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Market Magic   8 comments

What’s the best way to market your books?

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Image result for image of book marketing

If I Knew That, I’d Sell More Books

Seriously, I think there’s a magical formula … or maybe a novel fairy … that chooses who will be blessed among all indie authors to be “discovered”. For the rest of us, there’s just a lot of hard work and vagaries that work for some and not for others, and works some times and then not at all the next time.

Meanwhile, the advice is contradictory. Go to five book marketing blogs and you will find five different answers to that question. Some will say, “working with book bloggers” is one of the most effective ways to get the word out about your books. Yes, book reviews and interviews are essential to promoting an indie book. Blog tours can really help to get attention from a wide audience.

According to Penguin Random House:

Online exposure is the main benefit of using a blog tour to promote your book. It hits a different audience than, say, an NPR interview or local newspaper review. Sure, an unbiased review from a huge publication is fantastic publicity, but what the fans are saying can have a similar impact.”

Others will tell you to write guest blogs, a dedicated piece to be published on someone else’s site. It gets your name out there, drives traffic back to your website, and helps you build anticipation for your book. So “they” say.

Does it work? Sometimes. I’ve seen bumps in blog traffic when I write a guest post. Have I sold more books? Not really. Sometimes and not others. Why? I have no idea. And there in is the problem. I am not psychic and I just don’t know why a strategy works today and doesn’t work tomorrow. Maybe I need to invest in fairy dust.

How About Bonus Material?

Standard bookish merchandise ( otherwise known as ‘swag’), such as bookmarks, are often touted as excellent and relatively cheap promotional tool for indie authors. I know more than a few indie authors who have stuff to give away because they fell for this marketing ploy. It’s mining the miners. It’s a way to get indie authors to spend money they probably don’t have to try and sell books that probably won’t sell … that way. Always pause and ask yourself – am I being mined? Would I buy a book because the author gave me a free coffee cup? Yeah, maybe if the author was face-to-face with me to make me feel guilty, but through the Internet? If the answer is “No, I wouldn’t”, then the answer is “I’m being mined.” Formulate your own conclusions from there.

There are other “bonus materials” that might work better.

Related stories

I’ve written short stories for an annual anthology with an agorist/libertarian bent. Does it drive purchasers to my novels? Yeah, it appears to do so because I write books that appeal to agorist/libertarian/anarchists. I’ll usually see a bump in sales a week or so after they publish. I say “usually” because the bump was real weak once. Was that because I wrote a bad short? I don’t know. Where’s that fairy dust?

Although I haven’t done so yet, many authors offer a short or prequel for free as a reward for signing up for their newsletter, or as a bonus item for a book purchase. I’m developing a YA/NA book series that will have a prequel available for free on my website, if you sign up for my newsletter. We’ll see if it works.

Book club kits

That YA/NA series is a departure from my usual audience, so I plan to create a set of questions and discussion points that readers can use to talk about my books in a book club setting. I’ll make the list available on my blog. I’m told by friends this is an effective way to attract readers. Do I know it works? No, but it’s something that doesn’t cost me money that is worth a try.

Team Up With Other Creatives?

We creative types have to stick together, don’t we?! That’s what this blog hop is all about, right?

Doing the research for this post, I discovered a few creative collaborations I hadn’t thought of.

Bookstagrammers

I’m not on Instagram and I really don’t want to be, but I probably need to overcome my reluctance because many bookstagrammers are also reviewers, so sending out a free copy of my book(s) for some gorgeous promotional shots could kill two birds with one stone if they publish a review as well.

Podcasters

I had a great interview with a podcaster about two years ago, and there did seem to be a bump in my book sales for a while, but I’d rather write books than talk about them. Still, if you don’t flinch in horror at seeing yourself on the screen, do some research, reach out to podcasters and see what you can arrange.

Saturate Social Media?

That’s a lot of work. Before my books started paying for themselves, it was really my only choice because I couldn’t justify the financial outlay of most other options. I still post to my blog, Facebook (come join some of my liberty conversations), Twitter and MeWe, but I spend less time there than I used to and it’s likely I’ll spend less time there next year too. It’s hard to be heard on Social Media, so it’s a lot of effort for a little bit of return. It’s “free”, but man, what a time-suck!

