Random Inspirations

Welcome to my blog, full of fun inspirations and insights on writing, self-publishing, and more!

Autumn Inspirations: 3 Halloween Writing Prompts

Long-time blog readers may remember my “Write of Spring” post, in which I threw out a few seasonal creative writing ideas just in time for the vernal equinox.

Well today, in honor of Halloween (one of my fave holidays!!), I’m at it again. Something about the crisp, invigorating air, the bright orange decorations, the pumpkins, the costumes, and the apple cider just makes me want to write! How about you? Let’s get creative!

Doesn't this image just make you happy? Halloween just never gets old for me!

Doesn’t this image make you happy? Halloween just never gets old for me!

3 Halloween Writing Prompts:

  1. The Hallo-wiener” – Write a short story about a cute little wiener dog (i.e. a dachshund) who wriggles and burrows his way into saving the day on Halloween.
  2. The Epic Fail” – Write a short story, or perhaps a mini memoir, about a Halloween costume gone horribly awry that turns out to be exactly right in the end.
  3. Zombie Apocalypse” – The zombies have taken over your hometown! Where do they hang out? What activities do they do? And who do they harass? (Remember to change the names to protect the innocent — or the not-so-innocent!)

I hope these writing prompts fuel your creativity on this special day. Happy Halloween — and happy writing!

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Writing in Costume: Try it Today!

This morning, I finally received my Halloween costume in the mail. The process was long-awaited and fraught with drama. First, it seemed to take forever to arrive. Then, it supposedly did arrive but I never received it. And, finally, I found it, not in a large box like I’d expected but in a tiny pouch buried underneath the mail in my mailbox that I hadn’t gotten around to grabbing yet!

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to try it on. It fit perfectly (but I won’t reveal what it is until Halloween:) And once I put it on, I didn’t want to take it off. I also felt incredibly inspired — much more inspired than I’d felt in my pink Pitt sweatshirt and matching Hollister sweatpants. So I began writing, and now blogging, and let me say, this is the most excited I’ve ever felt to blog before 9:30 in the morning — especially when I rushed out of the house to the mailbox without even finishing my cup of coffee!

One of the best things about being a writer and working from home is that we can wear whatever we want and no one judges us. We can write in sweats, costumes, or nothing at all! So my challenge for any writer out there who wants to bring a creative new flavor to his / her work is this: take advantage of the Halloween season and write in costume! We all know costumes are liberating, and that how we look often influences how we feel. So why not connect the dots and see how those new feelings of freedom will impact our writing? Try it. You’ve got nothing to lose, except your normal clothes and possibly an uptight attitude! ūüôā

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4800 eBook Downloads in 48 Hours: How to Optimize Amazon KDP Select Free Days

This Monday and Tuesday, I experienced another milestone in my journey as an author: I listed my new eBook, Rumspringa Break, as free on KDP Select. I’d heard the free-day success stories of authors like Joanna Penn and Tom Corson-Knowles (i.e. thousands of downloads, gargantuan jumps in Amazon rankings), so I was excited and a bit intimidated to try it myself.

Rumspringa Break‘s two-day free period exceeded my expectations. My book received about 4,800 downloads (4,728 to be exact), and peaked at #59 Worldwide in Free Books on Amazon Best Sellers. It was #1 in the Teen & Young Adult Short Stories category, and #2 in the overall Short Stories category!

I performed many steps in preparation for my free days, and am eager to share them with any new authors out there who want to get noticed on Amazon.

Here’s my step-by-step free-day promo strategy!

  1. As soon as my book launched, I recruited reviewers: friends and family, other authors, and indie book reviewers. I’m still not an expert at getting reviews, but my book did have five by my first free day, which helped it to rank higher on Amazon.
  2. I planned my promo days to be within two weeks of my book’s release to optimize its “new release” discoverability.
  3. Since self-published authors gain the most momentum by using only one or two free days at a time, I decided to use two.
  4. Starting four days before the scheduled free days, I planned my attack — armed with an arsenal of free-book promoting websites, Twitter handles, and Facebook pages from a¬†video by Tom Corson-Knowles. Some websites needed to be notified days in advance, others only on the day of the free promotion. Also, some of the websites would only list books with a certain number of four- or five-star reviews, which made me grateful I’d thought of that ahead of time. Several of the Facebook pages were closed groups, so I joined the groups a few days before I wanted to promote. Planning ahead was crucial!
  5. On the first free day, I posted descriptions of my eBook on all the free-book promo Facebook pages.  I repeated this on the second free day.
  6. On the first free day, I announced the book on my Facebook author page and my Google+ page. I also included an eye-catching graphic with the announcements.

