Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day 83--Is Your Blog Behaving Badly?

How well do you know your blog? I created mine so I thought I knew it pretty well. I was wrong.

My blog has been behaving badly. It is almost three months old and a reader named Wendy pointed out a problem with my comments today. This whole time, my comments have been set so that you have to be a registered user of Google, Typepad, Wordpress, OpenID or others in order to leave one. There was no way for an unregistered or anonymous user to post a comment.

I think this is terrible and it wasn't my intention. I'm a free speech kind of gal. I don't have comment moderation turned on and I don't require my readers to decode unreadable words in order to post their opinion. I apologize to everyone who has tried to leave a comment and failed.

I use Blogger and fixing the problem was simple. I went into my settings, then to comments and I changed "Who Can Comment" from Registered Users to Anyone.

In truth, my blog wasn't behaving badly, it was user error. I am grateful to Wendy for pointing out the problem. We aren't always so lucky. A lot of readers will get frustrated and stop visiting.

If you have a blog or an author blog (or even a website), I recommend doing the following to assess it's useability. First, log out of Blogger or Wordpress, or whatever you use and navigate your site the way an interested reader would. Try the comments, the links, the tabs, basically, take your blog on a test drive.

Secondly, invite a friend over who doesn't read your blog (if such a person exists!!) Ask them to check out the whole thing, leave a comment and contact you via the blog. Don't say a word while they set out to do this. Don't give them any hints about where to click. Just watch. After ten minutes or so, discuss with them the results. An exercise like this should give you invaluable information about any glitches in your blog or website.

My pet peeve with blogs is when I want to contact a blogger directly and I can't find a simple email form. I wrote about how to fix that problem here, EmailMeForm

To Do: Test drive your blog today!

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
author of The Pet Washer
a novel for children aged 8 and up!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Maximizing "Author Central" on Amazon

Are you registered with Amazon's Author Central? I am. Are you maximizing it's potential? I'm not.

I literally learn something new every day. I read an interview with Rachel Abbot, Only The Innocent, today. Not my interview with her, but one she did for someone else. She mentioned in the interview that she used Author Central to edit her product description on Amazon to look more professional.

I've wondered for months how some people get bold and italic fonts in their book descriptions! I assumed they knew HTML or perhaps wizardry. I zipped over to my Author Central profile and figured out what to do. My changes will take 3 to 5 days to show up on my product page.

The Steps
  • Register or Log In to Author Central
  • Add your book (s)
  • Click on the "Books" tab on the blue tool bar at the top of the page
  • Click on the image of your book 
  • Click the edit button by Review to add snippets of your best reviews
  • Click the edit button under Product Description to create a description
  • Format with bold and italics and paragraphs to improve the look of your blurb!
  • Repeat the process for your paperback version
  • You can also add more information under From the Author, From the Back Cover etc.
  • Don't forget to spruce up About the Author while you are at it!
  • Check out my product page for examples of what you can do!

Check out my product page...CLICK

Authors do a lot of hard work to gain visibility. Once people click on your page, that's the time to wow them!

To Do: Pimp your product page today!

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
Author of the Pet Washer series and the Winged Herds series
Fantasy novels for young readers

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ten Secret Weapons in My Indie Arsenal

I am a natural cheerleader for products and services I believe in. I read a post yesterday that said some bloggers are paid to write positive reviews or recommendations. The ethics on this are debatable to some but not to me. I believe it is not ethical to take money in exchange for a biased review. I'm not against monetizing blogs, but not in that way.

Money changes things. Money creates obligation. This is why I love volunteer work but don't enjoy paid jobs. I have always joked to the PTA, "If you pay me, I'll quit!" I'm like a wild horse. I'll come into your corral but you better not shut the gate!

Today I'm going to recap some of my favorite products and services for indie authors. We all know about Twitter and Facebook, right? Today I'm highlighting services I rely on that are less obvious. These glowing reviews are priceless. The services earned my trust by being awesome!

 Ten Secret Weapons in My Indie Arsenal

To Do: Check out these articles and apply them to your book! All services are either free or low-cost.

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
Author of The Pet Washer
a novel for children aged 8 and up!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 80--Interview with Author Pedro L. Alvarez

Today I'm interviewing Pedro L. Alvarez, author of Dragon Fire. Our last names are a coincidence. I am not related to Pedro, nor is my husband's family. All the same, I am honored to host him on my blog. Pedro is an author to watch in the coming years. He's incredibly imaginative, but he's also engaging. Pedro is quick with the re-tweet and understands cross-promotion. I believe he will make valuable connections, write more books and become an important fixture in the author community.   

1. When did you publish your first book and who published it?
My first novel, Dragon Fire, was published January 1st, 2012. I published it independently as an eBook. I am in the process of querying various agents and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. However, the process of self-publishing my work has been extremely rewarding.

2. Who does your book covers? Who does your copy editing and proofreading?
I did all the proofreading and copy editing for Dragon Fire. I shared parts of the book in various draft forms with others who gave me invaluable feedback, but ultimately I did all the editing personally.

Hector J. Coto designed and created the cover for Dragon Fire. He is a very talented artist and graphic designer. He is currently working on a custom cover for the print edition of the novel.

3. Please tell us your top three, most successful book marketing tips.

Marketing is my least favorite part of the self-publishing process. It is hard work and it is continuous. With my novel available only as an eBook at this time, I’ve done all my marketing through online channels, learning what works and doesn’t work as I go.

I found a virtual tour of my novel as yielding big returns. Interviews in blogs like yours are an essential part of the “eTour” because they don’t just put the book in front of potential readers, they give those potential readers insight into the author and the book itself.

A tool that I now use multiple times daily is Twitter. This medium of communication is new to me and I’m slowly learning how to maximize its use through hash tags and frequent tweets.

Lastly, giving away a few copies of the book goes a long way to getting exposure. I have three targeted free promotions and in all three cases, activity of Dragon Fire has increased. This was very helpful after the second week of the book’s release when I had exhausted all those in my circle of friends and family.

