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Your Author Brand – Your Reputation on the Internet

Your author brand is your reputation on the internet

For many authors, the idea of a “brand” is one that they are vehemently against. They think a brand is something manufactured and fake. They want to be authentic. But the truth is, your author brand will emerge regardless. The key is to make that brand a positive one, which will eventually result in more sales.

What is an Author Brand

Your author brand tells people what to expect from you.Generally, you can consider your author brand to be the amalgamation of the different content you present on the internet. You can have a different brand per social media, or have a singular one across all of them. For example, if all you post on Instagram are cat photos, your Instagram brand is just that: Cat photos.

Why does that matter? Because if you suddenly take your feline-focused timeline and turn it into one selling your horror novel, you might find yourself losing followers left and right. More importantly: You may not sell any books.

Taking it another way, your brand tells people what to expect from you. It helps build that all-important trust necessary for soft selling. Building your online persona focused on a certain theme helps attract potential readers of your genre.

Build a Brand Workshop

Multi-million dollar corporations have teams assigned to brand image and management. You, self- or indie- author, have just yourself. So you’re free to take it as detailed as you like.

Start by asking yourself, “What do I want people to think of when they see my name on social media?” Start at the ten thousand foot view:

  • Do I want to provide readers with information about a certain topic?
  • What are the main themes of my book(s)?
  • What genres do I write in, and what are other authors in that genre doing?

Once you have the answers to those questions, you can start digging deeper. Once you’ve got a general idea of the person you want to be on the internet, you can decide what kind of content you should be posting. For example: if you want to be known as an author who helps other indie authors, post indie knowledge anecdotes. If you want to be fantasy writer, you should follow nerd and geek sites like io9, so you have plenty of content to share to fellow nerds.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be more or less consistent. And, of course, if you find yourself veering away from what you thought your brand was, feel free to change it! After all, it’s your brand.

Social Media Etiquette

When it comes to your brand, how you behave is just as important as what you schedule. Every fan response, every reply builds your readers’ idea of you. So, obviously, you want to make sure that perception is a positive one.

It goes without saying: Never respond to negative reviews. Ever.

Even if you think you’re right, even if you think the reviewer is targeting you unfairly. Or if they got the book wrong. Even if you do it privately, because there’s no guarantee the reviewer won’t respond by screencapping your email and posting it for the world to see. Take a breath, write your response in an offline journal, and move on.

When it comes to ruining brand over bad sales, this is a bit more nuanced. Generally, people flock to two kinds of folks: those who are upbeat and positive, and those who cause lots of excitement by drumming up controversy. It’s why we love reality TV.

What people don’t love is when an author gets online and says, “Woe is me. Nobody buys my books. I guess I’ll just hang up my hat and stop writing.” You’ll get a few well-wishers, and maybe a pity sale, but what you’re doing is alienating the readers you do have. Instead, focus on giving yourself opportunities to highlight the positives. Run a sale on your books and post when it hits a high water mark.

This isn’t to say, “don’t be human.” If you’re having a bad day, share it with your followers if you feel it’s appropriate. One of our favorite tried-and-true methods for turning a frown upside-down is our “Bad Day Giveaway” where when we have a bad day, we’ll run a quick Twitter contest and give away a free eBook. We also like, “Tell us something great that happened to you.” It gets our fans talking, and brightens our own mood.

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The Matter of Things – All About Front and Back Matter

When coming to the end of a book, you’re often feeling a jumble of emotions. If it’s a romance, you’re feeling the Happily Ever After. A dystopian, probably a little misery mixed in with hope. Across all books of all genres, there’s one thing in common: That all-important book back matter and front matter.

Your book’s front and back matter is, essentially, the stuff that bookends the actual text of the book. The title page, your copyright information, and table of contents goes in the front, your acknowledgements, your also by, and your biography go in the back. If you’re a self-published author, all of these components make for yet another sales avenue.

Front Matter: The Basics

For indies, you’re going to want to have at least three main components to your front matter: Title Page, Copyright, Table of Contents. You could go for the gold and have all the components (half title, series page, title page, copyright, dedication, epigraph, table of contents, etc). However, keep this in mind: Nobody’s buying a book to read the front matter. Especially when it comes to eBooks, where you can display up to 20% of your book to potential customers, you don’t want 10% of that taken up by front matter.

