Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book Promotion: What Works for Me and What Doesn't



Like many of my fellow authors, I’m on an eternal quest for promotional ideas—preferably ones that generate sales. For the first book in my Hazel Rose Book Group series I had a hit-or-miss approach, but I’ve been much more pro-active with #2 in the series. Here’s my assessment of my activity and findings:

In February, I appeared on Virginia This Morning. I was beyond nervous and recount the experience on my blog. But my sales soared that day and I got an invitation to visit a book group.

I used an e-mail service called Ereader News Today (ENT) and also had a huge boost in sales. I’ll be going that route again. My publisher wanted me to use BookBub but I balked at forking over close to $1,000 (ENT is $50).

I’ve joined four tweet groups on Facebook. My Australian friend Christina Larmer invited me to the first one, which is “secret.” All I can say is that it’s for cozy authors.

Next I tried T4US, a group that anyone can join. It has many members and they tweet everything from books to skin care to jewelry.

A member of the aforementioned secret cozy group sponsored me for Authors Social Media Support Group (ASMSG). This is a multi-function group with a newsletter, several tweet groups, forums, etc. I haven’t tapped into ten percent of what ASMSG has to offer, but I share tweets with the group daily.

My most recent tweet group is part of the Mystery Authors International Facebook group. I've been a member for less than a week but already love the enthusiasm and support. We can all use a hefty dose of that. 

There are lots of tweet groups and you can find the right one for you. It’s a great way to get retweets. Everyone who posts on a given day is expected to retweet all the other posts for that day. 

I’ve created what amounts to a portfolio of memes to accompany my tweets. This is the fun part for me. Here's an example:


What else? I’ve been interviewed for radio and podcasts. As for blogs, I continue to post here on NovelSpaces, on my own blog at Maggieking.com/blog, and on Lethal Ladies Write. Aside from the requisite Facebook and Tweet accounts, YouTube, Instagram, Google Plus, and LinkedIn complete my platform. I have all but abandoned Pinterest.
 
But how does all of this activity impact sales? Aside from the obvious sales boosts from my TV appearance and ENT promo, it’s hard to measure, especially when I’m using several promotional tools on any given day. But it all helps. Before joining these tweet groups, I’d been a half-hearted tweeter, always feeling like I was shooting at a moving target. But some of these tweeters have thousands and thousands of followers—so with that many retweets hurling around in cyberspace, someone must be taking notice. 

As for Facebook groups, there are hundreds of them and I belong to many—but, aside from a few, I’m not sure if my posts make any impact. And these days I feel much the same about my Facebook author page.

Here’s an idea I haven’t tried yet. Amy Vansant has a service called Authors Cross Promotion and one of the options is a Series Spotlight Newsletter Feature. Here is more info. If anyone has used Amy’s services, please share your experience. 

Of course, engagement is key on social media, not promotion per se. But my purpose in writing this post is to consider promotional tools. And the best tool of all: my next book. I hear that time and again from seasoned authors. So excuse me while I get back to writing mine!

Please weigh in with your thoughts and suggestions. What works for you? What doesn’t?       

Friday, July 14, 2017

Don’t make me angry.


 Hi. This is my first blog for Novel Spaces and I’m delighted to be part of this great team of authors.

Here in the UK, I’m involved in the running of Cheshire Book Connections. Based in the heart of England, we describe ourselves as “a book club with a difference.” Unlike the more traditional clubs where members read the same book and everyone discusses it at the next meeting, we have a guest speaker every month, who provides entertainment and generates discussion. Usually the speaker is an author, but it can be anyone who is connected with books. We proclaim that our club is “for lovers of all things bookish” and speakers can vary from authors to bloggers to book cover designers. Do such clubs exist near where you live?

At our last meeting, the speaker was an author, Robyn Cain. Robyn writes in several genres, including horror, and it was fascinating to hear how her horror stories provide a release for her anger.

It got me thinking about influences on my own writing. I don’t often get angry, and I don’t write horror. Even at my age, I rarely read horror and can only watch the really scary movies in daylight, if at all. My genre is romance suspense with more than a hint of steamy sex. I had a lot of fun coming up with my logo, only getting “angry” when it didn’t quite line up.


So if feeling angry can influence someone to write horror, what might influence an author to write romance suspense with explicit scenes of passion?