4. Do you have an author blog? If so, how do you attract readers? What is your blog's address?

At this time, I do not have an author blog. I am working on a website for Dragon Fire and plan to establish a blog there, but it is not yet ready.

5. If you are on Twitter, how do you get followers and what are your favorite hash tags?

The hash tags I most frequently use are #fantasy, #ebook, and #kindle. I also created one for #DragonFire to associate it with the novel.
Twitter is so organic of a medium, it is difficult, at least for me, to determine where my followers originate. However, forums and writer networking sites are a good way to get the word out about my writing, and Dragon Fire in particular. I suspect that the more exposure the book gets, the more Twitter followers it will attract.

6. Where do you go to request reputable, free reviews?
Networking sites such as World Literary Café (WLC) and individual author blogs are good places to find readers who are willing to provide an honest review. Goodreads is perhaps one of the best places to find reviewers. In some cases, readers have contacted me directly asking if they could review Dragon Fire. In others, readers have written their reviews because they were compelled to do so.
Forums for independent authors, such as those from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), also serve as great means by which authors can connect with readers. I am always happy to provide a complimentary copy of Dragon Fire to readers who are willing to review it on Amazon and Goodreads.

7. What have you done that has successfully increased your online sales?
It is difficult to pinpoint any one activity that has increased sales in and of itself. However, I have found that on the days when I tweet at least twice, activity for Dragon Fire increases for that day. There may not be a direct relationship between the tweets and that day’s sales, but the frequent exposure that Twitter provides certainly does make a difference.

8. What online sites do you prefer to network with authors, publishers, editors or readers?
I visit the Amazon KDP Support Forums frequently. This all being new to me, I find the postings in KDP very helpful. I’ve learned a lot from the experiences of others and I have found many opportunities to promote my book.
The World Literary Café is also an excellent site to network with other authors. Its tagging and liking exchange exposes the Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon pages of my work to a wide audience.

9. What advice would you give aspiring authors about publishing or self-publishing?

Having held on to Dragon Fire for many years before I took the plunge and decided to publish it, my biggest challenge was finally letting go. There comes a time when you know that your work is ready to be shared with the world, and yet you hold it close for fear of so many things.
With sites like Amazon, self-publishing is a relatively painless process. My advice is to go ahead and do it. Let go and share your work with the world. Believe me, the excitement of seeing your book on the Amazon site overshadows any fears you may have had before.

10. What do you think authors should know about book marketing?
Marketing is a lot of work. It is an activity that you must do daily to make sure your book does not lose momentum. You have to put aside some humility and learn to sell your work as the best-seller you know it is.

11. Where do you see writing and publishing going given the success of electronic reading devices?
I think the future of publishing will be a merging of the various media in which “books” can be found today. I foresee buying a hardcover book that comes with a direct tie-in to its electronic form. Perhaps the two are bundled together, where I can scan the barcode on the back cover of the book with my eBook device (e.g. a Kindle) and download the electronic version.
I like the eBook medium because it makes books so much more accessible to readers. When a book is published electronically, one can browse the book, and in many cases read a few chapters, before deciding to buy it. This is good for both the reader and the author. It gives the author a chance to make a more accurate first impression than the traditional print book. If your book can grab the reader in the first chapter then you make a sale right there and then. In the traditional book store setting, your cover and back cover descriptions are the only first impressions you can make.

12. What projects are you working on now? Please describe.
I have two other novels in the works, of a different genre. One is a police suspense thriller and the other is one that straddles science fiction and the supernatural. I’m very excited about both of them and I’m currently trying to balance each of their demands to be written.

DRAGON FIRE by Pedro L. Alvarez is available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook. 
Click image to purchase.

Become a fan of Dragon Fire on Facebook:
Follow Dragon Fire on Twitter @DragonFireNovel

Pedro L. Alvarez is a Cuban-born writer who immigrated with his parents to the United States at the age of 8. He grew up in West New York, NJ where he first discovered the joys of reading and writing short stories.
Pedro has a degree in English and in Journalism from Rutgers University and works as a Business Systems Analyst for a large transportation and logistics company. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day 79--The Best Blog You're Not Following

Before I tell you why I follow ProBlogger, please allow me to explain the story behind the title I chose for this post. 

Do you remember the television show, Party of Five? It had loyal followers, but not many of them. In 1995, TV Guide named it "The Best Show You're Not Watching". This was when I became aware of the show and starting watching it, along with many others. It ended up winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama in 1996. The rest is history.

The show was good, but TV Guide's article was genius. Everyone wanted to know, what's the best show I'm not watching? Weren't you curious when you read my title? That article put Party of Five on the map. I've wanted to use a title like that for a long time and today, I chose to apply it to this post.   

Now I'm not insinuating ProBlogger needs my help to get on the map. It's already an icon in the blogging industry. However, most of my readers are fiction authors like me, and I don't hear a lot of chatter about ProBlogger in the author communities to which I belong.  

ProBlogger is just that, a blog about professional blogging. If you're not a pro blogger, you may wonder how this blog can help you.

As a fiction author and a blogger, ProBlogger has become the source I rely upon the most. Not for networking, but for business and marketing management. I have quantifiable success with the tips I glean from ProBlogger. These tips help me with my books, my brand, my own blog, growing my fan base, my productivity, my marketing, my email newsletters, networking and the whole business of being me.

ProBlogger's founder, Darren Rowse, practices what he preaches. ProBlogger itself is an exemplary example of how a professional blog should look and read. It's clean, organized, helpful and relevant. The advertising is not obnoxious. The fan base is large. Its reputation in the blogging community is stellar.

While there are many guest posters, they follow the founder's writing style and quick-scan format. You will never waste your time on ProBlogger reading superfluous words. Posts are as short as they can be while delivering executable, clear steps to the reader.  

Best of all, ProBlogger is free. Nothing is asked of me at ProBlogger. I'm not spammed and no one harps on me to buy their product. I don't have to subscribe to read it, but I do subscribe for the ease of automatic post delivery. ProBlogger doesn't use gimmicks. Bloggers flock to the site because it helps them. It's the real deal.
ProBlogger has opened my eyes to the layers of opportunities that exist online. I have a hard time keeping up with all the tips I want to apply to marketing my book and my brand. I'm not just a reader, I'm a fan.

