We’re all tired of staying at home during this recent crisis. It seems like everyone has been affected in different ways, but no one has gone unscathed. Our world has changed in recent times. We, as authors and lovers of the written word had many of our in-person writing events – conferences, conventions, and book fairs – cancelled due to the appearance of COVID 19. To to emulate all those events we look forward to each year and are missing out on now, and to chase away some of the boredom of social distancing and isolation, WordCrafter presents the 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference on Tuesday, April 28 from 8 am to 8 pm.
This is a unique event, the first of its kind, and one you won’t want to miss. Free presentations and author takeovers will be occurring on the Facebook event page, and interactive workshops and panel discussions will be offered for a minimal fee on the Zoom platform. Interactive panel discussions and workshop session can be accessed individually for $5, or an all access pass to all interactive sessions can be purchased for $50. Tickets can be purchased on the Facebook event page. Watch for your Facebook event invite from me or one of the many wonderful authors involved with this conference. Send me a message through my WordCrafter page or through the event page if you have further questions, or if you would like a half an hour author takeover spot to promote your own work.
This has been a huge undertaking to organize and set up an event such as this one, but I haven’t done it alone. Without my 22 talented presenters, this event couldn’t happen. We have a great line-up, with international bestselling science fiction and fantasy author Kevin J. Anderson presenting the keynote on the interactive platform.
And that’s just the beginning. Take a look at the talent that has lined up for presentations, workshops and panel discussions.
Award winning and national bestselling speculative fiction author Mario Acevedo will be offering a presentation – “The Power of Motivation: What Your Characters Do and Why”
USA Today bestselling multi-genre author Dan Alatorre will be a member of the interactive book marketing panel discussion.
Multi-genre author Chris Barili will be presenting “Writing in the Face of Adversity” and giving an interactive workshop on “Writing Across Genres”.
Award winning fantasy author L.D. Colter will be offering a presentation on “Short Fiction”.
World builder and speculative fiction author Kieth R.A. DeCandido will be offering an interactive workshop on “The Business of Writing” and he is the moderator for the media tie-in interactive panel discussion.
Award winning novelist Guy Anthony De Marco will be a member on both the short fiction and world building interactive panel discussions.
Fantasy and science fiction author Anthony Dobranski will offer two presentaions, “How to Swim Upstream: Not being in the mainstream of your market/genre” and “Working with Others: How to direct others in a project”. In addition, he will offer two interactive workshops. “Business Class Tarot” and “The Savage Horror of Writing Back Cover Copy”.
Author for young readers, Jason Henderson will be presenting “Story Ideas and the Choices You Make” and moderating the interactive book marketing panel discussion.
Media tie-in author Kevin Killiany will be a member on the interactive world building, media tie-in, and short fiction panel discussions.
Award winning young adult fantasy author L. Jagi Lamplighter will be on the interactive panel on world building, and moderate the interactive short fiction interactive panel discussion.
Award-winning science fiction author J.R.H. Lawless will be a member of the book marketing interactive panel discussion.
Award winning and New York Times bestselling multi-genre author Jonathan Maberry will be a member on three interactive panel discussions: short fiction, world building and media tie-ins.
Award winning multi-genre author Bobby Nash will deliver a presentation on “The Importance of Promotion”, as well as being a member of both the media tie-in and book promotion panel discussions.
Science fiction and fantasy author Jody Lynn Nye will offer a presentation on using humor in science fiction and fantasy writing, “Bringing the Funny: how to apply humor to your writing” and she will be a member of the world building interactive panel discussion.
Award winning fantasy author Ellie Raine will sit on both the short fiction and world building interactive panel discussions.
Award winning multi-genre author Art Rosch will offer a presentation on “Creating Villains We Love to Hate”.
Award winning multi-genre author Sean Taylor will offer a presentation on “Visceral Story Beginnings”.
Science fiction author and marketing expert Alexi Vandenberg will be joining the book marketing panel.
Award winning poet and author Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer offers a livestream presentation “The Gateway to the Unknown: A Poetry Thought Shop”.
Author and educator Rick Wilber will be a member of the short fiction interactive panel discussion.
Award winning and New York Times bestselling science fiction and fantasy author Dave Wolverton/David Farland offers a”Promoting Your Book BIG” and he is a member of the interactive book marketing panel discussion.
You can find a full schedule here. I do hope all of you will join us for this unique writing event. It’s the first of its kind and we could be making history. You can be a part of it, too. Join us.
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“Go on Instagram,” said my publisher. “That’s where the teens are. Post pictures of your books. They’ll eat it up.”
I was new to Instagram, but I called up the website on my computer and attempted to join, only to find out you have to post using the app on your cell phone. That put a damper on things – I don’t have a smart phone. My phone flips up, costs $100 a year, and it does everything I need it to (as in, it sometimes sends texts and usually makes a phone call). My husband has a smart phone, so I download the app onto his device, put on a smile, and snapped a picture holding my book. I didn’t look all that great. I snapped a few more, and ended up just taking a picture of the book cover. It got a few likes. They were from people who already knew me on Facebook.
I posted a few more covers and the likes trickled in, still from people who were already my friend. It seemed I needed a new strategy. I needed to attract people who didn’t already know me. I took some pictures of just me doing cute poses or wearing cute outfits. The same thing happened – the same people “liked” my pictures. Next, I tried posting pictures of my cat. That earned me more likes, and a couple new people. While she is adorable, my goal for Instagram was to get my book out there.
I reached out to author friends for advice. Based on their feedback, I started posting inspirational quotes and setting up my books in gorgeous spots. I propped my book up on the porch. I set the book in a bed of flowers. I put the book on my actual bed.
