Category Archives: Giveaways

I Hope You Noticed

What are the ways writers get noticed? Good hair, great covers, blind luck? Of course, there’s more to it than that and our posts this month were excellent at showing us the best ways to get our works noticed by the readers who will love them. In the end, I think our writers would all agree that it comes down to good business, good tools, good behavior, and good writing. Let’s look at a quick recap.


Guy Anthony De Marco started the month by talking conventions, the opportunity small conventions can provide for writers and the ways in which we can expand our reach to larger conventions in a larger geographic area. Travis D. Heerman echoed Guy’s views by helping us learn how to sell by loving what we do. Everywhere we go, we need to be prepared to find that Reader Zero. Scott Eder reminded us to always have business cards with us, even if we’re just going to the grocery store. Guests Doug Dandrige and Sean Golden gave overviews of what they think helps a self-published writer get noticed including Amazon giveaways, social media and reviews. Guest Petra Klarbrunn talked about reviews in more depth, their importance and some ways to encourage our readers to take the time for them. Last, but not least, we have Evan Braun getting noticed through our own Fictorians site as he shared his release of the third and final volume of his The Watchers Chronicle, The Law of Radiance. Sounds like a great book that I can’t wait to read.


I was impressed with some of the tools mentioned by our contributors this month that can help us reach our target audience. Guest Katie J. Cross gave us a detailed how-to of putting together a local book tour. She inspired me to get my own tour together which resulted in two more book signings and a writing workshop in addition to my library book festival that to which I’d already been invited. Of course, local is all well and good, but getting noticed worldwide is even better. Guest Mark Leslie Lefebvre gave us inside information about getting noticed on Kobo, including new tools that are coming available to assist authors. With the increasing rise of audio books, Guest Terry Odell’s step-by-step guide is an invaluable resource that I will be referring to soon as I prepare for that next step in my publishing endeavors. Another great source of sales, whether we agree with their platform or not, is Goodreads.  Frank Morin shared a great post on how to do a Goodreads Giveaway.


Mary Pletsch, Guest John D. Payne, Gregory Little, Nathan Barra, Ace Jordyn, David Carrico and Guest K.J. Russell would all agree that acting with kindness, relaxing a little, and making friends is one of the most important aspects of a writing career. By making friends with fellow writers, Mary enjoyed much success she hadn’t even looked for. John talked about having an attitude of success. Gregory reminds us to enjoy people without worrying over advantages while guest K.J. Russell tells us we will be the most successful when we make it our business to help others succeed. The best can happen if we find our interests, share with others, and enjoy what we do and David Carrico is a great example of that . If you haven’t read his 1632 books, you should. I loved Nathan’s post title,  The Extroverted Introvert, reminding us to swallow our fear and put ourselves out there a bit. All in all, the most important advice on behavior that I found was from Ace; when things don’t go as expected, laugh it off, let others laugh with you, find the humor and just keep going.



In the end, none of this is going to matter unless you write an intriguing story. I loved Matt Jones’ unexpected advice to get involved with hobbies and activities of interest. By doing so, we have experiences to share with our readers and to draw upon with our writing. Kristin Luna reminded us to let our writing style shine, making us identifiable to readers and always unique. Drawing on a presentation by Kevin J. Anderson at the Superstars Seminar, Jace Killan used the metaphors of Rodeos and Popcorn to remind us that perseverence and a continuous output of product will keep us sharp and multiply our opportunities. And the last post of the month (besides this one) sums it all up. Good Writing Gets Noticed, by Kim May. After all, none of the above works unless we hone our skills.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s posts as much as I have. I know I’ve learned a lot that I will be applying in the weeks and months to come. Some of it I’d heard before, some of it was old, but all of the advice is absolutely valuable.

Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads logoThere are lots of pros and cons to Goodreads, and everyone who uses it has an opinion.  If you’ve never used Goodreads, it’s explained as a facebook-like social media for readers.  You can track books you want to read, you’re currently reading, and those you’ve read.  You can rate books, leave reviews, join chats, and browse many lists.  There are a lot of good features.

The cons to Goodreads usually tie back to bad behaviors of other Goodreads users.  I won’t go into that since I’ve been lucky enough not to run afoul of any of the Goodreads trolls I’ve heard so much about.  I’ll just say, it can be a useful site but, as with everything, tread with caution and don’t allow others to dictate how you feel about yourself.

For me, Goodreads has been a good thing.  I enjoy seeing what friends are reading and following other authors I enjoy.  One of the features of Goodreads I was slow to take advantage of is the Goodreads Giveaways, but they can be great for readers and for authors.

