Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day to Day Marketing

Sometimes I think the best thing I can do in my blog is point writers to other blogs they should be reading.  I’ve been focused on marketing more than craft here recently and was thinking about how overwhelming that job can seem.  There are so many things a writer CAN do to promote their work that it could easily become a full time job.  I thought I’d write something about that but my research proved that someone else has already done a good job there.
Every published author should be following the blog “Marketing Tips for Authors.”  It recently featured an entry entitled “7 Weekly Book Marketing Goals You Can Adopt Todaythat lays out a way that a writer can market his or her book on a consistent basis.  The issue, I think, is not so much knowing what to do as knowing how to do it.  The trick is to have a plan for breaking the various jobs into smaller pieces.  The book marketing plan might start as monthly or weekly objectives, but the easiest path to success is to follow weekly and daily goals, and make them part of your routine.

The seven objectives laid out in the article are simple, and if done consistently they will help you increase your book’s visibility, grow your platform, and extend your network.  Their first suggestion is to either be a guest blogger or get another writer to be a guest on your blog.  Posting on someone else’s blog is a great way to get your name and your writing in front of a new audience.  If you have guest bloggers, they will usually bring some of their readers to your blog.  If they like it, your blog may become a regular stop for them.  So they suggest that every week you look for a way to expand your readership through guest blogging.  And by the way, I am ALWAYS looking for guest bloggers here.  Anything related to living the life of a writer is welcome, four hundred words is a good length, and I always post book covers and web site links.

Their second great recommendation is that you comment on ten blog posts every week.  Not hard if you commit to posting two comments every day.  If those blogs are related to your writing, or the blogs of similar authors, this will get your name in front of new readers too.  It will also help you build relationships with those other bloggers. 

The blog on Marketing Tips for Authors includes five more great ideas.  These seven weekly book marketing goals laid out in the blog really are pretty simple and really will help new readers find your work.  Plus, the daily activity will help you to get better at book marketing.  Of course, their list is by no means everything you should be doing, but they can be a heck of a good start.  Find out at http://blog.marketingtipsforauthors.com/2011/05/7-weekly-book-marketing-goals-you-can.html

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Get the Most Out of a Conference

I wish I was at Book Expo America right now, but I had to make a financial choice and I’ll get more out of Thrillerfest.  Whichever writer’s conferences you decide to attend, you should not just go for the fun if you’re an author.  So have clear goals when you plan to attend one of these events.  I focus on networking a lot, but you may want to accomplish other things and that’s fine, just know what they are in advance.

If networking IS your focus at a writer’s conference, get started before the event.  Dig thru the conference website and pick out the people you want to meet.  If you can find an email address (usually easy if it’s an agent, publisher or writer who is networking too) send them a note letting them know you’re looking forward to meeting them, or taking their class or hearing their presentation.  Also friend them on Facebook, like them on their fan page, and follow them on Twitter.  See, you’re already connected.  And if you want more than five minutes with an individual, go ahead and set up an appointment during the conference.

Also, please don’t make the disastrous mistake I made at my first conference.  Take plenty of business cards.

One cool idea for staying organized is to take a few small envelopes with you.  If you’re collecting other people’s cards you can stick all you get at one award presentation or dinner in one envelope so you remember where you met those folks.  When you get each card jot a note on the back about the meeting (“said he’d give me a blurb” or “was willing to look at my manuscript” are my favorites.)  Then you won’t forget to follow up, and when you do you can mention that award presentation you both sat thru.

There are always meals at these events so make sure you never eat alone.  In fact, try to eat with different people each time to maximize your networking. 

Finally, make sure you follow up with everyone you told you’d contact.  Otherwise, it was a wasted contact.  And try to stay in touch with those folks AFTER the event – you DID friend them on Facebook, right?  Maybe you’ll see them at a future conference and they’ll introduce you to even more people worth knowing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

You think YOUR life is weird?

I don’t usually borrow from other blogs, but considering my theme you’ll understand why I was fascinated by an article entitled “15 Writers With Lives More Interesting Than Fiction  My guest writers and I focus on the writing life here.  The author of that article, Erin Lenderts, points out that throughout history, writers have led interesting lives, with lifestyles well worth exploring.  Truly creative minds have long been driven to drugs,  alcohol abuse, tumultuous relationships, and often mental instability.  

