Thursday, October 30, 2014

Set Up Your Mail List With Mail Chimp

I've been a little slow getting started with this mail list thing, and I could kick myself for it now. Every piece of advice I've ever read about being an indie author says you need a mailing list. Today, I'm over two years into the game, have sold close to twenty-thousand books, and given away twice that many. Think of all the fans I turned away.

To be honest, I tried to set up a mail list several times, and decided it was just too hard. I didn't understand how to do it, so I kept putting it off. I could always justify it. Sales were good. People were buying my books, sometimes by the boatload. Why would I ever need a list?

Well, over the last two weeks I discovered one reason I need a list - what goes up, also goes down. My sales have been disheartening, not terrible - but definitely trending downward. I've run a number of Kindle Countdown Deals, and done some free giveaways, but they haven't been as effective as usual. I suspect part of that is the time of the year. October is horrible for retail sales, and books are the same. They normally pick up by the first or second week of November.

The thing is, if I had heeded the advice to build a list, I could have done some targeted marketing to level out my sales.

That's the problem.

Here's the solution. 

I set up a list management account with Mail Chimp, and added links to all of my books, and to both of my blogs. My goal for the next year is to move from zero to a minimum of twenty-five hundred subscribers for my mail list. To do that, I'm going to concentrate on doing more free giveaways instead of using Countdown Deals to drive sales. I'm also thinking about offering several of my books as perma free to give readers a free entry point into my works.


Here's a quick tutorial on how to create a mail list sign up form using Mail Chimp.

To create your mail list from the Mail Chimp dashboard, select Create-a-list and follow the prompts.

After you have your list set up it's time to create your sign up form. Mail Chimp makes it easy to design a fancy form to entice readers to sign up, or you can go with something Plain Jane. The choice is entirely up to you. 

I created the list header above in about five minutes using Microsoft Paint. I shrunk the book covers down to 175 x 116 pixels, and tiled them across a rectangle sized 700 x 600 pixels. I used the line tool to draw the lines above and below the books and typed my text into the space below the covers. Alternatively, you could pay someone on Fiverr and let them design something really fancy.

Here's a screen shot of the actual signup form. It's easy to customize, too. You can easily add or delete fields for the information you want to collect. Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for readers to sign up. The more information you ask for, the more people are going to decide it's not worth it. My advice is to ask for the email address and first name. It's the path of least resistance.

If you look where it says Grouping 11725, you can see the different categories. By doing this readers can choose what they want to be notified about. Readers interested in only my ecommerce or history books can choose just those categories. When I send out offers about my self-publishing books or political humor works they won't be bothered. 

You could create several different lists or signup forms, but this makes it easier to manage your lists.

There are also several options available to embed forms on your blog or website, integrate with a Word Press blog, or create a form to use on Facebook. 

To include a link in your book, add the signup form URL to the front or back matter of your book. here's how I do it.

Want to know about Nick’s new book releases? Join our mailing list.

Interested in being notified when Nick releases his next book? Click here to join our mailing list. We promise not to send any spam, or unwanted emails.  The only thing you will receive is news about Nick’s new book releases, and occasional specials we are offering.

If you don't do anymore than this, you should be able to build a good sized mail list over time just from reader signups.

Another option is to include the signup form on your blog. Select the Embedded Forms option from the Mail Chimp menu. Choose the fields you want to include on your sign-up form, and copy the embed code. Paste the code where you want to embed the signup form on your blog. That's all there is to it. If you have a Word Press blog use the Integrated Forms option to include a signup form on your blog.

There are also options to add signup forms for you Facebook page or for tablets. I haven't experimented with them yet so we'll have to save them for another post.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: 33 Success Habits by Steve Scott and Rebecca Livermore

Another home run for Steve Scott.

The Daily Entrepreneur gives readers 33 specific steps to become more successful The book is broken down into five sections.

1. Failing to achieve professional goals
2. Not getting things done
3. Increasing competition
4. Poor business relationships
5. Stress and burnout

Numbers three and four hit my current weak points, so that's what I intend to concentrate on now. You can do the same thing. Read the entire book, pick one or two sections where you need the most help, and work on those.

To give you an idea of the practical advice you're going to learn, I'm going to focus on section 3 - Increasing competition. Here are the subtopics the book touches on -

1. Maximize dead time

When you're busy or under attack, it's often hard to find time to do things. But, if you look at it carefully - most of us have slow periods in our schedule where we can attack new projects or learn things.

2. Read 30 minutes a day

Reading is one of the best ways to learn new things and keep up with developments in your field. It can be as simple as reading magazines, newspapers, books in or out of your field, or even listening to audio books. If you don't set aside time to read, you're not going to be able to keep up with what's happening in your business field.

3. Develop new skills

Take time out to learn new things. If you're an author, learn HTML programming or how to format your books. Take a community college or graduate class about something you've always been interested in. You never know what information can be helpful, or how you'll be able to use it. I recently took two graduate history classes, and they paid off in a way I never expected. They helped me develop topics for several new books I will be writing soon.

4. Capture ideas

It's great to learn new things, but to make sure you can act on them, you need to find a way to save them. Write them down. Record them. Do whatever it takes to save and manage ideas.

Overall, the book has lots of great advice that you can easily implement to be more successful.

You won't be disappointed.

Book Review: Shoot Your Novel: Cinematic Techniques to Supercharge Your Writing

I gotta admit, I really liked this book. It took about two hours to read, but the payoff should be huge.

Here's the main takeaway for writers: approach your writing like a cinematographer. Plan every scene in your book and choose a camera angle (perspective) to tell your story from. 

The author explains some different camera shots directors use, then goes on to explain how and when to use them. She also provides numerous examples of the camera angles as used in books and movies.

By knowing the key moment and how your plot builds it, you can plan the camera angles to best enhance the visual experience and evoke the strongest emotional reaction from your reader.

 The idea behind the book makes sense. If writers want to be successful, they should study Hollywood blockbusters. Good movies don't just happen. They're planned. They're edited to show exactly what the director wants viewers to see. 

I don't want to give away the farm, so I'm only going to discuss a few camera shots.

One of these is the establishing shot. It occurs at the beginning of the movie, and when you are switching scenes. It establishes the locale or gives viewers (readers) a frame of reference for the new scene. The establishing scene can be very brief, or it can take several minutes. It is important because it gives readers a context for what is going to happen. If you leave the establishing scene out, you risk confusing your readers.

Another important scene is the close-up. In the author's words...

...small close-up details can help make the scene come alive. Sensory details (touch, taste, sounds, sights, smells) are the most effective ways to make a scene come alive in the reader's mind.

If you want to do just one thing to help draw readers into your story, focus on adding several sensory loaded close-up scenes. If you're not sure how to do it, download some erotica stories. These authors understand the art of close-up, and how to involve your senses.

The final chapters help tie everything together, showing how to use the different camera angles in your writing.

If you want to bring your books to life - buy this book. Highlight it. Read it often. Practice telling your story using different camera angles.

Well worth the investment.