Judy talks about what she has learned with setting a daily goal as a top priority. She’s also learned that she can’t take 17 years to write her second book, and had it being published the day we recorded the podcast.
Being a new author, Judy struggles with getting her book in front of readers without having money to market. Together we explore ideas to jump start her marketing and get her book in front of people.
We look at Story Origin as a great way to start since it is currently free while being developed.
Several other ideas are talked about, all of which can be used by any author that is starting their career.
Stephen: So Judy, welcome back second half of our talk on the podcast. This time we’re gonna talk a bit more about the things that authors might be interested in. So to get started you’ve got two books out now and you’re working on a third one. What have you learned after writing your first book that you’re doing different with your second and third book?
That’s a hard question. Sorry,
Judy: I’m not gonna take. 17 years to write.
Stephen: There you go.
Judy: But as far as process, once I really sat down and started to write as a job, so to speak, as opposed to when I could make it fit into my life, I developed the process pretty quickly and I’ve pretty much stuck to that, that The things that I learned to do, probably the biggest thing that I learned to do in writing the first book was to set a daily goal and
Stephen: of number of words, or of number of words.
Judy: And to physically sit myself down and work at it every day. I didn’t always meet the goal. And sometimes life interferes, a week ago Wednesday, I didn’t get anything written because I was glued to the
Judy: Sometimes you get sick. As long as you consistently try to do that and you succeed, most days it’s gonna get written and it’s gonna get written in a fairly timely manner.
The book that came out today to the Bitter End, I started in. May of 2020. That’s certainly better,
Stephen: right? Less than a year as opposed Right?
Judy: Know I started the one that I’m 30% done in October, and the only reason I’m not farther along in that. And close to finished is because I spent the entire month of December editing to the bitter end as opposed to writing new stuff because I wanted to get it out in January and I was, editing’s a lot more work than you think it’s gonna be.
Stephen: Yes. And I also found, as I learned more, I’d go back to review things and edit and revise. And I think a lot of my writing started to come out in the editing and revision. If I get something down, even if it’s clunky or it’s not exactly what I wanna end up with, that when I can go back and edit and revise, I feel a little more relaxed and I can actually write more the way I wanna write and write the story.
I want to get out more.
Judy: What I developed in the first book. Through the help of many people, but especially through the help of the instructors that I had at the Muse Writer Center in Norfolk, how to go about editing. And I’d never edited anything that large that wasn’t technical material before.
So that whole thing was a learning experience. And it certainly, it took me less time to edit the second book, but I followed basically the same process. And my process turned out to be. The minute I finish writing the book, I compile it into a document and I send it to my Kindle. And I read it, start to finish that night, told you I read fast.
It doesn’t matter if I stay up till four or five o’clock in the morning because I’m retired. And I’m a night person anyway, so I read it right then as soon as it’s fresh in my mind, I take no notes. I just wanna experience it as a book. Is it really a book or is it just not. Then I do something else for three weeks to a month.
Let it just sit there because you need that space.
Stephen: I agree.
Judy: Go back and look at it with fresh eyes. Yep. Then I do another read through, but this time I take notes. And the notes I’m looking for. I’m not looking for grammatical errors and picky stuff at this point. I’m looking for are there inconsistencies?
Are there things that don’t make sense? Is there missing information? Is there stuff in there that doesn’t need to be in there that doesn’t really bring the story along? For instance, in the first book, I actually wiped two characters out completely. I had these characters, but they don’t really do anything except take up space.
And the book was a lot better because I did then, so that’s where I take the kind of notes, what are the major changes I want to make to this? What are the things I need to do to make it consistent? Like one of the books, fantasy books that I’m working on editing, one of the things I wanted to do was make one of the main characters a stronger character than she appeared in the first.
Draft. She’s very badass now.
Stephen: And I do the same thing. I, when I revise and edit check, I make sure the characters are consistent and are the way I view them. It’s very easy sometimes between chapters to make a character act completely different than what they should or change
Judy: the spelling of their
Yeah. That’s common very much. Especially fantasy.
