• Terrified of reading your work in public?

    Terrified of reading your work in public? Some tips on how to perform well at an author event.

    Terrified of reading your work in public?

    Terrified of reading your work in public? You should be. You’re a writer, not an actor!

    Unless of course you’re both. In which case you can stop reading now and do something else.

    There are many intimidating moments in a writer’s life. Getting the first feedback on your novel, hearing back from agents or editors. Reading reviews. The horror!

    Or having to stand up in public and read out your work. More horror!

    While author events are more associated with the mainstream publishing industry, indie authors too can read their work to a live audience.

    Some authors thrive in the spotlight, enjoying the opportunity to interact with readers or potential readers.

    But for other authors, standing in front of an audience represents death by a thousand cuts.

    It’s true that actors and musicians can be introverted in their private lives, then miraculously switch on for an audience. Prince would be an example of this – extroverted on stage, introverted and quiet-spoken in private.

    It’s easier of course when you’ve had a lot of experience performing, or even some training.

    Writers tend not to have any training in acting or performing.

    Is it worth taking acting classes ahead of a reading? Possibly.

    However, there are other ways to approach a reading. The obvious one would be to avoid reading in public altogether! But not so fast… You might want to scurry back into your author’s burrow, but that doesn’t get your work out to the public.

    Plus, if you attend an author’s event as a writer, the audience has made the effort to turn up. So you might as well make the effort to entertain them – and no, I don’t mean by falling off the stage or giving the worst reading in the history of worst readings!

    If you’ve been avoiding reading events, it’s time to develop some decent reading chops. No more sorry excuses. No more turning up to read, and quietly droning into the microphone until you finally get the damn thing over and sit down… hoping you didn’t humiliate yourself too much.

    There is an answer to this problem and it comes in two words:

    Anthony Hopkins

    Yes, you’re going to get some important tips from a master of acting. And you don’t need to become a master of acting yourself to benefit from this advice.

    In interviews, Anthony Hopkins has revealed he memorises his lines 250 times. He’s absorbing the text, ensuring that he really really knows it well. He describes 250 as a magical silly number. Yet something happens when he goes over the text so many times. By knowing the text so well, he has all the information he needs and his brain can relax.

    He goes on to say in one interview that once you’re relaxed, you can go on the stage and improvise within that text. He describes ‘becoming so free you get into the zone‘. Once he’s memorised the script, he puts it aside. He also advises putting ego aside if possible, and managing emotions and remembering that less is more in a performance.

    I’ve added some links below to interviews he’s given if you want to explore this some more. But the bottom line is that his advice can also apply to reading your own novel to an audience.

    How to prepare for your readings in advance

    This is very important. You should not start preparing just before a reading. Instead, you should start before your novel is even published. Going through the final draft, begin selecting passages you’d want to read to an audience. Most likely your opening pages, but you might have one or two other passages you also want to read.

    It’s worth remembering that these passages should act as a hook to reel in potential readers in the audience.

    Your reading is partly a marketing effort and it’s always worth remembering that.

    Begin memorising the final draft of these passages. Follow Hopkins’ example and do it over and over it again, many times.

    In the case of Hopkins, he’s absorbing the words to the point where the words are second nature, and this likely helps bring his facial expressions, body language and internal emotion into line with what he’s saying.

    An author doesn’t need to memorise to the point where they go on a stage and recite without the novel in front of them. In the case of a reading, it’s about absorbing the language until the words become second nature.

    You will be less likely to trip over words, lose your place on the page, and you will also likely become more immersed in the story. This in turn can help with feeling self-conscious.

    It can also ward off the kind of physical tension that can kick in and restrict your voice. Nerves and reading in a formal setting can lead to tension in the throat. This in turn can lead to a tendency to drone.

    But if you really know your material and can relax, you should find it easier to modulate tone and emotion in your voice.

    There’s a difference between reading text that you’re just scanning from a page, and reciting something you know so well that you get swept up in it and your voice can better modulate emotion.

