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When a customer is looking for a book to buy, they stick with what they know. Authors they’ve read before or maybe one recommended to them. When the internet came along and shoppers were able to browse more books then ever before, this changed.
Customers still look for books by authors they are familiar with but there is now many seek out new authors. There are readers out there who search for new material, new writers, new stories. For most of us who write these stories, these are the people we want to get our books in front of. They are our customers and potential fans.
So how do you get customers to consider your book? I read somewhere that if you put every book published in a day in a row, you would have to travel at 90 mph to keep up with them! This means there are more books published in one minute than you will possibly read in a year. So getting your book noticed would seem a daunting task. Thankfully, there is a system that does just that.
I have discussed the two main ways to attract customers: The book’s cover and the book’s description. But potential buyers also want to know they are not wasting their money on books that might turn out to be trash. No one likes the experience of buying a book that is badly written.
Before buying a book, we want to know that it’s worth reading. This, of course, is sort of a “catch-22” situation. You can’t really know if a book is worth buying without reading it and you can’t read it without first buying it! So, what to do?
One sure fire way to tell if a book is worth reading or isn’t, is to find out what other readers are saying about the book. If you find that other people had a good experience with the book you are more likely to purchase it for yourself.
So if you are about to publish, how do you get anyone to post a review? This is what I’m going to discuss in this writing. How to get reviews before your book is for sale. This is important because many of the advertising offers that an independent author can use require that there be reader reviews before they will allow you to give them your money. Seems odd I know, but they are just being kind to their patrons. They don’t want a bunch of spam operators filling up their ad slots with books trying to hype something rather than giving actual value to their subscribers. So here’s what you do:
1. First a word about soliciting reviews for Amazon. You have to be careful of a couple things. In order to review a book on Amazon, a person must have an Amazon account and have purchased at least $50 worth of stuff with the account in the last year. I’ve hit this snag a couple times and it’s best to be up front about it. Also, never try to encourage, coerce, bribe or otherwise twist an arm to get someone to give you a ‘good’ review! Amazon is very clear about this and if they catch someone handing out more than a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, they will take down the reviews and possibly suspend selling for that author. They take this very seriously so I suggest you don’t try to circumvent the process.
2. Go to all your family and friends and ask if they wouldn’t mind reviewing your book and submitting a reader review. Typically, about 1 in 4 people who say they will, actually do leave a reader review. My goal for a new book is to get ten reader reviews and five editorial reviews (more on those later). So you want to shoot for at least 40 people who agree to leave a review in exchange for a free Advance Reader Copy of your book.
3. Work your social media account. Post a message on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Linkdin, or whatever other media account you use. On Facebook you can actually create a page for the book and invite people on your friend’s list to like it. On the page, you ask for reviewers. You can word it as you are looking for people to be a part of your ‘street team’ who will give you feedback on the various steps of your marketing launch (cover, sales copy, ads, and authors to target for instance). You can let them know you will give them a ‘back stage’ pass to your launch by keeping them up to date on the latest in your process.
4. You can pay someone to review your book. There are various services out there and it seems sometimes a new one pops up every day. Do a web search for book reviewers and you’ll get a lot of hits. I haven’t found one yet that I would recommend even though they work. They tend to be rather expensive in my opinion. But if you have the money and don’t have the time they can be a legitimate and valuable service. Just be sure to check them out a bit. (You can write to me if you wish and tell me the service you are thinking about using, I’ll be glad to share what I know about them if anything. email@example.com)
5. There are services you can use to give you people who have reviewed books already. The advantage is these people have reviewed similar books AND they have put contact info on their Amazon account. Generally, this means they want people to contact them. To use the service, you find books that your readers would purchase and review. Try to find newer books with at least 100 reviews to them. The more reviews, the better as very few reviewers will have entered contact info on their account.
You pay either a subscription or a per person fee for contact info of people who have read books you specify. I’ve used two of these services which I’m going to review for you here.
Book Review TargeterOwner: Debbie Drum
Cost: Basic membership is $19.95 per month. A pro subscription allows you to download more reviewer names for $37.95 per month and also includes a web crawler that will try to find the subscriber’s email address.
Book Review Targeter or BRT, will search reviews for any book you enter into the website’s application. It returns any Amazon account it finds that left a review for the book along with any contact info it finds. I’ve used BRT many times for clients and it works. The trick is to find books that you believe your readers would buy and that have more than 100 reviews. Fewer than that, and you risk the software not finding enough reviewers to contact. Of course, I have often had to run the app multiple times with different books in order to get a sizeable list. I generally shoot for over 100 names. BRT gives you the account name, website, and social media info. It all depends on what the reviewer has entered. Amazon, unfortunately, no longer allows account holders to enter an email address.
Positives: You get all the information you need to make a personal request to the reviewer to read your book. The book that is reviewed, a link to the reviewer’s Amazon account page, a link to the book, how many stars, and a copy of the review itself. You can download the info into a csv file which can be opened by Excel or other spreadsheet program.
Negatives: This process is very time consuming. Many of the reviews are going to be dated and often so will the contact info. This is why I say try to choose newer books that have been published in the last year or so. I’ve signed up for the ‘Pro’ service on BRT and while it gives me a lot more reviewers, it’s claim to use a webcrawler to find email addresses has not proven to be very useful. I normally spend 8 to 10 hours generating a verified list of 50 people to contact. Overall I give it 3 stars
AMZ DiscoverOwner:AMZ Discover Team
Cost: varies, one reviewer with contact info costs about 10 ‘coins’. Coins can be purchased initially in the amount of 900 for $9. So it costs 10 cents per interviewer, but you can purchase bulk amounts at a discount.
