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Messages - H.M. Ward

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GIVEAWAY! Have you ever dreamed about going to the south of France and writing in a really cool chateau? If so, here's a chance to go. I have a $3,600USD slot for 1 writer + 1 guest that I can't use (I'm having surgery instead), so I'm giving it away! I know it's super last second, but this trip could make someone really happy. I was super excited about it and I know a bunch of other author's were too. Anyway, I didn't want it to go to waste. Good luck!

For full details/ to enter, head over here:

It depends on your end goal. Are you hoping for more exposure or more income? Trying to do both at once usually works out poorly. Pick one focus and then aim everything you have at it. If you want more income, 99C at launch isn't the way to go because your bread & butter readers will jump at the discount. If you want more exposure, make it easy for them to share/ tell their friends about a great author w a great sale that day. Don't be afraid to prompt them.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How long is too long for a novel?
« on: January 21, 2017, 11:09:15 am »
You're within the word count for a novel in that genre. As for length though--a well told story isn't dictated by the word count. It's a blessing of being an indie. If your book can be stronger with less words, then remove them. Weak branches get trimmed for a reason but so does a strong offshoot that risks splitting the tree in half. Hope that helps.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Anyone use text alerts?
« on: December 21, 2016, 05:11:14 pm »
I use a texting service. It's not a cost effective way of doing things, especially on 99c-$2.99 priced books. You have to set up a keyword which has its own fee and then you pay for each text sent. It also has an autoresponder and you pay for each response. I wouldn't recommend the company I use. I'd gotten them b/c their price for texting an image was cheaper than everyone else, but the pic shows as a link in the text. So if I were to send a release day text it would have had my text, pic link, & purchase link which screws with the response rate. I have text to keywords for my books (broken down by vendor), films, and workshops. If you are thoughtful about the setup, it will automatically sort lists for you. Again, that cost extra. Most companies nickel & dime you. On higher priced items like bundles & workshops it's worth it, imho. You use tracking/ analytics to see who clicked & bought what to track ROI.

I'm completely blanking on the cheaper company's name right now. Once you set up your keywords, it'll cost you to move them so choose wisely. Also, the rate on most plans skyrockets to include international. Some include Canada at no extra cost. Read the fine print. There's a lot of it.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is there a 1-year cliff?
« on: December 21, 2016, 04:48:16 pm »
Holly? So good to see you, young lady. Happy holidays to you and yours.

Ditto. Glad to see you're still around. :) A lot of ppl have left/ moved into other things including most of my reps.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Choosing between Standalone or Series
« on: December 21, 2016, 04:43:51 pm »
There are many reasons to chose to create a series over a stand alone. Part of it revolves around scope and depth. You can go into more detail in a series and develop the characters more deeply. Series are easier to advertise (ROI is way higher), and series tend to earn more money.

 Select the number of books in your series carefully. There is a point of diminishing returns on a series and it varies by genre/ author. At some point a new series will bring in more readers than the sell through rate on an established series. Consider 2-3 book series. It allows for the author to have the series depth/ freedom while evading the point of diminishing returns. In a 2 book series, most ppl will want book 2. In a 3 book series, same thing--if they read books 1 & 2, it's only one more book. There's a psychological element at play that creates buying patterns.

Here's an exception: My most successful series is 23 books long. That's insane and I wouldn't outright recommend that to anyone, but when you have a series that's selling millions of copies and have fun expanding the world/ story, well, there's an exception to every rule. That's one of them.

The other anomaly is with novellas. They tend to do better with 5-10 books rather than 2-3. Half of my catalog is novellas. You're genre is already geared towards accepting novellas more so than others. Maybe consider releasing as serials and then do bind ups when the series is complete? Hugh Howey did that with several of his works. The sci fi market is a good place to be. Although I've made my biggest splash elsewhere, I've been watching it closely for years. Maybe 2017 will be the year I finally jump into scifi. Best of luck to you.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Do Sales Slow Down Before Christmas?
« on: December 21, 2016, 04:26:50 pm »
Typically, sales slow until Christmas Day and things start to pick up again. In years past, I've seen a lull in the week following as well. The week b/t Xmas and New Years has the least amount of cyber traffic out of the entire year. That lends to the slump imho.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is there a 1-year cliff?
« on: December 17, 2016, 08:44:18 pm »
We know about the 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day cliffs. But is there also a cliff at the one-year mark?

