Thanks and farewell!

Enjoyed it while it lasted!

Thank you for your support of Authicist.

Sadly the app, initial built to help my author wife and then broadened to help the author community, just didn’t get enough authors to sign up to cover the costs. We’ve decided to cease the operations and shut down the service.

The app will remain online until October 31st 2020 to give you time to download the tracking data for your books. Instructions on how to Export/Download data is on our Help page.

If you’ve signed up for a subscription, it’s now been cancelled and you won’t be charged again.

More retailers!

You asked, we listened.

Thank you for your amazing responses and feedback. We are thrilled to hear about how you are using Authicist and the impact it’s having on you.

Your number one request to us was to please add more retailers as quickly as possible.

We’re delighted to announce that, in addition to tracking on Amazon, we have added the following retailers to the app. You can now track your books on:

  • Apple Books
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Books on Google Play
  • Rakuten Kobo

These retailers are included in your existing plan. There is no additional charge. With your selected plan, you can now track your books on some or all of the above five retailers.

As with all of our previous releases, these four new retailers are in now in what we consider the beta phase. As you add your books, we will be monitoring the capturing of your data to ensure that the launch goes smoothly and the retailers can graduate from the beta phase.

What do you need to do to add your books? …the process is the same.

  1. Find your book listing on one of the following sites:
  2. When you’ve found your book, copy the website address/URL
  3. Paste the website address/URL of your book into the Authicist app
  4. Sit back, relax and let us do the rest of work!

Thanks for continuing to use Authicist.

If you have any questions or want to share some feedback, please contact us at

Is Tracking Rank, Ratings, and Reviews for All My Books Worth It?

In a nutshell, we believe it is worth tracking rank, ratings, and reviews. And here’s why…

The modern author wears many hats

No longer is an author just a great writer. Modern authors are writers, editors, cover designers, social media marketers… the list is endless. They are savvy entrepreneurs who manage their writing career as a business. Being a successful author these days means rigorously assessing where to spend your time and allocating it to those things that truly drive value. Words written. Books sold. Readers connected with.

So, if you are going to spend any of your precious time business building instead of writing, it better be worth it, right? You want to understand whether the time you spent writing that blog post helped new readers find your books. You want to figure out whether your guest appearance on that podcast helped increase the pre-order sales of your new book. You want to know how successful that release campaign was, how well that Facebook ad worked, what the sell through on a free ‘first-in-series’ looked like.

Successful marketing is as much about knowing what efforts had no effect at all as much as knowing what efforts helped grow your readership. So, how can you tell the difference?

Data, data, data……rank, ratings, and reviews.

Show me an author who didn’t constantly refresh their book on Amazon on release day!! Rank becomes a proxy for sales volume.

Ratings are a proxy for how well your book is being received. It’s the immediate first step of the reader to let you know what they thought of your book.

Reviews are the second step. Why did your readers rate the book the way they did? (Note: There are two schools of thought on reading reviews. Some authors don’t read any, some authors do. Do what works best for you). But having reviews, whether your read them or not, is crucial. Verified Purchaser reviews can help stoke algorithms. They become social proof that your book is worth reading, they can help make up a new reader’s mind to purchase. So, having them, and knowing how many you have can be highly beneficial.

However, once you’ve decided to track rank, ratings, and reviews, getting that information in a usable format, especially in a traditionally published world, is complex.

Data collection and analysis is hard

Retailers and publishers have lots of data on book sales but that information is slow to trickle down to the author. Especially in a traditionally published world, that data may only come twice a year in the form of total sales for the prior six-month period. Meanwhile, you are trying marketing effort after marketing effort with little data on how successful they have been.

Where data is available, it requires effort to manipulate it into anything meaningful. Data without the ability to extract insight is meaningless. It’s just numbers. So, you go from the world of Word to Excel (or equivalent!). Authors can work with Word like Miles Davis worked a trumpet. Working with Excel is a whole other ballgame.

In a perfect world, you’d be able see your rankings in real time, in one place, for all countries. You’d be able to graph the rankings so you could see on one chart what happens when you push hard on that Amazon ad, what impact the BookBub for a first in series had on sell through of the next three books, what happens the week after your appearance on a popular podcast or after a great review from a well-known blogger.

What if we told you that it existed?

Authicist makes it easy to track rankings, ratings and reviews*

Hopefully you are convinced that monitoring the rankings, ratings and reviews of your books is great way to grow your readership and give you more time to write. Here’s how Authicist can help.