    Rhythm, pauses, emphasis

    Once you’ve really memorised the passages you’ve chosen, to the point where you could recite them in your sleep, play with pauses, word emphasis, speeding up and slowing down speech.

    In a video essay on Anthony Hopkins, relating to a particular scene from Westworld, there’s an analysis of speed and pauses in his speech. I’ve linked to this video essay at the end of this blog post, so you can check it out for yourself.

    You too can experiment with how to break down your text and where to emphasise a word, include a pause or even a gesture, etc. And you can use highlighters or underlines to help you remember, if necessary. Look also for rhythm. Try tapping it out where it’s important in a text, then use it as a guide to how you might read that line.


    Of course the reading itself is only part of the deal. What do you look like? Are you like most writers – ie, do you look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards?

    You might be tempted to buy new clothes for your reading. (Let’s face it, any excuse to buy new clothes is an opportunity not to be passed up.)

    And there’s nothing wrong with splashing out on that eighteenth century dress in red silk brocade for your historical bodice ripper reading. In fact, the audience will never forget the effort you made.


    They will remember it for years to come.

    But remember that if you’re wearing uncomfortable new clothes or clothes that leave you feeling self-conscious, you are making things harder for yourself.

    You can wear something different, including period costume, but make sure you walk around in those clothes (and shoes) a bit before you do your reading.

    Wear them to the point where you hardly notice the way they fit on your body. Make sure they’re also comfortable enough for the reading.

    It’s like costume rehearsals. The more comfortable you feel in your clothes, the less awkward you’ll feel on the stage. Own your costume, even if it’s just your usual jeans and sweater.

    And another thing…

    Own the stage

    When you arrive at the venue, see if you can visit the stage and walk around it a bit. Get a feel for the space. Don’t be afraid of it.

    Also, don’t huddle tightly into a small space behind the microphone or lectern when you’re performing. And stand up straight – body posture impacts emotions and your ability to project your voice.

    Video and audio readings

    Of course, you don’t have to turn up in person to do a reading. You could make a video – again, make sure you really know your text beforehand. If you’re camera shy, you could go straight to audio or use images that match your story to accompany your voice. This allows you to get more creative.

    You can also post readings to social media – be aware that if you have Twitter verification, you can post much longer videos. The algorithms like video content.

    Still terrified of reading your work in public?

    While reading in public for the first time can be a frightening experience, it’s not unusual to get a post-reading thrill. You might even wish you could go up and do it again. It all depends on how it went.

    And how your reading pans out will depend on the amount of preparation you put in.

    Don’t leave things to the last minute and wing it.

    Don’t see it as a painful rite of passage you have to go through for each book.

    Learn your text, prepare, and give it your best shot. This is your chance to win over the audience – especially if you’re appearing alongside other writers.

    Some of the audience will be there to see and hear someone else.

    Make sure that when they leave, it’s YOU they’ll remember and talk about.


    Anthony Hopkins about his acting philosophy – particularly look for the section 10 minutes in called ‘Working on the text’.

    Westworld: What makes Anthony Hopkins great – video essay by Nerdwriter1

    Other IndieCat blogs you might find useful


    And if you’re interested in getting feedback on your novel, feel free to check out my services page. You can also contact me if you have a particular custom service in mind.

    Click for services page here.

  • Promoting your books on social media?

    Promoting your books on social media?
    Promoting your books on social media?

    In a previous post, I wrote about the best way to use Facebook and Instagram ads.

    How to use Facebook and Instagram ads – IndieCat Editorial

    Normally, in the world of marketing and advertising, these ads are part of a wider sales funnel. They are not usually sending traffic directly over to a sales page because potential buyers don’t know who you are yet.

    When I was studying the Facebook and Instagram ad course at Copyhackers, one thing that came up was how people these days react to ads.

    In the old days, people scrolling tended to notice ads more.

    But over time, they became acclimatised to them.

    One piece of research showed that subjects in a study didn’t even look at the ads on a page. Their brains had filtered the ads out without even looking at them.

