A return to some forgotten routines this week, including everyday writing. I might not have managed much in the way of word count, but I kept my pledge to myself and spent time with my work in progress each day. It was good to get reacquainted with the story and I even found some new inspiration.
I also completed my Marketing Monday task list, and put the finishing touches on an exciting new blog feature for readers that will launch next week.
You writers out there should also check out the FB page for my sister project, Lit Chicks Editorial. for resources, contest announcements, and calls for submissions. We also offer editorial services for fiction writers working toward publication.
That’s this week in review. See you all next week on Marketing Monday!
47North, Fantasy, Interview, Post Apocalyptic, publishing, Publishing Advice, Roberta Trahan, Science Fiction, Summer Lane, The Dream Stewards, The Keys to the Realms, Writing, Writing Belle, Writing tips
47North, Amazon Publishing, author marketing, Author Rachel Abbott, Christine Kling, Marketing Monday, Marketing Plans, publishing, Rachel Abbott, Roberta Trahan, The Dream Stewards, The Well of Tears, Thomas & Mercer, Writing
Fortune favors the bold. An old idiom, ancient even, but nonetheless true. The past couple of weeks I found myself growing more and more annoyed with comments by wishful writers on the blogs of authors who have earned some measure of success about how lucky said authors are. As if publication and sales were random acts of kindness bestowed by the universe. Gah. Really?
What successful writers have that those who watch from the wings don’t is grit – sheer gumption, as my grandmother would have said. They have work ethic, a willingness to bear criticism and learn from it, to face rejection and come back for more, and most of all, the guts to take chances and ask for what they want.
Luck? Sure. There’s some of that – convergence of circumstances, random opportunity, being in the right place at the right time. But if you don’t have the grit to stay in the game, luck will never find you.
Though I wouldn’t yet list myself among the ranks of successful authors, I am published. How this happened for me is a perfect example of how grit matters. A year after my agent and I had abandoned hope of a publishing deal, the opportunity arrived as if it had been waiting to reveal itself all along. If you’re interested in the story of how I got here, read this post , or this one.
Hard work and stick-to-it-ed-ness has its pay-offs. This past weekend I had the opportunity to sneak into an event being hosted by my publisher for one of their other imprints (living in the same town as the headquarters has its perks). Amazon Publishing hosted a retreat / conference for the authors of Thomas & Mercer, the mystery/thriller group. Part of the event included a series of panel discussions for an open audience, which I was invited to attend. Wow. I came away with a big ol’ bag of swag, new author friends, and a ton of great advice. But most of all, I came away with a renewed sense of gratitude. For my publisher, and for the people who encouraged me to hang in there when things got tough. Persist Until You Prevail.
I started to write a lengthy post about the event, but mystery author Christine Kling said it better than I ever could. I invite you to read the article on her blog “Write on the Water”, aptly entitled Gratitude.
Another important kernel of wisdom I heard on that day came from author Rachel Abbott, who repeatedly attested to the value of a marketing plan. I’ve been saying this for-ev-ah, and was so pleased to hear Rachel talk about how it helped her build sales for her books. So that’s my tip this Marketing Monday – make a plan. For some suggestions on how to do that, read my post Three Marketing Strategies Every Career Writer Can (& Should) Use.
Congratulations to Spencerhill Sister and fellow Amazon Publishing author Kendra Elliot! The third book in her Bone Secrets (Montlake Romance) series is out!! A must-read series for fans of of romantic suspense:
Reporter Michael Brody is used to getting answers. The one that’s eluded him, though, for twenty long years is learning what happened to his brother Daniel the day his school bus disappeared. When the remains of the other children are discovered—and Daniel’s aren’t among them—a desperate Michael calls upon the sole survivor of the tragedy, Chris Jacobs, hoping he will finally break his silence.
Constant fear of being found by his kidnapper has driven Chris into hiding. The only lead Michael has is Chris’s sister, Jamie. Strong and impenetrable, she’s capable of burrowing deep into Michael’s heart. As they race to find Chris, Michael and Jamie somehow find each other among the decades of wreckage. But locating Chris may not be so easy. Now grown, his scars go far deeper than skin.
Now Available at:
Kendra Elliot grew up in the lush Pacific Northwest and still lives there with her family. She’s always been fascinated with forensics, refuses to eat anything green, and loves a strong Mai Tai on the beach on Kauai. Kendra is the best-selling author of the BONE SECRETS romantic suspense series, now available from Montlake Romance. Connect with Kendra online:
The last couple of weeks I have focused on the downside of some social media tools, because it’s just as important to to understand the risks of your marketing efforts as it is the benefits. But the truth is that none of it works unless you are prepared to explore all your options and then commit time, and patience.