I like to think I’ve gotten better at posing my book in different way. The books are models and I’m their photographer. A very poor photographer. Likes and hearts trickle in, and now they’re coming from people I don’t know. I’m getting there!
Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author. If you would like to follow her on Instagram, she goes by JayliaDarkness. The username is a shout-out to the YA fantasy series she’s currently writing.
You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.
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My husband always accused me of spending too much time ‘playing’ on Facebook, and although I do spend a lot of time on social media, what I’m really doing is promoting my writing and interacting with other authors and potential readers. The truth is, social media can be a valuable tool for authors, if they go about it with the right expectations.
Although I hear paid Facebook ads can drum up a few sales, but if we don’t want to spend a lot of money, we shouldn’t expect to sell a lot of books through social media. I know it doesn’t sound like it’s really very beneficial when you look at it from a sales perspective. But social media can be benificial if we use it to connect. Social media connects me with other authors and potential readers via several channels.
On Halloween, I co-hosted the Dead Man’s Party event, together with DL Mullen of Sonoran Dawn Studios. Though I had participated in several such events, this was my first experience with the organization of one. It was also the first audio event I had ever heard of. We mixed things up a bit by having the participating authors provided readings of their works of paranormal and horror, intermixed with the regular promotional posts, silly party games and giveaways. I had recently reviewed Dark Visions, a horror anthology compiled and edited by Dan Alatorre, which had just been released, and with his help, I was able to recruit many of the authors of the stories from the anthology. It was a learning experience, as many of these authors had never published anything before, or done an event such as this. I did many of the recordings and put together one video reading, as well as creating promotional posts for many of them. The whole thing was a lot of fun, drawing in over 1000 visitors I’m told. Overall, it was a success and a lot of fun, and I made many new friends and followers.
But, it was also a lot of work. The recordings took a lot of time to get them right, their were a few audio problems with the video presentation, and I made their promos like I do for my own work, with loving care. However, it was worth it all to get the experience and improve on my promotional skills, as well as in watching my number of followers grow. And one of my new author friends from the event will be joining the WtbR team as a contributing blogger to start the new year. The work I did also gave me some much needed samples of my promotional work, which I used to start my new Copywriting and PA Services page.
So you can see how this event benefited me greatly. Although I didn’t sell a single book, (the ones I gave away don’t count here), I did prosper from the event in many other ways. The message here is to social media to your advantage, but use it in the right ways and for the right reasons in order to avoid having your expectations left unfulfilled. But that’s how you have to approach social media promotion. The first word in social media is ‘social’. It’s there to make connections. That’s what we can expect to get from promotions on social media platforms. Promotion on social media can bring you authors to network with, or readers to build your platform. Any real book sales that you do get are just a nice bonus, but they cannot be expected.
I also gain followers through my Facebook pages. I currently have four pages. The primary page is my Kaye Lynne Booth – Author and Screenwriter page. I also have a page for Delilah – Kaye Lynne Booth, for news concerning both my published western and for book 2, Delilah the Homecoming which is still in the draft stages, as well as pages for two WIPs: my scince fantasy series, Playground for the Gods – Kaye Lynne Booth, and my memoir, His Name Was Michael – Kaye Lynne Booth. Through these pages I hope to gain followers who are interested in my writings. By building my platform, I hopefully gain readers who will buy my book.
I’m a member of a large number of author and book groups that allow promotional posts, as well as discussions. We should realize that most of the participants in these events like the one I spoke about above are other authors and the ‘book sales’ you get will be from giveaways. I use this to my advantage by making these connections my goal, instead of going about it with expectations of increased book sales. I spend my time on social media sharing promotions for my blog posts, responding to comments on my posts, sending out friend requests, and interacting. Through the new author friends that I make at these events, I’m able to find authors in need of interviews or book reviews for Writing to be Read, and my followers are growing through my efforts, as well.
So, I say that social media can be a useful tool if we set the right expectations and use social media the way it is meant to be used. Connections can be valuable to an author, especially a new author. We just have to see it’s value and find ways to use it to our benefit.
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I posted a link in my Writing to be Read Facebook group a couple of weeks ago. The article discussed the new changes made by Facebook which do not allow us to post promotional materials on personal Timelines. Under the new guidelines promotional posts are only allowed to be made on our Facebook Pages, which are designed to be set up for businesses. If you break the rules and make promotional posts on your Timeline, Facebook can ban you. This information caused quite a stir in my group, and I admit it caused me quite a bit of concern, as well. I came to the conclusion that, as with everything in life, we must learn to be flexible and accoodate change. I changed the title of my Kaye Lynne Booth Screenwriter page to Kaye Lynne Booth Author and Screenwriter and set my automatic posts from WordPress to post there instead of on my Timeline and hoped for the best.
One of the comments I received was a question toward one of the group members who was upset, viewing this as a ploy to force us to purchase paid advertising. The second member asked how using Facebook’s free advertising was going and asked if she had sold many books from it. While I don’t think this change prohibits making promotional posts as long as you make them through allowable channels, the conversation made me stop and think about what we authors are expecting to achieve through such posts.
Free promotion through social media is great. It offers us, as authors, an avenue to get the word out about our writing, without putting a dent on our wallets. For aspiring authors, who haven’t made it to fame and fortune yet, like myself, that’s great. But what results are we expecting?
