Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guest Post by Alvina Lopez

Tips on Becoming a Successful Writer

by Alvina Lopez

At an early age, I knew I wanted to be a writer. While other kids in school spoke of studying to become doctors, teachers, and policemen, I somehow knew my life would be enveloped in writing. For years, I had watched my mother dream up the plots behind her romance novels from the comfort of our home, and even when she struggled to finish the ending to one of her many novels, she always seemed blissfully content with her profession. I couldn't help but admire and want to replicate her many writing talents. Later on when I began my writing career, however, I grew envious of my mother's success. What came so easy to her was a struggle for me.

Unlike her, I had my difficulties breaking into the writing field. She had entered into it rather early in her life, but I struggled to get most anything published, even after five years in the field. I’ll admit, I was rather headstrong about my work, so I hardly ever took anyone else's advice; looking back, I realize I should have accepted help when it came my way. Nowadays, I've grown less intolerable and embrace sage wisdom when it is offered. Furthermore, I know that as the writing field continues to evolve and expand, it is becoming harder and harder to get work published. For those of you who are looking to become a successful writer, here are three useful tips in getting your work published and sold in today's world.

Find a Mentor

Early on in my career, I tracked down a mentor to help me in editing and revising my work. At first, I felt embarrassed to ask them to help me along, but in the end they turned out to be a wonderful mentor in my career. If you are looking for a mentor, sit down and think of authors that are close to where you live, and once you choose one, you'll open your career to a world of opportunity. Not only does your mentor come with years of experience and advice under his or her belt, they also have connections in the industry. I personally got to help my mentor edit three of her books and meet her publishers, who eventually took an interest in my work. Keep in mind, it never hurts to have someone read over your work and give you some professional advice, and published authors are the perfect mentors to dish out some useful advice!


Many successful writers try to differentiate themselves from journalists, but I believe that is a little absurd. Journalists are actively writing all the time, and even though it may not be the type of work writers want to engage in all the time, there is no reason to pass up journalistic stories. Writing news or feature stories will keep your writing wheels in motion, which not only helps build up your creativity, it also looks great on your resume. Try and seek out media outlets in your area and see how you can be of service to them; not only will you make money at it, you'll also get published regularly. Sure, it isn't ideal for every writer, but it'll build up your portfolio and that helps in pitching to publishing companies.

Join a Writing Group

When I took my first real-world job, I had to move across the country. Not only was I terrified at the prospect of living in an unfamiliar city, I was also wondering how I would initiate myself into the writing community. It wasn't until I moved to the area that I learned about the blessings of local writing groups. Through a friend, I joined a community group that met once a week to go through writing exercises and editing sessions. Not only did I meet people who helped me improve my writing, I also met people who helped me get my work published. It may be intimidating to enter into a writing group at first, but doing so will aid you in ways you can't even imagine.

Though it can be frustrating at times, the writing profession is a fulfilling endeavor – if you make the most of it. For those of you who are looking to further your career as a writer, utilize one or all of these tips.

Author Bio: A freelance writer and blogging extraordinaire for seven years, Alvina Lopez now mainly contributes her expertise about online colleges to Her ultimate goal is to help future students discover their potential by enrolling in the right program for them. She also writes about trends in education, personal finance, and sustainable living. She loves getting feedback from her readers at

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Interview with Aggie Villanueva, author of "Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers"

With the exception of five days, Aggie Villanueva’s new book Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers hit immediate Kindle bestseller in three categories, and held steady in 1-3 categories for over 13 weeks. I'm delighted to have Aggie as a guest on the blog today to share tips from her book about how to make YOUR book an Amazon Best Seller!

What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book? 

I’m so glad to be back visiting here again, Dallas. I always enjoy it so much.

When I tell people about my book, Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers: But That’s Not All They Do, I often get two responses, which are what prompted me to write the book to begin with. Some shrug, “So what? Categories are like Tags. Everywhere I place my book requires choosing categories. They are basically just another search engine assistant.” Categories are nothing like search engine tags. 

