blogging, book promotion, marketing, Uncategorized

I Don’t Know Nuttin’

A writer’s confession

by Mike Van Horn

I don’t know what genre my stories fit into. Yeah, it’s science fiction. Not hard sci-fi, since my heroine flies off to other stars. I know what it’s not. Not dreary dystopian, not vicious alien invaders, not far fuzzy future. 

But what IS my genre? Maybe friendly first contact with personal journey? But try to find that in the Amazon categories. 

Someone called my stories space opera. But there’s not even a fat lady to sing at the end. 

I also don’t know who my target readers are. As I see it, my target readers are people who like my stories. But who are they? How do we even find out? It’s not like I’m writing romance or YA or steampunk or zombies, which all have definable audiences. 

When I look at my Amazon reviews, they seem quite diverse: women and men, American and European. Amazon gives us no info on who buys our books. I’d love to interview my readers to see who they are.

I don’t know what the market is demanding. All the gurus say, scan the other books in your genre and see what’s selling the most, then write that. Ugh. First of all, there are so many sci fi books out there that I think are just terrible, or full of clichés. Of no interest to me at all. 

Secondly, I don’t see many others that are “friendly first contact.” When one woman learned I was writing about friendly aliens who came as tourists and traders, she said, “That’s unusual.” I responded, “That’s why I’m writing it.” 

Thirdly, I write what turns me on. For a long time I’ve been annoyed by the hostile alien invasion trope, and I wanted to write something different. I did no market research on the demand for this topic.

I don’t plan out my stories ahead of time. What I’m writing now started out as a short story, then it metastasized into a trilogy. And now I’m writing Book 4 of the trilogy. And in Book 4, I have no idea what’s going to happen to my heroine at the end. I’m waiting for her to tell me. 

I don’t spend all my time reading other people’s stories, as gurus insist we should. Where would I get the time to do that? Most of my reading is non-fiction. And the novels I’m drawn to are often from years ago. 

I don’t know where my story came from. Interviewers ask, “Where’d you get the idea for your book?” My answer, “I don’t remember.” “Well, how come you have a woman as your MC?” “I dunno. She just popped up in my mind, like my anima or muse.”

I’m doing all these things wrong. I don’t know whether I even count as a real writer. 

But I’m having a great time doing it! 

Mike’s trilogy includes Aliens Crashed in My Back Yard, My Spaceship Calls Out to Me, Space Girl Yearning, and Alien Invasion: There Goes the Neighborhood.
GalaxyTallTales.com

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book promotion, marketing, Uncategorized

Media Pack for The English Professor

A media pack is a document containing information about your book and used for launches as a package of information about your story. The point of a media pack is to catch the eye of publicists and reviewers and make them want to write an article or do an interview. It should be a one-stop shop for all of the information needed. Most media packs can be downloaded from your website or attached to an email. What should your media pack contain? Here’s a typical media pack. The author is Rachel de Vine and her latest book,  The English Professor, released yesterday, 19 Jul 20.

About Rachel (who also writes as Juliette Banks)
Rachel lives in a rural retreat in the countryside of England. Formerly a farmer, she now simply writes and lives, happily, in an old Victorian house, with a beautiful garden, which is another passion, other than writing. Her third passion is travelling to exotic foreign destinations—sadly now limited because of Covid-19.

She writes mainly erotic romance, with strong, sometimes imperfect characters, and often with some thrills and adventure included. She sees herself as simply a storyteller.

 The English Professor
I have written about 14 books to date, as both Rachel de Vine and Juliette Banks. This book is my third I have published myself. I love the whole process from start to finish – writing, editing, formatting, making the cover and the graphics – I love it all.

I honestly don’t remember where the idea for The English Professor came from. An idea springs into my mind from somewhere, I start to write, and then the story just unfolds. I am what is called a “pantser”. I plan nothing in advance. I also only write one draft. If it becomes stale, my writing suffers, and I believe my story loses its interest – especially for me. So I write the story, edit a few times, then it is complete (I hope.)

If my readers enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it, then I am content.

Media Pack for
The English Professor
By Rachel de Vine

Genre: Erotic Romance
Published by Rachel de Vine
Publishing date: July 19, 2020

Universal Link:  mybook.to/TheEnglishProfessor

Blurb

Eleanor
From the moment I first looked into his eyes, I knew I was in trouble. He was a man I found impossible to resist—someone who drew me in like a moth towards the light. He found the part of me that craved the enticement he offered. But our relationship was forbidden. He was my university English Professor and he paid a high price for our affair. But would I pay an even higher price if we never met again?

Dan
I knew I should have walked away, but I was weak. At first it was just the thrill of the illicit sex. But it became so much more—until disaster struck. Our lives were destined to intertwine, but the timing was never right. Had I had lost the love of my life? Could I ever recapture the feelings I only had with her?

Note: This book contains some steamy excerpts. If this offends you, please do not buy.

Tag Lines:
She had the confidence of youth, that many men find hard to resist
He was willing to teach and she was eager to learn
She had the innocence of youth, but the sexual allure of a mature woman
Would they always remain ships that pass in the night?

Excerpt 1
Eleanor
From a distance of nearly twenty years, it is easy to see the mistakes we both made, and how it could have been different. But of course, hindsight’s a wonderful thing. I’m sure Dan too would want to rewrite history if he was able. It would have saved a lot of heartache. But we are where we are. As a writer, I decided to write down our story, as I remembered it. Having met up with Dan again, I asked him to write down his thoughts about the early part of our relationship. These are our stories.

 I thought the English professor was going to be old and staid and…boring—as we imagine an English Professor would be. Surprisingly he turned out to be younger than I was expecting, and somewhat intriguing too. No more than forty I guessed—which was, I suppose, old when compared to my youthful twenty-one. I was beginning my last year at university, and he was new to the faculty. As soon as we met, I knew there was going to be trouble. I was usually good at sensing trouble. He had beautiful hair and “come-to-bed eyes”, with a rich, chocolaty voice. I wasn’t as naïve as some of the girls in my year. He had the look of a predatory fox, let loose in the henhouse—although he never misbehaved in lectures, as some of the guys did. He was perfectly correct, in words or manner, no matter how provocative was the teasing by some of the students. They were cruel, knowing that if the Professor responded in kind, he’d be in trouble with the Dean. I hated their behaviour, which made what happened rather ironic.