I'm asking because one of my books, which has been ranked sub-5k since it was published, recently passed its first anniversary and sales have slowed. It's not a sharp dropoff, but it's noticeable, and for the first time its rank is moving towards 10k.

There's a good chance it's just a coincidence. But it would be interesting to know if there's a penalty for older books. Does anyone have some data they can throw in the ring? :)

From what I've seen, yes. It also becomes harder to gain momentum. It'll seem like the book has a rock on the cover and won't lift easily, even with a BB. 1 year was noticeable, 3 years was worse, and 5 was time to rebundle and relaunch as an omnibus or anniversary edition.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Tips for building up a fan base
« on: December 17, 2016, 10:23:03 am »
It takes time and you build a fandom one fan at a time. This process should begin before your book is published or you'll have a problem breaking through the 200th sale threshold. I didn't do much on FB prior to writing. Honestly it can be a soul-sucking experience. When I finished my first book, I made a FB page. We talked about common interests that also tied into my genre/book. By the time the book came out, I had several thousand fans (20Kish--that old post is in here). It gave the book & series momentum that it wouldn't have had without the fans in tow. 

For  most people, including myself, if you look at the big picture including everything that we have to do every day, it's nauseating. Take things one step at a time, one day at a time, one fan out of time, and put on blinders.  Take them off every few weeks to look at your progress as a whole, to see what your company needs, reposition, put the blinders back on. Repeat as needed.

Work smarter, not harder. Be genuinely you. Know that this is one of the main spots that makes or breaks author. In the beginning, it is who you know. To jump that initial hurdle to break out of your normal social circles, you need to be out there. I have older posts with more description of how I built my fan base prior to book launch on Kboards. It still works. I've helped launch other authors the same way. Time is an element to building a fan base that can't be bypassed. Hope that helps a little.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Day After Release - what went wrong?
« on: December 17, 2016, 09:52:34 am »
And a Texas flag! Or the shape of Texas. Or the shape of Texas with a Texas flag in it. Geez, I can't believe I overlooked the Texas element of this story. That's prime branding for you right there.

That's very good advice. Covers act like stop signs. They're not art and it doesn't matter if you even like them.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Day After Release - what went wrong?
« on: December 17, 2016, 09:46:34 am »
After several years of successes followed by algorithm changes that have tanked sales every time, I'm nearing my breaking point of throwing in the towel.  Everyone has said "release more" and "release faster" but this year has shown that those suggestions haven't worked either - at least for me.  Sorry for all of the bellyaching but I simply needed a moment to vent.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what I should do?  Words of wisdom with some calls-to-action? 

It's the time of year, and it's worse THIS year than in previous years. It's not you. I had a release Thanksgiving week and although the book was hyped for over a year, when it finally went live w an incentive during week 1 and paid ads, it did meh. I plan to rebrand the cover and 'rerelease' it in late Jan. Sometimes a relaunch can help salvage things when the readers aren't buying b/c they're not online. B/t Christmas and New Years Day the number of ppl on the Internet is at the all time yearly low. That's part of the problem w/ Dec releases. Gaining momentum is difficult when no one is around.

Don't cry. I'd double check everything u can--blurb, cover, sample, title, price, keywords, etc and relaunch it next year under the same AISN, and keep whatever reviews you get til then. Consider this a soft launch. My first NYT bestseller was a sleeper for 9 months. It did nothing until I updated those things (cover, blurb, etc) and relaunched. It's not failure until you give up. Something's is out of whack. Fix it and see what happens while paying attention to what's happening online. e.g.  Inauguration day may screw with sales as much as the election did. I'd avoid rereleasing then b/c of it. Good luck!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Question about cover art
« on: November 12, 2016, 11:16:15 am »
Right left, hair color aren't as important. If you need a hugely successful example - look at the cover for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA movie/ playbill. The mask is of the wrong side of his face. They decided it looked better that way in the marketing pieces. Fans noticed and it's one of the things that they like knowing. It's like insider information. Die-hards will notice and eat it up. It's all in how it's presented. If it's intentional, then it's not a mistake.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Marketing, Book Launches, and Info
« on: November 12, 2016, 11:11:29 am »
Thanks for extending this offer. I've submitted a request to join. My personal FB page is the same name as my profile name here....but I write under a different pen name so I don't have my books listed on my profile, but I'd really like to join the group. Thanks!