AMZ Discover is an easy to use website application. You paste in an Amazon URL (note: this isn’t just for books, it can be used to find reviewers of any product sold on Amazon), and the software generates a list of reviewers for that product and tells you which ones have contact information. You can purchase the reviewers information for 10 coins (note: the software automatically prevents you from spending their ‘coins’ on reviewers who have no information).
Pros: AMZ returns good information and almost always attaches an email address to the reviewer. By entering multiple books that I think my client’s readers would purchase, I can quickly generate a list of possible reviewers for any book. In less than 15 minutes I can have 50 to 100 possible reviewers to contact. I’ve used it on books I entered into BRT and it has come back with more names that were more usable (had email addresses).
Cons: The download mechanism seems to automatically download everything you’ve searched for. This means that if I’ve got three different books in three different genres loaded up in AMZ, I’m going to get all of that info in a csv file and then have to sort out the ones I am currently looking for. AMZ also only gives you the ASIN of the book, no title or author, I had to add those in. It also doesn’t give you a copy of the actual review, if you want to see what that person wrote you have to go search it out. The cost is higher than with BRT because you pay by the name.
Overall though, I give AMZ 4 stars.
Cost: varies but the main plan is $10 per ARC, and $2 for each download of your book.
I have only recently discovered this site. BookSirens offers to you the chance to get your book in front of a lot of readers. The way it works is you submit your book, if it is accepted you pay them $10 to offer your book as an ARC to their readers. Anytime one of their readers downloads your book, you are charged $2. (Note: If the same person downloads it more than once you are not charged more.) You tell them where you want the review posted (Goodreads or Amazon). You also control how many downloads you authorize. They also will convert your kdp file to a MOBI if you gift them your book.
They claim that about 75% of their readers who download a book actually review it. It seems expensive but it might be worth the cost to get reviews. Plus if the 75 percent number is true, it will save you a lot of time in contacting 4 people to get 1 review. If their claim is correct, you would need 13 to 14 people to download your book in order to get 10 reviews at a cost of $38. ($10 for the book submitted and $2 per download). They also offer packages to authors for multiple books.
At this time, I don’t have enough information to give a star rating to this service. When I’ve had more time to use them I will update this blog.
Online Book Club
Owner: Online book club LLC
Cost: There are different levels but the lowest priced review will run you $95.
I include this service only because I have used them to get editorial reviews. They currently do not offer any service to get reader reviews. The way it works is you submit your book and pay the fee. The service finds one of their reviewers to read and give a review. The review is posted on their site where you can copy and paste it as an editorial review or post a link to the review on their site.
My opinion is they charge way too much for what you get. I submitted a children’s book I wrote and I got a review from someone. A member of onlinebookclub.org. She wasn’t an authority or a celebrity and I’m still confused as to why I was charged so much money for such a basic review.
I give them 1 star
Contacting people to review your book is problematic, especially when the only link you have is that they reviewed a similar book. But, if you word it correctly, you will get some people willing to give your book a read. Try to be personable in your email or form contact. Let them know you saw that they reviewed such and such a book and you have written one that you think they would enjoy reading. Offer them a free Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest Amazon review. If they respond, add them to your email list.
On Social Media, you can find people who read your genre or type of book. Doing a search will yield up different groups which you can check out and follow. Simply pasting a link or request isn’t going to get much attention however. You will find that you’ll need to spend time getting to know the group if you want anyone to review your work. Still, it is a great way to develop a following and get to know the audience you are writing for.
Editorial reviews are important and you have much more control over these. Of course, the more famous your reviewer, the better it will be but don’t underestimate the power of a great review because the person isn’t well known. Look for people who read and write in your particular niche/genre on Goodreads, Amazon, or even a Google search. When you approach them make it personal. Get to know something about the person you want to review your book and make your appeal authentic.
I hope I’ve been of some help here. If you want more information please sign up for my mailing list Sign Up or drop me a line. I’m always looking to help authors with their marketing!
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CONNECTING WITH YOUR READERS
There are a host of ever evolving offers, websites, organizations, blogs, widgets, gadgets, and magic wands an author can use to communicate with readers.
Okay, well maybe not magic wands. Not yet. But the concept of a way to engage readers, contact readers, get feedback from readers can be overwhelming. I’m not going to try and list every available way an author can interact with them. I am going to cover the basics and try to give you a few pointers.
What is an author platform?
An author platform can be as simple as your Amazon Central Author Profile. It could involve a website for you and your books. Social media could play a part. You might put your profile on a number of websites dedicated to books like BookBub, Goodreads, Online Book Club and more. It might be a landing page on an email provider like MailChimp, ConvertKit, or MailerLite. An author platform is any online tool used for the author to gather information from and give information to potential readers and current readers.
Why do I need an author platform?
What should I create for an author platform?
This depends on your budget and your goals. If you have limited funds to spend, I would suggest creating an author profile on Amazon, BookBub, and Goodreads. This doesn’t cost you and is a good start on getting your name out to the world. Also, set up an email provider which can give you a landing page to get your readers to sign up for your mailing list.
If you have the ability to design a website, set one up. There are a number of platforms that offer free web page services.
