Looking for Reviews?

All authors, especially those of us of the independent persuasion, understand the importance of reviews and building one’s platform. Readers are less likely to check out an unknown author whose work has zero reviews and ratings.

While just getting reviews are great, what if you could you could also be a part of an awesome community of authors, who all work to propel each other forward? It’s hard enough, stumbling through figuring out how to build your platform and promote your work.

Rave Reviews Book Club has been nothing but superb. It’s exactly that — a community of authors, all working together. I’ve connected with so many writers on Twitter, and not just as authors, but also making friends.

Definitely check it out! Tell ’em Allison Williford sent you. ūüôā

Rave Waves Radio Interview 1/10 @ 1PM EST/12PM CST

This Sunday, 1/10, I will be on Rave Waves Radio @ 1PM EST/12 PM CST to chat about my Contemporary Romance novel, Waiting for You. You can tweet your questions with hashtag #RRBCTagTeam2*4*5 and join in on the conversation! And, as always, feel free to tweet me @AlliW_writes!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ravereviewsbookclub

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Book Trailers (what am I doing?)

Book trailers seem to be a pretty popular trend. I’m not really sure why. The whole point of a book is to¬†read, not watch. I browsed through a few on Youtube yesterday — most of them for Romance and Young Adult novels — and a good majority of them featured pictures of models or actors. One even had clips from a TV show. How many people actually watch these trailers?

I have a beef with this. One of the fun parts of reading a book is getting to imagine what the characters and settings look like. Book trailers that feature pictures and video clips of real people take away from the joy of using your imagination. For my previous Meet the Character posts, I included links instead of embedding¬†the image in the post, offering people the choice¬†to look or not. I had a very clear image in my mind of what my characters looked like before I found actors who best resembled them. I get that some people like knowing exactly what a character looks like beforehand, but not everyone does. Besides, you shouldn’t need to rely on pictures to portray your characters; your description in your novel should be able to do all the work.

Here are my thoughts and tips on book trailers, should you choose to make one for your book:

  1. Don’t include images of someone’s face.¬†Perhaps someone looking away, with their face blurred, or the back of their head — you get the gist. Just not the entire face. Not all readers want to be shown exactly what your character looks like.
  2. Brevity is key. Keep it short and sweet. One minute, at the longest, should suffice. There were a few I saw on Youtube that were between 3-4 minutes long. I never made it past the 1:20 mark on any of them.
  3. Don’t spill the beans.¬†What I mean: don’t divulge your entire plot. A book trailer should tantalize your readers and make them want to read it, like your back cover blurb.

For fun, I put one together for Waiting for You. I used iMovies, but to be honest, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing when it comes to making videos.

Waiting for You book trailer from Allison Williford on Vimeo.

What are your thoughts on book trailers? Any tips for authors who are thinking about making one?

Review Opportunity – Xpresso Book Tours

Review opportunity! (In other words, you get a free book. Who doesn’t love free books?)

First, I want to thank Brittney Sahin for recommending Expresso Book Tours! If you’re looking to do the whole shebang of a big tour, a review query, or just a cover reveal, I highly recommend xpressobooktours.com.

My contemporary romance novel, Waiting for You, is available for review:

http://xpressobooktours.com/2015/12/01/review-opportunity-waiting-for-you-by-allison-williford/

You can receive a free copy (file types available are mobi, epub, and PDF) in exchange for a review.

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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-publishing

My very first novel was self-published in early 2013. I recently removed it from Amazon (it had been enrolled in KDP Select). There are a lot of things I wish I had done with that book. Funny how hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? Sorta not really.¬†

One good thing is that I’ve learned a lot from my experiences, and I’d like to share them with those of you considering going the self-publishing road.

That novel was a product of the 2012 NaNoWriMo. I finished 54,000 in about two weeks, and I was thrilled to have finally completed a novel. I’d tried and tried and tried to finish previous projects¬†in years past, but never could quite make it. So thrilled, in fact, that I rushed through a lot of things that needed time and a little more of a delicate touch.

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Lesson #1: Take time (lots of time if you need it) to rewrite and edit until your fingers and eyeballs bleed.

I think I was so excited to finally have a completed draft that I sort of skipped this part. I had done a lot of editing as I wrote, but I failed to take the time to let my manuscript sit for a while before coming back to it with fresh eyes. I was so eager to get my work out there that I didn’t bother really taking the time to edit my manuscript and go through it with a fine tooth comb. I ended up spending a lot of extra time once I had already self-published going through and re-editing parts. It created a lot of headaches down the road.

A great tip: once you’ve completed your first draft, take a break from your novel. At least a week, more if you need it. You’ll be able to come back to your manuscript with fresh eyes and a fresh mind, ready to catch mistakes, whether grammatical or plot-wise.

Lesson #2: Invest in an editor.

I know, I know. We’re writers, therefore we should be super beings when it comes to grammatical errors, plot holes and characterization, right? Wrong! Listen up, people. You’re a writer, not a jack of all trades. I know it’s easy to think that you can write, edit, and do all the formatting for your novel by yourself. Cut yourself some slack. We, as writers, need a second set of professional eyes to look at our manuscript.

Do, however, take the time to do your own round (I suggest 4 or 5 rounds, really) of editing for grammatical errors and typos once you’ve given your manuscript a rest for at least a week. Another great tip: comb through your manuscript in several mediums — computer screen, ebook (see this post on formatting your novel for ebook. If you have a Kindle, you can upload it to your account as a personal document and read it that way on your e-reader), paper. Another great way is to read your entire novel out loud. You’ll hear any clunky clauses or awkward wording that needs to be changed.