Judy: Yeah. For a while I had two books that were going on that had. Characters with different names, but they were close and I kept getting them mix between the two books. So I finally took one character and I just changed his name to something completely different and did a global replace.
Stephen: Yep. And then it
Judy: didn’t mix the two books up anymore, but things like that. Things like I had, I introduced these people in the mid book and they joined a journey. This is a book that was a quest kind of book. And then you don’t see ’em again. It’s wait a minute. I gotta put those people back in here at the end.
Because they came to the battle with them.
Stephen: Yeah. I read books. I read a book,
Judy: I make notes, and then I open up Scrivener, which I couldn’t look without Scrivener, and I have the notes on the right side of the screen in a little tiny narrow window and the book in the main screen.
And then as I go through but cause some of these are things that need to go through chapter by chapter and they’re, interspersed through the whole book. Having that on the screen reminds me that, oh yeah, I need to make sure I do this. And then when I finally get it, that particular thing all done, I cross it off on my list.
So I know I’ve made that change. And I then I get into the really picky editing and I send the book out for other people to read and sometimes. Process I used in the second book. It’s the same process I’ll use in the third book, but I’ve developed
Stephen: it in the first book. And sometimes when I do my third or fourth read through in editing, I will read it backwards.
I’ll read the last chapter first and then the next go backwards through the book. And I’ve picked up things that I hadn’t picked up reading it. Normally, so I like that technique. That’s true. That’s probably
Judy: a good idea. I used to do that when I was a technical editor, read
Stephen: backwards and you mentioned that you use Scrivener.
Do you like Scrivener and you use it for your writing Mostly, yes. I would, Mary Scribner,
Judy: I, I do all of my writing in Scribner.
Stephen: When your first book, when you started it years ago, what were you using for that? I started
Judy: it in Word, but I finished it in Scribner. The thing I like about Scribner is I can set it up so that I have all of the research, et cetera that I need, which of course, when I first started the book, I didn’t know I needed all this stuff.
Nobody knows in the first book they need this stuff right there at my fingertips. So I have, every time I introduce a new character in a scene, I throw ’em into my character section so that later, and I don’t write a lot about it necessarily if, especially if it’s a minor character, but later when I’m like, oh yeah, who is that officer that they were talking to about this?
I need to bring him back up again. Now I have his name easily easy in a place that it’s easy to find. You can link to other, to websites or et cetera, whatever. In there, you can have whole research sections where you talk about, one of the books I’m working on right now is going to be set in an quasi Egyptian
Stephen: steampunk setting.
Nice. I haven’t read one of those before.
Judy: And of course it’s a fantasy, so it’s not real Egypt it’s not even gonna be called Egypt, but it’s that sort of a. Middle Eastern vibe, and it’s gonna have g genie and alligators and stuff like that. That’s gonna be a really fun book. It’s probably gonna be my favorite when I get it
That sounds interesting. I would love to talk to you about that after it comes out. So it’s called The Society of Widows. Okay.
Judy: It’s about these widows who group together and decide to become an intelligence organization for their government.
Stephen: Oh, that, that sounds like something I’d love to read.
Judy: It’s gonna be the most fun book ever.
Stephen: Nice. So let’s let’s talk a bit about our big topic that we were going to discuss. So you’re starting out totally different career than what you’ve ever done, and you’ve got a book or two, but. You don’t have anybody on your email list, you don’t have any money for marketing. The question is, what do you do and how do you get people on your list?
So let me start by asking Judy, what have you done to get people on your list and what are you doing for marketing? I
Judy: don’t have an email list at all. Okay. So I the people who know me, I have other ways to reach, and the people that don’t know me, I don’t know their email. Yes, starting an email list is something I need to do, but I haven’t done it and I don’t really know how to start
So have you done any type of marketing other than getting people to read your book?
Judy: I’ve been posting things on Instagram. I have an author’s page on Goodreads. I have a Facebook group that has no members. It has three members. One of them
Stephen: is my sister. Okay. So
Judy: are but it’s there if people ever start to look
Stephen: for it.
Are you getting any traction on Instagram? And why’d you choose Instagram? I chose
Judy: Instagram because a lot of, there’s a lot of book oriented stuff on Instagram. Okay. And have 75 followers, which is. Not horrible, but it’s not great.
