Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bundle of Joy

While major publishers may push a book at release and expect the bulk of sales in the first couple months, small presses and self-publishers count on the long tail for sales. That means they keep promoting their books for months, even years, with hopes of maintaining steady sales. However, that tail isn’t endless, and at some point small presses and authors start wondering how they can keep those older books alive. Recently I’ve been reading about book bundling as a solution to that problem, and it’s one idea we at Intrigue Publishing are going to want to try, at least with our ebooks.

The most obvious bundling idea is to repackage a series. My first thought is to release the first three Hannibal Jones novels as one ebook. We can make it a great deal for readers to get all 3 at once. It should make it easier for new readers to dive into the series.

I’ve also noticed that this idea sometimes works in reverse. In other words, a writer can break up an older book into several parts. Shorter works seem very popular these days, and this is a way to offer a long story in easy little bits.

For new books I’m also looking at having an older book piggyback on a new release. The older book can be sort of a free bonus for trying the new one. Anything that sounds like a bargain sounds like it’s worth trying to me. Intrigue will release sequels from two of it's authors in the next couple of months. They might be good choices for this idea.

Will this really work?  Well, I haven’t tried it yet,  but I know the new/old books will need the same kind of promotion and marketing as a brand new release. When we’ve got it together we’ll get it rolling and I’ll report the results right here on my blog so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you have already tried some sort of bundling, please let us know how it worked for you, and if you’d try it again.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Even Bigger Marketing Mistakes

Last week I talked about some of the biggest marketing mistakes writers can make, and asked you what I missed. I think many of my readers have learned from the same experiences I have.

The top of our big mistake hit parade was not watching the market. Even if you are on top of marketing tends and plans today, that doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. The publishing industry is changing all the time. For instance, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing may have been the best bet for your ebooks not long ago, but that program requires exclusive rights. We’ve determined that today it is better to have your e-book on all available platforms and market to the different reader segments (IPad users, Nook owners, etc.) Also, in the last few years the preferred length for books, popular covers, and the popularity of short stories have all shifted. Stay aware of trends in the industry to make sure you’re giving your readers what they most want and expect.

Another big mistake a lot of writers make is not engaging with readers properly. If a reader takes the time to write to you, or Tweet to you or even comment on your Facebook page, you have got to respond. Let’s face it, fewer and fewer newspapers are reviewing books, bloggers get lots more books than they could ever review and other writers often don’t have time to read and comment on your books. Your best word-of-mouth friend is the reader who already likes your stuff. So for goodness sake respond to their tweets, comments and emails. Thank them for their interest. Engage with them.

Also high on my list of errors is waiting until your book is finished to get your web site up. It takes months to get a decent amount of traffic to your site. Plus, people who want more info about your book before release need a place to go. I think your website needs to be up and running at least four months before your book release. That’s when the most important reviewers should be receiving your Advance Reader Copies. Give them a reason to believe you’re a serious author, and a source for additional background if they decide they want it.

Here’s a mistake I’m often guilty of: forgetting to ask for help. I love doing live events and afterward always talk about all the people I got to talk to, and the books I signed. That’s when my marketing director, Sandra Bowman, will ask, “Did you ask for their email addresses so you can add them to your mailing list?” Yikes! Or, “When you signed their book did you ask them to post a review on Amazon after they read it?” Geez. So don’t be like me. Remember to ask for readers’ help.

The last two big mistakes I’ll mention are related. One is looking for the quick cash. It is NOT to your advantage to just throw books up on Amazon hoping one will score you readers. If you think you can spend all your time writing and none of it marketing, well… you’re wrong. It may work for one person out of a thousand, but those are mighty long odds.

Likewise, being in too big a hurry can be the biggest marketing error. I’ve known writers in such a rush to get that ebook posted that they couldn’t wait long enough to get it edited. Or proofread. Or formatted properly. Is this the best way to promote yourself? Feedback I get from readers is exactly the opposite. They say reading one poorly resented story is enough to keep them from ever reading anything from that author. So from my point of view, having your name on a book you can’t be proud of is the worst mistake any author can make.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Marketing Don’ts

It seems everybody wants to tell writers what to do to market and promote their books. I think it might be even more important to know what NOT to do. So I thought I’d share my idea of the worst things you could do.