I saw him a couple of times at lectures, although we never spoke. It was only when I went to his room to deliver an essay that we had our first conversation. I should have given it to him in class, and was worried about missing the deadline. He was one of the few staff who lived at the college, in a separate block from the students—perhaps because of his single status. It was cold, and he had an open fire burning in his room. There was a smell of toast and old books. Piles of papers and pamphlets lay on top of his desk, and his filing system appeared to be heaps on the floor. I quite liked that sort of disorder. I shared a room with a neat freak, and her obsession with reorganising our limited space drove me wild.

“How can you find anything among that lot?” she would wail, in despair.

“Easy. I rummage through the pile, and by a miracle it appears…eventually.”

Professor Jamieson, Dan, as I later called him, was lean and energetic, with eyes that seemed to see right through any defence his young students employed. He seemed aware that his youthful good looks would make him a target for flirtation by his students, but never responded to it, as far as I knew.

“Ah, Miss Grainger, please come in.” Professor Jamieson grinned at me, and swept a couple of old newspapers from a chair so I could sit down. Students were addressed more formally in those days than they are now, when staff and students are on first names – best mates – terms.

“I’ve brought the essay you wanted, Professor Jamieson. I’m sorry it’s late.”

He looked delighted to see me, however, and not at all annoyed by the lateness of my work. Was his subsequent behaviour in any way predatory? Perhaps, by some standards, it was, but if so, he wasn’t the only predatory person in the room. I had brushed my long, thick hair until it shone, and was wearing a short, tartan skirt with over-the-knee socks, which left a tantalising couple of inches of bare thigh, and my new black Doc Martens. Of course, I would shudder to dress like that now, even if, at the time, it seemed cool and sexy. We all dressed in what we thought was an individual, non-fashionable way—and ended up all looking alike. How I laugh now. Back then, however, we were desperate to make our mark; to look different from everyone else; especially the few older women on campus, who we mocked in our arrogant, juvenile way, as we swore we would never become as boring as them.

Perhaps I was naïve, but more likely I was a bit provocative as I flashed my bare thigh and maybe even a glimpse of my knickers as I sat down in my short skirt. I knew he was aroused. I could feel it in the air. And because he was aroused, I was too. There’s nothing that makes a person feel sexier, than to sense the effect they are having on another. It made me feel powerful, back then. In fact, it still makes me feel powerful, even though I know the power is slowly slipping away from me as I move away from youth and into middle age. Not that I consider nearing forty to be middle age. As an older woman, I still have a half-decent figure and attractive face; though I need to rely a lot more on my brain and personality these days—oh, and experience, of course. There’s no-one more powerful than a sexually experienced woman, in my opinion. The confidence radiates from us. No need for childish games any more. We tell it as it is. And if some men back away in fear, then we say “adios” and ask them to close the door on the way out.

Excerpt 2
He resumed his stance, leaning against the fireplace, while sipping from the beer. I studied him for a second. I had little – in truth, no – experience of older men, other than friends of my father, who I found decidedly unattractive, in a sexual sense. Dan’s presence and bearing, however, brought forward powerful feelings within me, that had no connection to my brain. I waited for him to say something, which he eventually did.

“I like you, Eleanor. I enjoy reading your essays. You have something interesting to say. And not all regurgitated from online sites, either. I can tell when a student’s work is original.”

I was touched. I knew I had a moderate talent, though rarely received praise such as this. His next words were completely unexpected.

“What are your reading tastes? Do you, by chance enjoy reading erotica?”

I was slightly stunned. Did he know about the book I kept in my underwear drawer? Of course not. Was he just guessing? Did I look like someone who enjoyed reading erotica? He smiled.

“I’ve embarrassed you now. I’m sorry.”

“No, not at all…it was just an unexpected question. But yes, I do read erotica from time to time.”

I was claiming experiences that were a little over-exaggerated. But he had hit a nerve. For the first time I felt I could admit to this without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. I told him about reading D H Lawrence, and we chatted for a while about the writer and his work—once considered so risqué, but now accepted by most as great literature.

Dan gave a wry smile, and I thought for a moment he was going to continue the discussion, but he appeared to check himself. He remained silent, and I felt the evening was at an end. I rose from the chair and said goodnight, and was almost at the door before he called me back.

“Would you like to come back again next Friday?”

Maybe I should have paused and thought more before answering, but of course I didn’t.

“Yes—yes, I would. Thank you.”

It became a regular date. Every Friday I would turn up at his room and we would sit by the fire and talk. For all his cool, calm, sex appeal, I had a feeling that Dan was a little lonely. Or was he using a technique to reel me in? Some might have said so, but I didn’t believe he was.

It was on the following Friday that I plucked up the nerve and told him about my copy of The Story of O. He didn’t respond with anything other than interest.

“What did you think of it?”

“I suppose it shocked me at first. I’d never read anything like that—about a woman submitting herself to a man in such a way.” I paused for a breath, before I continued. “But it excited me.” There, I had said it. I had told him, and he didn’t look shocked or amused or titillated.

“I would say that’s a not uncommon reaction. It excites some people; disgusts others. I, too, found it exciting when I read it. There’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of, in your reaction.”

Having revealed my secret I became more relaxed, more open: happy to open up more. He didn’t make me feel ashamed about it. I thought he might have said more about The Story of O, but he didn’t. Instead he went over to the table and picked up two books sitting there.

“I thought you might like to read these. I think you’d enjoy them.”

“Oh, I…yes, thank you.” I was thanking him for a present yet unseen.

“I wouldn’t share them around, though?”

