Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sir Poops and Hair Ball: Guest Post: Alana Garrigues and Some Story Sprouts

SPAL: Good morning, nice people. Today, we're going to let Alana take over the blog. Yesterday, Mummsy shaved Hair Ball and I. So I'm staying under the bed.

HB: Yeah. Why did she have to shave us. It's 30 some degrees outside again. Okay, Alana it's all yours. I've got a staircase to guard.

 Book for Sale! Book for Sale! Hawking Your Self Published Story

Thank you so much Shelly, Sir Poops, and Hair Ball for hosting Nutschell and me on our around the world Story Sprouts blog tour. We are so honored to be here for a visit! Today, we want to get down to business. How do you SELL your book?
Surely, if you are a writer or a reader, you have heard the stories about self-published authors who posted their stories to Kindle and assorted e-readers and made millions in sales. Or sold the rights to their stories to tv and movie producers for six figures. Or signed big book deals with traditional publishing houses after selling large numbers of books.
Maybe you've looked at their success and figured you're mighty talented - you can do it too! And you can, anyone with talent and an audience can do it. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems even some without talent can do it, taking up precious slices of the book sales pie.
Next, feeling brave and fresh off strong New Year's resolutions, you may have looked into self-publishing. If you did, and you dug deeper than the most basic tutorials, you probably peeked into the ugly underworld of self-publishing, the world that those who sell e-readers don't really want you to see. It's the world of low sales and broken pipe dreams, of people who dumped all their eggs into the self-publishing basket, quit full time jobs, sure to achieve instant financial success and came up short.
And you may have felt discouraged, wanting to walk away from the whole world of writing, between the agents knee deep in queries to go the traditional route and the millions of self-published books uploaded onto e-readers without adequate talent and coddling to help them succeed.
The good news is, with the right support system and the right story, you do have the power to succeed. And with the ease of uploading manuscripts to e-reader sites and no upfront costs to upload to paperback form, it had never been easier to publish and seek out your audience.
The bad news is, you will not become instantly rich. Self-publishing sales will take time. And just uploading your book does not mean anyone will find it and buy it.
So, what can you do to optimize the chance that your book will reach the right audience, the one that is loyal and vociferous in sharing with the world how brilliant you are?
Nutschell and I have learned a few tips and tricks about selling self-published books through our non-profit's recent debut publication - Story Sprouts: Writing Day 2013 Exercises and Anthology by the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles. With the hope of supporting our members and encouraging them on their journey to publication, we wanted to guide them on a series of writing exercises during a full day workshop, expose them to editing, and then put their words into the hands of readers around the world!
Here's what we recommend, based on research and the things that have helped us succeed!
  • Write the best book you can. Research, write, revise, edit, then revise and edit again. Get some beta readers to look over your manuscript and provide feedback, and hire a copy editor to catch the foibles that your brain skips over as it is so familiar with the story. You will be much more likely to keep selling a book with strong reviews.
  • Give it away! Not to everyone, but give it away to a few good readers to get your book into the hands of those who can help you. Give it to the friends and family who are your strongest supporters, and then identify a few people who will review your book in exchange for a complimentary copy. Plan a couple of raffles. Google indie book reviewers for potential reviewers who read in your genre. Give it away to the coffee shop where you wrote your book, or your cover designer, or that neighbor who always asks how your writing is coming along. Signed copies to your personal fans will cost some money, but if it sits on their coffee table or travels to cafes, it's worth it. Plus it's a nice way to say thanks for the support.
  • Speak in public. Book gigs on panels, offer a writing workshop, give a lecture about writing or the subject of your book. Most cities have continuing education opportunities that are always looking for a teacher, and libraries, book stores and writing groups keep busy with panels.
  • Ask your partners (and friends) to post a link to your book on their website and social media - think formatters, editors, book designers, your critique partners and writing group. And be sure to thank them in your book! They'll love seeing their name in print as a generous person who helped you along your journey. 
  • Go on tour! The blog world is teeming with writers and authors who are willing to help out a new writer and put up a guest post or a book cover reveal to help out a fellow author. Good karma and community rule the blog world. And while you're at it, talk it up on your own blog.
  • Sign up for a booth at a book or author fair. This does cost money, so weigh the cost with the benefit. It's good exposure, but make sure it's in your budget. Many authors I speak to say that they earn exactly the fee back during the event, but hope that the exposure pays itself forward with online sales after the event.
  • Use social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Goodreads. Tell people what you're doing! They can't support you and buy your stuff if you don't tell them! Just sprinkle in some cool news or personal insight or support for other creative friends in the middle of your self promo to keep your audience intrigued.
  • Add value to your book. Write a story about a character who loves chocolate? Throw in some good chocolate recipes at the end! Write a story about a photographer or visual artist? Include pics or illustrations. Think your story would make a good book club book? Include book club questions and offer to Skype with your readers. Story Sprouts offers writing tips and exercises in addition to the fantastic poems, flash fiction and short stories by our authors!
  • Be generous. Nutschell, my co-editor and President of CBW-LA, is from the Philippines. As soon as we saw the destruction from last fall's super typhoon, we knew we wanted to find a way to help. We're donating 50% of proceeds from November through January to the relief efforts. It will cut into our profits, for sure, but showing our support for a cause that matters means more than the bottom line. Plus, it gives people an easy way to donate to charity and feel like they're contributing something positive.
  • Go to your local indie bookstores and see if they'll carry your book! See if they'll let you do a book signing or a book reading to connect with potential readers. Indie bookstores often dig a local writer and want to give you a chance.
  • Get some swag, like bookmarks with your book, and don't be stingy about passing it out.
  • Be patient and keep your expectations realistic. Sales of any new product, book, invention takes time. We live in an instant world where tv pilots only get 15 minutes to prove they'll find an audience, but the reality is - success takes time. Building an audience is building a relationship. You want loyal supporters, not fickle fad-chasers.
  • The most important way to boost sales? Keep on writing! The most successful self-published writers generally have more than one book. Whether it's a series or several stand-alone novels, if a reader likes you, they'll look for more books by you. And the more books you offer, the more opportunities to find you and to keep buying more. (Just don't forget about that first tip - make sure each book is the best it can be!)
Now, get out there and write on. And when you are ready to publish, be sure to stop by CBW-LA, The Writing Nut or Writercize and let Nutschell and me know about it. We'd love to be there to cheer you on every step of the way!

