HAPPY LABOR DAY – LET’S HAVE A PICNIC..OR SOMETHING…

It’s sad I suppose that summer is on its way out and well Labor Day is the punctuation mark that heralds the end of the season.

Did you know that in a galaxy long ago and far far away that there was this rule that you mustn’t wear white after Labor Day?

So what’s on the menu for your Labor Day picnic – fried chicken, two maybe three kinds of potato salad, sandwiches and lemonade? In that case, these recipes are sure to please.

And don’t forget the cocktails

If  you’re planning to stay home and do some serious binge watching on Netflix or Amazon Prime, check out Ray Donovan, Bosch, Luther, Gilmore Girls Reboot, House of Cards, The Man in the High Castle, all the Star Trek iterations and more…

If you want to get out and about and live in the L.A. area check out the top weekend events, fairs, festivals, fun in the sun and lots of eats

Or just stay home in your jim-jams and read a good mystery

Whatever you plan to do or not do as the case may be – be well, be happy, and be safe.

And say a little prayer for our firefighters out here in CA, presently working 24/7 to knock down the La Tuna Canyon fires – and our friends struggling with the havoc of Hurricane Harvey.

 

Annie

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Things you didn’t know about the nectar of the gods…

In case you are confused, I’m talking about coffee. That glorious, dark, rich liquid that wakes us in the morning, picks us up in the afternoon and seemingly kicks our brains into high gear at any time. At least, for writers…

Did you know that…

  • According the the USDA (from 2016-2017) worldwide demand for coffee is expected to be 156 million bags. Which is about 10 million tons of coffee beans. No shock but most of that coffee consumption will be in Europe and the US. Like, how many barristas does it take to make that much coffee?
  • Brazil is actually the coffee capital of the world, Viet Nam is #2, and Columbia is #3 – who’d a thunk? Sorry Juan Valdez but the truth hurts.
  • According to historians, coffee showed up in Ethiopia, circa 850 A.D. However, it took a little time to catch on – it wasn’t until 1100 that the black gold was popularized in Asia. However, it wasn’t until 1515, that Europe got a taste of this magical nectar.
  • Attention barristas – the first ever café opened in Constantinople in 1475. I wonder how you say latte in turkish? By 1675, England had over 3,000 cafes offering our beloved café au lait.
  • There are two types of coffee plants harvested for coffee production: Arabica and Robusta. The Arabica plant originated in the Middle East and the Robusta from the Congo. Arabica beans are known for their premium quality and 75% of the world’s commercially produced coffee comes from them. On the other hand, Robusta coffee beans are hardier than Arabicas AND contain 50% more caffeine.
  • Throughout history, coffee was officially banned three times. The first time in Mecca in the 16th century, though no one seems to know why. The second in England when Charles II banned the drink and coffee houses because he suspected coffeehouses offered a perfect opportunity for plotting sedition and treason among the population. The third time took place in Germany in 1677. Frederick the Great prohibited his people to drink coffee because he was worried about money leaving his country for imported goods rather than being spent on his own country’s goods, such as beer and ale. Ironically, despite his ban, he continued drinking coffee himself.
  • Coffee grinds are a fabulous and cheap fertilizer for your garden. Coffee grinds are rich in nitrogen, an element that all plants need to grow and especially seedlings and young plants. Many Starbucks still offer home gardeners bags of used coffee grounds free just for the asking.
  • Coffee grounds are also helpful in repelling snails and other hard-shell insects from your garden – they hate the taste.
  • World famous spas offer coffee grind wraps, facials, and skin treatments to reduce the look of cellulite, loss of skin elasticity, and under eye bags – and to promote improved skin firmness.
  • Coffee grounds can also be used as an all natural dye or stain for fabric or wood.
  • Coffee grounds also make an excellent drink that can be consumed hot or cold with milk or without – and even the beans can be covered in chocolate and eaten.

What’s your favorite use for coffee? Have any secret recipes or tips on coffee? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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.