For readers, it’s easy to sign up for many giveaways, entering for chances to win free physical copies of books that look interesting.  It’s a no-risk way to perhaps explore a new author’s work.

For authors, setting up a giveaway is a very inexpensive way to reach hundreds or even thousands of potential readers.  How do they work?

First, you have to decide how many copies of your book (ARC copies or final, published copies) you plan to give away, and to which countries you’re willing to ship to.  The cost of the books and the shipping is all yours to swallow.

Next, design your giveaway.

The simplest approach is to add your cover, title, and a brief blurb.  That’s all you need and you can launch the giveaway.  You specify the start and end dates of the giveaway, and let it rip.  This works, but there are tons of giveaways running, and the downside is it’s hard to find a specific book among the long lists of giveaways.  So it’s easy to get lost in the flood.  I’ve found that most of the readers you snag to sign-up for your giveaway are won in the first days and in the final days of the giveaway, when it’s near one end of the list or the other.  It’s easier for people to find them.

There’s a simple way to increase your discovery rate and boost the number of readers who sign up for the giveaway.  To do so, you must make a secondary giveaway image.

Set in Stone giveaway promo updated


As you can see, it’s a pretty simple thing to put together.  But this image displays larger than the basic cover and helps pop out from the long lists of plain giveaways when readers are scanning the page, helping to draw their gaze.  If you have a great cover and an enticing one-liner, you can get them to add the book.

For Set in Stone, my first giveaway, over 1000 people signed up for the giveaway – 2 signed hardcover copies.  Even better, over 500 people added Set in Stone to their “To Read” queue!  Not everyone is going to eventually buy the book, but by clicking that they want to read it, the chances are higher.  That’s five hundred potential sales by investing a few minutes in setting up the giveaway, plus the cost of a couple of hardcovers plus shipping.  If I hadn’t listed Set in Stone in the giveaway, none of those people would have known anything about it and none of them would have even considered reading it.

I did a local book launch for Set in Stone and did everything I could to let folks in my circles know about it, but the Goodreads giveaway allowed me to reach beyond my normal circles.  The book has sold pretty well in its first month since being released, and I believe that at least part of that success is due to the Goodreads giveaway helping me reach a wider audience.

Here’s the image we just designed for the giveaway of Memory Hunter, an alternate history novel I’m releasing July 24th.  It’s an awesome book with an incredible cover, and is available already for pre-order here.  I’m hoping it will catch a lot of readers’ attention.

Memory Hunter Goodreads promo image

Anyone interested in checking out a currently live giveaway, or even signing up for the free hardcovers, here’s the link to my giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Memory Hunter by Frank Morin

Memory Hunter

by Frank Morin

Giveaway ends July 17, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Business by the Numbers

In order to be a professional author, to make enough money to live off your art, you need to treat your writing career with the same respect and diligence as you would any other type of business. Though it is possible to make money following intuition alone, it is very difficult to make consistent profits off feelings and hunches. For me, it seems like putting on a blindfold and stumbling around hoping to fall into a pot of gold.

Instead, businesses need to be able to quantify their success or failures objectively in order to make informed and useful decisions. Large corporations hire fleets of analysts to do this work for them. However, don’t let the math intimidate you! Writers, especially indie authors, typically don’t have nearly enough data to need someone devoted to the math. Additionally, there have been some very smart people who have already done most of the work for you. All you really need to do these days is to know which tools to use and which numbers to pay attention to.

Even still, I know how trying to dig into data can be intimidating. However, if you break the process down into 5 easy steps, it all becomes a whole lot more approachable.

The first thing you need to do when approaching any statistical analysis is define what you care about. There are ways to quantify just about anything you want to know. In fact, sorting the useful information from the noise is often the hardest part of any analysis. Approaching your pile of data with specific questions will help you get specific answers. So, what is it that you hope to get out of your career as an author?

There are tons of statistical tools choose from. Some are more intuitive than others, some more flexible, and yet others more comprehensive and powerful. Unfortunately, the more powerful the tool, the more difficult it is likely to be to use, and the more interpretation the results will require. Though it is a constant give and take, there are a few pieces of software that I think achieve a good balance and that I would recommend even for people who hate math.

One of my favorite pieces of statistical software is Google Analytics. I believe it to be one of the more powerful, flexible, and user friendly options available. Most importantly, it is free. After all, Google is the company made their fortune off being able to quantify the Internet. So, it only makes sense that their statistics software would also be top notch. Need help installing and configuring the software? The Google Analytics community is fairly robust. I’d recommend starting HERE. On the other hand Google Analytics has a lot of data and power. It can get quite involved and distracting if you let it. Be cautious as obsessively monitoring every page view can easily become a time sink.

