The Power of Promoting eBooks as a Team

Novelist Inc Conference 2013 logoI just returned from the 2013 Novelists, Inc. conference in Myrtle Beach, SC and I’m more energized than ever by the opportunities available to authors. Not just indie ebook publishing, but audiobook creation, print on demand, and foreign markets. The merchandisers were there in force, talking directly with the authors about platforms they provide to help authors reach new audiences.

Most gratifying of all, for me, was seeing how many authors had taken the “lifeboat” concept that was presented at last year’s conference and run with it.

The Lifeboat Approach to Promoting eBooks

At the 2012 conference in White Plains, I participated in a panel with several other authors, talking about how we’d banded together, rowing in unison like a lifeboat team, to increase sales for all of us.

Our primary method for achieving this goal was cross-promoting via social media. We chose not to form a Facebook group page. Instead, we use our individual author pages, sharing, liking, commenting, and posting about each other’s sales and special achievements. We found it’s a lot easier and more effective to post about a friend’s book rather than posting about our own. Even so, make the majority of the post-sharing and commenting social rather than purely promotional. Example: If one of the authors in your group posts a funny cartoon or photo, share it on your page.

(TIP: To help me check all the FB pages for authors on my lifeboat team, I bookmark all their pages in one folder in my bookmark bar. Then all I have to do is click the folder and select “open all tabs.” This lets me check everyone’s pages in a few minutes.)

This approach worked so well that we all saw an increase in our individual Facebook likes, which led to an increase in sales. We know the increase in sales was due to cross promotion because we noticed each other’s titles showing up in the “also bought” rows on our product pages at the retailers, primarily Amazon.

More Lifeboats Join the Fleet

At this year’s conference, it was clear other authors had taken the lifeboat concept and put their own spin on it. Here are two groups who did just that.

The Jewels of Historical Romance

The Jewels Salon logo The Jewels of Historical Romance is a prime example of effective cross promoting. Among their efforts is the Jewels Salon, a Facebook page. The page works well because it’s not about constantly promoting. Instead, the authors have provided a fun environment for readers to interact with each other and the authors.

Most recently, they held a masquerade ball. Readers had a great time posting images of the gowns and masks they’d wear, and who would be their escort. (George Clooney, anyone?) The theme of a ball fit in perfectly with their brand as historical romance authors.

“What we have tried to do–on our website and on our Facebook salon–has been to subtly remind readers that we are historical romance authors of quality and that if they enjoy one of us, they can be assured that they will enjoy all our books,” says USA Today bestselling author Cynthia Wright, whose newest release is Tempest, (The Raveneau Novels, Book 4) . “Readers often post in the Salon about new books of ours that they are reading and it’s clear that many of them are moving from one Jewel to the next.”

The Indie Voice

Another group inspired by the 2012 conference is The Indie Voice. In addition to their website, they also have The Indie Voice Facebook page, and a weekly newsletter that promotes sales and new releases by other indie authors.

Seeker's Island Welcome SignOne project they’ve done that really impressed me was a continuity anthology titled Summer on Seeker’s Island. What impressed me wasn’t so much the fact that they did an anthology, but the accompanying Seeker’s Island Website that creates an extension of the imaginary world where all the stories take place.

This is the same concept I used when creating the website for my Pearl Island series: a place where readers can go to extend the connection they feel for the setting and the characters. Since my Pearl Island series is set in a B&B, the pages for the site include a “kitchen” for posting recipes, and a “gift shop” where I can share gift ideas for book lovers.

Cover for the Naked Truth About Self-Publishing

In addition to cross-promoting their fiction work, The Indie Voice has a non-fiction book titled The Naked Truth About Self Publishing, available as an ebook and in print.

NYT bestselling author, Liliana Hart, author of romantic suspense and erotic romance, says, “We realized as a group, several of us were giving a lot of workshops and traveling all over the country talking to other writers about self-publishing, and we decided to combine our knowledge in The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing.”

NYT bestselling author Debra Holland, author of the Montana Sky series, says she too has gained visibility for her books through participation in The Indie Voice. “Some of the super fans of the other authors have tried my sweet historical Western romances (which are totally different from what everyone else writes) and have become great fans of mine as well,” Debra says.

It’s exciting for me to see authors taking ideas for self promotion and putting their own spin on them. Especially when it involves working together to help the whole group succeed.

Have you tried groups promotions with other authors? If so, what worked? What didn’t work. And what would your do differently next time?

