Review in Practice: Newsletters – Bonuses & Reader Magnets, Frequency and Auto-Responders

One aspect of book marketing I’ve been delving into is newsletters, or reader’s groups, if you prefer. It sounds a lot better to say, “Join my Reader’s Group” than it does to say, Subscribe to my Newsletter”. This is a suggestion that Andrea Pearson of the Six Figure Author Podcast offers, and I like it. Andrea Pearson is like the newsletter queen, marketing her own books through her newsletter successfully and teaching others how to do the same. She offers courses on Newsletter marketing among others through her website, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken the basic course, and I also have her Publish Strong box set. You can read my “Review in Practice” for that set here.

Other things that Andrea recommends is emailing frequently, like once a week, and I believe Kevin J. Anderson also follows this practice. To me this sounds like a lot. I feel like I would have to really like an author to not be annoyed to receive emails that frequently from them. After signing up for KJAs newsletter and receiving his auto-sequence, I found that it was kind of cool, and because some of them included newsletter bonuses of free books, I didn’t mind receiving those frequent emails at all.

But, let’s face it. We’re all not as prolific as KJA, or even as prolific as Andrea Pearson. Especially if you’re just starting out, you may be lucky if you can produce a book a year. I realized a while back that I wasn’t prolific and wrote a post about that here. Just as you need a hook for your stories to make readers want to read more, you also need a sales hook in your newsletter to make them want to read other things which you’ve written so you can grow your fanbase and email list. If you don’t write fast enough to produce several books a year, and if you don’t have a big backlist to draw from, don’t overlook the value of a good short story. While it’s true that short fiction is tougher to sell than novels, when it comes to newsletter magnets, short fiction can be an author’s friend.

In order to better understand how to make a newsletter work for me, I’ve subscribed to the newsletters of several big name authors to see how they set up their reader magnets and auto-sequences.

The Case of the Vanishing Boy is a short mystery story by Kristine Kathryn Rush that I received for free for signing up for the WMG Grab a Book and Chill newsletter; what indie authors call a reader magnet, designed to draw in new readers. ‘They’ say short fiction is harder to sell, whether we’re talking single stories, collections or anthologies. As a creator of anthologies, I believe ‘they’ are right. But short fiction can be great to use for newsletter bonuses, and/or reader magnets. This little mystery story was just the right length for me to enjoy and to made me feel as if I’d received a good value in exchange for my email address

Kristine Kathryn Rusch and her husband Dean Wesley Smith are both hybrid authors who have been in this business for many years and are both masters of short fiction, so receiving this story really was a treat. It was a fun mystery that could be read in one sitting. It’s hard not to give away spoilers on short stories, and for mysteries, spoilers could mean death. So instead of giving the whole brief plot away, let me just say that it was a fun mystery that could be read in one sitting. It was well-written and entertaining, stirring up questions throughout and providing a satisfying ending, just as a mystery story should.

A much darker read is He Meant No Harm, by Dean Wesley Smith, which serves as a second reader magnet for the WMG Grab a Book and Chill newsletter. I guess they figure at least one of the two books will appeal to you. Again, I’m not obligated to review, but did enjoy this brief trip down memory lane with the protagonist, although it left me walking away with a very different feeling from the one I had after reading the Rusch story, so perhaps they are onto something by offering two very different stories. This story was very brief, so my complaint here was that I was disappointed that there wasn’t more to it, (but that might just be me). It did have a full story arc, I just would have liked to have a bit more before it ended, so I guess I felt a little cheated.

I can’t say that about the reader magnet for the WMG Newsletter, The Rusch Reader: A Newsletter Exclusive, however. Just the opposite in fact. This collection of short fiction provides a delectable sampling from Kristine Katherine Rusch’s various short fiction series and spans across her genres, of which there are many, written under various pen names, as well as her own. The Rusch Reader is a book length collection of short fiction, all well-written and entertaining, all quite enjoyable to read, some which were downright memorable. And when you read as much short fiction as I do, that’s saying a lot. But the thing that adds the most value for me was the last sample book, which wasn’t a story at all, but a short non-fiction book on how to negotiate, which is invaluable for authors everywhere. Signing up for the newsletter is the only way you can acquire this fantastic collection, a sampling that may turn you into a die-hard Rusch reader, you must subscribe to Kristine Katherine Rusch’s newsletter, which makes it a great reader magnet and well worth giving up my email address.