We’ve got a mobile and desktop app that make it really easy to add the books you want to track

It takes one step to add a book to Authicist… one URL of the book from any Amazon page and we’ll find it on all global Amazon sites for you.

Once you’ve added a book, we monitor the rankings, ratings and reviews of your books while you’re busy writing. If you want to see the latest data, you can open up either the mobile or desktop app and check where your book is at. And for those release day jitters, there is a refresh button so you can click away and refresh to your hearts content.

*It is currently only available for Amazon rankings worldwide. It’s on our roadmap to add further retailers.

Oh! And wake up to a pleasant surprise!

Setting up an app to track your rankings, ratings and reviews means you’re notified when your book gains momentum. Perhaps you have a marketing plan in play, or perhaps it’s as simple as an influential blogger who takes a chance on the first book of series you wrote a few years ago, loves it, and posts about it. Unbeknownst to you, that series is gaining new readers like a snowball on a hill. Who wouldn’t love to wake up to a message telling you that one of your back catalogue favourites just jumped up 20,000 places on Amazon.

We want to make it easy for you to celebrate those moments of success and figure out the actions that drove them. We also want to help you shut down activities you’ve always believed you should do, but don’t actually yield anything at all. Because we want you to spend as much time as you can doing the thing you love to do best. Writing your books.

If you are ready to try Authicist and want a free one-book trial, please feel free to click here for more information.

How to find inspiration

There is the classic image of the novelist, hunkered down in a coffee-shop, scribbling details on a piece of paper, followed by long protracted pauses to observe the world go by. Rain lashes the window as soft swirls of steam escape their mug of black coffee. In my head, this is accompanied by the smell of cigarette smoke and a film noir ambience, but I digress. The misconception is that inspiration happens on its own time, in its own mysterious way.

Yet, there are prolific authors who consistently write high quality books and never seem to run out of ideas. What is the secret to their inspirational success? Allegedly, American novelist, Orson Scott Card (@orsonscottcard), said “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”

Is he right? Do most of us ignore the inspiration right under our noses? Is it possible to be inspired when we aren’t even trying? Can inspiration be conjured on demand? Or even better, what if you could build a habit of collecting ideas that inspire and keep them ready for when you need them.

This week at Authicist, I thought we’d dive into the inspiration process of popular authors, and perhaps a couple of super-obscure ones because that’s the way I roll.

1. Collections

I love Ransom Riggs’ (@ransomriggs) advice to start a collection. As a child his grandmother would take him to vintage stores, and to relieve the boredom he’d collect old snapshots. Black and white obscure images, slightly gothic in nature. Siblings staring at the camera with a steely gaze, an edited photograph of a horse with two legs. As an adult, his debut novel, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” was inspired by the collection. While I’m reasonably confident that keyring collection I started in the eighties isn’t the clincher to a book and film deal, you never know what inspiration may come from things you already own. 

The collections don’t even need to be yours. Take a walk around your local library, museum, art school, or vintage stores. There could be a black and white photograph of three female friends on the beach in the 40s that makes you want to write a historical fiction… or a lamp that makes you wonder what would happen if the genie emerged from the lantern in your 700 square foot Brooklyn sub-let. Make it a fun exercise for your writing group to take a field trip, pick an item, and see who can come up with the best story idea on the fly.

(Source: New York Times)

2. Travel

Tomi Adeyemi’s (@tomi_adeyemi) best-selling young adult fantasy novel, Children of Blood and Bone, was partially inspired by travel to Brazil. Already a student of West African mythology, it was a simple moment in a gift shop that planted a seed a thought. As she said in an interview with The Guardian, “I was in a gift shop there and the African gods and goddesses were depicted in such a beautiful and sacred way … it really made me think about all the beautiful images we never see featuring black people.” For Tomi, this led to the creation of a novel that draws on West African mythology and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

While experiencing a place in person is always helpful so you can get a sense of sounds and smells, thanks to the internet, you don’t even have to travel. Google maps can help you walk around places you’ve never visited, and with so many YouTubers and Instagrammers, you can often watch videos. Over coffee tomorrow morning, why not take a walk around a city in Demark, or a village in Peru. Who knows when a kernel of travel-inspired inspiration might find you?

