book promotion, book reviews, book sales, publishing, reading, Uncategorized

Now, here’s something new – a reader!

Writer's Block

Well, the launch is done – phew! I’m a bit surprised at how tense I got – I thought I’d be more laid back. Too early, of course, to give a report, but the first impression is… mixed. Yes, it’s better than the last, but given that all I did then was post on my blog, that’s hardly difficult. This time I had a strategy – build up my mailing list and ask my subscribers to post reviews. I’d sent a free copy of Perfume Island to over a hundred, but so far none has appeared. Early days yet, perhaps – we shall see. But the only reviews so far have been from people I was in touch with before (you guys included – many thanks!).

On the other hand, it has been good to get a couple of messages from complete strangers telling me, ‘I enjoy your books so much.’ And it made me realise that I’ve never before experienced that sort of connection with readers. It gives me a glow inside that’s different from other satisfactions I’ve got from writing. For a couple of reasons, I think. Firstly, as I said, these aren’t people I’ve built an online relationship with – they’re people who’ve come across my books by chance or because they happen to like the mystery genre. And that’s the second thing – they aren’t writers but readers. Crucial as it is to engage with and learn from other writers, we’re not normal readers because we always have one eye on the craft of writing (‘Ah, what a beautiful / overblown / clunky sentence that is!’). So it’s rather strange to think that someone might be reading my book simply because they want to enjoy a good story. You might say it’s a bit late to be discovering only now what it’s like to have a few readers. Well, yes, I fumbled and faltered a lot along the way. But better late than never, you’re never too old to fulfil your dreams, yada, yada…

Will Perfume Island actually sell many copies? Probably not. But a few more than One Green Bottle (again, not difficult). And the prospect of having readers raises another issue: they’re following a series. What do I do with Magali now? Is she a brand? Do I owe it to my readers to keep her going? Well, here’s what Hugh Howie has to say: ‘A big mistake I see from too many aspiring writers is to follow up their first work with a sequel, and turn that into a trilogy, and write a fourth and fifth book while they plan their sixth and seventh. […] Plan on writing many great books about many awesome characters. Plan on writing three different trilogies in three different genres. Sequels aren’t bad; in fact, they can be critical to your success. What’s bad is only giving readers a handful of avenues into your imagination. Give them as many onramps as possible. Write short stories as well as novels. Write in different genres. Experiment and adapt to your sales and any critical feedback.’ (The full article, which covers many other points, is here.)

I found that reassuring. Because much as I like Magali, I don’t want to be wedded to her for the rest of my writing life. In fact, other ideas are barging to the front of the queue, demanding to be written. For the moment, though, I’m thrusting them back. A trilogy, at least – I can’t not write a trilogy. So this morning, with great relief, I stopped looking on Amazon every other minute and got back in touch with Magali and Charlotte in Mystery Manor (much darker, more thriller than mystery this time). Because if I don’t do that, I might lose my readers just when I’m starting (let’s be optimistic here) to gain them.

As for the marketing, I see no alternative to persisting with the mailing list. The first time people unsubscribed, I was dismayed. Now I’m pleased – it means I won’t be annoying them. And little by little, there’s a chance that of those that remain, a few will swell the number of that very select group I think of now as ‘my readers’.

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book promotion

Where should you advertise your book?

There isn’t yet a reblog button on this site, so I’ve just copied the first two paragraphs along with a link to the full article. A good report by Andrew Updegrove on the options open to you if you want to advertise your book.

Over the last ten years, literally hundreds of services have sprung up that send daily newsletters featuring discount and free ebooks to subscribers. The king of them all is BookBub, with millions of subscribers. Unfortunately, unless you’ve written a real best seller, it’s almost impossible to get them to accept your book (and if they do, it will set you back as much as $1000 for that one-shot ad). The good news is that out of all the rest, there is a very small handful of services that can help you sell lots of books. The key is to figure out which they are, and what type of promo to run. Read on, and I’ll share what I’ve learned through running hundreds of ads over the past two years with scores of these services.

In order to find out which sites can produce, whenever I tried a new service, I ran it alone at a time I wasn’t doing any other significant promotion. And two cautions before I go into the results: first, each of my books is a thriller. Your results may vary if you are in another genre. And second, it’s a dynamic marketplace, with many services rising and falling in effectiveness all the time.

The results and discussion can be found at:

http://andrew-updegrove.com/how-to-actually-sell-books-through-advertising/

 

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book promotion, book reviews, publishing

Strategy update

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I’ve been busy. Still am, but starting to see the end of the tunnel as regards my marketing strategy. The first tunnel anyway – there are lots more to come. Here’s what I’ve done so far.