To Do: Start following ProBlogger! If you already follow ProBlogger, please link to a post that has helped you in the comment form below!

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
author of The Pet Washer
a novel for children aged 6 and up
"When a princess befriends a pet washer, their worlds collide in unexpected ways!"


Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 78--Pinterest for Authors

If you haven't heard of Pinterest, you have now! It has swept the internet like wildfire. It's not even close to reaching its full potential yet and it's evolving daily. Authors can't afford to ignore new social media when it's our job to connect with people. Remember MySpace? My fourteen year old doesn't.

I resisted Pinterest out of sheer stubbornness. I had no desire to harass all my friends again with friend requests. I just inundated them with requests from Goodreads, LinkedIn and Twitter. I'm trying to build my followings there. To add a new site is exhausting. I want to be done! Besides, how could Pinterest help an author? And what is it anyway?

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. It helps you organize and share things on the web that you find useful, pretty, interesting or whatever. Members create virtual cork boards and pin stuff to them. For instance, a gal planning her wedding can pin photos of dresses, cakes, flowers, invitations and then evaluate all her ideas in one place. When she clicks on a photo, it will taker her right back to the site from which she pinned it. Besides weddings, the most popular uses I've heard for Pinterest are craft, redecorating and recipe ideas.

But how can Pinterest help an author? I just joined and I can't fully answer that yet. I think the better question is, how can it hurt?

It's like the old saying, there's no such thing as bad publicity. There's no such thing as being too connected on the internet! My goal is to be easily found. Besides the obvious advantages of being visible, I link back to my book everywhere I'm a member. The internet is called the web for a reason. Think of each link as a strand of your web. The more links you build from different websites, the larger your web. The larger your web, the more "flies" you will catch.

This was the first reason I signed up for Pinterest--exposure. The second was to stay in touch with what's new and what's hot in social media. Since joining, I've discovered more reasons to join. Readers create virtual boards of their favorite books. If your book gets pinned, it can end up getting re-pinned (much like a re-tweet) and news of your book can spread this way. You don't have to be a member for this to happen, but if you are a member, you can be the first to pin your book and maybe get the ball rolling.

Once you join, you should probably do some pinning yourself. I created a board called "Hot Book Covers". I love a good book cover and here I get to show off the ones I think are hot. Maybe I'll meet other readers, maybe I'll pin my new YA cover when it's done...but the other thing I learned about Pinterest is that it's fun!

Here an example of a cover I pinned

Click here to see all the covers I pinned last night. I didn't understand how Pinterest could be fun or useful until I did it. I would like to decorate my kids' bedrooms and I'm excited to create boards for that and pin all my ideas in one place. I recommend that you try it, if you haven't already, and pin what you like. Writers have hobbies, focus on those and the relationships will follow. Opportunities will arise to connect with fans and promote your book over time.

Here is an article from ProBlogger with specific Pinterest marketing tips. These tips are great for bloggers who sell books or anything else. 

To Do: Join Pinterest and start pinning today! If you follow me, I'll follow you back. My profile is JenniferDiaries.

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
author of The Pet Washer
a novel for children aged 6 and up!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day 77--Maximizing the Smashwords Affiliate Program

I have not enrolled The Pet Washer in KDP Select so it is still listed on Smashwords. Smashwords distributes ebooks to Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and other places including public libraries! Like all the other services I use, Smashwords is free.
I was reviewing my Smashwords account today and I noticed an opportunity to increase exposure for The Pet Washer that I hadn't noticed before.

If you use Smashwords, click on your title, then edit book settings then affiliate referrals. Here you can adjust the percentage of profit affiliates earn for selling your book. If you increase the percentage above the standard 11% bonus, you can attract third-party affiliate marketers to list your book on their sites.

Affiliate Marketers are bloggers, website owners, publishers etc. They sign up for free at Smashwords and earn generous commission (between 11% and 80.5% for selling Smashwords listed ebooks on their sites.

All ebooks are automatically enrolled in the affiliate program when they are published at Smashwords. If you don't want a third party to sell your book for you, you can opt out. If you want the marketing boost, you can choose to increase the standard 11% payout to attract Affiliate Marketers to promote your book. The larger cut they get, the harder they will work to sell your book.

It's called juicing. I juiced The Pet Washer to 60%. My goal is to attract readers at this time, not make a lot of money. If a third party website can successfully sell The Pet Washer ebook for $2.99, they will get 60% of the profit. I'm happy to share my profits in exchange for the increased exposure.

If you have a website or blog and you want to sell The Pet Washer for this commission, sign up for the Smashwords Affiliate Program for free and follow the instructions to add The Pet Washer link to  your website. It's a win for everyone involved!

To Do: Authors: Juice your ebook today! Book Sellers: Check out the Smashwords Affiliate Program, it pays more than the Amazon Affiliate Program (and there's no reason why you can't use both!)

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
Author of The Pet Washer
A novel for children aged 6 and up!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why I Give My Book Away

I give away copies of The Pet Washer to school libraries, charity events and to book reviewers. Not all people are aware that authors have to purchase their own books. Even if the publisher gives an author 50 "free" copies, the expense comes out of the book's profits, thus reducing the author's royalty. The product cannot be created for free, nor can it be obtained for free by its creator. That's the truth of it.

I give books to school libraries and charity events for altruistic and marketing purposes. I believe in investing in children and helping the community. I also enjoy spreading good will and introducing more readers to a book that I believe will enrich their lives.

Reputable, professional book reviewers also get free books from me. I either send The Pet Washer as an ebook or in paperback format. It can take months to get the reviews back, but they are worth it. As authors, we can only toot our own horn so much. There is no better marketing than the recommendation of a respected reviewer or review website.

However, I like to think outside the box and I encourage you to do the same. I have a friend who writes a family and education orientated blog. She is not a book reviewer and her site is not about kindles and ebooks and 99 cent sensations. She writes about enriching family life. I gave her a copy of The Pet Washer and asked if she'd review it. She did!