Our general formatting recommendation goes like this:

Print Books:

  • Title page with author and publisher logo (if applicable)
  • Copyright information:
    • Editing by [Editor’s Name]
    • Art design by [Artist Name]
    • © [Year] [Publisher]
    • All rights reserved.
    • ISBN: [ISBN]
    • ISBN: [ISBN:13]
  • Dedication Page
  • (Blank Page, so TOC lands on the right)
  • Table of Contents
  • (Blank Page, so start of book lands on the right)
  • Start of Book

Our eBooks run about the same way, although we don’t add the blank pages. Per the Smashwords formatting guide, we also make sure to add the appropriate text so we pass muster on the Meatgrinder.

A note on Amazon and Front Matter

Amazon’s Look Inside feature allows users to view the interior of an eBook prior to purchasing. For a lot of consumers, that’s how they decide to press that Buy button. Recently, however, Amazon pushed a new standard for eBooks in the Look Inside feature that effectively broke a lot of formatting, especially as it relates to images and text alignment. All of our books, formatted through Scrivener, were victims of this change. If you’re a Scrivener user, try exporting the book to ePub instead of Mobi.

You might also try Vellum, which is another eBook formatter (Runs around $200 for eBook only).

Either way, it’s important to check your Look Inside feature every couple of months to make sure everything looks as it’s supposed to.

Back Matter: The Basics

Right after the last page of the book, you need to try to hook your reader to take an additional action, whether it be purchase the next book in the series or signing up for your newsletter, or even leaving a review. The more pages a reader has to sift through, the less likely they’ll hang around, so put your high priority up front.

For paperbacks/hardcovers, we go with the following:

  • Last Page
  • Our heroes adventures continue/conclude in [Book Title]
  • Also By, with a short blurb about each book
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the Author

For eBooks, which can include hyperlinks, we switch it up:

  • Last Page
  • Our heroes adventures continue/conclude in [Book Title], followed by the following:

As always, thank you, dear reader, for going with me on this adventure. As an indie author, I rely on my awesome folks like yourselves to help share the word about my work. Please consider leaving a review on your favorite book retailer*. I am so excited to hear what you think—even if it’s a short review!

*Smashwords has particular issues with naming other eBook stores in their books, so keep it generic

  • Free Anxiety Dragon Book, with the following:

Sign up for the S. Usher Evans newsletter and get a free copy of Empath, a standalone fantasy novel about a girl and her anxiety dragon.

  • Also By with links to each book in the backlist, and a notice if the book is also a free download.
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the Author, with links to social media

The Importance of Back Matter

If it’s not completely obvious, your back matter is one of the best ways to retain new fans and increase sales of new books as they come out. Whether it’s through finding you on social media or signing up for your newsletter, giving fans a one-click option to get more of your stuff is always important. Especially if you’re giving the first book away as a freebie or newsletter gift, you want to give yourself every possible chance to keep your hard earned fans.

We also recommend linking back to your own website, versus trying to do store sites. In the first place, if you’re using Smashwords or other distributer, you won’t be able to upload a different book for each store. But most importantly, it lets you link to books that might not be out yet. So if you’re planning books 3 and 4 later in the year, you won’t have to update your backmatter when they come out.

That also means that every so often, you should be updating your back matter with information about your new and upcoming books. If you’re a habitual releaser of 4-5 books per year, you can probably get away with once a year for heavy lifting. It’s also a good time to sweep across your paperbacks and hardcovers to make sure everything looks good, too.

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Book Release Strategies – Tips and Tricks to Maximize Success

So you’ve built your audience, you’ve established your presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more. You’ve been building your newsletter and your media kit is built. Most importantly, your manuscript has been reviewed by beta readers or a content editor, a line editor, and has a professional cover. Now, it’s time to talk about actually releasing that book! The book release strategies outlined in this post aren’t a one-size-fits-all, and some have worked with one book and haven’t with others. At a minimum, they’ll help you put together your own plan for success.

Six Months Out

Yes, really.

Right about when you finish that first draft, you should look half a year out and pick a publish date. This will give you plenty of time to go through the editing process outlined above, plus enough time to get everything ready. Keep in mind this is purely for planning a book release; you should be building your platform long before this.

When building your book release strategies, start with taking an inventory of all your assets. This includes your number of social media followers, street team, and other advertising revenues. Why? Because it will help inform the rest of your plan.

Your next step is to establish a budget. Take a realistic look at what you can spend to promote the book, recognizing that you’re investing in a product, versus just spending money. Include everything in this number–cover design, editing, and advertising. If you’re giving away books, count on shipping (international can run you up to $30). If you’re doing a street team competition, make a budget for prizes and shipping.

Then, put together your vision, objectives, and goals for the book. This planning method is one part thought exercise, and one part schedule-building. By starting at the 10,000-foot-view, you understand what you really want out of your release. And intention is key.

