Thursday, December 18, 2014

Building An Online Author Following

Dear Fellow Writer,

Thank you for being a subscriber. You make my heart soar!

My cat is currently very keen to show me that she's far more important than any silly keyboard. Apologies if typing through and around her causes typos!

Keep writing!

Building an Online Author Following
Social Media for Writers
A commercially oriented author cares about his or her readers.

An aspiring author, therefore, must take great care over his or her blogs, tweets, media posts and, indeed, all online correspondence, including personal emails.

Plus, your online persona must reflect the kind of author you're going to be. When composing any kind of online message, make sure you ask yourself, Am I being professional?

 Your Social Networking Strategy

As an online author, your first job is to build a basic fan base. This will not represent everyone who will eventually buy your book - but you will need at least a small following to kick-start your sales on Amazon.

I recommend that you spend at least six months to a year building a list of targeted subscribers before you release your first Kindle book. Or, if you've already released one or two and you're not seeing the results you want, you should take time out (say two or three months) to build your list and make them at least curious about your next book.

During your list-building period, you need to focus on:

            1. Familiarizing your growing list with your author persona

            2. Optimizing your messages for maximum impact

            3. Building anticipation for your books

1. Familiarization

Within your blogs you need to talk about yourself and your work without seeming self obsessed. It's a delicate balancing act. Offer insight in to your life, your values and your writing but focus on the reader's needs and issues.

Many new writers fall into the trap of believing that every great insight they have into their own creativity will be fascinating to others. As a writer, you need to balance information about yourself with details of what you write about - that's the angle that people prefer.

How you got from one place to another, giving specific examples of why your characters are this way or that, for instance - or why you've set your story in a particular place - or why you write in a particular genre rather than another.

It's perfectly okay to mention your interests and influences. To give people perspective. Also, what you think about other writers and movies and such can reveal your values and your philosophies. Honesty is paramount. People need to see that your values reflect your creative output. That there is a cohesive whole to you, the person, the writer, and what you write about.

Be yourself. Be fun, light, approachable and sincere, without focussing on weird hang-ups or suspect issues lurking in the back of your personality.

Don't speak with an agenda - or use your blog as a platform for religious, political or social issues. You'll get typecast as a nut job.

Most especially, take special care over your writing. You must ensure that people are aware you are committed to quality.

Even in your emails, your tweets, your FB and G+ posts, your spelling and grammar must be perfect. It's one of the downsides of being taken seriously as a writer: you can't be sloppy ever again!

 2. Optimization

Your reputation spreads quickly - and your friend requests increase - if your articles, blogs, and posts are focused squarely on your audience.

The nebulous term 'value' is bandied when it comes to Internet content. Before composing a post, ask yourself, how useful will this information be to a reader? And in what way?

Does your blog make your writing and your stories seem more attractive? Will your readers feel that reading your stories will be entertaining and worth their while?

Focus on providing entertainment, in much the same way as columnists do in newspapers. Many journalists aspire to be columnists because it's a genre in which their personality is allowed to shine through the topics they write about. 
Columnists often have large fan bases for this reason.

Try to involve your readers. Invite their comments. Ask for 'likes', encourage them to +1 a message or forward it to their friends. Run surveys. Offer gifts if you want. Do anything and everything you can think of to cause a positive reaction and to engender a sense of community around yourself and your books.

 3. Building Anticipation

Mention your current and upcoming works in a casual way whenever it seems appropriate but don't bore your readers. Be passionate about being a writer.
In the tradition of back blurbs you can hint at the intrigue in your next novel.

Give timelines to your output. Tell people when they can expect a new book or how you're doing with a current project. Casually mention awards or accolades or positive feedback. All this helps cement your reputation in the eyes of your potential reader.

There used to be a time when you could visit forums and pump up your books but these are few and far between these days - and often forum webmasters ban and forbid self promotion.

Even Amazon's author forum forbids self promotion!

But there is a place you can go that actively encourages news from authors…


The great thing about is that it's not currently swamped with authors. At the last survey, at least 80% of goodreads' members were actual bona fide readers.

If you haven't done so already, join Goodreads, make lots of friends and start reviewing books. Remember to focus on the type of books your author persona will write. This is important because it will link your own books to similar categories.

 You can link your blog to your Goodreads author page and you can upload all kinds of things to this great site. I heartily recommend it - and I'll see you there!

 A Word on Gathering Friends

You need to be careful these days when gathering 'friends' on social network sites. The temptation is to go all out and click on everything that allows you to connect and collect names.

 However, the big social media sites have cottoned on to the fact that people like us, writers and marketers, will use social marketing to grow the largest lists of friends and contacts that we can. Of course we will.

 Facebook has put a limit of 5000 on 'friends', because they assume it's impossible for anyone to know that many people.

 Twitter only lets you follow 2000 people - unless you have more than that following you.

 There are all kinds of arbitrary rules put in place by social sites to stop people using them as glorified marketing forums - even though the same sites are often eager for your paid adverts.

 Be careful when you're acquiring friends and connections that you don't spend all day doing it as the social sites' computers pick up on so-called 'unnatural' activity and you can find yourself banned or your services restricted.

 Best to let your lists grow naturally with a little 'push' a couple of times a week. And by a 'push' I mean 5 to 20 friend requests at a time on each of your social sites.

 In case you're feeling a little intimidated by social networking, I should add a caveat.

 That is, despite all the hype you hear, social marketing is not a great way to sell books.

 Don't imagine that unless you have a big list you can't compete on Amazon. That's not how it works.

 The size of a mailing list is no guarantee of its effectiveness. It's the quality of your subscribers and how you interact with them that is far more powerful.

 Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Understanding Amazon - A Writers' Guide

Dear Fellow Writer,

Thank you for making this a fun and memorable week for me.

The Easy Way to Get Rich reached #1 and was sitting alongside Anthony Robbins, Steve Harvey and The Four Agreements in the self-help chart for a few days. That made me feel all gooey inside - to be on the same page as the giants was most humbling.

Not only that, you were kind enough to get Purge - my new thriller - into the Crime Fiction chart too. Actually above Lee Child for a couple of days! Now, 
along with the two five-star reviews so far, 
that's truly amazing.

The Easy Way to Get RichPurge by Rob Parnell

Keep writing!

Understanding Amazon
Understanding Amazon

Before you begin your next novel you must conduct some crucial research. 

Go to Amazon and deliberately study the bestselling books and their categories. Do this before you make a final decision about your genre, plot, even your characters.

Whilst researching Amazon book pages, you need to take careful note of the following four elements:

               1. The book cover
               2. The book description
               3. The Amazon bestsellers rank
               4. The customer reviews

The Cover

The cover is, of course, the window the reader first sees into your fictional world. At this stage you need only mentally file away what bestselling covers look like. The idea that you can't judge a book by its cover is a silly misnomer because that's exactly what people do. 

The bestselling books on Amazon generally have the best covers, simple as that.

Start thinking about the kind of cover you'd like on your book. Take screenshots or save the covers you like. Take note of the FONT used on bestsellers and the type of images, more especially the layout and color use. Determine to copy what’s doing the best on Amazon.

Publishers spend a lot of money designing great covers. You don't need to be a genius to work out why.

Self-publishers most often spend very little on their covers - with predictable results.

The Book Description

Study the book descriptions for the bestselling books. They're always sharp and to the point. They get you into the main facts of the story quickly with short sentences that focus on character arc starting points, location, and the book’s overall theme. They then introduce the obstacles facing the protagonists and hint at the unfolding drama.

Amazon gives you around 800 words for your book description - and smart authors use all of them. Even smarter authors put a good positive review from a celebrity just beneath the opening paragraph of their book description.

As an exercise, right now, before you even start writing your next book, write its Amazon book description. This is a great way to see, right from the get-go, whether your novel idea has any serious mileage.

Ask yourself: 

Does your book description make your novel sound like a compelling read? 

Are the characters distinctive enough? 

Is there enough going on in the story? 

People like fast-paced stories with lots of action and plot twists these days. 

In your next magnum opus, is there enough of a story arc to make for a satisfying read? 

Will you be relying too heavily on your writing style to carry the book idea? 

Would anyone outside of your immediate friends and family actually want to read your book?

These are tough questions to answer honestly. But a little soul searching now - and some objective reasoning - could save a lot of time and heartache later on.

I mean, really, what's the point of writing a novel that people are unlikely to read?

We all do it sometimes. We fall in love with our stories without questioning whether they have any long term merit. 

That's called self-indulgence by the way.

Even traditional publishers say that at least 90% of book manuscripts fall into the category of self-indulgence - with no real effort or thought put into a potentially wide readership.

When you're writing to support yourself in the future, book sales become imperative to your existence. So knowing exactly what you're doing first - before you start your career - is therefore crucial to your success.

By the way - while you're researching - it might be a good idea to type in your own planned book title. Just to see if anyone else has already used it. Do the same on Google too.  

It's rare that someone hasn't already thought of your title - but knowing is better than not.

The Amazon Bestseller Rank

This little number tells you much more than most authors want you to know!

It's just a case of understanding the numbers.

If the rank is below 3,000, (as in number 1 to 2999), the book is a bestseller and selling at least 50 to 100+ copies a day. Top ten sellers may shift 1000 to 5000+ a day.

Above 3,000 to 30,000, the book is selling between 5 and 50 a day. 

Above 30,000 to 300,000 and the book is selling between 1 and 5 a day.

Above 300,000 to 900,000 and the book is selling perhaps 1 a week, to as low as 1 a month.

Above 900,000 and the book has pretty much stopped selling.

Of course these are only rough figures and a book with a high number (that is: furthest away from 1) can also have sold a lot in the past but just isn't selling many now.

Plus, when a book is first released - and climbing the chart, the number can look deceptively low or high for short periods - because the chart is updated hourly.

You can immediately see that you don't need to sell that many books - say around 500 in a short space of time - to reach the top 100 Amazon books. And it's often the momentum of book sales - and an author's entire catalog working together - that can propel the book sales of all of the writer's books into apparent bestsellerdom.

This is because, when Amazon's robots see a book selling well, they will begin to promote it alongside other bestsellers - which increases your sales and pushes your book ever higher up the chart.

Customer Reviews

It's often said that the more reviews you have the better your book will do. 

Whilst this may be true in the long term, it's not always the case during the launch period, by which I mean the first month or so of your book's release.

It's more than possible to create a bestseller with only one to five reviews (not all of them rave) if your fans are buying the book simply because it's been released.

However, positive reviews are a good indicator for the reader as to the quality of its contents. Mainly because if the book is hastily written, badly formatted, and poorly edited, Amazon reviewers take great delight in pointing this out to people - as quickly as possible!

From an author's viewpoint, it’s good to study other people's reviews to understand what it is about books that people like or don't like. For instance I've noticed that some very long, well-written books get panned by reviewers for being dull and pointless. But other short, snappy books with clear objectives and popular themes tend to get rave reviews.

It’s interesting to note what is considered good and bad writing by readers. It's often not what your average writing teacher would want you to believe!

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell



The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!