Delving deep into my inner soul I confess, for me, it is a love of love. I adore reading romance, watching romance and hearing about people who fall in love. I’m happily married and cherish the gift of being with somebody I love everyday of my life. Knowing that a man loves a woman, or a woman loves a woman, or a man loves a man—it all cheers my heart. Whilst love alone may not make the world go around, it certainly helps to make us human.

Well, that might explain my romance, but where does the suspense come from? My stories are not for the faint-hearted—they’re not cosy or sweet. My heroes and heroines have to fight for love. They must overcome difficulties, and survive dangers. I deal with issues of physical abuse, sexual abuse, kidnapping and murder. I don’t have enough anger to feed these themes. But I do have a need for challenges in my life. As a young child I wanted to do well at school and grow up to make more money than we were used to having at home. Training to be an accountant left me determined to pass my professional exams. Having done that I was driven to work up to the position of finance director. At the age of forty, admittedly urged on by my husband, I cycled a hundred miles in one day. Twice! I even learned to ride a motorbike. One of my latest challenges was ticked off when Black Opal Books issued me with a publishing contract for my first book, The Secret At Arnford Hall.

I wonder, therefore, if my desire for suspense comes from needing to give my characters challenges. Of course, I go one step further in my stories and create adversities for them to overcome. Or perhaps it’s just that I love thrillers as well as romance, and I infiltrate my stories with hooks of danger, to keep the reader turning the page.

That just leaves me to ponder where the steamy sex scenes come from… I’ll let you ponder that too.


Monday, July 10, 2017

SEVEN STEPS I TOOK TO GO FROM SELF-­PUBLISHED TO A BOOK DEAL

Greetings! I was looking through some interesting articles and blog posts that I'd written years ago. I thought I'd share this one, which my fellow author Brandon Massey asked me to write for his blog. This was written 10 years ago, in 2007, just after Dr. Feelgood was released by Kensington Books. I listed the 7 steps that I took to go from being a self-published author, to being offered a book deal by a major publisher in 2001.



I thought I'd share it today. Some, if not all of the 7 suggestions are still relevant today. Social media is much more of a factor now, and self-publishing is way easier and more prevalent now. New authors, see - there is so much work to be done in order to get signed by a major, before and after you've penned your book. Enjoy!


SEVEN STEPS I TOOK TO GO FROM SELF-­PUBLISHED TO A BOOK  DEAL

By Marissa Monteilh

Author, May December Souls, The Chocolate Ship, Hot Boyz, Make Me Hot and Dr. Feelgood

First, it is important to note that while many authors secure agency representation, and/or sell their manuscripts without self­-publishing first, self­-publishing proved to be an important avenue that led to my two book deal with HarperCollins in April of 2001, and opened the door to my full-­time career as an  author.

You should determine whether or not self-­publishing is an option you’d like to explore. Being that I had shopped my manuscript for nearly six months and only received offers from small publishing companies who first wanted upfront fees (a big no-­no), and after attending Michael Baisden’s book signing where he suggested that I self-­publish first, it was pretty much a no-brainer for me. Michael suggested that I purchase a copy of The Self Publishing Manual by Daniel Poynter. Not only did I run out the next day and pick up the book, I followed every suggested step book like clockwork. 

Once you decide to take this step, do not make any excuses that will block your blessings. The steps outlined include a time frame that is extremely easy to follow, and the entire process took me eight months. Before I knew it I had my first shipment of 3000 books delivered to my home office. Holding that bound book in your hand will surely make all of your hard work well worth it. Stay disciplined and follow through!

1) PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE: 
Joining the PMA – Publishers Marketing Association, and other organizations, allowed me the opportunity to participate in various wholesaler programs for self-published authors like Baker & Taylor and Ingram. Wholesalers are invaluable because most bookstores purchase from wholesalers as opposed to going to each author directly. And, being a member of a particular organization can entitle you to receive big discounts from printing companies, etc. 

Invest in marketing materials like bookmarks and flyers. Make sure prospective readers have something in hand to remind them that your book is out there.

Thank goodness for the Internet!! Search the Internet for book club contact information and send each contact person an email, offer to send review copies, etc. Book clubs are an invaluable tool toward spreading the word.

