Recommended Books For Writing, Self-Publishing, Book Marketing And Creative Entrepreneurship

These are some of the books I love and recommend for authors. I know there are gazillion more, but these have been the most useful to me on my own writing journey.

Books on Writing and Creativity

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen KingStephen King - On Writing. Insights about writing that will make you feel better about where you are. Even the uber-mega-stars have a difficult time! Includes timeless advice on ‘butt in chair.’

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamottbirdbybird. Includes life-changing opinions on first drafts and how bad they really are meant to be.

The Successful Novelist: A lifetime of lessons about writing and publishing – David Morrellsuccessful novelist. From the creator of Rambo, this book has some great comments on fame and money, as well as what really matters as a writer and in life. Here’s my interview with David Morrell about the book and his writing life.

Writing Down The Bones: Freeing the writer within – Natalie Goldberg.bones I love Natalie’s vulnerability and this book continues to help me when I feel like self-censoring.

STORY: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting – Robert McKeestory. Incredible for authors as well as screenwriters as the principles of storytelling are universal. I’ve learned so much from this book, and more from seeing him live. It’s also worth getting on audiobook as McKee is an incredible performer.

Story Engineering: Mastering the six core competencies of successful writing – Larry BrooksStory Engineering. This was the book that helped me write my first novel. Once the concept of ‘scene’ dropped for me, I was able to structure a story. Here’s my interview with Larry Brooks on the topic.

The War of Art: Break through the blocks and win your creative battles – Steven Pressfieldwar of art. Will make you feel better about the struggles of being an artist and will give you hope that you can make it through to a finished product. Here’s my interview with Steven Pressfield.

Turning Pro: Tap your inner power and create your life’s work – Steven Pressfield.Turning Pro Steven Pressfield Probably the book I re-read the most. I have it in ebook, print and audio format and revisit every new year. If you want to be a professional writer, this book will kick your ass!

The Pursuit of Perfection and how it harms writers – Kristine Kathryn Ruschperfection. If you struggle to write, finish a project or with doubt in general, this book will help. Something for every writer.

Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys To Creativity – Hugh McLeodignoreverybody. If you think it’s crazy to consider making money from something you love, look at how Hugh has transitioned from cartoons on the back of business cards to a huge online business. But first, you need to tap into your creativity …

Self-publishing

Let’s Get Digital: How to self-publish and why you should – David Gaughranlets get digital. The most comprehensive book on self-publishing. David is a campaigner for indie rights, so this book is completely transparent with no hidden agenda.

Write. Publish. Repeat. The No-Luck Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success – Johnny B. Truant & Sean Plattwrite-publish-repeat. A comprehensive look at the business model of high-output fiction writers. Includes how to write fast, publish quickly and get your book to customers. They also have a video course on Udemy that goes through the aspects of the book. Here’s my interview with Sean Platt and separately with Johnny B Truant.

Choosing a Self Publishing Service – The Alliance of Independent Authorschoosing a self publishing service. Written by authors, for authors with no bias towards any service, this goes through how you can evaluate premium self-publishing companies and how to do it yourself.

Self-Publishers Legal Handbook – Helen Sedwicklegalhandbook. Contains information on using images as an indie, what to watch out for in contracts with self-publishing services, working with collaborators and much more.

Book Marketing

How to Market a Book – Joanna Penn.how to market a book second edition Yes, this is my book (!) but I wrote it because I couldn’t find one single book that offered everything for authors in one. I’ve been studying marketing for years now and this is everything I have learned along the way. Updated Oct 2014.

Platform: Get noticed in a noisy world. A step-by-step guide for anyone with something to say or sell – Michael Hyattplatform. This is for any small business and does a great job of going through all the aspects of reaching an audience through a platform.

Let’s Get Visible: How to get noticed and sell more books – David Gaughranvisible300px. Focuses specifically on aspects of book selling online regarding Amazon algorithms, categories and optimizing your sales page.

Discoverability: Help readers find you in today’s world of publishing – Kristine Kathryn Ruschdiscoverability. With 30 years of experience in publishing and now a mentor for indie authors, Kris brings immense experience with all kinds of marketing to this book. Insights on what really works online and off.

1001 ways to market your books – John Kremer1001 ways. A fascinating resource with tons of offline marketing tips as well as online ones to help you get your book noticed.

Author Entrepreneur

Business for Authors: How to be an author entrepreneur – Joanna Pennbusiness for authors. Yes, it’s my book again! But after 13 years as a consultant, I bring my business head to the creative world and share how you can make a living as a writer.

Make Art, Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on fueling your creative career – Elizabeth Hyde Stevensmakeartmakemoney. Jim Henson was a puppeteer and a multi-millionaire and this book explores how he ‘played’ with both art and money, becoming incredibly successful in both.

success principlesThe Success Principles: How to get from where you are to where you want to be – Jack Canfield. The book that changed my life and helped me to escape the day job and become an entrepreneur. Lesson 1: Take responsibility for 100% of everything in your life. You are where you are because of your choices. From the day I read that page, I started to make different choices.

