Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Useful Link Round-up

Okay, Squiders, I want to be able to do the idea generation posts in a row, so for today, I’m going to share various links that I’ve been hoarding that other people might find interesting. Monday I’ll have a review/promo for you, and Thursday is, in theory, the first discussion post for the Finnbranch readalong (though I will need to read faster than I am because I forgot when in June I set the discussion for). And then we’ll head back into nonfic territory.

For Readers

Does anyone else just find themselves on random email lists they don’t remember signing up for? That’s the deal with me and BookRiot, which is a website about books, mostly speculative fiction. But I dig their newsletter, so I don’t really mind that it seemingly came out of nowhere.

I normally forget, but it’s never a bad idea to stop by sites like StoryBundle or Humble Bundle and see if you can get a ton of themed books for cheap. Normally they donate the money for a good cause.

For Writers–Writing

I don’t know about you guys, but I am terrible at conlanging and yet, since I write high fantasy, sometimes it is necessary. That’s why I’m super interested in Vulgar, which is a language generator. I haven’t given it a try yet, but you can do a demo on the website, and the full version is only $20.

For people who like to have an idea of story structure before they go into a novel, you might try Michael Hague’s Six Stage Plot Structure. It’s the one Siri and I used for City of Hope and Ruin. You can find a good overview over at Fiction University (which is a useful website if you are not already familiar with it.

For Writers–Learning

If you have enough time to fit in some learning, I recommend checking out sites like SkillShare and Udemy. I’ve taken a few classes (mostly marketing related, but also ones about how to use email lists) and recently signed up for one focused more on traditional publishing. You can buy memberships or classes flat out, but I like that you can see reviews and curriculum before you shell out money. There are probably more websites out there that provide a similar function, but I haven’t tried them.

(I’ve also considered making a course for one or both, but not sure what would be a good topic. If you know something I should go for, let me know!)

For Writers–Publishing

Since I’ve been putting together submission materials for my YA paranormal (all ready now! Just need a healthy dose of getting on with it), I recently wrote a synopsis for it. This blog post proved invaluable and took a lot of the guesswork out of the process.

For Writers–Marketing

Here’s a very interesting post on why it’s a bad thing to encourage your friends and family to buy your book when it first comes out. Good stuff to know. I recently found this blog through Siri and it’s been very interesting (also apparently I have done everything wrong). (Which I kind of knew.)

I also recently found this website called Hometown Reads that connects readers to local authors. I haven’t signed up yet but it looks like a cool idea, and my city is one that they’ve already developed, so woot.

Anyway, I hope you find some of these helpful! And let me know if you’ve found some place cool lately!

PPWC Session Wrap-up, Part 1

Good morning, Squiders. I’m back from PPWC, and now that I’ve gotten some sleep, I am vaguely functional again.

I’ve gone to PPWC before, and I’ve done conference write-ups after the fact for all of them, so I thought I’d do something different than just retread the same ground again and talk specifically about the sessions I attended throughout the weekend so those of you who haven’t been to a writers’ conference before can get an idea about the sort of things offered.

The sessions offered this year seemed to be mostly craft or marketing. There were less genre-specific sessions than I’ve seen in the past.

(Disclaimer: What’s offered will vary conference by conference, year by year, presenter by presenter. So you may find that your local conference works slightly differently.)

PPWC has 15 sessions over three days (6 on Friday, 6 on Saturday, 3 on Sunday), plus an optional add-on Thursday session that involves more in-depth workshops (I never get to go to Thursday because alas, responsibilities. Also it is an extra $90). There are also occasionally some extra add-ons within in the conference itself, such as this year’s Write Drunk, Edit Sober program.

So, let’s dive into Friday, shall we?

Unforgettable Characters (Carol Berg)

Friday morning, for some reason, I picked all character craft sessions. Carol Berg is a bestselling fantasy author, and this panel was well-presented and did an excellent job of breaking down what different level of characters need to do and what you, as an author, need to know about said characters. She also tied characterization into plot and talked some about how to actually introduce and use characters from a technical standpoint.

Using Setting to Reveal Character (Laura DiSilverio)

I also considered going to a panel called Finding Your Inner Extrovert about learning to communicate face to face about your book but my sister convinced me this one would be more beneficial. I’m not sure that’s true. Laura DiSilverio is a mystery writer whom I’ve taken mystery-specific classes with at previous PPWCs. Laura broke down the topic into two different subtopics–using setting to reveal things about characters based on their choices for their own environment and to reveal things about characters based on what they notice in an environment. Good information, little bogged down in audience participation (since some people didn’t seem to be following the topic so well).