One of the biggest frustrations most folks have with marketing is their need to be able to connect their efforts to identifiable and measurable results (i.e. book sales). This seems to be especially true of authors who are self-publishing. Because these folks have often invested significant amounts of money in the publication of their book, they have tied their definition of success to sales. This makes perfect sense in a balance-sheet logic sort of way. The problem is that folks often misunderstand the subtle distinction between author marketing / book promotion and advertising – which then tends to create a set of expectations that are never quite satisfied. Success, as an author, is just as much about you as it is about your book.
I used to teach day-long workshops on this concept – but here’s the short version. Marketing is a very generic umbrella term that covers a multitude of concepts and tasks – including Promotion, and Advertising. Generally speaking, Authors promote and Publishers advertise. In the best case scenario everyone does a little bit of everything. If you are self-published, it’s all on you. all of the time. Which is tough, no doubt. But the important point to take away is this – no matter how you are published or who does what, you need both author promotion and book advertising.
If you are traditionally published, like me, you have little or no control over pricing and have very little to leverage in the way of the kind of offer that stimulates sales through advertising. Your efforts and time are best spent (building up to, and then after the release date) on author promotion. Author promotion (aka author marketing, aka author branding) consists of defined, sustained tasks which are designed to build and maintain awareness and visibility in The Long Run. These sustained tasks include blogging, tweeting, pinning, guest posting, newsletters and more – implemented and maintained consistently over time.
It is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you are a career author, there is no finish line. Even more, you may never be able to match your efforts to real dollar numbers. But, you should be able to measure your success in the short term by blog hits, FB fans, or Twitter / Pinterest followers. All of this contributes to sales, sooner or later. Truly.
Of course none of us can do it all, but we can all do some. It takes time, and persistence, and a willingness to give everything a try. Be creative and have fun, but most of all, be consistent. It’s important to maintain a presence of some kind everywhere you can, but I recommend targeting the bulk of your efforts on a few (say, three) favorite places. Here are some of mine:
Pinterest – This is just plain fun for everyone. I love Pinterest because it is so visual. It also gives me a way to creatively express my author identity and promote my book. By linking images I post on Pinterest back to my blog or website, I can create a larger community for myself and build interest in who I am and what I do without pimping my book all the time.
Shelfari – This is a reader community powered by Amazon that is similar to (but better than, in my opinion) GoodReads. It is definitely a more controlled place to play, and has lots of fun features for interacting with readers. It is worth checking out, if you haven’t already been there. I also recommend Library Thing as an alternative to GR, and finding at least one genre-specific site where you can interact with readers.
My Blog – Next to my website, this blog is the only static presence I can realistically maintain. The keys to building a blog following are regularity and consistency, and providing meaningful content. This takes planning time in addition to writing time, but it really does pay off over time. Using post tags liberally but wisely also helps.
47North, @speechwriterguy, Amazon Publishing, Author Branding, author marketing, Guy Bergstrom, Novel Writing, publishing, Roberta Trahan, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Social Networking, The Red Pen of Doom, Writing
If you follow this blog or have read my bio, you undoubtedly know that in my former life I was somewhat of a marketing maven. For over twenty years I made it my business, literally, to study information delivery systems and consumer behavior. What I have discovered, somewhat to my surprise, is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The technological big bang gave birth to what we now call Social Media – Facebook pages, blogs, Pinterest and dozens of other virtual groups and communities, and of course, Twitter. Never before have there been so many ways to interact. But as interchangeable as it all appears, it’s really not.
Not all Social Media Mechanisms Work the Same Way
While it is true that the modes of communication have evolved, the psychology behind communication has not. The reasons we interact are essentially unchanged – to feed our basic human desire for companionship, to expand our minds through the pursuit of knowledge, and to exchange our goods and services in order to meet our lifestyle needs. Social Media is said to be the Global Equalizer, opening a myriad of marketing pathways that all appear to lead to the same place – the consumer. This is true in a general sense, the same way that it is true that all people on Earth live under the same sky.