Of course, before you set up any of these, you want to write your bio and choose a picture of yourself to use. I would suggest choosing a few authors in your genre on Amazon, BookBub, or Goodreads and read their bios to get an idea of what authors are saying about themselves. Generally, most will write about their writing, how they came to write. They might also talk about where they are from, families, etc.
If you have an interesting bit, like one of your best friends is a famous person or you grew up in Alaska you might consider putting that in there.
Share what you are comfortable sharing. Readers just like to know a little about the person behind the story.
In order to attract readers you can offer them something of value such as
An entry into a raffle for a signed copy of your book
An invitation to a virtual meeting with the author
A chance to be a part of the author’s ‘street team’ (people who give you feedback and agree to reader review your book).
A workbook that goes with your book.
An entry into a raffle for an Amazon gift card
A map of the world if your book is set in a fantasy or alternate realm
Here’s a link to other ideas you can try optinmonster https://optinmonster.com/9-lead-magnets-to-increase-subscribers/
Getting the word out is a job. The more you do, the more there is to do. I suggest managing your time by setting aside an hour a week and dedicate it to finding places to get the word out about your writing. Here are a few places I’ve found that you can use mostly for free when doing public relations.
Radio Guest list https://www.radioguestlist.com/get-radio-interview-emails.html
You can sign up for a free email alert giving you one possible show (radio or podcast) looking for guests. I haven’t tried the paid service, but it will give you more possibilities. Worth checking out as it’s free!
These sites will promote your book to their lists for free. The reason they do this is they get an affiliate percentage on anything their followers purchase on Amazon. It costs you nothing, might increase your sales, and they get paid if someone buys your book. Win Win!
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Creating a Book Description that SIZZLES.
On one of my recent projects I struggled with why the book was not getting sales. I had put together what I thought were some great ads for the book and we were getting about 4% CTR (click through rate- the % of people seeing the ad who actually clicked on it) which is great. But people were not buying.
I had designed a great cover and gone over the book description with the author. Everything looked good. I fiddled with the ads, I researched and found more relevant authors to target, and I even considered making a change to the cover which would have cost us some money.
Then I decided to take a harder look at the sales copy (book description). It was fine in describing what the book was about (a positive message about faith and togetherness) but it didn’t ‘sizzle’.
When we are looking for a book, we click on a cover that conveys something we want to read and looks interesting. That takes us to the short blurb which informs us a bit more, and hopefully makes us want to buy the book and read or listen to it. It has to pull at us emotionally or make us curious intellectually; hopefully it does both.
So I got the author’s permission to tinker with the sales copy and I added more sizzle to it by evoking some emotions. I smoothed it out, trimmed it a bit, made it professional and ...it worked.
That same day the book went from zero sales to ranking #1 in eight different categories. I am not making that up. The day before I changed the sales copy there were no sales. The very same day I changed it, the book shot up in the rankings going from an overall Amazon rank of around 500,000 to ranking in the top 25,000 and ranking #1 in eight of the ten categories we had placed it in. All with just one tweak: The book description.
As an author, I never gave much thought to writing the description. It’s just that summary on the back cover after all. A couple paragraphs, no big deal right? That could not be more wrong. I found out that in marketing a book that small, couple paragraph long blurb is what closes the deal for you with potential buyers. The cover gets them there, the sales copy sells it to them.
So, how do you write a description that will work? We are writers and most of us tend to think because we have mastered the art of writing a novel, a short little blurb to describe our book is going to be easy. I mean, I just wrote 100,000 words worth of a great story, I can write a couple paragraphs telling people what the book is about!
This is a mistake however. That two paragraphs is going to be essential to the number of people who will read your 100,000 word novel. It needs to be taken seriously. You could hire a professional like me to do it for you, (shameless promo) but if you follow a few simple steps, it can be done by any writer I think.
Step 1: Know your audience. Who do you envision buying your book? This has to do with genre, knowledge, or area of expertise. Did you write an epic fantasy? Then you want readers who enjoy that genre. Did you write a book on home repair? You are targeting do-it-yourselfers and new home owners maybe.
Sit down and write out who you see buying your book. Have this audience firmly in mind as you write out ideas for your sales copy.
Step 2: Capture your book’s essence. Write out the theme of your book. Don’t worry about making it short at this point, concentrate on getting the idea down on paper. You want the heart of your story.
Step 3: Include the major character(s) in your work (if fiction). Readers love good characters. People they would like to fall in love with, have a beer with, or people they would like to beat to a pulp, see go to jail, etc.
If this is non-fiction historical, then you should include the major person(s) you have written about.
For non-fiction expertise, write out the problem you are solving and talk about yourself; what makes you the expert to solve that problem.
Step 4: For Fiction, write out what the story is going to feel like. What emotions are you going to invoke in the reader as they devour your story. For non-fiction be sure to give the buyer a vision of what it will feel like to have the expertise and/or knowledge you are about to impart to them.
Step 5: Once you have it all written out, read it out loud to see if there is anything you are missing. Make any changes you think are necessary then start to whittle it down. Use a thesaurus to find shorter phrases or even one word to convey each thought. Take out any characters that are not essential to the core of your story. Keep doing this again and again until you start losing some of the meaning of your story. Hopefully, you get it down to just a couple paragraphs.
Step 6: Write it again. Go through the same process but try some new angle. Remember to put a emotion into it. Do this until you have at least three and up to five different versions of your sales copy. You want each to entice the buyer into finding out what your story is, make them want to click that buy button or take the book to the sales desk in the bookstore. They just have to find out what happens in this book! Make it sizzle!