Additionally, if you use Word Press for your website, I’d also recommend installing Jetpack. It comes with all sorts of useful widgets, one of which is a basic statistics program. Though you won’t be able to do any manipulation or dig into the data very far, it’s often good enough to give you a general idea.

Finally, most publishing platforms come with some sort of basic statistics modules. This will allow you to track sales, geography of purchases and several other metrics. One of the limitations here is that you track exactly what the distributor allows you to track. Almost always, their statistics are better than what you are given access to.

Chances are that you already have an audience that is interacting with your web page. So, the very first thing that you’ll need to do after installing any new statistics software is to allow for time to pass. Initially, I’d recommend continuing as you were for three weeks to a month so you can get a feel for how your business runs before you make any changes. Without a baseline, you’ll have no idea what is “normal” behavior and what is a reaction to a change you make. I’d also recommend establishing a new baseline each time you make a major alteration to to your business strategy.

Once you get to the point where you start running social experiments (Step 4), you’ll need to be willing to take a step back from the keyboard. Statistics takes patience. You can’t reasonably expect your consumers to respond immediately to your actions. Also, the initial reaction of a consumer group isn’t necessarily going to be their long term response. I’ve spoken to several indie authors who have tried raising the price on their books only to see an immediate drop off in sales. At that point, many of them lowered the unit price in a panic and swore they’d never ask for more money. However, *some* of the authors who stuck it out and let their new price stand for a few months noted that their sales returned back to their original baseline or even increased! Patience is key. So is being willing to risk and knowing how much you are willing to risk.


The bulk of statistics is finding the long lasting, consistent patterns in the noise. You want a change you can believe in. Just because you see a big spike, doesn’t mean that one event was caused by the other, nor can you even say that the spike is significant. Let’s say you spend $100 on advertising and sell 15 more books than your baseline sales. The next week, you spend another $100 and sell 2 more books than your baseline sales. Chances are that there is some deeper explanation in the first spike that differentiated it from the second. Any consumer group is going to have patterns in how they choose to spend their time and money. Find those patterns that represent a real response and you’ll be able to take advantage of them.

Let’s take my own website,, as an example. When I first looked at my own baseline, I noticed spikes of activity first thing in the morning, for a couple hours around lunch time, and in the evening. Additionally, I tended to see a spike in views on Mondays. Over the course of the week, the number of page views slowly died out until no one visited over the weekend. These patterns repeated over a the course of the month, so I had faith that they were a true look at my audience. Once I had the baseline, I needed to understand what the patterns meant.

Now it is time to go back to the goals we established in Step 1. Are you into writing to make money? In that case you should be tracking the Number of Units Sold and how many visitors Click Through from your website to a point of purchase. Additionally, you can gain some insight if you pay attention to your Audience’s Geographical Origin. If you plan to do a book tour, make sure you go to the places where you have lots of fans. If you have no readers in a particular region, try to find out why. Are your marketing dollars beings spent to reach the widest audience possible? Are your books even available to that audience? Do you need to devote more advertising money to that demographic? Additionally is your marketing proving effective? Do you see any spikes up to a new plateau or steady growth in purchases following a marketing push or promotion period?

Are you the kind of writer that just wants to get your stories in front of as many eyes as possible? Then focus on driving up the Number of Visitors (number of unique individuals that loaded any page on your website) and Number of Page Views (the number of total pages that were loaded). When combined with your web site’s Bounce Rate (the percentage of visitors who look at exactly one page before leaving), you can understand how your readers interact with your website. Additionally, you want to pay attention to your largest sources of visitors, particularly your referrals. These days, much of your audience will likely come from somewhere else, be it social media, Google, or a link a friend emailed them. These people are your Referral Visitors. They represent how often and how widely your links have been shared. If you can understand your biggest sources of referrals, you can know where to focus your efforts to get the biggest return.

Instead, are you trying to build a steady and faithful audience? If that is the case, you need to encourage Repeat Visitors (people who have been to your page before) and Organic Visitors (those who typed your URL into their browser directly). You want the ratio of repeat visitors to new visitors (called your audience’s Rate of Return) to be as high as possible while you minimize the Days Since Last Page View.

Keep in mind that you won’t often be able to manage to make progress on all your goals simultaneously. When I first started, I wanted to get my page out in front of as many readers as possible, with the long term goal of establishing a steady audience. To that end, I started experimenting.