Search the Internet for bookstore listings. Call the owners, visit the stores, request book signing dates, etc. Bookstores are very accommodating and they are usually willing to distribute your marketing materials as well. Also, list your title on Amazon.com and other online listings.

If you can afford to, plan a book tour, if possible, so that you promote your title in person. If money is an issue, sign locally in your area. Research book fairs and other events. Focus on spreading the word. And always bring a sign-­in sheet for readers to jot down their email addresses. Very important!

Come up with marketing angles such as giveaways, hair salon contests, free gifts with proof of purchase. Contact various companies whose products match well with your book title and with the target age of your readers and ask them to donate their goods or services. Also, offer a free book to readers who will in turn write a review on www.amazon.com 

Contact radio stations and newspapers and request that they do a feature  story on you and your book. Most people like to hear about the author's journey or how that book relates to the world or the life of the author. Find an angle that ties in and promote it. And always research how to write a good press release. You can email the release or fax it. Last but not least; GET A WEBSITE. I recommend www.pageturner.net, an awesome company that creates websites for most AA authors.

2) TRACK SALES AND PREPARE A DISTRIBUTION SUMMARY:  
One reason to self-­publish is to prove that your title will sell and that the subject matter is in demand. I prepared a Marketing and Distribution Summary, which the agents found very helpful. My agent used the information in his cover letters to publishers. It should include your target market, genre, sales history, list price, distribution strategy, reviews, media outlets, and other avenues of promotion.

3) RESEARCH AND CONTACT AGENTS WHO HANDLE AUTHORS IN YOUR GENRE: 
Once I felt the title was circulating fairly well, I decided to submit the self­-published version to agents. I compiled a list of agents based upon various agents I’d noticed mentioned in the acknowledgment sections of authors in  a similar genre. I scoured the Internet for agency listings. I flipped through the Literary Marketplace by R.R. Bowker for specific agents who were accepting submissions. NEVER PAY AN AGENCY FEE and check out agents to make sure they're reputable.

Once I narrowed down my list to eight agents, I contacted each agency via  telephone to see if they were accepting submissions and if so, what the guidelines were. I also inquired as to which agencies were accepting email queries.

I decided I would submit via email on the first round. I included the cover image and a brief query letter, maybe three paragraphs. The first paragraph indicated that I was seeking representation on my newly  released, self-published title, (include word count) and mentioned a  precise one-liner as to the plot. The second paragraph was a brief synopsis about conflict, about the ending and lessons learned, and the third paragraph covered the fact that I was hard at work on my next novel. I briefly covered the success rate of my first release. The closing sentence was simply, “Please let me know if you would like me to forward the perfect bound novel, May December Souls. Thanks for your time and consideration.” 

4) CREATE A COMPLETE AND PROFESSIONAL PRESENTATION  PACKAGE: 
Once four of the agents contacted me and expressed interest in my complete submission, I prepared a presentation folder, which included a cover letter, news release, more detailed synopsis, marketing summary, marketing brochures ­ bookmarks, reviews and reader comments. Obviously, I included the bound book and a stamped, self-addressed envelope for their convenience. The Self Publishing Manual also covers information on preparing these items.

5) LET GO AND LET GOD:  
Make sure you give an agent sufficient time before you call to follow up. I’d say four to six weeks. And sometimes, like in my case, they may even call within the first week. If not, repeat Steps Three and Four again. Be persistent.

6) ONCE AN AGENT EXPRESSES INTEREST, CONDUCT FURTHER RESEARCH ON THE AGENT: 
I contacted another author who was also represented by the particular agent I felt expressed the most intense sincerity and confidence in their ability to sell my title. My agent asked me to give him one month and within one month, we were involved in auction. Make sure the agent is a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives or other  professional organizations.

7) DO NOT BE AFRAID TO REQUEST CHANGES TO THE AGENCY  AGREEMENT:  
There is a book called How to Be Your Own Literary Agent by Richard Curtis. Educate yourself on all aspects of the agreement, ask other authors for advice, or hire an attorney to review the contract before you sign. Most agency contracts are fairly brief. It is the publishing contact that is quite lengthy.