Turning eBooks into Audio Books

The next wave in my journey as an indie author is literally a wave. A sound wave. I’ve decided to turn my ebooks into audio books. When I started my indie journey in 2009, I never dreamed I’d be taking a step like this. On my own. Without a publisher. Because, I never dreamed I could afford to produce my own audio books. The success of my ebooks has given me both the financial means and the confidence to give audio books a try.

Why Do Audio Books?

how to make audio books

I see the literary world poised on the edge of another explosion similar to the ebook revolution. With ebooks, the trigger was the phone. In the early days, many people (including me) read their first ebooks on their phones. It wasn’t until they realized how much they enjoyed the portability of ebooks that they committed to buying a dedicated ereader.

With audio books, phones will once again provide the trigger. Every day, new readers are discovering the growing selection of audio books available. I joined a couple of years ago and was only marginally impressed with the selection available at that time. Recently, though, I’m amazed at how quickly the selection is growing. The minute I started seeing indie published titles popping up on, I knew I needed to investigate.

Where to Begin?

The first step was to go to and create a “project page.” ACX is a part of Amazon, in the same way that CreateSpace is part of Amazon. You can do the whole thing through them. (I’m also discovering other studios, though, so more investigation is needed.)

What Does it Cost?

There are many options and variables. For instance, you can either pay a narrator upfront, in which case you keep all the royalties. Or, you can find a narrator willing to wave upfront payment in exchange for a cut of the royalties. I’m choosing to pay upfront because I have the means and I feel confident that I will at least recoup my investment. I think, though, that the other option is perfectly viable.

Narrators are paid “pfh,” per finished hour. I’m seeing rates all over the board from a $200 to $1,000 pfh. My contemporary romance novels should run about 8 hours.

In addition to the narrator, you’ll also need a producer. So total cost will include the studio and production. I’m still investigating this.

Finding a Narrator

This is the stage where I am right now. Within 24 hours of uploading my project page to, I received two auditions. I wasn’t wild about either one. So, rather than sit around and wait for more narrators to find me, I decided to be proactive. A friend who actually works in the field of audio books told me about Tantor Studios. I contacted them yesterday, and this morning, I had two emails from people who work in the production end. So, looks like the ball is rolling!

Question: Do you listen to audio books? How important is the narrator to your enjoyment of the story?

UPDATE: I wound up going with Brick Shop Studios for the production of my Perfect trilogy with Jane Cramer as the narrator. I’m thrilled to say all three titles have been fully produced!

Almost Perfect ebook and audiobook

As of Nov. 12, 2013, book one in the trilogy, Almost Perfect, is no ON SALE at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Just Perfect and Too Perfect are available for pre-order.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

What’s a blog hop, you ask? It’s like a giant game of tag to help readers discover authors who are new to them. For this hop, authors are answering 10 questions about what we’re working on now. This week, I’m it!

I was tagged by Kimberly Llewellyn. Visit her blog to see who else she tagged. At the end of this post, I’ll tag more authors who will be joining the hop next week. Follow the hop long enough and you’re bound to find books you’ll love!

Here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your next book?

Lie To Me, which will be book four in my Pearl Island series.

Pearl Island trilogy a contemporary romance ebook series by Julie Ortolon

The first three books in the Pearl Island series.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

From my readers! When I released the Pearl Island trilogy as ebooks in 2011, I had no intention of adding to the series. To me, those stories were done. I didn’t count on reader reaction. Readers fell in love with the world of Pearl Island, an imaginary island near Galveston, Texas.

The trilogy follows the St. Claire siblings as they buy the private island and convert a dilapidated mansion into a thriving bed and breakfast. To add some local color and a hint of pirate history, I wove in a legend about the two ghosts who are rumored to haunt the island: a famous opera singer once known as The Pearl of New Orleans and her privateer lover. There’s a shipwreck in the cove, which leads to a hunt for sunken treasure in Don’t Tempt Me, the final book in the trilogy.

Readers response was so overwhelming, I created a website, Pearl Island Books, which is an extension of my imaginary world. The question I get most often is, “When will Chloe get her story?” Chloe was a twelve-year-old tomboy in Lead Me On, book two in the trilogy. Pretty soon, I started asking myself the same question.

So, that’s what I’m writing now: Chloe’s story.

3: What genre does your book come under?