Lesson #3: Have someone help you format your novel for ebook if you don’t know how to do it.

If you’re computer savvy, take the time and really, I mean really learn how to do it. Read up on it as much as you can. If not, have someone help you. I can help you, if you’re desperate. I learned how to format documents in Microsoft Word simply by trial and error, and I mean lots of trials and even more errors. It was a constant battle. I’d think it was formatted correctly until it was uploaded to Amazon and then the stupid Table of Contents wouldn’t work in Kindle Previewer. Trust me, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and frustration if you learn how to do it properly the first time.

Lesson #4: Have someone design a cover for you.

This is another moment when we realize we are not jacks of all trades. A professional cover will truly make your book stand out. I’m fortunate that I have a sister who designed the cover for me for free, although we both missed that the title was misspelled on the spine, which brings me to my next lesson…

Lesson #5: Proofread and preview EVERYTHING. SERIOUSLY, EVERYTHING.

If you’re using CreateSpace for your paperback copies, you can buy proof copies for the cost of what it takes to print the book. Once you have a physical copy in your hands, go through it with your most critical eye. Seriously, look for ANY typos or errors. Really, really look over your cover to make sure it’s absolutely perfect. Really, really look through the entire thing. Don’t make your title available for purchase until you’re absolutely, positively, 100% sure it’s PERFECT. Nothing screams “I’m an amateur!” like having glaringly obvious mistakes and typographical errors. I truly mean this in the nicest way, but having a less-than-stellar book might really hurt your reputation as an author.

Have a friend or family member go through it for you. Hell, have several people proof it for you. Make sure you are completely happy with your book before you make it available. And take your time with it. I know you’re excited to finally have your work out there, but trust me on this. Don’t rush your work. Rushing only leads to more mistakes, which lead to more headaches.

I’m now writing my third novel, and currently have queries out to literary agents for my second book, Waiting for You.

I truly wish you the best of luck no matter which publishing road you travel.¬†What lessons have you learned in your journey as a writer? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Creating Your Own eBooks: Part 2

As promised, part deux! (For Part 1, click here.)

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For those of you heading down the self-publishing road, sooner or later you’ll have to format your novel for ebook (unless, of course, you have a ton of money to shell out on someone to do it for you!). In order to use the programs I mentioned in my previous post, Sigil and Calibre, you’ll need your novel in a .htm file.

Luckily, if you have Microsoft Word, you can do it yourself. I taught myself to format my very first novel for Kindle when I went the self-publishing route, and I can help you! It took me many trials and many¬†more¬†errors to figure out how to do it, but in the end I did get it. I’ll walk you through it!

(I suggest creating a new document and copy/paste your novel, just in case something happens to the file while you’re working on it.)

Step 1.¬†Let’s start with an unformatted .doc/.docx document of our novel. Make sure your entire text for each chapter is set to “Justified” — not “Align Text Left” — most books and ebooks are formatted this way. If the text is not justified, you’ll have a lot of ugly blank spaces at the end of most lines of text. For my example, I’ll be using the first five chapters of Waiting for You:

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Step 2.¬†We need¬†to format each chapter title as Heading 1, as pictured below. To do this, highlight each chapter title and click the style option “Heading 1.” You can change the font and size, but make sure it is selected as Heading 1 (there’s a way to change each style option, which I can cover in a separate post if requested). Do this for each chapter.Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 12.55.44 PM

Step 3.¬†In between each chapter, make sure you have a “Page Break” at the end of a chapter. If you’re not sure, there’s a button you can click to show all nonprinting characters. This will show all your formatting. Like in the example below, you should see “Page Break” in between a line if your text is formatted correctly (that is, there is a page break before each new chapter). If you don’t see this, go ahead and add in the page breaks now. To do that, go to¬†Insert>Break>Page Break.

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Step 4.¬†Next, let’s add our Front Matter. Go back to the very first page of your novel and enter a Page Break to create a blank page at the beginning. Here, we’ll create a title page. Center your text and add in your novel’s title and, of course, your name! If you want to add a dedication page, insert another page break and type out your dedication on a separate page. Don’t forget to also add your copyright page! If you have a foreword, add that here, too.

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Step 5.¬†Now comes the tricky part: the Table of Contents. The TOC is especially important in ebooks, as there are no page numbers. An active TOC can be very helpful for readers if they want to skip to certain chapters without having to go through the entire novel. If you’re on a PC, Microsoft Word has an option to create an automated TOC. But if you’re on a Mac like me, we’ll have to build it ourselves.

Remember those heading styles we assigned to the chapter titles? This is where they come into play. On a new page after our dedication and copyright pages, we’re going to create the TOC. First, type out your chapter titles.

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Next, highlight your first chapter. Right-click and select “Hyperlink”:

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You should see three options in the box that pops open (as pictured below). Select “Document.”

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Click where it says “Locate” under “Anchor” — this will create a hyperlink in our table of contents. Select your first chapter and click OK.

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You should now see “#Chapter One” (or whatever you have saved under that Header 1 style).

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Step 6.¬†Repeat these steps for each chapter. Once you’ve done that, you should now have your Table of Contents!

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Step 7.¬†It’s time to save our work. From the drop down menu, select “Save As” and “Format: Web Page (.htm)” — if you’re on a PC, you’ll also have the option of “Web Page, Filtered.” Use this option if you’re on Windows operating system.

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Now you have the correct file to load into Sigil! Once in Sigil, you can generate an interactive Table of Contents. Your .epub file from Sigil can than be loaded into Calibre to create a .mobi file for Kindle. Be sure to preview your ebook for functionality and formatting!