Some publishing companies are accepting submissions directly, i.e., HarperCollins, particularly for African American authors. Skip the agency submission if you choose to go this route, however, if you’re starting out, an experienced agent can prove extremely valuable. And don't be unrealistic about the deal amount offered to you. Most times we hear of dollar amounts for book deals and the amounts are TOTALLY exaggerated. Walk before you run, and then take time to crawl, too. Understand that getting to the point of quitting your job takes time. 

Once you decide to sign (yeah!) I suggest you let your agent handle the business of submitting your title. It is very important that the two of you build a rapport based upon mutual respect and a fiery passion for your title. There has to be a level of trust. Inform him/her as to which houses you would like to approach, however, follow their lead and be patient. Know that the final decision as to which publisher you sign with ­ is yours.

Write on!

Marissa Monteilh 


divapublishing@aol.com

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Authors' Books: To Give or Not to Give

by Linda Thorne


Making money writing novels, short fiction, and non-fiction while challenging, can be done. There are examples of it happening every single day. The naysayers will continue to warn us that the competition is enormous, the odds are stacked against us, and the chance to make money is slim. We can’t listen to them, but if we don’t put our work out there, we guarantee their dooming words.

I went to my first full-blown writers’ conference here in Nashville in August of 2009. While there, I kept passing by an unmanned table with piles of an Alan Bradley book with a big tall sign sticking up that said, “Help Yourself to a Free Book.” Each day I’d pass the table of free books and wonder why the author would give his books away. After all the work to write it and edit it, is he so desperate for someone to read it he’s willing to give it away? Doesn’t that cheapen his product?

Before I left though, I couldn't resist taking one of his free copies of Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I could afford to buy it, but I doubt I would have with a thirteen year old for a protagonist. Since it was free, I could try it out at no cost. I didn’t get to reading it until a few years later and took it to a local Sister’s in Crime meeting where we all agreed to bring what we were currently reading for discussion. There were only about five of us there that evening and one of the other members had brought the second book in Alan Bradley’s series and told me this author was all over the internet and Amazon. If you look at his series now, it’s doing quite well and Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie went on to win award after award. Alan Bradley is a success story and he gave away free books for promotion.

So, on a small level, I followed his lead. For Christmas, I added my book to the usual gift we gave our mail lady, garbage collectors, cleaning folks. I even gave it to the police officer who dropped by to take the report when our computer was hacked and the head of our homeowners association. I sent it to organizations and groups where my book is set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. One of the Mississippi Gulf Coast cities’ chamber of commerce sent me a letter telling me how they were sharing my book with others. 

Last September when I went to Bouchercon in New Orleans, I donated fifty books to their book bizarre. Conference members (readers and writers) took it for free and those remaining books were sold for a dollar. I was told that if my fifty books were not totally gone by the end of the conference, they would be donated to libraries in the New Orleans parishes. How neat since submitting to libraries and being accepted has not been an easy task for me.

So, where has this gotten me? I haven’t lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since 2002 yet the most visitors to my LinkedIn profile are from that area. Some people from reading clubs on the Gulf Coast have asked to be friends on Facebook and LinkedIn. I lost my job recently and we had to let the cleaning service go. One of their employees told me she’d read the book I gave her and had been passing it around. Does any of this mean much? I have no idea.

Recently I gave away free books on Goodreads and found out they do all the work then tell the author who the winners are. I had 776 people ask for my book for free. Goodreads gave me the name and addresses of those to mail it to.

What do you think? In promoting our work, does giving our books away help or hinder? That is my question.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Happy blogiversary, Novel Spaces!


When this blog went live on July 1, 2009 we never guessed that we'd still be here in 2017, starting our 9th year! Today we're looking back at the beginning, the journey, and how we managed this feat. We've seen many blogs, individual and group, fall by the wayside over the years, yet here we are almost a decade later. We must be doing something right.

Some time in early 2009 three debut authors with Dorchester Publishing's African-American romance line--Stefanie Worth, Phyllis Bourne and I, Liane Spicer--decided to start a group blog. It was Stefanie who first suggested it, but we discovered that both Phyllis and I had been thinking along the same lines. At first we intended to restrict members to authors of romance, multicultural romance specifically, so we found Dorchester's other AA romance writers, Farrah Rochon and Jewel Amethyst, and invited them aboard.