First, you should avoid the two action extremes. At one end of the spectrum, you can’t just sit and wait to see what happens. Don’t lose the crucial first few release days waiting to see what kind of sales you’ll get without marketing.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t feel like you have to do everything either. There are so many social media sites, and some people do blog every day. But you can’t do all that AND read every writing blog AND attend every book event within driving distance. Is Goodreads a good thing? Yes. So is Library Thing. Pick one. Same with the other similar sites. Choose a couple you can really establish a solid presence on. You’ll find that pays off a lot better than trying to be on all of them a little bit or once in a while.
You shouldn’t think your book is all the writing you need to do. You should be producing lots of content for those on-line places where you want to be seen. Blog regularly, and if Facebook or Twitter are part of your plan post frequently. Consider YouTube as social media too and consider posting videos. Keep those posts appearing on Pinterest. Creating lots of content can become time consuming, but I’ve read several articles on the internet sharing easy ways to come up with engaging, and helpful, content. Google some up.
Speaking of big mistakes, don’t ever think your book is so timely, so hot, and so topical that you don’t need to market it. The rules apply to everyone! Hillary Clinton, Rush Limbaugh and Oprah Winfrey all make sure their books get lots of good marketing. Empire is the hottest thing on TV right now, but Taraji Henson is not too big to engage with people on Twitter. Her character on the show, Cookie, is a hustler, and to promote the show Henson is too!
OK, what do YOU think are the worst mistakes writers make in marketing? Share them with the class, and I’ll try to present them here next week.

Monday, March 2, 2015

How Hot Do We Want It?

At Intrigue Publishing we focus on specific genres of fiction. In our short business life we’ve published award-winning crime novels and young adult fiction, but our other two genres are moving more slowly. So right now our minds are on launching our sensual romance line. We are eager for submissions, but what we want to publish is very specific. Yes we want it to be steamy… but how hot is too hot?
Sensual romance is not erotica. We’re looking for hot, not burning. If you read Kensington's Brava line you’re enjoying books that are a bit too explicit for our intended audience. But also, hot is not “warm.” In a sensual romance you can’t leave EVERYTHING to the reader's imagination. We love Nora Roberts and Rebecca York, but we want to publish stories that are a little more explicit.
So how would we define sensuous romance? The novels we want may contain very explicit sensuality, and there is an expanded focus throughout the book on sexual feelings and desires. There will be at least two or three love scenes. The characters often think about their sexual feelings and desires, and making love is graphically depicted. HOWEVER, both the emotions of the hero and heroine and their physical feelings are important during love scenes.
We want our line to compete with, and share readers with, the Harlequin Temptations and Blaze lines. If you want to see exactly the kind of novel we’re most interested in, sample the novels written by J.D. Robb, Leanne Banks, Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley, Karen Marie Moning, Linda Howard, Lisa Kleypas, Susan Andersen and Sherrilyn Kenyon.   

Of course, in one way good sensual romance is like pornography – it’s hard to define but we know it when we see it. And we WANT to see it, so send us your novel submission soon. Of course, start by reading our submission guidelines at so you know it’s what we want in the form we want. Then send us something that will intrigue us and our readers.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Show Your Class at an Author Showcase

Today I attended a Local Author Showcase put on by a local book club. The event was well organized and well run, with only some nasty weather offering a bit of a challenge. Most of my fellow authors maintained a warm positive attitude but a few disappointed me. It seems there should be a class in how writers who are invited to a book fair event should behave. Allow me to offer a few tips.
First, remember that you are a guest at an event that someone has worked hard to put together.  So show your hosts some respect. If for some reason you can’t make it, at least call or send an email saying so, so the organizers don’t try to save your table. And if you paid to attend and can’t, don’t ask for a refund on the day of the event. Your organizers have already paid for the space and sometimes a meal for a count that included you. They are not responsible if you choose not to show up.
If you do attend, please be on time. Getting set up in a narrow hall (or worse, at a street fair) only gets harder if you don’t stick to the organizer’s set up schedule.
If there are other rules, respect them. Every little rule established by the show hosts has a reason. If you have questions, ask them respectfully. You are much more likely to get what you need, and you won’t put them in a bad mood that could affect the rest of us.
You should also remember that you are there as part of a community of writers, not a crowd of competitors. So don’t pitch to the other authors. I’m not there to talk about your book; I’m there to talk about mine. 
Don’t ask for trades - It is not my intent to leave the book fair with the same number of books I arrived with, and if I say yes to you I’d feel funny saying no to others. Besides, if I wanted your book I’d offer you money like everyone else.

Don’t steal buyers! If someone is already talking to me it is rude to start talking to them about your book. Odds are they don’t want to offend anyone and so they’ll leave with neither book.

Similarly, don’t stand in front of my table or booth. You have a space assigned to you. When people wander into that area, speak to them. Not before, and absolutely not after. So don’t chase people down. If she was interested in your book she wouldn’t have walked away. If you make her angry she’ll think we’re all like that and will be afraid to speak to anyone.