Now that you have an idea of what “normal” is and what it means, you want to try to rock the boat a little and see what sort of waves you can make. Going back to my example, the first thing I did was change the amount of lag that I allowed between when I scheduled a post and when I first advertised it to my target audience. In the beginning, I saw that almost all my audience came from referrals that occurred after my media blast. I then went back posting and advertising near simultaneously. After a while, I started to wonder if I had become better established with a larger group of readers. I once again started delaying my media blasts and found that I had a steady flow of readers visit my page after I posted, but before I advertised. The things I had been doing to boost my audience had been working!

The key here is to change as little as possible and to wait long enough to observe meaningful results. If I were to spend see a spike in sales after a blog tour during which I also ran a BookBub campaign, which source of advertising should I focus on next time? There’s no real way to know.

Once you’ve made a change, return to Step 3. Wait, gather data, and then interpret the results. I would always recommend repeating any experiment at least twice. If you repeat your actions and see the same result, you can be confident that what you are seeing is real. If the results are different in consecutive experiments, then try to find out what is really causing your audience to react the way they did. Additionally, you need to take time to evaluate if the change you made supports your goals. If so, consider permanent implementation. If not, lesson learned, don’t do it again.

The key to any good statistical analysis is good interpretation. Take your time to think through all the possible reasons for the change, suing your experiments to hone in individual elements and actions. The longer you work at it, the more you’ll be able to determine from your results. Eventually, you will be so in touch with your audience that the statistics will just be a spot check to ensure that your audience is reacting the way you expected they would. Once you get to that point, you’ll understand why businesses focus on the numbers and leave the hunches for the amateurs.

About the Author:NathanBarra_Web
Though Nathan Barra is an engineer by profession, training and temperament, he is a storyteller by nature and at heart. Fascinated with the byplay of magic and technology, Nathan is drawn to science fantasy in both his reading and writing. He has been known, however, to wander off into other genres for “funzies.” Visit him at his webpage or Facebook Author Page.

Your Gift, Should You Choose to Accept It…

ForYouThis month, the Fictorians are writing about the greatest gifts we’ve received as writers. Last month, we wrote a lot about the business of publishing, and the month before that we delved into the tangled web of indie marketing. Just this past Friday, I wrote about a recent experience I had with the launch of my new book. Today, I want to very briefly bring all those subjects together.

Almost seven years ago, well before I made the decision to pursue writing professionally, a close friend of mine, Clint Byars, who also happened to be a coworker, pulled me aside on a Saturday afternoon and told me he had something to share with me. Instead of some piece of juicy workplace gossip, I was surprised (and intrigued) to hear that he had a story idea. He knew that I was a writer, or at least that I had a loose endeavour to become one, and he had a story that he couldn’t tell on his own.

That story took a long time to develop, and went through a number of permutations, but the result was a novel that, five years later, finally got picked up by a publisher. It’s called The Book of Creation, the first installment in The Watchers Chronicle.

If I were to make a list of the greatest gifts ever bequeathed to me as part of my writing career, this particular story idea would have to be in my top five—maybe even my top three. There’s a reason, after all, that The Book of Creation ended up becoming my first published novel. From the moment my friend shared the premise with me, I knew I had to write it. I fell hopelessly in love.

Specifically, what drew me to this project was its combination of action-adventure and mysticism, characterized by the best Indiana Jones stories. Ever since I was a little kid, I had dreamed of writing this kind of book. Well, I had in mind a screenplay credit, but upon reflection a novel credit is very nearly as good, and in some ways better. At stake in the story is the discovery of archaeological artifacts which suggest the veracity of some truly outlandish historical “truths” straight out of the some of the apocryphal Bible texts—notably, the Book of Enoch, which contains some ideas that wouldn’t be at all out-of-place in a sci-fi novel.

The second novel, The City of Darkness, is already released in paperback, and will soon be available in the major ebook markets as well, but that’s an announcement for another day. In anticipation of that release, and in the spirit of the holidays and this month’s theme of writerly gifts, The Book of Creation is now available for free in the Kindle store. Click here to download your free copy.

This book won’t stay free forever, as I’m ordinarily a big believer in charging for my work—even if it’s very little. I think artists are often too willing to give away the fruits of their labor. But for the next three days, I’m making an exception. Take advantage!

On that subject, be on the lookout later this month for a wonderful post by Mary Pletsch about why writers should only give away their books very judiciously. In my opinion, it’s an important lesson.