Think about the people you know and the websites you frequent. They don't have to be book related. Think of the website's audience. Might they be interested in your mystery, thriller, romance, cookbook or family book? For instance, there are women who blog about being a single mom. Maybe you've written a cookbook about creating fast, healthy meals--ask the site to review it! Maybe you know of a blog about the outdoors and you've written a rock-climbing thriller--ask them to review it! They already have the readers who will love your book!

We have to keep in mind our readers. Where are they? What websites do they frequent. Think outside the box!

Here is the review of The Pet Washer by Heather. 

"I recently read a sweet little book called "The Pet Washer" by Jennifer Alvarez.  It was light hearted and delightful and full of good story line and relationships.  I really enjoyed how the main character was blind and completely capable.  The author never directed the reader to "feel sorry" for her or to "make her a hero" She was blind and lived her felt good to read it and let it be. There were good lessons in there about being a real friend, and learning that not everyone who offers to help or compliments you is a friend. As I read the book, I thought, "This is an awesome book for girls.  Lot's of fun stuff about pets and parties and dresses", but there are great male characters as well.  I didn't really think about them until I saw my 9 year old son devouring the book under our baby grand piano. He likes to "hide" there and read and read and read.  He loves this book, so there's something in it for the guys as well.  I highly recommend that you buy this book and enjoy some light and refreshing literature.  I'm recommending it to my book club!"

PLEASE help me and click on the link. There is a little "VOTE" button under my review. I would be thrilled if you'd give my review a vote so that more people see the article! Please leave me a comment and your Amazon product page and I'll LIKE your book on amazon as a thank you!!  

To Do: Surf the net and your contacts--find a website or a blog that may have readers for your novel. Approach them with a friendly, professional letter and offer a free copy of your book in return for a review. Good luck!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Free Book Reviews and Author Interviews

Today I completed an interview at Free Book Reviews. Any author can do it. Click here and fill out their pre-determined questions. I could not find information on when my interview will be posted. I assume they operate on a first come, first served basis like they do for their book reviews. This site is affiliated with Great Indie Reads.

Free Book Reviews does, of all things, free book reviews along with author interviews. In fact, I sent The Pet Washer to them on 12/29/11. Their book reviews are completed and published on a first come, first served basis. It's been three months and there are about 50 books ahead of mine! I don't believe they turn anyone away, so you have to be patient.

This site offers inexpensive marketing packages for authors which are displayed on both websites and, potentially, in their email newsletter. 

This is their reach as of August 2011:
"We currently have 35000 visits per month to this blog and 8000 per month to Great Indie Reads. Our newsletter goes out to 883 readers twice per week. We have 123 followers on the blog and 2500 email subscribers." Free Book Reviews

I also interview authors for free. Click here to answer my predetermined questions. I am booked into April. All interviews include links to your websites, blogs and books. If you would like to schedule your interview to coincide with a blog tour, please let me know and I will try to accommodate you! 

To Do: Complete an author interview today!

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
Author of The Pet Washer
a novel for children aged 8-11

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 73--An Interview with Author, D.M. Andrews

D.M. Andrews
When did you publish your first book and who published it?

The Serpent in the Glass, my debut novel, was published at the beginning of November last year. I used to create the paperback and then created the digital version. I found out, afterwards, that it's usually done the other way around ;)

If you've written more than one book--which one sells the best? Tell us about it and why you think it sells better than your other books?

I only have one book thus far, though lots of other "bits" of books floating around unfinished! I like to read books that are fairly accessible to everyone, whether a confident reader of as young as 9, a teen, middle-aged or a pensioner. So I try to write such books. I think that appeal makes my debut novel popular across a large age group.

If you are self-published, who does your book covers? Who does your copy editing and proofreading?

My book covers are done by a young and skilled graphic artist from Germany named Alex Hausch. He did the cover for The Serpent in the Glass and is currently working on a cover for another book I will publish later this year. I do my own editing, though I did employ R.J. Locksley to help me cut down a bloated first chapter that I'd become too attached to work on myself! She did a great job. I proof my own books, but it's hard to spot everything so I had some friends give valuable feedback and I swiftly upgraded to a second edition. Next time I will make a "beta release" to a select group before going public!

Please tell us your top three, most successful book marketing tips.

1. Write a good book that people want to read, one that has your heart and soul in it;
2. Present it (and everything about it) as professionally as you can;
3. Don't be afraid of giving free copies away or heavy discounts - the market is huge and visibility is key.

Do you have an author blog? If so, how do you attract readers? What is your blog's address?

My blog at is more of a journal than a marketing tool. Recently it has got some attention because of my posts about the KDP Select free promotion days.

If you are on Twitter, how do you get followers and what are your favorite hash tags?

I've had a Twitter account for a while, but have only started using it in earnest over the last few weeks. I'm a bit of a novice with Twitter and still don't fully understand it. I try to make a few posts a day. I usually use hash tags such as #fantasybooks or #kindle, etc. which, admittedly, are copied from other tweets or just random guesses ;) I'm going to have to read your post on the matter! You can follow me @AuthorDMAndrews.

Where do you go to request reputable, free reviews?

Ideally people will review your books without being contacted, but I have approached a few. I don't believe I have any major reviews up as of yet, but there are two or three in the pipeline. The sites I have bookmarked are (teens), (children's/teens), (teens), The Children's Book Review, Digital Book Today, The Books Debut, and Kid Lit Reviews.

What have you done that has successfully increased your online sales?

Done some good preparation to maximize the last 2-day free promotion I ran on KDP Select in early March, with a view to giving away as many copies as possible. I'm going to do a write-up of this later in March/April 2012. All I will say at present is that I'm averaging well over 100 sales per day, and am in the top ten in several categories. Whether KDP Select will ultimately prove a success remains to be seen, but Amazon seems to dominate the market at present so I'm sticking with select, at least for first books in a series. 

(Interviewer note--for detailed figures and updates regarding D.M. Andrews KDP Select promotion, please visit his website HERE.)

