Online Courses Now Available at Professional Author Academy

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to learn more about writing, finish your book or maybe even to self-publish, you’re in luck. I’m now offering online courses on writing, business and publishing for authors of all experience levels, from aspiring to multi-published, at Professional Author Academy.

Here’s a look at the courses:

Business Courses 

Audio Books for Indie Authors
Audio books are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry and are a relatively easy way to make money on books you’ve already written. The process may seem overwhelming, but Nicole Evelina will guide you through a few of the ways of getting your book from page to earbuds. She’ll help you understand your options for production, the cost involved, how to audition narrators and guide them once you’ve selected your talent, what the recording and editing process entail, and how to get your books out to your audience.

Basic Branding for Authors
When we hear the word “branding,” most of us automatically think “logo.” While that is one part of it, branding is actually so much more. It includes the way people feel when they interact with you, your “voice” both in your writing and online, and the image you project online and in person. In addition, branding encompasses your logo, author and book taglines and the fonts and colors you choose for your web site and marketing materials. Drawing on 15 years of professional experience in marketing and a master’s degree in public relations, as well as her own experience as an author, Nicole will help you understand branding through case studies of authors who do it successfully, as well as offer tips and exercises you can employ to discover your own brand.

Business Plans for Authors
A business plan is a roadmap to success. Whether you’re published or not, indie or traditional, a good business plan helps you in defining your goals as well as action steps you can take to reach them. In this course, you’ll learn an 11-step process for writing yours that will take only an hour or two to complete. Plus, you’ll get to see a real-life example of a business plan from your instructor. You’ll also learn how to set your budget and think through your long-term and short-term goals, uncover additional merchandising opportunities that could lead to income, and plan for your next year’s worth of book releases.

Legal Issues for Indie Authors
Being an indie author is more than just writing and publishing a book. Regardless of whether or not you choose to formally start your own publishing imprint, as soon as you make your first sale you are a business in the eyes of the law. This means you’ll have to pay taxes and make sure you follow local, state and Federal laws. In this course,* award-winning author and owner of Lawson Gartner Publishing, Nicole Evelina will walk you through the ins and outs of copyright, PCIP information and Library of Congress numbers, things to consider when starting your own publishing imprint, taxes and proper business record keeping. *This course should not be taken as legal advice. Please consult an attorney and/or tax expert before taking any action.

Marketing Plans for Authors
In today’s publishing world, it’s not only indie authors who have to handle the lion’s share of marketing their book. Increasingly, traditionally published authors are being asked to shoulder the burden. So where do you start? Drawing on 15 years of professional experience and a master’s degree in public relations, as well as her own experience as an author, Nicole Evelina will lead you through creating your own marketing plan. You’ll learn how to:

  • Get an idea of the market for your genre
  • Research competitive and comparative books
  • Identify your strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats
  • Identify your target audience
  • Develop key messages about your book and yourself as an author
  • Plan what tactics you will use before launch, during your launch and after to gain and sustain sales:
    • Distribution – online and physical stores
    • Getting endorsements
    • Paid advertising
    • Social media
    • Your web site content
    • Guest posts/writing articles
    • Events/speaking engagements
    • Media relations
    • Tapping into online and real-life organizations
    • Using giveaways and ARCs to build buzz
    • Getting reviews
    • Supplemental materials you’ll want to have on hand
  • Measure for success and evaluation of ROi

Nicole will share her own marketing plans with you, so you can see how one looks when complete, as well as provide handouts you can use as templates to create your own plan. Nicole has won international communications awards for her marketing plans and regularly writes them for her day job.

Self-Publishing 101
Self-published authors are more than just writers. We’re our own business managers, sales force, distribution team, marketers and more. This course will teach you everything you need to know to self-publish as a professional and produce books of equal or greater quality than traditional publishing houses.