I suspected he was leading me down a path from where I may find it hard to return. A voice in my head urged me on, however. He excited me in ways I had never been excited before. I also knew we would both get into trouble if our friendship was discovered. We had done nothing wrong, yet. It was the word ‘yet’, however, that told me it was only a matter of time. I tingled over every inch of my body.

Excerpt 3
Dan
I knew as soon as I met Eleanor, she was a woman I would find hard to leave alone. I was completely aware of the dangers lurking for a reasonably young professor, amid large numbers of young, attractive and impressionable female students. I had seen a couple of colleagues in the past, fall victim to temptation, and it rarely ended well. Until now I had managed to avoid such attachments, even though the opportunity had presented itself more than once. But I knew the risk to my reputation and career, as well as the damage such infatuation could cause to the young women involved. But meeting Eleanor had knocked me for six. It was more than her physical appearance, attractive as it was. There was something in her eyes, her demeanour, her expressiveness, that shrieked of sensuality. Something I had not seen in a woman of her age before. It drew me in like a magnet.

Despite meeting and becoming attracted to Eleanor, I wasn’t a man who only had eyes for younger women. I’d dated plenty of women of my own age. It was inevitable, however, when surrounded by nubile young women with perky breasts, long, bare legs and flirtatious manner, that the temptations to stray were strong. I had managed to ignore the obvious come-on signals from my current students. And had succeeded admirably until Eleanor. She wasn’t even one who made come-on signals. I can’t explain why I had such a strong reaction to her as soon as I saw her. She had an aura of sensual sexuality that went straight to the thinking part of my anatomy—my cock. I’m being facetious here, of course. I did try to use my brain in matters of sex, but I was simply bowled over by this girl—or young woman, should I say? At twenty-one she wasn’t a child. And at thirty-nine, I couldn’t be described as a dirty old man, could I? The fact remained, however, that there were strict rules back then regarding fraternisation between staff and students. In the years since, there seems to have been a relaxation in these rules—too late for me however.

I had a liking for certain elements of kink in my sex life, although I could hardly be compared with the Marquis de Sade. I found bondage and discipline, with willing partners, a turn on, yet didn’t demand it if it wasn’t freely given. It had been a while since I’d had such a relationship, and certainly not with the previous one that had ended so disastrously. As soon as I met Eleanor, however, the feeling she might share my interests hit me squarely between the eyes. I had no doubt she would be responsive to such an approach. Yes, I should have simply left it to my imagination, but all sense and reason left my brain when I first met her alone in my room that day. When I decided to give her the two books to read, I wanted to gauge her reaction to it, and my hunch was proved right.

The first few evenings, when we simply talked and drank beer, reinforced my opinion that Eleanor exuded sensuality, and would probably enjoy reading the books. I honestly didn’t know what her thoughts were towards me, but I was already smitten by then. I looked forward to her return visit with nervous trepidation. If she returned, bringing with her the college hierarchy, then I was done for, finished; my career would be over. While I awaited her arrival, I cursed my stupid whim to give her the books to read.

Excerpt 4
I felt secure within his arms, and I knew I didn’t want to leave. Perhaps the next move would have to come from me. I reached up and kissed him on his lips. He responded and kissed me back for a few seconds, before turning his head a little and whispering hoarsely in my ear.

“I want to make love to you, Eleanor. Would you like that too?”

I nodded.

He kissed me again—this time more forcefully. Our lips and tongues became engaged, and I felt a deep longing in my sex. I wanted him very much.

Dan broke away, before taking my hand and leading me into his bedroom and closing the door. The room was cosy, rather than fashionable, with soft lighting and dark, rich colours, making it seductive.

“Are you on the Pill?”

I said yes.

He began to undress me, taking his time with each garment. First, he unlaced the Doc Martens, before pulling them off and placing them on the floor. Then, seating me on the bed, he rolled down the over-the-knee socks, before pulling them off.

He looked up at me, directly into my eyes, silently challenging me not to look away, before sliding the palms of his hands up my thighs until he reached my knickers. He didn’t immediately pull them off; instead he roamed around with his fingers, feeling the undulations of my body, squeezing my bottom cheeks for a moment, before hooking his fingers inside the elastic and drawing them slowly down my legs. By now my breathing was becoming a little laboured, as the familiar feeling of sexual excitement began to rise within me.

My knickers ended up on the floor, with the socks. His fingers returned and began to explore without the hinderance of undergarments. I could see his breathing rate increasing before I closed my eyes and surrendered to the feelings as his hands explored my body.

Dan pulled me to the edge of the bed, and knelt down in front of me. He pushed up my skirt, exposing me completely. I’d only had one boy go down on me—the second of my two lovers—and the experience hadn’t been very enjoyable, but Dan was clearly experienced. His fingers gave way to his tongue as he roamed my inner recesses and folds. I gasped as his tongue located my pleasure zone, and he stopped for a moment.

“Ah, so I have hit the spot, have I?”

I nodded; unable to speak, as his tongue resumed its work. He pulled back slightly as he pushed two fingers inside me, and I gasped. He began to talk softly to me.

Author’s Website is
www.racheldevineauthor.com

Her Facebook address is
https://www.facebook.com/racheldevinewriter

Her Twitter is
https://twitter.com/racheldevineuk

 

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book promotion

90 seconds to convince

house4a

Do you need a book trailer? A short, arresting burst of colour and sound that advertises your book, like they do for Ocean’s Eleven or Mission Impossible? In the arsenal of book promotion tools, it’s one more to consider. You could live without one and be none the worse, but on the other hand, it can’t do any harm (unless it’s atrocious).

I was inspired to experiment when a composer friend asked me to write the lyrics for a song and then sent me the video he’d made to go with it. Though I knew book trailers existed, I’d never given them much thought till then, but I set to work immediately. Now I’ve finished the first, the second is almost done, and I’ve started on the third. My main conclusion so far? Don’t expect any spike in sales, but putting one together is a real blast.