For signing up for the Kevin J. Anderson reader group, I received a copy of one of his Dan Shamble Novels, Working Stiff, which I had previously read and reviewed in his Zomnibus. (You can read my review here.) His Dan Shamble books are always entertaining and fun to read, so this is an excellent choice for a reader magnate. Although it is not typical of his science fiction or fantasy series, but it is a way to get readers to take a look at what else he has available.

His second email in his auto sequence delivers a link to listen to his Clockwork Lives audiobook for free, which is pretty cool and making me feel even more value delivered.

His second email in his auto sequence delivers a link to listen to an audio reading by KJA of “The Percussor’s Tale” from the Clockwork Lives steampunk novel, written with Rush drummer Neil Peart, for free. This is pretty cool and making me feel even more value delivered.

The fifth email in his auto-responder offers another free book, The Kevin J. Anderson Complete Booklist and Reader’s Guide. What a clever way to make things easy for his readers. I’m impressed.

The sixth offers another free ebook, Blindfold. Which all leads into an offer to join his “KJA Special Forces” street team in the eighth email to be delivered over a month’s time from when I subscribed.

Previously, I had let my newsletter fall to the wayside for more than a year, but this research endeavor has convinced me that my Newsletter is one of my most valuable marketing tools. The subscribers are added to your email list, providing you with a direct way to engage with your readers, and you own that, not some third party middleman.

When I went back into my Mailchimp account, I found that they’d made a lot of changes and I had difficulty finding my way around and locating my past newsletter campaigns. I have since revived my newsletter, but I’m still struggling to figure out the auto-responder and other technological stuff. I’ll get it eventually. For now, I’m emailing monthly and figuring it all out as I go. I’ve managed to change my reader magnet, so when you join, you receive a free copy of my short story collection, Last Call & Other Short Fiction, and set up a Book Funnel link to deliver it, (I think – If you decide to join, I’d appreciate feedback to let me know if it is working properly).

My subscribers are not growing very fast, but I figure that will come in time, too. Different genre books target different reading audiences, so it’s more difficult to market as a multi-genre author, but with time, I’ll figure that one out, too. My newsletter journey is just beginning. If you’d like to join my new reader’s group to receive updates on new releases from WordCrafter Press, myself and others, as well as upcoming writing events, you can join here: https://mailchi.mp/64aa2261e702/klb-wc-newsletter. You’ll receive a copy of my short story collection just for joining. I do hope you’ll all come along for the ride.

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For Kaye Lynne Booth, writing is a passion. Kaye Lynne is an author with published short fiction and poetry, both online and in print, including her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction; and her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets. Kaye holds a dual M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing with emphasis in genre fiction and screenwriting, and an M.A. in publishing. Kaye Lynne is the founder of WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services and WordCrafter Press. She also maintains an authors’ blog and website, Writing to be Read, where she publishes content of interest in the literary world.

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Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.


Review in Practice: Self-Publish Strong Books 1-4

Let me just start by saying that I’m a big fan of Andrea Pearson, the author of these books. I listened to her on the Six Figure Authors podcast, along with her two co-hosts, Lindsay Barker and Joe Lallo, all through the fall and spring semesters. So, when I found out we were going to be using Rock Solid Newsletter in our class, I jumped at the opportunity to buy the whole set, even though I only needed the one book for class. Which is just to say, that I knew these books would have lots of valuable information for me as an author before I ever cracked them open, and indeed they did.

In Book 1, Rock Solid Book, Andrea offers tips for making sure you have a book that readers will want to read. Book 2, Rock Solid Platform, gives advice on finding and acquiring fans who will read just about anything you write. Book 3, Rock Solid Promotion, discusses book marketing, protons and deals that sell. And finally, in Book 4, Rock Solid Newsletter, she tells how to set up your newsletter and automation sequence and clean your newsletter email list, so you know you have true fans who want to hear about you and your books, which increases your open and click rates and is more effective at selling books.

Self-Publish Strong Books 1-4 is filled with valuable information for independent authors, which I’m using to improve and grow my newsletter list, which is soon to become my readers’ group, and set up promotions for all of my 2022 releases. Andrea Pearson offers tips, advice and good strategies for producing a quality book which readers will buy, getting the word out about your books and finding readers who will buy them.

What she doesn’t do in Rock Solid Newsletter, is to instruct on the technical set-up of the newsletter, because each newsletter platform is different. I don’t hold that against the book though, as these books are not instruction manuals, but instead, they offer strategies to leverage your books into a better selling position. I managed to change my reader magnet and my welcome email so it will be delivered as intended. (I think,. I still need to test it.) And that’s where I’m stuck, because I don’t understand the technicalities of setting up an automation sequence, but I know I need to set one up. I may have to find someone to help me on that one. So, although I haven’t put all of the advice offered in Publish Strong Books 1-4 to use yet, I’m well on my way.