This course is actually several courses in one, as I offer many of these modules separately. Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • The benefits of self-publishing
  • How to write a business plan
  • Budgeting
  • How to handle editing/proofreading
  • How to get a great cover design
  • Options for interior book formatting
  • Distribution: Ebooks, print and audio
  • How to sell your book to libraries and bookstores
  • Legal issues for indie authors: copyright, Library of Congress, forming your own imprint, taxes, recording keeping and expenses
  • Marketing and PR basics
  • Your digital media strategy: website, social media and branding

Steps to Self-Publishing
Self-publishing a book is more than uploading it to Createspace and clicking “publish.” There are several steps necessary in order to produce a book that is equal to or better than those from traditional publishing houses. In this course, award-winning self-published author Nicole Evelina will walk you through everything you need to know about professional editing, cover design, interior formatting, production​, sales and marketing in order to make your book as professional as possible. She’ll also teach you how to budget for the expenses involved and cover the advantages and disadvantages to choosing to publish independently.

Web Sites and Social Media for Authors
By now we all know that web sites are a must for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in any field. This is especially true for authors whose sites function as not only as virtual calling cards, but as portals for sales and interaction with fans. In this course, award-winning author Nicole Evelina will walk you through everything you need to do to set up a site of your own, from choosing a hosting company and buying a URL to deciding what information to include and how to organize your pages. She will also show you how to incorporate branding and marketing best practices into your social media. In addition to using her own site and social media examples, Nicole will offer best practices from famous authors and show you how to emulate them.

Writing Courses

Self-Editing
Editing. That one little word conjures a range of emotions in writers. Some love it. Some hate it. No matter how you feel about it, it’s a necessary step to get your novel ready for publication. Nicole Evelina will teach you some tips and tricks she’s learned over the last several years that will make self-editing a much easier step. Highlights include how to:

  • Break your editing into rounds so that you don’t have to tackle everything at once.
  • Examine dialog, description, characterization and action.
  • Use a beat sheet to check pacing and balance of power.
  • Make every word count without having to agonize over every sing word.
  • Use advice from beta readers and contests to strengthen your novel.

Setting and Description in Fiction
Setting and description are key to immersing your reader in the world of your novel. But how do you accomplish this without overwhelming your readers with pages of flowery prose? Nicole Evelina shares her tips for writing description that will leave your readers wanting to live in the world of your book without sacrificing pace.

Writing Historical Fiction
Ever wanted to try your hand at historical fiction but didn’t know where to start? Award-winning historical fiction author Nicole Evelina will show you it’s not as intimidating as it may seem, even if you’re not a fan of research (though it helps if you are). She’ll cover research methods and sources, how research informs plot, how to handle characterization in other time periods, how to bring the past to life, mistakes to avoid, and more. Whether you’re just dipping a toe in the historical waters or have already published in this genre, you’re sure to learn something new.

Convenient and Reasonably Priced
I know what it’s like to try to fit learning into a life already filled with work, family, writing and other responsibilities. That’s why these courses don’t require any homework and can be taken at your own pace. All courses include a welcome video and narrated Powerpoint slides. Many also include a recommended reading list and other handouts for reference or use as a worksheet or template.

Plus, they are cheaper than your average college course, which runs about $1,500/course (at $500/credit hour), or even many Writer’s Digest Online Workshops, which average between $200-$600+. I offer a tiered pricing structure based on the amount of information in each course. You can pay all at once or installments.

Basic – $100/course

  • Legal Issues for Indie Authors
  • Writing Setting and Description

Standard – $200/course

  • Audio Books for Indie Authors
  • Business Plans for Authors
  • Self-Editing

Advanced – $300/course

  • Branding for Authors
  • Website and Social Media for Authors
  • Steps to Self Publishing

Premium – $500/course

  • Marketing Plans for Authors
  • Writing Historical Fiction

Premier – $1,000/course

  • Self Publishing 101 (This course is several courses in one, including Steps to Self Publishing, Business Plans, Marketing Plans, Legal Issues, Web and Social Media. If you bought the classes separately, you’d pay $1,400.)

