Sunday, August 25, 2013

Time is the Key to Success

As with any campaign, time is the great equalizer when marketing a book. Some authors have more money, more knowledge, more supporters, better publishers than others, a better brand, but we all have the same time.

I've spent the last two months filling a notebook full of blogs and book excerpts, web sites and examples...advice, advice, advice. It'll take even more time to wade through the information and choose that which has been proven successful. It would take too much time to list them all, but here are the essentials.

1. Lists - agents, publishers, fellow writers, influencers, beta readers, reviewers, readers

2. Social Media - Tweeter, Facebook, Blogs, Pinterest, and follow those names from the above lists.

3. Brand - Use social media to get my name out. Connect with those in the lists.

4. Help Thy Neighbor - Retweet, post comments to facebook and blogs, visit pinterest, support launch parties, and write reviews for those authors in List 1.

5. Blog on subjects of interest to readers.

There's a lot more that could be done, but that's all I have time for and even these must be rationed carefully--no more than two hours a day.

The most important thing is not to wait until you're at the end of the road to get started. That's too late. I've made some progress on all of the activities listed above except Pinterest and the Reader Blog but will start those up in October. Until then I'll be gleaming the information bulging in my time permits.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Two Tips to Blog Success

I've discovered the secret to blog success. Well, it's not really a secret. Most of us already know it, but doing it is another matter, and timing is important. Some writers begin too soon, some wait too late. These are my thoughts about the two best tips to blog success.

1.  The subject must have wide appeal to your target audience. Why do food blogs get so many followers? Everyone eats. Do-It-Yourself blogs are popular because everyone has to fix something at some time or another. The more successful book selling blogs focus on a subject that relates to their (or others') books. If it's an historical, the blog may explore the history of that particular time and place. If the books are about social issues, the blogs explore those issues. The question before me is whether to find a thread that crosses all my books or concentrate on the first book. I haven't decided yet, but it's on my to-do list. Another approach is the general purpose blog, like helping other writers, offering tips and advice. Then there are the fan clubs. These focus on best-selling books that are reviewed and discussed and given away. Give-aways and contests always attract commentators.

2. Whatever the subject, the best way to get followers is to follow. Warning--this is time consuming. Not only do you have to post regularly and advertise your posts all over social media, you have to comment on your followers' blogs. I've recently followed two blogs that have accumulated hundreds of followers in a relatively short amount of time. Both started with a profound message and immediately began to follow many other blogs. Of course, asking for a follow back. Most do follow back. The problem is, they don't continue to follow. Still I see value in this approach. It gets the attention of new people, ordinary readers, target readers. My opinion is I should wait until my book is available for sale before doing this because you seem to get only one chance. After awhile, interest wanes.

Just because I don't have the book ready to sell doesn't mean I shouldn't prepare. I'll be on the look-out for a dynamite subject that will attract interest. Be ready to strike while the iron's hot.

There are methods outside the internet that require preparation as well. The usual book signings. I'll start making a list of local places. Then there are the press releases. I suppose if I have a traditional publisher, they'll take care of that, but I might want to add to those efforts. One of my contacts at LinkedIn covers the subject very well at Another site that lists 95 sites to post a book cover and blurb is at

One final way to reach readers in a personal way is to offer to speak at clubs, organizations, and church groups. Most are always looking for a speaker and will let you sell your books after the meeting. Might as well start making a list of these, and dust off my toastmaster skills.

I'm still working on Amazon and Goodreads. That's where the big numbers are. I'll report my findings in another post.

Maybe I can hire out some of these preparation tasks. School's out, so I might get my tech savvy grandkids to get to work. I wonder if they'd do it for a percentage of the book's earnings. Ha.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

On-Line Booksellers

I've agonized over how to promote to booksellers. Linking up to on-line booksellers is so important and so time consuming. I didn't know how time-consuming until I started my research. After all, my experience with them is just to buy a book, easy as pie. It made me long for the days when publishers took care of the messy stuff, like filling book store shelves, publicity, telling the author which foot to put before the other. Not so easy with selling a book. Let me explain.

I spent almost a month researching the online booksellers and the results of all that research showed me that the number one bookseller is Amazon, duh. Good news for me. I like Amazon. I buy almost everything on line from them. (Are you listening, Amazon. I did a lot for you over the years.) No Amazon isn't going to roll out the red carpet. I have to get to know their rules for book selling, and become more intimate with Barnes & Nobles and Goodreads. No one wants Amazon to become a monopoly. Oh, that's right, didn't they just buy out Goodreads. Maybe they already are.

Most of the experts agree you can't wait until you've published your book to become intimate with the booksellers. Intimacy requires time, so I've decided to change the way I buy books on line. Instead of pulling up a book by the author or title, I'm going to search by category, use those tag words we're told is so important. As I do, I'll take note of those tag words that might lead readers to my future books. I'll note the book descriptions and the reviews.

