Month: October 2014

Book Marketing On A Budget

This is a post that I originally shared back in April on my blog, Novel Notions.  While that blog is now on hiatus, much of the content there is still relevent.  Because of that, I thought I’d share this post as someone might be looking for an inexpensive marketing idea.

 

Original Post:

There are times I wish that someone had told me that writing my book was the easy part – the hard stuff came with the marketing.  Obviously, some people are more adept at coming up with ways to sell their novels than others.  You can put me in the “others” category.   I can’t say that I enjoy marketing. I’m one of those people who wish I could devote all my time to writing and leave the marketing to some sort of magical marketing minions.  But since that’s not going to happen – I decided to try something a little different.

I published my novel (Of Dreams and Shadow: Forget Me Not) at the end of September, 2013.  Since that time, I have promoted my book with three virtual book tours and I have been pleased with the exposure. In March, I decided to try something a little different. Instead of a virtual book tour – I choose to use a three prong approach.

 

First, I did a little research.  There are a lot of sites that promote books.  I looked for sites that I felt were a good fit for my novel and then went to Alexa to check their ranking.  I considered the number of visitors to each site as well as the cost of their promotion packages.

I chose:

3. Young Adult Promo Central

 

  • I set the date to begin my attack:  Thursday,  March 27, 2014
  • I lowered the price of my book to 99 cents (Thursday – Sunday)
  • I asked my family and friends to help me get the word out by sharing links on facebook, etc.
  • The morning of the 27th arrived.  I went to my Author Central page and checked my ranking; it was humbling to say the least.   My novel was ranked 250,914 among all ebooks and 26,785 among teen ebooks.
  • StoryFinds listed my book on their daily specials.  (This cost me $20.00)
  • At Young Adult Promo Central, I was the featured author. I shared a post, book trailer, book blurb, etc.  (I purchased their     Gold Promotion – $25.00.  The normal price of this promo was $50 but they are running a sale.)
  • eBook Soda featured my book on the email list.  (This was free.)  **Update:  I think this service now charges $5.00
  • I shared the links to StoryFinds and YA Promo Central as well as eBook Soda on twitter, Facebook and Google+ communities.
  • By Friday morning (the 28th), my novel had moved up in ranking.  Among all ebooks, mine was now ranked at 30,293 and  among teen ebooks – it was ranked 1,551.  At lunch time, my book had peaked at just over 1,300 in teen ebooks.
  • On Monday morning, I checked my Author Central page again.  My novel was ranked at 22,893 in all ebooks and 2,323 in teen ebooks.
  • Now, I will be honest – I don’t know which site generated the most sales but I do know that people visiting YA Promo Central were actively engaged due to the stats I saw on my blog.  I also think  some sales came from people who saw the “shares” of my family and friends.
  • Total Cost of the Promotion:  $45.00

I wish I could say that this was the marketing effort that sent me to Amazon’s top 100.  But even though it didn’t, I was pleased   with the results.

Beginning:    all ebooks  250,914   teens:  26,785

Ending:        all ebooks   22,893    teens:   2,323

 

I would think this approach would work with a variety of sites and genres.  It is important to find sites that are a good fit for your novel.  But you can’t stop there – you have to enlist the help of others to spread the word.  I hope this is helpful.  Thanks for stopping by and Happy Marketing!

It’s All About Getting Noticed

book girlPublishing my first novel was one of the most important moments in my life.  It signified the fulfilment of a life-long dream.  I had climbed the mountain and reached the top.  Like many newly published writers, I was floating in a cloud of euphoria – convinced that everyone would love my story.   I’m sure you can understand my frustration when the hallowed halls that is Amazon barely registered an echo of my arrival.  At first, I visited my KDP dashboard daily – monitoring my sales.  In all honesty, there wasn’t many and most of those were probably from people in my local area – family, friends, etc.   When my dream of overnight success didn’t come true, I finally grasped the reality of my situation.  It didn’t matter how wonderful I thought my story was – I lacked name recognition.   My author platform was probably more akin to a board and a couple of nails.

Marketing Madness:  Yes.  I became infected.  I scoured various blogs looking for marketing advice.  I was the snake oil salesman’s dream.  If you offered me the cure for my lagging sales, I was buying!   I tried this.  I tried that.  I tried the other thing, too.  For all that effort, I did learn something:   As a newly published writer, I was picking my way through uncharted territory.  After trying various marketing tips, I realized that there is no “one size fits all” plan.

There were things I did that helped.  I went on tour (blog tours) as well as listing my book on some promotional sites.  Some worked better than others.  My e-book sales increased.  However, 70% of $2.99 isn’t all that much.  Multiply that by a few sales and my net profit still wasn’t anything to write home about.

While e-books are great, having a physical book to sell has its own benefits.  One of those being the ability to remove the middle man thereby increasing the profit margin.  Local festivals are a great venue for selling books.   I try to choose events that I feel are “book friendly.”  I consider the cost of the table – as in how many books I need to sell to break even.  I also consider the average number of people who will attend the festival.  Even if I don’t make a sale, being seen and getting my name out has its own value.   It’s like purchasing advertising.   Let’s say that an event draws 5,000 people and a space at that event goes for $100.00 – that breaks down to an advertising cost of 2¢ per person.

Not everyone is going to want a paperback.  Some people are dedicated to their reading device – that’s why I have business cards with a picture of my book, the ISBN, and a listing of where the e-book can be purchased.  Business cards are inexpensive to hand out – and while not everyone is going to follow through and purchase the e-book, it has been my experience that some will.

The holidays are approaching.  If you haven’t tried selling at an area festival, think about it.  I’ll admit to feeling a bit out of my comfort zone.  Ideally, I’d love to write and have someone else do the selling. However, that isn’t my reality.  For now, I’m a one woman publishing team!

