December 18, 2019

5 Self-Published Problems Hurting Your Sales

You've done it. Your book is live. You spammed everyone you know and still, the numbers just aren't rolling in the way you hoped. 

1. Horrible Cover

You don't have to pay someone to do it for you, but you should at least spend a little more time than just uploading a single image of a tree and slapping your name on the front with the Create Space tool. The formats and fonts are easily recognizable which makes you look either lazy, Indie, or both (we shouldn't be able to see your book and instantly know you self-published it). In most genres, there's still hesitation for the average reader to take a chance on something self-published. The caveat here is that if you're writing for a niche market, you can make it as gloriously horrible as the genre conventions allow (for instance, Pulp and Romance... which is basically pulp for women). Simply put, your book needs a cover that fits with the genre and mood of the book. Don't put a puppy frolicking through a field of flowers for your Slasher Horror. And remember, the more professional your book looks, the more likely I am to click on it and read the blurb, bringing you one step closer to a sale.

2. Awful Blurb. 

The most common problem I see in Indie blurbs are that they give away too much (don't tell me the ending!) I don't need to know all of the characters yet, just give me the gist. Tell us who the MC is or if there's more than one, say it's about a village, family, band of pirates etc. Another common problem (though less irritating than a prattling blurb) are blurbs that don't tell me enough. Yes, it's a space opera with a nice cover but ... who/what's it about? You really need to ask yourself: What should I expect going in? Why should I care about your book in particular? There are dozens of others in your genre that I could read instead. Why should I spend my money on yours instead of your competitors? And if that still doesn't help, consider using a formulaic framework like this chart on BetterNovelProject. 

My biggest pet peeve by far is when an excerpt is lazily copy-pasted in the description box. That's not a description of the product. It's like if you asked me to explain something and rather than doing that, I just hand you the very thing you're confused about. It's really not helpful at all. Please resist the urge. Trust me, if I want to read an excerpt I'll click to look inside.

Use proper grammar. Consider hiring a proofreader. Typos in your book are one thing (we all make mistakes), but there's no excuse for a typo in the description because you can easily log back in and correct it. If you leave it there, I'm going to assume you're unprofessional and your book is poorly written. Seriously, though ... read it out loud and triple-check that grammar. Liberty can be taken in fiction, but your blurb is not fiction. It is a description of your fiction. Don't confuse the two. USE PROPER GRAMMAR!

3. Bad Bio

This could be something impersonal, like neglecting to even fill this out which makes me wonder if the author exists at all or just gets ghostwriters to do all the work for them. It could also be giving away too much information about yourself. While it's customary to say you live with your family, we don't need to know their names, ages, birth order, or their favorite colors. It's a little weird. That has nothing to do with you or your ability to write. The bio is your place to give us just a brief glimpse into your life. BRIEF! It's not your dating profile. Keep it professional, clean, lightly playful (based on your genre), and no longer than a hundred words. Fifty is more ideal. Let us know where you've published before and where we can go to follow you on social media or get more information about your other published works (assuming you have any).

4. Ridiculous Title

Again, there are exceptions (such as intentionally cheesy pulp and niche books), but generally speaking, you shouldn't use a ridiculous title. If you do, I'm more likely to keep scrolling than to click on the book, let alone buy it. Unless you're in comedy or nonfiction, the title should be short enough that any reader can easily remember it. There's a reason why the Three Word Title is a thing. It works. That's not to say you have to limit yourself to three words, but don't go crazy. Another thing to avoid is trite phrases that already have a dozen books by that name. Try to be a little original. If you're not, the reader will likely assume that your writing is as lazy and unoriginal as your title. Personally, titles are less of a deal-breaker for me than the other factors I've mentioned, but it still plays a role in how I judge your book and whether or not I'll buy it.

5. No Reviews 

Now, before you protest, and say that's not fair of me, I'm not expecting a ton of reviews, but it is nice to know that at least one other person has enough confidence in you to buy, read, and review it. I'm not a fan of the notion that all new writers need to give away their work for free, but you might find the occasional free promotion is just the thing you need to get the word out and build a bit of hype. (Side note: If it's always free, you lose the ability to run a promotional sale, something to consider before you take the plunge into permafree territory.)

The reality is, you're going to have to work for your reviews. That might mean exchanging book reviews with someone in your genre, running a reduced price (or free) promotion, or a charity promotion (donating all of the royalty money received to a cause related to the book) ... you get the point. Having friends that read is one thing, but having friends that review is another. Make sure you understand the difference between the two. There's a little thing called ARC'S (advanced reader copies) which you can give your friends and reading/writing buddies for FREE in exchange for an honest review when the story goes live on Amazon. It really is that simple. You lose out on a few sales, but establish yourself as professional. If you've self-published, you should try this.

