The Goodreads Connection

By Patricia Stoltey

So far in my series about blogging and social media I’ve discussed blogs and Twitter. In addition to blogging, I try to use a limited number of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Google+ so far).

I’m signed up on Library Thing, however, and may get busy over there once I figure it out. I understand that’s where an author finds a lot of librarians. We love librarians!

Regardless of your social media interests or lack thereof, there are good reasons for choosing a site or two to establish a presence. But no one author can do them all. That would be crazy as well as a monumental waste of time.

Today I’m going to focus on Goodreads. I haven’t been active there long, but my limited experience proves there’s a solid reason I should put this site at the top of my priority list. That reason? Because Goodreads is where readers hang out.

1. Authors can create and be approved for an author site and add all of their book editions and covers. You can check out my Goodreads page here.
2. Readers can enter giveaways for ARCs and printed books. So far, I’ve done one ARC giveaway and one hardcover giveaway.
3. Readers can read and leave comments on my blog posts within Goodreads because I opted to add blog posts to my author page.
4. Readers can ask questions and get personal responses.
5. Readers can recommend books to others.
6. Readers can mark our books as “Want to Read.” When they do so, they will be notified if there’s a new giveaway for the book.

In my experience as a reader, if I mark something “Want to Read,” I might buy it or borrow it from the library, but I’m also likely to post a short review once I’ve read the book. Not all reviews are good ones. So be it. Every book does not appeal to every reader, so I take the bitter with the sweet.

Now you’ll notice in my list above that I focused on what readers can do on Goodreads. That’s because readers are the people we want to connect with on Goodreads. Once my author page was set up and my blog available on site, I tuned in to the reader side of my brain and began looking for the things that would help me find the books I want to read, and the things that would most likely help the authors I admire.

Every time I visit the site, I find another “Want to Read” book to add to my list. If I read a book and like it, and can honestly give it four or five stars, I also leave a ranking and short review.

And one of these days I’ll figure out what I need to know to do an author event. There is a lot more to learn on Goodreads, and if it’s like other sites, it will continue to change over time. I think an author can even buy ads on Goodreads, judging by the header and sidebar content.

I may have just scratched the surface for promo opportunities. I wonder, is there a “Goodreads for Dummies” book out there yet?

Come on everybody, let’s tweet now!

By Patricia Stoltey aka @PStoltey

Geesh! I can already hear the groans.

You hate social media.

You can’t stand the thought of adding one more site to your daily list of “must” visits.

And you would prefer to bury your head in the sand and make this whole business of marketing, networking, and engaging go away, especially if it involves blogging, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, PInterest…..and Twitter.

Last month I posted about the benefits of blogging for authors in “To Blog or Not to Blog? Good Question.”

This month I want to urge you to try out Twitter, if you haven’t already done so. This is my Twitter banner. Isn't it pretty?

Twitter_Banner 1smallIf it turns out Twitter is not your thing, so be it. But I like it best of all the social media sites so far. Here’s why:

Lots of authors and readers and agents and editors hang out on Twitter.

If you have a blog, Twitter is a great place to link to your blog posts, especially when you’re promoting your guest authors. It’s also the perfect place for you to spot the blog posts you’ll want to read (especially literary agents' blogs).

There are only 140 characters in a tweet, so long rants require more work.

Facebook and Google+ allow the user way too much space to post long, drawn-out updates you don’t have time to read.

Unfortunately, a few less-than-savvy authors use their 140 characters on Twitter to say “Buy My Book” over and over and over. I promise you, this does not sell books. And....you can ditch them from your lists.

Photos can be attached to a tweet (think book covers and more).

This is where Twitter starts to get interesting. A member of my critique group just had a new horror novel released, and he explained his Twitter philosophy recently on my blog. One of the ways he helped promote his book was to create colorful and creepy flyers that he could post on social media accounts along with a link to a buy page. Because he has built a huge network of Twitter friends, he can post one flyer one time and watch the information get rapidly sent around the world. A lot of those folks in his network are horror writers with a fan following. You can read his full post here: Creating a Twitter Book Promotion Campaign.