·         Paperback: 240 pages
·         Publisher: CBW-LA Publications (October 18, 2013)
·         Edited by: Alana Garrigues, Nutschell Anne Windsor
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 0989878791
·         ISBN-13: 978-0989878791
·         Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
·         Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)

·         19 Authors
·         38 Combined Anthology Entries – 2 per Contributing Author
·         6-hour Workshop
·         10 Writing Exercises (included in Story Sprouts)
·         Dozens of Photo, Character and Conflict Prompts (included in Story Sprouts)
·         240 pages

What happens when linguistic lovers and tale tellers workshop together? Inspiration. Wonder. Discovery. Growth. Magic.
Brave and talented, the writers featured in this anthology took on the challenge of dedicating one day to the raw and creative process of writing.
A rare view into the building blocks of composition, Story Sprouts is made up of nearly 40 works of poetry and prose from 19 published and aspiring children's book authors.
This compilation includes all of the anthology writing exercises and prompts, along with tips, techniques and free online writing resources to help writers improve their craft.


Learn more about Story Sprouts at
Join the Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles at 

Find Nutschell at:

Find Alana at:


  1. Those are excellent tips for authors from all walks! While I'm not comfortable making physical appearances, I've done many of the online promotions.

    1. Thanks Alex! It would be great to pick your brain for tips. I imagine your active blogging schedule translates to very loyal supporters!