I also think that it is counterproductive to keep waving a sign that says “Buy my books.” It’s annoying and I tune out that posts myself. Which is why I started the liberty conversations because libertarian/anarchist/voluntaryist topics (and the allergic reaction statists have to them) fascinate me and sometimes there will be a bump in sales or readership after a good one.

Become a ‘book fairy’

Okay, I’m not talking fairy dust here. Have you heard of Emma Watson’s ‘Book Fairies’ project? The Harry Potter actress began an international book-sharing movement, which involves leaving free books in public places for people to find and take home. The finder is encouraged to pay it forward by leaving the book for someone else to find once they’ve finished reading it. It’s not exactly a new idea. Something like this has existed in the Fairbanks community for as far back as I can remember. Go to any laundromat in this town and you’ll find a few dog-eared “left” books, some of them with handwritten notes inside say “Take This Book and Enjoy It.”. It’s a good idea that should go viral.

There are people participating in the Book Fairies project all around the world or with similar initiatives like Melbourne’s Books on the Rail. It’s a great way to do a good deed and promote more reading in the world – but have you ever thought of using it for promoting your own book?

I haven’t tried this yet, but there’s a fine madness in the thought of leaving copies of my books in public places for people to discover. Why haven’t I tried it yet? Why do I think it’s a little mad. It involves a cost outlay for me to essentially giving away several physical copies of one of my books for free. Would it work to drive traffic to my other books? I don’t know – which is why I’ve not tried it – yet.

Advertising

My father-in-law, an experienced businessman, will tell you “You’ve got to spend money to make money.” He’s right. Just make sure you spend money on things that make money. Advertising helps. I’ve tried Facebook ads and, yeah, I sold some books. I’ve tried the book advertising sites. Sometimes I’ve seen some sales conversions. I’ve tried Amazon ads recently. So far I’ve spent about as much money as I’ve made, but I’m not bidding very high and I just started, so I haven’t got enough data to be sure it’s working. Ask me in three months.

Write the Next Book

Honestly, I think the best marketing technique I possess is writing the next book. My readership goes up with each book I write in the Transformation Project series. I can now see that on KDPs KENP Reads. People appear to be binge reading the entire series. The best thing about that is it doesn’t require me to put on pants to set up a book signing at Barnes & Noble. I’m doing what I would be doing anyway and so, it is essentially free and not a time-suck. My self-imposed Transformation Project break since the publication of Gathering In is now officially over, so get ready for Winter’s Reckoning next year. And, possibly that YA/NA in Spring 2020 IF the betas think it’s ready to go to the editor.

So, I don’t know what the “best way” to market books is. Book marketing is a lot like playing Pin the Tale on the Donkey. There’s several ways and they work to varying degrees at times not necessarily of my choosing. Good luck and if you have any tips ….

Posted November 25, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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What’s Around the Bend Today?   11 comments

How many hours a day do you write? How long on average does it take you to write a book?

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What an appropriate question for Novel Writing Month!

Right now, novelists around the world are attempting to write a novel in one month – about 50,000 words, which means about 1700 words per day.

I don’t wholly participate in Nanowrimo. I tried it once and that book will never see the light of day. I did everything they said to do. Plotted it out ahead of time. Got to know my characters. And I actually wrote 60,000 words in November 2014. Uh, wait! Hadn’t I already published a novel by that time? Why, yes, I had! So what went wrong?

I’m a discovery writer. Plotting makes my characters go rogue and when my characters rebel, I write crap! What I produced was full of plot holes and characters acting out of their “character”. And, yeah, I tried to fix it, but no — that book will never see the light of day. The characters no longer talk to me, so there’s no point in trying. I have scavenged portions of it for other books that had nothing to do with it, so it wasn’t a complete loss, but it was a really BAD book.

But you publish a novel annually!

I do. Well, I have. I try to do so. I’ve come pretty close to not accomplishing it some years. Next year, I think I might publish two novels and Fount of Wraiths (Book 3 in Daermad Cycle) should move a little closer to completion. It just has to do where my projects are in terms of completion because I don’t focus on just one project at a time.