Photos are a relatively new feature for Twitter and a successful one. If you establish a pattern of posting certain types of photos (haunted houses, Provence, cute kittens) related to your books, it helps reach an interested audience.

You can build lists that limit what you see to exactly the people you choose.

Although I need to do some fine tuning with my lists, I built one for Colorado authors, another for blogger friends, and one for literary agents.

I can follow someone else’s public list, and others can follow mine.

I can make a list that groups political and/or news accounts together so I can look them when something big is going on in the world, but I don’t need to follow the accounts and see them in my Twitter feed every day…that would be way too annoying.

There’s a way to build a series of tweets on the same topic.

The hashtag-plus-topic-title groups tweets together so a reader can select that particular heading and see all related tweets in one place. Writers often post messages under the hashtag #amwriting. I use #RMFWBlog when I post the links to our blog posts. #Bookgiveaway announces an opportunity to enter a contest.

Our own Susan Spann, author and attorney, uses the hashtag #PubLaw for her Wednesday series on legal issues for authors. Those of you who are on Twitter can type #PubLaw into the search box and you'll be able to see all those tips together in one place.

Finally, Twitter is another wonderful way to make new friends.

Take the time occasionally to engage others by responding to their comments or questions. Throw out the occasional silly tweet or fun question and see who responds.

Even though a lot of people like to make fun of those who post updates or tweet about food or the weather or what their crazy cat did today, you’ll find those are the little things that say, Here’s a real person and he/she wants to connect with other real people.

This tweet got me some attention recently: “I scroll Twitter and Facebook and see books I want to read, then look at the books all over my house, then buy another one anyway. #books”

So come on. Give me your best 140 characters (or less).

To Blog or Not to Blog? Good question!

By Patricia Stoltey

HorsetoothRes2000_text_smallI’m sure you know there are tons of blogs out there on every imaginable topic. You’ve also probably heard those little rumors floating around that “blogging is dead,” or “blogging does not sell books,” or even “blogging is a total waste of time because you should be writing.”

If you already have a blog, your frustration may reinforce those rumors because your stats are in the toilet. You don’t get visitors, or they come but they won’t leave comments.

On the other hand, you may have heard that agents and publishers aren’t remotely interested in writers who don’t have an online platform. That usually means a website, a blog, and at least a couple of social media sites such as Twitter and Goodreads.

I don’t know if any of that is true.

What I do know is that blogging can be useful. It can be time-consuming. It can be frustrating. And it can be lots of fun. Let’s deal with my truths one at a time.

Blogging can be useful

1. Link to your blog and have it display on your Goodreads author page. Readers who follow you can comment on your post without leaving the site.

What did you say? You have a book out but you don’t have an author page on Goodreads? I’d highly recommend you remedy that situation as soon as possible.

2. Keep information current so friends and readers know about your new cover art or book release. You are more likely to regularly update a blog than a website.

3. Attract readers to your blog with reader-friendly content. Share anecdotes about your life with humor and photographs to attract potential readers.

Blogging can be time consuming

1. While I admire the bloggers who post long essays/articles seven days a week, I don’t think that’s the best approach for someone whose primary purpose is writing fiction. Limit the number of days you will add content to the blog, but post at least weekly.

2. Keep blog posts reasonably short or well divided into categories so readers can pick and choose what they want to read and respond to. No one has time to waste.

3. Schedule certain times of the day to read other blogs and leave comments.

Oops! I hear the screeching sound of potential bloggers slamming on their brakes. But if you want bloggers (and bloggers are readers, too, you know) to visit your blog and leave comments, you have to get yourself out there and make friends.

4. Make it easy for readers to subscribe to your posts via email. Give readers a way to search for specific topics. There are widgets for these and many other functions.

Blogging can be frustrating

1. Be patient. Be persistent. Because one day your pre-scheduled post won’t publish. The next day, you can’t open the site at all. Suddenly readers are unable to post comments. Or the blogger god makes major changes on the site and you can’t find the buttons for bold or italics or even to pre-schedule.