Now, email it to your friends and family. Hopefully you have a list of people who have agreed to give you an opinion and one day read your book and post a review for it. Ask this ‘street team’ to vote on which sales copy they like best. The one getting the most votes is the one you want to use.
I’d love to hear from you. Any thoughts or questions are welcome! Also for help in writing your sales copy or designing your cover, write me here: MJ Albert Books
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Selling Your Book with a
Sizzling Book Cover Design
Independent authors who sell books have great covers. It’s very simple; when we are looking for something to read, if a cover doesn’t catch our eye, we are going to move to the next one. It’s just the way the book world works! If you have an idea what your cover should look like, make sure it does these things:
It does seem contradictory, but here’s what I mean:
When you go to a bookstore or peruse books online, you are usually looking for a particular author or a book that was recommended to you. Alongside the book you are looking for will be other similar books. If a spine catches your eye in the bookstore, or a cover sizzles online, you might be tempted to check it out and then maybe buy it along with the one you were looking for. There will be things these books have in common and things that make particular books stand out. These things are going to be the colors, the fonts, and possibly the images.
If you go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and type in ‘Romance’ in the search window, you will be shown the top sellers in this category. There will be a few covers depicting beautiful people, some that show a scene, others a design. They won’t be much alike but they all will fit in to the genre or category.
The story being told by the artwork, the font(s), and colors points to a story about two people overcoming or struggling with a problem and falling in love. The colors used will be basic and eye catching, the font will generally be white or a light color in a flowing script.
As you are thinking about the design of your book or working with a professional, make sure you browse covers of books that would fit along side yours. Imagine your book cover among these others and ask yourself if it looks like it belongs there and does it stand out.
As a reader looks for a new book to read, they generally are going to stick to what they already know they enjoy. A favorite author, or a friend’s recommendation, perhaps they read a review of a book they think they might like. This is the way it goes for book sales. You need to be known in order to sell, but you have to sell some books in order to be known!
The only way out of the dilemma is to have your book slotted near books that are selling successfully. If you can put your cover in with the books that are popular and make the cover sizzle enough to get a potential buyer curious, you will start to get people clicking on it and potentially buying it.
A great cover contains the following 4 elements:
Communicating what your book is about
People should be able to look at your cover and intuitively know through the artwork and lettering what your topic is. An unclear message will result in unimpressed potential buyers who will click on some other book and cause you to lose a sale.
In fiction, making clear the genre is important. If people don't know your work, and your cover doesn't make it clear what sort of fiction you have written, they generally are not going to bother finding out more. There are lots of other books they can buy!
In non-fiction, you need to convey to potential buyers that you have the expertise to teach them or inform them. They must get the sense that reading your book is going to take care of the need or knowledge gap they are looking to fulfill.
Does the cover convey the essence of your story? Does it convey the genre (if applicable) or the area of expertise being offered (if non-fiction)? A great cover is a mini-story in itself. In a half second our eyes tell us if this is a book we might want to read, so simplicity is crucial but being over simplistic will lose the interest of the buyer. The entire front of the book is the canvas. Any unused space is wasted space.
Convey the feeling of your narrative
The cover should set the tone for the ambiance the audience will feel when reading your work.
Is your work uplifting? Is it instructive? Is it entertaining? What is the general tone of your work? Sad, comic, ironic, informative, authoritative, instructive?
Make sure the cover gives the viewer a sense of what to expect as far as the tone of your writing.
This is mostly done with a visual, but the title, subtitle, colors, and the font you use are also contributing factors.
Vouch for Yourself
The cover needs to convey credibility.
If this is non-fiction, simply putting your degree title can convey credibility. Even more so would be how many people you have helped and/or the number of years you have practiced. Whatever it is that validates you in the subject you have written in needs to be conveyed on your cover.
For both fiction and non-fiction, you can use the sub-title to convey to potential buyers why they should read your book: “internationally known writer of best sellers”, 'a veteran tax consultant', ‘Story teller extraordinaire!”
If you are a new writer, then make sure the genre is made clear, “A new Suspense Novel by: (author's name)” or something similar.
It can also be used as a way to communicate the book's popularity as in “Amazon Top Seller”. Information that will tell the reader this book is valid and needs to be read.
The objective is to give the potential buyer the feeling that this book is worth buying while being honest and brief.
Your cover needs to draw people in
It needs to sizzle!
This is the most intuitive part of a book cover. It needs to 'pop' so that people are instantly drawn to click it and read more or pick it up in a bookstore to read the back cover and see what it's about.
Why is your story is interesting? Does it teach something? Does it fulfill a purpose? Is it an intriguing whodunnit? A classic romance? A Sci-fi projection of future technology?
Distill what is interesting about your book
Close your eyes and think of an image that is representative of that concept
Sketch out this image or describe it in detail (if you are like me and can’t draw beyond stick figures!)
Try this in different ways, different concepts. When you can’t think of anything else, compare them and combine or decide which represents the more appealing image. One that will sizzle and draw buyers to your book.
Once you have a few ideas, run them buy your friends or list of readers if you have one. Getting their feedback can be valuable in deciding on the right concept.
For more information on getting the best cover for you book click here:
In my next blog, I will talk about the second most important marketing tool for you book: The Book Description or Sales Copy.
Remember, every failure is step in the direction to success. Don’t quit!
If you have questions or just want to let me know what you think of my blog(s) please feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I would really like to hear from you.