    So, how do you get people to notice your ads? Some people adopt ad styles that are more native to the platform. For example, they might have a photo cropped in a way that’s similar to ordinary users and not a professional. It then looks less like an ad.

    Another method is to aim for pattern interruption. If a lot of ads are in colour, then black and white might stand out more. This is not in relation to book ads, just ads generally.

    Illustrations might also stand out more where photographic images are more common.

    Basically an ad which is different breaks the pattern and the viewer is more likely to notice it.

    As a Twitter user, I find myself mentally filtering out book-related ads if there are too many of them one after another.

    I’m not talking about ad posts coming from the same account. I’m talking about many authors tweeting their books into a hashtag.

    Of course, authors have to get their books to potential readers somehow! It’s perfectly understandable that they will post on Twitter.

    But for the ordinary Twitter user, or even someone interested in books, it can become a stream of image-based posts that start to merge into one another.

    This is why it’s important to have a great cover, a catchy title and tag line, and to post interesting text in your tweets where possible.

    But it’s also worth remembering that people who don’t know you are unlikely to buy your book. They are ‘cold prospects’.

    You need to build up a relationship over time. That might mean you first of all have to tweet content that will make you interesting enough to follow. This content can be about your book, book research, etc, or it can be more personal.

    Getting people to engage with you as a person is a good way to get them curious about what you write.

    It’s also not a good idea to bombard followers all day with book ad posts. At the same time, different people will be online at different times, and because of the algorithms, many won’t see your post the first time.

    This means you need to tread a careful path between extremes. Mix up content. Show you have a life beyond your books. Remember pattern interruption. Remember that the overly professional-looking ad can look too much like an ad at times and that people are now used to mentally filtering them out.

    Also, and this is very important – Facebook in particular has rules about paid advertising. It’s a good idea to check out what the current compliancy rules are since they can change over time.

  • How to use Facebook and Instagram ads

    How to use Facebook and Instagram ads
    How to use Facebook and Instagram ads

    Have you ever tried to run a Facebook or Instagram ad directly to your sales or services page which resulted in little to no sales?

    I’ve seen both writers and editors mention that they didn’t find Facebook ads useful. Others will have had more success. It’s hard to know what went right or wrong without looking at the ads.

    I haven’t used Facebook or Instagram ads myself, but I did learn how they worked when I took the Copy Posse Launch Files course and the FB ads course at Copy School. I’m currently a member of Copy School which is located at Copy Hackers.

    So, what do you need to know about Facebook ads?

    First of all, it’s necessary to back up and look at some basic marketing theories. According to Eugene Schwarz, who wrote the bible of marketing, Breakthrough Advertising, there are five levels of customer awareness. And five levels of market sophistication.

    The five levels of customer awareness

    Let’s start with customer awareness. The prospect is the potential customer you want to target. Eugene Schwartz broke it down as follows:

    • Completely unaware – the prospect has a problem but isn’t aware of it as yet
    • Problem aware – the prospect knows they have a problem, but doesn’t know the solution
    • Solution aware – the prospect knows they have a pain, and knows the solution, but isn’t yet clear about the exact product or supplier
    • Product aware – this person is much more aware of their problem, likely solution, and the products available to them
    • Totally aware – this person knows what they want and they just need an extra push to buy the product. Some people in this group will sit on long waitlists and jump to buy as soon as doors open. They will pre-order books as soon as they hear about them

    To put it into simpler terms, you are really going to struggle to sell anything to the completely unaware group. And they are a big group. Trying to run an ad to a sales page isn’t going to convert this group.

    Neither are you likely to convert the problem-aware group. This is partly because the closer a prospect is to the completely unaware end of the spectrum, the more time it takes to convert them. They need more information. A single ad isn’t going to do it. You need to warm them up.

    The group most likely to convert is the completely aware – they would likely know your name already. Maybe they follow you on social media or they’ve read one of your books before. Maybe they subscribe to your newsletter. A time-limited offer could push this group over the line – for example, a 24-hour sale.

    But they’re the smallest group of all. So, you won’t get many sales from them.