2. Look at blogging as you would look at any amazing technical marvel that is constantly being upgraded (and didn’t quite get all the bugs worked out before its release).

Blogging can be lots of fun

1. Make a whole bunch of good efriends through blogging. They help spread the word about cover reveals and release dates. Blogger friends post news and host authors as their guest bloggers, conduct interviews, and sometimes review books.

2. Host other authors on your site. They bring their fans to your blog.

3. Participate in blog challenges and blog hops related to your genre. Lots of book bloggers host these kinds of activities, and the people who follow book bloggers are readers.

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0One of the very best blog challenges takes place every April. It’s called the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge—participants post 26 days (rarely on Sundays) and title their posts, with or without a theme) to coincide with that day’s letter of the alphabet. Signups are happening now at the challenge website/blog and that’s where you can get all the information and register. Total participants have numbered well over 1,000 in past years. That’s a lot of econnections you can make in a month.

So after all that, is the biggest question on your mind, “Does blogging sell books?”

Wrong question!

The right question: Does blogging reach people who read books?

It sure does if you create good content, make blogger friends and help each other, promote your posts, engage with those who leave comments, and make sure your blog reaches the non-writing readers who look to Goodreads and book bloggers for the books to add to their “Want to Read” lists.

If you have questions about your blog or would like feedback, leave the link in your comment.

Luck and Timing

By Mary Gillgannon

“How lucky do you feel you are?” My first editor asked me that question as we were discussing promotion for my second book. She went on to say that for most of the successful authors she knew, luck had played an important part in their careers. Her advice was to do “as much promotion as you need to do to feel in control”. Her words were a huge relief to me, as I had little time or money to spend on promotion back then.

My sense of luck being the deciding factor has not decreased over the years. The people I know who have been most successful are talented and hard-working, yes. But no more talented than other authors who saw their careers stall and sometimes fizzle away altogether. The key has always been writing the right kind of book at the right time. In other words, luck.

Now with the changes in the publishing world, there are other “factors of chance”, as I was reminded by a recent article in The New York Times. The article discussed the impact of the Kindle Unlimited program on indie authors and profiled an author named Kathryn Le Veque. Le Veque has published 44 ebooks and until recently was selling 6,000 ebooks a month. Although the main point of the article was that with Kindle Unlimited, Le Veque has had to lower prices to maintain her income and sell more books for fewer dollars, there were other intriguing details revealed in the profile: Le Veque has been writing fiction for over 35 years and had created a huge stockpile of books. For 28 years, she submitted her books to traditional publishers and had them rejected. But then she started self-publishing and was so successful she was able to quit her day job after three months and write full-time. Despite her enormous body of work, to maintain her sales, she has to keep churning them out, and to help her, she has hired a part-time editor and two part-time assistants.

Like most success stories, this is a case of luck, or good fortune, or whatever you want to call it. This particular author’s ability to publish a large number of books at one time, and rapidly write more, is a large part of her success. But that strategy of writing one book after another failed her for 28 years. Then Amazon came along and it was a perfect storm: a market that was hungry for books and that allowed her to directly reach the sub-group of readers who read her genre, plus her huge stockpile of product and ability to keep producing it quickly.

Most of the successful indie authors I know, and a fair number of the traditionally published ones as well, have a similar strategy: write fast and write series, multiple linked books that appeal to a specific group of readers. But being able to do that is a matter of luck. Even if I quit my day job and did nothing else, I could not write six, eight, ten books a year. Ms. Le Veque says that on a good day, she writes 12,000 words. I doubt that in the last few years I’ve written that many in one week!

Another interesting thing I noted is that nowhere in the article does Le Veque mention promotion, social media or on-line presence. While she probably has her assistants do some of that now, I doubt she was able to do much in the beginning. Which confirms my suspicion that even though on-line promotion has made the difference in a lot of authors’ careers, it is not necessarily the “magic bullet”. Because what worked two years ago, or even two months ago, may not work now. Again, it’s a matter of timing, just like it always was. And timing is a matter of chance, i.e. luck.