If you’re thinking your book will rise to the top of the best seller lists, you’re dreaming. That’s not the way it works. The best seller lists, at least those on Amazon, work on algorithms, and if you’re only one of a smattering of books in a category, it may not take many book sales to place your book at the top of the list. Authors who write romance have it a lot tougher, because there are a whole slew of romances out there, a lot of competition, so even if your book is making sales, it may not be enough to launch you to the top because it’s based on the books which sell the most in that particular category.
Likewise, most of the folks who those promotional posts reach are other authors, not the people in your target audience. Authors may buy books, but basically they want the the same thing you do. They are out there to promote their own work. Social media isn’t designed to sell books, although their paid promotions may be quite effective, and anyone who is using free promotions to try and sell books, or anything else, may be sorely disappointed. Social media, my friends, is designed to promote connections, some of which may be quite valuable, but it’s not designed to sell merchandise, hence the word ‘social’. And that is what I get from my promotional efforts on Facebook and any other social media site I use. I grow my blog following and my email list. I find a few people who are willing to review my book. I meet people who can include me in their author services as an editor. I connect with artists who can create the book covers I need. While many are fellow authors, I tap into that as well, offering them interviews or reviews here on Writing to be Read. They get some free exposure and I great content for my blog. It works out great.
That being said, I’ve come to the sobering realization that nothing is free, and I’m going to have to invest some of my hard earned money if I want to boost my book sales. While I can’t afford paid promotion on Facebook or Amazon right now, there are affordable promotions out there.
- There are some affordable avenues of promotion out there. Most recently, I found a promotional site called I Like E Books, which has promotional packeages which range from free up to twenty dollars, which seems promising. They provide promotion on social media channels and other cool stuff, depending on which level od promotion you pay for.
- Although not a promotional site, per se, Book Bub is great for featuring your books under your favorites, so folks can see that they are available. You can follow your favorite authors and hopefully gain some followers of your own. It doesn’t cost anything to join.
- On All Author, you can have your book featured on their site for six months, with twitter promos, weekly mock-up banners, and review posting for a flat fee of $24.
- It’s also free to sign up for PromoCave, which is a site for ongoing promotion via social media sites. It helps on this site to post content fairly regularly, since it will bring readers to your profile.
- BMI Books is a global book marketing site where you can place and manage a book ad for free, although I’m unsure how this one works as yet.
- You may also sign up for free on Write Globe, which has a nice book promotion platform as well as supporting other types of creativity. This site was listed as number one in a list of “Top 7 Websites for Book and Author Promotion” by Alwin Gnanaraj on LinkedIn.
- Creative Designers & Writers is a free international classified site, where you can create and post an ad. It is supportive of other creatives as well and can serve as a platform for collaborative works with graphic designers and artists.
- Books Online Best also allows you to post a free ad in addition to other author services, such as book trailers and author interviews. You can also create a freelance site here.
One day, I’ll be able to afford to play with the big boys. For now, I will be grateful for the benefits I can get from social media, but I will approach it with reasonable expectations, being grateful for every follower I gain and counting any book sales that comes from it as an extra added bonus.
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I’ve heard it asked if a reader platform is even necessary. So, let me ask you, as writers and authors, without readers what are we? Of course, we need to have a reader platform. All it is is a fan base equivilent, but it can make the difference between the success and the failure of our books. Without my readers, there would be no one to buy my books, read my books, recommend my books or review my books. So, how does one build a reader platform?
It’s a good question. And I’ve heard of many different methods of doing just that, and none of them require construction tools. Not even a screwdriver. All it takes is what we writers and authors do best: words, communication, contact.
I started out with this blog, Writing to be Read, and the number of subscribers is climbing as I work to improve the content. The thing is, there was no way for me to capture those subscriber emails or reach out to them. So, I created a monthly newsletter, and added a sign-up pop-up, offering a free e-book as a thank you for subscribing. If you sign up for the newsletter, you get a free e-copy of my paranormal mystery novelette, Hidden Secrets, which isn’t available anywhere else.
The trick is to get people to read your work in the first place. You can’t have a fan or a reader unless they have read something you’ve written and liked it. Nobody will follow you, or write a review, or join your reader group, if they haven’t first, read your book. One way to do that is to identify your target audience and promote to them, offering them all the reasons why they will like your work.
Another, and probably the most important, is to be sure your writing is fun and entertaining, if you’re writing fiction. With non-fiction, you need to make the subject matter interesting and present it well. And humor never hurts, no matter what you write. Even dark works can have dark humor. In short, whatever you are writing, make sure that it is quality writing. This should go without saying, but they won’t become your loyal readers if they can’t make it through the book due to the poor quality writing.
After all, a reader platform is really just a fan base of those who are interested in your work, and by finding them and adding them to your mailing list, you are effectively building a reader platform. With this method, I had a big initial burst of subscribers following the launch of a marketing campaign, then it tapered off to a slower rate of growth. My list is growing slowly, but I’m gaining a few new subscribers every month.
Other authors I know start Facebook reader groups or ask fans to join their street teams. I don’t know how well they work, but it seems there’s always activity happening in these groups and they seem to have lots of members. I would think you would have to have a solid fan base to pull ‘groupies’ from, so perhaps this is just an additional step, rather than an alternative method. Most of the authors I know who have street teams or Facebook reader groups, swear they don’t know what they’d do without them, relying on them to spread the word on new releases, post reviews on release day, find reviewers for their books, and/or show up for support at book events. These authors are harnessing the power of their readers and directing it to where it is needed most. And I’m thinking they might be on to something.