Contemporary romance. While there is a tiny hint of ghosts, these are fun, sexy romances that readers and reviews say make them laugh and cry and cheer in the end.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have absolutely no idea. My characters are so distinct in my head, I can’t picture them any other way.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A teenage crush sparks back to life when Chloe and Luc, now adults, square off over ownership of an ancient mirror that washed up on the beach at Pearl Island, a valuable treasure which can teach them that love, and trust, are the most powerful magic of all.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

I’m beyond thrilled to say that this will be my first completely self published release. It’s been quite the undertaking since the indie publishing revolution has taught me the importance of doing every step a big publisher does in order to produce a truly professional ebook.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Can’t say, since I’m not done yet.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

For this I asked readers on my Facebook Page. Here’s what they said:

  • Jill Shalvis’ first Lucky Harbor trilogy.
  • Susan Mallery’s Fools Gold series.
  • Nora Roberts’ Calhoun Women series.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Again, my readers and their love for the whole world of Pearl Island.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Falling for You book one of the a contemporary romace series by Julie Ortolon

Book One of the Pearl Island Trilogy.

Anyone who’s interested in discovering the world of Pearl Island before Lie to Me comes out should start with Falling for You. It’s book one in the series. Chloe, however, makes her appearance as a secondary character in Lead Me On, book two.

Next Stop on the Hop

Two fabulous authors of romance and women’s fiction will be joining The Next Big Thing Blog Hop:

Judith Arnold

Diane Chamberlain

Visit their websites for a sneak peek at who they are and what they write, then check back with them on Wednesday, January 16 to learn about their Next Big Thing.

Previously on the Blog Hop: Julie Kenner.

Happy Writing and Reading!



A New Chapter Begins

Let’s pop the champagne to ring in 2013! It’s been a wild ride for indie authors since I started this blog in October, 2009. Not just for me, but for a lot of you who have taken this journey with me. When I started, I was a neophyte in self publishing and Internet marketing. My goal was to hack my way into the scary jungle, to blaze new trails, and to send back dispatches to help others find their way. The journey has been more exciting, and rewarding, than I ever dreamed possible.

My Thank You to Fellow Indie Authors

Many of you have expressed gratitude for my willingness to share what I’ve learned. That touches me deeply, because I’m the one who needs to thank all of you. I seriously couldn’t have accomplished all that I have without the growing community of indie authors.

You have helped me reach yet another milestone, however, where my personal focus and the focus of this blog is about to shift slightly. Rather than post exclusively about how to be a successful indie author, I want to add posts about a new phase in my journey. You see, a surprising thing happened along the way. Epubbing my backlist rekindled my joy for writing.

After  my last print book came out, I thought my muse was dead. Turns out, she was just sleeping. Well, she woke up a while back and has been very demanding of my time. Which brings me to…

My Thank You to Ebook Readers

Without you, the ebook readers, I would have quit writing. When I released my backlist as ebooks, I never expected them to be welcomed with so much enthusiasm. Your emails, posts on my Facebook Page and Twitter, reviews, and word of mouth have meant more than I can possibly say. As you fell in love with my books, you revived my desire to tell new stories.

I’m ecstatic to announce that 2013 will see my very first, novel length romance that will be completely indie published. This is a new phase in my journey and I hope to share it in a way that will be interesting to both authors and readers. Next week, I am scheduled to join The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, and I will use that as a way to talk about my upcoming release.

The Future for Julie’s Journal

I will continue to blog about effective strategies for indie authors, but I also want to blog about something more personal, my journey back to being a writer.

With much love, respect, and heartfelt gratitude,

How to Format CreateSpace Headers

One of the most frustrating parts of prepping my Word .docx for print-on-demand (POD) publishing by CreateSpace was formatting the page numbers in the headers. The first step was easy to simply format the header to have a different even and odd page. That’s where “easy” ended.

The First Hurtle in Formatting Headers for CreateSpace

The problem is, books don’t start on Page 1. They have front matter: A title page, copyright page, dedication page, etc., which aren’t supposed to have any headers. Page 1 doesn’t appear until the first page of Chapter 1.

Troubleshooting CreateSpace Headers

Solution: I inserted a “section break, next page” at the end of my front matter. Then I opened the Formatting Palette to make it faster to move through the following steps. (It’s under View in the menu bar.) To open the portion of the Formatting Palette that controls your headers, double click on the header you’re trying to format.

Deselect Link to Previous at start of Chapter 1 when formatting headers for CreateSpaceSince I’d already formatted the headers, the formatting repeated itself for this new section.

Important Tip:

In the new section, be sure you deselect the “Link to Previous” option on both an even page header and an odd page header before you remove the headers in the section for the front matter. Also, select “Different First Page” and delete the text in the header for Page 1 of Chapter 1.

There, that was easy. Except it doesn’t end there.

Advanced Formatting for CreateSpace Headers

I realized professionally printed novels don’t have headers on the first page of any of the chapters, so neither should POD books. To achieve that, every chapter has to be a separate section. But how to get the page numbers to flow properly? Before we begin, be sure your file is completely formatted before you format the page numbers in the headers. If you change anything about your formatting that will alter the number of pages per chapter, you will create an annoying mess with the page numbers.

