Tag Archives: promotion

Paying for it

By Mary Gillgannon

In the month since my latest book came out, I’ve dutifully attempted to promote it. I updated my website, guest-posted on nearly a dozen blogs, tweeted and Facebooked (in my own pathetic way), had a Goodreads giveaway, and engaged the help of the other authors on my publisher’s promotion loop to get the word out. But two weeks after the book’s release, it became clear that my efforts weren’t working. My book wasn’t gaining traction, it was standing still. If a bestseller is the pinnacle of a high mountain, this book was only a few yards up one of the foothills. I decided it was time to heed the old adage, “You have to spend money to make money.”

I’ve spent money on promoting my books in the past. I've purchased ads, had postcards and bookmarks printed and paid for mailings, the only promotion options available in the days before the internet. But there was one crucial difference: Back then, I was spending money I’d already made. When you’re earning several thousand dollars on an advance, it’s a lot easier to part ways with a few hundred here and there.

But even back then, I was pretty cautious about investing a lot of money in promotion. Mostly because I wasn’t convinced it worked. I’d known authors who spent nearly every dime of their advances on promotion and their sales weren’t that much better than mine. Instead, I took to heart the advice most editors and agents gave back then: “Put your time and energy into writing the next book.”

That really was the conventional wisdom in those days. Now publishers expect you to promote. Some even demand it. I’ve submitted to publishers who put as much emphasis on the author’s platform and social media presence as they do on the quality of the manuscript. A lot of it is because the market has shifted to ebooks, which are marketed so much differently. In the old days, if your publisher got your book in the stores and it had a reasonably good cover, you could expect to sell thousands of books without doing much of anything. The important “promotion” took place between the publisher’s sales staff and the bookstore buyers and wholesale distributors. The main hurdle was getting your books out there, and you had no control over that.

Now, “distribution” is the easy part. Anyone with a little tech savvy can get their book published. The ease of that part of the process clearly shows, as the number of ebooks available increases exponentially each year. The gatekeepers are gone and we now have a flood.

So, in an effort to try to get a tiny bit of notice for my book, I decided to spend some money on promotion. But it’s not easy to decide where to throw those bucks. The best sites for promoting ebooks are picky. They want you to have x number of positive reviews, and even if you have those, they may still reject you. They also want you to offer it free or at a discounted price. Since my book was published by a small press, I don’t have any control over the price.

But to test things, I went to a less well-known site and paid a small fee to promote one of my indie-published books, for which I’d dropped the price to $.99. In terms of sheer numbers, the approach was successful. On the day my book was listed, I sold 150 copies. Considerably more than the half dozen or so I usually sell in a month. In terms of money earned for money invested, I’ve come out a little ahead, but just barely. With the regular price of $2.99, I make nearly $2.00 per book sold. On a $.99 book I make about 35 cents. So I have to sell nearly six times as many books to make the same money. Plus, I have to earn back the $45 fee I paid to have my book promoted. If the bump in sales continues for a while, or it helps increase the sales of my other books, it will be a good investment.

But that doesn’t help my newest book. For it, I bought an ad on a romance ebook site. It was on sale for $99 and runs for a month. It’s a site that has been sending me newsletter emails for years and I always delete them without opening them. So, we’ll see if it makes any difference. And I’m still looking around, trying to find other avenues for ads. But there’s a limit to how much money it makes sense to spend.

I suspect the slow sales on my latest book may be related to the book itself. I’ve always written historical romances, but this book (a time travel/reincarnation story) takes place primarily in the present. While some readers bounce back and forth between historical and contemporary romances, a lot have a preference for one or the other. In some ways I’m marketing this book to a brand new audience. So, maybe I should do what I’d really like to be doing (instead of agonizing over these things) and finish the next book in the series. Maybe the second book will help me get a few more feet up the mountain.

The Perils of Being a Woman Writer and First Things First

By Mary Gillgannon

It’s not easy being female and a writer. As a woman, you’re less likely to be taken seriously or to gain the respect of the public and your peers. If you write romance, as I do, the trials are even greater. The implication is always there that anyone can write “one of those trashy little books.”

I’m used to that kind of attitude and mostly shrug it off. But I’ve recently become aware of another burden of being a woman who writes fiction. Females are trained from early childhood to be empathetic, social and “helper bees.” We learn to support other people, to encourage and commiserate and be there for them. In many, many ways this is a very good thing. Civilization and probably humanity itself would not have survived without female social skills. But sometimes we take things too far, to our own detriment.

Last spring, I signed a contract with a small press. In my welcome letter, I was told I needed to join the loop for the publishing house’s authors and also a loop where those authors share promotional ideas. Dutifully, I did so.

The number of emails I get daily has been creeping up for years. It includes advertising emails as well as the RMFW loops and an on-line loop for writers of Celtic romance. Sometimes things get pretty active on these loops. I’m used to getting up to 100 emails a day.

But suddenly, with the new loops, my emails doubled. My publisher’s writers are a very enthusiastic, active bunch. Many of them have regular blogs, run contests and other promotions and on-line activities. And they like to celebrate anything good and, occasionally, commiserate over bad things. New covers, new releases, contest wins, great reviews, terrible reviews, all those things result in a flurry of emails expressing congratulations and support. It gets almost ridiculous sometimes, with people thanking people for posting a comment thanking them for a blog post, etc.

