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Posts Tagged ‘book marketing’

Diving In

Diving In

This past winter I took a fair bit of time away from doing public appearances at bricks and mortar venues. After the release of my debut novel, In the Spirit of Love, I dove head first into the book marketing and publicity pool, and discovered a lot of areas I really enjoyed. I met some wonderful people, and gained invaluable experience by tapping into a number of venues. As for actual book sales, some things worked better than others. Book signings and readings were fun, but it was hit and miss in terms of actual sales. That’s okay though, since I went into it knowing it isn’t necessarily about sales; it’s about reaching new audiences, honing new skills, and just plain connecting with others. Our brutal Canadian winter of 2013/14 also had me glad not to be out on icy roads, travelling to more distant locales.

 

There was also the business of on-line networking, marketing, and promotion of this first title, while working diligently at penning, then editing the sequel, In the Spirit of Forgiveness. Writing and editing is time-consuming work. I can, and do, sit for as much as 5-6 hours per day just on those two activities, in addition to any on-line marketing. The really cool thing though, is that it doesn’t feel like 5-6 hours. Often it feels like maybe 1-2 hours. I become so engrossed in the story and the writing that it isn’t unusual for me to glance at my watch and realize time has literally flown for me. That’s a good thing. Before I began writing, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could sit at a computer and simply type up word after word, page after page-for hours. Now, I love it. It doesn’t feel like work at all.

 

With the release of In the Spirit of Forgiveness (June 1, 2014), I’m finding myself having to dive into the publicity pool again. The water is a little chilly, and I’m having to get back into the strong and steady strokes of swimming again, but I’m enjoying it. I remind myself of all the great experiences I had last year, and look forward to new ones. The hard part of course, is finding the right venues, reaching the people who book events, and making the time to get out from behind my desk.

 

I’ve discovered that the further I move into this writing gig, there really isn’t a lot of down time. Aside from the valuable and important time I want and need to spend with family and friends, I have a job that never really ends. You see, while I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting people and sharing my work with new readers, I’ve also just finished the first draft of a third novel, The King’s Consort. The real work is now ahead of me with this new WIP (work in progress). I have editing to do, at least two rounds, before sending it out to query agents and/or publishers, followed by tons of work to polish it up before it actually gets published. Although I’m currently with a small independent publisher who has done a great job for me with the first two books, I’ve decided to seek representation and/or publishing with a larger house. I have no idea if I’ll succeed, but I believe I at least have to give it a shot with this next book. It’s in a completely different genre (fact-based historical fiction), and I’m hoping it will garner some real interest.

 

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

That means going through the entire difficult query process again, followed, inevitably, by the rejections I’m sure to receive. It’s a long, slow process, and it can be extremely intimidating. There are no guarantees it’ll be accepted anywhere, but that’s the name of the game. I figure it’s like anything new you attempt in life. You put your best foot forward, you give it your best shot, and you learn the lessons taught along the way. You also incorporate any lessons you’ve already learned. No lesson is ever wasted, whether negative or positive. I also know that, whether I pick up an agent or new publisher or not, I’ll continue to move forward with this next book. I love the story behind the facts I researched, and am keenly passionate about sharing it with readers. Because I’ve now successfully had two novels published, I’ve also gained a level of self-confidence I didn’t have before. I’m ready and excited to begin the next steps.

 

It’s daunting; this diving in again thing. But hey, every new day we wake up, we begin anew. We get up, we get dressed, and we begin our daily work. Diving back into the pool isn’t so hard the second, or third time. I know what’s coming, I gear up for the shock of cool waters, and hold my breath. Then, I start swimming long, strong strokes. Hmm, maybe I never really got out of the pool. You’re either in, or out. There is no in-between.

Fish underwater

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Sell! Sell! Sell!

Sell! Sell! Sell!

 

We are bombarded daily with ads wanting us to buy this product, or that service. The ads come on our televisions, tablets, phones, billboards, and in the venues we frequent for shopping. It seems everyone wants to sell us something, and this can be tiring. Sometimes, it’s even downright annoying.

 

Before I began writing novels, my background was in commissioned real estate and mortgage sales, so I understand the concepts and drills of selling. I was never the “hard sell” type though, which is perhaps why I got out of that business. I loved working with people, and putting pieces of the puzzles together, and although I met some wonderful, conscientious sales reps, I got tired of dealing with so many disreputable “professionals”.