Step-by-Step Tips for Formatting POD Headers

How to Format Page Numbers in Headers for CreateSpace

NOTE: On the image above, “Header from Top” is set at 0.1. Be sure you set this to 0.5, or your header will be outside the printable area on the page.


1) Use the “Find” feature with the word “Chapter” to navigate quickly through your MS Word file. Once you get going, you just hit the double down arrows in the right scroll bar to “find next.”

2) Go to Chapter 2. If you have a page break at the end of the previous chapter, remove it. Insert a “section break, next page” just before the C in Chapter. The break will appear at the end of the previous chapter.

3) Since your previous section had a different header for page one (no header) the same should be true for this new section. One problem. The new section starts with the same page number as the previous section. So, double click on any header in the new section. (For Chapters 2 through the Epilogue, I leave “Link to Previous” selected.)

Select the page number formatting icon to change the page number in your MS Word documentClick on the last icon in the top row, to format the page number.

This window will appear. In the box for “Start at” enter the correct number for that section. (Example, if your previous chapter ended on page 14, enter 15 as the starting page for this section.)Change the Start at number in the page number formatting window in MS Word

4) Do this for every chapter.

5) For the back matter (author bio page, excerpts, blurbs, etc.) create a new section. This time, deselect “Link to Previous.” Be sure you do that for both an even page header and an odd page header. Then delete the header text, so those pages have no header.

That’s it. Done! You now have professional looking page headers and/or footers for you whole POD book.

Anatomy of an Effective Tweet

Twitter is a great way to promote ebooks online through social media. Knowing a few simple Twitter tips can make your tweets much more powerful. An effective tweet has three distinct parts that should follow in this order: message, call to action, #hashtags. @Tags are another element but their placement varies depending on who you’re tagging.

How to Write an Good Tweet for Twitter

Message: If you’re goal is simply to engage people on Twitter, this might be your entire tweet. Be funny, informative, insightful, or dramatic. Questions are a good way to engage others, just be sure you check back and respond to any replies. I’m on HootSuite, so when I respond, I actual hit “retweet” then “edit” so I can include some of their tweet with my response.

If your goal is to promote your ebook through social media, your message still comes first and should contain very few — if any — hashtags. A frequent mistake I see is for people to turn half the words in their message into hashtags. Doing that reduces the tweet’s effectiveness. When people scan down a stream of tweets, they generally read only the black text, not the blue. So even if you’re message contains words that would make good hashtags, resist the urge to put the # in front of too many words in the message portion of your tweet.

Call to Action: If the goal of your tweet is to drive traffic to a blog post, Facebook Page, or straight to a point-of-purchase site, like Amazon, put the tiny URL in the middle. (I use to shorten my URLs, so I can track the stats.) A common mistake I see is for people to put the link at the very end, especially on a tweet that uses every character allowed. That’s a mistake because every time someone retweets, it adds their user name to the front and bumps some of the characters at the end so your link is lost.

How to Use Twitter Hashtags

Hashtags should come after the shortened link. (What is a hashtag?) There are two kinds of hashtags. Some have a community of regular followers. These include #amwriting, #amreading, #writetip, and so on. Something I see frequently, though, is people using hashtags  like keywords to help people who are searching Twitter for something specific, like a contemporary romance ebook that’s on sale or free. I don’t think it’s that helpful. Instead, I think it just takes up characters. I’ve experimented with doing searches on Twitter, via HootSuite, for “#contemporary #romance” and “contemporary romance” and get the same result. While I do think hashtags like #amwriting have a following, I doubt #contemporary has a dedicated following. As for #romance? That could apply to dating as much as romance novels. After a brief experiment, I’m especially not fond of the hashtag #free to promote free ebooks because I’ve pulled up that stream, and it’s everything under the sun.

Expand Your Social Media Reach with Hashtags

When thinking of hashtags on Twitter expand your horizons, and look for subjects with a following that might not be about reading or writing, but ones that will help you interact with people who simply share your interests. TV shows are especially good for this.

If you happen to write vampire novels, a #buffy hashtag might work well. If you write novels about lawyers or doctors, you can use hashtags for shows about those professions. Tweeting with a TV show hashtag while the show is on can amplify your interaction with people who share that interest.

But don’t stop at just TV shows. Another approach is locations where your story is set, or hobbies that you or your characters enjoy, like cooking or knitting.

In addition to hashtags, you can also use @tags on Twitter.

What is a Tag on Twitter?