What online sites do you prefer to network with authors, publishers, editors or readers?

Other than the KDP forums, which I use out of necessity, I prefer Facebook and

Have you attended a writer's conference? If so, was your visit successful?  Explain.

No. Perhaps I'll do that one day, but I find these things can get in the way of writing - as can promotion! I spent a lot of time over the years reading various books about how to write. I got to a point where I said "no more!". Now I try to focus on writing. Not on promotion. Not on learning how to write. Not even on endless research. Yes, these things have value, but they are not of much ultimate worth if they stop you writing.

What advice would you give aspiring authors about publishing or self-publishing?

Write a book you love! Make it engaging and well written. Get a good cover. Present it well. Focus on writing before marketing.

What do you think authors should know about book marketing?

I've heard a number of very successful authors say that the quality of the book was the most important thing. In fact, I've even heard some claim they never used much in the way of social media, etc. and still have moved many copies of their books. Something to think about.

What do you like in a book?

Something I struggle with in a lot of fiction is the lack of engagement I feel when characters (main ones at least) are too shallow, when the imaginative element of the world is too poorly described, when fantasy is too far removed from real-world anchors. Whatever the genre, I like at least the first two to exist. I try to write that way. I also think there is no reason why a nine-year-old and a ninety-nine-year-old can't enjoy the same book. I write for confident readers, and won't adapt my vocabulary or ideas to that of a young child. I like to think of my writing as fitting for all ages.

What projects are you working on now? Please describe.

I like variety. Currently I'm working on a parody. I have a teen and a young adult novel both partially written, and a religious/historical short story I'm slowly working on. I have plans for a sequel to The Serpent in the Glass, and would also like to try my hand at a historical fiction and possibly a thriller one day.

D.M. Andrews has been drawing maps, writing stories, and coming up with weird ideas since the age of twelve. Although fantasy features in most of the author's writing, he also has a keen passion for history (especially for his native land of England), genealogy, mythology and even political philosophy. Find out more at

Click Image to Purchase The Serpent in the Glass

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 72--Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is Interviewed at "All Thing Jill-Elizabeth"

Jill Elizabeth contacted me at Book Blogs when I was a new member. She mentioned that she interviews bloggers. I wrote her back and asked if she would interview me. She agreed!

That's how it's done folks! Meet and greet and look for mutually beneficial ways to help each other. The worst she could have done was say no. But she didn't. We each cross-promote the interview and I get to plug my books and my blogs at the same time.

I'd also like to plug Jill Elizabeth her self. She's enthusiastic and professional! Please contact her if you're a blogger and request an interview.You can check out her blog and my interview here:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 71--In-Depth Interview with Best Selling Author, Rachel Abbot

I would like to introduce you to Rachel Abbott, the best selling author of Only The Innocent. Only The Innocent is a complex psychological thriller available in all eformats. Rachel generously shares in-depth advice for indie authors on her website and in this interview. Without further ado, I give you, Rachel Abbott, in her own words.

  1. Is Only the Innocent your first book?
Yes it is. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but never tackled a novel before now. I’ve written a few scripts, but mainly for training programmes (although with a high entertainment value), but I always had the idea of writing a novel, and the plot for Only the Innocent was in my mind for several years before I found the time to write it.

  1. You have excellent reviews on Only the Innocent, where did you learn write? Do you use an author critique group?
I have been thrilled by the excellent reviews from some of the top Amazon reviewers. That feels great. Obviously, my book isn’t for everybody. It deals with some difficult subjects and not everybody likes that - and the ending is intentionally controversial. Most people love it - some don’t. That’s fair enough.

In terms of writing, I was always a very keen reader from an early age, and enjoyed writing stories. Until I decided to give up work and move to Italy, I used to write every day - everything from creative proposals for new business to board reports (less exciting!). But I enjoy writing anything. I love writing on my blog - and that is all practical advice for other authors, so a completely different style.

I didn’t use an author critique group, but I used a family critique group! I have some members of my family who are good writers and avid readers - and they weren’t afraid to point out issues. After I had completed the first version of my book, I sent it to another author for comment. She came back with a list of changes that would make improvements, and it involved substantial rewrites. That was good, and very useful - but probably not enough. For the next one, I want to get a much wider input.
  1. You are an indie author, did you hire out your cover and editing or do it yourself? 
With regard to the cover, I am extremely lucky. I used to own and manage an interactive media company, and we employed a lot of graphics artists. One of the guys that we brought in straight from university has gone on to become the group creative director, and he always offers to do anything for me in terms of graphics. He is a real star. 

I did the editing myself, but I went through a number of stages.. I had several people to proof read it (although I think I reintroduced a couple of typos - which I am extremely annoyed about!), but the editing was all done by me once I had gathered together all the feedback. I definitely want to use an experienced and professional editor on my next book, though. I want to improve my writing style, and just get better at what I do.
  1. Please tell us the top three, most successful book marketing tips you've applied to Only the Innocent?
This is sort of three and a half, really - but I just want to mention my marketing plan before I start on the tips! I discovered very quickly that there are thousands of different things you can do to market your book - so many sites it is impossible to know where to start and where to stop. So I produced a plan in order that I could identify what mattered to me, and put together a process for working that had some structure. This isn’t a marketing tip, as such, but it’s an essential stage.

Reviews are key to the success of a book, and every author should start requesting them as soon as they have a book ready to read - even if it’s not published. A lot of reviewers have a significant backlog, and it could be months before the reviews start to arrive - so get on the case as quickly as possible. On one of my most recent blog posts, I have given some in-depth advice on asking for reviews - together with an amazing list of reviewers, generously supplied to me by another author called Greg Scowen. If you don’t know how to go about requesting reviews, I would recommend taking a look.  

One of the best marketing tools for me has been Twitter. I wasn’t a fan before publishing Only the Innocent, and only had nine followers. But I researched tools that would help me to build my followers - and I wanted the right sort of followers, ie people who are interested in books. I found that with TweetAdder (and I’m sure there are other tools) I could find out all the followers of any of my favourite authors and set TweetAdder to automatically follow them, in the hope that they would follow me back. Those that don’t are unfollowed within a few days. 

