Sunday, September 22, 2013

Zee Southcombe: On Blogging

Zee Southcombe: "In the time that I’ve been blogging I’ve done heaps of research and learnt lots about developing image, expanding content, using social media, building an audience and keeping track of it all. I wrote a five-part blog tutorial for emerging bloggers to review their own sites, and make improvements in a range of areas. The series came about through my own experience in self-reviewing, and questions I have had about being a writer and blogger."

More here:

Thanks Zee - such a great set of blog posts for indies who are getting started on their Publishing Platform.

~ Joy

Monday, September 16, 2013

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Writing is fun. You get to spend time with imaginary friends, playing dress-up in your head. Writing is therapeutic, it is a fantastic way to figure out what's going on in your heart. Writing is the business of art, and the formulation of thought. I've been writing since I was a teen, and enjoying the effects of that writing on listening ears. My best audience ever is a classroom full of bright eyed and bushy tailed squidlets, so responsive to anything I have to say. I love it.

With the major changes happening with the publishing industry in New Zealand (NZ) at the moment, my new writing career might not ever get off the ground here. Sure I have made more in my first year and a half selling ebooks overseas than many new authors have in NZ, but that is changing so fast now that I have no idea what is going to happen this coming summer season.

I have been seeing the steady decline in sales over the last few months and am glad that writing and self-publishing is not our main source of income. I have come to a crossroads, a decision to look at what is important to me as a writer, a reader and an entertainer of thoughts. Do I keep writing and selling my ebooks for profit that this little self-publishing business has produced, or do I stop striving for sales and relax a little more into the life of a carefree writer? Big decision really.

The life of a self-publisher is a balancing act. I know few who can successfully pull it off and make loads while still having a life and growing a family. Actually I don't know anyone in New Zealand who have done it successfully yet. Writing in this nation means keeping your day job. I am blessed to have an excuse to be at home all day long so I can write and promote my writing. Preschoolers make way for an amazing world of opportunity. But I'm not so sure if I want to be a career writer, always striving for a promotion on someone else's blog, advertising platform or website.

Don't get me wrong, I am still going to sell ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords, and can't wait for my illustrator to finish my next KIWI THREE Series, but I've realised that what is important to me now is enjoying the writing and try to relax a bit more with the sales side of things. So what if that book promotion site has rejected my fourth book for promotions next month? So what if my sales are on par for the worst month ever? So what if I don't get traffic to my website/blog/twitter/Facebook page, it isn't the end of the business, nor then end of my writing.

Don't sweat the small stuff! I have to keep telling myself this every day. And I have to change my focus too. Spending hours (literally) online daily is just not where I want to spend my time and energy. Planning the layout of my next three ebooks with my illustrator – definitely! Sitting at my computer writing for older kids a series of fantastic fantasy stories – definitely! Reading to my own two squidlets each and every day – definitely!

I'm a writer, a self-publisher, a blogger, an ebook promoter, and a bloody fantastic children's ebook author who happens to be hitting the 'indie author's sales decline' just as much as the next. But you know what? I'm still a writer and I'm still excited about self-publishing.

Because I love what I do.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Zee Southcombe Guest Post.

Introducing Zenobia Southcombe, a writer, a poet and a fantatsic social networker! Zee has just started down her journey to self-publishing and has surpassed me in every way with regards to social networking. She connects with people: writers, readers, self-publishers, critics and illustrators in ways I have yet to discover. She is posting a series of blog posts on blogging and social networking and just quietly, I love her to bits!

Blog Review Part 3 of 5: Social Media
Hi, I’m Zee! In the time that I’ve been blogging I’ve done heaps of research and learnt lots about developing image, expanding content, using social media, building an audience and keeping track of it all.

This is part of a five-section ‘how-to’ for writer/bloggers. Each article will be published at the start of the week for the next five weeks. The aim is to help bloggers to conduct a self-review.

This series came about through my own experience in self-reviewing, and questions I have had about being a writer and blogger.

Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the most popular social media platforms, but what's the best way to use them? Here are some ways you can make the most out of these online tools.
Okay, I love Google+ - or rather, I love the conversations and people on Google+, and most referrals to my blog are from this site.
Join a community. Communities on Google+ are a bit like Groups on Facebook. I looked around for a while before finding the communities that suited me best, as it seems that many end up as blatant self-promotion and nothing else. When looking at a community, read the rules and scroll through the posts. Look at the comments on each post - are there any? You want to find a community that really is a community, and builds connections between people. My favourite is Support-a-Writer, founded by Alana Munro, and I haven't found a community to beat it yet.
Add to circles. When you add people to your circles, you can see posts they share with you. Often, they add you back, so posts you share with your circles (which is the default mode) will be shared with them as well (make sure you add Joy & Zee!).
Share your posts. Write a little something about the post as well, and reply to any comments that people leave for you, which leads me to…
Comment! This is the most important of all. If someone comments on a post you shared - reply. If someone posts a site that you visited - go back to Google+, thank them for sharing the link, and write your thoughts. If you see something you can add an opinion to, do so. You end up having some interesting conversations, and making some wonderful friends. Tag by using "+" instead of "@".