Using Draft2Digital, I’ve made One Green Bottle free on Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. It was up there already but shifting no copies, so it’s not much of a change. Now I need to write to Amazon to ask them to match that price, i.e. have it permafree. They’re under no obligation to do that, so I don’t know how they’ll respond. But they’re well aware that many authors do this as part of their marketing.

I’ve written Making a Murder, six essays about the writing of One Green Bottle, which I’m offering free to anyone who signs up to my newsletter. The offer is at the front and back of One Green Bottle, so anyone downloading it has an incentive to sign up and I get their email address, which obviously I can’t get directly from Amazon. I don’t know if Making a Murder will appeal – it’s not fiction, and the essays are humorous, so it’s a gamble. It would probably be better to stay in the same genre, which is what I intended, but my novella, which was to serve that purpose, needs more work.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to my mailing list. I had around 700 subscribers after doing a joint promotion and a giveaway (many more from the first than the second) and I then sent different messages according to whether they opened my first email or not. I offered Perfume Island free, prior to its release in November, and removed over 200 subscribers who didn’t open that email. Of those that did, 112 signed up to receive the book.

That’s a lot of giving away of two books that have taken me five years to complete. Not so long ago I’d have thrown up my arms in horror at the very idea. Now? I’m quite relaxed – 112 reading the sequel is 3 or 4 times more than read the first. Not all will like it and of those that do, only a few will write reviews, but I’m still at a stage when I need to reach out to those few.

The worst part of all this work? Converting Making a Murder to epub and mobi formats, which I have to do if I’m sending it out myself. Converting a text is fine – Calibre handles that easily. But getting a text with pictures just right is a challenge. Or a nightmare, depending on your mood.

From time to time, I step out of my marketing bubble and see that the world continues to turn and hurricanes to blow. I’m working on a third book in the series, which I hope to bring out before the Apocalypse.

 

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book promotion

A (possible) blurb. Plus additional wry remarks.

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Not Sly. But I love those eyes.

Creating a good hook (a blurb) for a book is a tricky business.  

Short and punchy is the rule of thumb. Get as many eyes as possible to your first page. But, my book is not easily conveyed in a few phrases. I could call Rogue a grand gallivant (true as it can be) but that doesn’t capture the insanity.

What I can come up with here, now, on the fly? 

> Puss in Boots as you’ve never seen him. On the money, but trite, and useless, tells you nothing.

> A smarty-pants cat kicks butt in sixteenth century Europe. Closer in spirit, but still way short of the silly stew I’ve … ah … concocted, from numerous sources.

I’ve done a huge amount of historical research, from biographies to period pieces (Margaret Cavendish, called the first female scientist, liked to put her theories into verse. I’ve taken her impulse and run with it) to a marvelously enjoyable Ph.D thesis on a walled town in southern France not far from my first locale. (I borrowed details of the landscape, with permission of the author. I managed to track her down to the BBC.) Rogue is a merry mash-up filtered through my own off-balance point of view.

Rogue is my personal An Incomplete Education, a wonderful book that purports to give an overview of all the information we should have absorbed in college. Twenty years of poking around in history books has made me moderately well versed on the sixteenth century in matters large and small, able to regale you with, for instance, the curious circumstances surrounding the invention of the pencil. The new technology, initially a military secret, figures in my story in strange ways.

The Rogue Decamps is a bit challenging, quirky, and (horrors!) complex. It’s not Disney. Nor is it a rehash of the traditional tale. It’s arch this-and-that. I have some social commentary, but – relax – those remarks are decidedly screwball. It’s black humor in spots, snark more generally, sweet from time to time. My cat is a fully formed personality, with all the faults and foibles of the human kind. He drags a load of regrets around with him, and obsesses over them, delightfully. (IMO) He’s a bully, a con artist, a sweetheart and a snot. Like any cat, right? (I should know, I’ve lived my life – seventy years so far – in the company of cats.)

Writercoop-ers (writercoop.wordpress.com): Have I said anything useable here, or have I shot myself in the foot? I can’t do a bait and switch, cast a wide net with an uncomplicated blurb, lose readers soon thereafter. They have to have an inkling of what they’re in for.

My few followers on Facebook: If you like this . . . flavor, chances are you’ll find much in my opus (a three-book series) that will have you giggling your head off. Or, as the kids say, ROLF.

I’m nearly done with what I’ve vowed will be the final revision. Plot (conventional momentum) be dammed, I prefer to stop and smell the roses.