You can get your copy of Self-Publish Strong Books 1-4 here:

https://www.amazon.com/Self-Publish-Strong-Books-1-4-How-ebook/dp/B06X3W91BV

Or they can be purchased individually here: http://selfpublishstrong.com/books/

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Kaye Lynne Booth lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a M.A. in Publishing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. She’s a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you.

She has short stories featured in the following anthologies: The Collapsar Directive (“If You’re Happy and You Know It”); Relationship Add Vice (“The Devil Made Her Do It”); Nightmareland (“The Haunting in Carol’s Woods”); Whispers of the Past (“The Woman in the Water”); Spirits of the West (“Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”); and Where Spirits Linger (“The People Upstairs”). Her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, and her short story collection, Last Call, are both available in both digital and print editions at most of your favorite book distributors.

When not writing, she keeps up her author’s blog, Writing to be Read, where she posts reflections on her own writing, author interviews and book reviews, along with writing tips and inspirational posts from fellow writers. In addition to creating her own imprint in WordCrafter Press, she offers quality author services, such as editing, social media & book promotion, and online writing courses through WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services. As well as serving as judge for the Western Writers of America and sitting on the editorial team for Western State Colorado University and WordFire Press for the Gilded Glass anthology and editing Weird Tales: The Best of the Early Years 1926-27, under Jonathan Maberry.

In her spare time, she is bird watching, or hiking, or just soaking up some of that Colorado sunshine.

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Sign up for the Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for and book event news for WordCrafter Press books, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of Kaye Lynne Booth’s paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, just for subscribing.


Review in Practice: “Mastering Amazon Descriptions” & “How to Write Fiction Sales Copy”

Mastering Amazon Descriptions

It’s not enough to just write the book.

Today’s author must be both writer and marketer. Authors in the the world of digital media and the rise of independent publishing are responsible for not only writing the book, but selling it, too. Even authors who are traditionally published are often responsible for a good portion of the promotional efforts.

These days, everyone knows that people can and do judge books by their covers. Most authors emphasize the importance of a a good book cover in selling books, but they’re talking about more than just the image and text on the front. Perhaps as important as that front cover, is the book’s description or blurb, found on the back cover for print books, or in your ebook’s meta-data.

A good book description’s job is to capture reader interest and make them want to know more,. Whether we’re talking about the hook of the first line, which must make you read on to the next sentence and then the next, or about the description as a whole, which must hook the reader, making them want to buy the book to learn the rest of the story, the book description is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to sell books. According to Brian D. Meeks, a good book description has three elements: a powerful hook, engaging copy, and visually appealing formatting.

Mastering Amazon Descriptions

In Mastering Amazon Descriptions, Brian D. Meeks offers a formulaic plan for writing book descriptions that will sell books, including examples of description re-writes for books in varied genres. Although these descriptions are specified as Amazon descriptions, I’m sure this technique will work equally well with Kobo, or Barnes & Nobel, or even the Apple Store. By the time you’ve read through this book, you’ll be writing back cover copy like a pro, because Meeks’ method is simple enough that almost anyone can do it.

To prove it, I’ll share with you the re-write I did of the description for Delilah, which I am preparing for its re-release in the coming year.

Here is the original description:

“Brutally raped and left for dead, her fourteen-year-old ward abducted, Delilah’s homecoming from prison quickly turns into a quest for vengeance. Tough and gritty, sheer will and determination take her to the Colorado mining town of Leadville in her hunt for her attackers and the girl, Sarah. Somehow along the way, the colorful inhabitants of Leadville work their way into Delilah’s heart, giving her a chance for a future she thought she’d lost along with her innocence.”

Here is the description I wrote for the re-release before I read Mastering Amazon Descriptions:

Delilah is a woman haunted by her past. Her homecoming from prison quickly turns into a quest for vengeance when she is brutally raped and left for dead, and her fourteen-year-old ward is abducted. Sheer will and determination take this tough and gritty heroine up against wild beasts of the forest, Indians and outlaws to the Colorado mining town of Leadville, where the colorful inhabitants work their way into Delilah’s heart, offering a chance for a future she thought she’d lost along with her innocence.

Now, here is the description I wrote using Brian D. Meeks’ method:

Haunted by her past.

Raped and left for dead; her fourteen-year-old ward abducted.

Sheer will and determination take this tough and gritty heroine up against wild beasts of the forest, Indians and outlaws.