Most of my followers on Facebook are friends I know in real life, so this is one area of social media that I need to give a bit of a push to - any ideas are welcome! On another note, here are things you can - and should - be posting on your page:
Ask a question and make sure that you reply! A blogger that does this well is Writings of a Mrs, who asks a new question every day.
Photos! There are two great ways to share images on your Facebook page. Firstly, to share an image with your thoughts as done successfully on Tales of the Borderline's page. The second way is to share quotes in image format. I find stock photos or use my own (to make sure there are no copyright issues) and add text.
Share your posts with care. Facebook doesn't like links, so don't link back to your blog too often - once for each blog post is enough. Make sure you write a wee blurb about the post as well.
Writing updates. While I was writing my first draft of John Carroll's Adventures (currently in editing phase), I would regularly post updates of my word count, and got awesome support from my friends.
Other pages' stuff. If you see something interesting on someone’s page, share it on yours "With thanks to <insert page name here>". Credit where credit's due, guys. You can 'tag' them in the post so they see it by typing "@" before their name, but you can't tag personal accounts.
This one is Joy's favourite, right Joy? Jokes aside, while it took me a while to get used to Twitter, I have come to like it. Short, sweet and to-the-point - what more could you ask for?
Follow people. Search for writers, bloggers, candle-makers - whatever floats your boat, and follow them. Many people follow back so this helps build your own following as well. If someone says something you wish you said first, retweet them by clicking the icon with two arrows (kinda like the recycling sign). The tweet is then posted to your timeline, with the original tweeter acknowledged.
Tweet @people. Build conversation by replying to a tweet, or writing a tweet directly to someone, again by using "@". For example, if I want to tell Joy she's awesome, I would write "@FindlayBooks you are awesome". This is the best way to build connections on Twitter.
Share your posts & self-promote. Be careful here, please. I tweet my blog posts once or twice each, as they can get lost in the multitude of tweets, and sometimes retweet my old blog posts to give them a bit of love. HOWEVER, I have unfollowed people on Twitter as their stream is crammed with "read my post" or "buy my book" which is tiresome.
Make lists. I use these to make sure I don't miss posts from friends. I have a list for my Google+ community, a list for my real-life friends, and a list for each of my writing groups (you can set these to private so only you can follow them, or members can subscribe so they can all follow). You can make a list from your profile page (see below) and add people by clicking on the head-and-shoulders by their name, and choosing "add to list".
You'll soon find the sites that suit you best and develop your personal take on them. Remember to add anything I've missed out in the comments below!
Now, here are some extra things to think about:
Consistent Branding
Going back to basics, create consistency by having the same profile photo, colours, fonts and background across your various profiles and pages, as well as your blog. This means you can be easily recognisable by people that have met you on a different online space.
A Two-Way Relationship
What's the point of social media? Beyond 'building your platform' or 'developing an online presence', it's all in the name: it's SOCIAL. So get talking! Make sure you take the time to read, comment and reply to people. Networking is about building connections, not about being in-your-face about your book or your blog.
Set a Routine
It's easy for social media (and blogging) to suddenly take up a whole lot of time that could've been spent on writing. Set yourself a routine for social media. I work in the afternoons, so in the morning I make a cup of tea and check Facebook, Twitter & Google+. I usually spend about an hour reading things people have linked to and commenting, or replying to Tweets / Posts. I often Tweet throughout the day, and have started a daily midday(ish) Tweet about what I'm thankful for that day. I try to check everything briefly when I get home in the evening, but usually leave replies until the next morning. Some people are constantly online, and others check in once or twice a week – find a routine that suits you.
Thanks, Joy, for hosting Part 3 of 5 of my blog review series. Remember tocheck out Parts One & Two, and keep an eye on my blog for thelast couple of entries.
I look forward to your comments - Zee Southcombe 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Self-pub tip of the week: Marketing and Promotions

Originally I had posted this in my Facebook groups and pages then realised what fantastic advice it was for this blog too.

