoo iss go nee-ha on jeowel on cat

Saint Patrick’s Day

Spelled: Lá ‘le Pádraig

Pronounced: laa-AY-la pawd-rik/

A pint of Guinness, please.

Spelled: Pionta Guinness, le do thoil

Pronounced:  pyunta Guinness leh duh hull/

Kiss me, I’m Irish!

Spelled: Tabhair póg dom, táim Éireannach

Pronounced: TOO-irr pogue dum, toyme AY-ron-ock

Are you drunk yet?

Spelled: An bhfuil tú ar meisce fós?

Pronounced: on will too air mesh-ka fowss?/

St. Patrick’s Day blessing upon you

Spelled: Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Pronounced: ban-ock-tee na fay-lah paw-rig ur-iv/

Common Traditions on St. Paddy’s Day

The wearing of the green. On St. Paddy’s Day you better wear something green if you want to avoid being pinched. In Ireland people wear a small bunch of Shamrocks on their right breast to signify their Irishness. The Shamrocks are blessed at Church ceremonies and known as Blessing of the Shamrock. If you don’t have access to blessed shamrocks, a green hat will do.

Green Beer and Shamrock Shakes. If  you were to spend St. Paddy’s Day in Ireland you’d be hardput to find a mug of green beer or a Shamrock Shake. This is a rookie mistake and started as a tradition in America. However, if you can eat 10 pickled eggs, you could be mistaken for a real Irisher.

Parades and Festivals. The very first St Patrick’s Day parade occurred in New York City in 1766. And though there were many parades to follow all over the world, it wasn’t until 1995 that the Irish government decided to start holding a parade in Dublin—it’s known as St Patrick’s festival and takes place over 5 days with events including art shows, plays, concerts, fun fairs and the main parade.

Have you worked up an appetite yet?

No St. Patrick’s Day would be complete without partaking in some scrumptious corned beef and cabbage. And though traditionally, Irish Corned Beef and Cabbage is a boiled dish, I prefer mine slow roasted.

Try this simple recipe and tell me I’m wrong. And don’t forget to save me some.

Ingredients:

1 (5 1/2 pound) corned beef brisket with spice packet

2 whole head of green cabbage, each quartered

7 large red potatoes, peeled and diced

8 carrots, peeled and diced

2 medium onion, quartered

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place the brisket in the center of a roasting pan. Arrange the cabbage, potatoes, carrots and onions around the sides. Empty the seasoning packet over the roast, and pour enough water into the pan to about ½ inch high. Cover with a lid or heavy aluminum foil. Roast for 5 to 6 hours in the preheated oven, until the roast is fork tender.

Have a great day and may the green be with you.

15 Weird Things About Me

When I was a kid I was horrified at the idea of being weird. The weird kid was the one who was bullied and lost their lunch money all the time. Nope, I wanted to fit in. Not so easy, since I am weird. These days, I’m letting my weirdness hang out.   It takes off the pressure and helluva lot more fun.

  1. I don’t remember learning how to read, but I do remember I was reading before I started kindergarten.

2. In my alternate reality I am a homicide detective and I solve crimes constantly.

3. I wrote my first novel, The Addict, when I was 10. It was 30 pages long and it sucked. But my dad read every word. Bless his heart.

4. I talk to myself. In public. In private. I always have, since I was a kid. Nobody knows why.

5. I love to garden and though I’m not very good at it, my biggest tomato weighed almost 3 pounds. Oh and I talk to my plants – is that weird?

6. My favorite family pet was Rusty, a gorgeous collie who showed up on our porch one summer night and scratched on the screen door. He looked exactly like Lassie and I believed he was my soul mate.

7. My guilty pleasure is binge watching mystery shows (usually British) online. If I watch too many I start talking in a British accent.