In order to use Social Media Marketing to its best benefit, it is important to understand who travels which paths, and why. Websites are like billboards or storefronts – static portals which recreate a sense of permanence in the Virtual World, and can act as sources of information and as retail hubs. Blogs have taken the place of topic driven channels and publications in that they disseminate specialized information and provide an opportunity for discourse (aka feedback). Online groups and communities (which include GoodReads, Pinterest, Facebook Friend Pages and more) create “places” for like-minded individuals to connect and engage in an exchange of ideas. Facebook Fan & Event Pages have essentially replaced what we old school marketers used to call “brochures” and “flyers”. These are all useful marketing tools when targeted toward your unique audience. The bottom line, dear author? Figure out which of these “places” are where people go to learn about BOOKS, specifically the kind of books YOU write, and focus your efforts there.
But What about Twitter?
I’m just going to straight up say what we all already suspect but don’t want to admit. Twitter isn’t really good for anything except creating a giant echo chamber for the sound of your own voice. Twitter is, at its essence, a soapbox. It is a platform that anybody can use but isn’t really effective unless you are a Very Important Person (like a politician or celebrity, or maybe a Best Selling Author) who ALREADY has gazillions of fans just dying to know what you had for lunch. Twitter MIGHT be a conversational hub, if you have the attention span of a gnat. What it definitely is NOT is a results-oriented marketing venue. At its best, Twitter is a real-time information stream that just may, if you are paying attention to the right person at the right moment, tell you something interesting or useful. Kinda like radio advertising.
Having lots of followers on Twitter does not mean lots of people are paying attention to you.
Really. I can’t stress this enough. In fact, odds are that most of your followers are only following you so that you will follow them. This is the very definition of a cluster f**k, dear author. Even more likely, most of your followers are probably other authors who write in the SAME GENRE AS YOU. Tell me, dear author, how many of these like-minded souls are likely to promote YOUR work to THEIR audience? I dare you – take a look at your list of followers and try to determine how many of them are actually purchasers and readers of your work, or people who can or will further your writing career or recommend your books. It’s good to know these things.
In the book world, there are two possible exceptions to the Twitter Doesn’t Sell Books rule. One would be authors of non-fiction writing business or writing craft books, and book marketing or publishing feeds by industry professionals and reviewers. Twitter just MIGHT be a meaningful way for these folks to announce news or posts on their blogs, which will in turn potentially lead to a sale of a recommended book. The second exception is when authors or industry professionals (including reviewers) consciously and intentionally connect to support each other using Twitter as a promotional vehicle. This can be very effective, but it requires mutual agreement and cooperation. This is strategic maneuvering that takes a bit more dialogue than the implied “I followed you, so now will you please follow me back?”.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Twitter – I spend hours upon hours reading my feed. But I don’t do so in a stupor of self-delusion that I am actually spending my time successfully marketing my work. I follow other authors and publishing professionals I personally know or whose careers I strive to emulate, and those who offer me useful information or entertainment. I occasionally do a search on my own name to catch those few and far in-between tweets by people who are reading my book and updating their progress on GoodReads, or the rare book reviewer who has posted their opinion of my work. I like to thank those people publicly for taking the time to read my book, even if they didn’t like it. In this way, Twitter is a much better incoming resource than an outgoing one. When I do tweet my own stuff, I do so without the slightest expectation that anyone is paying attention to what I have to say. In order to make even a tiny ripple in the Twitterverse, I will first need to do a lot more work elsewhere building sales and visibility.
That said, I do find lots of interesting folks tweeting in the Twitterverse – many of them members of exception #1 noted above. One of my favorites is Guy Bergstrom (@speechwriterguy) who has a nifty blog called The Red Pen of Doom . He has lots of hip, helpful advice on book marketing and PR in general. I like his ideas a lot, and you should read what he has to say. He knows what he’s talking about.
Here is one of my favorite posts: Guy Bergstrom says “You need a TEAM and a PLAN“, and I couldn’t agree more :).
47North, Amazon Publishing, Author Branding, author marketing, Barnes & Noble, Book Marketing, Book Sales, Jennifer McCord, M.J. Rose, Novel Writing, publishing, Randy Susan Meyers, Roberta Trahan, Scott Driscoll, The Well of Tears, writing life
With the holiday season and a first-of-the-year deadline behind me, I’m finding it easier to breathe, and find time for the rest of my life – which includes Marketing Mondays.
But first I’d like to announce that the THE KEY TO THE REALMS (the much anticipated sequel to THE WELL OF TEARS) is finally done and off to the editor. As soon as we have a firm pub date, I’ll be sure to let you know!
This was the first book I’ve written under contract (and to a deadline) and I find myself thinking about and examining things like creative process, motivation, and discipline. Mastering the management of my writing life is an ongoing journey, and I am beginning to believe that it will always be at odds with my artistic impulses. It’s almost an oxymoron, isn’t it – the idea that you can (or should) manage creativity. In the immediate aftermath of deadline hell, I am full of conflicted feelings. But, the book is done and I’m not dead, so it’s all good.