To register, just head over to Professional Author Academy.

Stay Up to Date
I’m planning to add new courses several times a year, so if you’d like to be notified when there is a new course or a current course goes on sale, please sign up for my course newsletter.

Future Planned Courses

  • Advanced Author Branding
  • How to Use Pinterest to Develop Your Story and Career
  • How Acting Can Make Your a Better Writer
  • Public Speaking for Authors
  • Starting Strong: Tips for Honing Your Novel’s First Chapter, Page and Line
  • Resources for Self Published and Hybrid Authors
  • Working with a Publicity Company: What You Need to Know
  • Building Strong Characters
  • How to Write a Query Letter That Goes You Noticed

If you have any suggestions for future courses, please email me at nicole[dot]evelina[at]att[dot]net. I’d love to know what you want to learn about!

And please spread the word about this new resource to all the writers in your life.

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2018 Word of the Year and Goals

All of the year-end Best Books of 2017 lists (and an article on 10-year planning I read) have brought me to a conclusion about 2018: I need to focus on getting traditionally published.

I’ve known all along that I would try that route again someday, but if I’m going to become “the Nora Roberts of Historical Fiction,”* which is my goal, I don’t know that I can do it without at least a few traditionally published books. Plus:

  • I want to be on those year-end lists.
  • I want to get big-time exposure.
  • I want to get foreign rights deals so I can get more international fans.
  • I want to be on the USA Today and New York Times best-seller lists.

And realistically, the only way these are going to happen is either by an act of God (like Colleen Hoover and Bella Andre experienced with their indie careers) or with a traditional contract.

I’m hoping that my indie publishing successes will give me enough credence to make getting an agent/publisher easier than it was the last time. I know that because of what I’ve already experienced, I will go into this round of querying and submissions with so much more confidence. And probably less stress because I know this time that it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of my career; if it doesn’t work out, I can always self-publish the books.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN I’M GOING TO STOP INDIE PUBLISHING!

Not at all. I have plans to self-publish at least four or five more books related to the Guinevere series (Mistress of Legend, Isolde’s story, Morgan’s story, Soibian’s story and a companion guide, plus maybe a few novellas), and possibly the other three or four books in the Chicago Soulmates series, which began with Been Searching for You. Plus whatever else traditional publishing doesn’t take. I’ll become a hybrid author.

So that means 2018 is shaping up like this:

  1. Get Mistress of Legend done and published. (I know that will make many of you happy. Me as well! Publication date TBD.)
  2. Continue on the Rose Ferron biography, which I’m hoping to have done by late summer.
  3. Research and start writing two WWII books that I’d like to get traditionally published.
  4. Research the feminism book I’d love to have out by August 2019 (I doubt it will be ready by then).

In my fantasies, I will also have time to write Isolde and Sobian’s stories and start researching a 19th century historical that I am also going to try getting a traditional contract for. That might be possible if I wrote full-time, but I don’t. So just let me live in my deluded state. I’m happy here.

But I will have more time to write because I’m only going to two conferences and am going to limit my speaking engagements. I may pull back on social media as well. I see 2018 as a year of retreat, and by that I don’t mean running away from battle; I mean it in the sense of a quiet, calming spiritual retreat, a chance to get away and focus. But instead of prayer, my focus will be writing, which for me is a spiritual act. I know I say every year that I’m going to focus on writing, but this year feels different.

They that when we make plans, God laughs. Yes, but God also knows that I need plans because he/she/it/they/whatever made me this way. At least I know that if things don’t follow my plan, it’s because he/she/it/they/whatever has something better in store for me.

2018 Word of the Year
So this brings me to my 2018 Word of the Year: Leap. I’m tired of baby steps. Been there, done that. I’m ready for action, so I’m going to take the metaphoric leap of faith and soar into the unknown by trying once again to go traditional. I’m ready for success; I’m ready for the big time. As they say, God helps those who help themselves, so my helping myself is going to be writing several books with traditional potential and putting myself out there in the publishing industry again.