    The eye-catching graphic I used on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

    The eye-catching graphic I used on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

  7. On the first free day, I tweeted three times about the book, with a slightly different leading tweet each time.
  8. On the first free day, I launched a two-day Facebook ad campaign that helped to drive traffic to my author page and the book. I received ten new likes on my author page.
  9. On the second free day, I launched a Twitter ad campaign targeted at followers of popular teen figures (i.e. Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez) and free-book Twitter handles (i.e. Bookyrnextread and FreeKindleBooks).

Then, I sat back and let it happen, making key observations along the way. The interesting thing was that before the promo, I had sold 40 copies of the book in 10 days and my Amazon ranking was fluctuating between 30,000 and 50,000 in paid Kindle books. The morning after the promotion my rank had plummeted down to around 150,000 in paid Kindle books. As the day progressed, however, my ranking rose steadily. I sold about 90 books in 1 day, and my Amazon ranking went up to 1,800 in paid Kindle books.

Total downloads on Amazon KDP

Total downloads on Amazon KDP

Although Amazon does not disclose the algorithm it uses for recommendations, I believe that my success during the promo triggered the algorithm to recommend my book to more Kindle users after the promo. ¬†The other interesting thing was that during my free promo, my other short story, A First TIme for Everything, sold about five more copies per day than usual. I am not sure if this happened because there’s a link to its Amazon page at the end of¬†Rumspringa Break, or if it happened because the Amazon algorithm recommended the book more — probably a combination of both.

I’m now in the midst of an experiment: I’ve listed¬†A First Time for Everything¬†for free today, and I’m doing no promotion whatsoever except on my Facebook author page, Google+, this blog, and Twitter. Then, on¬†Friday, I’m offering Rumspringa Break for free again, but I’ll be promoting it the same way I did earlier this week and trying out some new tactics as well.¬†I will be sure to blog about the outcome of this “experiment” and the new promotion strategies I learn along the way. And if you haven’t checked out my eBooks yet, feel free — literally — to take advantage of the promo days and download them!

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I’m on Bloglovin!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Maybe I should’ve added a sixth blogging tip to my last post: join Bloglovin. I heard about it from a friend of mine and just joined. It’s just another fun way to increase discoverability while blogging!

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Blogging Stick-to-itiveness: 5 Ways to Start and Maintain a Blog

Blogging is a super-fun, casual medium for writers to express themselves, and it’s the perfect way to connect with like-minded individuals. Blogging is extremely helpful for writers looking to “build their platforms” and find new fans for their books. However, the beauty of blogging is that it doesn’t have to be used this way — many blogs are simply for the sake of writing and being heard.

I’m still getting used to telling people I’m a writer and blogger (as opposed to a pharmacist), and I’ve noticed that whenever people hear that I blog, they get instantly excited. Interest in blogging seems to be a common thread between acquaintances. So many times, I’ve heard, “Oh wow! I have a blog…” or “My friend has a blog…” Sadly, however, this is usually followed by, “…but I haven’t blogged in awhile.”

I have been blogging for a year and a half, and have learned a lot about keeping up blogging momentum. Blogging, like most things we practice, builds on itself and becomes more and more rewarding and natural over time.

Follow these tips, and you'll be blogging infinitely and indefinitely!

Follow the tips below, and you’ll be blogging infinitely and indefinitely!

Here are 5 ways to increase blogging stick-to-itiveness:

  1. Blog regularly: Blog at least once  week to increase followers and build loyalty.
  2. Blog about your passion:¬†One concern of bloggers is how to keep posts fresh. I have found that the best way to do this is to blog about topics I’m passionate about. Our passions truly light us up, and we never run out of ideas or things to say.
  3.  Cross-reference your blogs: Use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to announce blog posts. Follow groups that promote blogs. One of the most helpful resources for growing my blog (and Twitter followers) has been @MondayBlogs. Check it out!
  4. Pay attention to SEO:¬†A year ago, Search Engine Optimization was a foreign language to me, but a basic understanding of it is essential for bloggers. The keywords we choose are paramount to the traffic we get on our blogs. It’s important to monitor WordPress stats, too. These stats will tell you which blog posts had the highest traffic, and which keywords you chose were the most popular.
  5. Follow other blogs: Not only does it let you connect (which is the main purpose of blogging in the first place), it increases your discoverability and visibility on the web, especially when you comment on popular blogs.

Blogging really is addictive, and I hope these tips help beginning bloggers out there. I’m excited to announce that my blog will soon be moving to my author website, http://www.kristinaludwig.com. We’re currently performing finishing touches such as follower migration, etc, so look for updates coming soon. And happy blogging!