Bringing Characters to Life on the Page (Stant Litore)

I know Stant from MileHiCon, so, hey, it was nice to see a familiar face. This session was excellent. Stant used a series of exercises to help explain how to add emotion into your story without being obvious about it and did a fantastic job of tying emotion to characterization. He had a lot of examples to show how this works. I was so impressed I went and bought his book, Write Characters. This was probably my favorite session of the whole conference.

And then we had lunch! I don’t remember what it was. Oh, salad.

Read and Critique with Carol Berg

So, after lunch, I had my first two pages read and critique, which they had in a room on the second floor. That was a bit harrowing because the elevators were slow and there were a lot of people going places at any point in time, and I hadn’t found the secret staircase yet. My sister and I were up til 2:30 the night before working on our first two pages (I cut out almost 1000 words from the very beginning of chapter one). So there were eight of us, Carol, and the moderator (who was timing how long each person had). In turn, everyone read their two pages out loud while Carol took notes, and then Carol would give us her feedback. She was very good about it–always started with what was good about the sample before going into the issues. (She told me later that the R&Cs make her nervous before it’s hard to think that fast.) I’m not sure, in the end, that it was that useful unless, of course, you’re on your final, polished pages and want to make sure they’re hook-y enough. The guy next to me had an awesome opening that I totally dug, though (and I told him so later, but that’s another time), and Carol was very nice.

(Oh, and she was actually very complimentary about my pages, and complimented my description, which if you guys have been around here for awhile, you know is a weak point of mine, so woot.)

Seducing the Reader: 4 Essential Elements of an Opening (Darynda Jones)

Darynda Jones was one of the keynote speakers, and she actually has 5 essential elements but never got around to changing the title of the class. Also, my Friday panels are very telling about what I’m feeling weak in craftwise lately. Darynda laid out the elements in a way that made sense, and she also provided examples, which I am always for. (I’m a kinetic learner.) She also recommended some writing books, most of which I have heard of before (and one of which I’ve read and own, but it’s probably been a decade since I read it, so maybe I should do so again).

Today’s Marketing for Yesterday’s Author (KL Cooper)

Marketing! I figured I should probably go to some marketing panels, but I think I only hit two all weekend. Ah, well, priorities and whatnot. I think my sister hit more and she doesn’t even have any books out, har har. I probably should have gone to the Putting Clever Twists on Common Tropes panel. A lot of basic marketing info, most of which I already knew, though she did offer specific services to use for some things, so that’s helpful, and she did mention a few things that I’d not heard before and will need to look into.

Friday night was dinner (excellent chicken for me, and chocolate pie for dessert) as well as the costumes, which we wore to dinner and then had a contest for afterwards. My Rainbow Brite costume was well received, though apparently people who were fans of Rainbow Brite still didn’t recognize my sister as the evil princess (her costume was really awesome in the end). Alas. We sat with Carol Berg, who, as I mentioned above, is a lovely person and I like her quite a bit. My table tried to nominate me for the contest but I threw one of my sister’s friends, dressed as Anne of Green Gables, under the bus instead and successfully lured most of the table with me. Oh, and the key note speaker for the meal (we’ll have one for every subsequent meal) was Darynda Jones.

After dinner, which went quite late–9:30 or something?–we went and worked on finalizing our query letters and then ran out to FedEx to print them around 10:30. PPWC has BarCon, which is essentially where everyone hangs out in the bar after dinner on Friday and Saturday nights and “networks,” but we were so tired by the time we got back to the hotel that we just hung out in our room and then crashed.

So, that’s Friday. I hope it’s of interest to you guys! Let me know what you think.

Off We Go

AH.

Hey! At least I’m further along than my sister, because I have a finished costume and a maybe decent query letter?

(She’s texting me pics because she’s working on her costume right now.)

(And it’s maybe decent because I had five people look at it and two said it was really good, two said it was good, and one said it was terrible. Which pretty much sums up my frustration with query letters in general.)