One last try at a bite-size blurb: 

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Sly! The Rogue Decamps. (Intro/novella to a series.)

A Smarty-Pants Cat Kicks Butt in Sixteenth Century Europe.

From a faux-visitation by the Virgin Mary (the goal, to lure religious tourism to a dirt-poor backwater realm) to a joint effort with Elizabeth’s Royal Astrologer to eradicate a nasty rodent infestation in a North German town, a whacky wiseacre offers astute but invariably self-serving advice to creeps, cranks, and kings.

Sylvester, aka Sly, is a poet . . . of interesting verse. A scholar . . . devising his own theory of gravity fifty years before Newton . . . folks, he’s Puss-in-Boots, reimagined from the boots up.

He’s the original animal rights activist. He’s got a whiff of Vonnegut about him, how can you resist that? He’s a good-hearted know-it-all, and I furnish him with a series of hapless sidekicks to bounce ideas off and to push around.

The guy’s a corker, full of piss and vinegar, cute as he can be. Aren’t you curious? Step into my ready-to-rollick Wayback Machine. We’re off on one hell of a jaunt.

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I plan to give the novella away as a promotion. This is one of my more sophisticated marketing schemes. Another is to hand out leaflets, dressed as a cat, in Times Square, maybe get myself arrested as a public nuisance, maybe land on the evening news. Or take videos to post on YouTube. A third ploy is to create bumper stickers, mail piles of them to everyone I know to, hopefully, pass out. If you see a bumper sticker, My Guy Sly – that will be the name of my future website – you’ll know I’m up and running.

Sly was taken. Screwball was gone. I pounced on My Guy Sly for a domain name. It is already in use, here, there, as a user name. On one site it belongs to a dodo who adores Sly Stallone. Didn’t move quickly enough there.

I’m way late to the party on a number of fronts. Hey, if I’d been on the ball twenty years ago, I could have bought Amazon. I am no financial visionary. I am no marketing genius. Tech, web tours and such, confounds me. I’m going to work it the old-fashioned way, on the hoof, channel P. T. Barnum, raise a ruckus, my marketing in sync with the anything-goes approach of the story. You take the high road, I’ll take the low road. I just may get to Scotland afore ye.

Next time, kids, I’ll talk about my idea for a Sly-mobile. Now, my husband may not go for our new car plastered bumper to bumper with decals. I believe I’ll wait a while, a good while, to spring that on him.

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Marketing update

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A short while ago I announced I was doing a giveaway. It ended on 5th July, so here are the preliminary results. In fact I also participated in a cross-promotion in which 20 mystery and suspense authors made their books available free on Instafreebie, undertaking to promote the offer to their mailing list.

The giveaway was costly – the value of the prize plus promoting the giveaway itself came to over $200. I’d hoped for a minimum of 200 subscribers; I got 97. Conclusion? Not worth it. Especially when compared to the cross-promotion, which cost me nothing (Instafreebie offer a free trial for a month, after which it’s $20 a month if you want to collect the email addresses of those who download your book).

The cross-promotion brought in 576 subscribers, meaning I now have upwards of 700 altogether. In three years of blogging, I laboriously reached 65, so the sudden influx is massive. Is this the way forward? Everyone says so.

Now the challenge is to convert those subscribers into readers, and ultimately readers who’ll want to pay for the next book in the series. I’m approaching this with some trepidation – send out too many emails, be too pushy or adopt the wrong tone, and they’ll unsubscribe. So far, my unsubscribe rate is under 4%, which is healthy. If it goes up to 7%, Mailchimp (free till you get to 2000 subscribers) suspect you of spamming and send you nasty warnings.

A lot of people, of course, don’t even open the emails. Or don’t read the free books. Or if they do, don’t pay for the next one. So only a tiny proportion of subscribers will become your followers or fans. How tiny? Only time will tell. But at least it feels like I’ve got some sort of traction, a sense of control over a process which has hitherto been random and wasteful. If I convert just 5% of subscribers into followers, that’s 35 – not a lot, but still way more in a single month than in three years of effort up to then. So what do I do next? Rinse and repeat.

 

 

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Giveaway Gamble

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I’m running a giveaway. I never thought I would, so I’m rather surprised. But I’ve reached a point in my writing where I want to put it to the test. Which means I’m going to pay to build a mailing list in the hope that enough people will like what they read to make it worth my while. Eventually.

Here’s the deal. I’m giving away 12 paperbacks in a raffle. To enter, you simply need to give me your email address. Then you’ll be on my mailing list, from which you can of course unsubscribe at any moment. The winner gets the grand prize but all entrants get a free ebook of One Green Bottle. In a forthcoming newsletter, I’ll be announcing the release of the sequel, Perfume Island, in September. So then I’ll see how many people liked the first book enough to want the second.