How do you do it then?

I always have a primary and secondary project and sometimes I have a tertiary project and several works-in-progress that are nowhere near completion. I also have a back catalog of stories I wrote for my own amazement and I slowly develop those into polished stories. My problem is not ideas for stories, but focusing on one project so that I finish it, but if I focus too long on one project I risk getting bored and have my characters stop talking to me.

I can complete a rough draft of a Transformation Project book in three months. The high points of the plot are already set because it’s a series and quite frequently my characters have told me the next book’s story before I finish the one I’m about to publish. Three months allows me the freedom I need to discover the subplot of a story that has a long arc. Last year, I wrote the rough draft for Gathering In during Nanowrimo. In a way, I cheated because I took a 20,000-word manuscript and expanded it to a 60,000-word manuscript in those 30 days. Not exactly following the rules, but I produced a better product, avoiding major plot holes, for example. Other years, I have used Nano for editing my rough draft. It’s not that I don’t find it useful, but that my characters won’t allow me to rush the story and they don’t generally follow plots that I outline. They prefer to forge their own paths.

This year, I’m expanding a 20,000-word manuscript novel into a 60,000-word YA/NA novel. Again, I’m not following the rules. I’ve been working on a related-piece for this novel for years. I know the characters really well. The actual project had a lot of backstory that really needed to be explained, but I hate info dumps, and I finally accepted that the story of characters were telling me was worth telling as its own story. The next part of the story might come out the following year, since it’s pretty much a polished manuscript that just needs the backstory reduced to references (saving about 20,000 words, which was preventing it from nearing publication). I’ve written about 15,000 words this month, which means I’m behind my goal. Big deal. Maybe the story only needs 50,000 words or maybe I’ll finish the rough-ish draft in December. I’m set on writing a decent story, not speed writing crap.

But You Set Goals, Right?

I do. I strive to write every day … although yesterday, I wrote 10 words – one sentence. Things came up and sometimes that’s how life is. (I must also admit that I am currently working on a non-fiction article for my employer, so I really wrote 350 words yesterday. I wrote the 10 for myself and then closed the laptop and joined my husband watching a murder mystery on Netflix. My brain needed a break).

Most days, I try to write at least 500 words. In 30 days, that’s 15,000 words. But some days, I write a thousand. My record is about 3400 words in a single day. They were GOOD words too. My muse was working overtime and I went with it.

I almost always finish a rough draft for Transformation Project in three months. It’ll come out to around 60,000 words, about 600–700 words a day. Most TP novels publish at 80,000 words, so that gives me some wriggle room on rewrite. I then take a month off that manuscript and work on something else. Again, I’m aiming for 500 words a day, but I have days when I don’t write (because life is what happens while we’re banging on the keyboard) and days when I’m way over that word limit. Since this is unstructured writing time, those 15,000 words might not all be on one story.

I don’t track hours. Although writing is my second profession and I do make some money from it, I don’t want it to feel like it’s a job, so I don’t track hours.

Do you see how that works?

I have an overall goal to publish one novel a year, but I don’t hold that goal so tightly that it gets in the way of my desire to produce a good story. I have a goal to finish a rough draft of my primary project in three months, but I don’t hold that goal so tightly that I tolerate plot holes and character assassination or risk burning out my muse. I have a goal to write at least 500 words a day, but I recognize some days are going to be less-productive writing days and that’s fine because I find real life to be a great source of inspiration.

Writing is not an assembly line!

I’m not a Ladies’ Garment Workers employee. I’m an artist whose characters inform my output. I can’t do it any other way and produce high quality stories. So, while I have goals, I don’t kill myself to meet them, but it always seems to work out that I publish at least one novel a year, which isn’t too bad when you consider that some of the professionals can’t seem to do that.

Now, I gotta get back to novel writing. I’m about 10,000 words behind.

