Arial’s Author Toolbox – Updated

Arial’s Author Toolbox – Updated

This article was originally published on my author blog back in 2015 and a lot has changed since then. As such, here's an updated version of this post.

Purpose of This Post

Whether you're self-published or traditionally published, part of your job as an author is to market your book. Gone are the days when publishers would do that for you.

This post will give you some excellent resources to learn how to incorporate marketing into your writing routine AND help ensure your books are positioned for success.

Writing is only the beginning. Formatting, book funneling, mailing lists, advertising…all those will help your book succeed. You can't just write a book, publish and cross your fingers that readers will buy it. You MUST be actively involved in marketing your own books. Period.

A Writer's Job

There are three things a writer should focus on:

  1. Writing: You cannot sell a product that isn't there. Never, never, never stop writing. Don't be the author who puts out one book and says, “I'll see how the sales go on this one, and if it pays off, I'll write more.” Stop writing right now if that's your philosophy because you will never make the sales to justify your writing. Readers won't invest in someone who's only written one book. They want to know you'll be around. AND if you write well, they'll want more and you need to be ready for that.
  2. Building Your Mailing List: Bottom line – THE most important marketing effort you can do is build your mailing list. Hands down, this should be the primary concern after writing.
  3. Creating Ads: This is a new addition to this article. Mailing list alone used to be good enough. Now you get lost in the mountains of books being published. You must learn how to do either Facebook Ads or Amazon Ads or both.

Also, social media is not the best use of your time to generate sales. Use social media, and even ads, to direct people to your mailing list! THAT'S the best use of your money and time on social media – driving people to join your mailing list.

Arial's Author Toolbox

Write. Publish. Repeat.

by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant with David Wright

Though it's handy to have the eBook/print version, I HIGHLY recommend you get the audiobook version. That's the version I listened to and found myself throwing my head back and laughing all the way through the book.

The fact that a SEXY English voice is narrating has nothing to do with my enjoyment factor. *Arial fans herself*

Why I recommend this book: Besides being very entertaining, this book gives the down and dirty facts about what we REALLY need to do as authors in order to be successful AND how being a writer is no picnic.

The authors are honest about how hard you have to work to make a living as an author…but they also help you focus on what's important. I LOVED this book!

Great marketing tips, social media direction, where to focus your efforts on publishing your book, tips on cover design, editing, how to create funnels to get readers to keep buying, and more.

If you only read one book off this list, THIS is the one you should read! But honestly…don't stop there. Read the others on this list. Seriously.

Your First 1000 Copies

by Tim Grahl

I bought the audiobook for this…but do not recommend it. If you're a strict audiobook listener and don't have time to read, then get the audiobook, but it's read by the author and there are several little production mistakes (e.g., the sound of pages turning, smacking of the lips, hesitations while reading a word, etc.). I muddled through it because I don't have a lot of time to sit and focus on reading a book. It was well worth the listen, though.

Why I recommend this book: This book primarily focuses on how to build a mailing list and has several ideas about creating incentives for your readers and engaging with them regularly to keep their interest.

There are a lot of books out there on this subject and I've read many of them, but Tim Grahl does a GREAT job of making it simple and straightforward. The information here is organized very well!

AND I LOVE the way he keeps the book current by telling you to visit his website for his latest recommendations for mailing list services and other such resources. As he says, technology changes and vendors come and go. One service may do it better than another or be gone tomorrow. GREAT read.

Book Launch Blueprint

by Tim Grahl

Why I Recommend This Book: The above book shows you how to build a mailing list. This book shows you how to leverage that list to make your book launches successful. Another great read!

Just so you know, he DOES specialize in launching a book and making it a success, but has not yet written a book that shows you how to sustain that level of success.

There are a lot of factors involved with that, and these other books on this list can help. So just because your book might reach bestseller status, it takes a LOT to get it to stay there.

That's why it's so important to keep on writing! The more you write, the better chance you have of making a living from your writing.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

by Jessica Brody

I won't write another book unless I'm using the Save the Cat! (STC) Beat Sheet for novels. Jessica Brody took the classic blockbuster film formula discovered by Blake Snyder and adapted it for fiction authors. This book, and the next two, help us write faster and better.