For some people, the idea that luck is so important may be incredibly frustrating. For me, it’s a relief, just like it was years ago when my editor told me not to bother spending my advance on promotion. It gives me a way out and makes me feel less like a failure. I’m a dutiful person, who wants to do a good job and be responsible and dedicated, and that extends to my writing career. But lately I’m overwhelmed with everything I supposed to do for my career, and I’m getting pretty frustrated and unhappy. And even though it’s discouraging to know I’ll never write fast enough to flood the market and develop an audience like this writer did, it is heartening to hear the story of someone who was successful because they kept writing, rather than they made their name by promoting their work.

Westward Ho: Face-to-Face in a Virtual World … by Jenny Milchman

Jenny.MilchmanOn May 13th I am going to arrive in Denver after a 38,000 mile journey.

OK, maybe I should back up a bit.

Today a writer can feel like she needs to be everywhere at once. And I do mean everywhere—the internet gives us the power to be not just in everyone’s living room, but in their purses and back pockets on tablets and cell phones. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Pinterest…where’s a writer to go?

I’d like to shine a light on a place that’s getting a little less emphasis these days. Perhaps because it’s only one place, or at least one place at a time. I’m talking about real time, live, physical sites (not websites) where writers connect with readers face-to-face.

Last year my first novel came out after a thirteen year struggle to publication. Since the only thing harder than breaking in as a debut author is building a long-lasting career as a writer, both my husband and I knew that we would have to give this thing our all. So we did the only logical thing. We rented out our house, traded in two cars for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, and withdrew our kids from first and third grades.

OK, maybe it wasn’t so logical. But once we’d done all of that, we then hit the road, car-schooling the kids, husband working from the front seat, while I visited nearly 500 bookstores, libraries, schools, and book clubs. All told, we covered seven months and 35,000 miles.

The question I get asked most often is whether it was worth it.

It’s a difficult question to answer because it comes down to what worth it means in terms of launching a writing career. Did we sell a lot of books at every stop? No, definitely not. But we knew from the outset that this was going to be less about selling books, and more about building relationships.

Milchman_RuinFallsBooksellers receive hundreds or thousands of Advance Reading Copies. They can’t possibly read them all. By going to the bookstore, I added to the work my publisher’s reps were doing of putting a book by an unknown author on the radar. 60-70% of the reading public browse in bookstores. That’s a lot of potential fans. And no matter how an event went, I would hear from booksellers weeks and even months later about a copy they had just hand sold to a person they knew would enjoy it.

The other question I hear is, “But what if I don’t have 7 months? Or 7 weeks for that matter?” My answer to that is: Don’t worry. The power of the face-to-face can be mined in 7 days. Or in a weekend. What I love about doing events is that it’s additive, and you can start with one.

Plan an event at your local bookstore, which won’t even require missing a day of work. Take a weekend road trip, making it a working vacation. Draw a radius around your hometown, and identify bookstores within it. If setting up the events seems difficult, consider working with an independent publicity firm. In this way I was able to get booked at some places that had established attendee lists, allowing me that rare author experience of walking into a crowded room.

Another factor to consider is the power of meeting your readers face-to-face. I found that as much as I enjoy communing with people virtually, there’s a powerful connection when that relationship is lifted to real time. I met people on the road whom I now consider friends. I can’t wait to meet them next time.

That’s right, I did say next time. Because with my second novel about to come out, we are set to hit the road all over again. Hope to see you in Denver!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jenny Milchman's journey to publication took thirteen years, after which she hit the road for seven months with her family on what Shelf Awareness called "the world's longest book tour". Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, and nominated for a Mary Higgins Clark award. Jenny is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chair of International Thriller Writers' Debut Authors Program. Jenny's second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out and she and her family are back on the road. Please follow along at the tour page on her website.

You can learn more about Jenny and her novels at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.