Part of the problem may be that I’m a multi-genre author. To date, I’ve published a western novel, Delilah; a paranormal mystery novelette, Hidden Secrets; and a science fiction time travel short story, Last Call. I’ve also had a dystopian short story and a crime romance short story published in anthologies, as well as shorts and poetry online. Western readers, science fiction readers and paranormal readers are not all included in the same crowd. I’m also eclectic in my reading habits, but most folks want to read only their preferred genres. Now how do I find readers that are so hard core they want to read everything I’ve published?
My answer is, I don’t. I’m finding that I must seek out readers for each one seperately and build a seperate reader platform for each one. The western readers who liked Delilah will be interested in the sequel, The Homecoming, when it’s finished, but they may not be interested in the books for my science fantasy Playground for the Gods series, when the first book is released. And many of my readers are authors themselves and they may be interested in the content on Writing to be Read, rather than any of my fiction works. When I look at it in this way, the task at hand seems to be enormous, the goal so far away. I’m not sure where to start, but I’m determined to find out.
I think a good start would be to find out which of my works the readers I already have are interested in, so I’ve added a genre question to the pop-up for the newsletter sign-up, so that I can place readers on different lists and then new subscribers can receive notifications concerning those works that they are interested in.
All of this marketing stuff is new to me and I’m learning as I go, so if you do sign-up for my monthly newsletter, I’d love it if you’d drop me an email and let me know how the whole sign-up process went, and what worked for you and what didn’t. After all, I’m smart enough to know that without you, my readers, I wouldn’t sell any books. I appreciate the fact that you stand by me. Let me hear form you at: kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
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Since February, I’ve been giving myself a crash course in book marketing and promotion, especially in regards to social media marketing, because it’s the cheapest route for getting your books out there that I’ve found. Which is not to say that it is the most effective, or that paid promotions aren’t more effective. Those are things I cannot yet say. Ask me when I’m a successful and wealthy author. Perhaps I will know the answer by then.
While educating myself in areas beyond my own expertise, (I’m a writer, not a marketer), I launched a marketing campaign and created promotions of my own to get a feel for what works for me and what doesn’t. Since that time, I’ve dipped my toes into the pool of paid promotions, as well. Among the methods and techneques tried: I now have a slowly growing mailing list for my new monthly newsletter. I’ve sent out two so far, and have so far met with medicore success, and I launched a media campaign for Delilah which included a few modest paid promotions, social network promotions of new advertisement photos, sending out press releases to select Colorado newspapers pushing the local author angle, and my very first book trailer which I created myself.
It’s hard to determine the success of any of my efforts as yet, although the press releases resulted in runs in two newspapers that I know of. What that adds up to in sales, I don’t yet know. Although there was a small increase in sales April, there doesn’t seem to be a correlation with any of my promotional efforts. Sales come slow, and often, only after great effort on the author’s part, I think. Only time will show the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, of my first marketing campaign.
The newsletter email list is growing slowly, but it is growing. The weird thing is, when you sign up in the sidebar pop-up, you get a link to a free e-copy of my paranormal mystery novelette, Hidden Secrets, but only a handful have been claimed. I even sent out the link in the newsletter for April, and still subscribers are not claiming their thank you gift. Of course, only a little over thirty percent are opening the newsletter, so I don’t know how much help it will be. I’m asking all who read this post to subscribe to my monthly newsletter using the sidebar pop-up, and then claim your free gift. The newsletter is monthly, so it won’t clutter up your inbox, and Hidden Secrets is not available on any other platform.
I don’t know if the book trailer had any effect on sales, but I sure did have fun creating it once I figured out what program I could use to get the job done. After looking at numerous free programs that claim to make book trailers, it turns out I had the program to do the job already installed on my computer in my Microsoft Office 2013 Power Point. A little more self-education on what can be done with Power Point and how to do it, and I had myself a book trailer, which I absolutely love. It’s amazing what can be done with software I already own. Made me happy. Even if it doesn’t bring one sale, I think it’s cool. I’d post it here to show you, but the free plans on WordPress don’t include video capabilities, so if you’re interested, you can see it on my Delilah Facebook page. I hope you’ll check it out.
I’ve learned a lot from my search for knowledge in book marketing and promotion. While SEO is still important, it’s valued different than it used to be, because search engines now operate differently, according to Hubspot’s 20 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind in 2018. Technical terms like bounce rate may be beyond my limited understanding, but I understand enough to realize I need to give SEO more thought when designing my content. It would be a lot easier if my books would just shoot up to the top of the best sellers charts overnight and rode there for awhile. Maybe then I could afford to hire somebody to do all this brain numbing stuff for me. I always try to write using keywords. Isn’t that enough? I only had a very basic understanding of SEO to begin with, and if I try to take in too much SEO talk at one time it gives me a headache, but I’m determined to give it my best shot.
So, that’s my first big marketing adventure. I may not be able to tell how effective it was at this time, but I know I’m learning a lot as I go. The adventure isn’t over yet. In July, I’ll be at my first face to face event, when I sit on the alumni panel for Western State at the Writing the Rockies Conference and print copies of Delilah will be available. I’m both excited and nervous, but I know it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. Be sure and catch next Monday’s post to learn more about the conference
As to the effectiveness of any of it? I’ll let you know.
I’ve known Art Rosch since 2009, when he became a member of a writing site I was administiring called Writers’ World. Although I’ve never met him in person, we’ve been online friends, supporting one another like only authors can ever since. Art is a great guya da, and a fine photographer, and a damn good writer. You can feel the honesty in his words as you read them, and that’s not something all authors can do. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Art’s books, Confessions of an Honest Man, and The Road Has Eyes. I’ve also had the privilage of featuring an interview with Art in my 2016 series on publishing, as well as having him as a member on my more recent Ask the Authors series in March and April.