(Source: The Guardian)

3. Friends

For The Children Act, Ian McEwan tapped into the most accessible source of inspiration, his friends. Seated around a table with three or four judges, he found inspiration for both characters and plot based on their stories. As he said to Vogue Magazine, “Judges don’t feature so much in literature, though they’re the ones who finally settle fates.” It’s easy to assume we don’t know people as interesting as Ian McEwan does, but the chances are we do. That mom at school pick-up? She’s a leading criminal barrister. The guy in your fitness class? He’s a police officer. Why not strike up a conversation with one of them. Listening to their experiences and picking their brains could lead you to write the next great novel. 

 (Source: Vogue)

4. Historical Record

The Handmaid’s Tale is arguably the most famous of Margaret Atwood’s (@MargaretAtwood) books. Millions of copies sold, a successful TV series. She bounded the realms of her novels by not including “anything that human beings had not already done in some other place to time, or for which technology did not already exist.” In other words, she looked to historical record. If you have watched her Masterclass (which I highly recommend), she talks at length about the Christian doctrines, traditions, dictatorships, and elements of science that inspired her. One of the tenets of great writing is to read what you write. In other words, the genre you are writing in. It is impossible to know what good looks like unless you do. But reading outside of it can be hugely beneficial too. As can podcasts. Some of our favorites are Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History series, Alie Ward’s Ologies, and Stuff You Missed in History Class. The plus side of podcasts are that they are portable. Perhaps tomorrow on the commute you could try a new one.

(Source: LitHub and Masterclass)

5. News

My book, The Strongest Steel was inspired by a newspaper article. I was on vacation in Miami with a girlfriend. While sipping on something cool and fruity, I read an article about a tattoo artist who tattooed over scars. All day I pondered on the article. Who would want scars tattooed over? Why would they want them made invisible? Who would put the time in to figure out how to tattoo over them? Why would it be important to them/ By the time I was on the airplane home, I had a four-book series in my head. Eighteen months later, I had a book deal for the series.

The news is a great source of inspiration, because that prince who abdicated for the love of his life, the prisoner who stopped an assault on the day of his release, and the legal battle to prevent a child’s life support from being turned off could all be the seed of your next story. When you next read the news, why not pick three articles and see if you can come up with three new plot ideas from them.

(Source: Umm… me!)

6. Music

“Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” Published in 1995, Nick Hornby’s (@nickhornby) High Fidelity spoke to every child who grew up in the ‘80s making mixed tapes in their bedroom. Top 5 songs to make out to, Top 5 songs that remind me of you, Top 5 songs for the guy who doesn’t love you back (I can’t tell you how many times I listened to A-Ha’s And You Tell Me for that one!) Hornby’s capacity to tell the story of record store owner, Rob, through a series of Top Five lists that ultimately change the way he sees himself and the world is sheer genius. I admire musicians because it takes me anywhere between 75~90,000 words for me to tell a story, and they can tell one in a fraction of that. Three minutes of inspiration right there, my friends. As you listen to music while driving to work, working out, or cleaning the kitchen, why not pick three songs and see if you can make up the backstory behind them? 

7. Family

Joanne Harris’ (@Joannechocolat) critically acclaimed novel, Chocolat draws on those around her, most notably family. Drawing on her own childhood, surround by strong story-telling matriarchs, she was able to create a foundation for the cast of characters. Actual events in their lives became the threads from which the story was stitched. And on her website, she writes, “My daughter was three when I wrote Chocolat. She is one of the main characters in the story, as is her imaginary rabbit, Pantoufle.” If the old adage ‘write what you know’ is true, then writing family has to be a no-brainer. And Harris’ does it perfectly in what still remains one of my favorite books of all time. Family can also offer a wealth of both fiction and non-fiction stories. Heroic Grandpa who fought in the war, Uncle John who volunteers on the lifeboats, Cousin Jean who runs a foster home. They all have careers and stories just waiting to inspire. Why not interview one of your relatives? First, it’s good interviewing/research practice. Second, who doesn’t love a good family history for future generations. And third, you never know what ideas it might generate.

(Source: http://www.joanne-harris.co.uk/books/chocolat/)

Whatever your main source of inspiration, it is important to make a note of it. I’m half old school and half tech-solutions… I have a Moleskine notebook that I jot things down in. It’s filled with scribbles… a line from a song, a conversation I overheard at the coffee shop, a contestant from a reality TV show that would make the perfect antagonist for a book idea I haven’t come up with. For my non-fiction, I keep a list of fascinating people and their stories in WorkFlowy. You can store your inspiration anywhere… the important thing is that you come back to it.