Writer Chick Predicts 2017

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Every year, I take a shot at predicting what the new year will bring. I’m usually wrong, though that doesn’t stop me. Here are my best guesses of what will happen in the coming year.

1. Amazon will fold CreateSpace and Audible into its KDP platform by the end of the year. Since they own both outlets it makes sense for them and will probably make it easier for authors to track sales of various publishing platforms. However, I fear the scammers that tend to descend on Amazon will cook up some new scam to hurt indie authors if this comes to pass. Look for something weird on this front.

2. Democrats will make impeaching Trump a priority with the new incoming Congress and possibly make it their first order of business. They may even try to overturn the results from the electoral college. I predict they will be unsuccessful if they try this and will probably make things worse.

3. Serious steps will be taken to distance the U.S. from the UN. Perhaps we will cut ties altogether. But whatever happens, count on protest both for and against on the city streets, with some kind of bizarre tragedy that results.

4. Anti-Trump protests will continue and major colleges will officially create Trump-free zones. These zones will come with their own specified rules of behavior, safe words, calming sports drinks and new age therapy.

5. Mickey Dees will be the first major retailer to employ robots to man their order windows. Once their first cost effective report hits the news other fast food establishments will follow suit. Think it can’t happen, read this.

6. Fox News will change its name to Faux News (Fake News)

7. Hillary Clinton will become the major spokesperson for a new email security software retailer.

8. With its recent success of rebooting old series, Netflix will pull out all the stops and do reboots of: The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, All in the Family, Maude, My Favorite Martian, Starsky & Hutch, and the Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

9. The new iPhone8 will be unveiled in early spring and be the size of a 4-slice toaster but not to worry, it will come with a complimentary backpack to carry it in.

10. Amazon will launch a new beta program for indie authors to make movies of their books.

11. A new haircut called “The Trump” will become popular with middle aged, hair challenged men and women.

12. California will distinguish itself as the first state to drive smokers into total apathy and become a ‘smoke free’ state. Authorities will be very proud of themselves until they realize they have billions of dollars in lost tax revenue to make up. Look to the dubie tax to come next.

13. In a weird pop culture salute to Trump’s election, red ball caps will dominate the fashion world and be seen in all the spring collections on the runways in 2017.

Not a pretty list, I’ll admit, but there you have it. What about you? What do you think will happen in the coming year? Will it be good or bad? Fun or a disaster? Could it possibly be worse than 2016? Feel free to let loose with your own predictions in the comments.

Happy New Year. 😀

Doing Backstory Right and Other Good Reads

 

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I’ve been away much longer than I realized, in my quest to finish the third book in a new trilogy among other highly distracting activities. And I wanted to reassure my three undying fans I still live and breathe. Also have been catching up on my reading and have some nice reads for you.

The Shocking Truth About Info Dumps by Lisa Cron discusses how to do backstory right. And folks, she is spot on.

Scene Structure: Scenes as Segments and Capsules of Time by CS Lakin Good nuts and bolts on scene structure, especially good statements on time in writing.

Beware the Writing Rules Police by Anne R. Allen. Anne takes the writing rules police to task and kicks their butts.

Burnout, creativity, and the tyranny of production schedules by Elizabeth Bear. Hardworking author Elizabeth Bear makes a good case for taking pressure and time off from writing. I totally get what she is talking about here.

Really Going There by Annie Neugebauer makes a good case for the argument that our best stories come from the places we are terrified to write about.

Have a good week everybody – step away from the political arguments on FB – real life is much better for your blood pressure. 🙂

Book Marketing Trends for Authors and Other Good Reads This Week

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I’m afraid I haven’t had much time to devote to blogging lately because I’m trying to finish a first draft of my novel. More on that later. In the meantime, following are some awesome reads for the Indie’s among us. Enjoy and have a great week.

7 Book Marketing Trends Authors Can’t Afford to Ignore. Kimberley Grabas offers some solid marketing strategies, with lots of actionable tips.