I’m meeting with a developmental editor once we get down to the conference hotel this evening, which should be interesting, but is also somewhat terrifying. Developmental editing is not one of the services I offer, because I don’t feel comfortable working directly with the core of people’s stories, but I’m hoping it will be helpful in terms of some of the issues I’ve been having with the current draft of Book One.

Anyway, said developmental editor has a copy of the infamous chapter one and we will be going over it, and then, depending on the amount of work needed and whether or not it’s doable, I may spend tonight/early tomorrow editing before my Read and Critique session tomorrow afternoon (Carol Berg! Ah!). If it’s a big job, though, I think I’ll just use the R&C as an opportunity to garner more knowledgeable feedback and then fix it next week sometime.

So I kind of feel like that madness is more or less out of my hands for now.

I may poke at the query and see if I can add in a little more detail without being too wordy (another thing I hate about queries), but I’m taking 3.5/5 as pretty decent no matter what. I researched the editor I’m meeting with yesterday so I could add in some personalization and he seems like a cool guy, lots of things in common, and he was the editor for Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy which I’ve talked about here previously and enjoyed. So I’m feeling okay query-wise. We’ll see how that goes. That happens at some time on Saturday, but apparently I don’t get to know when until I get my info packet tomorrow morning.

So, basically, here’s the plan:

  • Poke query but don’t worry if it’s not working
  • Finish packing (remember things like notebooks, schedule, business cards)
  • Print out copy of chapter one for editing purposes
  • Print out query copies
  • Dinner
  • Drive down
  • Developmental editor

And then it’s on to the madness of the weekend. I’ll see you guys on Tuesday to let you know how it went. If anyone’s going to PPWC, keep an eye out for me! I’ll be the tall blonde (and I will have tree pants on Saturday. Just FYI).

Troubleshooting: No One’s Buying

Self-publishing can be a lot of work–not only do you have to write the book, but you have to be in charge of editing, proofreading, securing a cover, distribution, and marketing. So it can be depressing if sales are slow or non-existent. What are some things you can do to try and help boost your sales?

Check Your Product

The first step is to make sure you’re putting out a story that is in good shape, not one that’s riddled with typoes, stray punctuation, obvious plot holes, bad formatting, or anything else that makes your book look low quality or amateur. If you find yourself consistently getting bad reviews, or if reviews are consistently pointing out the same issue, it may be worth it to take your story off of being on sale and do another round of beta reading or editing. Some distributors will let people who have bought your book know when you put out a new version.

Check Your Market

It can be hard to know where to put your story when there’s fifteen million different categories available. It doesn’t hurt to look at books that are similar to yours and see what categories they’re listed in, and whether or not they’re performing well in those categories. With online distribution, it’s easy to test out different, related categories to see which ones work the best for your story. You can also tweak your keywords to see if that helps you gain traction. Getting your book where the right readers can come across it can be a lot of the battle.

NOTE: If you do marketing research, you’ll probably hear advice about putting your book into more niche markets to increase its rankings. While this can be a good strategy, make sure the categories are still appropriate to your book or you’re not going to be doing yourself–or your book–any good, and you might actually do some harm.

Check Your Marketing Strategy

It can be helpful–and some people would argue essential–to set up a marketing plan before you release a book. This is a place where you keep track of your different marketing techniques as well as how successful different things have proven to be. You can also keep track of reviewers and your budget, if you have one.

When I make a marketing plan, I often do waves of marketing, such as indicating which activities are pre-launch, during launch, or post launch. I also keep track of activities to try if my initial efforts don’t seem to be working the way I’d like them to. If your sales aren’t what you’d like them to be, it may not hurt to follow some book marketing podcasts or blogs, or to take a webinar or two on techniques that sound interesting to you. That way you can tweak your marketing strategy and hopefully find something that works for you.

Many authors consider marketing to be the hardest part of self-publishing, and it can be hard to find which strategies work best for you. Be open to trying new things if they appeal to you. And when doing research, try to stick to articles and books that aren’t older than a few years, as what works in book marketing changes relatively quickly.

NOTE: If you really hate some aspect of marketing–like, for example, Twitter–don’t force yourself to do it. You’ll be miserable, it’ll be a waste of your time, and your dislike will come through to the readers you’re trying to reach. It’s better to focus your time on something you like to do.

Am I missing anything here, Squiders? Anything else you’d recommend checking if your sales are low?

See you on Thursday!