 

I also wasn’t driven enough to succeed. I liked the work, but didn’t love it. So, I quit. I drifted around a bit, unsure of what really fit me, my personality, and my skill sets. I kept looking for something that excited me and drove me to want to succeed. There were plenty of things I could do, just not a lot I wanted to do. As a result, my finances suffered, as did my self-esteem. I just couldn’t seem to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I felt like a failure. I pretended it didn’t bother me, but it did.

 

I was asking for a lot; I wanted to do something meaningful to me, but couldn’t figure out what. I wasn’t making the logical connections. Then I discovered writing, and all the pieces finally fit. This is what I’m meant to do. More than that though, I began to realize that all those years in sales weren’t wasted. Before that, I worked as an office administrator, so I can type and organize an office pretty well. I’d need my experience in sales and office admin to help me write, market and promote my books. I already had the basics, and I made another connection; it’s all about building relationships.

 

Making it all fit

Making it all fit

When I’d been in sales before, I loved building relationships with my clients and other industry professionals. I’m good at it, and it comes naturally to me. I don’t have to force it at all. Writing is just another way of building even more relationships. I’ve been able to do this not only through readers, which is fantastic, but with other writers and publishing industry professionals all over the world. Sure, I want book sales, who doesn’t, but I love connecting with others on various levels. I’ve discovered so many people out there who are like me; they’re connectors. They love to share the knowledge they’ve gained, and enjoy the connections they’ve built over time. Seth Godin posted on his blog recently about this very subject, which is what got me thinking. He’s absolutely right; it isn’t about the short term gain, it’s about the long term goal.

 

People like Jonathan Gunson, of Bestseller Labs, Molly Greene, Jane Friedman, and Joanna Penn all share the wealth of their knowledge and experience with others freely and openly on their blogs and websites. Well known writers like Hugh Howey, Sylvia Day, and many others are breaking down the walls and sharing industry insights and hard won know-how with other writers climbing the ladder behind them. They’re actively changing the face of publishing in very real, tangible ways, and are encouraging others to re-examine the options. They’re building relationships by sharing what they know. They provide real value in their writing, and in their websites and blogs.

Believe me when I say that when I see one of these remarkable individuals share something on social networks, I forward and share their words, reviews, comments, and upcoming books and events. It doesn’t matter if I personally read every book they write, although I’ll definitely purchase their work too, because I’ll share with my connections and many of them will.

 

Trust must be earned

Trust must be earned

That’s the power of relationship building. It really goes back to sales 101. We don’t buy things or services because we’re told to, but because we trust that what the vendor has to offer will fill a need we have, or solve a problem we’re dealing with. Books are no different. They educate and entertain readers the world over, and writers work hard to bring them to light. That’s why it frustrates me when I hear writers say they hate marketing and promotion. They haven’t made the connection between the product, which is the book, and the message they are trying to convey, or the story they’re trying to tell.

 

I look at sales from the stand point of making connections and building relationships. That way, book marketing, promotion, and learning about the industry I’ve become avidly interested in, becomes much more fun. Social networks have taken on a new meaning for me. Not only do I keep up with family and close friends there, but I also connect with others interested in the same things I am. I learn and grow from other writers, publishers, editors, and agents. Public speaking has given me a forum to talk about my writing, publishing, and my books, but it’s also opened doors to other topics I’m keenly interested in, such as overcoming the fear of failure, and women’s issues.

 

Again, it’s all about making the connections. First, to figure out what I was looking for in my work career, then how to use what I already know to advance that career and connect with others, and finally, to learn more about writing, publishing, and book marketing. I’m not selling anything; I’m simply sharing my work and my words with anyone who’s interested. I don’t have to do the hard-sell. I just have to be me, and that’s easy, flaws and all.

 

I welcome comments, so please do share your thoughts on this issue. If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider sharing it with your social circles. Thank you.

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Beauty of Cover Art

Beauty of Cover Art

I love working with my publisher on cover art design. It’s a fun way to express creativity and bring a concrete vision to potential new readers. But book covers are more than just a pretty face. They have a message to convey. Book covers portray an image of what the book and/or characters represents. The font, colours, photos/drawings, are all vitally important to catching a reader’s attention and enticing them to read the back cover blurb, then hopefully, purchase the book.