Read through all your prompts before coming up with your next project, you never know which of those precious gems you’ve collected you can weave into your next masterpiece.

Bonus!

P.S. Wondering where you’re going to get all the time? Allow Authicist to track your book rankings for you to give you time to sit and enjoy finding your inspiration!

Honing Your Craft

The champagne has been popped, the streamers thrown, the hangover gone, and now the rubber hits the road for 2020. As a writer, it’s likely there is a planner on your desk, all crisp and new and untarnished by the wrong type of pen (No? Just me? Cool, cool.) Inside it, or on a digital device if you love the paper-free life, are likely goals for the coming twelve months. And if you are a writer, somewhere beneath getting that first draft written, or publishing that fiftieth book, or promising yourself that this is the year you are going to get on top of social media posting, is the one goal that makes all of it possible. Honing your craft.

Learning never exhausts the mind.

Allegedly Leonardo Da Vinci said this. Leonardo obviously never sat through my Year 8 Geography class with Mr. Jones, but I digress. Developing writing skills (which include the skills of actually sitting down to write in a productive manner, and then writing content that is of value) is perhaps the greatest gift any writer can give themselves this year. To help you get started, we thought we’d share some of our favorite resources:

1. Masterclass

Masterclass is one of our favorites. Each masterclass is taught by an expert and is broken down into approximately twenty 10~15 minute videos. Want to learn about film directing? Ron Howard can help you with that. Want to kick butt on your next tennis outing? Serena has your back. (I debated writing her last name but surely she is worth single-name status by now, right?) But most importantly, there are a dozen of the greatest authors ready to teach writing. James Patterson. Joyce Carol Oates. Even Judy Blume. Our personal favorites? The decisive winner was Malcolm Gladwell. His engaging style, concise delivery, and clear lesson structure was the most helpful. But Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman ran a very close second. Bonus points to Margaret for the clever use of scarves to delineate episodes!

https://www.masterclass.com

2. Deep Work, Cal Newport

One of the biggest struggles as a writer, whether writing full-time or trying to squeeze in an hour at 5am, is the simple act of getting your butt into the chair and getting straight to the place of writing (as opposed to checking social media, reading the news, responding to emails etc.). Distractions are the enemy of the writer, and Newport deconstructs the reasons why we get distracted and how people who have achieved levels of focus, or as he calls it, Deep Work, managed to achieve that state. So, if your mind is all over the place and you can’t focus on getting the words down on the page, this book is well worth a read. Multitaskers like me might fight themselves a little while reading it… clinging to old patterns is hard, yo! But the benefits are most definitely worth it.

Buy Now: https://amzn.to/2MrBapd

3. Atomic Habits by James Clear

If Deep Work helps you understand what you need to do to work in a focused way, then Atomic Habits will help you figure out how to break old habits and how to make new habits stick. The framework is clear, with lots of examples. For those worried about biting off more than they can shew, Clear is, well, clear, that you can start small. Doing two push-ups is the start of building a healthy lifestyle, waking up five minutes earlier can reframe an entire day. Attaching a new habit to an old habit so they become a pattern, an activity he calls ‘habit-stacking’, helps keep you on track. His four steps are simple. To make a new habit, you need to make it obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. To break an old one, you need to do the opposite. To get a taste of Clear’s philosophy, you can watch his Talk here: https://youtu.be/U_nzqnXWvSo

4. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

The book provides an insightful framework to write a strong story within, going beyond the basic three-act story (beginning, middle, end). Brooks describes something that looks akin to a circus tent. He focuses on what he describes as six core competencies of writing: concept, character, theme, story structure, scene construction, and writing voice. Any card-carrying member of the plotter’s club should have this book in their reference library. Brooks, ever the diplomat, discusses why pantsers* should read it too. There is a lot more to this book than plotting, which is why it’s on this list.

* For those new to the terms, a plotter is someone who writes a somewhat-to-very detailed outline of the story before a word of the story is written. Pantsers are those who turn on the laptop, type ‘Chapter One’ and then start writing. 