As long as it says AUTHOR or WRITER on your profile under employment, I'll be able to tell. It pops up in the request feed. :)

Writers' Cafe / Re: Marketing, Book Launches, and Info
« on: November 12, 2016, 09:57:24 am »
If you write under a pen name that's okay. You don't have to tell me the pen name or prove that you're an author. If you put your place of employment as AUTHOR or WRITER I can tell enough to let you in. You can remove it again after access is granted. Once you're in the group, there's an intro thread to say what you write and all that good stuff. :)

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is Releasing Near Thanksgiving Not Wise?
« on: November 11, 2016, 04:59:15 pm »
Releasing near holidays typically sucks, however, I have a release Thanksgiving week too. It's just the way the timing worked out this year. Some people that released this week are reporting very screwed up/ low sales b/c of the election. There should be a rebound at some point. It's possible election hoopla will spill into the next 2 weeks. December is usually no man's land. YMMV, but it's usually better to release before people travel for the holidays. I wouldn't release ON Thanksgiving. That's typically the lowest sales day for me compared to the other 364 days of the year. The book will get sucked into oblivion and it will be difficult to recover.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Marketing, Book Launches, and Info
« on: November 11, 2016, 04:49:28 pm »
Please make sure I can tell you're a writer by having WRITER or AUTHOR as your occupation, or a book cover on your banner.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Post election shakeup in book reading patterns?
« on: November 11, 2016, 04:47:24 pm »
In election years, the economy typically tanks around election time. Uncertainty causes people to tighten their purse strings. Usually, when the economy is down, book sales are up. It's part of the 'lipstick effect.' People turn to inexpensive goods that take their minds off of worrisome things. A lot of people are very worried right now. I think purse strings are still tightly held. It should get a little bit better as the holiday season gets closer. Romance book sales should see it first due to the voraciousness of that market segment, then the other genres will follow. If it makes you feel better, you're not alone.

Writers' Cafe / Re: A new TV show about writers
« on: November 11, 2016, 04:39:11 pm »
Novel writing not exciting? Monty Python begs to differ :)

<a href="" target="_blank"></a>

Here's the script form. Just be aware that there are more funny bits in the audio beyond where the script ends off.

Hahaha. That's what I thought when they first told me about it. I thought it was going to be a documentary like a bunch of other shows I've seen. Which are interesting, but lacking in excitement. This one nailed that part. I'll share more as soon as I can. The way they pulled everything together is really interesting.

Writers' Cafe / Marketing, Book Launches, and Info
« on: November 11, 2016, 04:34:48 pm »
If you're interested, I have a new private FB group that is dedicated to marketing for writers. You can be indie or trad, so still writing your first book. The group is fairly new, but there are already several posts about marketing and visibility in there. More coming soon. :) Based on the number of ppl that still message me from over here, I thought some of you would be interested. Just make sure I can tell you're an author, since the group is restricted to authors. Have a great weekend. :)

Please make sure I can tell you're a writer by having WRITER or AUTHOR as your occupation, or a book cover on your banner.

About me (in case you'd like to get the run down without searching):
Is a 100% Indie author (self-published).
Has independently sold almost 13 MILLION books since 2011.
Ward was on the front page of the NEW YORK TIMES.
DAMAGED: THE FERRO FAMILY was the #1 bestselling Indie Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace title of 2013.
DAMAGED: THE FERRO FAMILY was the #14 bestselling Kindle title on Amazon of 2013.
Ward's had 21 different titles on the NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers list.
Ward has appeared on the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller's list.
Ward has appeared on the USA TODAY bestseller's list over 33 times.
Ward has appeared on the WALL STREET JOURNAL bestseller's list.
She hit #1 on DIGITAL BOOKS WORLD's bestseller's list.
Had multiple titles hit #1 in the paid Amazon store.
Had multiple titles hit #1 in the paid B&N store.
H.M. Ward was a top 100 Amazon author every month of 2013 & 2014, often in the top 10.
In 2016 she is releasing a new title about every 2.5 weeks.
Her formal education is in theology.
Ward's titles tend to focus on elements of the human condition such as poverty.
DAMAGED: THE FERRO FAMILY was in the Amazon top 100 kindle titles for over 100 days.
H.M. Ward owns H.M. Ward Press (Laree Bailey Press).
Ward is a nationally acclaimed professional photographer.
H.M. Ward has appeared in articles in  the New York Time, QUARTZ, USA Today, Huffington Post, Forbes, and The Washington Post to name a few.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Making the USAT list - questions
« on: November 10, 2016, 06:19:12 pm »
While I've hit lists without ISBNs, it's been a while and it's been known to cause issues - like they missed a platform. It's a cheap investment and helps. If you want a list, I'd consider getting one.
Watch your week start date. Like CL said, it's not Tue-Mon and varies by list. NYT is different than USAT.
Yes, you have to be wide. They list which platforms they're counting. So does NYT.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How well do Christmas short stories do?
« on: November 10, 2016, 06:16:14 pm »
Mine are about 12-15K words and sell for $2.99. They do well. It's worth the time investment. There have also been short stories with holiday themes that have spiked, hit lists, and made some authors very happy. If you have time, try it.