 

 

What Makes a Character Real?

dogSo often we read stories that tell us what a character looks like.       Ex:  She had beautiful brown eyes and cascading black hair.   Okay.    Half the world’s population has dark hair and brown eyes.  Today alone, we’ve probably walked by a dozen people with those same attributes and never even noticed.   …beautiful brown eyes, blah, blah, blah...  In short, snooze worthy.  There is nothing in that sentence that makes the reader relate to the character.  Why? Because it takes more than a description to bring a character come to life.

It’s funny – the things you remember…

When I was a little girl, I would watch my mother do the laundry.  She’d sit by the pile of clothes and start folding them and occasionally, if she noticed a small hole in a pair of underwear, she’d morph into the Hulk and rip the garment apart.  It didn’t matter if that particular pair of panties was your favorite.  Holey undies were as good as gone.

Later, I would learn that because my mother’s family was so poor, she was forced to wear two pairs of panties at once – you see, each pair of panties had holes in different places – but together, they did the job of one. When you know the backstory, my mother’s idiosyncrasy (turning into the hulk & shredding undies) doesn’t seem quite so bazaar.  Her ruthless destruction had a purpose – her children would never know what it was to be embarrassed by their undergarments.

As writers, we are remiss if we fail to discover what makes our characters tick.  Just like my mother, a character’s present is directly related to their past.  We should be as familiar with our characters’ backstories as we are with our own.  It’s the backstories that help shape to the characters.

Developing believable characters: 

We’ve all read the same advice:  show don’t tell.  It sounds simple enough but the truth is this:  It is harder work to show than it is to tell – that’s why we sometimes find ourselves taking the easy way out.  He was furious. When –  He stalked out of the room, nearly slamming the door off its hinges – shows his feelings.

Being familiar with a character’s backstory can answer a lot of developmental questions.  Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy, is an example of this.   Her father’s death, her mother’s subsequent depression, the lack of economic security – these are all things that shaped her character.  The events and circumstances help explain Katniss’ actions/reactions.

Just as in real life, characters need to react realistically.  Let’s say I’m writing about a private investigator and maybe he always answers the door with his gun drawn.  If I know his backstory, then I understand that he’s learned to be cautious  because of a failed attempt on his life.  This knowledge might lead me to the fact that he has developed an acidic stomach and eats antacids like candy.  Because he finds stakeouts to be quite boring, he smokes – a lot.   Some of these details may need to be woven into the fabric of the story.  Others may not.   The important thing to remember is this:  These little actions/characteristics add a “real life” feel to our characters.

 

 

 

What Our Writing Reveals About Ourselves

Wild MindI’ve just started reading Wild Mind – Living The Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg.  In the introduction,  Goldberg shared part of a conversation she had with Southern Novelist Cecil Dawkins.  She quotes Dawkins as  saying:  “Why Naa-da-lee, this should be very successful.  When you are done with it, you know the author  better.  That’s all a reader really wants – to know the author better.  Even if it’s a novel, they want to know the author.”

I’ve thought about this statement quite a bit – not so much in the context of whether a reader really wants to  know me but more along the lines of what I reveal about myself in my writing.   While I was working on Of Dreams and Shadow, I shared a passage with my writing class.  As was the custom in our class, the instructor would read aloud two or three paragraphs and then the group could make comments.   This is what I shared:

The weekend, she mused, had flown by. It seemed like her visit
to Charlotte wasn’t nearly long enough. But then again, it had
been long enough for her to feel out of the loop. Seeing Lauren
and her other friends had been great….just different. It was like
watching a movie, falling asleep in the middle and waking at the
end. You know the main characters but you miss out on some
things, things that if you would have stayed awake, you would have
known. Obviously, talking on the phone had its limitations. Small,
random things hadn’t been mentioned, probably because they had
seemed so unimportant at the time. But so often in life, it’s those
inconsequential things that bring about change. It was the little
things, she realized, that made her feel a bit like the outsider.

Without meaning to, she would catch herself comparing Jess &
Meg to her Charlotte group. They didn’t have a lot in common. She
couldn’t imagine Jess talking about the latest fashions. And Meg,
Jenna thought, with her heavy black liner and black hair definitely
wouldn’t fit in.

Jenna shifted in her seat, reached over to the radio and changed
the channel. She wondered if Lauren had felt the subtle change, the
slight distance, in their friendship. Maybe, maybe not. But for her,
it was there and it filled her with a sense of loss. As bitter-sweet
memories played out in her mind reminding her of what had been,
Jenna stared out the window, biting her lower lip, regret etching
her heart.

After reading this excerpt, my instructor asked me if I had moved while in high school.  The question surprised me but I confirmed that I had.  Apparently, my personal experience bled over into the emotions my character was feeling.  Without realizing it, I had opened a door into my life and invited my readers inside.

This probably happens more often than we know.  I remember reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Harry was standing in front of the Mirror of Erised – seeing his heart’s desire – his parents. Rowling has said that this chapter was influenced by the loss of her mother.  While I didn’t know it at the time I was reading the story, I can still remember how my heart broke for Harry.  Because she was able to tap into the emotions she felt with the loss of her mother, Rowling created one of the most poignant scenes in the series.

Ernest Hemingway said:  “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” As simple as it sounds, being able to open up isn’t easy.  Most of the writers I know are very comfortable with solitude.  This is a good thing because writing tends to be a solitary endeavor.   Because we spend so much time alone, I think we have a tendency to lead very private lives.  Our innermost thoughts and feelings aren’t necessarily open for public view.  I know this is true for me.  My skeletons are tucked inside a closet and locked away.  It’s a rare time that I open that closet and peek inside but being able to take a plunge into our personal Well of Pain makes all the difference in the stories we tell.