Posted November 18, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Sky Dancer Clan   9 comments

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

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A Word on Spirit Animals

Spirit animals are an important part of Wyandot culture (my mother’s culture). Our tribal clan system is designated by animals. The Wyandot tribe was anciently divided into 12 clans, which each had a local government, consisting of a clan council presided over by a clan chief (sachem). The names the clans called themselves were:

Big Turtle, Little Turtle, Mud Turtle, Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Deer, Porcupine, Striped Turtle, Highland Turtle, Snake, and Hawk.

The order was important for the line of travel and for tribal encampments. On the march the warriors of the Big Turtle Clan marched in front, those of the Little Turtle Clan marched next to them, and so on down to the last clan, except the Wolf Clan, which had command of the march and might be where its presence was most necessary. The tribal encampment was formed “on the shell of the Big Turtle.”. This means that the tents were arranged in a circular form as though surrounding the shell of the Big Turtle. The Big Turtle Clan was placed where the right fore-leg of the turtle was supposed to be and the other clans were arranged around in their proper order, except the Wolf Clan, which could be in the center of the enclosure on the turtle’s back, or in front of it where the turtle’s head was supposed to be, depending on what the Wolf clan decided. In ancient times all Wyandot villages were built in this order, and in the tribal council the clans took this order in seating themselves, with the sachem either in the center or in the front of the door of the council chamber.

Most of the clans are extinct now and a lot of Wyandot who claim to be members of an extant clan are really more Caucasian and a mix of Wyandot clans, but the animals they were named after were meant to be the totem of that clan – your spirit guide, to use modern terms. Supposedly, the spirit behind the totem animals gave Wyandots power and comfort. I seriously looked into this as a teenager and college student, before deciding that as a born-again Christian, I could not partake in it. My only spiritual guide is Jesus Christ and I make nothing equal to or greater than Him. I don’t need to. He is more than sufficient.

What others do is not my concern. That’s just a personal decision on my part, and explains why I’m not going to select a spirit animal for this exercise.

Mascots and Avatars However …

But there’s another way of looking at it. The animals were not spiritual guides, but symbols for the tribe – avatars, if you will. After all, my high school had a mascot. The malemute is a husky dog that is very popular here in Alaska. There’s nothing spiritual about it. And, for years I have used the avatar of the aurora borealis on my social media sites.

Why?

It’s a long complicated story involving a nickname given to me by a college professor – the Aurorawatcher. I’ve shared it before. You can find it here.

I wouldn’t claim an animal as my mascot just because — well, it is just too close to the totems of my tribe and that kneeling at another altar thing, but I do claim the aurora as an avatar. Why?

Aurorawatcher

It’s beautiful and majestic and ethereal. It changes. You could watch the aurora every night for decades and never see two that are alike. And, they are mysterious. There’s a lot that’s known about the sky dance today, but there is a great deal that isn’t known. And, above all, if you haven’t experienced the aurora for yourself, I can only give you a taste of what it is like to stand out in the cold and stare up at the sky. It’s changing, whipping across the black velvet sky, sending out long tendrils, sometimes moving fast and sometimes barely moving … pulsing colors and flickering white and … and they can last all night or fade after a few moments.

It reminds me a lot of Christian faith, which is another thing you must experience to understand. I can only give you a taste of it if you haven’t experienced it for yourself. That’s not a failure of the faith, but a testament to it not being made up. It easy to explain that which is manmade and so much harder to explain that which is transcendent of human minds.

The aurora’s dance is also somewhat like how I write my books. I’m a discovery writer. I experience the stories as I write them. I rarely know where they’re headed before I get there. It’s only on rewrite that I can (somewhat) herd the story. I know the high points of a series, but I can’t tell you when my creative mind might fling out a pulsing arm of color that will surprise me as much as it surprises my readers. The dance of the northern lights has the same unpredictable, genie-in-a-bottle feel. Beautiful, mercurial, hard to capture. It’s not static, it’s always changing, and when it fades tonight, I know it will be back tomorrow.