During my Ask the Authors series, I did a segment on Building an Author Platform. As a member of the author panel, Art expressed his frustration with the whole author platform/marketing and promotion thing and wasn’t sure how he could respond to my questions in a useful manner. Art had tried many paths to marketing and promotion, at times investing much money with little returns. He didn’t understand the problem and explained, “I can’t even give away books.”
This is one of the pitfals for today’s authors. We’re writers, not marketers. I think we all have gone through it at one time or another, (or will for new and upcoming authors). It’s easy for writers to become disheartened with the whole promotion process, especially if they’re not seeing results from their efforts. I told him to give me whatever he had. If he couldn’t tell me what had worked, he should tell me what hadn’t worked for him and why. I would take whatever he could offer. His response was a wonderfully told author’s journey that was too lengthy to be included in that segment of Ask the Author, but was worthy to appear on Writing to be Read, none-the-less. So, with that in mind, I give you this Guest Post by Art Rosch:
I’m the last person to ask about marketing and publishing. Perhaps my experiences might be cautionary, might enable other writers to consider how they proceed. I can only offer my history as a writer. You can call me disillusioned, but that’s actually a positive state. It’s good to dream but it’s important to temper the dream with reality. You can get swept down some terrible false paths by unskilled dreaming. I believe that this mantra, “dreams can come true if you persist” is a shibboleth. A lot of bullshit. It takes skill to dream the right dream. It takes skill and practice to execute a dream and bring it to fruition. Everything else is about karma. Destiny.
In 1978 I took a chance and sent the manuscript of a short story to agent Scott Meredith. At the time, Meredith had a branch of his prestigious agency that read unsolicited works for a fee. We’ve been warned countless times about this flaky practice, but it was, after all, Scott Meredith. He represented Norman Mailer and Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and James Michener. I scratched together my fifty bucks and mailed the 3600 words of my comic science fiction tale about a planet where there are six distinct genders. It was called Sex And The Triple Znar-Fichi.
Eight weeks after mailing my story I received two envelopes. One was small and one was large. The small envelope contained a check for $1800. The large one contained a two year contract to be represented by Scott Meredith. The agency had sold my story to Playboy Magazine.
I was thrilled and motivated to write. I was young, ambitious, and not a little fucked up. There were problems in my life but everyone has problems. A writer without problems is hamstrung. Embrace your problems! They’re your fuel!
A few months passed. I was sending my works in progress to my editor at Meredith Agency. He was doing his job. He made it clear that my first science fiction novel was a bust and that I should focus on the book that has become The Gods Of The Gift. Then I received a package from New York. It contained a clear lucite brick featuring an etched Playboy logo. It carried the news that my story had won Playboy’s Best Short Story Award. There was another check for $500 and permission to use Playboy’s expense account to bring myself to New York City to attend the Playboy 25th Anniversary banquet and awards ceremony.
The Playboy Banquet was an amazing experience. I met Playboy’s fiction editor, I got business cards from the editors at The New Yorker, Penthouse, Esquire. I was a celebrity for the requisite fifteen minutes. I was hanging with the big hitters. My table mates at the dinner were Alex Haley, Saul Bellow and their wives. I was in! I had made it!
I brought The Gods Of The Gift to a sort of completion and it went on the market. And didn’t sell. The agency kept batting for me but I wasn’t turning out viable material. I wasn’t writing long form books that would sell. But I was learning. Two years went by without a sale, and the agency did not renew my contract. I went into my personal Dark Night Of The Soul, a period that lasted a long time. In spite of all the obstacles, I continued to play music and write.
In 1976 I had started work on my autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man. I was dealing with a paradox: how does one write an autobiographical novel at the age of thirty? The answer isn’t complicated. One starts. And one lives. Here I am, now, at the age of seventy, sitting on a huge body of work. When I was contracted to an agent, I couldn’t write to sell. Now that I can write to sell, I can’t find an agent. The ground has shifted. We live in a new era. Even with a publisher and an agent, we’re still on our own with regards to marketing. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a marketer. It takes money to market, and I’m not rich enough to front a sustained advertising effort. I’ve been online for fifteen years. I have eight hundred ninety Twitter followers. My Facebook stats aren’t much better. I have an excellent blog that features all my media work. It’s gotten so that I’m shocked when I receive a comment. I’m all over the web. I’m on Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, you name the social medium, I’m there.
It’s my photography that gets the attention. I suppose that’s natural. Images are so much more accessible than literature. We live in a tough time for writers of quality. There are so many writers, yet it seems as if there are fewer readers. The sales figures for my books are shocking. I can’t even give them away. In three years I’ve sold twenty five copies of my e-books. I’ve given away about eleven hundred. Those figures are spread over three books. In spite of this epic failure I persist. I figure I’m somewhere near my peak with regards to my writing skills. I’m a late bloomer. I’m also a writer who works a long time on each project. Like decades. Confessions Of An Honest Man only reached its completion when I switched from past to present tense. It changed everything. I finished that work last year. Begun in 1976, finished in 2017. Same with The Gods Of The Gift. It didn’t totally gel until I had revised it countless times and solved a thorny structural problem. Begun in 1978, finished in 2016. I can at least regard my non-fiction memoir, The Road Has Eyes with some affection. It took a year to write.
I again made contact with the Meredith Agency in 2001. They didn’t give me a contract but one of their editors was interested in me. Barry N. Malzberg is/was a science fiction author, critic and NYC literary personality. His editorial approach (with me, anyway) was brutal, confrontational, maybe even abusive. The cumulative effect on me was positive, but the experience gave me a two year bout of writer’s block. He helped me with Confessions Of An Honest Man. I’m considering making contact again. With some trepidation. He was a rough editor.
