This is a guest post by Kindle Marketing Jedi, Dave Chesson. I'm thrilled to have him on SmartAuthorsLab and highly recommend you grab a cuppa and settle down to absorb everything he has to say - Dave knows his stuff!
The standard way of doing things rarely produces the best results.
Self-publishing is no exception. Like most creative pursuits, those who do average things, in an average way, are doomed to get average results.
As ever, it’s the innovators and original thinkers who tend to prosper. Writers who are prepared to reject the default way of working and seek out something better.
Often, the upgrades we make to our writing and publishing process result from trial and error. We do things in a less than optimal way until our frustration eventually builds up to the point where we have to make a change.
To my mind, smart authors are those who proactively seek out the best and most effective way of doing things. I’d like to share with you four of the most beneficial upgrades I made as an author in the hope they improve your own way of working.
1. Collaborate in the cloud
Have you ever worked really hard on a writing project, only to lose your progress due to a technical error or crash? Ever lost a phone or laptop with valuable files on?
There are few things more frustrating for a writer than witnessing your hard work amount to nothing due to a technical error. While we may be able to remember the gist of what we lost, we can never be sure of capturing the true spirit of our original work.
By writing directly in the cloud, or ensuring the device you write on syncs with a cloud backup system, you eliminate the risk of losing your work due to a crashed or lost laptop.
Another advantage to working in the cloud is painless collaboration. If you’ve ever experienced the tedium of emailing new versions of a file back and forth, you know the frustrations and inefficiencies that can occur.
Cloud collaboration instead allows you and your co-creators to work on a single version of a file. All of the changes, and the person who made them, are clearly displayed, so there is never any doubt about which version of a document is current.
Some of the best options for writers wishing to collaborate in the cloud include:
- Google Drive. Offers a large amount of free storage, an intuitive layout and full compatibility with everything Google has to offer, such as Gmail and Docs. Google Drive also integrates nicely with a wide range of third party apps.
- Dropbox. Is more expensive and arguably more limited than Google Drive, but could be a good choice for writers accustomed to Dropbox with a lot of content already on the service.
- Penflip. Penflip is a cloud based writing solution and collab tool. It allows you to invite members of the Penflip community to collab with you. All of the edits and changes to your work are clearly stated, and it’s easy to revert back to an earlier version. Requires a monthly subscription fee.
If you haven’t already made the switch, you really should consider making your writing process cloud based. Doing so protects your valuable work and makes it a breeze to collaborate with those that bring out the best in you.
2. Manage your projects like a pro
Self-publishing is a complex process requiring a lot of different skillsets, or at least enough knowledge of them to outsource appropriately.
So much needs to happen before, during and even after a book’s publication. Keeping track of it all is tricky even for experienced authors, let alone newcomers.
There is often very little room for error in the project management side of your publishing. A delay in one part of the process can have a serious domino effect on your entire project.
Miss a book cover creation deadline? There goes all of the advanced promotion you scheduled! Didn’t contact your advanced reader team with enough notice? Your carefully thought out review plan for launch just went out the window! Not to mention having enough time for marketing even if it all goes to plan.
Thankfully, a number of awesome tools exist to make the project management side of publishing a lot easier than it would be otherwise. Your options include:
- Google Calendar. Fairly basic but often enough to get the job done. Particularly useful if you work and collaborate on Google. A no-frills option for keeping track of tasks and meeting deadlines.
- Trello. This is my personal favourite option. Trello makes it easy to create project boards. These allow you to keep track of all of the tasks needed to move your project forward, who is responsible for them, and the dates they must be completed by. Trello is super intuitive to use and syncs perfectly between desktop and mobile.
No matter your choice of tool, it’s vital to have a system in place for managing your self-publishing projects. There are just too many moving parts with potentially serious knock on effects to risk anything slipping through the cracks.
3. Write better books with a specialist app
I’m fully aware that many writers are ferociously loyal to their chosen method of writing. Any suggestion to change it is treated as taboo and rejected outright. However, hear me out!
Imagine for a moment that you needed to hire a graphic designer. Perhaps to design your next book cover. How would you feel if the artist cheerily informed you they would be using Microsoft Paint for your work? Probably less than thrilled.
However, many writers use equally basic and inappropriate tools for professional work. While it’s possible to write an epic novel using nothing but MS Word, or even a physical notepad and pencil, it’s often not the best way.