    I remember a tutorial at Copy Hackers where the following breakdown was suggested:

    • Completely unaware – 30%
    • Problem aware – 30%
    • Solution aware – 30%
    • Product aware – 6-7%
    • Completely aware – 3-4%

    I don’t think these figures were meant to be a universal rule, but it’s a good example of what you might be dealing with. The two groups at the bottom are the easiest to convert, but together they might only be around 10%. Unless your market is huge, that isn’t going to convert well to huge sales. 10% of millions of people isn’t bad. 10% of a much smaller number is an entirely different matter.

    How to convert people

    So, how do you convert more people? The answer is quite simple – you need to move people from problem aware to completely aware. In the short to medium term, you can forget the completely unaware group. The effort to convert them is just going to be too much time and money.

    Because the less aware someone is about their own problem and the solution, let alone your product or service, the more they need to be educated. That’s a lot of copy and ads to write.

    It’s not impossible to convert them. But why focus on the bottom 30% when you have the problem- and solution-aware groups instead?

    Market sophistication

    So, what is market sophistication? This concept, also broken into five categories, deals with the spectrum of how new a product is to market versus whether the market is oversaturated.

    Level one is new to market. In the Copy Posse Launch Pad course, Alex Cattoni used the example of the Model T car. It was the first mass-produced family car. There are other examples of something that is the first to market. What’s important to consider here is how to market a product that is the first of its kind. You can’t describe it as being like something else, because there isn’t anything else.

    The consequence of being the first is that prospective customers will need a lot of information to understand what the product is and how it can help them. Because they have no point of comparison.

    At the other end, you have level five – here the market is completely saturated. This is true of the book market. When you’re operating in a saturated market, you are going to struggle to stand out. The competition is huge, prospective customers are overwhelmed by choice, and there are big names that are long established.

    I’m not going to dwell on market-level sophistication here because this post relates more to Facebook ads. If you’re writing in a completely new genre – does such a thing exist?! – then you could possibly be level one. But you still exist within the wider ecosystem of a saturated marketplace. Plus, you’d have the problem of having to explain to people why they should take a chance on your shiny new kind of story that they can’t fit into a pre-existing category.

    Back to customer awareness

    So, how does customer awareness fit into Facebook ads?

    Well, as I’ve pointed out above, your most likely buyers are going to be a small group. If you run the link from your ad straight to a sales page, you might get some purchases. But it takes a lot more effort to get a lot of sales. Because any potential readers stumbling on your ad are being bombarded with other ads too (saturated marketplace).

    The truth is, you shouldn’t run a Facebook or Instagram ad directly to a sales page unless you’re specifically targeting the most aware people, or you’re retargeting people already aware of your brand.

    So, if you don’t run the ad to your sales page, where the heck do you send traffic to?

    And this is where you need to stop and think about your overall sales funnel.

    Because this is what you need to do – funnel people through to the end goal of hopefully buying your book (or service).

    This is where conversion copywriting comes in.

    Conversion copywriting

    Even if you never intend to become a conversion copywriter, it’s really worth understanding the concept. The old direct response copywriting was more hard sell. But in conversion copywriting, the copy isn’t meant to get a sale. It’s meant to get a click. It’s meant to get the reader to take action – which could be clicking on a link, or signing up to a newsletter.

    You are basically funneling a prospective reader or client through a series of clicks. Conversion copywriting is also data-driven, but you don’t need to worry about that too much. You’re not pitching your services to a company. You’re trying to sell your book or service. You can however do some of the research a conversion copywriter would do when it comes to writing your Facebook or Instagram ad. Further down this post I talk about voice of customer data (VOC) and review mining.

    So, where do you send traffic from an FB or IG ad?

    To a landing page. So, what the heck is a landing page? Is it the home page of your website?

    The importance of landing pages

    If you’re intending to publish, you should have a website. But your landing page is not your home page or any page on your site that has a buy button.

    Traditionally, landing pages have one purpose and one purpose only. Usually, it’s to get people to sign up for a freebie/giveaway in exchange for their email address. The freebie must have high value and show your expertise.