Can the colorful inhabitants of Leadville work their way into Delilah’s heart, offering a chance for a future she thought she’d lost along with her innocence?

I don’t think anyone would argue that this last description is an improvement. It has a better hook, shorter sentences, and leaves the potential reader with a question to make them want to learn more and read the book.

How to Write Fiction Sales Copy

How to Write Fictin Sales Copy, by Dean Wesley Smith offers three different formulas for writing back cover blurbs and sales copy, which are aimed toward a wide distribution, and several different approaches. Smith is an old pro in this writing game and he’s good at what he does, (which is write). While his methods are not as formulaic and are not specific to Amazon, they are never-the-less effective in posing unspoken questions about the book and making readers want to know more. Smith also offers 32 actual story blurbs as examples in multiple genres.

To experiment with one of Dean Wesley Smith’s techniques, I thought I’d try to rewrite the blurb for my paranormal mystery novella, which is riddled with what Smith calls “The Author Problem”, which results from too many passive verbs and too much focus on the plot. My description doesn’t have a lot of passive voice, but it does focus on the plot too much, revealing more than necessary, which is a common author error. The idea behind the blurb is to give potential readers just enough to pique their interest and make them want to purchase the book. If you reveal too much of the plot, there’s no reason to buy.

Cassie is nervous about her return to her ancestral lands with her boyfriend Tony for more reasons than one. She hasn’t been up in these mountains since the unexplained drowning of her parents. And her parents aren’t the only ones who have died or mysteriously disappeared in the area. Cassie doesn’t really believe the old legends passed down from her Native American ancestors, but she harbors no desire to become the keeper of her tribal legacy or the protector of the gold that goes with it. In fact, she plans to tell her Grandmother to pass the legacy to someone else, perhaps her cousin Miranda, who has been searching for the treasure for years. Cassie wants nothing to do with it now that she carries Tony’s baby in her womb. When Cassie forces herself to go out on the lake that took the lives of her parents and she discovers a cave which holds the treasure of her people, she must admit that the legacy is real, which means the curse that guards the treasure and threatens the males of her tribe must also be real. When Miranda’s boyfriend, Jake disappears on the lake, Cassie must find a way to stop the curse, before Tony becomes the next victim.

So here is my attempt at a rewrite, using Smith’s basic blurb pattern, beginning with a character summary that “nails the genre if possible”.

Cassie wants nothing to do with the legacy her grandmother wants to hand down to her. She doesn’t believe in all those Native American legends anyway.

She and Tony plan to be married and start a family. They’re only returning to her ancestral lands now to tell her grandmother to pass the tribal legacy on to someone else, along with the cursed gold that goes with it.

When she forces herself to go out on the lake where her parents drowned, she discovers the cave which holds the tribal treasure and the lake takes another life. Now Cassie must rethink all that she believes. If the treasure is real, could the curse be real, too?

Can Cassie find a way to stop it before Tony becomes the next victim?

If you love paranormal mysteries, pick up a copy of “Hidden Secrets”.

Which one of these descriptions would make you more likely to buy the book? You can see what a difference a few simple changes can make.

Authors must be able to write sales copy, as well as fiction or nonfiction, because stories don’t sell themselves. On The 6 Figure Authors podcast suggest that if a book isn’t selling well, the first things to look at are cover art and blurb. We see here with the examples I provided, what a difference changing up the blurb can make. I recommend both Mastering Amazon Descriptions, and How to Write Fiction Sales Copy to any author who wants to polish their blurb writing skills and improve their sales copy.


Review in Practice – Word Craft: Prose & Poetry

Word Craft: Prose & Poetry

Word Craft: Prose & Poetry, by Colleen Chesebro is an insightful and helpful instructional book for those who wish to learn more about writing syllabic poetry and prose. The first section covers Japenese syllabic poetry forms and American syllabic poetry forms are covered in section two. The author outlines the rules and inspirations for each form, and provides plenty of examples to help you get the idea.

Hiaku has been one of my favorite forms of poetry to read since it was introduced to me in the fourth grade. However, my fourth grade teacher didn’t really explain this poetry form in a way that my fourth grade mind could really grasp, so I’ve never felt very accomplished in writing Haiku. In Word Craft, Colleen Chesebro was able to explain the art of this form of poetry in a manner which my aged mind was able to grasp, giving me a much better handle on what I’m trying to do with this form of poetry. Haiku is much more than just putting the right number of syllables in each line. Haiku is written to evoke images and emotion in a succinct way. I was surprised to learn that the syllabic rules for Haiku are not set in stone, and can be varied. Below is a Haiku which I wrote after reading the chapters on this poetry form.