Why do we write? Lisa Kron offers a very interesting perspective on the impact that writing, even entertainment writing, can have.

Self Publishing Notebook. Jonathan Kile offers an interesting a funny perspective on indie writing and publishing.

Vetting Vendors: Public Relations Professionals. Naomi Blackburn has some advice on how to hire a PR pro that won’t ruin your PR.

Scene Structure: Understanding the Truth about Character Arcs. CS Larkin gives us a great nuts and bolts post on character arcs.

And just for fun, check out this Content Idea Generator. Who knows, it might be your next brilliant idea.

From conquering fear to business models that don’t react – best reads of the week

It’s been a while since I’ve done a link post – and I think I want to get that back in on this blog. The holidays and general craziness is over for now, so time to get back to basics. Following are some super reads that I wanted to share.

Overcoming Fear by Jo Eberhardt. This has to be one of the best things I’ve ever read on overcoming our own doubts about ourselves. I actually cried as I read this heartfelt and often funny story. Do yourself a favor and read it – it will make your day, put a little bounce in your step and lift your head just a little higher.

THE E-PUBLISHING REVOLUTION IS DEFINITELY NOT OVER (Regardless of what you’ve heard)
Literary Agent Laurie McLean, is pretty sure the ePub revolution is not over and that Indies still have some serious say in the world of books.

75 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers. Yup that’s right WiseInk has 75 resolutions from which to choose that you could conquer this year. I have to admit, there were quite a few I think I’m going for.

9 Ways To Make Your Author Resource Box Sizzle by Publicist Joan Stewart. You know she has some great examples of the mini bios that authors can do for various platforms. Some of them really quite good.

Business Musings: The Reactive Business Model by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It’s a long read and there was a lot of ‘back story’ to get to the point but when she gets there, it’s worth the trip. And I couldn’t agree more with her.

As a little bit of further inspiration, I tossed in this trailer for a movie called, “Joy,” which I just saw this afternoon. If you are someone with a dream, I highly recommend the film. One of the most inspirational stories I’ve seen in a long time.

Have a great week.

Annie

Writer Chick Predicts 2016

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Yup, it’s New Year’s Day and time to make a few predictions (about which I will no doubt, be wrong). Because, well because it’s fun to predict the future and considering all the drinks we had last night, a few laughs might be in order. Am I right? Okay, so Writer Chick predicts…

  1. After an unsuccessful Kick-starter campaign, Barnes and Noble will go belly up – blaming Amazon for their failure.
  2. The Author’s Guild will start selling ‘information products’ for writers that promise secrets methods to beat Amazon’s algorithms. Of course it won’t work, but Amazon will be (very) publicly blamed for their author members’ low royalties.
  3. Amazon will be voted the “Person of the Year” by Time magazine – this will drive NY Times  writers into a frenzy.
  4. Apple will release the long awaited iAlarm. The innovative gadget will wake you in in ten different time zones, provide unreliable weather forecasts, and give you ten affirmations to utter before rising.
  5. ABC, NBC and CBS will engage in a bidding war for the new TV pilot based on the Star Wars movies.  However, while the major broadcast stations are mired in entertainment warfare, Fox will create a kick ass show based on Hugh Howie’s Silo Series.
  6. Amid the Star Wars mania that Disney is spending millions to generate, Ford Motor Company will come out with the limited edition Darth Vader – an SUV hybrid that comes only in black and has a hissy sound system.
  7. The Big5 publishers will team up with Walmart to create a book co-op in hopes of driving Amazon under – instead, they will drive Walmart under.
  8. In a last ditch effort to gain votes, Donald Trump will auction off his hair in a Vegas style, online event.
  9. Apple will also come out with the iPhone Jumbo which users will wear like a backpack. Some will complain about the inconvenient size, however, all will agree that the awesome clarity on streaming videos cannot be beat.
  10. PETA no longer satisfied to just fight for animal rights, will kick off a campaign for animal marriage. Next up – inter-species marriage.
  11. In a stunning revelation on the end of the year, Barbara Walters special, Michael Moore will reveal that he is a genetically modified life form created by Monsanto.
  12. The cost of oil will topple to an amazing $19 a barrel. However, California drivers will still be paying upwards of $3 a gallon, for reasons only Gerry Brown knows.
  13. Apple will also develop a new product- the iHologram – an eReader accessed by a computer chip, placed in your brain. Google will file an intellectual property lawsuit, claiming the brain chip was to be their next succession in the Google Glasses evolution.
  14. An anonymous whistle blower will reveal that Google has been an arm of the NSA since its inception. Finally, somebody will use Yahoo to search on the Internet.