So how does one set about it? Well, the simplest way is to pay someone to do it. But you’re then looking at a budget of anything between $300 (for basically nothing more than an entertaining slide show) to $15000 (for a scripted film shot on location with actors). If you’ve got money to burn, fine. But since I haven’t, I did it myself, and the result cost me hardly anything – except a lot of time. So if the do-it-yourself route appeals, here – gleaned from my limited experience so far – are a few tips.

Start with a rough idea of the content and progression. Keep it simple – go for mood and atmosphere rather than try and tell a story. It’s not a synopsis but a teaser.

Search for the content – pictures, clips and sound. This is the most time-consuming part, and depending on what you find, your rough idea may need to be adapted. The particular image you had in mind may not exist, so you have to go with what does. Here is a list of sites providing videos and photos, many of them free. The ones I use most are Pixabay and Pexels, while Videvo also has sound effects, as does the YouTube audio library.  A wider variety of sound effects can be found at soundsnap, but at a cost – $29 for 20 downloads or $15 for 5. For music, again YouTube has a reasonable selection, though so far I’ve stuck with Purple Planet.

When you put it all together, aim for a clip of 90 seconds maximum, with an opening that grabs the attention within the first few seconds. The editing stage is where my only cost came in, since I used Adobe Premiere Pro, part of a subscription Creative Cloud I share with a graphic designer. But there are free alternatives, listed here. Depending on the software, there can be quite a learning curve involved.

And Bob’s your uncle! Or will be once you’ve uploaded the clip, not just to YouTube but to Amazon (note that certain specific conditions apply), and your own website. So far, those are the only places I’ve put it, but there are others, listed at the end of this article, which also details the various types of trailer that exist.

 

Like everything else, of course, the trailer will only be effective if people see it, so we’re back to the problem of promoting the promotional item itself. But I’m not too bothered about that – I just enjoyed doing it, and if a few people come across it, so much the better. I’m still finding my way around the software, and I’m not happy with a couple of points, but for a first effort, I’m reasonably satisfied. And now, of course, you’re dying to see it – and I’m dying to know what you think – so here it is as it appears on my website. Comments welcome!

 

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blogging, book promotion, marketing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

ATTN: Gamers, Writers & Editors

Video games have been around since the early 1990s when we played them over long distance phone lines. Gamers have been forging relationships for 30 years now, and we want to tell some of their stories.

You may have a story or two to tell, about yourself, your friends, or even your marriage, that could only have happened because of online gaming. We’d like to hear it. And so, we believe, would a lot of other people.

We are publishing an anthology of stories by gamers. No fan fiction. Just real stories about real people.

You can note your story in the comments below, or on our Facebook group Stories by Gamers for Gamers at
https://www.facebook.com/groups/932185130543024
or email it to GD<at>Deckard<dot>one.
Don’t worry if you’re not a writer, just say what happened, when, in what game. And if you are a writer or editor, maybe you can help us to ghost-write or edit the stories of others?

This is a brand new venture. So, if you’re interested join us. We’ll work out the details together. Help us to form a group of gamers, writers, and editors and create an anthology of our stories.

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book promotion, humor, Satire, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Sci-Fi Lampoon Exhales

We took a deep breath when Volume One hit the market. Would anyone read it? Do the people we appeal to even read? Are these Letters to the Editor indicative?

“Highly offensive to my sensibilities”
“extraterrestrial abuse!”
“ETs don’t even have genitalia”

Or, and this was our conclusion, are we so enthralled with the many talented submissions that we just have to release a second issue?

And here it is, thanks to the humorous stories from Y.J. Jun, Romana Guillotte, Jim Webster, Christopher Hinkle, Jeff Gard, Geoff Habiger, Margret A. Treiber, Ralph Benton, Candice R. Lisle, J.P. Roquard, James Rumpel, Bill McCormick, Carl Reed, Ian K. & M. Frank Owen, and the Space Love Sage:

https://bit.ly/3dgk5fL
(Currently includes a 15% discount on print orders!)

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About Writers, blogging, book promotion, book sales, marketing, Uncategorized, Welcome, Writers Co-op

Promote Yourself & Your Work on the Writers Co-op

Because some have asked, we are re-printing our first post, by Curtis Bausse, APRIL 26, 2016.

Here we are!

The first post. And to me has fallen the honour. Seriously, it is an honour. Firstly, because it’s a vote of trust from my fellow co-operators, secondly because this post is the first of a long, rich and innovative series (no point starting a blog otherwise, right?). As more posts come, this one will slip out of sight and mind, but it will always remain the first, the one in which the Writer’s Co-op became public. So thank you, Amber, Atthys, GD and Mimi for putting your trust in me.

Let me begin by explaining. The five of us ‘met’ on Book Country, a website where writers post their work for peer review and critiques. Though lately it’s become very sleepy, it’s not a bad site, and it has a discussion board where I’ve found many a useful piece of advice. And some time ago a thread was started by GD Deckard, in which he wrote the following: I’m thinking of a site that new writers can use to promote their books. How, exactly, depends on what the writers themselves want. Writers are creative people, so together we could come up with creative ways to help one another that we might not think of on our own. How would you like to see a Writers’ Co-op work?

Well, it took us a while, but here we are – The Writers’ Co-op. Five people who write in different genres but who all share a similar commitment to the craft and the graft of writing.

But why come together? What can this site do that a personal one can’t? Well, as GD says, for a project like this, many minds are better than one. And the method is in the title – cooperate. This is a site where we swap and share news, opinions and experiences about writing, from first paragraph to finished product and beyond. Especially beyond. Because who wants to write a book and then not promote it? That’s like a painter working for years on a picture, then turning it to the wall. So here in the Co-op we try things out, see what works and what doesn’t, and tell each other about it. And not just each other, obviously. We happen to be the five that started it off, but we don’t intend to stay whispering in our corner. The Co-op welcomes anyone who’s willing to invest a little time and effort into promoting books worth reading.