Then I used Twitter as a sales tool - promoting my book, but hopefully in a way that wasn’t just “buy my book” - although there was obviously some of that. In the early days of low sales - ten a day, for example - I think that sales via Twitter represented about 70% of the total. Now, I am trying to establish my Twitter account as more of a brand - offering advice and help to other authors, and keeping readers engaged.

The third thing I would include in my list is engaging people on forums. Not just talking about Only the Innocent, but chatting generally - about anything from the weather to favourite authors. I found that I really enjoyed this and that I got to know some terrific people that way. What was great was that these people bought my book, but then went off to other forums and talked about it there. This gave my book the biggest push of the lot to get to the top, and I met some lovely people into the bargain.
  1. Do you have an author blog? If so, how do you attract readers? What is your blog's address?
My blog is designed to help other authors. When I started the whole publishing process, I realised that it’s not as easy as it might seem so initially I wanted to talk about my journey. Then when Only the Innocent became popular, I found that I was getting a lot of requests for information on how I had achieved success. It was suggested that I write a book and sell it - but I don’t want to do that. That implies a level of expertise that I don’t think I can claim. I did a few things, and they seem to have worked. But I can’t state that it’s a magic formula! So I write my blog to help other authors. It can be found at

I have tried to make my website more reader focused, but to be honest I wish I had more hours in the day, because I would love to update it daily and add a blog section for readers. There are some book reviews and interviews on my blog - but it’s not really enough.

However, my blog does get a lot of readers - all other indie authors. I tweet about my posts, I have quite a few subscribers, and I belong to Triberr which is a site which is designed to help promote blog posts. It seems to work well.
  1. If you are on Twitter, what are your favorite hash tags? What is your Twitter ID so we can follow you?
My Twitter id is @Rachel__Abbott (that’s two underscores - a mistake, but it was the only version of my name available!). Favourite hashtags - that’s an interesting question! I probably don’t use hash tags as wisely as others do. But I do search all the time on #thrillers to see what’s out there, and I also like the #amreading and #amwriting hash tags - it’s great to know when other authors are writing, and equally interesting to see what people are reading.
  1. Only the Innocent is a bestseller on Amazon. Can you tell us the story of your book's success?
Only the Innocent sat on a virtual shelf for quite some time. I probably wrote the first version about four years ago, and then after feedback wrote versions two and three. Then I did nothing. At the time it was difficult to launch a book for the Kindle unless you were a US citizen, so I pretty much forgot about it. Then I discovered about six months ago that it was possible to upload through Kindle UK - and decided to have a go. I thought it would just be a case of sending a Word file, and then sitting back and waiting for the money to come in. That just shows how ignorant I was!

So I started work on the formatting, and the marketing as I’ve mentioned above.
Nothing happened for quite a long time. My early buyers were all family and friends, and a lot of them don’t have Kindles, so my book wasn’t linked to other books. It wasn’t seen in all those fantastic Amazon promotions sections such as “Customers who bought xxx also bough Only the Innocent”. I was frustrated, and had no idea what to do. But I just plugged away at it. I worked very hard.

Then it started climbing the charts, and it was astonishing how quickly it went from around 18,000 at the end of December to position 500 at the end of January. I kept saying “I’d be really delighted if it got into the top 1000” then it was top 500, then top 100 - and so on. From the beginning of February, though, it went up steadily but quickly - to hit the number 1 spot on 18th February. It’s now still number 1 in Crime and Thrillers, but The Hunger Games has now established itself at the top, plus there is usually a Kindle Daily Deal which reaches the top for a day. But I’ve had four weeks there, so I can’t complain at all.
  1. What online sites do you prefer to network with authors, publishers, editors or readers?
I network with authors and readers - not with publishers or editors, to be honest. Perhaps I should have done! I did use Authonomy for a while, which is run by Harper Collins. But when I evaluated my marketing plan, it was one of the things that I unfortunately had to give up in favour of other activities. There are only so many hours in the day.

For other authors, I ‘talk’ to them on Twitter all the time. A great bunch of people, and they’ve been amazingly supportive. For readers, I would say that I have used the Goodreads and Amazon forums more than anywhere else. I started with Goodreads, although I find it difficult to keep track of discussions on there. And then only recently I have become more engaged with the Amazon “Meet our Authors” forum. Again - I don’t do enough. I keep saying that I need to be cloned - one of me can then enjoy all the chat with like-minded people, the other can get on with writing the next book!
  1. Have you ever sought traditional publishing for your book? If not, why did you choose self-publishing?
When I finished the first version of Only the Innocent, I did seek traditional publishing. I went down the route of hunting out an agent. I did get some interest, but it never came to anything, and I didn’t pursue it as much as I should have done. I wrote for my own enjoyment originally, and I didn’t like the response that “this isn’t what publishers are looking for”. I did get offered one publishing deal, but I thought that it showed very little commitment on the part of the publisher, and I could just see my book sitting on the back shelf of a few shops. So I chose self-publishing by default, really - although now I don’t regret it at all.
  1. What advice would you give aspiring authors about publishing or self-publishing? About writing?
I don’t think that I am the person to give advice on writing, other than to say write because you love it. Don’t have expectations of making money. I have been lucky - and a lot of it is luck. There is too much talk of the people who have made a lot of money, and not enough about the people who have slaved away, produced a fantastic book, and for whatever reason it doesn’t get bought. So I would say don’t write with any expectations of riches.

With regard to publishing or self-publishing, this is an incredibly difficult question. If I’m honest, I would still like to be published. But I still want to be me. I don’t want to be told that my book isn’t right for the market - although I absolutely understand why this is so important to publishers. They have shareholders to keep happy - I only have my personal goals to achieve. On the other hand, I am fairly certain that I have made far more money through self publishing than I would have done through traditional publishing.
For each author it is different. What does success look like to you? Will you feel successful when you’ve made a lot of money (and how much?), when you are considered famous, or when a publisher tells you that yours is a book that they would love to publish?