My plan? I’m going to invest in Confessions Of An Honest Man and produce paperbacks. There’s something about a physical manifestation that enlivens a book. My intuition tells me that this is the right step. I’ll follow with my other books. I have an as-yet-unpublished fantasy book, The Shadow Storm (about fifteen years in the writing). I’ll bring it out. I expect nothing. It’s not that I don’t care. I’m just too f’ing old to have an attachment to results. It’s about the process of writing and publishing. It’s obedience to my inner voice.
I’m a very flawed person. I’ve lived at the extremes of life. I’ve experienced the horrors of addiction and homelessness. I’ve been a yogi/junkie. How’s that for a paradox? But I survive and have found a niche in the world. A place to write. I live in an RV with my partner and two obnoxious teacup poodles. That’s good enough.
Thank you for sharing with us, Art. Watch for my review of The Gods of Gift in the near future. You can learn more about Art and his work at:
Arthur Rosch Books
Write Out Of My Head
If you’d like to have a guest post you’d you’d like to have featured on Writing to be Read, contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com. I wish I could, but at this time, I am unable to compensate you for your words. This blog is a labor of love, and so must be all guest posts.
Whether an independent author or traditionally published, it seems most of the marketing and promotion falls to the author in today’s literary arena. Even if we love marketing and don’t find it to be an absolutely harrowing task, we are writers, and time spent marketing is time not doing what we love: writing. We don’t want to waste our time and money on ineffective marketing methods. We want to make our marketing techniques pay off big in as little time and expense as possible, so we can spend more time putting words to page.
In this series, we’ve talked to seven authors to learn what methods of book promotion works for them. In Part 1, I talked with Cynthia Vespia, who chose to go independent after having minimal results with small publishers. She does her own cover art and all of her own marketing. She prefers face-to-face marketing events to social media marketing. While she does do social media release parties and book events, she finds them most effective to increase fanbase, rather than book sales. She says it is more difficult to gauge the effectiveness of social media marketing than it is to see the imediate results of conventions and book signings.
Something which I’ve tried which has been somewhat effective, at least in building my platform, if not in actual sales, are the book releases and book events on Facebook. Even though obtaining a spot in one of these events is free, they do require a lot of preparation for a short little spurt (1/2 hour to 1 hour) for your spot. And I think you’ll get better results if you hang out for at least a while, commenting and playing the games to support your fellow authors and creating visibility. If you’d like to check one out, I’m participating in a special Cyber-Monday event, hosted by Sonora Dawn Studios and DL Mullen, and they are still looking for author particiapnts.
In Part 2, Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd , who are small press and independent authors. Kym does their covers and Mark copyedits their books, and they do all of their own marketing. They promote through blogging and have a YouTube channel, where visitors could watch recordings of their research and ghost investigations. They also have a website and author pages on Amazon and Goodreads. They have found blogging, and social media promotion effective ways to get the word out about their books, but they found in person book readings to be less effective and unpredictable. They advocate free promotions and KDP Select.
On the issue of KDP select, I have my doubts, and author Chris Barili is in agreement with me in Part 6. It doesn’t make sense to limit the venues on which you can sell your book. With KDP select, you must sell only on Amazon, exclusively, which excludes many other venues, such as Smashwords, Lulu, Book Baby, etc… And while I say it makes no sense, both of my books are with KDP select right now. I’ve left Last Call there for now, because I have an idea to do something else with that story, and it doesn’t make sense to pull it off KDP select until then. And with Delilah, it’s really up to my publisher, so for now, I don’t have a choice.
Part 3 featured an interview with Jordan Elizabeth, a small press author. Her publisher handles editing and book covers, but she handles the major portion of her marketing. She’s an advocate of social media promotion. She reports good results advertising with BookBub and Fussy Librarian, and also says book signings are effective.
In 2016, author Nicholas C. Rossis in his post, Call to Arms: Year-long survey reveals which book advertiser offers best value for money, says that at the end of 2016, the best buy for your buck as far as advertising discounted books goes, was Amazon Marketing Services, Book Barbarian, and ENT. But he also notes that these trends fluctuate and advertisers that were rated higher in 2015, may have rated lower or not made his list in 2016. And he notes that Amazon Marketing Service rising from the ranks with unfortold speed.
According to Writer’s News’ list of useful book promotion websites , Write Globe, which claims to be the perfect platform for creative individuals, ranked number one. Also mentioned are Writers.Support, BooksOnline.Best, Noble Authors, 79ads.in, Creative Designers and Writers, ShareNews.live, Earn.Promo, in that order. The last one on their list stuck out for me, because it’s free. As a starving writer, free always has a certain appeal. Another site for free advertising that I found was Authors Talk About It. They run your ad for your book in their newsletter for free and also free book cover contests, and featured author interviews. They ran my interview and made me sound good.
Independent author Tim Baker joined us in Part 4. He started out with small press publishers, but switched over to independent, creating his own brand. He does free promotions and giveaways and finds them to be effective in creating buzz, resulting in future sales. He contracts out editing, formating and cover art, but handles all his own marketing, believing there is no magic formula for selling books but hard work and persistance.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to hire out your non-writing tasks, so you can spend your time tending to the business of writing, there are plenty of sites out there where you can find free-lance service providers. My editing services are offered through The Author Market, and they also offer cover design and book trailers, proofreading, ghostwriting and PA services.