The second response I often get is from authors with a bit more experience selling books at Amazon, who know a book is tallied for category bestseller by outselling others within the same category. Unfortunately some have been taught that a smart strategy for ranking in this top-100 bestseller list is to pick the smallest category you can find, even if it’s not absolutely relevant to your book’s topic. 

Yes, I’ve heard of those kinds of classes about getting a quick best seller by just choosing the smallest category possible. Could you explain what is wrong with this teaching? 

These authors may have been taught (in a nutshell): “Close is good enough. Bestseller status at all costs.” This is very short-sighted, because category bestsellers are not the be-all and end-all purpose of categories, and worse, these actions can doom your Amazon book sales permanently. 

How can choosing the wrong category doom book sales? 

When we understand the true function of Amazon’s categories it’s a whole new world. My book delves further into this fascinating system, but right now we’ll suffice with the end result: It’s a world where Amazon becomes your personal book publicist. And it all starts with choosing the RIGHT category, not the smallest. 

Gaining a bestseller is wonderful, it truly is, but that is only part of what Amazon can do for you, and specifically it’s only part of the purpose of categories. Amazon uses categories as the pool from which to draw almost every promotion throughout their site and beyond (pushes such as direct emailings). This publicity is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Categories are your first step in taking advantage of Amazon’s targeted system. Tight targeting of your categories is the goal. Never choose a category based on lack of competition. If your book is not in the most targeted category, Amazon cannot successfully sell the book for you
So, what happens if you choose the not-so-right category?

Though you may get category bestseller status for a while, your sales may stop there. Try to sucker your audience and you may pay with poor sales and losing out on all of Amazon’s free publicity. For example, let’s say you placed your humorous novel in the category “Comic books” because there are only 91 other books to compete with. Humorous novel, graphic novel, comic book – close enough, right? You have already doomed your book’s success on several levels. 

In just one of the many possible scenarios, imagine you are a young graphic novel lover who receives email updates about his favorite categories, and Amazon’s algorithms have deduced “Comic books” is one of them. Your humorous novel is prominently featured in his email, an email that is supposed to inform him of the newest comic book bestsellers. When he clicks on yours he will be angry that you wasted his time, and his money if he purchased it with one click without checking it out. You may become a blacklisted author. 

Don’t scoff. Though this is a worst case scenario, it is not an exaggeration. E-device-savvy-readers are so demanding of and involved with their online world that, without a second lost, he may leave a scathing review on your sales page, talk about you in the discussion boards, report you to Amazon, and blacklist you in ways and places you and I have never heard of. The damage may even be irreparable. 

But let’s not forget that those readers who would have loved your humorous novel will never see it because you listed it in the wrong category. You will not be featured in email promotions to those looking for precisely your subject; and you will not be eligible for any other top-100 lists such as Top Rated. These are all Amazon promotions meant to sell your books, and they do their jobs well. So, the goal is NOT just to be included in a category bestseller list at all costs. Bestsellers come from sales. And your tightly targeted categories catapult your book into a publicity campaign like you’ve never dreamed of, courtesy (and cost) of  

What is your biggest tip for authors who want to become Amazon best-sellers? 

Use heavily to promote your book, but approach it with integrity. Let’s not make the same mistakes as in the example above, making illegitimate use of the amazing mega-publicity engine that is There is a lot of controversy still raging about Amazon’s deletion of thousands of reviews. I think it might be a combination of understandable over-reaction on Amazon’s part and our ignorance of their rules (knowledge of these rules is covered in the book). But it is mostly we authors who are honest and work with integrity who suffer because of those who illegitimately used the system. For more great tips and info about my reader exclusive companion site see my bio below. The knowledge contained there amounts to several more books and includes advice from some of the best book marketing experts in the field. And I add to it continually. 

What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams? 

My favorite advice is various versions of the same saying I was taught as a child. “Always shoot for everything the universe offers. If you don’t quite make it you will still have reached the stars.” 