 

It’s also a marketing tool. This is why top companies spend literally millions of dollars creating the right packaging for their product. The packaging says a lot about the company, just as a cover tells a lot about the writer and publisher. This is our first introduction. It’s also a little like being sure to wear your best outfit to a job interview, making sure your hair is combed, shoes are clean, and personal appearance is as pleasing as possible. It’s our virtual handshake and “hello” to the world.

 

It’s also how we remind past readers that we’re still here and have a new story they’re going to love. This is why there are some elements of the book cover you may want to keep consistent, like font, over-all colour scheme, tag line, etc.

 

This is really marketing 101, but most people who will buy our books don’t care about that. They want to pick up a book that intrigues them, and gives them a reason to pay their hard-earned money out for our stories. Huffington Post recently posted an article on this very subject, entitled, Yes, We Really Do Judge Books By Their Covers, written by Terri Giuliano.

 

Ensuring the cover art is as close to any descriptions we have in the book is vitally important. After all, you can’t describe a brunette heroine, then show a blonde on the cover, or a cover model with brown eyes when you describe a main protagonist with blue. It jars the reader and shows you don’t care about the details. I know they won’t realize it until they purchase or read the book, but do you really want to set them up for disappointment? Oh, and negative comments will definitely start popping up if the cover doesn’t match the narrative or story line. Trust me, people notice!

 

With my first book, In The Spirit Of Love, my publisher and I went back and forth many, many times to find the right overall look, then again in choosing the closest male model depiction for Sir Richard. With the locket we chose to feature on the cover, I actually had to go back into the manuscript and alter the description to ensure it matched what we were showing on the cover. Simply put, it matters.

 

High Five!

High Five!

As we continue to work on putting the final touches to the sequel, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, again, we’ve been working hard to find just the right look. So when readers compare the story line, they can see we’ve taken care to match the cover to the narrative.

It’s a lot of work, and yes, it may cost extra money to get it right, but it’s an expense that’s well worth it. Once the print version is out there, it’s out there for all time. Yes, you can update and change it later, but somewhere an original will still exist. You want to be proud of what you’re putting out into the world. It’s your baby.

 

For the writer, this is even more important, since readers identify with the author, not the publisher or cover artist. In fact, few people pay any attention at all to who the publisher, editor, or cover artist are. Unless it’s poor job, or on the flip side, a really great one, most people don’t care. They’re going to judge the writer on the entire package. Is it fair? Possibly not, since we don’t always have final say, but it is what it is.

 

Personally, I want to be proud of the finished product. I want to be beaming with pride when I attend a book tour, or public speaking event where my book is going to be centre stage. It’s my name that’s on the front cover in big, bold letters, not anyone else’s. It’s my face they’re going to associate that book with.

 

In the talks I do at libraries, bookstores, schools, etc. I talk about the importance of cover art, and use one of my books to demonstrate the different aspects of it. Can you imagine how that would go over if I hated it, or was disappointed in it? I’ve been in marketing and sales for years, so I know that I can’t “sell” something I honestly don’t believe in.

 

No Mirror Images

No Mirror Images

You also don’t want your book covers to look so similar in style that readers are going to think they’ve already read it. This is especially important when selling ebooks, since all the e-venues use thumbnail sized covers, and if your covers look too similar, you’ve got the problem of someone passing it by and thinking “I’ve read that one”.

 

That’s why some authors include the words “sequel”, or “Book Two”, or even just roman numerals to indicate the subsequent books in a series. You want to make book selection easy for potential readers. I know if I’m standing in my favourite book store, I don’t want to have to scrutinize too closely whether or not this is a book I will like, have read before, or, in the case of a gift, is something I think the recipient will enjoy. The old rule of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) definitely applies here.

 

Conversely, cover art that tells a potential reader nothing about the story will often have them passing over it. Unless you’re writing non-fiction, straight text is rarely a good idea. Cover art doesn’t have to be so elaborate that it confuses the reader, but it does have to intrigue them, and by intrigue, I don’t mean be obscure. This is why certain genres have evolved to include easily identifiable elements. For example, romance books usually depict lovers, a male or female protagonist, or some romantic element that tells the prospective reader exactly what they’re getting when they buy that book. Other genres have certain elements on the cover art that readers expect to see too, and if it’s not there, or is so elaborate the intent is hidden, you risk readers putting the book down and moving on to something they can identify with.