Goals, Accomplishments, and Zombie Alpaca

Happy arbitrary division of time, everybody! But a new year feels good, doesn’t it? I feel good, anyway, like there’s a year of possibility out there just waiting for me to take it.

To get things started, look at this awesome mug my sister got me for Christmas.fear them

Ahahahaha. Sometimes she has excellent taste.

(Sometimes.)

The rest of this post is the obligatory reflection of how 2016 went and how I hope 2017 will go. At the beginning of last year I made a spreadsheet of all the things I wanted to do and gave them general time frames for completion.

I only completed two things on the list, but I think that’s a bad reflection of how the year actually went.

  • I revised, edited, published, and marketed City of Hope and Ruin (with help from my intrepid co-writer Siri, of course). That’s no mean feat in of itself, as you guys probably know.
  • I also wrote a near-novella length story for To Rule the Stars and went through the revision process with that. In addition, I did both the print and ebook formatting AND the cover. I’m pretty dang proud of that. (The cover in paperbook form is gorgeous and I regret nothing.)
  • I wrote and published a CoHaR-related short story/prequel which may or may not have made people cry.
  • I wrote several (not sure how much, but probably at least 10K) thousand words on my nonfiction books, both here on the blog and in the books themselves.
  • I redid the book description for Shards and redid the back matter for both it and Hidden Worlds.
  • I’ve done several drafts of my query letter for my YA paranormal novel.
  • I completed the revision prep for the first book of my high fantasy trilogy, which took about six months because it was in a terrible state.
  • I’ve continued to shop short stories to appropriate markets.
  • I’ve also continued to write monthly installments of my stealth scifi serial (say that five times fast), and have also started posting it to Wattpad.

So how does 2017 look?

First of all, I’ve got a short story collection coming out in early February called The Short of It. It will have four previously-published stories and one brand spanking new one. I’m doing final edits on it now, so I’ll let you know more information as it becomes available. I’m going to test out KDP Select with it, so I’ll report back on how that goes.

I’ve also got Shards in a promotion this weekend where it’ll be available for $.99 (It’s normally $3.99). I’m testing some new promotion techniques, and am also interested to see if the new book description (see above) will hatch me any chicks. More information on that later, too. I may post a Saturday post depending on when I get the info from the promo coordinator.

That’s the immediate future. Other plans:

  • My revision of the first trilogy book takes top priority. My mother and sister signed me up for PPWC at the end of April, and if all goes according to plan, I hope to pitch it there. I’ve applied for a session with the acquisitions editor of Del Rey.
  • The next highest priority is the query letter for my YA paranormal. I’d like to start querying it sooner rather than later.
  • I’d like to continue to try out new promotion techniques with both Hidden Worlds and Shards. I didn’t market HW at all when it was released, and Shards suffered from a misleading book description. I feel like they deserve more/better work than I gave them the first time. If you have ideas/want to help, please let me know!
  • I’m going to continue work on my nonfiction book series. The publishing/submitting posts will start back up here next week. I’m also considering moving to a three-times-a-week posting schedule to speed things up.

If all that gets done, I’d like to:

  • Finish the first draft of my space dinosaur scifi adventure novel.
  • Research, outline, and start a steampunk adventure/mystery series.
  • Start a new novel in the Shards!verse.
  • Discuss and perhaps start a sequel to City of Hope and Ruin, or at least work on other stories in the same world.

There’s more odds and ends, but those are the main things.

How did 2016 go for you, squiders? Anything really exciting happen? What are your plans for 2017?

(I know typing this stuff all out is a pain, so feel free to link me to posts and whatnot if you’ve laid it out elsewhere!)

MileHiCon Recap

Well, Squiders, MileHiCon has come and gone. I manned a table in the Authors’ Row for Turtleduck Press to mixed results, but the con is always a good way to meet other local authors and talk shop.

(I said hi to Connie Willis and she said hi back! Of course, I didn’t know it was her when I said it, because I didn’t know she was at the con as she was not advertised. I’ve been quietly geeking out to myself ever since. I also ran into Carrie Vaughn in the bathroom and exchanged greetings.)