The book release vision can be something general (I want to release Book X on X date) or it can be specific (I want to increase sales/reviews/reach from the previous book).

Your objectives are the big rocks:

  • Have finished book ready for upload by X date
  • Obtain additional preorders by doing X
  • Continue to grow social media presence by doing X
  • Test (particular advertising service or marketing ideas)

Your goals are the specific achievements. There may be a little overlap for the objectives, but it’s better to keep them separated. Generally, we like to add actual numbers to the goals to have something to shoot for:

  • Book X will be released to editor on X date
  • Write 12 blog posts about the book
  • Grow reviews on Goodreads to 50
  • Increase Twitter to 2,000
  • Grow Facebook to 1,000
  • Preorder Goals: 100 on Kindle, 15 on paperback, (etc.)

Finally, put together a list of tasks for each goal. This is where your asset inventory and budget come in handy, because you’ll have a list of tools readily available. For increasing preorders, you can create a task to seek out 10 book bloggers for a cover reveal tour, using your Twitter or Facebook followers to ask for help. To increase Twitter following, set a task to find and strike up a conversation with five people per day, etc. Make sure you’ve got space for contacting people, especially if you’re setting up a blog tour or asking for guest posts.

Use a GTD system like ToodleDo to put your tasks in order and add a completion date to them. And now you’ve created a project plan!

So go execute that plan.

Three Months Out

As we chatted about a while ago, Amazon will only let you upload a book 90 days away from your publication date. Therefore, we like using that as our official “marketing kick-off” date. Here are some of our favorite ways to celebrate this milestone:

  • Conduct a cover reveal blog tour: Include:
    • The cover (obviously) but also a short snippet of the book
    • Your own social media and author photo
    • A giveaway on Rafflecopter with entrants signing up for your newsletter and following you on social media
    • Links to preorder the book. We recommend sending users back to your website, as you may not get access to Amazon’s link until a day before the blog tour goes live.
  • If you’re doing physical books, you can get early copies from Ingram. Find a few Instagram bloggers and see if they want to feature your book for a cover reveal.
  • Start your weekly blog posts. We’ve found the sweet spot for daily blog posts is about 6 weeks, but at 12 weeks, you can start sharing one day per week. Ideally, you should have all this content written and scheduled ahead of time.
    • Start soliciting guest blog posts from authors in your genre
  • Encourage your street team to spread the word, as well as your followers. People will be more willing to share new information than older information
  • Create a light schedule of social media posts with links to buy your books. It’s better to have secondary content (blog posts or Instagram photos), but the occasional tweet about the book is fine.
  • Start a Goodreads Giveaway
  • Announce the cover to your newsletter subscribers
    • If your book is 100% ready to go, you can grow subscribers by offering a sneak peek at the first chapter by signing up. Recommend that you align this sign up form to a new list so existing subscribers can get access, too.
  • If you’ve got a little money to spend, or you’ve got some know-how, put together a book trailer and post it to YouTube
  • Make your book available on NetGalley or send it to reviewers and your street team

For the book itself, if you really want to encourage preorders, set it at a special price of $0.99 until release day. You’ll have to determine if the lower profit is worth it, but we’ve seen three times as many preorders at that price, versus full.

Six Weeks Out

Now is when you kick your blogging from weekly to daily. We like to have a mix of content, including posts written by and about others:

  • Mondays – A topical blog post about something related to the book
  • Tuesdays – Sharing a snippet of the book for #TeaserTuesday, either on the blog or on Amazon
  • Wednesdays – Guest blogs from other authors in our genre
  • Thursdays – Character profiles
  • Friday – #FridayReads, sharing a short review (positive) about other books in the genre

For the blog posts focused on the book, make sure to end each blog post with the cover and how to buy. Use a program like CoSchedule or Buffer to promote the blog posts, and use all your assets in your inventory.

At this point, you should start seeing some reviews come in from your street team and book bloggers. Feel free to share these as appropriate. It goes without saying you will probably receive some lower ratings, although some bloggers don’t share these until after release. Don’t engage or respond to them. Just share the higher rated ones.

You can also use the six week mark to start a Street Team competition, encouraging your team to post their reviews and/or comment on your social media for points to win prizes.

Six weeks is also where you should be setting up all the channels you want to utilize on release day. If you’re doing a book blog blitz on release day, now is when you solicit bloggers. If you want your book included in new release lists, reach out now.

Week Of Release

At one week out, you can increase your social media advertising, both paid and unpaid. You also have six weeks (or more) worth of content to re-share at this point, so reuse the best-performing content.