Posted November 11, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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When Pleasure Becomes Difficult   6 comments

We’ve talked about writer’s block. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

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Defining Terms

Image result for image of reader's block

I’d never heard of “reader’s block” before the question was asked, so, definitions are in order:

  • Readers Block is a phenomenon where a person cannot proceed with a book. They are frequently distracted from the book or after flipping a page realize that they have been reading individual words mechanically without processing and understanding the meaning of the text in their mind. It has been named in sync with Writer’s Block, where a writer suddenly loses interest in writing.
  • Reader’s Block
  • This can happen because:
  • a) You have no interest in the book.
  • b) The book is itself bad and not written to generate interest.
  • c) You are too tired and exhausted to read pretty much anything.

What is Common To Humankind

The answer is – yes. Pretty much everything other human beings have suffered, I have suffered also. I’ve said I don’t believe in writer’s block, but that’s because I’ve never allowed myself to be mugged by it. That doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced the processes behind it, but that I’ve taken control of them and used them to my advantage.

Reader’s block, however ….

I don’t know when I first experienced it, but I do know when I became aware of it for the first time.

In high school, a friend gave me a copy of The Hobbit. For a fantasy and science fiction geek reader, it was right up my alley and I eagerly sat down to read it. I read the first page. I set it down. I didn’t pick it up again until college when someone was raving about The Hobbit and I felt like I couldn’t claim to be a fantasy geek if I didn’t read it. I picked it up and I read maybe a page and a half. I set it down. I didn’t pick it up again until my daughter was a new reader and she begged me to read the story to her.

I read 10 pages to her that night and then she had to go to bed and I finished the book before morning, then read it aloud to her over several nights following.

The Hobbit starts with an info-dump and I struggled to get past it to the meat the story. It kept boring me and that boredom “blocked” me from the story. I didn’t have a teacher (how I got through the info-dump that starts The Tale of Two Cities) or my dad (who expected me to read all the classics) pushing me to keep reading and so, I didn’t — until a seven-year-old pushed me to do it and then I got past the hard part and found a lovely story.

Too Rich for My Blood

But I’ve also blocked on Conceived in Liberty by Murray Rothbard because it just is so historically dense. It’s hard to read big chunks of it because it’s so rich. Reading is an intellectual exercise, and not always an easy one. I’ve never encountered a book that demanded more than my intellect could handle, but I’ve definitely been humbled by an occasional struggle with how smart a writer might be. I am still reading Conceived. It’s just that I’ve learned to take it in small bites.

Life Happens While You’re Reading a Book

When my son was a baby and my daughter was an elementary schooler, time for reading became the constraint. Yeah, there were the frequent “Mommy, will you read this book for me?” moments, but the times to sit down and read a book for pleasure just wasn’t happening. There was about five years there when reading for pleasure was a forlorn hope and writing was squeezed into minutes between life events. I totally don’t regret not having much time to read during those years.

Try a New Genre

Sometimes there’s no explanation but that you’re tired of reading. Frankly, I’d been in a reading slump for a while this summer. I had several books to read and I wasn’t reading any of them. I felt badly about not cracking the spine on Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer after I’d longed to read it for over a year. Then a friend suggested something totally outside of my usual interest – a romance. I do occasionally enjoy mysteries or thrillers that have romantic elements, but pure romance where the focus is man meets woman and they fall in love, usually after disliking each other for a while — naw, not my style. I am a skeptic of Happily Ever After, especially for people who have nothing in common but sexual desire. But my friend suggested I read Ghosted because it involves a second-chance romance between a recovering alcoholic and his baby mama who is deeply angry at him. I could feel myself yawning even as I opened the Kindle file, but I truly enjoyed the story — probably because it was more true-to-life than most romances — and that got me back reading other books (almost entirely non-romances — still haven’t changed my opinion on the genre). I realized something from my foray into this genre. Several of the reviews for Ghosted mentioned it was long. For me 450 pages is nothing. I’m a fat fantasy reader. I guess that’s pretty long for a romance (which might be why I keep thinking “nobody falls in love that quickly”). But — wait, maybe that was why I was in a reading slump. Fat fantasies are a commitment. You start it and it will consumer your evenings for a while – days, sometimes weeks. And maybe that’s why I couldn’t start it. I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. After I finished Ghosted, I still wasn’t ready to read Oathbringer.