Among the 15 lives explored in the article is Ernest Hemingway, a members of the "Lost Generation," who was an ambulance driver during World War I.  Hemingway was also a bull runner, a lifelong heavy drinker and an American expatriate in Paris. He married four times, and was almost killed in two different plane crashes while on safari in Africa. He is believed to have had a genetic disease that causes mental and physical deterioration over time. When alcohol, accidents and continuous risk taking failed to kill him, he took his own life by shooting himself with his favorite shotgun,

Even more interesting was the life of Sylvia Plath.  It seemed she was obsessed with death and deterioration, which may not be so surprising, considering that her father died when she was eight years old.  His death inspired her first suicide attempt – rather a young age to try to overdose on sleeping pills.  She finally did manage to kill herself when she was 30 years old.  A gas oven proved more effective than pills.

The lives, and deaths, of Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, and eleven more authors of note get a close and fun examination in the article, which I recommend you check out on your own.  Then, maybe you will feel better about your own life.  I do.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Kindle Book Un-Signing

With ebooks beginning to outsell dead tree books, one of the forecasts I’ve heard is that we’ll see the end of the book signing.  No more readings, no more face-to-face time with authors and no more of the interaction that helps an author understand his or her audience.  Well luckily, those forecasters were wrong.  The fact that you can’t put a pen on the fly leaf of an ebook hasn’t stopped anything.

The Soundry, in Vienna, VA, has been holding a series of Kindle parties for those readers who are always looking for a good download for their ereader.  Each Kindle Party features several novelists reading from their digitally published books.  The audience sits poised with their Kindles in hand.  When someone likes what they hear and wants more, they just download that book on the spot.

At the Soundry, they really do make each event a party.   At 7pm there is a half hour of social time so authors and readers can mingle and talk.  The writers discuss their books and answer questions from both the live audience and internet listeners via a live chat.  Then each author gets ten minutes for a reading, and a chance to answer more questions.  The evening ends with a panel discussion where the authors share their experiences with epublishing and social networking.

I see great potential for this approach to book events to be expanded and enhanced.  Authors could set up friendly competitions to see who can move the most books in a specific period of time.  Venues could arrange prizes for the reader who downloads the most books in an evening.  Or authors could offer discount coupons – codes that would allow readers to download another of their books for free or at reduced cost.
All in all, this Kindle Party idea strikes me as a marvelous way for readers to discover new writers, and for authors to build their fan base.  It’s a nice mix of grassroots selling and potentially viral marketing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Can I Write a Bestseller? (Part 4)

A while ago I started talking about what it takes to write a guaranteed blockbuster.  The longer I thought about it, the more I began to realize how many different factors publishers must look at before asking a writer to produce a particular book that they think will sell big.  If the editors at publishing houses do have a formula for bestsellers, I suspect there are things to consider even after the book is written.

One of those factors must be timing.  For films we often think of summer blockbusters, but fall is always a big time for book releases.  Publishers seem to push their biggest titles out in the fall.  Of course that means that if you’re NOT one of their biggest titles it can be a tough time to launch.  To make it work you’d need to start marketing efforts real early… but that’s true no matter when you launch your book.  For best results, you really should have your title and branding finalized six to eight months ahead of the book launch, and as soon as you have those things you should be marketing.

And it’s easy to see that big publishers line their book releases up with dates that fit their subject matter.  For example, books that are about relationships debut on or near Valentine’s Day.  If your book is focused on moms, Mother's Day is the obvious release date.  It’s just easier to sell something to somebody already interested in it, so save that World War II thriller for Memorial Day or maybe Pearl Harbor Day. 

It will help your book climb the charts if it has a unique message.  This is one way to differentiate your book from all the similar stuff out there.  When you have zoomed in on your unique marketing message you can develop that brief, interesting statement often called your elevator pitch – so called because it’s what you’d tell an agent about your book if you happened to get into an elevator with her and only have until she reaches her floor to make your sale. 

Looking back over all the ideas I came up with that seem to guide publishers to developing, buying and promoting bestsellers, the one consistent fact seems to be that it is not about us authors at all.  We do the work, put in the hours, to craft something special, but the bottom line of this business is: It’s all about the reader.  What can your book do to help that person or make them happy?  The answer to that question is the linchpin to a successful writing career.