Every winter, I co-teach a writing class on novel structure with writing/publishing pals Jennifer McCord and Scott Driscoll. This session is the first I’ve participated in since becoming published, and I am really looking forward to sharing my recent experiences with the new students. We’ll be doing a lot of talking about what it means to be a working writer.
Another discussion that always comes up in these classes centers on the realities of publishing – and learning how to work within an ever changing business model that is often unfriendly to authors, and even downright hostile.
I have a lot to say on this subject, especially as an Amazon Publishing author, and especially when it comes to Barnes & Noble. But this last week two talented authors whom I admire said it best – and with a lot of class. For those of you out there who are writers aspiring to publication, or even authors who are looking for good advice on book marketing strategies, I highly recommend taking a look at this article from authors MJ Rose and Randy Susan Meyers :
This blog post offers some common sense ideas and good old-fashioned common courtesies for self-promotion. Not the least of which are thoughts on how to create a supportive author community, and some suggestions for grass-roots marketing efforts that we all would do well to put into practice.
I’ll be back next Monday with my latest thoughts on Social Media buzz-builders.
In many European countries, the idea of “Souling” became an acceptable alternative to pagan Samhain rituals for Christians. Souling was a visiting custom carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries. The soulers visited houses, sang a song and collected money, food, and/or drink.
A common ‘treat’ for soulers were Soul Cakes. Traditionally a gift for the spirits of the dead, they became a tithe paid to soulers who then pledged to pray for the souls of those who had passed to the Otherworld.
The cakes took many different names and shapes – from simple shortbread to fruit-filled tarts. Generally, a soul cake was made with whatever grain the community had available. Here is a modernized version of an old recipe:
Two sticks butter, softened
3 1/2 C flour, sifted
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg & saffron
1 tsp each cinnamon & allspice
2 tsp malt vinegar
Cut the butter into the flour with a large fork. Mix in the sugar, nutmeg, saffron, cinammon and allspice. Lightly beat eggs, and add to flour mixture. Add malt vinegar. Mix until you have a stiff dough. Knead for a while, then roll out until 1/4″ thick. Use a floured glass to cut out 3″ circles. Place on greased baking sheet and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while the cakes are still warm.
47North, Alex Carr, Amazon Publishing, author marketing, Carla Neggers, Edmonds WA, epic fantasy, fantasy fiction, Jennifer McCord, Joanne Otness, Novel Writing, publishing, Roberta Trahan, Third Place Books, Write on the Sound, Writing
The Book Launch Celebration continues!! I want to congratulate the winners of my GoodReads Giveaway:
Barbara Mattingly (NJ), Adam Melerski (CA), and Andrew Humphrey (MO)
Your personalized copy of THE WELL OF TEARS will be shipped in the next 7-10 days. I hope you enjoy the book!
For those of you who didn’t win, the sweepstakes giveaway on my FB author page is still live. To enter, click on the Facebook icon in the right column on this page, or go directly to the sweepstakes entry page. Follow the directions and you will be entered to win a signed copy of THE WELL OF TEARS and some party swag.
My book launch party and first ever author signing at Third Place Books was a huge success. Loads of colleagues, friends, and family showed up and there was lots of love in the room. We had cake and great swag (slap bracelets and temporary tattoos courtesy of 47North).
- One of the unexpected and most rewarding benefits of living in the same city as my publisher was the opportunity to actually meet the people who made the book possible. I am a lucky, lucky girl to be working with such talented and dedicated folks. And to top it all off, some of them were on hand at the even to share in the celebration. Here I am with my 47North teammates: editor Alex Carr (far right), author relations manager Patrick Magee (near left) and marketing manager Katy Ball (far left) –>
- Next was a truly inspiring weekend with writers and authors at the 27th Annual Write on the Sound Conference in Edmonds, WA. This intimate event is held every year in a quaint, village like setting on the shores of Puget Sound. I had so much fun working and talking with writers at all stages of their creative journey. Also in attendance were my pals publishing expert Jennifer McCord, local author and arts commissioner Joanne Otness, and best-selling author Carla Neggers. The weather was beautiful and the event couldn’t have gone any better!
Next up is the annual independent booksellers regional trade show sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. I will be talking to booksellers and librarians (and signing books) on Monday, October 15 at 10:45 on the show floor. If you are going to be at this event, please stop by and say hello!