*For all of you wondering how I define being “the Nora Roberts of Historical Fiction,” here’s my thinking: She’s prolific (perhaps too much so; I’m not aiming for that level), well-respected in her genre, beloved by her readers, and one of the queens of the author world. I don’t care so much about the last one (although I so want the perks like money, films, and bestseller status); the others are what really matters. I hope I’ve made a few strides in that direction already with my own small efforts. I plan to expand exponentially from here.

What is your 2018 Word of the Year?

Indie Author Day 2017 Speech

Once again this year, I was invited by a local library to speak on Indie Author Day. I was asked to speak about self-publishing and I wanted to share my speech here since not everyone was able to attend. Hope you enjoy.

I always thought I would be a traditionally published author. I hate to admit it, but I used to look down on self-publishing. I thought it was only for people who couldn’t make it with the big publishers in New York and was, therefore, inferior. Unfortunately, that’s a stigma that remains today. I said I would never do it. I’ve learned never to say never because I will end up doing exactly that. (I also said I would never blog and I’ve been doing that for six years now.)

Who Am I and Why Should You Listen to Me?

I’ll give you a short version of my history as a writer so that you can see how I came to have such an about-face of opinion. I started taking my writing seriously in 2008. Once I figured out that if you wanted to be published traditionally you had to get an agent, I started querying them. It took me two years and nearly 40 rejections to get my agent. I was with her for about two years. She was great at first and Daughter of Destiny did well on submission – it went to acquisitions three times at major houses – but no one made an offer, either because I was new or they didn’t know how to market Arthurian legend. Around the time my second book went on submission, my agent basically stopped doing her job for all her clients. When she wasn’t receptive to my suggestions for a better working relationship, I left her because I could see she wasn’t long for the industry. Not long after I began querying other agents, she stopped being an agent. I had a lot of interest in my next book, Madame Presidentess, but no offers. I wanted to have it published before the 2016 election, so there was a limited amount of time for me get representation because traditional publishing takes so long. At the same time – this was summer of 2015 – the industry was changing and I was beginning to see more indie success stories, both among my author friends and in the press, so I started opening my mind and investigating. In August of that year – on my birthday – I decided I would give it a go since most of my books had already been shopped, at least somewhat, so I had nothing to lose.

The Traditional Punishing Industry Today

Sadly, I’m not alone in getting SO close to traditional deal and then deciding I’d be better off doing it myself. That’s the thing: because publishers no longer want to nurture careers – they are only interested in the next best seller or at least what they think will be the next big thing – they are taking fewer and fewer risks with new authors or unusual subject matter (or in the case of historical fiction, time periods and places that don’t have a long history of strong sales). And because of that, agents have to be more selective in who they choose to represent, so it is getting harder and harder to break into traditional publishing if you’re not already a household name in some other way, like being a reality or Youtube star.

But despite this, there are still many valid reasons to try to break in. There is a greater chance of fame and riches with a traditional house, and foreign rights, movie deals, and other subsidiary rights are easier to exploit. Then there is the advance, where someone pays you for your writing, rather than you paying the cost of publishing, which is a clear financial advantage. Plus, there is validation in having a major publisher say your work is worthy, and there’s a lingering cache to being able to say you’re traditionally published. Some authors have no desire to be marketers and business people – all the additional things that come along with being an indie author. For those who want to just focus on writing, traditional publishing is likely the right path

However, there are disadvantages to being traditionally published as well. For one, you as the author have little to no control. Some houses will edit your book with an agenda in mind and even though it’s your story, you’ll have to change it how they want if you want it published. Most authors, with the exception of the really successful ones, also have no control over their book cover and varying degrees of control over the back cover copy, so they may or may not actually reflect the book inside. Traditional publishing is notoriously slow, and that limits the number of books traditionally published authors can publish. This is why many use pen names, so they can publish more books faster. In addition, royalty rates are very low, around 10%-12% and it is hard to earn out an advance. Finally, an author under contract at a traditional house faces constant instability and uncertainty. If your books don’t sell enough, your editor leaves, or the imprint goes in a different direction, you can be dropped. Lines and imprints can close. A friend of mine had that happen and lost three book deals in one day. And contracts can be canceled as well.