A tag is when you include a @UserName in your tweet. When you do that, your tweet will be visible to that person. This may be to promote that user to your followers, or with the hope that they reply or retweet, which will push your tweet to all of their followers, or simply to let them know you tweeted about them. To me, these are an exception to the rule about not having blue text within the message, because tagging someone is personal. If, however, your tweet isn’t about that user, but you’re simply hoping they retweet, put the tag at end.

Example One: Just read a great mystery, Book Title by @AnnieAuthor and loved it! tiny.url #amreading. (Hopefully Annie Author will retweet it with a “Thank You!” in front, which just made my username visible to all of her followers and might help me pick up more followers.)

Example Two: My new contemporary romance, Book Title, is ON SALE for 99¢ at Amazon tiny.url and B&N tiny.url #amreading @BookPromoSite (Hopefully BookPromoSite will retweet.)

Tip for Author: When you email your friends asking them to help you promote a sale or new release, be sure you include your @UserName in the text you send them.

Example of what you’d email a friend: Please tweet “Book Title, a new contemporary romance by @YourName is ON SALE for 99¢ at Amazon tiny.url and B&N tiny.url” (You can include the hashtags of your choice, or let them add the ones they like. Just be sure you leave room.)

So, that’s it. Hope these tips help you get more use, and enjoyment, out of Twitter.


What tips have you discovered for Twitter?

Goodreads Can Be a Good Friend to Authors

Please join me in welcoming contemporary romance author Kimberly Llewellyn to the blog today. She’s the best-selling author of Almost a Bride and Siren Call, and knows a little something about navigating the terrain known as Goodreads. Today she’ll share some hints and tips for authors to get started.

* * *

How to Use Goodread by Kimberly Llewellyn

Contemporary romance author Kimberly Llewellyn

Contemporary romance author Kimberly Llewellyn

Goodreads is a very popular website where readers and reviewers convene to share their love of books. It’s also a powerful tool for authors to connect with those readers and build lasting relationships. But where does an author begin to be a part of this community that can seem complex and daunting? Below are some tips to get started.

Visit the Author Program. Learn what the site has to offer authors and get an overview of what to expect.

Open an account and create an author profile page. On your profile page, add the cover and details about each book you want to share with readers. Don’t be surprised to find your books on there already. Most likely, a book lover already shared it on the site. But please don’t rate your own books. As much as you’d like to give your books five-stars, this is frowned upon.

“Once you set up your author profile page, it’s low maintenance from there,” says Jennifer Ashley. “You can even feed your blog to Goodreads. You can also connect your Goodreads status updates to Twitter and Facebook’s Timeline. After adding my books to my author page, I make comments on them. Readers seems to appreciate this.”

Since Goodreads is a reader-centric site, also be sure to add books you’ve read, are reading, or intend to read. It’s a good way to start a presence and bond with readers over the books you enjoy.

 Get in there and play. The best way to get to know Goodreads is to play around the site. Have fun, click on the tabs, and see what it’s all about. Doing a search on the site can be frustrating when just starting out, so playing is much more fun to discover what’s on the site.

Join a group. A group exists for every kind of book lover. Click on the Groups tab, look around, and see what interests you. If you’d like, join one related to your genre or one you’re interested in as a reader yourself. You can join a special interest group related to the content of your novel, like ghosts, pirates, or zombies. Participate in the conversations, but please avoid screaming, “Buy my book!” through overt promotion. Build relationships first and let readers discover you and your wonderful books on their own. For promotional purposes, several groups provide a separate author promotion section to tout your books.

For the author just starting out, Making Connections is a great first group to join. Be prepared for members to contact you with a warm welcome and to “follow” you (see the next tip). Feel free to follow back; it’s a great start to building relationships. Sometimes a reader will become your fan. This means he or she just wants to follow you and you’re not required to do anything.

Follow readers/reviewers you like. This will show your appreciation of the time they take to review books and it’s a good way to bond with others on the site.

Friend a reader/reviewer only if you have built a relationship. You may find that readers will friend you; feel free to accept and then friend them back. To understand the difference between following a reader and friending one, visit here.

Create buzz for a new book. Offer advanced reading copies of an upcoming print book on their ARC Giveaway page. Giving away copies in advance will generate early reviews in time for your big release and help you develop a presence along the way. You can even provide copies within six months of the book’s release. Be sure to comply with the terms and conditions.

About Reviews on Goodreads

Goodreads provides venues to help the author generate reviews in addition to offering giveaways listed above. As an aside, ratings on Goodreads tend to run a little lower than on Amazon; don’t let that disappoint you. It’s just a different rating system.

To obtain reviews, find a group looking for books to review. This is preferred over approaching a reader/reviewer directly to ask for a review, which can be perceived as being too forward if you don’t have a relationship with that person.