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I’ve written about having to budget for your book marketing program. I wrote a bit about how to make that happen. Now I want to discuss the biggest part of any of this: the ‘why’. You are the only one who can supply that.
Why you want to control your money is personal. For me it’s about being a control freak. I just plain don’t like not having control of my life, and let’s face it, money is a huge part of that in our culture.
So think about your ‘why’. Envision yourself with the ‘why’ answered and you pursuing the things you want to do with your life instead of just the things that pay for your life.Write it down, post it on your bathroom mirror and your refrigerator and stare at it every morning you wake up. This is your reason for doing what you need to do to control your finances.
Okay. You got that implanted in memory? You getting impatient with me for blabbering on and on yet? Patience, I just want to talk about one more thing before getting into the things you can and should do to be in control of your money.
Psychologists are fond of defining human nature. I guess maybe because it’s their job. Go figure. One of the things Psychologists know about us humans is that habits are tough to break and they can be even tougher to make. This is why you need to think hard about why you want to change your habits.
Another thing psychologists know about human nature is that a lot of us tend to think in an ‘all or nothing’ viewpoint. We think once we’ve decided to change that we just change, and any failure means we are weak and need to beat ourselves up.
I talk about this because you are going to fail at some point. We are taught from a young age that failure is bad. Failure means we are weak willed and often this leads us to just give up. It’s too hard for me, we tell ourselves. I’m better off the way I am. I’m not so bad. I get by.
Success is a poor teacher. We learn the most about ourselves when we fail, so don't be afraid of failing. Failing is part of the process of success. You cannot have success without failure. – Robert Kiyosaki
What I want you to do is recognize you will fail at some of this. I still do. But if you quit you definitely will not instill better habits. You will just keep doing what you are doing. It’s the same as making the decision to give up on your ‘why’. You will think something like
‘It will never happen, so why put myself through the failures in trying?’
What I want you to do is to embrace your failure. It sounds counter to everything you’ve been taught but it is the only thing that will keep you going after being knocked down. You just have to get up again and keep going. Realize in stumbling you are taking another step to reaching your goal.
I said this in former posts, but one thing every successful person on the planet has in common is they believed they could change; that they could become successful. Every single one of them failed at some point. No one is perfect, and ‘all or nothing’ thinking is not realistic thinking. It’s a delusion.
Alright, I’ve armed you with your ‘why’, your determination, and a realistic view on failure. Now it’s time to talk about controlling your money.
Know where your money is going.
If you work for money, you give the power to your employer. If your money works for you, you keep and control the power. – Robert Kiyosaki
The first step in knowing anything is in documenting it. What I want you to do is record everything you spend money on. Every time you make a purchase, keep the receipt. If it’s electronic you put it in a folder, save it, and at the end of each day record all your expenditures.
Where you record them is your choice. There are several options available in today’s world. From buying a lined journal and a pencil, to downloading an app to scan or receive your receipts. You don’t have to stick with whatever you choose. Try different methods if you want, at this point you aren’t concerned with anything but accurately recording expenditures. Of course, you will forget something but remember this isn’t all or nothing, you keep at it until it becomes a habit and the misses are few enough that they won’t matter or you will develop a habit of recording what you spend and won’t have to think about it.
When you are making this record, you want to record the date, the company (or person) you spent the money with, the amount, and the category. The first three are straightforward, the last one is going to be a lot of personal preference. I would suggest you can start with a web search for ‘making a budget’. The federal government offers this https://www.consumer.gov/sites/www.consumer.gov/files/pdf-1020-make-budget-worksheet_form.pdf and it is as good a place as any to define your categories.
Whatever you decide to use, realize it’s not brain surgery or rocket science. It’s not carved in stone so you can’t change it. Just start somewhere and realize you will end up changing things as you go along.
Realize what you can spend and what you can save
Once you have started doing this, go over it on a regular basis and summarize your expenses in each category. Rent/mortgage will probably have one entry a month (unless you have multiple real estate holdings in which case why are you reading this? I want you to teach me!). Food expenditures may have multiple entries and you may want to separate ‘groceries’ from ‘restaurant’ expenses. You can lump your music and movie downloads with your subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Prime if you like or you can separate them.
Do this for a month. I use a month as that is the typical financial cycle. We earn so much in a month and we have the same monthly expenditures like rent/mortgage, utilities, media, loan payments. Don’t try to analyze yet, just record. Sit down with your significant other if you have one at the end of the month and look at where your money is going.
I haven’t mentioned recording income here, because for the majority of us there is only one source of income and it’s usually a paycheck. If you have income from different sources beyond one or two paychecks then of course you will want to categorize those.
But whatever you use to summarize your expenses into categories, you also want to record your income. Make two columns. Record your income on one side and your expenses on the other. Total them both up and subtract one from the other. If your expenses total more than your income, you are negative for the month. You had to borrow money or dip into your savings to pay your expenses.
If this is the case you are in emergency mode and need to look at your expense categories with a hard line toward cutting out enough of them that you are saving a little money each month. Of course, you could also look at increasing the income side of the summary (balance sheet). Are there things you could be doing like overtime, selling your expertise in a certain area, taking on a part time job to increase your income?
If this is a temporary situation due to being in school, out of work, unable to work for some reason, then still look to cut expenses with the idea you can start spending again once you have increased your income.
If you aren’t in emergency mode and you have more money in income then you are spending on the expense side, you don’t need to be so urgent about it. I’d suggest looking for cuts that maybe uncomfortable but not painful.