    In the case of an author, perhaps you have a novella or juicy story connected to a series you’re writing. You will already know that authors often have one book free to let readers sample their work. It can be a great way to get readers hooked on a series.

    You see these books on Amazon.

    But here’s the problem – if you only make your freebie available on bookstores, you are missing out on an important marketing opportunity. You can’t build a relationship with them if you’re only marketing on other people’s land. Jeff Bezos’ land in this case.

    You should aim to have an author newsletter – and one that’s really interesting enough that people will want to open those emails when they get them. But if you only send traffic to the likes of Amazon, you won’t be able to warm up potential readers. You will be forever relying on the most aware – the smallest group of potential buyers.

    Your marketing strategy has to start earlier in the customer awareness spectrum. If your ad runs to a landing page where you offer a juicy story/novella, then the ad should be about that story, not the novels you’re selling on Amazon. And the copy on the landing page should be about that story/novella too.

    It’s too early to try and get people to buy. Some will, of course. But most won’t.

    As for your landing page, traditionally they don’t have navigation menus because those tempt people to click away from the page. And when it comes to the email sign-up form for the freebie – have as few fields as possible. In fact, at the most, you should only have first name and email address.

    Because the more information you ask someone for, the less likely they’ll sign up.

    Once they’ve signed up you then send them the freebie (known as a lead magnet). Owing to regulations on privacy and email marketing, you should have a double opt-in too. If you are using email marketing, you should definitely familiarise yourself with the rules.

    Your email newsletter as a sales funnel

    They have now entered your email funnel. So, what do you do now?

    Here’s what you don’t do: bombard them with emails saying ‘Buy my book’. That’s guaranteed to get people to unsubscribe. (Especially since your emails should make it easy to unsubscribe because of email marketing rules!)

    When people first sign up to a lead magnet (your freebie), that’s often when they’re most interested. If you’re good at writing emails, you can also build interest over time. But because other people are also sending them emails, you need to make sure yours stand out.

    Here are things to aim for:

    • Use a ‘from name’ they’re likely to remember
    • Write an automated onboarding sequence of emails for new readers to your newsletter. It should introduce you and show the value of being on your newsletter list
    • This onboarding sequence can be nothing more than a few emails before the recipient starts to get your normal newsletters
    • Email marketing is still the strongest form of marketing and because it happens out of sight, that fact often goes unnoticed

    Email marketing is a big subject in itself.

    The most important point about your email marketing here is that it should take up where your FB/IG ad and lead magnet left off. With your emails, you can establish a relationship with readers. This is something you can build on for current and future book releases.

    Voice of customer and review mining

    When you’ve made your decision about where and when you’re going to market your book, you still have to think about the wording of your marketing campaigns, including your Facebook ads. What language should you use to appeal to possible buyers?

    This is where voice of customer (VOC) data and review mining come in.

    Let’s say you write cozy mysteries. The first thing you should do is check out the reviews of competitor titles. Also, any websites that focus on the genre are worth checking out. You can also check out Facebook groups dedicated to fans of your genre. Why? You want to find out exactly how readers feel about this genre. What problems do they have? What are their criticisms? What words and phrases do they tend to use? This will represent voice of customer research.

    Because when you write copy, you need to speak in the language that your ideal customer uses.

    You need to reflect their language back at them.

    It’s not about copying someone’s review, it’s about collecting the words, phrases, and feelings/emotions that come up with this genre. This then gives you a vocabulary you can use to help you write your own original copy.

    Checking out competitor ads

    You can check out any ads your competitors are running on Facebook by going to the left-hand side of the page, scrolling down, and looking for ‘Page Transparency’. Go to Ad Library. Any ads currently running should appear, depending on the location you have chosen. If you opt for ‘Choose All’ you should see any ads running in any part of the world.

    But a word of caution – just because an ad might be running doesn’t mean it’s performing well. Don’t automatically assume it is. But it is certainly worth having a look at other ads in your market, especially from people who are known to be successful or where a product is successful.

    In the case of successful products, their success might depend on earlier ads and not the ones you see now.