How about you? What are you predictions for 2016? Tell em like you see em in the comments. Happy New Year.

Annie

 

 

 

The Indie author’s list of new year’s resolutions

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Ah, it’s that time of year when we reflect on the year that has passed and the changes we want to make in the coming year. Typically, losing weight, quitting smoking and/or drinking and having higher self esteem tops the list for many. Though as indie authors, our lists are a might different. Here’s a few that might resonate:

  • Buy, download, read and review every book written by someone who retweeted you on twitter.
  • Write, edit and publish four books by the end of the year.
  • Learn how to write standing up to stop the spread of writer’s ass
  • Stop seething every time that writer you follow on Facebook posts yet another glowing review or quotes herself
  • Stop obsessing over that one review that befuddles you
  • Discover the mysteries of tweeting. Cat pictures only go so far.
  • Learn to make and like a writer’s drink, like bourbon or something manly.
  • Delete the blog you started for your characters (how lame was that?).
  • Force yourself to learn how to use that horrible template from Create Space without throwing your computer out the window.
  • Stop checking your sales dashboard every twenty minutes – get a life.
  • Find something that tears you away from the computer and has absolutely nothing to do with writing.
  • Stop subscribing to marketers claiming they have the product that will make you a best seller.
  • Write better, write calmer, be happy with the stories that belong to you, share accordingly.

How about you? Any special resolutions you have made for yourself? Feel free to share or add to the list in the comments.

Note: I am offline for a few days, but will happily respond to any comments on my return. In the meantime, have a happy and safe holiday.

Annie

Marketing – let me count the ways. Great links to help you market your books

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Did I just hear a mass wince? Yup, I’m sure I did, or maybe it was just me. Writing a novel is nothing compared to having to then market it. From the ‘deer in the headlights syndrome’ of just not having a clue – to the ‘it just makes me feel so icky to self promote’ whiners, none of us seem to like marketing very much. But if you’re in it for the long haul and have any hope of making it as an author, marketing is something in which you must become proficient.
Following are links to some kick-ass articles about book marketing. If you have a book you need to market, you need to read these posts.

Can You Promote a Book without Making Yourself Miserable? Jane Friedman gives us some decidedly authentic and down to earth advice about book marketing that may surprise you.

Standing Out on the Crowded Shelf—How to Help Your Fiction Find an Audience
Sage advice on what you can do to find your audience and get your books into the readers who want them.

Marketing Your Book on Social Media? How to Avoid Scams
Anne R. Allen warns about the the pitfalls of those feeding off authors with marketing scams.

A 12-Month Strategic Plan for Marketing Your Book before Release
CS Lakin writes a great nuts and bolts post about marketing your book, 12 months before release.

The 6 Most Common Marketing Mistakes Made by Authors
Another great post from Writer Unboxed about common marketing mistakes made by authors. No more excuses after you’ve read this.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to slog through week 2 of NaNo, clocking in a total of 34,993 words so far. I’m pretty sure I’ll meet the NaNo target of 50K – but that won’t produce a finished first draft. So, I’ll persist and hope I reach my target of 75K. The good news is that I have now developed some awesome callouses on my fingertips which makes the typing go a little faster.

Have a great week.

Annie