What can you expect to find here? Since there’s nothing new under the sun, I do admit the innovation bit could be a challenge, but we’ll try our best, I promise. There’ll be anecdotes and analysis, thoughtfulness and humour, awards and recommendations, opinions, rants and wackiness. We don’t expect to work miracles and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But what we do take seriously is writing itself. Which means we’re also keen to help writers explore whatever path might lead somewhere interesting, and help readers find good writing. If that sounds like a programme you could tune in to, you’ve come to the right place. Drop us a line, tell us what you’re up to. Maybe we’ll end up travelling the path together. Whichever one it turns out to be.

Authors & Editors & AnyOne
at all in the Writing Life are invited to
Promote Yourself & Your Work at
The Writers Co-op.
Email
GD<at>Deckard<dot><one>

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About Writers, blogging, book promotion, book sales, inspiration, marketing, Uncategorized, Welcome, Writers Co-op

Marketing and Promotion—Musings, Madness, and Misgivings

Marketing and Promotion—Musings, Madness, and Misgivings 

In anticipation of an upcoming book release in August, I’ve been thinking more about marketing and promotion. I do not want to repeat past experiences where time and money have been largely wasted in some deep abyss. Of course, I would like to get the best ROI on the time and money expended (this second category has a very modest budget). As opposed to past book marketing and promotional efforts, this time I am working with a mid-press publisher that actually is devoting resources into marketing. I don’t want to duplicate their efforts, but our combined efforts will hopefully achieve some success. I have no misconceptions that this is their sole responsibility. In fact, I think more of the effort needs to come from me. What then is the best way to proceed?

Prompted by an exchange with GD, I am going to list and comment upon a broad array of different tactics and strategies that I am aware of. Some are familiar in so far as I have gone down those roads before. Others are new attempts I plan to try as a way to increase book sales. This is the primary result I want to achieve with these marketing and promotional efforts. I understand that there are secondary goals such as networking, name recognition, media opportunities, film options (one can dream), but the primary focus remains as increasing sales.

Some of the things I list are only pertinent to a new release. I’m sure the list is incomplete. I will not shy away from giving biased opinions on some of the techniques and strategies. As an example, I am generally opposed to steeply discounting books to provoke sales; although, I see a limited role for that particular strategy when doing so as a “loss leader” to hook readers into a series. I’m sure things that have worked for others that I have not found to be helpful are worth considering. I will add that compiling this list only reinforces the morass that many of us are trying to wade through.

Here goes:

  1. Friends and family: an effective approach but the ceiling is low.
  2. Author email list: not a personal fan as I think it requires some effort to maintain and I think the usefulness in generating sales is limited. I do understand some authors will cross promote with each other using these lists. My personal list is small and I make no effort to build a fan base this way. I do have an author FB page (more on that later) and I think that’s my preferred venue to build and maintain a fan base.
  3. Press release: I’m letting my publisher handle this and I’ll blast it out on my modest social media network. Can be used to outreach to local press, radio stations, etc. but I’m not sure how effective that is.
  4. Speaking and presentations: Can be effective. May require some extra effort. Best if you can have a themed talk that somehow relates to your book. For example, chakras and charkra openings are an important element in my story, so speaking about this topic is a way to have a themed talk to provoke some book sales.
  5. Endorsements and blurbs: Great if you can get them especially from well-known authors writing in the same genre that your book is in. Does anyone have a direct line to Dan Brown (not just any person who happens to have that name, I’m talking about the author of The Da Vinci Code)? Please hook me up as this release is a suspense novel that involves secret societies. LOL!
  6. Contests: I think these can be helpful if you win an award and can leverage that into more sales. There are a lot of “fluff” contests out there and many readers cannot distinguish what is effectively a scam contest to prey on authors and what is a legitimate competition with qualified judges. I myself plan to apply for four such award competitions and am willing to devote some of my budget to try and obtain recognition with an award. If anyone is interested, I’ll be happy to share the specific contests and why I have selected them. My publisher may submit to other competitions. Some of the best awards require that your book be nominated. I’m not holding my breath for that.
  7. Goodreads: This has always struck me as a black hole of sorts. I think that authors who are active and “good citizens” of Goodreads groups can leverage that into sales. I am not in that category.
  8. Social Media: This is a big topic so I’m going to break it down. I’ll also cover ads on social media separately.
    • Twitter: I am reasonably active here, but I don’t think it results in many or any book sales. Occasionally some opportunity comes up with a follower, for example an invitation to do an interview.
    • FB: This is where I am personally active not only with posting on my own author site, but also cross promoting with my podcast FB page and other writing related sites. Impact on book sales is hard to judge. Whether or not to have a new FB page devoted solely to this new title is something I am debating. I am more in favor of author branding and not a single title and I really want the traffic and marketing efforts to be on my author page platform.
    • LinkedIn: I use this sparingly to post new content such as podcasts and will make announcements about the book release, share a press release, and that sort of thing.
    • YouTube: I have my own YouTube channel where I post podcast episodes, book trailers, and other content. I find it useful to use the YouTube content on my other social media platforms and I know this has been helpful in driving some sales.
    • I’m not using Instagram, Bookstagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Reddit , or other social media platforms. They may be effective but I haven’t explored and feel I am not inclined to try and go down another rabbit hole.
    • Influencers: If you can hook up with or somehow get picked up by someone with a big following, and have them promote your book for you, that’s probably a great strategy to use.
  9. Paid advertising: Again, let me break this down.
    • FB have used including targeting the right demographic. Waste of money in my opinion but other authors have had success.
    • AMS (Amazon Marketing Services). I’ve had more success with this than FB but not enough to set up and tweak ongoing ad campaigns.
    • Twitter promotions: way over-saturated and not worth the money
    • YouTube: I’ve had some limited success. The ads run through Google and are targeted. I think a well-produced book trailer can generate sales.
    • Promotions run through others. Here I am talking about things like BookBub, Fussy Librarian, etc. Unless you are willing to discount, I don’t think this is effective. I have used a number of different services (never managed to be accepted by BookBub), but I won’t be spending my limited budget this way. A big number of .99 sales has some merit, but coordinating this and getting agreement from my publisher is nightmarish without monetary return.
    • Print advertising. It’s expensive and difficult to track results.
  10. Book reviews: Here I distinguish between reader reviews, paid reviews, and other outlets.
    • The more reader reviews the better up to a threshold, especially if they continue to come in a steady stream following release and especially if they are verified purchase reviews. The number, rate, and whether or not it comes from a purchaser affect the Amazon algorithm that affects your ranking. I am personally trying to get 10 people to commit to a pre-order of the book and a review in the first week of publication (I provide an ARC so they don’t have to rush to read as soon as the book comes out). There is a narrow window to generate hype following a book’s release so if you can line up some preorders and early reviews you get a jump start. [If anyone wants to be in this early group, please email me at victoracquista@victoracquista.com] Continuing to solicit reviews I believe is an important strategy. There are reviewers but in my experience there is a big gap in requesting a review and getting one. I do have access to information (via Where Writers Win https://writerswin.com/ through membership in their Winners Circle) that gives a listing of reviewers by genre and ranking by site traffic. I should also mention that winning  a legitimate award may give an advantage to getting a review.
    • Paid reviews from entities such as Kirkus are expensive but they have distribution to get eyes on your book from ancillary places like magazines, film executives, etc. Ten percent of Kirkus reviews are starred and getting that designation could open some doors. I’m hoping my publisher fronts this cost. It’s also much easier to get into libraries if you have a Kirkus review. I’m not a fan of other paid reviews but I think they can generate exposure and if they are from a credible site, they might provoke some sales.
    • There are other review outlets including magazines, trade journals, newspapers, Publishers Weekly, and who knows what else. I’m relying on my publisher to make these connections.
  1. Launch party: Not a fan
  2. Launch event: If you have a low-cost venue, are budgeted to provide some food, and believe you can get sufficient people, then why not? Book stores are potentially a place to host at no cost.
  3. Prize giveaways: Can be done on your own or in concert with other authors. I did this with my sci-fi novel and found the ROI to be negative.
  4. Personal author website: I have one and will update accordingly. I’m not sure if it drives any sales. Same is true for Amazon author page.
  5. Bookmarks: Low cost and useful to hand out at conferences and other events.
  6. Publicity company: Hiring a PR firm is expensive and putting together a formal campaign is a big undertaking. I’ve done this previously but do not plan to do so again.
  7. Media exposure e.g. TV, radio, podcasts: Potentially useful with the cost being time. Eventual sales depend in part on what audience is viewing/listening to the show.
  8. Book signings, bookstores, events such as trade shows: There are potential costs involved for some of these related to entry fees, vendor space, a booth with banners, business cards, etc. On top of this there may be travel costs, meals and lodging, the aggravation of set up and take down. I think the ROI is more in the category of networking and less so in book sales. I am committed to doing some of this. There are true benefits to having a relationship with a bookstore, particularly one that goes to these trade shows. Then you can attend and have a book signing without actually being a vendor.
  9. Professional organization: I think there are benefits to being part of a writing organization where you interact with colleagues, support one another, attend sponsored workshops, etc. I am a member of the Mystery Writers of America and we have a terrific chapter in Florida. I think promoting one another’s work is one of the benefits of membership.
  10. Celebrity outreach: great if you can get exposure through a celebrity. Celebrity book club selection (think Oprah, Reese Witherspoon) would be huge.
  11. Bloggers: Could be effective. Fortunately, my publisher has a network of bloggers that promote the titles. I’ll probably do some outreach on my own but sifting through the wheat from the chaff seems to me to be a difficult task.
  12. Virtual blog tour: I’ve heard mixed things. Not currently part of my marketing plan. There are companies that will set these up for a fee.
  13. Book clubs: This is something I am currently investigating. How to reach out effectively? I think this has the potential to drive up sales.
  14. Libraries: Fortunately, my publisher has a lot of experience in getting books into libraries.
  15. Advanced reader copies (ARCs): Again, this is something my publisher is very proactive with. They participate with NetGalley and LibraryThing. I know of a recent release that had over 90 very favorable NetGalley reviews before it was even published. Authors can get their books into NetGalley but it’s expensive. Creating a buzz and generating hype seems to me to be an important element in driving book sales. I am fortunate that my publisher has these connections.
  16. Book trailer: I’ve made my own and paid to have one produced for a previous novel. I plan to pay for a professional quality trailer and use it on social media, my website, Amazon author page, YouTube channel and ads. I’m hoping there is a ROI but recognize that might not be the case.
  17. Podcasts: I saved this to present near the end of my list because it seems to me to be a somewhat novel approach. Here I am not talking about appearing as a guest on a podcast show to be interviewed and talk about your book. I started a podcast series, Podfobler Productions, where I narrate my own and other authors’ works. I produce YouTube videos of the shows and use them in my social media posts, FB page for the show, and ad campaigns. For profiling guest authors, I only ask that they distribute the show to their network and when I eventually produce a show about my new book, they agree to distribute that show. Here I am trying to build a fan base and also use the networking power of fellow authors. Will it help to drive sales? I don’t know but it is part of my overall marketing strategy. I just wrapped up season 1 with twenty assorted shows two of which featured co-op members (GD- episode 11 and Curtis-episode 15). Here’s the season one playlist in case anyone is interested: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpfls08qGbIsHnbp-2-C9r5I8fK8kw24j Incidentally, in case anyone wants to have their work narrated, drop me an email (address in #10 above). I’m currently working on a production schedule for season two.
  18. Fingers crossed for good luck: Napoleon said something to the effect of, “I would rather have lucky generals than good generals.” I know wishes won’t wash dishes, but I do think there is an element of luck that goes into this abyss of marketing and promotion.