For goodness sake don’t whine. If you don’t think the organizers advertised enough, or if you don’t like the weather, the venue, the patrons or the rules, keep it to yourself. The rest of us are trying to remain cheerful and positive, because that’s what attracts potential book buyers.

Focus on your book - No one wants to hear about your heart transplant, unless perhaps your book is about surviving a heart transplant. Likewise no one cares that you’re a war hero - unless you wrote a war book.

Finally, be willing to share - your ideas, your thoughts, your lemonade and most of all your enthusiasm. Positive mental attitude is contagious and if you help create a cheerful and pleasant atmosphere, we may even recommend your book to the lady who doesn’t like ours.
If you follow these simple tips you will always be welcome at a future Author Showcase.  And you’ll sign more books.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Panning for Gold

While I should be tackling the final rewrite of the next Hannibal Jones mystery I am instead focused on my publisher duties, reading through an avalanche of submissions, sifting the sand in search of 16 nuggets of gold worthy of publication.
Intrigue Publishing is taking submissions for a Young Adult anthology entitled Young Adventurers: Heroes, Explorers & Swashbucklers. We want stories of action, adventure and, yes, intrigue, featuring a teenage protagonist. We welcome spy thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, paranormal or fantasy stories. Dragons and magic are fine. Straight adventure stories are also welcome and they could be set in any time period. We’d love to see a good western or pirate story. The subtitle, “Tales of teens saving the day in the past, the present, the future & on other worlds” is an indication of the level of diversity we’re looking for. But I’ve already encountered a surprising amount of what we DON’T want.
For example, our submission guidelines clearly state that “The manuscript must be double-spaced, 12-point type, (Times New Roman or Arial.)” And yet, so far I have received stories in 11 point, one single spaced, another in a font called Calibri and one in a format called “.pages” which I can’t open with any software on my computer. If these people can’t get something as simple as font or format right how much detail do we think they pay to their prose? And if these simple instructions are too much for them, how will they respond to an editor’s input?  
The submission guidelines also included this direction: “The important requirements are that the protagonist be a courageous teenage boy or girl, that the story be gripping with a real sense of risk or danger, and that the protagonist survives or saves the day through his or her own intelligence, skill and ingenuity.”
And yet, I’ve read three stories so far in which the teen protagonist is little more than an observer or the person in jeopardy who gets rescued by an adult.
So what’s my point? It’s tedious enough reading weak and poorly written hunting for the ones the rare one worthy to be in an Intrigue Publishing anthology. If a writer doesn’t bother to adhere to our submission guidelines they are telling me that they don’t really care if we buy their story or not.  If you DO want someone to pay for your story, or novel, you dramatically increase your chances when you give them what they ask for.

And now, back to the search.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Writing, Publishing... and Life

Here’s the problem: being a publisher requires a lot of focus. I’m also a professional communicator for the Defense Department. And then I am at heart a writer. People often ask me how I can ever get any writing done with all my other responsibilities.

But I’m not alone, am I? All writers are multitasking. Even if you don’t have a job to do, I’ll bet you have a family, a dog to walk or a cat to feed, friends who need you or just want to hang out, a room that needs painting or a car you should be washing. So, what do we do when this thing called life gets in the way of our passion – writing.

Well, like any addict, step one is admitting that you have a problem. The problem is that there are only so many hours in a day. It’s easy to focus on something else today. Then tomorrow something else grabs you. And the next thing you know, a month has passed without any writing getting done. Admit to yourself that your novel or short stories will never appear if you only write when you have the time.

Step two is to take a good hard look at your life. Figure out what your priorities are and you should actually list them. You should admit to yourself that there are things more important than your writing, but also determine those time eaters that are less important.

Step three is the hard part. Commitment. How much time will you give your passion? Two hours a week? Ten hours? There’s no wrong answer. You’ll write as much as you need to, but accept that you won’t be doing something else. Maybe that means you’ll miss Friday night at the club with your pals. Maybe you won’t keep up with Downton Abbey. But whatever the choice, you need to make a firm commitment to an amount of time your writing deserves and stick to it.

Then take a close look at yourself as a writer. What time of day are you creative thoughts flowing? Does your muse visit early in the morning, late at night, or mid-day during your lunch hour? Once you know that you can make a schedule. That’s right, you should pick up your calendar and block out your writing time. It should be someplace you can see it every day.

Once you’ve figured out how to keep life from getting in the way of your writing, stick to it! You’ll find that if you sit down to create every day at the same time your mind will quickly become conditioned to the schedule. When you sit down to write, the ideas will already be there, raring to go. And your writing won’t let your life get in the way.