 

The cover of a book can also form part of an author’s branding. It might be as simple as using the same font for each title in a series, or the author’s name, a tag line that follows the author with every book, or an over-all look in terms of colour and layout. It’s what helps readers identify the author at a quick glance. Well-known writer and blogger, Joanna Penn, addresses the issue of author branding in her article, entitled, Branding for Writers: An Essential Step to Building Your Author Platform. I would say that cover art is an important part of an author’s branding and platform.

 

So, now that I’ve shared my thoughts on the importance of cover art, what do you think? Have you ever purchased, or not purchased, a book based on it’s cover?

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Branding

Branding

I’ve talked before about the importance of book marketing and author branding to build a platform, but it’s also about getting out there, from behind the computer screen, and connecting with people. For authors deep into the process of writing, at whatever stage, it’s easy to get lost in your own world. I know for me, once I sit down and start working, which I do five days a week from 9am to 5pm, hours fly by. I don’t even realize it’s happened, I’m so into what I’m doing. Before I know it, the day is gone and I’ve barely moved from my office. That’s why I know firsthand that finding balance and remembering to live life by connecting with the people you care about and the things you love, are so vital to a writer’s sanity, to say nothing of their relationships.          

This on-line stuff is great, and I love it, but I’m discovering something else. When I get out there and do the book signings at a local library or book store, I’m able to connect much more directly with readers and people who are interested in what I do. Although I was initially nervous to be “in the spotlight”, so to speak, I’ve discovered something else about myself. I love it. I didn’t think I would, but I love answering the questions and hearing other people’s points of view. It doesn’t matter to me whether they’ve read my book or not, although it’s nice when they have. The fact is, these people who attend a book reading/signing have an innate curiosity about books, writing and publishing, and I happen to have gone through some of the initial steps. I’m no expert. I never claim to be. But I have learned a few things since I started this journey, and if I can share some of those experiences, or answer questions people have, then that’s great. 

I also know that people remember what they’ve personally experienced. If they’ve attended a book reading, they’ll remember me, even if they don’t read my genre. They might tell someone else they know who does. Even people who stop for a moment at a bookstore signing, or glance my way and read my “Meet The Author” sign on the desk, might remember my name later, even if they don’t remember where they saw it. My goal is that, if they hear or see my name, or the name of my book again, it just might trigger that “I’ve heard that before,” response. That’s what marketing is all about. It’s about connecting with your target audience and getting them to remember you. If you do it right, and often enough, you’ll begin building a brand that people will associate with you and your work. That’s important. 

The Key

The Key

The key is to carefully choose the message you want people to take away about you, as an author, and your work. It has to permeate everything you do that relates to your work. Your social networking posts, your blog, your website, everything you send out there has to subliminally send the right message about who you are and what you write. Too often I read Facebook or Twitter posts that are negative, ridiculous, politically or religiously incorrect, or even worse, share crude remarks that should have no business being on a public forum. I know it’s your right, but is it really the message you want to send to people who’ve never met you? Right, wrong, or indifferent, people make judgements about you all the time, and how you present yourself in public forums is critical. That’s why I’m so careful not to post anything too personal, or negative. These sites are windows into my “brand”, who I am, and what I believe in. If you’re in business, and make no mistake, writing is a business, you’ll want to carefully consider what goes out to the world at large. It’s not just your friends, but your friend’s friends who can read and share what you’ve put out there. 

To me, branding also means looking the part when appearing in public. I always make a point of dressing in a professional, stylish manner. This doesn’t mean a suit and high heels, it means looking as if I’ve taken the time to care how I look. Each time I step out the door to attend a public function, I try to look professional as possible. No jeans, tee-shirts, shorts, sloppy clothes. I call it traditional feminine. A nice blouse, jacket and pants or skirt, with comfortable, stylish shoes does it for me. My hair and make-up are done, and so are my nails. That’s the image I want to portray. Professional. I also smile, chat, and generally keep things light and easy. That’s my style. I don’t try to force something that feels fake. I’m creating a brand people can identify with, but one that feels true to me. It’s how they’ll see me over time, and I’m hoping they’ll relate to me because it’s genuinely how I feel about myself. This business of writing is fun, it’s engaging, and it’s my heart’s desire, but it’s also a business that I take it seriously. My personal appearance and manner of connecting with people hopefully states this, without me having to shout it. Each writer must find a personal style that tells people who they are, before even opening their mouth. But be aware that all the right words won’t help if you’re personal appearance screams sloppy, unprofessional and/or unkempt, if you want to be taken seriously.