I now have an agent, and she is great. I am going to enjoy working with her and she seems to understand me. So I hope to get a publishing deal, but if not I will be more than happy to continue self-publishing.
  1. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
At the moment, all I do is write - mainly my blog, other blog posts, emails (I get a lot of those!) and when I have a chance, my next novel. But I need to get back to being a human being. I don’t even do the shopping at the moment. My husband has been a complete star, and just organises everything.
When I am my normal self, and not this slightly eccentric witch-like person that I’ve become (I didn’t make it to the hairdresser for nearly 3 months!!) - I love to cook. I have actually written cookery books too - but I have not had time to do anything with those. They were going to be the next project, but due to the success of Only the Innocent, they have moved down the priority list.
  1. What projects are you working on now? Please describe.
My next novel is provisionally entitled “The Catalyst”. It is the story of a group of ordinary people with ordinary human flaws. Into their midst comes a young woman - a self-styled “life coach” who gradually exposes each character’s everyday mistakes and errors of judgement. But she also discovers a secret so disturbing that somebody has to die.

I like my plots to be based around real people who face real dilemmas, and this is no exception. I’ve written the outline, have all my cast of characters with their flaws and secrets established, so now I need to get moving with the first draft, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Congratulations Rachel and I wish you much success with your future projects. I want to say a special thank you to D.M. Andrews, author of The Serpent in The Glass, for introducing me to Rachel Abbott. Please return on Wednesday to read about D.M. Andrews best selling success with The Serpent in The Glass.

Please follow Rachel here:

Click Image to Purchase Rachel Abbott's Bestseller, Only The Innocent

To Do: Apply Rachel's advice to your novel! 

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
Author of The Pet Washer
An inspiring novel for children aged 8-11

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 70--SocialBro, An Impressive Free Twitter Tool

I learn from everyone who blogs, tweets and posts. I picked up a random tip today and downloaded the SocialBro app for Twitter. I will admit, I didn't "get" Twitter for a long time. All I saw was a one-dimensional world.

SocialBro has opened my eyes! When I got my Twitter account, I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg. SocialBro is exposing the massivity of this thing (I know massivity is not a word, I'm coining it!). Twitter rocks!

I still don't fully comprehend Twitter, but I'm a believer. Socialbro is a free app. Anyone can download it. The information it organizes and the tools it provides are invaluable if you are using Twitter to market anything.

  • Browse Your Twitter Community
  • Back up Your Community
  • Twitter List Management
  • Easy Follow/Unfollow Back Tools
  • Fast Communication with Your Community
  • Search, Filter and Sort All Twitter
  • Dashboard
  • See Your Twitter Community in a Map
  • Get the Best Stats
  • The Best Time to Tweet
  • Tag Clouds
SocialBro, An Impressive Twitter Tool

    Socialbro also lets you know who is not following you back so you can unfollow them. Have you ever noticed how someone with 4000 followers, follows about 4000 people? Or if they have 7000 followers, they follow around 7000 people? I noticed this trend before I understood it.

    Twitter is like Goldilocks--picky. You can be banned or shunned for aggressive following, aggressive unfollowing, for tweeting too much, for tweeting too little, for churning, for stealing, for spamming, for getting followers too fast, for getting followers too slow or for having an imbalance between your followers and who is following you. With Twitter, you want to be just right!

    When your followers closely equal your follows, you are in safe territory (unless you're a celeb, see below). The rest of it is trial and error for me. I have honest intentions, so I'm not concerned that I'll spam, churn, steal or be too aggressive.

    Who knew, right?

    SocialBro exposed my Twitter weaknesses. I was following people who, after weeks, were not following me back. I got rid of all of them except the few professionals whose tweets I love, i.e. Darren Rowse at Problogger. I can only dream of the day he might follow me back!

    Darren Rowse has over 150,000 followers and he follows about 600 people.This is an imbalance that is "allowed". A celeb type will generally have more followers than people they follow. It increases their influence and authority. Their tweets become valuable. They are not going to be shunned or kicked off of Twitter for being famous. In fact, their tweets carry all the more weight. If Ashton Kutcher were to tweet about The Pet Washer, my sales would go through the roof. Celebs play by a different set of rules. Twitter recognizes that. 

    It also shows me the people who follow me that I have neglected to follow back. I'm able to see them all in one place and rectify my oversight. Twitter is a marketing social website for me, not a personal one. I don't put pictures of my kids and pets on Twitter.I am looking to connect with a quantity of quality people, primarily, authors, readers, bloggers, editors and publishers. It's where I promote The Pet Washer. It's fun, but it's business.

    SocialBro has given me a glimpse of the iceberg that is Twitter. The more I learn about Twitter, the more I realize how much there is left to learn. I'm excited to get a handle on this beast! 

    To Do: If you are looking to market yourself or your book, consider downloading SocialBro today. Don't hit the iceberg, Twitter the iceberg!

    Follow me on Twitter and I'll follow you back!

    Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
    Author of The Pet Washer
    a novel for girls aged 8-11

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Day 69--The Pet Washer's Best Seller Ranking on Amazon

    One of my higher Amazon rankings for The Pet Washer!

    Just wanted to share that The Pet Washer made it into the top 15,000 in books today! My kindle sales always lag because most of my young readers don't own kindles. My paperback is on sale for $7.91, a reasonable price for a 200 page novel. I want to thank my readers today for doing what they do best, reading!

    Maybe I'm doing something right.

    Product Details

    As we all know with Amazon rankings, we have to enjoy them while they last.

    To Do: Please share your best paperback or ebook Amazon ranking via a comment. Let's brag about our kids today! Please leave a link to your book.

    Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
    author of The Pet Washer
    a novel for girls aged 8-10

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    Day 68--Inexpensive Book Promotion Site for Authors

    Via Twitter, I discovered World Literacy Cafe. I'm just getting to know this site. It's reputable and offers a lot for authors and readers.

    World Literacy Cafe offers free and paid promotions from author interviews, character interviews, social media blitzes, book reviews, new release promotions and more.