Why I Recommend This Book: THIS book helps ensure you're crafting a gripping tale that will keep readers up all night finding out what happens next.

Don't mistake the word “formula” to mean you're writing the same book over and over again. Not at all! Once you read Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, you'll see why bestselling novels–which she dissects in each chapter–became bestselling novels. They all contain the same core elements, but HOW you weave your tale is what makes your story different from others.

For example: The Martian by Andy Weir, The Firm by John Grisham, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Misery by Stephen King all use the same writing formula or STC genre called Dude with a Problem. If you're familiar with each of these stories, you'll know they are not only bestsellers, but they all fall into completely different traditional publishing genres. And yet each and every one of them followed the same story structure or formula to tell a winning tale.

Get this book. You will thank me. You're welcome.

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love

by Rachel Aaron

How would you like to write 10,000 words a day, if you aren't already doing so? This book totally changed my writing!

Why I recommend this book: If we authors must keep writing and writing and writing, then putting out content is the key to our success. If it takes a long time from start to finish to complete a novel, then this tends to slow down the process.

Ms. Aaron shows you how to organize your thoughts AND writing time to help increase not only your word count in a short amount of time, but how to plot your novel quickly and efficiently.

She has a ton of tips to help maximize the time you spend on writing and, therefore, be more productive. I cannot recommend this book enough! And you Pantsters out there…don't you turn your nose up at this. She has tips for you, too! And if you ARE a Pantster, you definitely need to read the next book in the toolbox.

Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing 

by Libbie Hawker

Okay, you Pantsters…this is the book for you! In short, the more you know about your book ahead of time when writing, the faster you can write it.

I can hear you Pansters from here: “But I can't write when I know what's going to happen! My characters fall flat and I get bored!” I hear ya! Preach it, bruthahs & sistahs!

Why I Recommend This Book: What Ms. Hawker presents here doesn't mean you have to know every single facet or detail of the story before you write it. You can still enjoy the freedom of your characters as they develop. They can still surprise you and take on a life of their own.

What this book does (as well as the outlining tips Ms. Aaron gives in her book above) is give you the tools to create the skeleton of your book. Once you know the direction of your story, your characters do the rest to put the meat on it…and you write faster!

This is a MUST read for Plotters and Pantsters alike!

Bryan Cohen's Amazon Ads School

This is not a book, but an online course that includes some services. The cost of this course is a few hundred dollars, but you learn a TON of stuff about running Amazon ads and it is a fraction of the cost compared to the other online training provided by his peers. (No affiliate links)

Full disclosure: I have NOT taken the actual Amazon Ads School. I took his 5-Day challenge (below) and I'm waiting to see how the results are before I decide to invest in his school.

Bryan Cohen's 5-Day Amazon Ads Challenge

This was a free challenge to authors that actually spans over two weeks. He has five days where he post videos that walk you through creating Amazon ads step by step. He also has live Q&A session via the Facebook group created specifically for the authors participating in the challenge. There were over 5400 authors in the group! It was educational and gave me the confidence to run my own AMS ads.

The goal of the training is to help you create low-cost ads while still making a profit. He also pitches his Amazon Ads School at the end of the challenge and gives members a sizable discount.

Just so you know, we're not talking the ability to quit your day job by the profit mentioned…at least not right away. Even Bryan's figures are decent enough to pay a mortgage, but if you live in southern California like I do, that's about all it would pay. HOWEVER, if you're making zero on your books, this is a GREAT starting point to learn how to finally profit at your writing without having to shell out a ton of cash.

If you can get in on this, I recommend you do! I'm not sure how often he runs them, but I believe on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. LIKE his Facebook Page so you can see when he announces the next one.

BOTTOM LINE: If you are intimidated by creating and managing AMS ads, then this is definitely a great way to learn for free. And Bryan gives a really good discount on his Amazon Ads school, which goes a lot farther than setting up ads.

Okay! I think that's it! If I come up with anything else, I'll add it to this post. I hope you enjoyed the information given here and find it useful.

Do YOU have some great books or courses that have helped you succeed as an author? Please share them in the comments below.

That's my two pence…

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