The easiest thing to do at this point is find the subscriptions you are paying for that you are not using or are only using sporadically. Things like credit score trackers, people finders, news services you don’t read, etc. These should stick out and often, for me, they were ‘scratch my head’ expenses because I didn’t remember even signing up for them and had no idea what they were for.
If you see something on a credit card statement that you don’t recognize, there is always contact info listed with the expense, usually a phone number but it could be a company name. Look up the company, call the number, and cancel the subscription. You’ve just saved an expense and so added to your monthly savings without any pain! (except maybe thinking about all those months you paid for something you didn’t use, but let’s not go there!)
The summary is called a ‘balance sheet’ because the ‘income’ side should always equal the ‘expense side’ + ‘what you saved’. If they aren’t equal, you have forgotten to record an expense, your savings, or an income. For me, this happened most of the time when I would pay cash for something and forget to get a receipt. It’s easy to do. Unless it’s a large enough amount to really matter to you I wouldn’t worry too much about it. But it’s a preference kind of thing.
Set goals and record your progress
Do this for a few months until it becomes second nature. Sit down the same day every month with your significant other and go over the balance sheet together. If there are obvious things you can change, change them but at this point just get in the habit of recording expenses, summarizing them, and going over them together on a certain day every month.
I think this is a good time to talk about debt. Debt can be a good word or a bad word much like any tool can be. Going into debt to buy a house, a business, or some asset that will generate income for you is a good thing. OPM is an acronym you used to hear a lot. “Other People’s Money”.
If you can afford a mortgage and want your own house then that debt is a good debt. If you have a chance to buy gold really cheap and you know it’s going to be worth more in the future, that’s a good debt. Investing in the stock market with borrowed money, (if you know what you are doing) can be good debt. It could also be risky!
Any debt that only serves to buy something you don’t really need or for something that is not long lasting, say going to a movie or dinner at a fancy restaurant, then that is bad debt that is usually put on a credit card. This is the kind of debt that can quickly become an anchor trying to sink your dreams.
I’m not trying to tell you what to buy or how to live your life. I’m just pointing out the realities. I’ve been there! Believe me I’ve been there. It wasn’t a great place to be. If you have a large amount of credit card debt, there are things you can do and help available in terms of restructuring and paying off that debt. I won’t go into this here, it’s too long a topic, but if you want help, write me at email@example.com and I’ll share my strategies with you.
Once you’ve recorded and looked at your expenses for a couple months you will have a good idea of just what is left over once you have paid your bills and necessary expenses. Now you can start to look forward in time and use the power of accumulation to your advantage!
How much can you afford to put into savings every month? Make that a monthly target. Make a chart if you are into that sort of thing, or just record each month’s savings against your target in a spreadsheet. Turn it into a game and have a small celebration every time you exceed your target.
You are on your way now to achieving financial control over your life!
For more on balance sheets see Robert Kiyosaki's 'Rich Dad Poor Dad'
On Barnes&Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rich-dad-poor-dad-robert-t-kiyosaki/1112255784?ean=9781612680194
On Amazon: :https://www.amazon.com/Rich-Dad-Poor-Teach-Middle/dp/1612680178/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=rich+dad+poor+dad&qid=1613223712&sr=8-1
Defining your goal
There are thousands of books, maybe millions, that talk about goal setting. How to, what to, when to. I am going to be real specific here because I’m writing this for authors like me who want to promote their work to gain readers and make a little money. This section is written with that in mind.
If you have some other reason for wanting to control your money, and certainly they are legion, it doesn’t mean this section isn’t for you however. Anyone can use this as a template to coming up with their own goal.
I’m going to repeat what I said in an earlier post about the cost of getting your book published and selling.
So your budget goal should be between $4,000 and $15,000 depending on what you want and what you can afford. Of course, you don’t need it all at once. You could save up for editing and cover design and leave the rest for later. That is up to you.
Set yourself a reasonable deadline or schedule to come up with the money based on the work you did in analyzing your balance sheet. Remember to give yourself a break when you steer off course and, most importantly, don’t quit! Keep going even when you stumble. A great inspiration for those times is to watch ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ with Will Smith.
It’s a real life story of a man who was homeless with a young son, his pursuit of his dream, the huge stumbling blocks he encountered on the way, and his eventual success. You’ll come away from the movie thinking ‘if that guy can do that, I can do this!’
Well, that’s it for the budgeting part of launching your work! I would love to hear from you either by posting a comment here, or you can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments you have.
If you want to know more about my services, you can find them here: https://www.mjalbertbooks.com/
My next blogs will cover the six steps I use to promote a client’s work to Amazon Best Seller status.
I wish you all the success you can handle!
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“The starting point of all achievement is DESIRE. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.”
― Napoleon Hill, ‘Think and Grow Rich’.
Many people don’t know Napoleon Hill and many that have seen his book Think and Grow Rich may have decided from the title that it must be nonsense. But this book has been read for more than 80 years now and is still relevant because it talks about human motivation and achievement. Some things about human nature never change. We may change the way we look at each other and the world; values can change over time, but basic human nature doesn’t change.
Can you think of any other book not a religious text like the Talmud, Bible, or Koran that is still selling today and is still relevant? I’m sure there are a few, but they are a very exclusive set.
Napoleon Hill decided to find out what successful people had in common. He interviewed every successful person he could and then wrote about what he discovered in this amazing book that will always be relevant as long as human nature remains constant.
