Blank to 50K: Marketing

Blank to 50K(3)I met with my critique group this morning and we spent a good portion of the meeting talking about how to promote our books. We’re a diverse group, writing non-fiction, memoirs, women’s fiction, romance, sci fi and mystery. Some are traditionally published and some, like me, are hybrid. But no matter what we write, or how we are published, the task of marketing falls squarely on our shoulders.

What it boils down to is this: You may have written a really good book, it may be edited, with an attractive, professional cover, but if you don’t market it, you are not going to experience success.

My group often teases me and tells me I need to run a seminar for them, to share what I’ve learned. Last fall, I decided to start treating my writing as a business. Why shouldn’t I make money on it? I spend a lot of time writing, editing, rewriting, and I run it through my critique group until I’m satisfied it is good enough to be released. I invest in professionals to help me get it to that point. So, it only makes sense that I should market it and spread the word about my books. And since I’ve gathered this information, done the research, and tried various things myself, I thought it might be helpful for others.

So, back to the topic – how do you get your name out there?

Blog. Blog regularly. You’re a writer, write. Let readers get to know you, hear your voice. Several years ago, I read a blog post by Tawna Fenske that resonated with me. I loved her voice, subscribed to her blog, and was so excited when her books started to sell. And I’ve bought most of them. Blogging gets your name out there. Google and other search engines like that.

Website. Invest in your own domain. It’s really not that expensive, and it’s not that hard. Do it on a shoestring budget to start – all you need is a domain and a host. I recommend starting with GoDaddy or Fat Cow, because they are user-friendly. I started with GoDaddy and changed last year to Fat Cow. I use WordPress as my blogging platform (check out the link for info as to org vs com), which integrates well with both. If you are new to creating a website, take the time to read their tutorials or watch YouTube videos BEFORE you begin. Seriously, invest in yourself – invest time and invest money. If you want to be a professional writer, act like a professional writer. And don’t bank on Facebook or any other social media site – you want to own your material and control it.

Giveaways. As far as I’m concerned, the jury is out on this. I’ve run Goodreads giveaways and I don’t think it’s done squat for my sales numbers. You might have a different take on it – feel free to comment and let me know what your experience has been if you’ve tried them. Amazon now offers giveaways, too, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Advertising. You have to spend money to make money.

Pay Per Click. It’s just what it sounds like. Your ad appears (usually in a sidebar) and, if someone clicks on the ad (which should lead them to your book’s Amazon page), you pay. I like this idea because it allows you to play with your ad as people respond (or not). You can tweak the text with your ad if you aren’t getting results. You control the budget. You can run PPC ads on Facebook, Google, Goodreads, etc. I haven’t had great results with these ads. I think they’re too small, too easily missed. I didn’t even realize they were there until I started buying the ads.

Subscription Promotions. There are a boatload of newsletters out there than send emails to their subscribers on a regular basis, usually alerting them to discounted ebooks. This has proven successful for me. To see just how successful, take a look at the yearly review I did last year. This gets to be really overwhelming, because once you start looking, you’ll find that everybody and their brother has a mailing list and wants to send your ad, usually for a reasonable fee. How do you choose? I recommend that you sign up for the newsletters. Pay attention to the newsletters that appeal to you. If they appeal to you, there’s a good chance they’ll appeal to your readers. Look at their subscriber numbers. Do they offer targeted newsletters, such as genre specific? What is their Alexa number (how high do they rank – click here for a good article)? Do they offer add-ons, such as a listing on their Facebook page or do they tweet about your promotion? (the best known of these, in my opinion, is BookBub. I’ve never run a promotion with them, because they are really pricey. Another is EreaderNewsToday, who I’ve had good luck with. There are lots and lots of others – EbookHounds, the Fussy¬† Librarian, Robin Reads, ManyBooks, BargainBooksy, etc.)

Stacking Promotions. When you are running a promotion, I recommend running a series of ads. This serves several purposes: 1) you can evaluate the sales on the day of your ad, and 2) you can build upon your success (the idea here is that people from Day 1 ad will purchase your book, which will then make it appear on the “also bought” banner that appears on Amazon book pages, and 3) the more sales you get, the more Amazon’s algorithms notice you (and that’s a good thing).

Marketing Calendar. You have to KEEP selling. In order to do this, create a marketing calendar and plan your promotions. Some of the really good subscription services are highly sought after, and you have to apply early to get your book on the list. I’m trying to promote my books quarterly, but I’m still fairly new at this, so time will tell if this is a good plan.

Pricing. Pricing plays a huge part in marketing. Think about how much to price your book in the first place. I price my books generally at $2.99 or $3.99 as the regular price. Personally, I look for books at either $.99 or $1.99 when I buy, because I tend to be a bargain shopper. I’m willing to take a chance on a new author at that price.

Okay, this got way longer than I intended, but I wanted to jot some ideas down while I was thinking about it. I’ll spend a little more time on each of these things later, and go more in depth, but hopefully this’ll get you started. If you want more detailed info, make sure you sign up for my newsletter.