I could do this without the giveaway, via my blog. But after a couple of years, my mailing list stands at 67, which means it’ll get to a thousand around the time of my 112th birthday. Blogging is good for all sorts of things but not for getting readers.

The giveaway will be up soon on giveawaypromote.com. That costs me just $5 (or $10 for a featured promotion). If I don’t do that, only my blog readers would find it, which kind of defeats the purpose. So if I get n people signing up, it’ll be money well spent . How big is n? Some giveaways draw more than 1000 entrants, but I’m not getting my hopes up – let’s say 300. I’d be quite happy with that. Less than 200? Mweh. The cost of the prize plus postage will be around $200: given that some of the entrants will (a) unsubscribe from the newsletter, (b) either not read or not like One Green Bottle, (c) read and enjoy it but not go on to Perfume Island, there needs to be a large number of entrants for this gamble to come off.

The raffle winner will be chosen by an online random name picker, into which I’ll feed the names of the entrants myself. There are services which can do this for you, along with a host of other frills. The best, apparently, is KingSumo, which costs $200 (one-off payment – it’s yours then for life), but it only works on wordpress.org sites, not wordpress.com. The other main two are Rafflecopter and Gleam. There are free versions to both of these, but if you want them to collect emails (which after all is the point of the whole exercise), they cost respectively $43 and $39 a month. You can run your giveaway for just a month, then downgrade again to free, but still it’s another expense, so for this first bash I’m not using them. Maybe next time – if there ever is one. This time I’ll get the emails by having entrants sign up on a landing page.

So that’s the background. I’ll report back on results when the giveaway ends. Meanwhile, would you like to head over here and tell me what you think? Have I done it right? Any blunders you can see? If you do, I’d be grateful if you could let me know before I post it on givewaypromote. And of course, don’t hesitate to enter yourself – you might even win.

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Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

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Creation to marketing, obsessive-compulsive all the way. 

I’m working through my novella, revising. Except for one or two chapters in the middle, I’d truly thought it finished, except for commas, etc. Now I find my logic in one area less than acceptable. It sounds pretty good if you don’t think too hard, but when I pick it apart I am unhappy with it. I never did feel it was strong enough, and I’ve also thought I could wring a lot more fun out of it. I hadn’t figured out what to do about it until just the other day.

Motivations are what I fixate on: Does this really make sense? It meets a need, but is it essentially bullshit? My bullshit meter, one to ten, tells me certain behaviors as a basis for subsequent doings are about a five. I still like what I have in general, but I love my new idea. I’m going to fold them together. They do not conflict, they work hand-in-glove.

My first question is: Do you ever feel ready? Do you ever stop cramming your back pockets with scribbled sticky notes?

Chapters one to five are done. Six and seven will get the just-dreamt-up stuff plowed in. The remainder (another seven chapters) is, I believe, pretty OK. I have avoided decisions near the end by treating my novella as a cliffhanger: This might happen, it might not. (My characters may only discuss it. They do a lot of discussing.)

The full book will have resolutions to all the speculation. Nonsense that I’ve removed to create a shortie will be restored, and the second half will be completely new. There will be some overlap, most of it in the first quarter, but the novella is meant as a teaser, and will be cheap, perhaps ninety-nine cents, or maybe even a give-away.

Where to publish? Let’s talk about that.

I see ISBNs are pricey unless you buy a block of them. Does anyone have a number to sell? Should we buy a block as a group and share them out?

KindleScout looks interesting. It feels rather like a game to me. Find something great, help it along with a vote in favor. It takes no time, you’re looking at a blurb and a few paragraphs. On Scribophile, however, is a negative review concerning quality of the offerings:

“. . . many of the covers and descriptions are not professional and do nothing to promote the book. One doesn’t even have a picture or a layout, just the title and a sentence describing it. I had to look at it to figure out what was what, which I wouldn’t have done if I weren’t coming back here to comment. Same for the blurb. It’s repetitive, and it’s boring. The sample chapter has no paragraphs and it’s unreadable – spelling, grammar, spaces between sentences.” A few pieces like this would discourage me away real fast.

What are your thoughts on KindleScout/Kindle Select?

Here is the link for an interesting looking post on marketing yourself. I haven’t read it yet, but the response on Scribophile is enthusiastic.

My climb-every-mountain/follow-every-rainbow neuroses may have been counterproductive until now. From here they may be a plus.

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