These are really just the tip of the iceberg. There may be lots of reasons why your self-published book isn't flying off the shelves (low demand in your genre, a bad reputation, truly horrible writing, poor marketing, an ancient curse, or even just bad timing). Basically, if your book is already live and it's just sitting there rotting like a dead fish, the stench of it is going to keep your target audience from ever considering it. The first part of every online book sale requires a quick browse through and the five things above are often deal breakers for people who might have otherwise enjoyed your writing. You need to get your product in front of the right people, and once they have a look, keep their attention long enough to make a sale.

Obviously, there's a lot more that goes into marketing and sales, but if your self-published book has been a flop, consider giving these a closer look.  

December 27, 2017

Mental Health in Fiction and Why it Matters

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In my article 5 Things You Need to Know About Writing Multi-ethnic and Bi-racial Characters,  I discussed the importance of diversity and representation in fiction. Lately, I've been itching to write an updated version concerning the representation of mental health in books, television, and the media. While we've made massive strides in Mental Health Awareness in recent years, the American culture is still very much lacking in sensitivity on the subject. 

Not long ago, I posted a chapter of my latest novel draft for critique (which basically means swapping opinions and tips with one another). To put the whole thing into context, the main character in my book is in prison for murder. One of the people critiquing my story messaged me with the suggestion that I should make him "crazier" because that would explain to the audience why he was a criminal. This is so wrong on so many levels. Having a villain's motives be "she's crazy" is not only really bad writing, it's an incredibly harmful worldview which equates morality with being Neurotypical. I will continue to write characters with Anxiety and Depression, but I refuse to sensationalize mental illness and misrepresent both the illness and the people who have it. I highly encourage others to do the same.

I'd like to take a moment to commend 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and The Pact by Jodi Picoult for doing just this. In both books, teenage suicide plays a prominent role in the plot, without either glorifying or exploiting the situation to create controversy. Both show mentally unstable young women who do have other options but choose to take their own lives for a combination of complex reasons including depression and as a way of seeking a short-sighted solution to a potentially long-term problem. Perhaps most importantly, the books both show how much damage is left behind because of the character's choices. That, in my opinion, is the best way to handle such a difficult subject. With compassion. Pure sympathy and compassion for the victim and the family alike. 

Mental health is not something to be embarrassed about. Whether its suicidal thoughts or panic attacks, we all know somebody that struggles. We must work together as a society to break down the stigmas with realistic representations of mental health in fiction—most importantly, we must do it without exploiting the very people we choose to represent. It is our responsibility as basic human beings to not only aware but also compassionate about it.  

I'm always on the lookout for more books to read so if you have a recommendation, leave it in the comments section below. Don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter for more information about new releases and giveaways. Also, follow me on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook

December 8, 2017

3 Netflix Shows For Your Weekend TV Binge

Whether you're cooped up inside because of the blazing fires and poor air quality, or chilly winter weather, it's nice to set aside some personal time to take it slow and spend some time curled up with a blanket and your remote. If you're looking for something to watch, try one of these and get your Netflix and Chill on.   

Stranger Things 

I love shows and movies in a historical setting so for me this recommendation is a no-brainer. In a small town in the 1980's, a group of outcast friends grapples with the disappearance of their bestie, Will Byers, and supernatural horror of epic proportions. I originally gave it a pass because it looked cheesy, but my partner convinced me to give it a try and I was instantly hooked. The first season relies on a few eye-roll worthy teen tropes (perhaps more accurately, throwbacks to 80's coming of age film). The second season shifts things around, giving us more unique character development and arcs. Suspenseful, but not too dark for several back to back episodes... It's hard for me to imagine what the target audience is as it seems to have a little something for everyone. If you haven't given it a try yet, you're missing out.  


This show is the brilliant love child of House of Cards, Bourne Identity, and La Reina Del Sur. It often feels more like American film than the average telenovela, which is really neat to see if you love drama and are tired of bad acting. If you watch international television, you probably recognize the esteemed Kate del Castillo for her hit roles in Latin television, otherwise, you may recognize her as the voice of La Muerte in The Book of Life, or for her appearances in CW's Jane the Virgin. Kate is spectacular as the First Lady of Mexico who is on the run after she is framed for her husband's murder. Just a fair warning, it definitely deserves the Mature rating. There's graphic sexual content (both straight and LGBTQ) and (of course) loads of violence and language. The show is in Spanish (which is how I recommend you watch it), but if you're not bilingual or you hate subtitles there is an English dubbing available as well.

Zumbo's Just Desserts 

This may seem like a strange recommendation, but I absolutely LOVE binging cooking shows. Zumbo's Just Desserts was a pleasant little gem and I loved every second of it. Unlike American cooking shows, most of the participants are ordinary people (not pretentious professionally trained chefs) attempting to create extraordinary dishes. As the name suggests, the entire show revolves around desserts.  If you plan on watching this with children, keep in mind that it is rated Mature (for language) - there were a few F-bombs and some minor coarse language throughout. My sisters and I watched the whole series in about a week, each rooting for our favorite Aussie. It's a fun show that embraces the spirit of competition without glorifying a cut-throat or hateful spirit that so many of our competition shows in the US are guilty of.  

What are your Netflix recommendations?