8. Motown music will always inspire me to  get my freak on.

9. I had two nicknames when I was a kid; Neener and Rodg. I preferred Rodg

10. I’ve had many jobs in my life but the weirdest one was bus buffing. Hard on the back but definitely builds the pecs.

11. My first car was a VW Bug and it had temperamental brakes – meaning, I never knew when or if they would work. Usually, the back wall of the garage stopped the car before the brakes. My nickname for it was  “Death Trap.” I nearly gave my dad a stroke when I took him for a spin and ended up in somebody’s front yard. After that, I refused to drive a stick shift ever again.

12. When I was a kid I wanted to be a fireman or a ballerina but was forced to become a writer because I couldn’t stop making stuff up

13. I love dollar stores. It’s an addiction. I will buy anything if it costs a dollar. I’m their ideal customer.

14. If you want to make me cry show me a Hallmark commercial.

15. I really do work in my pajamas. In fact, I pretty much do everything in my pajamas. But you know, I live in California, so it’s allowed.

How about it, are you a weirdie too? Have you given in to your inner weirdness and let it shine in the light of day? Tell me all about your weirdiness in the comments, so we can revel in it together.

Out of Sorrow Comes Joy

First, I’d like to say thank you to all of you who expressed sympathies about losing my dog Maggie last week. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me except to say, it meant a lot. So, thank you to everyone.

Going against my natural instincts, I decided to adopt another dog, rather than wait. I think that Maggie would’ve been happy about that. In fact, I am too. Because out of the deep sorrow I felt at losing my dog of 13 years, I am now feeling immense joy from the new puppy. Lily.

I will always have the old memories of Maggie – she was a remarkable dog – a remarkable ‘person’ and can’t be replaced. But Lily is a little white bundle of joy and I look forward to making new memories with her.

If you have lost a beloved pet, I empathize with you. Deeply. It is a profoundly sad experience. But if you are holding off in adopting a new pet, don’t. Please, don’t. There are so many wonderful animals out there just waiting to find a loving family. And you could be that family.

God Bless.

Annie

Losing Maggie

img_0231

Last night I lost my dog Maggie. She was three months shy of her 13th birthday and though a little creaky and long in the tooth, she had more energy than any 10 people in the room.

I got her when she was five weeks old and we’ve been through many adventures over the years. Some good. Some bad. But she was always there, right by side, raring to go wherever I went. And many times, it seemed she was the only friend I had in the world. And believe me, that was enough. No matter how bad things got, I always knew there was one ‘person’ in the world who truly loved me no matter what shape I was in.

 

She loved…

thumper-4002 thumper-5005 june2007015 more-thumper006Cats

Eggs

Chasing squirrels and lizards

Barking at possums

Going for a ride

Chasing the ball

Going for a walk

Bones

People

Me

Sleeping on my bed

Bunching up my rugs

And if you scratched her chest, she’d stand on her haunches for hours – just to make it easier for you.

img_0002-1

Anybody who ever met her, loved her. You just couldn’t help yourself but fall for the funny little dog who seemed to have a permanent smile on her face.

She didn’t love…

Dog food (people food was so much better)

Mail carriers

Anybody who scared her cats

Eye drops, medicine or vaccinations

Going to the vet’s

Being dressed in elf, Santa, or baby outfits (although she loved her jingle collar every year)

elfdogcloseup more-xmas-dog xmasmaggie

feb-2010005

Last night, she went out into the backyard and charged an unwanted guest. I heard her barking, but I thought it was the possum she was barking at. The one who likes to climb along our wall. It made her happy to bark at the possum, so I didn’t call her in.

Then the barking stopped.

Then my room mate screamed my name.

The unwanted guest in the yard was a coyote.

We rushed her to the emergency vet. She was struggling to breathe but she was awake and alert and moving. I thought she’d be okay.

But the vet was taking too long to talk to me and I knew. The injuries were too severe. Her windpipe had been punctured. She had too many injuries. My white shirt was soaked with her blood.

We said goodbye and then she was gone.

My life was better because she was in it. My life will never be the same now that she’s gone. I will miss her more than I can say.

june2007016