In Part 5, independent author Amy Cecil shared her thoughts on marketing and social media promotion. She hires out her marketing tasks so she has more time to spend on the business of writing. She hires for editing and cover design, has a marketing firm and two PAs. She’s a new found believer in book blog tours, has done a book signing at B&N, and has a street team for creating social media buzz aboout her books. She’s not in favor of free promotions, but loves the exposure that social media has given her.
While Jordan didn’t find review tours to be worth the money it costs of the promotional agencies as her results were minimal. I know a little about them, and I know authors who swear by them, like Amy Cecil. Many of my author interviews are part of the Full Moon Bites Promotions book blog tours. And I know there are plenty of other promotional services which set up book blog tours out there, but it appears the verdict is still up in the air on this book marketing method.
Part 6 features author Chris Barili, who has published both traditionally and independently. While his traditionally published book requires only minimal marketing from him, the independently published books require him to do it all. He has found social media marketing, free promotions and KDP select to be ineffective. What works for him is hard work and persistance.
In Part 7, I interviewed DeAnna Knippling, an independent author who has also developed her own brand and publishing label. She uses an Advance Reader Copy list and newsletters, free promotions, and tries to attract super-readers on Goodreads, testifying to the power of reviews. (Of free promos Knippling says that if it doesn’t generate new sales, it at least generates new readers and that’s worth the cost.)
There is no doubt that in today’s book market, in the world of digital marketing, book reviews are where it’s at. But, honest reviews aren’t always easy to come by. YA author Jordan Elizabeth used her street team for the task of finding reviewers, with mixed results, and DeAnna Knippling has done free promotions on sites like Instafreebie. Free ARCs don’t always garauntee the review. That’s one of the reasons I do honest book reviews here on Writing to be Read, to help promote other authors and their work.
Everybody talks about branding and how you have to have a brand, but it looks to me like branding is something that just sort of happens in many cases, such as my red quill and ink, which began as a social media avatar and has become my logo. In others cases, like DeAnna Knippling and Tim Baker, it’s a purposeful, but still comes almost naturally.
Overall, it seems that different methods are effective for different authors, and in different ways. While social media and free promotions may or may not produce new book sales, it does create buzz, which results in future sales, at least in theory. Although Mark and Kym don’t place a lot of value on social media promotion, Cynthia Vespia, Jordan Elizabeth, Amy Cecil and DeAnna Knippling find it an effective way to build a fan base and get reviews. It seems like face-to-face promotional encounters such as book signings and conferences are a pretty effective way to get your book out there, and free promos pay off if you look at other measures of effectiveness besides book sales. Tim Baker and Chris Barili both put their faith in hard work and persistance, regardless of the marketing methods you chose.
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Welcome to the final interview in my Book Marketing – What Works? series, here on Writing to be Read. So far, we’ve heard from independent authors Cynthia Vespia on face-to-face marketing vs. digital marketing, Tim Baker on branding, Amy Cecil on street teams and social media marketing, and traditionally published YA author Jordan Elizabeth with an altogether different approach to street teams. We’ve also heard from authors who have published both independently and traditionally, Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd on blogging as a marketing strategy, and Chris Barili weighed in on social media marketing and Amazon KDP. It seems no matter which way an author goes in today’s publishing arena, they are going to be responsible for the majority of marketing and promotion for their book.
In my final interview today, I’ll be talking with independent author, DeAnna Knippling, who has created her own brand and press to publish her books under. DeAnna is a talented lady and multigenre author, who not only publishes her own books, but freelances as a ghostwriter, as well. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing three of her wonderful books, How Smoke Got Out of the Chimneys, Clockwork Alice, and Something Borrowed, Something Blue. DeAnna also shared with my readers in an earlier interview how she came about creating her own press to publish her books under. Today she shares with us a little about her book marketing experiences and talks about free promotions.
Kaye: How do you measure which marketing strategies are effective?
DeAnna: The ultimate proof is whether sales go up and stay better than they were before for a while. I tried a bunch of things that did well for a brief burst but left me no better off than I was before; I’m starting to be choosier about what strategies I stick with because of it.
Kaye: These days, reviews are a valuable marketing tool. What is the most effective way you’ve found to bring in reviews for your books? How much effect have reviews had for you?
DeAnna: Right now, I have an Advanced Readers’ Copy list that works better than other things that I’ve tried. That is, if you’re willing to be a guinea pig, I’m willing to send you free books.
I started looking at who was reviewing my books on Goodreads earlier in the year and went, “Holy crap, I have readers who read 50+ different books a week and review all of them.” I’m not joking. I call them super-readers…I started thinking about what I could do to attract more of those super-readers, and this is one of the techniques that I’m trying. We’ll see if the others work; most of my ideas have to happen down the road a bit.
As far as the effect reviews have had for me, I had the good luck a while back to be riding near the top of a couple of the Amazon lists I was in while reviews were actually coming in (and while I was obsessively hitting the refresh button on Kindle Direct Publishing and the Amazon sales page). Overall rankings went up by like 50 points an hour after the first review went live, even though only like one or two additional sales rolled in. Reviews don’t always have such a measurable effect, but it was a blast to see at the time. Also, when someone emails you off an ARC and tells you that you’re becoming one of their favorite writers ever and their review is up now, it really encourages you to keep going.
Kaye: You have used Instafreebie to promote your work. How does that work? How effective is it?
DeAnna: I think there are other resources about how to use Instafreebie that would work better than me trying to explain the basics in any kind of useful depth. For the sake of the rest of the answer, though, I’ll sum up: Instafreebie is a site where, for $20 a month, they host your ebooks and collect potential readers’ emails (for which the readers receive a free copy of the ebook). You can boost the number of eyes on your book by joining group emails/group promotions, separate from Instafreebie.