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5 Fabulous Insider Tricks for Success as an Indie Author

This Saturday, Antonio and I had the pleasure of attending the Digital 2.0 Self-Publishing Conference in LA. This conference included writers of all levels, from brand-new (i.e. “I’m thinking I want to be a writer but don’t know how”) to established and successful.

There’s something magical about networking with writers from all stages of their journeys. Seasoned authors make for perfect mentors, while new ones inspire us to recapture our passion for the written word.

I also witnessed the beauty of collaboration — the participants in the conference were not competing, but learning from each other. One of the best things about being a writer is that we’re like snowflakes: no two of us are exactly alike, which cuts down on the odious comparisons of who’s the “best,” and keeps us focused on working together.

It was a beautiful day for a writing conference this past Saturday in LA!

It was a beautiful day for a writing conference this past Saturday in LA!

The conference centered on how each writer can make his / her individual voice heard in the self-publishing world. It was not the place for writers who were looking for intensive technical workshops or story-structure hints, but it was the perfect place to learn about marketing, promotion, and all those things that generally elude writers. Here are five new insider tricks I picked up at the conference.

  1.  Publishing on KDP select is the recommended 1st step in self-publishing. Roughly 85% of eBook sales are through Amazon, so KDP select is the perfect venue for new indie authors to build their names. After the period of exclusivity, authors can move on to publish on Smashwords premium, which distributes eBooks to other platforms such as Kobo.
  2. 25 customer reviews on Amazon is the sweet spot. We all know how important it is to get a few customer reviews, but authors who reach 25 reviews, especially by top-rated reviewers, are considered to be successful and will be recommended to readers more often by Amazon. Jackpot!
  3. There is a system for choosing free days on KDP select.¬†Don’t use all five free days at once — it’s recommended to schedule them two at a time. And Fridays are the best day to choose because of all the Free-Book Friday promotions.
  4. Schedule free days during the “soft launch” of your book.¬†During the soft launch, writers work on gaining reviews and building sales momentum. That’s why making the book free during this time is so important — more people will download the book, which leads to more reviews.
  5. Most of us are tweeting wrong!¬†We all know that Twitter is an incredibly effective medium for promoting self-published books, but many of us send tweets like, “Check out my free book…” These can be a huuuge turn-off, and can come off as spammy and self-serving. A better technique is to structure tweets around a specific topic found in your book, with a link to the book or an excerpt. Tweets should be leading questions with interesting buzzwords. It’s so common-sense, but so overlooked!!

 

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Reflections on eBook Launches: The New Book Launch Paradigm

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve just published my Amish YA fiction novella, Rumspringa Break, on Amazon Kindle, and I’m now officially in the launching stage! Naturally, I’ve been reflecting about book launches — what they once were, and how they’ve evolved.

When I was growing up, I always thought of a book launch as a huge party for the literary community, like that¬†scene in the first Bridget Jones movie when she botched her speech at the Kafka’s Motorbike launch. I visualized a book launch as a swanky event full of glamorous and brilliant literati. And hey, who knows — maybe some book launches are still like that, especially for uber-famous authors from ginormous publishing houses.

The fun book launch scene from the Bridget Jones movie.

The fun book launch scene from the Bridget Jones movie.

However, with the advent of self-publishing, there is a remarkably fresh new paradigm for book launches. They’re heavily focused on social media because of the burgeoning online community of readers and writers. Book launches have also become incredibly DIY; indie eBook authors control their own book marketing, and that’s super exciting as well as challenging.

Book launches are a lot of trial and error. I have learned so much during the launch of A First Time for Everything and Rumspringa Break, so I’ve compiled a list of tips that I believe will help anyone launching a new eBook.

  1. Watch this¬†Tom Corson-Knowles video: It outlines a strategy for marketing a KDP Select free book. However, many of the ¬†Facebook groups mentioned in this video will promote links to non-free Kindle eBooks as well. Also, some of the websites, such as http://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/ allow you to submit a non-free eBook, so they’re great for promotion during the launch!
  2. Invest in¬†Twitter Advertising: It allows you to send promoted tweets for your book to a select group of Twitter users — either users who search specific keywords or followers of specific users related to your product. I’ve launched campaigns both ways, and was very successful when I targeted followers of the free or discounted eBook Twitter accounts (i.e. @IndieKindle, @kindleebooks, @CheapKindleDly, @Bookyrnextread).
  3. Look into¬†Facebook Advertising: It’s great if you want to build followers on your Author page, reach your target audience, and therefore sell more books during your launch.
  4. Spread the word through flyers: Check out this earlier blog post about making high-quality book flyers. Face-to-face promotion is still priceless, especially at conferences and other networking events. These flyers are also perfect to hand out at the local library or at any events attended by the target audience.