I’m finding that the professionals I’m working with; librarians, book store owners/managers, etc., also appreciate this. It gives them an idea of who I am and how I’ll present myself to their patrons. They work hard at cultivating clients and building their own brands. If they’re going to allow me to come in and showcase my work, they want to be assured I can do so in a manner that resonates with their own style. It’s as important to them as it is to me. 

Cozy reading

Cozy reading

The other great thing about getting out from behind the desk is the fun I get to have in meeting new people. Just the other day I was in talking to the owner of a small bookstore, The Village Bookshop in Bayfield, Ontario. This is a small, cozy bookshop the likes of times gone by. It’s a wonderful shop, and the owner has obviously worked extremely hard to build her clientele, and her own brand. She generously supports local authors via consignment sales of work she feels will appeal to her patrons, and where she feels there’s a fit, book readings/signings. How did I meet her? I attended a book reading/signing at the Exeter  Public Library in the nearby town of Exeter, Ont. That librarian suggested that I absolutely must contact this woman and introduce myself. The librarian said she knew, based on my reading and our meeting, that I would be a good candidate for this very selective book store. So, I called her. I introduced myself and told her where I’d gotten her name. She was very pleased to hear that word was continuing to spread about her business, and invited me to come chat with her. That chat lasted over an hour, as we discussed everything from her store, her clientele, and what she looked for in an author and their work. It was such a pleasure meeting this woman, who not only has a huge love of the literary world and respect for writers, but has built a strong, reputable business. I also found that her own style and personality resonated with me, so I’m thrilled to be associated with this type of business. You can bet I’ll be supporting her and the other authors she invites to her readings via sharing the news any way I can. You see, she and her shop become part of my brand. They mimic the message I want to send, and I believe in supporting those who support me. Same with the libraries who host me, and the larger book stores, like Coles Books, (Indigo/Chapters/Coles) who do the same. 

I don’t have all the answers when it comes to this monster called marketing and branding. I’m still learning and experimenting. I only know I’m having fun discovering what works for me, and meeting new people along the way. Who knows, some of them may find their way into a book or two of mine in the future (names changed of course).

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Fire

Fire

I was reminded of a favourite song of mine the other day, Standing Outside The Fire, by Garth Brooks. The song focuses on the need for people to take chances in their lives and to create the destinies they want. I truly believe that. I always have. I guess that’s why that song, and others like it, strike such a strong chord within me.

When we write anything, an article, a song, a poem, a story, a letter, anything at all, we have to believe that what we have to say is worth others hearing. Some call that ego. Maybe it is, but maybe its also about sharing this human condition of living. I like to think it’s about connecting with others on a basic level.

When a writer writes a story, they create characters who have to DO something. The characters must have a purpose, needs, flaws and desires that readers can relate to, otherwise the story is boring. Plot lines and flow charts aside, it’s the characters who must echo humanity and human lives. Even in science fiction, horror or other genres where the characters aren’t actually human, the characters must exhibit a human character. They have to move the story along by their words and actions, just like we do.

A writer's space

A writer’s space

But by nature, most writers are introspective and can be a little more solitary than some people. We are happiest to sit at our desks and create worlds, characters and dialogues in our heads while putting them to paper, or on a computer screen. Then the book comes out. Now we’re supposed to be PR experts and marketing moguls. Uh, maybe not so much. But if we want our work to be a commercial success, and if we don’t that’s fine too, but if we do, we have to step outside our comfort zone. We have to push ourselves to get out there and promote our work and ourselves so people will know we, and it, exists. I write for two reasons, because I love it, and because I am hoping others will get some real enjoyment from the stories I’ve crafted. I hope the characters will come to life for readers and provide a measure of entertainment and escape. Oh, and yes, I would like some financial redemption for that work. No apology. If I have to make money somewhere, this is how I’d like to do it.