Stephen: Oh, wait, you got so, but I’ve been
Judy: gaining followers since I’ve been doing it, so it’s not just my friends.
I’m getting followers from the people who are searching specifically for book related hashtag.
Stephen: So you are getting some traction. So it might take a couple of
Judy: years to build up to being something major, but at least it’s a
Stephen: start, right? Do you have your Instagram, LinkedIn, with your Facebook so that they cross post or people can go to Instagram and see what your Facebook name and addresses?
Judy: directly. I usually. I probably
Stephen: ought to do that. Oh, I was just asking. Cause I think a lot of times, and I like that you, you targeted
Judy: mean I’ve talked links to things, but it’s not there all the time, if okay. So I need to find a way to make it there all the time. That’s a good
Stephen: point in your profile or something.
Yeah. I think there’s little things like that I think would probably help that a lot of authors miss and it, the more. Things you put out there, the harder it gets to get everything coordinated because you said you have a Goodreads profile does that link to your Instagram or point to it? I believe that one does, yes.
Okay. So that, I think for new authors, like I have no money, I don’t have a list. What do I do? I think you’re, you’ve got the right approach. Finding the social media that you. Like in, that looks promising. And you’ve got some already. Do you have a website or anything to gather email?
No. Okay. Do you, are you thinking of doing a website or do you wanna just keep with Instagram and Facebook?
Judy: The problem with doing a website, a good website, is you need to pay for posting True. And I’m on Social
Stephen: security. The books have to pay for themselves, even buy
Judy: groceries every week of the month.
There’s no money until I start
Stephen: to sell more books. So just first of all, for all the people that may listen, all the writers all these other authors, have all these big budgets with all these ads, that’s not true. There’s plenty of authors that struggle to get marketing and get a list.
One of the things I’ve used, and honestly I haven’t been there in a while, is called Story Origin. Have you heard of that? No, but I’m taking notes. Okay. Story origin worked for me and I think. Yeah, so as of right now, story origin app.com. Right now it is still in beta. They are still working on it, so all of their plans are free right now to try.
That sounds good right now. There you go. So at some point they’re going to charge, though they may still have some basic free plan. I don’t know that they haven’t said, but. I’ve used that and essentially you put a book up there now it, it’s usually a book for free that you then join some promotions with other authors and every author sends out or alerts their list about these books and people go, look, they click on your book, sign up for your list.
And they get the free book. That is how I started to build my list and get people on my email list. So that would be something I would say that’s a good to check out. That’s,
Judy: I think that would have to be something that I don’t have on Kindle Unlimited you’re limited to the Amazon. Yes. What rolled when
Stephen: on unlimited?
And that’s definitely an issue when you go with Kindle Unlimited. Here’s what I would recommend and what I’ve done too, is for your series of books, write a short story prequel or an offshoot short story with the characters and use that for the free promotions. Put that as your reader magnet.
It doesn’t have to be a whole novel link book. Not always. It depends on the promotion. There’s a lot of promotions in there and some are like, you can have a short story. Some are like, has to be a full book. So you just have to, that one does. Yeah. But a full book to offer in the promotion. Yeah.
Judy: But I already have it, have short stories that are offshoots of my
Stephen: Okay. Two of them afterwards. You should look into it. That I should look into
Judy: that. Plus I’m working on, and it’ll be done probably by March. A short story collection book. There you go. Of short stories about swords. Oh, cool.
And that would be a good one that I could put in a place like
Stephen: that. Yeah. A absolutely. And then you make sure you have the links in there to your Instagram and Facebook in your Goodreads profile. And you do that about
Judy: the time I put the fantasy books up Yeah. For sale. And then have something that would lead them to what they would wanna read.
Stephen: Right, and then you that’s a good idea. Make sure and announce any promos you’re in on all of your social media and point ’em back to it because that’s how they work. If there’s 10 authors all with books, each author promotes the promotion. To their list. So if all 10 of those people have 60, then you’ve got 600 people coming to that page.