The Authors’ Row is a space where local authors and small or indie presses get half of a six-foot table to lay out their wares, so they can sell books and connect with local readers. I believe they implemented the idea in 2014 (which was the first time I had a table–and I originally applied for a vendor table since there was no Authors’ Row option originally), and from what I understand, interest has grown in it exponentially, so they’ve tried to expand it every year to get more people in. The original section is an L-shape in the main atrium outside the Vendors’ Room and the Art Show. Last year they added a couple of tables across the atrium directly next to the Art Room doors, and this year they added a table on the far side of the Art Room doors and a couple tables down a side hallway directly next to the original L. They put all us presses down this hallway.

It wasn’t a terrible idea. The Authors’ Row coordinator is a sweetheart and trying to do her best for everyone. And this hallway section was directly across from the entrance to the room where the major events were, so I think the plan was that we would get traffic from people going to the events. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. People going to the events didn’t want to be bothered, and people who hit the original L-section of the Authors’ Row didn’t seem to realize that the other sections (the hallway, across the atrium, or next to the doors) were part of it, so we also didn’t get the same traffic. So sales were not so hot.

Ah well. It was a learning experience.

I do find myself pondering what to do about next year, however. Is it worth it to get a table and hope I get a better spot? I’m pondering dropping doing TDP and just doing me, and seeing how that goes. There were a couple of other published authors from my writing group there as well, and there was some discussion about seeing if we could share a single spot, but I don’t know if that would be allowed.

The other option is to not get a table and use their author co-op option. They have a co-op table, where an author is assigned a 2-hour slot for selling and signing. It could be a good compromise.

Decisions to be made. The sign-ups for Authors’ Row for next year is already live, though, so I should probably get on it.

The other authors around me were awesome, however. MileHiCon is specifically for scifi and fantasy literature, so if you’re in search of some new reads, check these guys out:

Everyone there was super great, but these were the guys I connected with the most over the weekend. Props to them for keeping me company and being generally great people.

So, that’s MileHiCon in a go. How was your weekend? Thoughts about doing conventions in general?

Long Tour Aftermath (and a shark)

Happy October, Squiders! Though the leaves have not turned and today is the first real autumn-y day of the year. Get on it, autumn.

Anyway. Siri’s and my long blog tour for City of Hope and Ruin has come to an end, and now I can comment on it and whether or not I felt like it was worth the time and money. Just to recap, we bought a multi-month tour, which ran from July 14 to Sept 29, and each week we’d provide a guest post, interview, or something along those lines for that week’s blog, depending on what they wanted. (Some weeks we had two blogs scheduled.) On the day the blog post went live, we’d stop by the post a few times to answer questions and thank the hosts, etc.

We used GoddessFish promotions, which, coincidentally, is also where I get some of the promos I post here, such as The Ever Fiend from Monday.

So, results. I feel like we got a lot of great comments on the stops, and people seemed generally excited about the book.

Now, sales? They haven’t been amazing, and I don’t know that they can directly correspond to any of the tour stops. Actually, a fourth of the sales we’ve made since the start of the tour to today have been since the end of the tour, whatever sense that makes.

There is a definite bump of adds to people’s “To Read” lists on Goodreads with each tour stop. Whether that will translate into ongoing sales in the long run, I can’t say. We’re still sitting at a 4.15 score on Goodreads, which is pretty good.

We did get some reviews on both Goodreads and Amazon from the tour, which is very nice. (We’re sitting at a 4.5 score on Amazon, but there are less ratings there since Amazon doesn’t let you leave a rating without a text review anymore. Unless I’m crazy.) You guys know how crazy it is to get reviews, so it’s almost worth it just for that, especially since everyone liked the book.

(If you don’t know how crazy it is to get reviews, it’s like pulling teeth. Leave reviews. Authors will appreciate it, even if you didn’t like the book. I mean, as long as you’re not mean about it. Mean reviews are the worst.)

Would I do it again? Hmmm, not sure. In the direct work to sales ratio, the results weren’t great. But the reviews are nice, and it was a good way to reach a ton of people I never would have otherwise.

(The last three stops, if you want to see them:

Blurbs, bios, excerpts and links at all stops, as usual.)

Now that that’s over with, who wants to see the shark I sketched this morning?

shaaaark

Now that I’m doing sketchtober, I remember that shading has always eluded me. I also tried to draw my youngest, but she kept moving.

You’ll also be pleased to know that I continue to take my revision planning seriously.

nerd

(Next to market it says “things to buy, rumors to overhear” in case that’s unreadable.)

How are you, Squiders? Other authors, any marketing things that have worked well for you? Non-authors, what are your feelings on sharks?