A few years ago, Elizabeth Chatsworth took my Advanced Story Puzzle workshop. On her first assignment, she was supposed to write a two-page description of her overall setting (the “where” and “when” of her novel).

Instead of completing the assignment, she wrote the first chapter to a novel, and we just went ahead and worked on her book.

She’s not the first person to do that. I’ve had perhaps a dozen students begin books based on first assignments. Brandon Sanderson did it. His first assignment became the first chapter of his first novel, ELANTRIS. Stephenie Meyer began brainstorming TWILIGHT, and I’ve had several other authors who have published books that arose out of that first assignment.

Some of those books have been excellent. I gave ELANTRIS a cover quote. I didn’t hear about TWILIGHT until it was already out, but I bought a first-edition and read it with great enjoyment. I’d realized during her writing class that Stephenie had a gift for character voices, and her first novel was a tour de force. Similarly, Elizabeth Chatsworth impressed me. The story was hilarious, had fantastic characters and always kept me guessing what would happen next.

Elizabeth’s book will be featured on the cover of Publisher’s Weekly in a special issue dedicated to big books for the fall, and again on their special science fiction edition. I’m excited about that.

So the question I ask myself is, “How can I help?”

As authors, you’ll be in a similar situation from time to time. Perhaps a friend in your writer’s group has written a book and you want to tell people. How do you do that?

I usually start a “book bomb” to make sales explode. That’s where I let friends know about the book by sharing the news on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on.  If you have a newsletter or blog, you might even put it in your newsletter.

Promoting other authors  doesn’t hurt you as an author. When J.K. Rowling went huge, she created a massive audience for middle-grade books that only helped my book sales. Similarly, Stephenie Meyer did the same with young adult. When a person reads a great book, they immediately want another one, and they might buy yours.

But when you promote other people’s books, make sure you advertise the book in the right way, at the right time, to the right people.

“The right way.” I send out announcements and ask friends to share them. I have about 7000 people who get my newsletter, another 5000 friends on Facebook, 20,000 on Twitter, a few thousand more fans on Facebook, and so on. So I can make a pretty decent splash, and if my friends do the same, we can make huge waves! Books I promote generally hit #1 on Amazon in one or more categories.

“The right time.” I like to recommend books on their release day or shortly before. With many books, if you recommend them three months before the book comes out, readers won’t want to wait that long. It’s an impulse buy.  On the other hand, some people are happy to buy a book early and wait for it, so letting people know a book is coming in a few days usually works well.

“The right way.” Don’t be pushy. If you happen to be in a bookstore with a friend, feel free to recommend a book. The store sales are probably tracked by BookScan, a system that simply tallies the sale, and that will help the author.

Selling a book online is trickier. If you send a friend a link on Amazon, it might actually end up hurting the author. Amazon wants “organic readers.” These are people who are natural fans of that kind of book, the kind who buy in that genre frequently.

Amazon uses an artificial intelligence to target the proper audience. Say you have a daughter who only reads horror and you convince her to buy your friend’s romance. The AI will think, “Ah, this book appeals to horror readers.” Or if your grandma buys it and she only reads books on cat herding—Amazon will think the book is for cat herders.

Nonorganic purchases confuse Amazon’s AI so badly, the book gets advertised to no one, and soon ends up at a sale rank close to zero.

Instead of being pushy with readers, simply make it easy to share the recommendation. Marketing execs will tell you that people have to hear about a book as many as 30 times before they will actually pick it up. So I want my announcement to be shared. Instead of pushing people to buy, I simply suggest they “check out” the book. That way, only the organic readers make a purchase.

So, if you like to read historical novels, comic novels, romance or steampunk, believe me, there’s an excellent chance that you’ll enjoy Elizabeth Chatsworth’s upcoming THE BRASS QUEEN. There’s a good reason why Publisher’s Weekly will be promoting it twice this fall!

I’ll let you know when it comes out, and don’t forget to share the recommendation!

Hopefully, someday other authors will do the same for you.

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APEX WILL BE HAVING A SPECIAL ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON CROWDFUNDING TOMORROW 8/26/2020. Learn more about apex and joint at www.thecompleatwriter.com

For our Apex writing group, we are creating a stellar lineup of guests, September 8th we have Creator of 20booksto50k, Mike Anderle! and then for september 15th we will host #1 New York Times Bestselling fantasy writer Terry Brooks. Terry has had 25 New York Times bestsellers and is one of the most beloved fantasy writers of our time—but he’s just one of our fabulous guests. Think of it like this: imagine that you were going to go to a major writing convention and hear from 100 bestselling writers, editors, agents, publishers, and motivational speakers. How much would that be worth to you? Throw in thousands of dollars in writing classes, along with access to writing groups after the various workshops, and you’ll get an idea of what we’re about. And right now the price is only $209 a year, or less than $20 per month. Go to www.thecompleatwriter.com to learn more and find out how to join.

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The next iteration of Fyrecon is coming up in november! Go to fyrecon.com to sign up for my live masterclasses for a stellar price!
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We have about one more week to sign up for my "Writing Epic Novels" live-online workshop. You need to sign up in advance to get the writing, reading, and other assignments. The live event will be held on saturdays in january. Learn more at http://mystorydoctor.com/live-workshops-2/

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David Farland | Story Doctor
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