The night before release, we like to do our Twitter Chats. If we’re promoting a series, this is the time when we do a cover reveal for the next book in the series. If we’ve got it available, we’ll also share the preorder links.

Release Day

This is where your asset inventory really comes in handy. On release day, make sure you’re utilizing every tool and channel in your arsenal, from YouTube to your street team to your personal Facebook page (be careful with this one; Facebook is persnickety about selling from your FB page).

  • Encourage your Street Team to share photos about the book on Instagram, and tweets with #bookbirthday on Twitter.
  • Release a newsletter with buy links and information about the next book (if applicable)
  • Use that same content on your blog, and set up a one-day release blitz with other bloggers
  • Re-share your best performing, non-blog content (Instagram photos, videos, reviews, other blog posts, etc)
  • Send an email to the bloggers who have left early reviews on Goodreads first thanking them for doing so, and then gently reminding them to cross-post their reviews to Amazon
  • Set up eBook advertising for sites that will accept new books
  • If you’ve set your eBook at $0.99, remind your followers that the price is increasing soon


First, congratulations! You’ve worked very hard up until this point and you deserve an adult beverage of your choosing.

The main difference between indie releases and traditionally published ones is the release curve. For Trad pubbed kids, your sales look more like a bell curve. There’s a big boost at the beginning, and then (for most), it dips significantly. For indies, the curve looks more exponential. Even with all this work, you may release your first book to lackluster sales. But that’s why you have ten more waiting in the wings, right?

Our experience is it takes a minimum of three books for a series to take off. So if the first book doesn’t sell well, don’t panic. The old adage goes: Your frontlist sells your backlist. Besides that, you’ve created a whole lot of content that you can use and reuse for the release of the next few books. You’ve built your network more by connecting with more reviewers and growing social media. All of this work you’ve done will pay off, but it make take two or three books to get there.

To keep up the momentum, set up a regular schedule of eBook advertising. We’re big fans of focusing on one book every three or four months, getting about $30 worth of eBook ads, and letting them do the work. Occasionally, if we have other books on sale (like the second book in the series), we’ll also share on our social media. The “tail” of sales lasts for about 90 days, and then it’s time to do it again.

But by then, you should be ready to release your next book, right?

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eBook Newsletters – The Best Bang for Your Buck

eBook newsletters are a great way to promote your book

Very rarely does advertising work exactly as you want it to. Even harder is being able to track return on investment (ROI) directly from a specific action. But when it comes to eBook advertising services, we haven’t found a better, more predictable way of getting our books in front of new readers.

What is an eBook Newsletters?

For the purposes of this blog, we’re talking about advertisers who maintain large newsletter subscriber lists (50,000+ or so) and then offer space to authors on said newsletter for a fee. The cost can range from free to $500+, depending on the advertiser.

These are your BookBubs, your Book Barbarians, eReader Today, and more.

When we talk about return on investment, we’re talking apples-to-apples: how much money did we invest (i.e. How much did we pay for the ad?) and how many book sales did we get in return on that particular series during that month? We have found a three-month “tail” of follow-on sales, longer if it’s a first in a series free book. And, of course, we usually always see backlist purchases from folks who want more from our authors.

Another option that’s growing in 2018 are author newsletter swaps. We’ve also been experimenting with author newsletter swaps, where authors have been able to cultivate and grow their own lists, offering space in exchange for hosting their book in your newsletter. We’ll talk more about those in a future blog.

Lessons Learned

Since 2014, we’ve been testing different books and different eReader ads. Now, even though we’ve seen fairly consistent results, there’s always an outlier that over or under performs. When you’re scheduling eBook ads, keep an eye out for holidays, weekends, and other large events that impact overall sales, such as political elections.

In general, we have found that eBook ads work the best when you can offer the first in your series for free. That’s not to say you won’t see a bump in sales from your $0.99 eBook, but we have actually found a higher ROI when we promote the first book, and leave the rest of the series at full price.

Speaking of series, they do better than standalones, from our experience. We’d recommend using that as a newsletter freebie versus spending money on advertising. You also might find different success if you’re utilizing KDP Select (versus going wide).

The other thing we’re coming to find out is that your eBook advertising can also result in higher audiobook sales. So if you haven’t already taken a look at ACX and how to create your own audiobooks, it’s worth a look.

Best Ad Services

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and we welcome you to put your own experience in the comments. Keep in mind that these are trends over a three year period, and that the market is always changing. It’s best to test your own books with each service.