I'll post more reviews, not just those that are asked of me, but as an avid reader. Do you get the part about being time consuming now? I already read a lot of books, but if it doesn't rate at least a 3 star with me I don't post it. Actually, I don't even read the whole book. I've never understood how someone could rate a book he didn't read, but they do. And if you really hate the book that much, why would you read it?

Since I don't have a lot of time, I'm going to have to choose the books I read more carefully, read all the reviews, and make a thoughtful decision before clicking the buy button. Hopefully that will keep me from buying a book I won't read. I have another motive for reading the reviews, however, and that is to get to know what readers, avid readers, like. What are their push buttons? Yes, make more notes.

After reading a book, I'll post an honest review. I really hate writing negatives things in a review. My sympathies lie with the writer. After all, she's poured out her heart in this book and I'm going to tell her it's boring. But from the bookseller's point of view, reviews are for the potential reader, not the writer. So I will be honest, but it'll be painful.

Next I'll research those dreaded social media sites, which will have to be prioritized, since they too eat up precious time. My objective will be to select those that have the biggest payoff.

What are your experiences with on-line booksellers?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Relating to Your Colleagues

Now that I have a brand I have to get it out there. I feel like a minnow in the ocean of the enormous world wide web. Hopefully, I can grow before getting eaten. The best way to do that is to get to know my colleagues, other writers, and publishing experts.  What better way to learn the industry? So far, I use twitter, facebook, and blogs, but not nearly enough. I follow the professional organizations ACFW and RWA. I've learned a lot from them, but it's time to start relating. Your can't get your brand known by lurking alone. You can't just dip a toe in the water. You have to jump in.

Of the three web sources, twitter is less personal, but you can establish a presence at the same time you increase your knowledge. It contains enormous sources of information about the industry. I choose those I follow carefully. Since I write inspirational historical romance, I follow anyone who writes in that genre. But I certainly don't restrict myself to them. Any writer can teach me something. I include most agents, publishers, and book sellers. I've been pleasantly surprised at how generous these experts share information through their blogs. They also have large followings, so I make sure to read the comments at these blogs, a good way to learn what other writers think. I'll stay the course with twitter. It takes time to grow a following, but so far I'm satisfied.

I don't use facebook much. It's more personal than twitter and I'm a private person. I know I'll have to get over that. I'll have to set up an author's page so I can follow the industry in facebook as well as in twitter. It's a good way to help authors get their message out, and help in any form is usually welcome. About all I do at present is like others and occasionally comment. Not enough. I'll have to become more active and contribute something, but what I contribute doesn't have to be writing related, so facebook may be a good way to reach readers, my ultimate goal. Facebook is more visual and I'm not a photographer, but I can snap photos of food, pets and nature, subjects I enjoy. I can relate to others' difficulties, celebrations, and humor.

I've learned you have to be selective with blogs. They consume a large amount of time, too much if you want to have time left to write. I look for active blogs with regular contributors. Honestly I believe that's more important than trying to build up my own blogs. After all, I'm doing them mostly for myself at this point. Later I'll establish a blog to entice a following, but for now I think my time is better spent contributing to others. I comment on a blog only if I have something significant to say. I don't respond to an argument, and as with twitter and facebook, only follow those I can relate to.

Finding that common ground is the best way to introduce yourself and hopefully, build a relationship. Ultimately, that's the only way to become known as a colleague.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Communication Now and Into the Future

The key to marketing success is communication. You may have written a novel to rival Gone with the Wind, but if no one knows about it...well, it won't sell like Gone with the Wind.

Communication is an art. One I'm not too good at. I have trouble communicating with my relatives. If I ask my husband to pick up a certain item at the store, chances are he'll come dragging in something entirely different. Understand that this is the one who's closest to me on earth. Someone who loves me and wants to please me.

Why would I think a complete stranger would care what I have to say? It doesn't help that the means of communicating today isn't one I'm expert at. Ha! If I gathered everything I know about the internet, including facebook, twitter, and websites, it probably wouldn't fill up the standard size thimble.

But communication is essential, and it's methods are changing, so if I want to sell my books, I'd better grab on and learn fast. Who knows what will be next. Maybe the entire way we write books will change. Readership is declining, and at some point someone will ask why and give the reader what he wants.

People are becoming more visual. They don't want to take the time to sit down and read a book. Let's face it, some of them don't want to think. (Not my readers or yours, but some.) Imagine the state of publishing in the twenty-fifth century. Instead of writing words, we may be creating images--movies, producing them right on the screen.

That sounds like fun to me. Instead of actors acting out a script, we can create our characters from holograms, choosing the voice, the hair, body type, eyes, mouth. It should be great fun. We'd give the characters the words to say, of course, the action to do, the thoughts to think. Perhaps they'd do that while staring off into space. We wouldn't have to do a lot of dull research. Just select a place and time from a list and plunk those characters down in their setting.