    World Literary Cafe

    The philosophy of the site creator, Melissa Foster, is generosity and reciprocity. Any successful person who advances themselves by helping others is on the right track as far as I'm concerned. I'm impressed enough by her site to recommend it and to use it myself.

    Their stated mission is to bridge the gap between authors and readers.

    To Do: Join the World Literacy Cafe today!

    Melissa Foster's Best Selling Books

    Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
    Author of The Pet Washer
    a novel for girls aged 8-10

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Author Insecurity

    I'm wrestling my demons this week--insecurity, perfectionism, fear of failure, and worthlessness. Anyone else?

    Self-Talk That Murders Authors
    • My writing sucks
    • Who cares what I write?
    • It's already been written
    • He/She writes it better

    These phrases attack me when I'm weak. I'm weak right now because I'm overwhelmed in my life. My confidence has taken a jolt and it's like a wall coming down. Every thought that could drive me to stop believing in myself is besieging me. Without the wall, the thoughts get inside and murder my productivity.

    I'm fighting back! Writing about my insecurity shines a light on it. Darkness cannot thrive in light. Sharing my troubles calls forth my friends who bolster me and fling arrows at my attackers. Praying about it brings in my God who is bigger than my problems. Remembering my past successes gives pause to my rapid-fire doubts.

    I have been through too much in my life to be easily vanquished. This is a battle I will win. I've won it hundreds of times before and, each time, my negative thoughts are smaller. My arsenal against them is larger. My victory is swifter. Writing this has already brought me some relief.

    Perhaps I have the second draft blues. There is nothing like the creative fire of laying down the first draft, and there is nothing like the cold reality of editing the second. What felt brilliant as I typed, looks juvenile as I edit. The Pet Washer book sales are slow, further reinforcing my feelings of ineptitude. I have self-imposed deadlines breathing down my neck and not enough hours in the day. On top of all this, my family continues to struggle with recession related difficulties.

    What saves me is that I never quit. I trust myself to get back up when I'm knocked down. I get tired and overwhelmed, but I don't stop! I'm excited about my new book and my future books--I just need to plow through TODAY. Anyone else?

    “Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude.”
    - Zig Ziglar

    To Do: Think positive!

    Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

    ***UPDATE: I'm now waiting for the release of book #1 in my new middle-grade series from HarperCollins, The Guardian Herd: Starfire. 

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Day 66--Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is Interviewed at Forever Book Lover

    Today I promoted The Pet Washer, myself and my blogs through an author interview at Forever Book Lover!

    I want to thank Kat for hosting me and asking such great questions. Please check out her site for other author interviews, giveaways, blog tours and reviews--especially if you like to read or write Romance!

    To be interviewed on my site, please CLICK HERE, answer the questions and email them to me. I run interviews when I have them on Wednesdays. Today I'm featuring my own interview at Forever Book Lover.  

    To Do: Contact myself or another book blogger for an interview today! Kat at Forever Book Lover interviews bloggers every other Wednesday! I interview authors.

    Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
    Author of The Pet Washer
    a novel for girls aged 9-12

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Day 64--Revisiting the Twitter Hash Tag

    I recently learned how to hash tag on Twitter and I wrote a post about it. Today, I read a post that highlights 15 popular Twitter hash tags specifically for writers. Click here to read, "15 Twitter Hash Tags That Every Writer Should Know About." 

    I will summarize the 15 but please read the article for more details.

    1. #amwriting
    2. #amediting
    3. #writing
    4. #editing
    5. #wordcount
    6. #nanowrimo
    7. #ww
    8. #writerwednesday
    9. #writetip
    10. #writingtip
    11. #askagent
    12. #askauthor
    13. #askeditor
    14. #writingprompt
    15. #99
    I'm excited to try out these hash tags, not just to promote my book or myself, but to ask questions and network. Askagent and Askeditor are especially appealing. Agents and editors cruise these tags and often answer posted questions.

    Writingtip looks interesting too. I'm always looking for tips and I'm willing to share mine.

    To Do: Explore these Twitter communities for networking. Use them to promote yourself and your books! Follow me on Twitter at Jennifer Diaries!

    Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
    Author of The Pet Washer
    a novel for girls aged 9-12

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Day 63--Workaholics Anonymous For Authors

    I never understood workaholics until I became an author. I can't get enough of my job! When I'm not promoting, I'm blogging. When I'm not blogging, I'm speaking. When I'm not speaking, I'm hiring. When I'm not hiring, I'm doing it myself. When I'm not doing it myself, I'm researching. When I'm not researching, I'm writing. When I'm not writing, I'm editing. Today, I'm editing.

    This is the definition of workaholic from a person who works compulsively at the expense of other pursuits. 

    I have to admit, the shoe fits. Another definition states that the workaholic doesn't always enjoy their work--it's a compulsion. But I do like my work, which makes it doubly addicting. I always said, "I could never be a workaholic." And yet here I stand, "I'm Jennifer and I'm a workaholic." My eyes and fingers ache from typing but I can't stop.

    They say you can't control addiction, but I'm doing my best. The initial flurry of excitement after publishing The Pet Washer has lessened. I am determined to set hours going forward. By sheer will power, I stay away from the computer when the kids are home. I've started exercising and cooking again after a month-long break. 

    Maybe there is a fine line between passion and addiction? This career suits my personality, my spirituality, my education, and my current circumstances to a T. I could not have planned a better job for myself. I am doing what I love. I'm not ready to check myself into rehab just yet.

    I am spending today and the rest of the week editing my YA novel before I send it off to Hock's Editing Service. I know, it's like cleaning before the house cleaner comes but I see no way around it. I would as soon ask someone to clean a cluttered house as I would ask someone to edit a first draft. My work cannot leave my possession in the condition it's in right now. Eeegads! Let's get some lipstick on this pig!

    To Do: Don't follow my advice on this one. Take a day of rest--you deserve it. In the meantime, I'll sleep when I'm dead :) Click HERE if you want more information on the dangers of workaholism.

    Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
    Author of The Pet Washer
    a novel for girls aged 9-12