So you’re likely to get some of the audience from those other authors, and then hopefully it grows, they become interested. And most of those, that’s something
Judy: else that I was online talking to Nathan Lowell, who’s a very successful independently published author. And he says, one of the things that, that you should do is.
Is make friends other authors and get them to push your book to their group. Of course, right now it’s difficult to actually make physical friends with people because I don’t even see my actual real life
Stephen: friends right now. Yeah. But I mean it, that’s very true.
Judy: One of the ways to do that is to go to local conventions and so forth.
Stephen: Right, which, you’re going to have this podcast, and I promote the podcast, so hopefully I know, and I’m really happy that you sci-fi readers. Yeah. One of the funny things I caution, and this may just be me, some people may disagree, but I go to some writer conventions, some conferences where it’s all these talks.
On your craft, on your marketing, on getting your book published, all sort that’s focused on the writer. And then they always have tables that the speakers set up and they have their books for sale. And I always see a couple tables. With authors who weren’t speakers, but they set up with their book for sale.
And I’m like, you are promoting your fantasy book to other authors who are trying to write and promote their own fantasy book. It just doesn’t seem like the right market. No, it doesn’t, does it? And
Judy: you have 500 books that you bought and that I get, even if you sell only two of them, that’s.
Gets the pile down, that’s true. I can’t be back cause I can’t afford to buy 500 books.
Stephen: True. But I, the, I think there’s better ways of marketing yourself. Oh, sure. Trying figure out science fiction
Judy: conventions are a better way to market yourself if you’re in the science fiction and
Stephen: fantasy world.
Yes. Yeah. And
Judy: I live in a city, so we have those.
Stephen: Had those before Covid. Yeah. Remember those days? It’s much better to figure out who your target reader is and not just say, oh, these are authors. They like books. They’ll like my sci-fi book. Yeah. There’s 500 other authors at the conference with sci-fi books, so you’re not gonna give away books at that place.
Yeah. And actually I know. So they
Judy: hook onto their audience if they read it and say, Hey, I really liked it.
Stephen: Yeah, and I know an author that goes to festivals and conferences and stuff, and he doesn’t even bother to sell. If you come up and you’re interested, he just hands you a book. He’s if I sat here all day, I might sell three or four books.
It’s not worth my time to pull out the. Stripe reader and run the credit cards. I’d rather have somebody read it and give me feedback. And I think that’s gonna be the next thing I mentioned is all your family and friends and all that, 75 people on your list. Encourage ’em to go to Amazon since that’s where your book is at, and leave a review.
Cause the reviews are big. The more reviews you have, the Oh yeah. And is it like pulling teeth? Yes,
Judy: it can be. I’ve had probably 10 people who promised me a review who haven’t written it yet.
Stephen: Yeah, same here.
Judy: And and I keep reminding them, but it’s and I had a guy who I knew from a, the Nathan Lowell’s page that wanted to read my book and he read my book and he really liked my book.
And he’s I’d love to read your next book before it comes out. And theta read. And I said, sure, I’d be glad to let you read it. You just have to leave a review on my other book first. Oh yeah, I’ll do that. Never did it. Yeah.
Judy: Okay, I’m not gonna just let you read for free my book that I’m selling, and I happen to know this guy has Kindle Unlimited, so it’s not like he’s paying for the books anyway.
Stephen: So are there any other,
Judy: But it’s. It’s I earn money when you read my book. I’m not gonna let you do it for free if you don’t do something to help me
Stephen: out. That’s true. I know the recommended advice on your first book is just get it out there, get as many people to read it and hopefully leave reviews.
Is there any other marketing or things that you’ve heard about or that you’re thinking about doing?
Judy: Not really. I think we’ve covered most of it right now. My Facebook page of course is where I’ve shared most of the of the things that about my book and gotten most of my readers from. And,
Stephen: It’s it’ll be really interesting after your third book gets out and you have another year of.
Some things. I know a lot of people say, once you have that first three books, the first trilogy out get people get into it more, they’re more willing to buy it and all that. So I’d love to talk to you about all this a year from now, same topic, and see how things are going after that.