The Compound Effect – Darren Hardycompound effect. Writing a few hundred words a day doesn’t seem like much. Saving a few hundred dollars a month doesn’t seem like much. Drinking water instead of soda doesn’t seem like much. But all these little things make a huge difference over time. This book will help you see the magic of compounding – and I have seen this in my own life. In 2007, I had no books, no website, no online audience, no podcast, no twitter – just a day job I hated. Little steps every day since then have changed my life.

The Four Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich – Tim Ferriss.four hour work week Helped me with the inspiration and education to leave my day job for the entrepreneurial life. It was the impetus to start this site and realistically consider a lifestyle change. Tim also has a brilliant podcast with some of the most interesting guests around.

$100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau: Reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love and create a new future100 startup. A more recent take on lifestyle design, opting out of traditional employment and how you can start an entrepreneurial venture for less than $100 – with LOTS of inspiring examples.

The Icarus Deception – Seth Godinicarus deception. Art isn’t a result. It’s a journey. Pick yourself and fly closer to the sun. I want everyone who has self-doubt about the creative process to read this book. It’s super inspiring – you can read some of my highlights from the book here.

Choose Yourself – James Altucherchoose yourself. A manifesto to ignore the middlemen and choose yourself in this age of opportunity. The corporate ‘work’ world is broken, the education system is a bubble waiting to burst – you need to take control of your life.

Manage your day-to-day. Build your routine, find your focus and sharpen your creative mindmanage day to day. From 99U. Creatives need time to play and dream, but also to knuckle down and sort out a production routine, a workspace and schedule. This has lots of small chapters on all things productivity related.

Just writing this list down has made me want to start reading them all over again!

What are your recommended books for writers in these categories? Please leave them in the comments below.

BookTrack: Why Soundtracks For Books Are Great For Readers And Authors

I just did a fantastic event in Auckland, New Zealand, so a big thanks to everyone who came! Plus a big thanks to BookTrack who sponsored and organized the event, as well as Auckland Libraries who hosted it.

booktrackSo what is Booktrack?

First up, watch this quick video to get the idea about what it is – watch below or here on YouTube

In order to learn more about this, I interviewed Paul Cameron, CEO and co-founder of Booktrack about the service. In this video, we talk about why he and his brother started the company and what they want to achieve, as well as the benefits for authors and readers. You can watch below or here on YouTube.

Highlights of our discussion include:

  • People often read in public accompanied by a soundtrack of some kind – either to shut out ambient noise, or to accompany the story.

Books are (currently) one of the only entertainment choices that doesn’t have synchronized sound.

  • Authors often choose soundtracks as they write, and share it with readers. For example, check out the Undercover Soundtrack on Roz Morris’ blog
  • Booktrack takes a movie style soundtrack and synchronizes it with individual reading speed via apps. You can create these yourself for free – and it’s super fun!
  • Booktrack has a LOT of music and sound available to use – you can’t just use any music because of copyright
  • I mention how soundtracks on film are designed to underscore emotional elements, and no film is complete now without a soundtrack. Booktrack is aiming to get to this point in the future.
  • Readers can find Booktrack on the app stores or online Booktrack.com – it’s free to use and try at the moment.
  • The company’s aim is to become something similar to Audible but without words – selling books with soundtracks direct to consumers.

budapest booktrackMarketing and sales with BookTrack

Book marketing is a constant challenge for us all and one way to stand out is by having more than just text available. If you can add sound to your words, it brings another atmospheric dimension to the reading experience, and may be enough to draw people into your book.

The easiest thing to do is to check out a few books. Here’s my prologue for One Day In Budapest, and Hugh Howey’s Sand

You can easily share the Booktracks on social media and email, and you can also use embeddable widgets on your website.

In terms of monetization, you can add a link to all the platforms where people can buy your book as part of the free aspect of the platform. In 2015, Booktracks will be available for sale, so could provide another revenue stream.

booktrack

Five useful tips for using Booktrack

I asked author D.C.Grant to share her tips for using the service. You can check out her book, Where the flag floats, here on Booktrack.

Dawn also has a book for authors, The Booktrack Author User Guide, which will help you if you want to do DIY.

flag floatsWhen you are creating a sound track for your book using Booktrack, it is called booktracking.