The readers (viewers?) would select the book (movie?) of their choice and enjoy on their little mobile screen or their big wall-to-wall theater. Their choices would be limitless.

Whoa! We writers would be faced with the same difficulties in selling our books. How to make ours stand out. There's no way to get around the need for good communication. Do you think they might allow us to create our own commercials with those futuristic books (movies)?

Since I'm not likely to still be on earth during the twenty-fifth century, I'd better stick to learning how to communicate in today's world, from word of mouth to the internet. These are the techniques I'll be researching and blogging about during the month of April.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What's Your Brand?

Everyone who sells has a brand whether he knows it or not. It's just that particular thing that distinguishes a product from all other like products. Sounds simple enough, but how did Coca Cola, Charmin, Ford, or Burger King develop their brands? Through their reputations. A writer is no different. His or her writing will distinguish an author's brand.

Is it possible to define a brand before putting anything out there for the public's approval? That's what I'm attempting to do. I looked at the brands of some of my favorite authors. Janette Oke is known for her homespun prairie romances. Tracie Peterson is known for her strong characters and historical detail. Mary Connealy is known for cowboys and humor.

After considering all my manuscripts I can see four distinctions. They're all historical, but not a particular timeframe or setting. They're all over the place...1880s American west, 1770s Scotland, 1812 England, 1802 Austria, 1868 American south, even 1963 Atlanta. Yes, even 1963 is now considered history, a sobering thought for me since I was alive then.

All of my manuscripts are also romances. I can't tell a story unless it's from both the male and female POV, and of course, they have to get together. Besides, I like to read romances, so it's natural that I write romance. So there must be thousands of historical romance writers. Nothing to set me apart there.

Then something I didn't realize before came to light. All my plots involve intrigue. Something is always hidden in the story line, something even the characters don't know, but had better find out if they're to stay alive and healthy. The bad guy may or may not be known until the end, but there's always a surprise when the enemy is revealed or vanquished. One other thing, since at least one of the main characters is Christian and there's an inspirational theme running in the background, it's inspirational fiction.

So with all that in mind, my brand is historical romance to inspire and intrigue. There it logo. I'm sure I'm not the only writer in the world whose books have those four elements, but I'm the only one with my name. Now all I have to do is let the rest of the world know. Even before the books are published, and the readers can judge for themselves, which is usually how it works, I can get the word out. I'll add it to my profile, my business card, everywhere my name goes, my logo will go. I think I'll even put it below my signature on my tax returns. A good thing I don't write mysteries.

It may sound weird, but I think the brand is the first thing a writer should publicize, not the last.

Excuse me while I go nail down the first plank in my platform.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Facing the Competition

Everytime I think of competition I remember those nature shows I like to watch, the ones that depict survival of the fittest. That's one of the most important laws of the natural world, and Christians are immune. They either adhere to this rule or lose.

What do animals struggling in an eat-or-be-eaten world have to do with selling a book? That book will face competition--lots of competition. There's hardly any industry driven as much by competition as book selling.

In years past the wheat was divided from the chaff by big publishing houses who acted kind of like monopolies because they got the shelf space and the advertising budget. This worked well for those who managed to get in the wheat pile, although a good bit of chaff made it on the shelves, and some good wheat was left in the fields.

Today, everything can make it to the public in publishing. But the books are kind of like those flowers that pop up among the weeds in hopes of attracting the bees. There are so many, and so varied, but still the same number of bees.

Those of us who write in sub-genres try to attract the specialized bees--you know, like those that just like clover--by giving our audience exactly what they want. But it's tricky. The more specialized you are, the more your audience shrinks. If the audience becomes like the panda who'll only eat bamboo, we'll find our creativity stiffled by strict rules of what can or cannot go into the novel. Like the hero and heroine must meet on the first few pages of a romance.

With all this in mind, who is my competition? I can rule out Steve King. His audience wouldn't touch my books, and though I write romance, I can rule out those who write sexy novels. Unfortunately my competition are the authors I love most, those who write the same sub-genre. Of course, they don't have to worry about me yet. I'm like the seal who's floating on a block of ice with killer whales circling. I'm threatened to be overcome by the sheer difficulty of breaking into the market.

The whales crash against the ice, trying to knock the seal off. Added to his troubles, the ice is melting. Discouragement crashes into me and the market is shrinking. But even in this dire situation, something may happen.

As I'm clinging to my block of ice, and the competition threatens to devour me, there may be an opening. At the last minute a group of other seals foolishly swim up and the whales turn on them. The seal sitting on his ice block seizes the moment and jumps off, swimming for his life.

The right moment will come for me, and I can jump off into the sea of competition.