Happy marketing! (and if you’ve found something that works, I’d love to hear your thoughts)

If you’ve found this info helpful, feel free to pass it along.

Post Vacation Blues

Rich Mountain RoadWe took a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains last week. We dropped our Miniature Schnauzer and Beagle off at the kennel and headed out. We stopped for the night in Cookeville, Tennessee, then went on the next day to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. That was our home base for trips in our Renegade through Cades Cove, up to Elkmont, over Rich Mountain Road and took a drive to Cataloochee. Though I was disappointed that we didn’t see any wildlife, other than some wild turkeys and deer, it was nice to be out in nature like that. But now that we’re back home, back to work and back to our routine, I’m feeling the post-vacation blues. Sighs escaped my lips too many times today, and my shoulders slump, matching my mood.

One of my most relaxing afternoons of vacation was spent lounging beside the pool, reading Head Games. It was decadent, there under the canopy of trees with the stream gurgling just the other side of the wrought iron fence. While I read, I was transported to the biting cold of St. Louis, hunting a serial killer. I LOVE that feeling – that experience of losing myself in a story, no matter the plot or the setting, whether it be a romantic comedy or a procedural mystery. I’m not sure what it is about reading, but it makes absolutely no difference where I am, I love disappearing into a story. So, that’s what I did at lunch today – I escaped back into Head Games and it was like a mini-vacation.

And that, dear reader, is what I want for you. I want you to join me in that decadent feeling. Curl up in your favorite chair and open a book, take a mini-vacation, and enjoy.

If you want to read a mystery, try Fatal Impulse. If you’d rather read a contemporary Western with a romantic twist, try Diamond in the Rough.

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BLANK to 50K: Getting Started

Blank to 50K(2)

The hardest part of writing is facing the blank page.

When I was a kid, I wrote all the time. My mom brought me notebooks filled with my longhand scribbles several years ago and I was amazed. As a teenager, I didn’t have trouble getting the stories started. I just put pen to paper and let the words flow. So why was it so hard for me to start writing as an adult?

Adulting is hard. Creativity is fun.

Simple. I’m an adult. I’ve lost that joyful creative streak that lets kids PLAY.

Think about it – when was the last time you let yourself play purely for the sake of playing? When did you truly let your imagination run wild?

You need to find that inner child. Bribe him or her with something fun. Let her play.

And that brings me to NOW. You want to write a book. You have the kernel of an idea. You’ve thought about your characters and your setting. You may even know some of your plot points. But you don’t know how to start. I get it. I remember getting book after book about how to write, but I didn’t “get” it. I couldn’t figure out how to actually start with a blank page and get to at least 50,000 words so I’d have the complete skeleton of a book.

That’s why I’m here. To help you get there.

So . . . how do you start?

First things first – start your routine. Once you get in a routine, you’ll actually be training your brain to write when you are ready to write. Real writers don’t wait for inspiration to write. They treat writing as a job.

Do whatever works for you. It could be where you write, what you write with, lighting a candle, drinking a particular drink, having a particular snack. I used to have a little rock that I drew a face on – I’d take him with me when I went out somewhere to write. Now I have a fairy necklace that I wear, to represent my muse.

Your Notebook

You should have a notebook dedicated to this book you are writing. Get it out now. Grab a pen that feels good to you – one that writes smoothly. (are you as obsessed with office supplies as I am?)

Open the first page. Now, pretend you’re writing to me.

  • Tell me what your book is about. This should be at least a page long.
  • Tell me about your main character. Who is she/he? What does he/she want? What is his/her greatest fear?
  • Draw a mindmap. Put your character in the middle. Then think about the individuals and events that would have had an impact on him/her, and how those things are related. Do this for your other characters, too.
  • Flip to a fresh page. What is the first thing that will happen in your book? Pretend your talking to me over a cup of coffee.
  • Flip to a fresh page. How do you want your book to end?

Okay, so, you’ve done all that?

Open up your laptop and start.

There’s no magic formula. Just start writing. Don’t worry about grammar, don’t worry about structure, just tell your character’s story. Let yourself feel what your character feels, see what your character sees.

Have a goal.

Write 3 pages a day. If you can’t get that much done, write something every day. There are days I have to force myself to sit down and write one sentence. I tell myself that – “You can write one sentence, at least.” I don’t think I’ve ever stopped at one sentence. You’ll likely do the same.

Touch base with your muse periodically.

At least once a week, pull out your notebook and simply noodle ideas. Just like at the beginning, pretend you’re talking to me. Just tell me what’s going on in your story, what is going to happen next, what problems your characters are having, what else you can do to give them a hard time.

If you’re really pressed for time, record your thoughts while you’re driving. I plotted my first book entirely by talking to myself while commuting to and from work. Every day, I would ask myself, what can go wrong on the ranch tonight? What if this happens? What if that happens?

See, you started out with a blank page and now, you’re a writer!

You can do this. I have faith in you.

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