  1. Treat booktracking time like writing time – block off a period of time with no distractions, switch off email/ text message/social media notifications. Also limit or exclude other sounds, or work using a headset so that you can concentrate on the tracks.
  2. Booktrack short sections at a time. Don’t attempt to do too much all at once.
  3. Keep pen and paper handy, or a note-taking app like OneNote, to make a note of the tracks that appeal to you as you go through the results of your search criteria. It’ll be a certainty that you won’t remember the track that you liked on page 2 by the time you get to page 6.
  4. If you find the diversity of music tracks overwhelming, search for a composer whose music suits the genre/theme of your book and make that your ‘go-to’ composer when choosing tracks. For a showcase of composers and the type of music they produce, use the Booktrack Music Showcase.
  5. Layer your sound – start with music, then layer on an ambience track and finish with sound effects. Or layer two ambience tracks and then sound effects. Or a music track and two ambience tracks and no sound effects. The choice is up to you. You can layer on as many tracks as you like, but too many and things may get muddled! Play it back to make sure it’s not too much and that the sound effects don’t get overwhelmed.

Booktracking can appear daunting but there’s no better way to learn that to just jump in and do it! Have a go today.

BIO: D C Grant writes books for boys because she reads books for boys. Her favorite authors are Lee Child and Bernard Cornwall and with these influences she was never going to be a romance writer. D C Grant currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand but was born in Manchester, England and lived for twenty years in Durban, South Africa. She currently lives in a New York style loft apartment with a slightly psychotic cat called Candy.

Here’s how to make a Booktrack

You can find out more at Booktrack.com or on twitter @booktrack

What do you think about this? Do you ever listen to music/movie soundtracks when reading? Have you tried using Booktrack as a reader or as an author and do you have any tips or thoughts? Please leave your comments below and join the conversation. 

 

Book Cover Design And Entrepreneurship With Derek Murphy

There are two things that are non-negotiable in my opinion for indie authors who want to sell books.

derek murphy coversProfessional editing and professional cover design.

In today’s episode, I talk about book cover design with Derek Murphy, who designs all my book covers, plus we discuss the importance of artists also being entrepreneurial.

In the intro, I talk about my writing updates on Gates of Hell and One Day in New York, as well as the STORY conference I am going to with Robert McKee. I also mention the Christmas thriller giveway – win 12 print books here. I’m speaking in Auckland, New Zealand on Tues 16 Dec, click here for more details, as well as at PubSenseSummit in Charleston in March 2015.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you!

Derek MurphyDerek Murphy is an author, cover designer and entrepreneur at Creativindie.com, as well as working on his PhD in Literature.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the interview on YouTube, or read the notes and links below.

  • Derek talks about his background in writing, studying at Taiwan University and his life abroad studying and writing, as well as fine art. He explains how he started an editing business and then moved into book cover design. In terms of marketing, book cover design business builds by word of mouth, whereas many authors won’t talk about the editing process. He’s traveled a lot internationally although he is American, studying in Malta in philosophy and theology and is now doing a PhD in Literature. We discuss academia vs entrepreneurship, and how to foster the latter by learning over time.

It’s important for artists to learn how to sell, as well as create, if they want to make a living from this.

  • book cover designWhat are the trends right now in book covers? For non-fiction, Bebas neue is being used a lot, and in fact, using fonts and words is prevalent in non-fiction in general, instead of being image heavy. For fiction, it depends on the genre.
  • A big mistake for fiction authors with covers – trying to convey the whole story of the book on the cover with aspects of every scene, so it is very over-complicated. You really only have a couple of seconds to catch attention, and that’s the job of the book cover. It needs to convey genre, and be good looking so the reader knows they want more. If the reader is attracted, they will read title, book description and then get a sample.

person-on-coverUsing a person on the cover vs using a theme on the cover.

  • We talk about the different cultural perspectives on covers – American covers vs European vs Asian. Cultural snobbery around literary covers in Britain does impact the design but may mean they don’t sell as well in America. Think about your target market and browse the categories in the country store for that market and make sure that your cover appeals to that market. Right now, we can’t upload different covers by market, but hopefully that will come at some point
  • Big name author book covers and big name author websites – often they are not optimized to sell books, because those authors will sell books anyway. Over-complicating your covers and website is a bad idea for indies. The point of the cover is to get attention in the genre. The point of the website is to attract people to your email list and show up in search.

The most beautiful thing on your website should be your book covers.

  • On color palette, emotional resonance and genre. It’s basic color psychology, which works all over the place e.g. what colors are used in hospitals vs boardrooms.
  • Top 3 bad things about indie book covers. Colors are a really obvious issue, and a color wash to neutralize the elements will help a lot. The font choice and effects are also important, and using drop shadows to make the font stand out is a classic error. You should use shading and font book marketing is deadchoice to make it stand out. An another issue is the amount of text on the cover. You don’t want to cram it full of text, especially for fiction in terms of quotes, sub-titles etc. We talk about the eBook Cover Design Awards on The Book Designer which is a great site to find designers and see what works.