Book Barbarian

We’ve been big fans of this service for a long time, which has given us as much as 250% ROI on our space pirate series. At $25, it’s a cheaper option, and they require a 3.5 or better rating and 90 days between promotions.

eReader News Today

Don’t let the website fool you; eRNT is one of our favorite sites to promote our books. We consistently make back our money and then some. At $30 it’s well worth the cost, especially as they don’t have a minimum number of reviews to qualify.


Another service we’ve been piloting, and this one has a unique twist: You can add your Amazon affiliate link to the book you’re promoting. This is huge, especially if you’re promoting a free book. We almost paid for our eBook ad based on affiliate sales when we tested it last year.

This one can be a little pricer, with $125 covering the Free Book of the Day (well worth it, in our opinion) or $10-$120 depending on the genre and price of the book.


BookBub is one of the most popular eAd services, and as such, they are incredibly picky about who they accept and in which genres. They also come with a heftier price tag ($200+), depending on your genre. We were granted an international Bookbub for our Madion War Trilogy eBook box set, made twice what we invested in the first month alone, and continued to see buy-through for six months.

Our way in: We went to Bookbub the first time we discounted the book, and used their comment section to say so. Bookbub has the volume to be picky with which books they run, so if you’ve never discounted your book before, it’s a wise idea to try them first.


What are some of the best ads you’ve run for your books?

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Press Releases and Author Media Kit – Old Media in the New Age

Author Media Kits and Press Releases: Old media in the new age

Last week, we talked about how to set up your book signing at a Barnes and Noble or other brick-and-mortar store. This week, we’ll talk about one aspect of marketing that a lot of authors (especially indie authors) overlook, your press releases and media kits.

Why Do I Need This?

An author media kit can mean the difference between an amateur and a career author.Many authors are already full-up on social media, between Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Adding one more thing onto their plate seems like overkill. But in this case, your press kit is one of those things that will set you apart from the amateur author. Taking a few hours to draft a well-written, informative document that you can leave on your website (and update once a year) shows reviewers, journalists, and the like that you mean business.

What is an Author Media Kit?

Your media kit is a collection of documents, images, and information about you, the author, and your books. Compiled into a single document, you can share that information with local press outlets (newspapers, TV, etc) and/or local press outlets can use it to find information about you. At a minimum, it should contain:

  • Author photo
  • Links to website, social media, contact email
  • Author bio
  • Book synopsis (shorter than the actual book blurb)
  • Cover images
  • Book excerpts
  • Interview questions with answers

You can also add individual press releases, review blurbs, and anything else that you think a news organization would like to know to help promote you.  Generally, you’ll want to compile all of this information into a .PDF (not a Word document) and stick it on your website near or around your About section. You should also have links to high resolution images of your cover and author photo on that same page.

For our alter-ego’s press kit, we broke out the book covers and excerpts into their own bullets, and kept the press kit focused on just the author herself.

What’s in a Press Release?

A press release is an official statement or description given to a news organization about a particular matter. You can use a press release to announce the release of your new book, or, more likely, you’ll use it to drum up excitement about a local event, such as a book signing or comic book convention.

Your press release needs to contain, at a minimum:

  • Introduction: What’s happening, where, and when.
  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (bolded, at the top)
  • Dateline (Your location and date)
  • Opening paragraph: A more storified version of your introduction.
  • Author Quote: This part gets a little strange, and is one of the only times you can quote yourself.
  • Author bio or more information about the books themselves
  • Contact information: How to get in touch with you (generally, email address)

You can adjust your content as needed for the specific event that you’re drafting the release for.

On Author Media Kits: Sometimes, reaching out to journalists on social media can net more coverage than cold emailing.Where Do I Send It?

First, you’ll want to add your press kit to your website. That way, if any reporter or media person is looking for information about you to use in a story (hopefully, a positive one), it’ll be easily accessible. This is also really helpful for bloggers and reviewers who might want to feature your book on their site.

When it comes to sending press releases, you’ll actually want to put the press release into the body of the email. Most journalists won’t accept attachments (because #internet), so if you want your words to be seen, it needs to go in the body of the email. Many news outlets have a Submit a News Story link on their website, but if you can talk to an actual person, then you might find more success. You also may not get any hits on your press release either. But like with most advertising, half of it works. The trick is finding out which half.

Don’t be shy about reaching out to journalists on social media (politely and professionally, of course). Our alter-ego scored an extended interview and wall-to-wall coverage for Pensacon in 2016 on the local news station–simply by reaching out to the news director on Twitter and asking if they needed more stories for the event.

You never know until you try!

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