Many review groups are seeking free books in exchange for honest reviews. Knights of the Round Table, Advanced Review Requests & Book Giveaways, and Authors Requesting Reviews (ARR) (part of Making Connections) are just a few. When looking for reviews, find a group right for you and your genre.

Tana of Passionate Book Divas is the coordinator for Nexus and ARR. She suggests requesting a review well in advance, as the review schedule could be booked several months in advance.

“There are tons of authors that would love to get their books reviewed,” she says. “So far, what I have seen is that the more you interact, the more members seem to sign up for your book. [Otherwise,] finding your books is like finding a needle in a haystack.”

Tana enjoys connecting authors with readers. For authors, she suggests commenting on posts, just saying hello, following reviews, or simply thanking someone for a review can go a long way in fostering relationships.

The relationship between authors and readers/reviewers can be delicate on Goodreads. Readers are honest, and sometimes very blunt, with their reviews; authors need to understand that. Not everyone will love your book. So if you receive a less-than-stellar review, remain professional, respectful, and gracious. Focus on the positive reviews by “liking” them and let go of the rest, no matter how tempted you may be to address an unflattering review.

The more you put into Goodreads, the more you get out of it. At the very least, if you simply want to have an author profile page and add your books, that’s fine. But if you want to dive right in and build relationships, that’s great. Yes, Goodreads can be a good friend to the author. So go ahead, play around, make new friends, and soon Goodreads will be a good friend to you, too.

About Contemporary Romance Author Kimberly Llewellyn

Ebook cover for Almost a Bride a contemporary romance novel by Kimberly Llewellyn

Ebook cover for Almost a Bride

Known as “the Wedding Writer,” Kimberly Llewellyn is the best-selling author of Almost a Bride and Siren Call. Her humorous women’s fiction and romantic comedies, including Tulle Little, Tulle Late and The Quest for the Holy Veil, have been published by Kensington and Penguin/Berkley. Her book, I Want to Be an Author: Now What? is a publishing primer for beginning writers, hobbyists and subject-matter experts who want to get into print but don’t know where to start.

Connect online with Kimberly Llewellyn:






Three Quick Tips for Pinterest

I’ve only been on Pinterest a short while, but every day I’m discovering nifty little tricks that help me use this site as a powerful promotional tool. I thought I’d share three of them.

1) You can tag other Pinterest users by using the @ symbol followed by their Pinterest user name. You have to be following at least one of their pin boards. I’m a strong believer in forming small networks with other authors who write to a similar audience and supporting each other.

For instance, on the Aurora’s Beach Reads page of my Pearl Island website, I feature other author’s ebooks as my recommended reads for the month. Then I pin their covers straight from my website to the Aurora’s Beach Reads pin board. This drives traffic to my site while promoting my friend’s ebooks. But I’ve also started pinning covers from their author websites and using @ tag to help drive Pinterest traffic to their Pinterest account.

2) If you’re pinning an image from a website, you can highlight some of the text on that page before you hit “Pin It” and the text will automatically show up in the description box. This saves time when I’m pinning book covers or anything else. You don’t have to copy and paste the text to go with it.

3) If you have a pin board that is very specific to your books, or things people will find on your website, at the end of your description you can type your url and it will turn into a link. You don’t even need to put the ugly http://. For instance, check out my Pearl Island pin board. I don’t do it every time, but I frequently include in the description. That site isn’t my main author site, it’s specific to my Pearl Island series, but you could easily do it with your main site, or a specific page within your site. My one caution is that you make sure the image relates to the site or page closely enough that people don’t feel as if they’ve been mislead.

Those are my quick tips for the day. Do you have any you’d like to share?


Authors, How to Promote on Pinterest

by Guest Author, Sherri Browning Erwin

By now, most authors recognize the importance of establishing a presence on Facebook and Twitter to help drive promotions that can lead to sales. But what about Pinterest?

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard, a way to organize and share things that you find on the web.

My initial reaction to Pinterest was that I didn’t need another way to waste time. But finding ways to waste time is what I live for when I’m between words, and I joined. At first, I thought it might be a way to gather ideas for current projects. I signed on with my picture and author profile and arranged a few boards, representing various categories or interests, one for recipes, one for fashion, one for recommended books. At best, I thought I could recommend some of my books and books by friends.

Good Thing about Pinterest Number One:

Recommending books by simply posting a picture and short description of book from any bookseller site, no need for hashtags or blatant shout-outs.