Finding and working with a book cover designer

  • It’s not necessarily about them being nice! You don’t want to be the one doing the design, you don’t want them to do what you want, because you don’t know about design. Trust your designer because of their experience. I have a list of book cover designers here. To get a good cover design, you will be paying quite a bit.

On becoming more entrepreneurial

  • This is critical for authors and artists. You need to think about the reader, the product, the marketing, the business side – once you’ve at least written that first book. Marketing doesn’t work if you have a product that nobody wants. Think about creating value for other people. How can you improve other people’s lives? How can you entertain, educate or inspire? Derek talks about some of the ideas he has at the moment – he’s an entrepreneurial machine! We also talk about fear of failure and how you have to get past that as an entrepreneur.
  • Derek talks about his own novel, Shearwater, and what he’s doing with his own books going forward.

You can find Derek at his website Creativindie.com and also at DIYBookCovers.com as well as on twitter @creativindie

Please do leave any comments or questions on book cover design below and join the conversation!

Risk-Taking, Author Collaboration And Marketing Ideas With J Thorn

It’s great to learn from successful indies who can share their insights into lessons learned on the journey. Today I have a laughter-filled chat with horror writer, J Thorn.

J ThornJ Thorn is a bestselling horror writer,  consistently one of the Top 100 Most Popular Authors in Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy, with his bestselling books selling over 100,000 copies. J is also a podcaster, entrepreneur and speaker. His latest book is the Black Fang Betrayal.

You can watch the video below or here on YouTube. You can listen below or on Soundcloud. Or there are show notes below the multimedia.

J and I have a complete laugh and discuss:

  • On genre and categorization. Why we need to put things in boxes, but how J writes stories, regardless of how they are categorized. You don’t have to write in a hot genre in order to sell, just write what you love, and readers will find you. If it has a demon in it, is it horror? It’s up to the author to claim the tag.
  • On being entrepreneurial. Taking risks, trying things out and then moving on if it doesn’t work. Iterations and pivoting apply to authors as well. For example, J started PremiumBoxsets.com to market multi-author box-sets but it didn’t work out, as box-sets have started to be less successful. You have to leave the ego behind and just take risks. Try things out, go play and just get on with it. None of us know what we’re doing – we’re just trying it.
  • Lessons learned from going indie: You have to make risks and you will fail most of the time. You also have to GIVE, authentically, without black fang betrayalexpecting a return. It’s not a barter. [I also believe that social karma and generosity are at the heart of the internet eco-system.]
  • The Black Fang Betrayal – a collaboration with 10 authors on one single story. It’s not a box-set, it’s one story managed and published by J. The writing part is the easy part. The management piece was positive, but a challenge!
  • On being control freaks and loving the freedom of being indie.
  • On branding and website. Rewriting bios and product descriptions. The pain of getting to a consistent brand. J’s brand is authentic as it’s who he is. As a heavy metal and horror fan since a teenager is natural. It’s taken a long time to be proud of who he is, but J talks about how all of our journeys are about reaching this point.

You can find J at JThorn.net and his latest book is the Black Fang Betrayal.

Self-Publishing And The Bookstrapper’s Guide To Book Marketing With Tucker Max. Podcast Episode 193

When an author and entrepreneur who has sold over 3 million books puts out a book on marketing, you know you have to learn more! Tucker Max on the show today.

In the intro, I talk about the introduction of pre-orders for indie authors on Amazon KDP, already available on iBooks and Kobo. I’ve used it immediately, so you can now pre-order my next book, ‘Business for Authors: How to be an Author-Entrepreneur,’ all the links here. I also thank my new backers of the show through Patreon and explain a bit more on how that works..

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and you can now support my time on Patreon.

tucker maxTucker Max is a multiple New York Times bestselling author with over 3 million books sold. He’s also a serial entrepreneur, running a publishing company and a marketing business, as well as other ventures. His latest book is “The Bookstrapper Guide to Marketing Your Book, Creating a Bestseller by Yourself.

You can watch the interview on YouTube here, listen above or on the podcast feed on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcription below. We discuss:

  • BookstrapperTucker’s early experiences with rejection in the book industry and how he built a platform online, transitioning to being an entrepreneur and moving into the publishing business himself.
  • Why professional publishing is so important
  • Why some people still perceive a stigma of self-publishing, but readers don’t actually care
  • On asking permission
  • Tucker’s advice to writers starting out
  • How much of the marketing advice out there is espoused by people who haven’t sold many books. Be careful who you listen to.
  • The importance of deciding your definition of success
  • Marketing suggestions for introverts
  • What’s next for authors? Tucker talks about what he thinks is coming …

You can find Tucker at Bookstrapper.com and Lioncrest.com and on Twitter @tuckermax. You can find ‘The Bookstrapper Guide to Marketing Your Book, Creating a Bestseller by Yourself,’ here on Amazon.

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