Friday, May 6, 2011

New Business Model?

   I know I’ve talked a lot about ebooks of late.  Self-publishing through Kindle and it’s cousins has definitely resulted in a new business model for authors, but it’s not the only one.  I'll talk about the new Kindle Parties another day.  But today's news is that I just found out about the Kickstarter project in Pittsburgh and I think it’s created a great new approach to book selling in Fleeting Pages - http://www.fleetingpages.com/ - a pop-up bookstore.
Basically, Fleeting Pages consists of taking over one of the spaces left empty by a failed bookstore.  Starting tomorrow they’ll be up and running in a former Borders.  For one month they will fill that 6,000 square feet with independent and self-published books and  art,  They will host workshops and other events, but essentially it will be a big bookstore offering great writing not found on the end cap in the big bookstores.

In order to make the temporary bookstore (or world’s longest book fair if you like) financially viable, Fleeting Pages is only taking books on consignment.  The idea must be attractive to authors because without pre-paying for stock they have had new books, magazines, comics, journals and art pouring in from all over, along with great workshop and event ideas.

To keep people coming in, Fleeting Pages folks plan to have raffles, mixed bag books for sale, and lots of authors to talk to.  Also in the works is an online store which could help reduce the number of books they might have to return as the store closes up next month.  That piece of the project will remain online even after the store closes, but they will then redirect the purchase links to the publisher or author website.

If this idea works, if they move enough books to pay for the rental of the space, utilities and supplies, this pop-up bookstore idea could have a future.  They could open more pop-ups of various kinds in the Pittsburgh area.  Or they might try it in different regions, or help others open their own stores in various places.

I think this idea has tremendous potential, and you can be sure I’ve submitted my books for their use.  I hope it’s not too late, but if it is… well, there might be another chance next month in another location. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Can I Write a Bestseller? (Part 3)

A while ago I started talking about what it takes to write a guaranteed blockbuster.  We’ve talked about writing to a ready market, picking the right title, be too in love with your own ideas, branding, and knowing how to compete with major publishers.  If the editors at publishing houses have a formula for bestsellers, I suspect all those things are figured in, along with knowing what other similar titles are out there.

I think knowing the competition is vital.  As I said before you need to identify your market to know someone wants to read your book.  You need to read the top books in your genre and get to know those writers.  I find writers conferences are a great way to network with the top mystery and thriller authors, but you can also make connections by visiting their blogs or even through email.  If you want to write a bestseller, then you’ve got to write a book that fits in with the winners in your genre.  At the same time you need to avoid writing a book that’s TOO much like another recent hit.  Even if it were written better, The Michelangelo Code would not hit the bestseller list now.  And while you’re making connections you get to share helpful information.  Besides, it’s easier to ask for that killer back cover blurb from somebody you’ve had a drink with.

If you plan to write a bestseller you’d better know who you’re writing for, and how to reach them.  This way you can add elements to your book that are of particular interest to this readership.  You can even get in with that group BEFORE you write the book.  A novel or series set on a cruise ship could be a big hit if you know how to market to people who go on cruises.  Likewise, a book that is of great interest to people who belong to a particular club or association is born with built in promotion, marketing and networking advantages.  In this way, if you are the stereotypical solitary, isolated author you hurt your book’s chances of becoming a blockbuster.

How people will buy your book affects its sales success too.  These days it’s hard for a book to get shelf space in the big bookstores unless the author has already written bestsellers.  It helps to offer your book on your own web site.  I don’t, but I DO link to Amazon to make it easy for people to order copies of my work.  To reach bestseller status you need to look at other outlets as well.  Gift shops and specialty stores, catalogs and associations are all possible outlets for the right book.  Major publishers map out sales strategy early, and so should you.  If you intend to target specialty shops, gift shops, or catalogs you'll need to approach them early because they often have a time-consuming buying process.  You should begin by showing the same Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) that you send to reviewers.  You can make sales using these “unedited galleys” if you’re approaching the right market.

All this and we haven’t talked about timing or messaging yet.  Well, we’ll save them for next time.