Then, I started pinning pictures of pretty historical gowns, gardens, teapots, actors who reminded me of my characters, settings I might use in a novel, on the board I called The Muse. Pinning doesn’t actually take a lot of time because all you need to do is click to link a picture you find on the web with your Pinterest site, select a Board to pin it on, and add a brief (one line) description of the picture. Before long, I noticed that my pictures were being repinned (noticed and pinned by other users to their own boards) and drawing new followers to my Pinterest page.

Good Thing about Pinterest Number Two:

New followers to my Pinterest page means new people looking at my profile, which mentions my website and my books, a good thing. But even better…

After a few days, I noticed that when I pinned something from a website, Pinterest provided a link to the site that I pinned from. AHA. So, if I pinned something interesting from my personal website, it might be repinned by other users with a link to my site attached, encouraging other pinners to perhaps come back to check out my website? Yes indeed. I started a board dedicated to my blog, The Whine Sisters. The Whine Sisters is the blog I share with six bestselling author friends. We take turns blogging on various topics like favorite TV shows, movies, restaurants, writing tips, fashion, life events. I pin a picture from each author blog to the Whine Sisters board and try to keep track of repins, to see how a pin can spread.

Recipes and fashion are most often repinned. Each repin carries that Whine Sisters link with it to the boards of tens and sometimes hundreds (thousands?) of Pinners, Pinners who might just click the link and come over to see what The Whine Sisters are talking about next, and catch a glimpse of the books we’re each currently promoting.

Good Thing about Pinterest Number Three:

I can spread links to my websites and blogs with every picture that originates from my own sites and gets repinned.

After I saw lots of repins from the Whine Sisters board, I added new boards for new promotions of my own, like a Proper Victorian Vampyre Slaying board which features things that relate to my most recent releases, Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations. When possible, I try to post to my personal websites or blogs first and pin from there, so that all repins lead back to me, and to my books. It’s not blatant self-promotion. No need to mention me or my books by name or at all. And yet, I’m posting things that intrigue and lead to repins, and have the potential to bring people back to my own websites, or the book directly at a retail site.

According to website Shareaholic, Pinterest was getting nearly 12 million monthly unique visitors in early 2012, and driving more referral traffic to websites than Google Plus, LinkedIn and YouTube combined. Pinning items of interest on Pinterest can drive traffic right back to you or your books, which makes it effective, fast, and easy promotion.

Happy pinning!

About Sherri Browning Erwin

Sherri Browning Erwin is an author of contemporary and historical fiction, often with a paranormal twist, most recently known for critically acclaimed “monster classics” Jane Slayre and Grave Expectations.

Find Sherri at her Author Website or

Sherri Browning Erwin on Pinterest
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Sherri Browning Erwin on Facebook
Sherri Browning Erwin on Twitter: @SherriErwin

How SEO Can Help Promote Ebooks

I know many authors who recoil at the very thought of promoting ebooks. I suspect the reason is that many authors think promotion equals endlessly tweeting “Buy my ebook!” The good new is: that is not what I mean when I talk about effective ebook promotion. The bad news is: effective promotion is more complex and takes a lot more work. Fortunately, it can also be a lot of fun. It’s kind of like throwing a really great party. It takes planning and attention to detail, but once the party begins, it should be as fun for the host as it is the guests.

Promoting Ebooks with Social Media

Or: Why Tweeting “Buy My Ebook” Doesn’t Work

Many people think BS (Blatant Self-promotion) doesn’t work because it’s obnoxious.  Well, it is. It’s also boring. But the main reason it doesn’t work is because it’s marketing directed at human beings. This approach is the modern day equivalent of snail-mailing postcards and doing book signings.  Authors did this in the past because it was about the only thing we could do. It was also a fairly futile waste of time and money. We did it, though, because we were powerless to do the one thing we knew would have a significant impact on our sales nationwide: Co-op dollars, baby.

Before I can explain how social media has helped to level the playing field, I need to dip into how things work in the traditional publishing world.

Placement in the Brick and Mortar Bookstores

If a publisher is behind a print book enough to pay co-op dollars for special placement on an end cap or special display in a major bookstore chain, that title is going to sell many times more copies than a title that is simply shelved on an aisle.

Search Engine Optimization Gives Co-op Dollars a Run for the Money

The reason indie authors are storming the bestseller charts at Amazon is because the Amazon search engine has leveled the playing field. Yes, publishers can still pay to have their titles displayed prominently on all the ebookstore Websites, but indie authors who understand SEO can use certain strategies to push their titles up the charts—which gives a title the same exposure in the e-world as special placement does in the print-world. Some authors do this instinctively without really understanding how or why their ebooks are taking off. Well, here’s the key:

The #1 Rule to Effective Ebook Promotion is to Market to the Search Engines First, Human Beings Second.