It’s worth considering whether specialised novel writing software or book writing software would benefit your writing process. Some of the major reasons for making the switch to a specialist option include:
- Better organisational capabilities. Using Word or Docs, it can be a pain to rearrange or rework your book’s structure. Specialist writing apps make it as easy as drag and drop.
- Designed specifically with authors in mind. While MS Word is purposefully bland and suited to almost any form of writing, it was never designed with pro authors in mind. Specialist writing tools are either designed by or for authors, so all of the functionality is directly relevant to your work.
- Project stats and tracking. If you’re working to a deadline, specialist writing apps make it a breeze to set writing targets and monitor your progress.
- A better working environment. Rather than switching between your research folders and word processor software, many writing tools will let you store all of the material you will be making use of in the same environment you write in. This allows you to go offline, stay in a single software environment and produce deep, focused work.
It’s worth carefully considering the best writing software for your own needs and situation. You should never upgrade for the sake of it. Instead, only take the time to learn a new piece of software if you stand to experience clear benefits by doing so.
Two of my personal picks for specialist writing tools include:
- Scrivener. Scrivener is very much the heavyweight champion of the writing software world. It has an astounding array of features, including storyboarding, outlining, storing all of your research within the app, specialist novel templates, a full screen composition mode for zen-like focus, and that’s hardly scratching the surface! Scrivener is available for Mac, Windows, and iOS. You pay a one-off price for Scrivener after a fully functional free trial to decide whether it’s a good option for your work.
- Ywriter. Ywriter is a specialist writing tool for authors using Windows. It has a lot in common with Scrivener but is totally free. While Ywriter doesn’t quite have the same level of functionality as Scrivener, it still is a lot better for organisation and planning than a standard software like Word. Ywriter was created directly by an author for fellow authors, and its features are all directly useful for pro writers as a result.
While it can feel annoying to make the switch to a specialist writing app, it usually pays off in the long run. Any time spent learning the new software is likely to be saved many times over by the superior organisational and creative environment offered by the specialist tool.
4. Market properly with streamlined promotion
For many authors, the real grind begins after hitting publish and watching their book make its way into the big wide world.
Finding the most effective way to promote your work to the right readers through the most appropriate channels is an artform in and of itself.
In a nutshell, book marketing comes down to getting your work in front of readers who will benefit from it. Simple, right? If only!
To promote your book properly, you need to have a full, unbiased perspective on your own work. You need to know its purpose and its intended audience. You need to know why your book is the right choice over other options. Only then can you set about introducing it to the right people.
For many new book marketers, the temptation to dabble in as many marketing methods as possible is difficult to resist. This is understandable. It’s so hard to know exactly which book marketing methods will bear fruit, so a lot of authors try to check as many off the list as possible.
The problem with this scattergun approach is, more often than not, no one method is pursued fully enough to produce worthwhile results.
Instead, it’s better to go deep with a few tried and tested methods in order to really understand and benefit from them.
Some of the most effective include:
- Advertising on Amazon. There is no better way to spend money on promotion than on Amazon itself. Unlike Google or Facebook ads, Amazon ads directly reach book buyers who are presently spending time in a book buying environment. What could be better?
- Taking a smart approach to social. Instead of setting up profiles on every network under the sun, focus on two or three where you KNOW relevant readers spend time. Facebook and Twitter are two of the best. Don’t spend too much time on these. Instead, make use of a tool like Hootsuite to create and schedule a large batch of content over a period of time. This frees up your mental energy, not to mention time, for other tasks.
- Only using platforms with proven results. Anyone can set up a book promotion site or service and make bold claims. You should always check out a given site’s track record for producing results before spending any time working with it. It’s also important to consider whether a service will be effective for your type of book in particular, or whether it is better suited to other genres or niches.
Even with the above advice in mind, book marketing still involves some trial and error. However, by choosing to focus on a few relevant tactics only, rather than attempting everything under the sun, you stand a far greater chance of seeing real results from your promotional efforts.
What are your personal favourite author upgrades?
If you have ever made a big change to your self-publishing process, and seen real results from doing so, I’d love to hear about it.
Perhaps you know another super effective upgrade that would make authors’ lives a lot easier.
I’m a firm believer that smart authors constantly seek to learn from others and apply this knowledge to their own writing life. Whatever your perspective on author upgrades, feel free to connect with me in the comments.