 That means having confidence enough to push myself beyond where I’d normally go. I’m not an experienced public speaker, and I don’t necessarily seek the lime light. I watch famous writers like James Patterson, J.K. Rowling and others who have learned how to reach out to readers and brand themselves to the buying public. Maybe they’re more extroverted than I am, but possibly not. They just know it has to be done, so they do it. I like to think I can too. I’m fortunate to have been blessed with years of watching both my mother and younger sister, Stephanie, in public speaking engagements. Each is amazing and inspirational. They speak about women, to women, and business professionals about creating the business and lives they want. I love listening to them. They are my inspiration. My middle sister, Melanie, runs a very successful business with her husband and has done for the past fifteen years or more. They’ve learned a lot along the way, and she’s definitely had to step out of her comfort zone to promote her business, on more than one occasion. My brother, Stephen, followed his dream of playing in the CFL when he was younger and now runs his own contracting company. He wanted to play in the Greycup, and damn if he didn’t do it! I’m so inspired by these people and their drive. I’ve always been the quiet one. The studious one. Now, I’m having to step outside my comfort zone and pull out all the stops in marketing and promoting the heck out of my book. I’ve been contacting local libraries to ask for book readings/signings, I’ve contacted local news publications to ask if they’d be interested in interviewing me as a local emerging author, I’ve had to start reaching outside myself in so many areas I feel my arms are growing (too bad my legs wouldn’t). It doesn’t feel natural to me, but it’s important. When I needed to have my book on Kobo because I’m Canadian and Kobo is a major venue in Canada, supported by major book retailers and libraries, I stepped in and liazed between my publisher and Kobo directly to encourage a working relationship. It worked and In The Spirit Of Love is now on Kobo, in addition to all the other venues it’s been on.

Each step I’ve taken these past months has been difficult, but also fun. I’m learning and growing and gaining confidence. My first public appearance was at a book reading/signing at a small local library. I had no clue how to proceed, and neither did they, but I went with my gut instinct and kept it light, easy and hopefully fun, for the attendees. I’d never done anything like it before, where I’d be the center of attention, and you know what, I liked it. I was fine, and I brought my mother with me for moral support, which was a great idea.

My point is this. As writers, we have to make our characters stretch and grow to gain the desired objective. As people, we do too. While recently talking to the manager of a local major book retailer who is considering placing my books on consignment and hosting a book signing, she told me flat out, “I want an author who will connect with my patrons and draw them in. If he or she just sits there, I’m not going to be happy, and I won’t invite them back.” Point taken, challenge accepted. I might bring my mother with me though, for moral support.

So, like Garth Brooks sings, “Life is not tried if it’s merely survived, If you’re standing outside the fire”.

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Create a To Do List

Create a To Do List

People keep asking me, how do I stay focused and productive every day? Well, each day I begin with a “To Do” list of things I’d like to accomplish. It helps me sort out what I need to do and (hopefully) not get so easily sidetracked. When you work from home in relative silence, getting sidetracked is easily done. There’s always something you could/should be doing around the house, or the weather’s so nice you’d rather be outside doing  just about anything, or someone calls and you’d rather chat, and then there’s the reading. It’s no surprise that writers are also avid readers, so the temptation to just curl up and indulge can be huge.

But I have to work, so after writing out my list, I tackle each task one at a time and check it off my list. It could be as simple as “check and respond to emails”, or “WIP”, which means I need to actually WRITE something on my current book. As things crop up, or I remember them, I add them to the list. What I don’t complete one day, I move over onto the next day’s list. This keeps me semi organized. At least that’s the plan. Usually it works.

A large part of my day lately has had to involve marketing and promotion of my new release. Now, I’d rather just sit and write, or do any of the other thousand things I’d like to do, but if I want to make a career out of this writing gig, and I do, then I need to take it seriously. If I want my book to sell, and if I want to grow my readership, then I have to work at it. I knew going into this writing thing that it would be a lot of work, and I wasn’t disappointed. Good thing I like challenges and don’t mind the hard work. What I don’t like is feeling like I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, what might work, what doesn’t work for me, where to go for resources, who/what/when to connect.

Networking works!

Networking works!

Social media has taken over a large chunk of on-line marketing and promotion, so being relatively active on FaceBook, Goodreads, Twitter is a must, as is having a regular (key is regular) blog and staying top of mind with those who follow you. Your readers and followers might also help spread the word about your work, so an updated, hopefully interesting website with current content is important. That’s it. Simple. Yep, simple, but time-consuming and necessary. If you don’t want to promote your work and are just writing for the sake of writing, then you don’t have to do any of these things, but as in life, if you want to succeed, you have to be willing to put your back into it.