  2. I am a story scrip writer and from a long time I've wrote my story books. Which is very delighted to me about the writing concept. but this essay sale writing concept is very delighted to me. Which helps me a lot to write more.

  3. Shelly, you have done it again... great outreach, Story Sprouts wonderful tips.
    But your also so bad... I just thought the boys were looking great and you cut them ? bring on the sweaters !

    cheers, parsnip

    1. Thanks Parsnip for the comment! Glad you enjoyed the tips. :)

    2. Hey, Angry:

      I know. The Sweetman likes their hair short.

  4. I've seen this around. Great suggestions!

  5. Good information and hopefully I've followed some of these pointers on my way to writing success which might take me a longer time than expected. Maybe someday?? LOL

    1. Thanks for the comment Desert Rocks! I have no doubt if you put in the work, you'll get there!! Writing success takes a *lot* of time. If there's one thing I've learned, all those overnight success stories aren't really overnight success stories…. they've toiled and worked for years to get to where they are. It's just that once they explode in the media, it feels like overnight success to the person just learning about their story!

  6. This is such great information. Thank you. :)

  7. I always said that when I get published, it will be with a traditional publisher; however, the wait is getting frustrating, especially when I read a lot of crap.

    1. Joyce you can always do both. I plan on doing both.

    2. I also hope to go the traditional route with the creative nonfiction I'm working on right now, but ... this experience with Story Sprouts as a quasi-self-published book has been very valuable. I do think that doing both is a valid goal, and way to offer perspective. My day-to-day life is a freelance journalist, so I am accustomed to working with editors and publishers, but sales is a whole different ball game. So is a long-form book. It's great to do things new and different.

      That said, you're absolutely right. The wait, and seeing bad stuff out there, is frustrating!

  8. Great advice, thanks! And good luck with your book, ladies. It's great that you're donating a portion. :)

    The Warrior Muse

    1. Thanks so much Shannon! Really appreciate it. We can all use a little bit of luck on these ventures! :)

  9. These are amazing tips. I wish Alana and Nutschell much success on this book they edited together.

  10. Shoo I don't blame the doggies for hiding from a shave. It's cold outside! :) Since I've seen the Story Sprouts on a couple of blogs, will definitely check out more! Although I have never published anything, I did a little research on self publishing. Thanks for posting this and Have a Great Weekend!

    1. We can blame order of the shave on the Sweetman. His edic.

    2. Thanks Gossip_Grl! Hope you check it out and enjoy. Self-publishing is a whole different beast! Nutschell did beaucoup research on it, as she took the lead on the business side of publishing while I edited and wrote my fanny off, so it was a great partnership. I was able to glean off her wisdom. If you are interested in the self-pub route, I can also recommend a friend's book that boils it all down in a very succinct read - The No Bullsh*t Guide to Publishing by Jennifer Ciotta. It doesn't have all the info you'll ever need about the self-pub industry, but the budget and recommendations on when to hire the professional is pretty spot-on. Tiny read that packs a punch!

  11. Hi Sir Poops, Hair Ball and Alana,

    Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar has just read this most informative article to me. You make mention of a number of excellent resources to aid writers both published and aspiring.

    Penny keeps telling me to write from the heart. To make the reader feel like they are part of the story. She also tells me to write to the one reader and never to an audience.

    Penny's alleged human,

    Gary :)

    1. Thanks for the feedback Gary! And, FWIW, Jack Russells are my absolute favorite dogs! Give Penny a hug from me and tell her she has some good advice. :)

  12. Excellent tips about self-publishing! Thanks for motivating me to finally get serious about writing. Your book sounds wonderful, Alana and Nutschell, and I wish you the best of luck! Hi Shelly, Sir Poops, and Hair Ball!


    1. Thanks so much, Julie! Truly appreciate it! Best of luck with all your writing endeavours. Go get 'em!

  13. Wonderful ideas! I grabbed Alana's n' Nutschell's is great! Keep at it Shelly-you are a delight!


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