Writers' Cafe / A new TV show about writers
« on: November 10, 2016, 06:14:21 pm »
News! While working things out for my Ferro family to get their own series, I found out about a new reality, competition based show about authors, and they asked me to be a judge. OMG it sounds like so amazing. Think American Idol, but for writers. Yeah, I'm a little bit excited about it. We filmed a segment in my office yesterday. Long story short, if all goes well, it will come to your TV in 2017!

I thought I'd post about it in here because there are so many writers looking for help with their career and trying to figure out how the big sellers did it. If this goes well, then you'll get to hear from tremendously successful authors, how they did it, and hear the advice given to the contestants. You can use all that info! Plus, some people will get to be the contestants. That's the one thing I craved early on--practical career advice from people who know the ropes. It was hard to find. Successful authors tend to move on and it's so hard to get started/ restarted. It can be discouraging and frustrating. This is cool because I'm a resource nerd and like to learn everything I possibly can, so something like this sounds amazing. It has so much potential, and the way it's being presented is entertaining too. I wish I could say more, but I can't yet. I thought you guys would like a heads up. More to come!

Writers' Cafe / NYT Children's List - No Indies Allowed?
« on: November 09, 2016, 02:46:12 pm »
I'm trying to dig up info on the NYT CHILDRENS MIDDLE GRADE EBOOK LIST. I heard (a while back) that indie authors were getting snubbed on these lists. Is that still true?

If you have info, I'm all ears!

Thank you!


How important is it to have an active author website, and with that, how important is getting a mailing list started? I mean this in priority of importance in relation to all of the other marketing techniques that are used by authors to sell books. Thanks.

It's VERY important to have a central area where you can direct people to your book. Providing links to retailers and making it EASY TO PURCHASE are paramount while marketing.

The mailing list will be a slow build where it doesn't seem like it's worth it at first. I neglected mine early on and can tell you that it was a mistake. That list is your direct connection to readers. It's also the most economical with the highest ROI (return on investment). The sign up link should be on your site, on social media, in your emails with prompting to invite a friend, and in your books.

With your first book, you hit the social wall. Most people have a connection of roughly 200 other people via social media. The max lifetime number of units sold for your typical release is approx. 200 units. I think these two things go hand in hand. If you don't figure out how to break out beyond your current social structure, there's no way for word to spread about your book. I used Facebook to do this initially and allured people with a very public launch of a first book. It was terrifying. I know people showed up to see if I'd fall on my face. It's the 'train wreck' allure. Use whatever you can to break out past those first 200 units. In my opinion that is the biggest milestone an author can pass. It means the difference between success and failure. And those first 200 books are like pulling teeth where it is uncomfortable and awkward. You gotta keep smiling and march on.

A tip - Spend as little money as possible on creating your books. Make very strategic moves to push your brand. It doesn't happen overnight. I didn't have a regular following for a year or more. It's a lot of work. When you gain a reader, you want to do everything you can to hold onto them - which is why the website and mailing list is important. Retaining readers is just as important as getting them in the first place. Hope that helps. There's more marketing stuff over here if you're interested: There are a bunch of free videos about marketing books I have up on YouTube too. Link is on the blog. I recorded a few for indie recon/ indie fringe as well. Those are longer, but packed full of marketing and sales info.

And a first website can be a wordpress template. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Something is better than nothing. I'm making a basic site for my daughter right now. I'm using a wordpress template. She's in about the same spot you are, has a few books under her belt, but no list in place and no website. Those are the first two things I'm helping her address. :)

Im an introvert. To the point that crowds make me feel sick, so I get where you're coming from. When I spot a personal weakness, I try to figure out how to compensate for it. I tend to do the same thing as Cassie when writing about groups - I'll pull the leader out of the crowd and describe him or her. Then the crowd itself is treated as an entity with its own personality. I tend to treat them like mobs with a lot of 'groupthink' going on. They're not necessarily hostile, they just have a lemming thing going on.

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