Spring skies let rain pour

Wings stretch, ruffling wet feathers

small Hummingbird preens

While I know poets who write Tanka poetry, which combines poetry and prose,I’ve never understood what they were doing with these poems. Although I can’t say that I’ve mastered the Tanka, I think I do understand it better, but I will need a lot of practice before I write something in Tanka or Tanka prose poem that I feel worthy of sharing.

I also had some experience in writing Hiabun, which is a combination of poetry and prose similar to Tanka Prose Poetry, but I never really understood the purpose of this form of poetry. You would think this would be the easiest form of poetry in this book for me to write, as the inspiration can come from anything and it can be in any point-of-view and any tense that you wish to write in, but I still have a hard time grasping the how of this poetry form. Fortunately, Colleen Chesebro includes many examples of each poetry style and I have no doubt that, with patience and practice I will eventually get a handle on the Haibun.

Forms of Japanese poetry that I wasn’t familiar with in this book include Senryu, which is similar in form to a Hiaku but differs in subject matter; Haiga, which uses either Haiku or Senryu and combines three art forms, imagry, poetry and calligraphy; and Gogyohka, which is based on the Tanka, but you do not count syllables, with one phrase to a line and a line-break after each breath. I found the Renga, which is design to be written by two poets, interactively, , kind of like a poetic conversation, to be in intriguing poetry form.

This is my first attempt at a Senryu poem.

Hot tea steams

on chill summer morn

wake up call

For me, the forms of American syllabic poetry were more difficult, perhaps because they tend to be longer. In the second portion of the book, Sally Cronin includes explanation and instruction and examples for Cinquains of all types, Etherees, Nonets, and Shadormas. I made several unsuccessful attempts at the basic types of each of these poetry forms, but they are much harder than they look. My hat is off to Cronin and anyone else that can meld their syllables with seeming ease.

I took a challenge on Teagan Riordain Genevieve’s blog and for that I wrote a Shadorma poem, which I published here, on Writing to be Read. You can see my example of a Shadorma here, but I don’t know if it is any good. It really was harder than I thought it would be.

If you like syllabic poetry, either Japanese or American, and would like to try your hand at it, I highly recommend the instruction of Word Craft: Prose & Poetry, by Sally Cronin. This book introduced me to new forms, as well as delving deeper into forms I was familiar with. I give it five quills.

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Review in Practice – Slushpile Memories: How Not to Get Rejected

Slush Pile Memories: How Not to Get Rejected

Introducing a new blog series

For those of you that don’t know, I am currently embarked on a journey to earn my masters degree in publishing at Western State Colorado University. Some of you may know this because I mentioned it when I posted the submission guidelines for the Mirror, Mirror anthology that we are putting together for our class thesis project. I was really excited about sharing this paid writing opportunity with all of you and I hope many of you will craft out a story that fits the guidelines and submit it. I was recently reminded that the submission deadline is just two weeks away, so get those stories in.

With work and school and trying to write, I’ve been struggling just to get my Monday blog post out. I’ve been blogging here on Writing to be Read since 2010 and it is important to me and hopefully to my readers, so I can justify feeling a need not to drop the ball here even though I’m extremely busy. My solution, which I thought was rather smart, was to create a new blog series, “Review in Practice”, where you can join me through book reviews that reflect lessons taken from books I read as I work to improve my craft and learn the publishing industry. In this way, the books I need to read in order to learn and improve will do double duty as I share them with you here. These reviews will offer my opinion of the book, and also tell you about my experience with it and share what I have learned. I do hope you will join me.

My Review

Reading Slush Pile Memories: How Not to Get Rejected, by New York Times Bestselling author, Kevin J. Anderson helped to prepare me for the onslaught that is already flooding the submissions box, because it offered me a better idea of what lay ahead. But, this book was written for authors, to give them an idea of what editors are looking for and improve the chances that your submission will read and accepted. It is a brief book, which doesn’t take long to read and the lessons contained within could prove invaluable. As I have begun working my own way through this year’s slush pile, I’ve already learned that the experiences contained within Slush Pile Memories: How Not to Get Rejected is spot on.

Of course there’s never any guarantees of acceptance, but there are ways to increase the odds. Kevin J. Anderson relates his own experiences from the last two anthologies the graduate publishing program at Western put together. (Yes, he is really my professor. How cool is that?) If you are thinking of submitting a story to Mirror, Mirror or any other anthology, Slush Pile Memories: How Not to Get Rejected is a must read. I give it five quills.

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