Judy: I was reading somebody had done a study about how much money various independent authors made and what they had done in terms of marketing, et cetera, at the various different amounts of money that they’ve made.
And the single biggest difference between all the groups was the number of books they had
Stephen: out. So that’s the advice overall is keep writing
Judy: for beginners was get more books out. And for me that makes a lot of sense because have you ever discovered an author and then you’re like, oh, good, I’ve got another seven books I can read.
Judy: So that makes a lot of sense to me that what I need to concentrate on, I need to do some marketing, but I need to be aware that it’s pro, the payoff is probably a year to two years
Stephen: down the road. Yeah, and I think that’s important. And it’s been hard for me and for a lot of authors they get that first book done and they wanna get out there and market it and make it the biggest seller.
And everybody should read my book. It’s wonderful. It’s great. But they, don’t realize there’s a hundred other thousand people that have said that in the last week. You know when someone who’s been around for a while you say, what can I do to get my book noticed? What can I do to get people buying and reading my book?
And they say write more books. You get the reaction a lot of times of. Blink, confusion, and then they ignore it and go ask somebody else. What can I do? And that really is the advice. Go write more books once you have it. It
Judy: really, most people don’t wanna take a risk on an author that only has one book.
Judy: even when you have Kindle Unlimited and you’re not paying for that book specifically.
Stephen: And even BookBub, they don’t even wanna talk to you unless you have more several books out and you have a certain number of reviews, if they don’t even wanna worry about it.
Judy: Yes. Now, if we get the $1,400 more that Biden would like to give us, I’ll probably use some of that to buy some advertising.
Stephen: Where, which advertising are you thinking of doing?
Judy: I’ve found an awful lot of books that I’ve read through Facebook advertising, so I’ll probably go with that.
Stephen: I know a lot of people have been using Amazon ads, especially if they’re in Kindle Unlimited, but also a lot of people now are saying with the traditional publishers going into Amazon ads that they’re not as effective and they cost more.
So I know a lot of people get really good results from Facebook ads.
Judy: I’ve probably found 30 books in the last year from Facebook ads because of course, I’m in a, I’m in a bunch of groups that relate to books and authors in writing, and so I get a lot of Facebook ads that relate to books, and I click on them.
So that makes their algorithm say, oh, she likes to read books, right?
Stephen: More books, more book ads. Now
Judy: when you see, I’d rather get book ads than ads for things.
Stephen: Mattresses, heart disease, medication. So when you see a Facebook ad, you can click on, there’s a link for more information or something and it will tell you like the audience that was targeted for the ad.
Have you done any of that? To see what other authors are doing to target you and see if that would help. No, that’s a good idea and
Judy: I probably should
Stephen: do that. Yeah, that’s probably, if you’re getting all these book ads anyway, you might as well learn from what other people are doing or at least see what they’re doing, cuz you don’t know how successful they really are.
But you could, any of the books that you look at the ads and see what, who they’re targeting and all that stuff, you could then go look it up on Amazon and see what their ranking is. If you’re looking at this ad and the ranking is like 3 million, they’re not getting good results.
But if the ranking’s like a hundred, hey, they’ve got good results from that. Obviously I did
Judy: a, in preparation for the second book, I did a five day free on Amazon. And I got another 20 or 30 readers outta that. That doesn’t sound like much, but some of those people are gonna come back for the second book.
Stephen: Ha. Have you looked into setting up like a MailChimp or something an email list to get these people on? Cuz like the first set is free, I believe that may have changed, but it’s been where you get so many for free and that might be a good way to kick it off and get started. That might be some,
Judy: that might be something I’ll do with the money that, that we might get.
Stephen: to Oh yeah.
Judy: To actually buy some email lists to get
Stephen: started. Be careful with that. I know that has bitten some people in the butt. I would probably work with story origin first and try that for a little bit. Okay. I just I’d be cautious about buying a list and sending to it. You might not get as good results or you may even get yourself in trouble.
Okay. All right. I might
Judy: also do another free promotion and do an link, do an Amazon ad at the same time.
Stephen: Yeah. It’s I all these things, that’s how you find out what works for you is the experimentation. Cuz even if I tell you, oh, Amazon ads are great, it may not work for you in your book, it, the genre, the people or whatever.