Edison said, “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” I’m working this hard and may need to get crowdfunding for deodorant considering how much sweat equity I’m devoting to this. I don’t think success comes without effort unless your stars align in some magical way.

This is a very lengthy dive into a murky territory, a swamp and quagmire full of traps that can swallow you up. I’m sure I missed some categories beyond what I have listed. Comments, insights, disagreements, and commiseration are invited and welcomed. Wish me luck as I get ready to take the plunge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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blogging, book promotion, Publisher's Advice, publishing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

How to Publish a Quality Anthology… and Survive!

– by DW Brownlaw and PC Darkcliff

The cast of characters: P.C Darkcliff and DW Brownlaw, Indy writers and critique partners since 2018 – plus forty six other Indy Writer friends.

DWB: In April 2019, PC suggested the idea of publishing a collection of stories written by us and some of our writing community friends as a good way for us to ‘get our names out there’. We finally got DRAGON BONE SOUP published in mid-December. These reminiscences of what happened in between shows what we got right, what we got wrong, and what we learned from publishing arguably the best quality anthology of fantasy and light sci-fi stories.

PCD: In summary, the process involved the following steps:

> Setting up a group on Facebook.
> Coming up with rules and deadlines.
> Accepting stories and dealing with authors.
> Choosing the best stories and announcing the winners.
> Editing the stories.
> Doing author interviews to post on social media and at the back of the book.
> Formatting and publishing the anthology.

DWB: We found we had complementary strengths apart from being good editors. I was prepared to deal with administration, finance and design, while PC had the recognised name, contacts and experience with book formatting and publishing.

PCD: We started a Facebook group and invited a few friends. The idea was a small, selective group of about sixteen writers, with each contributing one story. But as the group was initially open, our friends invited their friends, who invited their friends… and overnight, the group had fifty members, all asking questions for which, at that time, we had no answers.

DWB: Rather than turn people away, we decided to invite submissions from the fifty and run a selection process. It took us weeks (mainly due to other commitments) to agree how to do that and get started. We spent the whole of July reading & discussing 30 submitted stories and whittling them down to the required 16. (To show you how fair this process was, I rejected my own story!)

PCD: Although we braced ourselves for a backlash from those who hadn’t made the cut, there have been no hard feelings or grudges. Thank you all for being so professional!

DWB: PC and I talked about what to do with the revenues from sales and neither of us felt comfortable about making money off our friends’ efforts. We agreed paying our authors would be a powerful incentive to attract the very best writing, but deciding how we would pay them wasn’t so easy. The ‘obvious’ solution was to pay them a share of the royalties, but we abandoned this when we realised we would have to administer the share-out for many years to come.

DWB: We opted for an up-front token payment… which reminds me of my biggest–and most expensive–mistake. I was advising a member of our Facebook group when I accidentally quoted the payment offered by top magazines, double the token amount that we’d previously promised. While it delighted our members, it certainly means I will never get my money back. Luckily, I never saw this as a money-making exercise.

PCD: Since each story had a title, byline, editor’s intro, and an author bio, formatting the anthology was a nightmare. What made it even more difficult was that each contributor sent their stories in different fonts and with different spacing and margins. Some of them even used tabs, which I had to remove manually. It made me understand why many professional editors impose very strict formatting rules on their contributors.

DWB: Surprisingly, one of the longest tasks concerned the cover art. We first tried asking for art submissions, but we slipped up in not specifying that we were looking for original work. Consequently, we got about 6 submissions (all from the same person) that we found existed elsewhere on the web, some being used for multiple books. Eventually, we opted to design our own cover and pay an artist to realise it. Andjela Vujić, PCD’s usual artist, liked our concept and I sent her a mock-up made from stock images slapped together in an art package. What we got back from her was breathtaking. Of course we wanted changes, but she was very obliging.

DWB: With all these delays, we finally published DRAGON BONE SOUP in mid December 2019, which was too late for catching the peak of the Christmas market. Despite this, we sold more copies than we anticipated and gained some five star reviews. We think the book will continue to sell modestly for years to come.

PCD: During the eight or so months of working on the anthology, I often wanted to kick myself for getting it started. But now when we’re done, all regrets have disappeared and I feel proud and happy.

DWB: They say you learn more by trying and making mistakes, and consequently we learned so much!

> To produce a quality anthology takes professionalism and planning. We just dove in and muddled through.
> Making & correcting mistakes is an effective way to learn anything, but the project took far longer as a consequence.
> Numbers count. Don’t expect to make money from any anthology, collection, magazine or journal until (a) you have a recognised name as a publisher, and (b) you have several on sale. Luckily, making money was never our intention, or that could have caused problems between us.
> Get involved deeply with the design of the cover; don’t leave it entirely to the artist. The cover is both the branding of your book and the first point of attracting your readers, so its design is critical. Most artists are happy to discuss your vision for the cover and give you exactly what you want. If you come across one who gives you the ‘hard sell’ (we had one), just walk away.

About Dragon Bone Soup:
Sixteen fantasy and light science fiction stories. The best indie writing talents from three continents invite you to peer into the dystopian future and enter their worlds of dragons, witches, spirits, elves, trolls, and magicians.The contributors are: Carmen Baca, Brandy Bonifas, David Bowmore, Steve Carr, P.C. Darkcliff, R.A. Goli, Shawn Klimek, Mark Kodama, Giuseppina Marino Leyland, Zhen Liu, Lynne Phillips, Sam M. Phillips, Daniel Craig Roche, Copper Rose, L.T. Waterson, and G. Allen Wilbanks.

Order your copy online here.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dragon-Bone-Soup-showcase-international/dp/1673703976

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book promotion, book sales, self-publishing

So does free work?

free

Does it work to make your book free? The question arouses much debate, some of it passionate, and I’m not going to attempt to provide a yes or no answer. Many writers refuse to give their work away as a matter of principle, a position I fully respect, and in an ideal world, would prefer to adopt myself. Because writing takes time and effort, and working to give a product away isn’t something that’s done for cars, cucumbers or cupcakes, so why do it for writing?