This list is only the beginning. As always, I will share more of my journey with you as I go. Please be sure to check out¬†Rumspringa Break¬†—¬†It’s a fun, quick read, and I would love some honest reviews!

 

 

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How to Work From Home Effectively: 5 Quick Tips

It’s official: I’ve been working from home for practically a month now, and it’s been, in a word, ahhhh-mazing!

During my six year stint as a pharmacist, I had to be physically at work. This had some advantages: Work never came home with me, and if something bothered me, I could “leave it at work.” Working from a set location had notable disadvantages, too: The schedule was too rigid for my tastes, and there were some (okay, many) days when I just didn’t want to get up, get ready, and drive to work.

Working from home is awesome because it’s so flexible. For writers, it allows us to vary our writing routines according to our moods, which enhances creativity and wards off boredom and writer’s block. However, all that flexibility can be a double-edged sword. It’s super easy to become distracted by housework, or take two-hour lunch breaks.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned so much about working from home productively. Here are 5 quick tips to jump-start your Monday, especially if it involves working from home!

  1. Set daily and weekly goals. It’s especially important to write them down, since it makes them more real. And, as always, make sure they’re SMART, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
  2. Monitor your progress.¬†This is where checklists come in handy. Review what you’ve accomplished daily. Celebrate what you’ve achieved, and you’ll be driven to push yourself even further.
  3. Keep distractions to a minimum.¬†Check your email and other forms of social media at set intervals, and limit personal phone calls. It’s incredible how those little distractions can add up to a lot of time.
  4. Prioritize.¬†Many people who work from home take care of errands and home chores as well, and it’s super easy to let these trivialities take over the work day. I recommend spacing them out over the week. I started doing that and found that I still accomplished all the home tasks I set out to do, but they didn’t take huuuge chunks of time away from work.
  5. Set up an office.¬†It’s much easier to focus if you’re sitting at a desk in a cushy office chair. It feels more official somehow. However, don’t be afraid to work in other areas of the house, or in other locations entirely. Changing location can be key for creativity.
My new home office.

My new home office.

The biggest challenge of working from home is that you can’t escape work — literally. But the good news is, ¬†these tips will make you waaay more productive, so you won’t even want to!

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Gearing Up for a Book Launch: 5 Things to Do

I’m excited to announce that I will be launching the Kindle version of my new Amish YA fiction novella, Rumspringa Break, on October 10th. Long-time followers of my blog may recall this title in short story form. Since then, I’ve tweaked the storyline, added more drama, conflict, and intrigue, and changed the ending. (And the middle, for that matter — the beginning is the only part that’s somewhat similar to the original version.) The short story ran about 11 pages, and the novella is a whopping 54 — hopefully the ideal length for YA readers and adults looking for a relatively quick but satisfying read with crossover appeal.

Gearing up to launch an indie eBook is both energizing and exhausting. There’s so much that goes into it: promotion and marketing on the endless stream of social media, attending networking events to spread the word in person, putting together the book description, and editing and formatting the book. I recommend checking out this¬†article by Nick Thacker about launching a book in three easy steps.

The cover of Rumspringa Break

The cover of Rumspringa Break, coming to you on 10/10/13!

Here are 5 things I’ve done to prepare for the book launch on 10/10, in no particular order. I hope it helps any writers out there who may be gearing up for their own book launches.

  1. Attended a Network After Work event, where I distributed flyers for the new book and met professionals in various areas of employment. I even connected with another author, who’d just published a book on Amazon.
  2. Signed up for a writing conference in LA. It’s called the Digital Author and Self-Publishing conference, and it will be the perfect place to connect with other authors and promote the new book, especially because it’s happening 2 days after my launch. There’s still time to sign up by the way, so any writers looking to hobnob with other indies should check it out!
  3. Prepared to launch my author website. The developers are still working a few kinks out of it, but my author website is officially up and running. As soon as it passes my test, I will post all the information on this blog, as well as my other social media accounts. Soon, this blog will be running from my author website! The website will have fun features like Free Book Fridays, where I will host giveaways for all my eBooks, especially Rumspringa Break. 
  4. Maintained social media presence.¬†Authors’ platforms are important all the time, but especially before launching a book. I have been focusing on increasing my Twitter followers, posting regularly to Facebook and Google+, and blogging twice a week. I love these activities anyway, so it’s as much fun as it is work.
  5. Put together the most professional product possible.¬†I enlisted the services of Katrina Joyner at Premade Covers 4U, and purchased the perfect book cover. And, of course, there’s editing, formatting, etc. It may seem tedious, but it’s so important for self-published authors to put their best work out there!

 

 

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