The people he interviewed had one thing in common. They were in control of their money. They knew where it came from, and where it was going.
What I want to do today is to write about how you can control your money rather than just doing what so many of us do: Spend without thinking. ‘A mocha latte would be great right now’, ‘It’s only a few dollars’, ‘I deserve this!’. These are the things we tell ourselves when we want something, and we want to justify the urge to shell out our cash for it.
Unfortunately, without knowing it, this is a recipe for keeping us just on the edge of financial disaster. I’m no different unfortunately, I have lost two careers, the first when I was 48 and earning six figures. The second time at age 61 and earning a great income as an owner-operator over the road truck driver.
I had close to $250,000 saved for retirement the first time I lost my career and saw it all dissipate as I struggled to redefine myself. I still live close to the edge, but now I know the things I can do to pull myself out of that insecurity and become financially independent.
I’ll tell you a secret, it’s not about finding a ‘get rich’ program, winning the lottery, or even getting a college degree. It starts very simply with a few steps that anyone, yes anyone can follow and achieve. It isn’t easy, though it is simple. It’s not quick, yet it can be done.
When I lost my job (the first time), I sent out my resume, hired a job search firm for a few thousand dollars, did searches on the internet and spent a lot of time chasing my next paycheck. I had a few interviews, was even flown to another city by the company for two of them. But I always seemed to come in 2nd (or at least that’s what I was told).
So I decided I would try something different. I decided I would leave the world of jobs, paychecks, and employee benefits to become something else. I read Napoleon Hill, Robert Kiyosaki, Stephen Covey and many others. It seemed to me that achieving financial independence (by that I mean having my bills paid whether I got out of bed in the morning or not) was reachable and doable.
Each of these ‘gurus’ started with pretty much the same concept: control your finances. Of course, that’s an easy statement to make but it’s not such an easy thing to do.
See, I’m the kind of person that doesn’t pay a lot of attention to my financial situation, especially when I was making a comfortable living. I don’t have a balance sheet like Kiyosaki tells us we all should have. I make sure I’ve got money to cover my bills and whatever is left I basically spend it. It seems that for much of us, this is the way we live. I’m not going to give you a bunch of statistics. If you want to know more about that, you got Google. What I want to give you today is just this: you can control your money, or your money can control you. It really is that simple. If you choose to be like I was and not pay attention to where your money is coming from and, more importantly, where it is going you will struggle. I don’t care if you earn $10,000 or $1,000,000 a year. If you don’t pay attention to your money, it will disappear and you will wonder what the heck happened.
By that I mean you can either know where your money is and where it goes, or you can continue to struggle with having money to pay for the things you must have let alone the things you want to have.
Elton John is one of the richest people in the world from his songs and performances. But he sank deep into debt because he didn’t pay attention to his money. In dramatic style, he would go on spending binges and end up losing millions and millions of dollars because of them. He luckily figured it out, and put himself on a budget. A budget I’m sure we would all love to have, but the point is it doesn’t matter how much you earn, what matters is how you control what you do with it.
I had a friend that we all kind of laughed at in our circle. She would bring her own slice of cheese when she went to a fast-food place. I kid you not! She would save the 15 cents for a cheeseburger by buying a regular burger, and then putting her own slice of cheese on it. She would take salt, pepper, ketchup, whatever condiments were handy when going to a restaurant. She never bought these things in a grocery store. She’d use the packets she’d taken from restaurants.
When doing her grocery shopping, she would sit down with the ads for the week from each grocery store, find out what was on sale and plan her meals accordingly. Then she would map out her route on grocery day and sometimes go to 5 different stores to purchase what she needed. I pointed out to her one time she probably spent more on gasoline then she was saving in grocery expenses, but apparently, she had that figured out as well!
Like I said, in our circle of friends she was the butt of a few jokes. We all loved her, but this trait which we considered an idiosyncrasy was just too funny not to laugh about!
The thing is though, she always had the things she needed. This friend had a part time business. She didn’t make a lot of money, certainly a lot less than I did. Yet she owned her own home (it wasn’t a mansion, but it was nice and in a good neighborhood). She was a single mom with one kid surviving on a part time income with no benefits and yet she was able to purchase a home. Her car was never fancy, but it was always a late model vehicle in good condition. She never drove a clunker on the verge of breaking down.
And here’s the kicker… She managed to save over $150,000. On a part time income. With no health care or other benefits. While raising a kid by herself on that part time income.
So, with very little income this friend of mine:
Let me explain. We all have things we spend money on because it’s only a few dollars. A subscription to something that runs $5 a month. A cup of coffee on your way to work $4 a day. Hitting the vending machine every day for $2. It’s only a little money, right? A couple bucks here, $5 there. It’s not going to break me.
How many times have you subscribed to something that you used maybe once or twice and then kept? One day you just happen to go over your credit card statement and find this monthly charge for something you’ve forgotten about. I know I have more times than I’d like to admit!
Believe me, I know.
I would spend $5 a day on Starbucks when I was making great money. What good is money if you don’t spend it on the things you want right? A steak dinner once a week or so because “I deserve it”. Paying $15 to see a movie I could wait and watch on Prime or Netflix in a few weeks. Of course, there’s another $15 to $20 for the popcorn and drink. When I was keeping my bills paid, my credit cards paid off every month, and putting a little savings into my bank I just didn’t think about spending $20 here, $40 there. It was nothing right?