It worked well for me, but I got in at exactly the right moment: enough writers were participating in group promotions that the book giveaways hit a lot of new readers, and readers weren’t burned out with ereaders full of free books yet. I added more emails than I knew what to do with and ended up costing myself a lot of money on MailChimp. I actually had to cut some emails off the list–people who weren’t opening my newsletters. (I even got some responses back from MailChimp saying I had been reported as spam a couple of times and that the person hadn’t signed up for the list–not true; they had just signed up for so many lists that they had no memory of mine whatsoever).
Instafreebie allowed me to build up enough readers that I was able to put together an ARC list and to connect with some amazing readers that I wouldn’t have otherwise reached. However, I’m not paying for Instafreebie any longer. I don’t know how it’s going now; I just know that the flood of new newsletter readers who may or may not ever read my book was more than I could deal with. Maybe when I get a better sense of how to market via my newsletter, I’ll try it again.
Sometimes you pounce on marketing opportunities. The cost/benefit analysis on marketing shifts constantly. “What works today won’t work six months from now” is kind of an ebook marketing truism.
That being said, no quick-response marketing strategy will work if you don’t have the basics covered, like having an updated website and a newsletter and a way for your readers to find your books and to contact you or connect with you. There’s a lot of passive marketing stuff that supports the big, quick-turnaround experiments like Instafreebie. Otherwise the readers fall through the cracks and disappear after they get their free ebook or whatever.
Kaye: A lot of authors today offer their work for free, or do limited free promotions. I’ve never really understood this. How does giving away your work pay off?
DeAnna: I think it depends on how you see readers, which is not to say that one way is better than another. I mean, I know people who swear that giving away books for free will be the death of a career. But I just can’t see giving away free ebooks as dooming me to failure per se, any more than you can see it the other way.
I see obtaining a loyal reader as an investment. I want them to read my work and love it so much that they pass it on to someone else. I’m willing to invest a free ebook or ten to see whether I can flip them to loyal readers. If yes, YAY. If not, it’s a sign that I need to work harder and keep learning. I don’t write irresistibly good fiction yet. I’m working on it. Oftentimes, the people who are buying my books are people who are on my ARC list, who already have the free ebook in hand, and want to help support me. I know, because they care enough to email me about it. I tear up every time.
Maybe when I write fiction that I know people can’t resist, I’ll restrict my opportunities for free stuff. I have already done that a bit. For example, I no longer give away books for free per se. I want an opportunity to keep reminding the reader I exist via newsletters or whatever–I want the opportunity to try to win them over.
Kaye: What other marketing strategies have you employed? Which ones worked for you?
DeAnna: I’ve tried a lot of things, and most of them are irrelevant at this point–we’re past the six-month mark. What it comes back to: your readers are your boss. Write a lot. Write better every time. Stay in contact. Don’t work for the jerky boss, work for the one who appreciates your work. Keep your information updated. Be a person, not a marketing machine. Say please and thank you. When you reach out to new readers, treat it like a job interview. Keep your eye open for ways to go a little bit above and beyond. Keep your eye open for ways to team up with bloggers, reviewers, other writers, and readers. When you’re selling a book, sell the book–describe your book in a way that makes somebody drool, instead of saying things like, “I have a new release, check it out LOL.” Investigate why people like what you write, how you make them feel when you’re at the top of your game, and sell that. Be ready to pounce on opportunities, and learn from train wrecks so you can pounce on fewer train wrecks.
Marketing is hard. It takes time and respect.
Kaye: What works best to sell books for you, as far as marketing goes?
DeAnna: Staying honest with myself and writing the books that are in me, and not the books I think should be in me. I had to look at myself and go, “I write hipster pulp. I write trope-filled popular fiction stories with quality ingredients, decent technique, a few original weird touches here and there (the equivalent of sriracha mayo on a juicy burger, I guess), and with a bit of ironic perspective and humor.” Suddenly, voila, I had more sales.
More seriously, though, knowing yourself and your work on this level is sometimes known as “branding.” The description is a bit facetious, but…well, it’s not exactly wrong, either.
I know what writers are looking for is a magic button to make their books take off in the market, but there isn’t one. What you want to be able to do is repeat success and learn from failure. Don’t be the person who writes one book (or one trilogy) that takes off and who then cannot repeat that success or in fact finish another book at all, ever. Don’t be the person who burns out on writing because of all the marketing you have to do. Do what it takes to stay in love with writing first and foremost, experiment with different techniques, and be prepared to fail on a regular basis. Try to fail in a different way each time.
Also, if you can write porn, do that. It sells really well.
Kaye: What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?
DeAnna: Purely for promotion, as opposed to staying in contact with people? Probably Goodreads. Highest proportion of dedicated readers and super-readers. Lots of great data, too, if you poke around a bit and make a few inferences.
Kaye: What advice do you have for authors who are trying to get their work out there?
DeAnna: Don’t blame the readers. If your ads don’t work, if nobody shares your posts, if nobody wants to review your book, if nobody gushes over your cover, etc., etc. Don’t blame the readers.
I want to thank DeAnna for taking the time to answer all my questions. It’s evident by her answers that she’s put in the time, both in writing and marketing, and it’s wonderful that she is willing to share with us here on Writing to be Read. You can learn more about DeAnna’s books at Wonderland Press.
This is the last of my interviews for this series, but be sure to drop by next week to take a look at my conclusions in the last post for Book Marketing – What Works?.