Thank you so much for being a guest on the blog today, Aggie! I have learned a lot from your insightful answers!

Aggie has generously offered to give an ebook copy of Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers to one lucky blog reader! To enter for your chance to win, all you need to do is write a comment below!

BIO: Below are a few sentences from reviews, and a link back to the book’s reader-exclusive companion site. Aggie Villanueva’s full bio and anything else can be found there. It’s a fountain of learning, contests and appearance from experts for her readers, but there are also many pages of public information. 

Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers Book Companion Site 

Purchase Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers: But That’s Not All They Do

“…Aggie Villanueva’s how-to changes your perspective of Amazon from that of an online book store to that of an author publicity machine.” -Vikram Narayan, CEO of 

 “…I also already had a basic understanding about Amazon categories - but Villanueva has obviously been combing through Amazons methods and policies -- analyzing everything in critical detail, and what she has discovered is significant and important.” -Ken Korczak, Reviewer. Read full review at Amazon

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Guest Post by Aniya Wells

Got the Post-College Doldrums? 
4 Tips for Transitioning into the Real World
by Aniya Wells
If you received a bachelor's or more advanced degree in the past five years, you've probably at some point experienced the post-university blues. Of course, any sort of life transition as big as going from college to the real world is tough. Compounding the situation, however, is that you've graduated during the worst economic recession in seventy-odd years. Talk about depressing! Even though I've been out of school and (barely) making it in the marketplace for almost three years now, part of me still can't shake the fact that life is not as carefree as it once was. Notwithstanding, there are definitely specific steps you can take to alleviate the growing pains. Here's what I did:
1.     Keep in touch with old friends. Put some effort into making new ones.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the transition for me was having to say goodbye to many of my closest friends. It's a pretty common experience to meet your best friends in college, the ones you spent nearly all your time with living in a dorm room or off-campus apartment. All three of my besties left the city where we attended school, and I was left behind. I've never felt quite as lonely as I did the first 6 or 7 months after I finished school and started working. The fact of the matter is that it's difficult to make good friends after college. Universities are set up to encourage a vibrant social life, one that's difficult to come by once you're working. Whatever you do, keep in touch—via phone or Skype or actually going to visit in person—with your closest friends. But put yourself out there and make new ones. Join clubs, go to work happy hours, and strike up conversations whenever you can.
2.     Continue learning, whether or not it's in a structured environment.
Another problem that affects many students-turn-young-professionals is that you're pulled out of an environment in which you're constantly challenging your intellect, and you're thrown into a world of office desks, television, and tedium. You simply just aren't learning as much or as often as you did in school. But learning doesn't have to occur only in school. Take a continuing education class at a local learning center. Read all the books you were dying to read if only you had time after reading your course materials. Take music lessons! Study a new language! Do whatever you can to keep learning.
3.     Don't worry if your career is not where you want it to be. Everyone your age is in the same boat.
If you've been lucky enough to find employment, it's likely that what you have isn't anywhere near your "dream job," and that might be getting you down. Reality check—no one your age has her "dream job." Even those who are older don't have their dream jobs, since the "dream job" is really a myth. Every job has its plusses and minuses. You aren't as stuck as you think you are, and doing as well as you can in a job that isn't the best will help you as you look for more rewarding work a few years down the line.
4.     Enjoy and stress the freedom that a post-academic life affords.
I'm sure there were times in school when you wished that you were a working adult. Hold on to those instances and realize that, without term papers, tests, and college drama hanging over your head, your evenings and weekends are free. Embrace this freedom and be glad you don't have an impossible deadline looming on the horizon.
All-in-all, the "real world" isn't terribly exciting. But if you decide to make it exciting, if you decide to "think big, but relish the small pleasures," as someone important once said, then you'll learn to love your life post-college. Good luck!
Aniya Wells is a freelance blogger whose primary focus is writing about online degree programs. She also enjoys investigating trends in other niches, notably technology, traditional higher education, health, and small business. Aniya welcomes reader questions and comments at