Buy Now: https://amzn.to/2Iwsn30

5. The Positive Trait Thesaurus & The Negative Trait Thesaurus, Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman

Ever read a book only to find the characters have fallen flat? Or watched a movie where you just haven’t been able to root for the hero even though you know you should? Well, these two books will prevent it happening to you. Puglisi and Ackerman will help you figure out who your characters are. Throughout its pages are tips on how to build characters with flaws that stop them progressing, and positive attributes that propel them forward and keep them out of trouble. It forces you to think about how you will convey those traits, showing not telling, scene-by-scene, to make characters leap off the page fully formed. 

Buy Now: Positive Trait Thesaurus: https://amzn.to/2ttVFe0
Buy Now: Negative Trait Thesaurus: https://amzn.to/2IsYmRU

6. Save The Cat by Blake Snyder

Don’t let the tagline, ‘The Last Book On Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need’ put you off. This book is just as valuable to the book writer. I’d argue more so if your longer-term goal is to have your book turned into a movie. From killer titles to not including lots of pipe (back story and extraneous matter before you get to the meat of the plot), Snyder takes us step by step through what it takes to construct a successful story. There are exercises at the end of each chapter which are well worth taking the time to do. I know, I know, it’s so easy to blow past them with a wavering intention to come back and do them ‘later’… but trust me, make the investment in yourself and do them. Using plots from famous and commonly known movies to illustrate his examples, it makes for an entertaining read. 

Buy Now: https://amzn.to/2NeK0cM

7. Telling True Stories, Neiman Foundation at Harvard University

For those writing non-fiction, be it articles, short stories, or novels, this book contains powerful essay contributions from over fifty well-known authors, and dozens of Pulitzer prize winners. The contributions are distilled from presentations and speeches made at the Nieman Conference of Narrative Journalism. The essays are broken down into categories. Need help on the ethics of writing, or how to build a career, or write narrative in a news organization? There are over one hundred essays to choose from. While the book is focused on non-fiction, there is a cross over to fiction. How to research and interview are relevant skills for both genres. It’s an easy read as the essays are short and concise. Perfect reading for that commute.

Buy Now: https://amzn.to/2QKX4sw

8. Into The Woods by John Yorke

There isn’t a page in this book that isn’t valuable. Plus, it’s written by John Yorke, the creator of the BBC Writers’ Academy, who carries with him a quintessentially English way of writing the blunt truth. Using examples from both British and American TV drama, he attempts to explain how stories work and why we, as humans, are compelled to tell them. With deep dives on structure, inciting incidents, showing versus telling, characterization, and series structure, you will learn something new no matter where you are on your learning journey.

Buy Now: https://amzn.to/2tLmVYD

9. On Writing by Stephen King

I’m not sure this one needs spelling out. Described as ‘part memoir, part masterclass’, the book is highly engaging and an easy read. The lessons and wisdom King imparts are intertwined with memories and experiences from King’s life, which makes it all the more grounded. It’s a very direct approach, great for those starting out. If you are a more experienced writer, this may challenge you to reevaluate you the way you go about your craft. Plus, what harm can come from taking advice of arguably one of the most successful storytellers there is?

Buy Now: https://amzn.to/38049LV

10. Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters to a Young Poet introduced by Lewis Hyde

This is a wild card on this how to hone your craft list of resources. And is comes by way of Dax Shepherd’s podcast. This book is the reason it’s worth listening to your spouse waffle on about the latest podcast he listened to me. Call me skeptical, but I bought it immediately after my partner told me about it then it sat collecting dust on my bedside table for an age before I finally caved and read it. I say read it… I inhaled it. It is balm for the creative soul. It’s a soulful exchange of letters between a young poet seeking critical feedback, and Rilke, the prolific older poet who responds, telling him that “There is nothing less apt to touch a work of art than critical words.” Instead, over the course of ten letters, Rilke shares with the young poet how to embrace the depths of his creativity, to create from the soul, to live in the question until he has the answers. The book will be balm for your creative soul and will quite probably help you be a better writer than any of the above.

Buy Now: https://amzn.to/2sj0oC0

Bonus!

P.S. Wondering where you’re going to get all the time? Allow Authicist to track your book rankings for you to give you time to sit and enjoy honing your craft!


Let us know in the comments what you think of the list of resources provided, and if there are others you would recommend. This is our first Authicist blog post, so please let us know if there are topics you like us to cover, and if you have a couple of extra moments give it a like or share – we’d really appreciate your support.


This blog contains affiliate links but is in no way sponsored by any of the books/products listed.