Research is also a large component to promotion and marketing for a new author. After all, you have to know where to go, what the options are, what to do, etc. Thank goodness the internet is a treasure trove of valuable information and websites to learn just about anything and everything you ever needed to know about writing, publishing, networking, promoting and marketing your work (which is separtate from researching things for the story you’re writing). Sites such as The Savvy Book Marketer and Shelley Lieber’s Wordy Woman are terrific resources, as are other authors. Start following authors you admire and reading what they have to say, but don’t be afraid to branch out to new, unknown authors you’ve discovered and following their blogs. Some of the best ideas and suggestions, as well as support, has come from these amazing resources. They’re free, interactive, and allow each writer to explore what works and what doesn’t, while also giving hands-on information on how to’s and links to other sites of interest.

Publications like  Writer Gazette, Publisher’s Lunch, and Writer’s Digest are invaluable in their content for writers of any genre. Use any and all information until you find what works for you, and don’t be afraid to put your own spin on things. After all, you are the master at the helm of your own ship. Steer it where you like, because the beauty is that nothing you do is wrong, it’s all just a learning  journey. Rather than be uptight and worry about whether what I’m doing is the right thing, I just try to have fun with it and do the absolute best I can. If I need to fix something later I can, and if something works particularly well, I’ll use it as much as I feel I need to.

In the midst of all this social networking and on-line research, don’t forget your own backyard though. Explore avenues like local newspapers, for example. I was nervous about contacting my local libraries to see if they’d be interested in my work. I mean, these are libraries for heaven’s sake, and I’m an unknown nobody! I’m not really an agressive sales person, never wanted to be, so this felt like pushing myself on people who may or may not be interested. But I’d committed to doing everthing I could, and that meant putting myself out there, front and centre. I’m fully aware (thanks to my years in real estate, mortgage sales and more recently, incentive marketing, that what I’m really selling out there is me. My books will or won’t stand on their own merit, but I also have to be comfortable and confident enough in myself to stick out my hand and introduce myself. This actually doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m fortunate to have watched my mother and younger sisters do this with great aplomb and success in their own businesses. I just straighten my shoulders and tell myself, ‘If they can do it, I can do it’. And I can.

Shout it out

Shout it out

You see, I’d sent out a “press release” introduction to several local newspapers over a month ago, but none had responded. The success with the local libraries gave me the courage to follow up with two of our larger local newspapers, The Exeter Times Advance, and the Forest Standard/Parkhill Gazette and ask (bold, I know) if they’d be interested in doing an interview with me as a local author. When they each said yes, I was ecstatic! What I’m learning from all this is, first and foremost, I can do this, and second, people just might be more open and receptive than I’d originally thought.

I keep saying this writing thing is teaching me about life; the parallels are always there. It’s also helping me to grow and expand my knowledge on so many fronts, I sometimes have trouble shutting my mind off at night (you know what that’s like). What I know for sure is that I have so much more to learn, and love the experiences, connections and opportunities that keep coming my way. Will it all be sunshine and roses, not likely, but hopefully I will learn something from those too, even if it’s only not to repeat the mistakes. Oh, and I’m also aware of how important it is to just shut it all off and spend time doing the things in my life that are important besides writing and promotion. Things like family, getting outside, taking breaks and sometimes yes, just goofing off for the day and enjoying the moments of sheer freedom. I’m not saying I have it all figured out, but I know balance has to be in play, or I’ll burn out. Today’s a working day, but tomorrow…?

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Cheers!

Cheers!

So, now that I’ve written and had my first book published, drank the congratulatory champagne and danced the victory dance, I’m left to wonder, now what?

Of course I have the WIP to continue, which is work enough, but what about getting the word out there about my book. I mean, much as I’m thrilled with the response from family and friends (and I definitely am), there’s the whole wide world I need to reach out to now. Separate and apart from the writing is the marketing and promotion, a beast unto itself.

Before the release of my book, I did invest quite a bit of time investigating websites, becoming proactive in social networking via FaceBook, but what about Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest? What about requesting honest reviews of readers and asking them to post them on sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and so on? What about face-to-face appearances, readings and book signings?