To add to this habit, we are constantly hit with ads enticing us to buy, buy, buy. How many times have you seen an ad telling you that you were going to save tons of money by spending it on a particular product? Think about that. Sure, if you were going to buy it anyway, say paper towels or salt and pepper. But how often is the product being advertised something we don't really need? Spending money is not saving money no matter how sizzling the ad is. But I digress...
Here’s the control/accumulation factor: $5 a day = $150 a month. What could you do with $150 if you just made a pot of coffee at home and skipped the line at Starbucks? How about $1,800 a year? That’s just for coffee. I was spending the price of a book editing every year on fancy coffee. How many subscriptions did I find? I had $100 a month in subscribed services that I hardly used! Most of them I had to look up just to see what they were for! $1,200 a year. Now I'm up to $3,000 a year and I've just barely begun looking.
Does that make sense? I could go on with my subscriptions and impulse buys but you get the point. Do you think you could find enough money going out of your hard earned paycheck every month that you could hang on to, put in savings, and use it for your dream? Is it worth taking a look? Pull your bank statement, credit card statements out and take a hard look. Pull up the calculator on your phone and start adding up the expenditures you could do without, the ones you wouldn't really miss. See how much they add up to and how long it would take until they added up to the price of putting your dream into motion.
I’m writing this for other writers. People who want to be serious about selling their stories or expertise in the form of books. I’m writing this to help you reach that goal. Anyone who wants to achieve a dream of theirs can use it however.
If you are serious about becoming a writer, and earning money from your craft, you will need to have a budget. If you are serious and committed, you can do this. It’s not a climb up Mount Everest or doing brain surgery. It can be discouraging; it can also be satisfying. Breaking old habits and developing new ones takes a serious act of will but it can be done if you want it bad enough.
“Whether You Think You Can…Or Whether You Think You Can’t…You’re Right!” – Henry Ford
Very simply put, it’s all starts with what you believe can happen. You can change. I have, and while it’s not been easy and I can't tell you I never fall back into old habits, it has definitely been worth the effort.
I know there is a lot written about the power of belief and it seems kind of out there, other worldly, not "Real World". But I will tell you that every successful person in life started out at the beginning the same way; they believed it was going to happen. It took a lot of stubbornness and simple down to earth hard work a lot of times, but the very root of it all is what you choose to believe.
If you have doubts about that, you need to work on them. Belief has to come first before the rest can happen. We’ve been taught that this is some sort of voodoo nonsense. We’ve been taught that you can’t wish something to come true and have it really appear. We aren’t in a fairy tale, this is real life!
The fact is though, that if you believe, then you have a chance to make it happen, no matter what it is. If you think that’s stupid or ‘pie in the sky’ nonsense then there is zero chance you will make anything happen.
It’s really up to you!
But like I stated above, it starts with the belief that you can and will do it. You can achieve your dream goal. You have to do two things to start:
I won’t put you on an emailing list or try to sell you something. I’m interested in being successful and helping other people do the same. I want to know what you think.
But if you are looking to market your book, (I mean I do need to earn a living) you can write me here: MJ Albert Books
I am doing this to build a list of people of like minds. People who want to go for their dreams and are open to ways of doing that.
I have one more post to do about budgeting. A sort of nuts and bolts thing that I was taught a long time ago. It involves developing new habits and often when we do that we make progress, we slip and either get discouraged or keep going.
I hope you keep going with me!
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Marketing your book
Once you make the decision to self-promote, the first thing you need is a budget. There are certain things you have to do to create a professional-looking book that people will love, and more importantly, purchase. I will outline these things here for you. Now, if you decide to cut corners it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful in selling your work, but it will reduce your chances.
So to recap, you need to budget:
So, with a budget of $4,200 you can create a professional book and launch it to Best Seller status. You may be thinking you could go to an independent (vanity) publisher for this price, and you can but what you will get will be the book and no promotion. They will do a great job editing and designing a great looking book for you, but you won’t get more than a few tips on how to promote it let alone how to get to a Best Seller Status.
I went this route with my children’s book. I spent $8,000 on it and got a very well-done children’s story but when it came time to market it, all I got were a few bookmarkers, a special ‘author’s discount’ on purchases, and a sales sheet to send or hand out to book stores. Needless to say, I did not sell very many copies of my children’s book!
Have any questions? You can sign up for my newsletter here.
In my next post, I’ll discuss ways you can save up to get your book promoted
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Are you tired of being rejected by publishers and agents? Do you have a folder full of nicely worded, ‘trying to be encouraging’ emails from these sources?
Do you just want to get your work out there in front of readers?
Do you dream of making enough income from your writing to pay the bills and maybe a bit more?
Do you have a business or service you know you can promote with your book if you could just figure out how?
My Name is MJ Albert, and I’m both a writer and a marketer. I started writing stories as soon as I learned how. I’ve been writing on and off my entire life.
Now, on the wrong side of 60, and having had to reinvent myself twice (that’s right! I lost TWO careers in the last 15 years! Long story… another time…) I decided I would only do the things I loved and if I ended up homeless somewhere, well. I’ll head to the beach and bother tourists or something.
I searched and found lots of people who said they could help me promote my books. I’m sure all of them know what they are doing and it works for them. I found a mentor that I felt a kinship with though when I found Cara Stein.
She taught me her system. A system that works. Not a system that is completely easy, but it IS a system that’s easy to learn.
Now, I have helped several clients to become Amazon Best Selling Authors. Most of them became international best sellers!
Follow my page to find out how we do this as I post tips about selling your book.