The Independent Publishing Industry Today

On the other hand, being an indie author brings with it great stability and control. You won’t drop you or cancel your contract. You can publish what you want, as fast as you want, without worrying about having to wait or change your name. For example, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage in the traditional publishing realm because I like to tell the stories of unknown women. Traditional publishers want marquee names. I also love Dark Age history, but traditional publishing only wants post-1066 time periods, unless its Greek or Roman, an concentrates most heavily on Tudor, Regency and WWI and WWII periods. Being my own boss allows me to publish where my heart is, rather than writing to trends that seem arbitrary. This is very important because the love and passion you have for a project shows up in your writing, as does the lack thereof. Publishing myself also allows me to ensure the book cover, back cover copy and all other details are exactly as I envision them and actually relate to the book. In addition, our royalty rates are often much higher than those in traditional contracts, up to 70%-90%. There are many reasons for this, but the most obvious is that we don’t have to pay a publisher and agent first.

But there are down sides to self publishing as well, and it’s best to go into it with your eyes wide open. Just as with traditional publishing, unless you are one of the few lucky flukes out there, you aren’t likely to get rich. The financial outlay is one of the biggest deterrents to self publishing. If you do it right, it will be a significant investment. I, for one, have yet to make a profit and I’ve been doing this for two years with modest sales. However, if you view that up-front cost as an investment in your company and your future – just as if you were opening a bakery or a flower shop – it is more bearable.

The other big downside is lack of visibility. Without a major publishing house behind you, it is very, very hard to stand out from the crowd. According to The Book Industry Study Group (BISG),  more than 4 million books are published each year, 2.8 million of which are in English. That’s a LOT of competition. But, there’s nothing saying that if you were traditionally published you wouldn’t have to face the same situation. Unless your book is one the house anticipates being a big hit of the season – one of maybe 10 out of the hundreds of books published each quarter – you will have to do most of your own marketing. There is a general rule among traditionally published authors that a writer should save a percentage of their advance, anywhere from 10% to 90% depending on how much they got, for marketing. The bottom line is that no matter how you’re published, your book won’t be a success unless you work hard to make it so.

What Indie Authors Can Do to Be a Success

But the good news is, there are many things  authors can do to become a success, and indie authors have even more control than their traditional counterparts. One of the biggest advantages we have is that we control the price of our books. That means we can set the price based on what our competitors are selling for, can price adjust if we see the marketing changing or sales are slow, and we can have sales anytime we want – all without asking for permission and fighting a bureaucracy. This gives us tremendous power in the marketplace. We can also sell and market however we see fit, without having to worry about possible conflicts or contract restraints. Blog tours, guest blogs, articles, advertisements, social media, public appearances are all completely within our control. It is up to us how big or small we take things.

I have five requests for anyone thinking of becoming an indie author  – things that, if everyone who self-published did them the stigma associated with our manner of publishing would dry up very quickly.