You may or may not know that children's ebook sales have slumped by 27% during the first third of this year. Many Amazon children's authors including myself, have started to scrambling for answers and try to find new and effective ways to promote their ebooks. Kindle's Select Programme is no longer bringing in the boomerang sales that it once did, and we have seen its effectiveness decline over the last year or so.

I have been working with a few Amazon Children's authors in a Facebook group looking at how to overcome the slump in children's ebook sales over the last two to three months. Their biggest advice that seems to be working THE MOST is promoting your ebook on Book Bub - for $40.00USD you can get close to 10k downloads for your Free or heavily discounted ebook. This results in a HUGE number of 'boomerang sales'. BB only take books over 32 pages and they have to be a high quality. They accept Smashwords ebooks and books sold on other platforms too.

Other advice includes working together to promote each others promotions/book launches/free promos; advertising on Goodreads and Facebook, and blog hop give aways. Hard to tell how many sales you will get from blog hops though, but it is great exposure.

Book Bub's submission details here:

Does anyone else have advice to share that works for their book sales?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Self-Publishing Workshop a Success!

Wow, just wow! I love what I do, I love my day job, I love being a SAHM, and I love writing and self-publishing kids ebooks. This year, however, I have discovered that I also love teaching others how to realise their self-publishing dreams. I love what I do.
So it is with great pleasure to announce that our first ever Self-Publishing Workshop – held last weekend – was a huge success! We reduced the price because we wanted to work out how to offer a five-hour workshop that covered all the basics to self-publishing, and with it being our first time, we learned what worked and what didn't work. And to be honest, most of it worked!
This is what we learned:
  • warm up the venue before everyone arrives: comfortable attendees = learning attendees;
  • have a print-out of all the basic terms in a glossary for newbies to refer to. We are trying to meet writers where they are at, and every one of them is at a different stage in their self-publishing journey, and some of them didn't even know what Smashwords or KDP were;
  • present a few printed books to show the difference in quality/paper stock/cover/paper weight with the different print-on-demand facilities;
  • have a few more breaks morning and afternoon as there is loads of information being presented and a few found that by the hour-mark they needed to stretch their legs.
With all of this new information given to us by our first workshop attendees – dare I say guinea pigs – we have decided to extend the workshop length to incorporate more breaks which means the next workshop will cost slightly more than we first anticipated.

Next Self-Publishing Workshop – Sat 16 November 2013

Where: Liberty Church, 96 Lansford Cres, Avondale, Auckland, NZ
When: Saturday 16 November 2013, 10:00am – 4:00pm.
Cost: $60.00 for six-hour workshop
Who: with Joy and Bevan Findlay, self-publishing team of Findlay Books
What: 10 topics that every new Self-Publisher needs to learn
How: email your interest to
Lessons covered:
Lesson 1) Before the nitty-gritty of Self-Publishing
Lesson 2) Legal and Financial Issues Part One – Copyright
Lesson 3) Using professional Editors and Proofreaders
Lesson 4) Formatting your book for publishing
Lesson 5) Working with Images, including Cover Design
Lesson 6) How to Publish a Book Online – A Step-by-Step Guide
Lesson 7) Legal and Financial Issues Part Two – Royalties
Lesson 8) Legal and Financial Issues Part Three – Tax
Lesson 9) Marketing and Promotions
Lesson 10) Vanity Publishing & Publishing-on-Demand
We will also look at why you are self-publishing and which pathway is best for you and your book, and we'll discuss distributing in New Zealand.
Bookings are essential as there are only limited spaces. Get in touch by emailing us at As part of this workshop, you will receive our ebook Confessions of a Kiwi Self-Publisher for FREE!
So what did workshop attendees have to say about our first workshop? We had everyone fill in a participant feedback form anonymously and here is what some had to say about it:
‘I am very impressed with the quality of the workshop materials and info, thanks heaps, learnt so much, very inspired!’
‘Yes, I would recommend this workshop to others if they are looking to self-publish or start a business for writing because this presentation would be really helpful for that.’
‘[The workshop was] run by a presenter with real experience and genuine interest in others' learning.’
‘[The workshop was] very informative, up-to-date and relevant. Great inspiration for anyone spreading their wings at getting started with putting words out there further!’
‘Yes, I would recommend this workshop, absolutely. [There was a] huge amount of information, very inspiring – I want to get into it today!’
‘[The workshop was] comprehensive, good value for money, professionally presented. An effective “step up” into the works of self-publishing.’
‘Friendly atmosphere, a very real manner [of presenting]. It gives you a good understanding of the industry and what it takes to make it.’
‘Good scope of information, value for money, effective notes in the ebook. Overall a very good first workshop!’