Notice I said engines, plural. That’s because there are many and they each work differently, because each one was programmed with different algorithms. An algorithm is a mathematical equation that controls how the search engine will organize whatever it controls. I’m going to cover three groups of search engines that authors need to understand to promote their ebooks effectively.

Bookstore Search Engines

The Amazon, B&N, Apple, and Sony search engines control the order ebooks are displayed to potential buyers. They display ebooks in two main ways: the charts, and the also boughts. While algorithms are closely guarded secrets, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that B&N’s search engine skews things in favor of the traditional publishers while Amazon does not. That is one of the many reasons indie authors have an easier time climbing the charts at Amazon than they do at any of the other ebookstores.

Internet Search Engines

Google is by far the big daddy in this world. I could go on for pages and pages about Google SEO, but the Internet abounds with information. All I’m going to say for now is if you want to succeed as an author (whether you’re going indie or you’re with a traditional publisher), you need to educate yourself on how to improve your Website (or blog) SEO. If your Website SEO is low, you are missing an important element in your promotion platform. It’s like having a three-legged table and snapping off one of the legs. It’s not going to stand.

Here are some of my older posts that might help. Keep in mind these posts were written years ago about my old Website. They are not about my current site. My current Website is an excellent example of effective structure. Pay particular attention to where I have my newsletter subscription box and my social-networking links. Again — on my Website — not on this blog.

Social Networking Search Engines

The main one at present is Facebook. Twitter is so straightforward, there’s no need to go into it with this post. As for Pintrest, I haven’t delved into that world yet, so I’ll save it for later. With Facebook, though, authors need to have a page, not just a profile, and they need to learn how to read and use the insights that Facebook provides. Your goal with Facebook isn’t just to increase your number of likes. It’s to improve the percentage of people you engage which will improve your overall reach. Study your insights to understand what type of posts engage the people in your network.

In the coming weeks, I will delve into each of these components more deeply, but here’s my main point with this post:

Using SEO Increases Your Ebook Discoverability

The things you do outside of the bookstore search engine that increase your SEO on the Internet and in the world of social networking will drive traffic to your ebooks within the bookstore, which will improve your ebook discoverability. So, if you’re wondering, “Is it really important for me to be active on Facebook and Twitter?” Yes! You don’t have to be a master at both, and most authors tend to prefer one over the other, but yes, you do need to have a presence in some form of social networking.

As for the question, “Do I really need to spend the money—or time—to make my Website more effective?” Again, yes! Notice I said make it more effective, not make it prettier. Making it pretty is about branding. That’s the human element. Search engines don’t care what your site looks like. So, for the purposes of this conversation, your Website needs to be attractive to search engines, not human beings. And it needs to drive traffic to your social networking sites as well as have buy links.

Think of your overall Web presence as portals into the bookstore.

By overall Web presence I mean your Facebook page, Twitter account, Website, blog (if you have one), guest blog appearances, newsletter, and any advertizing you do. But these don’t just drive traffic to the point of purchase. They need to drive traffic to each other, so they all grow together.

How SEO and social networking improve your ebook placement in a bookstore.

When promoting ebooks, your goal shouldn’t be “sell more ebooks.” That mindset leads to authors sending out those obnoxious “Buy my ebook” tweets. Which is basically like handing out bookmarks to strangers on the street and asking them to go search down the loooooong aisle where your ebook is shelved spine-out and please buy a copy.

Your goals should be:

  • Increase traffic at your portals by improving your Internet SEO (and engaging readers once they’re there!), which will…
  • Increase traffic to your product page inside the ebookstore, which will…
  • Lead to sales, which will…
  • Improve your ebook placement (i.e. discoverability) inside the ebookstores, which will…
  • Lead to more sales, which will…
  • Improve your ebook discoverability even more…

When you improve your discoverability, you’re basically moving your ebook from being buried halfway down that long aisle to an endcap. Do a good enough job at this process, and the search engines will place your ebook smack-dab in a display at the front of the store. In other words, through savvy social networking and effective SEO, you’ve just done what authors could never do in the physical world of print books and brick-and-mortar stores: You bought special placement.

Grant it, the hardest part of the process is to simply get it started, but once it starts, it can build on itself and takes on a life of its own. So, focus on the process (increasing traffic) and the end result (selling more ebooks) will take care of itself. Yes, you will still post updates about your writing, new releases, and any special promotions you’re doing, but the bulk of your interaction with readers will be as a cordial host chatting with guests at your party.

So when you think about ebook promotion, don’t think about a megaphone. Think about a party horn. Make promotion a good time, not a sales pitch.