Judy: I’ve read a lot of people who say that if you have more than one book, The free promotion helps tremendously to build an audience and combine that with an ad campaign at the same time. I can see where that could start to, to grow your audience a great deal. Cause people are willing to take a chance on something they don’t have to pay for, right?
Yep. And the other thing I’ve done is I’ve reduced the price on the first book to 99 cents, which is the lowest permanent price you can put it at in Amazon. And so hopefully that’ll drive some people in too as they, as and I might try to get onto some of those Amazon promotions for the books and that.
Stephen: Again I’d love to hear, we’re talking to you right near the beginning of you doing all this. I’d love to hear in a year to a year and a half how things have gone what you found that worked and didn’t. Yeah. So Judy, before we get going here any, do you have any last minute advice that you would give new authors?
Judy: The first piece of advice I would give a new author is to write your story. Say what you want to say. So many people will try to tell you, oh, that’s not marketable y that’s a bad I, if it’s what you wanna say it. The next thing that I wanna say to people is every project, and I do mean every project always has at least one, sometimes more times when you personally think everything is garbage and you cannot possibly.
Finish this and that. It’s just horrible. That happens in every project. It’s normal. It’s to be expected, and when you hit it, it’s a good sign because usually it means you’re about to hit a breakthrough. And that’s not just in writing projects. That’s every kind of project I ever did a software project, a manpower study class that I was teaching.
Every project has some point when you think this is garbage and I can’t do this.
Stephen: So just keep writing What? So just keep
Judy: writing. Take your daily word count and. And do it and do the daily word count. That helped me tremendously to focus. And even if you’re not into it that day and you’re like, I can’t think of anything to say.
I can’t think of anything to say over and over again until your block breaks. It’ll break after about 30 or 40 tries.
Stephen: Nice. I’ll have to try that next time.
Judy: I got that one from a book called The Artist Sway by Julia Cameron. And. She has this thing called morning Pages where you write three pages every day of just whatever’s on your mind, and that’s what you do.
You just write. If you can’t think of anything to say, you just write. I can’t think of anything to say. And what it does is it gets you actually writing, and that kind of breaks the block in your head that you can’t write, and then you get tired of writing that over and over again, and your brain says, Let me write something more interesting and I found it really works for me.
I don’t say that it’ll work for everybody,
Stephen: but it’s certainly worth trying. Okay, I like that. I’ll have to give that a try next time.
Judy: If you have the chance and the money, take writing workshops where your work will be critiqued. You can’t fix what you don’t know is
Stephen: broken, right? Find some people you trust and value.
Find some people you trust. I like the
Judy: writing workshops because they don’t know you as a person. When you first date them. We have a writing center that’s one of the best writing centers in the country that’s local to me, called the Muse Writing Center. And they give classes and they give scholarships too, which is fortunate for me.
Their classes are all online right now and they’re gonna continue to have some of them online after the pandemic is over and they go back to in-person classes because they found, they’ve attracted a new audience that they didn’t have before.
I’m sure. But some of the best feedback I have gotten has been from those writing workshops were people who this past term, I took a writing workshop with a lady I’m probably gonna take workshops with for forever from now on cuz she gives this great feedback.
But I was giving them the first chapters of the book that I just published today. To the bitter end now that none of them had read the first book. And it gave me great feedback because not everybody who reads your second book is gonna have read your first book and when it’s, when they’re late. And the things, the questions that they asked of what was confusing to them made me able to make the book a better book because it, it was stuff that I had in my head.
People will know that was in the first book. People will know that. No, it wasn’t. These people didn’t know it. They weren’t science fiction readers, and they had a lot of things that made me see my book differently, and they made the book a lot better by an order of magnitude of about a thousand percent.
Stephen: Nice. Good. All right. Judy, I love talking to you today. I appreciate you taking some time to talk to us. I’m very happy to have done
Judy: this. I really enjoyed it. Thank you for listening to Discovered Wordsmiths. Come back next week and listen to another author discuss the road they’ve traveled, and maybe sometime in the near future it might be you.