The short answer is to gain visibility. Without visibility, selling your work is extremely difficult, but giving it away is easier. You might have a good cover and enticing blurb, but convincing people to fork out money on a totally unknown name is a challenge. But if you give them something and they like it, they’ll be more prepared to buy what you produce next. Or so the reasoning goes.

So this is what I’ve been doing. And since I promised a while ago to provide a few figures, here they are.

I made One Green Bottle, first in the Magali Rousseau mystery series, permafree on Amazon in September 2017. Since then, it’s been downloaded roughly 4600 times. Now, that’s all fine and well, but I have no idea how often it’s been read, or whether it’s disappeared into the welter of free books people have on their kindle without ever getting round to reading them. I’m not averse to seeing it downloaded free, but it would be nice to know if it actually gets read. However, that’s the same for most books, free or otherwise – feedback is rare, and once a book is out there, the author doesn’t know what becomes of it. The bottom line is sales figures.

Has the permafree book had any effect on sales of the others in the series? My guess is not, or minimal. It’s difficult to tease out sales resulting from my launch efforts (which so far are basically restricted to informing the 400 or so subscribers who open my newsletter) and the knock-on effect from the permafree. But if I take away sales occurring at launch time, the rest is a monthly trickle that falls a good way short of keeping me in coffee.

Am I despondent? Not at all. There are several factors that go against me. Firstly, I didn’t plan the series properly, so the third one I published was in fact the second one in Magali’s chronology. OK, Star Wars does that all the time but it’s confusing all the same. Secondly, I revised One Green Bottle so there’s a major difference in the current version compared to the initial release – also confusing. Thirdly, the covers, while fine in themselves, don’t correspond to the norms for the genre – they’re all being redone now for the release of a box set, so I’ll see what difference that makes. Did someone mention a learning curve? I’m still climbing steadily.

Of course, making a book free doesn’t mean that it will instantly become visible. You then have to let people know that it’s free. To that end, I enrolled Mystery Manor, the last in the series, in KDP Select, and then made it free for five days, which can be done once in any 90-day period. I then booked a slot on Freebooksy, who announced it to the 310,000 mystery novel readers they have on their email list. The result was just under 4000 downloads. And here there was a small but noticeable knock-on effect: apart from another hefty boost to the free downloads of One Green Bottle, there were 41 purchases of Cash in Carry, number two in the series (priced at $0.99), and 11 of Perfume Island, number three, priced at $2.99. The royalties covered roughly half of the $90 I paid for the Freebooksy slot.

I take some encouragement from this. Because again, the process could be improved – to enrol the last in the series in KDP Select when none of the others have been was illogical. But I’d always been reluctant to give Amazon the exclusivity they require for KDP Select, so it took me a while to take that step. I still don’t like it, but the fact is that I’ve made slightly more from Kindle Unlimited page reads than from sales.

The final verdict? In my case, the jury (composed of me and myself) is still out. But with better planning (conception and promotion) of the new series, and a greater backlist to offer, I should see a larger knock-on effect. On current evidence, it’s not worth making the first in the new series permafree – one seems plenty for that – but well-planned free promotions every so often might just do the trick. It’s a hard slog, because for every person who’s ready to pay for a book, there are a hundred freeloaders. But that’s the way it works – like panning for gold, you have to get rid of the silt and gravel first. And I’m an eternal optimist – there’s a lot more I need to do, but when I get to 10,000 subscribers, I hope to have enough nuggets to pay for my coffee.

 

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About Writers, book promotion, book reviews, Literary critique, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

How to Prepare for Negative Comments on your Creative Work

Aristotle is quoted as saying: “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

I have been fortunate, so far, in receiving largely positive and constructive feedback on my first published novel, “Unearthed.” I of course know that no creative work can appeal to all audiences, though. Somebody, somewhere, will not care for your writing, your painting, your music, your recipe, etc. I know people who don’t even like chocolate … and I mean … it’s chocolate.

Like many authors, I felt some anxiety when publishing my novel. I had three beta readers and multiple rounds of edits; I was happy with the result. But I haven’t been living in a cave. I’m on social media, and I read the comments on public posts. I felt I should steel myself for the negativity that seems to thrive on the internet.

Here are my tips:

  1. Make a list of popular things you don’t enjoy

The beauty of this step is that nothing is off limits. Allow me to demonstrate: Fortnite, Game of Thrones (I really tried), every song by Drake, bicycle shorts, calamari. The fact that I don’t care for these things won’t (and shouldn’t) stop them from being successful. Except for whoever designed bicycle shorts. They should be stopped.

  • Read the 1 and 2 star reviews of your favorite novels

This is an eye-opener. One of my favorite authors, Karen Marie Moning, received a review titled “Seriously?!” that opened with: “I am mind-boggled that, at the time of this review, this book has over a 4-star rating.”

Another gem from a review of J.R. Ward’s work: “The characters are the most awfully cliched stereotypes I’ve seen since … actually, no, they ARE the most awfully cliched characters I’ve ever read.”

Yikes. I read other reviews that are overly critical (imho) of story line or character development, but these snippets stand out in my mind for obvious reasons. Fortunately, these authors continue to turn out successful novels and connect with audiences who enjoy their work.

  • Watch Jimmy Kimmel clips of “Mean Tweets” on YouTube

This is a hilarious segment that highlights the most scathing comments on Twitter, read by the celebrity target. It’s brutally funny and frighteningly enlightening. Celebrities respond in various ways and some surprise you.

That’s it. Three easy steps that cost you nothing but a little time. For me, this was the perspective I needed before sending “Unearthed” out into the cruel, cruel world with my eyes wide open. I sincerely hope I never receive a Kimmel-worthy review of my work, but if I do, I’ll remember that I’m in good company with every other creative talent out there—and keep writing.

Escape mundane reality with “Unearthed”—a fun, fast-paced contemporary fantasy romance.

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