That's when we hit the first hurdle: we wanted some of our author friends to come along for the ride, but many of them did not write romance. We asked them anyway and to our delight, they came on board. Kevin Killiany wrote sci-fi; Marissa Monteilh wrote mainstream and erotica; Terrence Taylor wrote horror; Kaz Augustin wrote SFF and romance; Shauna Roberts wrote SFF and historical fiction... We were a motley crew, from places as widely strewn as the Caribbean, the US, Malaysia and the UK, with diverse backgrounds. So how did we make this venture work? It was actually quite simple: we all shared a passion for writing stories and we focused on the business of writing, on writing craft, and on our lives as writers.

At least half of the original members have gone. Over the years we have had 31 members, each contributing a different and valuable perspective on this business that we love. Our newest member is Mollie Blake, a mystery writer from the UK who joins us this month. We're a democratic, drama-free, mutually respectful group, and our dozens of guest authors, agents, editors and publicists have all honored the ethos of the Novel Spaces blog.

How long will Novel Spaces be around? No one knows. Every year we take a vote and so far there have been no 'nays' when we ask if the blog should continue for another year.

Here's to our 9th! Thank you to all our members, founding, past, and present. And thank you too to our guests and loyal readers without whom we would have no reason to exist. All the very best to the Novel Spaces family as we take another whirl around the sun.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Guest author Edith Maxwell: Keeping A Series Fresh... And A Giveaway!

I write more than one mystery series. Mulch Ado About Murder, my fifth Local Foods Mystery, came out a month ago, and I’ll send a signed hardcover to one commenter here today! Here’s the cover text:

It’s been a hot, dry spring in Westbury, Massachusetts. As organic farmer Cam Flaherty waits for much-needed rain, storm clouds of mystery begin to gather. Once again, it’s time to put away her sun hat and put on her sleuthing cap when a fellow farmer is found dead in a vat of hydroponic slurry—clutching a set of rosary beads. Showers may be scarce this spring, but there’s no shortage of suspects, including the dead woman’s embittered ex-husband, the Other Man whose affair ruined their marriage, and Cam’s own visiting mother. Lucky for Cam, her nerdy academic father turns out to have a knack for sleuthing. Will he and Cam be able to clear Mom’s name before the killer strikes again?



Keeping A Series Fresh

The Local Foods Mysteries are cozy, with a small-town protagonist, a crew of series regulars who pop up again in book after book, and a setting readers grow to know and love. Of course every book includes a new murder victim or two, a new method of killing, new suspects, and a new villain. But one of the core elements of cozies is that familiar small town setting, even if the small town is a village within a big city, and those familiar characters.

So how do I keep my stories from getting boring after five books, or myself—and my readers—from getting bored?


Certainly those new aspects I mentioned help. I love researching unusual ways to knock people off—fictionally, of course. Lucy Zahray, a Texan pharmacologist, gives talks on readily available poisons at mystery conferences, and I’ve picked up several from her, including the method in Mulched. Yes, if the NSA is listening in, I’m definitely on the watch list.

Coming up with a fresh crew of suspects is always fun. Who might have reason to kill a new-to-town hydroponic farmer, for example? All but one will be a red herring, and I hope I keep you strung along until very close to the end.

So far I haven’t taken my protagonist out of town, but that’s another trick authors use in long-running series. She has occasion to go to Maine, California, or Italy for a book, and sure enough, becomes embroiled in a murder case there, too. Nobody wants their town to turn into Jessica Fletcher’s Cabot Cove, because everybody dies there!

Another thing I do is send a supporting character away for a book. We don’t need all of them in every episode. My farmer’s youngest volunteer went off on a spring break service project in Murder Most Fowl, book four, for example.

Most important is to keep my protagonist growing, changing, learning. I especially don’t want her to stagnate and be the same in every book.

Readers: What’s your favorite mystery series, cozy or otherwise? Which authors do long series best, and which have bombed at it?


Edith Maxwell
Agatha-nominated mystery author
2017 double Agatha-nominated and national best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mysteries and the Quaker Midwife Mysteries; as Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies and journals, and she serves as President of Sisters in Crime New England.

A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, farmer, and doula, Maxwell now writes, cooks, gardens (and wastes time as a Facebook addict) north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors. Find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and at www.edithmaxwell.com.