    Nevertheless, Facebook’s ad library is worth checking out. But if you don’t see any book ads on many accounts, don’t be surprised. Many writers probably don’t use Facebook ads because of limited budgets or because they’ve heard too many mixed messages about ad success.

    The key though is to understand that ads are part of a funnel and not the magic button that leads to lots of sales.


    If you run a Facebook ad expecting to get direct sales, you will likely be disappointed with the results. Because your Facebook and Instagram ads are only part of a wider marketing ecosystem. They are the beginning of a sales funnel.

    They send people over to the next part of the funnel – your landing page, where you offer a lead magnet.

    You get them signed up to your email marketing newsletter. And in your emails you lay the ground for marketing yourself and your books.

    There is so much more to be written about Facebook and Instagram ads. I didn’t tackle the importance of a good headline hook and other parts of your ad. Or the rules about what you can and can’t post.

    What I’ve written above is the simpler version or the overview. In reality, you can have multiple FB ads targeting different stages of awareness, etc.

    But while complex sales funnels might work for a bigger brand or a business with more money, authors don’t have the same level of funding. Consequently, you are better targeting your funnel towards your email newsletter.

    If you’re still working on your novel and need feedback, I’m available for manuscript critiques, opening chapters developmental edits, and full developmental editing. You can check out my services pages but I also offer custom work, tailored to your needs. If you’re interested in working with me, I offer sample developmental edits of up to 2000 words.

  • You need author photos but you’re camera shy!

    Need author photos but you're camera shy? Try this selfie photography course.
    You need author photos but you’re camera shy!

    The only time I ever felt comfortable in front of a camera was when I was too young to care.

    Once I hit adolescence, that awkwardness you see in pre-teens and teenagers was there. I was never happy.

    And this is true of many people.

    So what happens when you have a business or you’re an author and you need a professional headshot? Or even just a high-quality selfie? What do you do?

    If you have a real dislike of having your photo taken by others, you’re unlikely to look relaxed and happy.

    A professional photographer might know how to get you looking your best, but they cost money and you still have that fear of cameras.

    Maybe you don’t even believe a professional could make you look good.

    Low self-esteem and self-consciousness can really block someone from getting a professional shot in the first place.

    Of course, you have the option of taking a selfie.

    But what if you still hate the camera, still look awkward, and it’s still ten thousand deaths to take that photo?

    And even worse, you see great selfies from other authors, but yours somehow come out badly. You might wonder if they’re using filters – and it’s entirely possible.

    Then again, maybe they’ve learned how to use a mobile phone camera to best effect. They could have done it through trial and error. Or they could have followed a photographic influencer on Instagram or YouTube.

    There is a mountain of information out there for people too shy to have others take their photo.

    One interesting influencer on both YouTube and Instagram is Sorelle Amore.

    And the good news is that she has a selfie course called Advanced Selfie University.

    You have to sign up – the cost is fairly low – and you’ll learn about camera settings, lighting, posing (what works and what to avoid), clothing, and much more.

    Each lesson is only a few minutes at most. Then you can go off and try it out.

    There is a community of posters, leaving questions, answers, and comments.

    Among the comments, there are repeating themes of low confidence, fear of the camera, and not liking it when others take their photos. Their past experience has made them camera shy.

    The selfie course teaches them to be more relaxed in front of the camera, to take their time getting to know their best angles, to learn about the right colours to wear to flatter their skin tone, and so on.

    The course creates a safe space for people to experiment and post the results if they want – they don’t have to post anything.

    Seeing others struggle with self-image, unhappiness with their appearance, and self-consciousness in front of cameras shows that many suffer the same issues. You’re not alone.

    But the usefulness of taking great selfies goes beyond working on your confidence and self-esteem.

    It also goes beyond saving money on professional headshots.

    If you’re someone who would benefit from having high-quality selfie photos for marketing, this course will help you build up a good catalogue of images that might otherwise be pricey.

    And you can use these images on your author website, Facebook page, Instagram, Amazon page, Twitter, and more.