Revisit an Old Favorite

Rereading an old favorite is one of the best ways to cure the book blahs. When you revisit an old favorite, you remember why you love to read, how a fictional character could resonate so deeply with you, what ingenious word-play exists in the world, and what diabolical drama a writer is capable of concocting. You can reignite your love of reading. After Ghosted got me reading again, I went through several old favorites that have been sitting on my shelves for years and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I then cracked open Oathbringer and finished it in about 10 days.

Downside

The downside of igniting your love of reading when you’re a writer is that you may be inspired to write your next novel. Or is that an upside? Hmmm?

“Gathering In” Excerpt #3   1 comment

They’d been told to expect a friendly village, an increasingly elusive concept in the Mirage these days, so they’d all opted to carry for their own safety. A young boy of about ten met them at the town entrance and jabbered away in a patois mixture of the local dialect, the Miragan central tongue and English. Although it seemed impossible for foreigners to master Miragan, Shane’s grasp of Arabic and the months spent with Sera meant he understood enough of the boy’s chatter that they could at least communicate rudimentarily.

“What’s he saying?” Commander Roth asked Shane.

“The levees came through about a week ago, but they haven’t been back. They took his older brother despite being younger than draft age. They took his father last year. He’s hoping for some food aid as he’s feeding three younger siblings by himself.”

“Do you believe that?” Logan demanded.

I do. Take a look. You see any adult males around here?”

“Not on the ground, but I’ll bet there’s plenty squirreled away in the attics.”

“Where’s the headman’s hut?” Roth asked.

The boy seemed eager to cooperate and they moved deeper into the village’s narrow lanes, leaving squads behind as they went, until only Mike, Killgore, Roth and Shane continued. One moment it seemed friendly, and the next an icy finger ran down Shane’s back. He turned his head toward the left to see the barely perceived danger. A woman in a dark cotton hijab materialized in a doorway. Shane opened his mouth to call a warning and several shots to his chest slammed him back into a stone wall.

It Works for Me   9 comments

What is your preferred method of writing? (By hand, on a computer, dictate it?)

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I do what works for me

Well, I can start by saying my least favorite method of writing is dictation. There is something about hearing my voice without a response by another human that just feels bogus. It might have something to do with my characters telling me their stories in their own voices. I “hear” Shane’s voice as deep and lush while his brother Cai is a bit higher. When I go to dictate it, it doesn’t sound like their voices and so I feel like I’m making stuff up.

When I first started writing, computers required an air craft hangar to house them, so of course, I wrote long hand because there really wasn’t another way to do it. My stepfather gave me my first typewriter when I was in high school. Still there are some forms of writing that I still prefer to do long-hand. I keep a journal that is spiral bound steno pads, for example. I write poetry very rarely and very badly and I do it long-hand almost every time. Some of my more poetic narratives have started out long-land. I also carry a notebook with me when I am out-of-doors, so that I can jot thoughts down when the mood strikes me. I enjoy writing long-hand. It feels more hands-on and creative.

I trained to be a professional writer – a journalist — and journalists have, for about a century, been taught copy-writing on typewriters. So early in my career I learned to compose writing raw using my 10 fingers. To me, that feels like I’m working and, as I am a professional author now, I use the method that makes me feel like a professional.

Practical Choice

Pragmatically, it’s a huge waste of time to write narrative long-hand and then transcribe it to the computer. When I was a reporter, I would take some minimal notes and then type the article raw on a typewriter. Personal computers were just coming into the newsroom when I bailed for a job that paid actual money. But the habit of mostly writing by typing had already taken hold of me. It’s efficient. It eliminates a step. It makes editing quicker and easier. It saves paper, which saves money. I can send it to other people without having to make a copy of it. It gets around my legible, but not very pretty handwriting. It is much faster since this former transcriptionist can type way faster than I can think, so typing on a computer doesn’t slow me down at all. For a whole lot of practical reasons, typing into the computer is my preferred method — unless I am writing something where the creative juices don’t want to flow that way, and then I do long-hand — rarely these days.

Posted October 14, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Posted October 7, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in #openbook

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