Whoa, this is starting to look like a TON of work, and it is. I read a while back that book marketing and promotion can take up considerable time for an author, because he/she needs to reach out to readers to let them know their book is available for sale. Not only that, but as an author, you want the feedback. ‘Am I on the right track?’ ‘Do people like and respond to my story and characters?’ ‘Do they like me?’

And so it goes. As I mentioned before, writing is a lot like life, and the similarities continue to intrigue me. In order to do well in this world, we need to be willing to risk something of ourselves. We need to be willing to invest in ourselves and trust that at least some others will respond positively to our efforts. Otherwise, why bother? Why put ourselves through the pain and anguish of exposing our deepest hopes and dreams?

storytellingIt’s because we believe we have some talent for storytelling. We believe we have something of value for others to relate to, even if only for entertainment sake. We strike out on this lonely path, and along the way, if we’re lucky, we meet others whose paths merge or intersect with ours. We realize we are not alone, and that they too share the dream. Authors come together, sometimes loosely, and sometimes very tightly knit, to support and encourage.

Ah, but when the reader reaches back and gives praise or useful comment, the writer is blessed. They are validated. They have been heard. The fact that another person has invested his/her time and hard-earned money to purchase your book resonates in a special place within the writer’s heart. It is a warm, sunny space.

 But how to reach the reader, and how to connect with other writers? In my opinion, one step at a time. I recommend researching the options and trying the ones that seem to connect with you. On-line networking has become globally massive, with the potential to connect with more people than ever before, but you have to be willing to participate, and participate with care and professionalism. Still, what works well for one writer may not suit the personality of another, but make no mistake, EVERY writer must put themselves out there and connect on some level.  Even the long-held masters of the craft can’t expect to sit in their writing caves and ignore the outside world for long. Yes, the Work In Progress (WIP) is of paramount importance, but so too is connecting with your audience. Agents and publicity people notwithstanding, readers love to hear from the author directly. They love to ask those burning questions and know that the writer is human.

Now I’m such a newbie, I had no idea how to go about things like press releases and book tours, but I did compose a press release and sent it out to many of the local newspapers. A week ago I was contacted by one of the larger ones and asked if I’d be interested in an interview. Are you kidding me? I was ecstatic! One week to the date of the interview, I purchased several copies of that newspaper and there it was – the cover art of my book, my photo, and the article. A half-page of information about me and my work shone back at me. I learned something from that exercise; ask and ye shall receive. Keep quiet, and no one knows you have something to share.

Another example of something that always works well is word of mouth. When my daughter talked to her local librarian last week, she mentioned my book. The librarian was quite interested in learning of this new (local) author and asked my daughter to have me stop in at the branch and bring along a copy of my book. I was thrilled at the opportunity. It’s no surprise that librarians love and support books, so this was an ideal fit. I had ordered fifty-five copies of my book to sell to family and friends who had asked for a signed copy. Now this librarian said she’d like to purchase and read it. It doesn’t get better than that. A complete stranger wants to read your book and possibly recommend it to others who trust her judgement.

Librarians Rock!

Librarians Rock!

After meeting that first librarian, I then gathered up the courage to contact another librarian at a separate branch and ask if she’d be interested as well. Well lo and behold, that gracious lady immediately jumped on board, asking me to bring her five copies of my book to distribute to other county branches in her area! We chatted when I brought in my books and she asked if I would consider doing a chapter reading, Q & A, and book signing in the Spring. You bet I would!

And so it begins. I’ve now begun contacting the local libraries (we have a lot of them), and have been thrilled with the response. In two days I pre-booked two book readings and sold eight books to libraries. Even though my books are primarily available on e-readers and e-devices, I was pleased to learn that libraries not only promote this venue, but assist patrons with selecting and downloading books they’re interested in. One of our small libraries actually has three e-readers available for loan, to be signed out on a two week basis and returned, exactly like a book! Now that’s being proactive.

As I continue working and networking, I find I’m meeting some amazing people, and I’m learning new things every day. The first draft WIP is almost complete, as I now have people continually asking when the sequel going to be ready. Kind of lights a fire under the butt when you have people clamouring for your next work.

For now I’ll keep working and learning as I go, growing my base and putting down roots. What I know for sure is that this writing gig is what I was meant to do. At long last, after a lifetime of trials and errors, of mountains and valleys, I’ve found something that fills a part of my soul I hadn’t even realized was there. What more could I ask?

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