  • Have your work professionally edited – no matter who you are, even if you are an editor by day or know someone who is really good at it, you need a fresh set of eyes to evaluate your work. There are inconsistencies, dropped plot lines, missing characters and spelling and grammar errors that you are too close to your work to see. The goal of indie authors should be to produce books that are indistinguishable from traditionally published works.
  • Use a professional cover designer – We like to use the phrase “don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but we all do it. Studies show that you have 10 seconds to capture a reader with your cover and book description. If a book cover appears homemade, we will judge the contents as inferior. That is the last thing that any author wants. Many people skimp here because they want to save money, but this is a mistake. Keep in mind that just because you or your child or grandchild or neighbor have some Photoshop skills does not mean you know how to effectively design a book cover. There is a science and entire hidden language to book covers that professionals know and that avid readers perceive. The fonts, images and placement are all done very carefully. For example, in romance, the heat level of a book is indicated by the way the characters are clothed and interact, as well as the colors used. You can get an idea of the language of your genre by looking at best-selling covers in your genre for the common elements; they work for a reason.
  • If you’re aiming to become a career author, treat it like a job – There is nothing wrong with self-publishing to have a book available for family or even just your own enjoyment, but here I’m talking to those who want to make being an author their career. You’ve heard the phrase “dress for the job you want rather than the one you have.” The same goes for how you view your job as an author and how much effort you put into it. Some people are lucky enough to write full-time, whether they are retired or just don’t have to work. Many of them put in at least as many hours as those of us who work office jobs, sometimes more. But no matter what your situation is, you can be professional about it, and regardless of how much or little time you have, your number one duty as a professional author is to write. If all you have is an hour a day, or weekends or vacation days, use that time to devote to your business. That is the only way to success. The more of us who act like professionals, the higher esteem in which we will be held.
  • Join professional groups for indie authors – No one writes or markets a book alone. In that regard “self-publishing” is a misnomer. The best way to keep up with the changes in the industry, learn best practices and get your questions answered is to join groups like the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). They are relatively inexpensive and incredibly valuable. Also don’t forget your genre associations and professional associations for all published authors like Novelists, Inc. and The Author’s Guild. Plus your local writer’s groups: here locally a few that accept authors of all genres include: St. Louis Author’s Guild, Missouri Writer’s Guild, and Saturday Writers.
  • Join groups like Self-e that are aiming to promote the best of the best of self published books – There are many groups out there fighting to showcase the best of indie publishing. This being Indie Author Day, I want to give a plug to our sponsors, Self-E. Library Journal, one of the most respected names in publishing, is the sponsor of this program, which  connects indie author’s books with libraries and readers. It is free to submit your book for their consideration. Right now they are actively seeking adult and young adult fiction. They are also accepting nonfiction, poetry and children’s submissions, but are still working on plans for when they will begin actively reviewing those genres. When you submit your book, it will become part of your state collection, which means it is available to libraries all over your state. If your book is selected as a Self-E Select book, which means it is one of the best of all self-published books, you will be entered into their national Self-E select catalog, and be eligible for a review in Library Journal, which is right up there with Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus in terms of industry endorsements. All of my novels are Self-E Select designated and Daughter of Destiny was reviewed positively by Library Journal. Self-E also helps you connect with your local community, which is the best way to begin building your reputation as an author. In addition, they have an annual contest to select the best indie books in certain genres. If you are a speaker, you can also join their ambassador program, whereby if you’re selected, you’ll have the opportunity to speak and sell your books at events like this.

Looking to the Future

This is both an exciting and scary time to be an author. The industry is in flux and that can be frightening, especially because no one knows what will change from one day to the next or what the future will bring. But it is also extremely exciting because we have more options than ever before, especially as indies. With success stories like The Martian, 50 Shades of Gray and authors like Colleen Hoover, Bella Andre and Hugh Howey, we have proven that indie publishers mean business and we are here to stay.

There really is nothing you can’t do as an indie author if you put your mind to it. It might take a little extra work, but why not make your dreams come true on your own terms? Audio books, illustrated companion guides, foreign translations, stage or screen adaptations, aren’t only the realm of the traditionally published anymore. And if you decide indie isn’t right for you, there’s no reason you can’t go back to the traditional route or become a hybrid author who publishes both traditionally and independently. The flexibility is part of what makes being an indie author so great.

In her novel The Light of Paris, Eleanor Brown writes that the surrealist artists of post-WWI Paris were “making space for themselves without waiting for someone to give them permission.” That is exactly what indie authors are doing now. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be an indie author and represent such a diverse and thriving community. I say with full confidence that we are the future. I hope you will join me.