But even though they sometimes take it overboard, I will admit the loop members are truly wonderful about promoting their fellow authors. They tweet and share on Facebook. They offer blog opportunities and sign up to take part in on-line parties and special promotional events. With a new book coming out at the end of the year, I need to do some of these things. And I can hardly ask the members of these loops to promote my release or my blog or whatever, if I don’t do some of the same things for them.

But all of this patting each other on the back and even the genuine promotion of reciprocal tweets and shares, comes at a price. Time.

I used to be able to get through my emails in half an hour or so each morning. Delete the ads, except for those I want to check out later (I have a bad shopping addiction.), respond to those celebrating a special event or success, and keep in touch with friends and family (mostly done on weekends, when I have more time). But recently I realized I was spending over an hour each morning dealing with email. And another hour or more if I take time to post on Facebook, write for my sadly-neglected blog, or do other writing business.

And I can’t afford to lose that time, because mornings are my best writing time. Every extra minute I spend on email is a minute I’m not writing. Which leads me to the second thing addressed in this blog: My decision to make writing my book the first thing I do when I sit down at the computer each morning.

Two other writers and I recently did a six-week writing program at the library where I work. When we got to the class on promotion, each of us mentioned the axiom we’ve heard for years: “The best thing you can do for your career is write the best book you can.”

Whether that’s true or not, I do know that one of the best things you can do for your career is have another book published. Because the way it works is that sales lead to more sales, especially in a series. And I’m not going to have another book in this series I just started unless I make writing it a priority.

At the same time, I worry that I’m being a bad “loop-member.” That I’m being selfish and unfair if I don’t show support to my fellow authors but expect them to help me when my book comes out. The guilt, oh, the guilt! But I guess I’ll just have to live with it. The reality is, writers write. And all the rest of it has to be lower priority.

If a Blog Falls in the Forest….

By Sunny Frazier

Sunny FrazierJulie Luek asked me over here to discuss blog interaction. First, let me say, I'm honored. I entered the Colorado Gold contest early in my career and the changes suggested definitely got me a contract. This is a terrific group.

I do my homework. I've scrolled through some recent blogs on your site. Good stuff. So, where are the comments? One here, two there. And, the same responders showing up. What gives?

Then I found Aaron Michel Ritchey's “Why I Have Failed To Write a Word In 2014.” I don't know this guy, why should I care? But, the title has grabbed me. His first line: “I am the problem.” No writer admits to that. They blame writers block or a full-time job.

I have to keep reading. His clipped style and use of the word “suck” amuses me. I have no idea what “Lama sabachthani” means. I don't care. He's hooked me with the first sentence. Isn't that what we're told to do in our novels?

His piece got 21 comments. I read all of those as well. I want to find out more about this man and, if his books are as good as this post, I want to buy them. I'll even become the stalker he craves.

Aaron started with a headline that stood out. I'm from the school of journalism; it all starts with the headline. Next, he made it personal. He's not lecturing me, he's opening up. With loose language and a bit of irreverence, I know I'm in for a good time with this guy.

Frazier_FoolsI use the same tactics as Aaron, but I go a bit further. I created a Posse, a group of aspiring writers. I send them interesting posts and train them to reply. It's a chance for them to expand their contacts in the writing world, to find out who's who. It also allows them to give an opinion and perhaps mention their own WIP. They're trained to announce posts they've written. Blogging doesn't do a bit of good if nobody is aware of its existence. .

Everyone should have a Posse. It starts with friends and contacts in your circle. All that networking you've been taught to do? This is where it comes in handy. Get out the business cards you've collected and include them in your group. Don't be shy, but don't SPAM everyone you know. Figure out who will enjoy the experience you are about to give them.

Please don't waste their time. If you're only blogging to fill up space or fulfill a commitment, remember all of us are busy people. Every time I write a blog, I ask myself “Would I stop and read this?” Be sure the reader comes away a bit more aware or given a different slant on the topic.

Frazier_Angels FearDon't make a blog all about selling. It's promotion, yes, but readers are trained to smell the hard-sell from a mile away. You have to be slicker than that. Let your word usage do the selling for you. A blog should be an audition for your novel. If readers love the way you write, they expect more of the same in a book.

To pull people to your blog don't say, “I wrote a nice blog. Please stop by and read it if you have a moment.” Here's the announcement I posted today titled “Yes, I Dipped My Toes In Those Muddy Waters.” My email said “Literary fiction vs genre--sounds boring, right? Do we REALLY need to hash out this one again? Those of you who know me know I'm going to have the last word, and you can count on it being irreverent.”

My followers know I'm again thumbing my nose at the status quo and we're cyber-nudging each other, snickering to see if I can get away with it. Toes will be stepped on but I get invited back because I do something all site owners are looking for: I attract readers. The numbers go up. People are plugging into their websites and will hopefully sign on for more.

Finally, my last tip to create fans: I personally contact people who reply to my posts to thank them. Not just in the reply space. Nope, I'm going to Google you to see who you are, what you've written and let you know I appreciate the time you took to read my words. I will even Facebook you with a request for friendship. And, I will notify you the next time you want to have some fun with me over at another blog. You're important. You make this all work.

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Sunny Frazier trained as a journalist and wrote for a city newspaper, military and law enforcement publications. After working 17 years with the Fresno Sheriff's Department, 11 spent as Girl Friday with an undercover narcotics team, it dawned on her that mystery writing was her real calling. Both Fools Rush In and Where Angels Fear are based on real cases as well as astrology, a habit Frazier has developed over the past 42 years. To see her in her WAVE uniform and learn more, go to her website.