Marketing and Promotion: Let’s Sell Books!

Ask the Author (Round 2)

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For many authors, marketing and promotion is the hardest part of writing. In week two of this series, in the segment on the writing process, four out of eleven authors listed marketing as their biggest challenge, and I’ve had many other authors give the same response when the question was posed. I know it’s certainly true for me. In days past, traditional publishers handled much of these tedious tasks, so authors didn’t have to, but with the rise if independent publishing to the forefront, those days may be gone. Even traditional publishers are doing less promotion, relying on authors to get word out about their works.

Today our author panel will be talking about how they tackle the task and which advertising platforms have been effective for them. Our author panel this week include RA Winter, DeAnna Knippling, Tom Johnson, Lilly Rayman, Ashley Fontainne, Jordan Elizabeth, Amy Cecil, Cynthia Vespia, and Margareth Stewart. Let’s see what works and what doesn’t for them.

Which advertising platforms do you find to give the best results?

RA Winter
RA Winter Most of my marketing right now is just using Facebook groups. I only post once a week or once every two weeks and include something snazzy to catch my readers attention. I write romance with humorous undertones so I always include a funny quote. The piece that I’m concentrating on right now is only .99 cents, and it’s a stand-alone novella. Once I have a couple of books written in the series, I’ll start using Facebook ads and Amazon ads to promote the series. Reviews on websites usually gain me a lot of traffic too. I concentrate on getting my work in front of reviewers right off the bat.
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Whatever ones I bother to use consistently 🙂  I use Amazon Ads and BookGorilla mostly right now.
Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I’ve promoted other authors I like, and in turn they have helped promote my books.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I haven’t really found any that stand out above the rest. I have used The Kindle Book Review and BooksGoSocial. I have also used eBooksstage as well, but nothing has jumped out at me as being a cut above the rest at this point. You see lots of sites that offer lots of results, and yet nothing is ever guaranteed. I do like that BooksGoSocial offer a non-quibble money back guarantee on their paid marketing services.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Bookbub and Goodreads.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Buying ads on reputable sites, like Robin Reads, has been the most lucrative.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I really haven’t tried to do any advertising yet. I have tried Amazon, but really haven’t had any results from it that were profitable.


Have you found any free advertising platforms to be effective for selling books?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I’ve not found any free advertising. Everything comes with a price, or something attached that I have found, and if I’m not careful I could find myself busier promoting other things than my books.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Only in that they work to promote free books and get free book downloads. Generally, the readers I have found on the free advertising platforms are looking for free reads, and this rarely moves through to them purchasing further books.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Bookbub and Ereader News Today are the two I typically use for best results.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Newsletters would have to be the best.  They put your book in their newsletter, you put theirs in yours.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Social media, but I’m uncertain on the exact ROI.


If you use paid advertising, do you think it is worth it? Which platforms do you find to give the best results?

 

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I’m still on a steep learning curve when it comes to paid ads. I’ve tried a lot of things.  Amazon Ads and BookGorilla are good for me; I don’t use FB right now because it fries my brain, so it’s automatically not effective when I do try it! I have an upcoming BookBub international ad; I’m not sure how that’ll go yet, but people speak well of them.
I wouldn’t just count the sales that you make on the day of an ad in order to judge effectiveness, but look at the general boost something gives you over time. I know it’s hard to assess how things are doing with Amazon right now; the holiday season is always nuts, either blowing up your sales or tanking them, and leaving little question marks floating around your head like birdies in a Warner Brothers cartoon. I would suggest not to judge your efforts too harshly until like March or so.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I haven’t found one worthwhile yet, and I’m suspicious of most.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I haven’t found any paid advertising to be worth it at this point, but I will keep experimenting and see what happens. I’m hopeful that once I have completed my Unexpected Trilogy in 2019, that a marketing campaign will garner more traction.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan No.  I’ve never made back the cost of the ad.  Is it worth it for the exposure?  YES!  Even if one new person reads it, then it was worth it to me.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I’ve used Amazon’s ad service but it did nothing for me.


Have you used press releases as a method of creating buzz for your books?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Nope, although I wouldn’t rule it out.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Yes, but with zero effect.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman No. I considered running a press release from a charity anthology I have organised that releases Dec 1, but someone I was talking to in my local library said newspapers are a dying media, social media has more impact. So, I have stuck to creating media kits for bloggers to use if they want to share my releases.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne I have, yet didn’t see positive results.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I did for my first books, but it never seemed to yield good results.  Maybe I wasn’t doing it right?  I know some authors have great success with it.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Yes, but only when the book I wrote had something prominent to say. For instance, in my latest novel Karma (Book 1 in the Silker Butters Superhero Series) I used a woman of Indian heritage as my protagonist. So I released a press release on it because I felt it was important that we start to diversify our characters.


Could you explain what your street team does (if you have one) and how you go about building a street team?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I’ve never had a street team, though many of my friends have taken it on themselves to help me advertise my books.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I haven’t got a street team, but I do have a close groups of author friends that share any posts for sales or giveaways when I ask them to.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I don’t have a street team anymore, but when I did, I comprised it of loyal readers who asked if they could help me somehow.  We became a close-knit group of friends.  They would often reach out to bloggers on my behalf or share things on social media.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil My street team is amazing.  They share my stuff all over social media.  I do a weekly swag giveaway and tell them what to share and they do it.  Each week we have a winner and I get the swag from the signings I attend.  There is usually a signed book in there as well.  My PA’s have built my team by sharing it in TO’s plus other members share it.


Which types of advertising do you use for your books?  (i.e. email campaigns/newsletters/web content/paid ads, etc…) Which ones do you find to be more effective?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Newsletters, social media, interviews/guest articles, paid ads, blogging, connecting with other writers, appearing at events, getting stories published in anthologies/short story markets, teaching writing classes…  Advertising and promotion kind of folds into networking a lot.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I have a monthly newsletter, and a reader group on Facebook. I try and regularly post on my Facebook page to keep readers in the loop. I have a supportive group of Indie friends that help share my posts across Facebook, extending my reader base. I also find writing in anthologies is a great way of reaching new readers.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Newsletters and social media posts.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I buy ads and utilize newsletter swaps.  The paid advertising always works out the best.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Again, other than social media, I have not used anything else except what is noted above.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I’ve dabbled in almost everything. I’ll tell you the least effective was hiring someone else to get the buzz out for my book. I paid two different people who claimed they did promotion for authors and I got little to no return on investment. Buyer beware when it comes to those types of individuals.

The most effective, as I said has been me, face-to-face with people having a casual conversation about books.


Advertising is a visual media and visual images sell better than text alone. How do you provide images to go with your copy?

RA Winter
RA Winter I love Photoshop!  I’ll take my book cover and if  I’m able, I’ll decompose the photo and add in some quotes.  If I can’t separate the photo, I’ll either blow up a section or place the book in a kindle reader and place it at the bottom of a scene that relates to the book.
DeAnna Knippling
deannak The sites I use generally handle that for me.  If not, I can throw something together fairly quickly with InDesign.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture My covers are usually eye-catching, and that helps. But the Blurb must also attract the reader. It’s a double-edged sword.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I love creating teasers with powerful images and quotes from my book that stir the reader and pulls them in to want to one click.

Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I create all my images in photoshop. I love the creative process so much I started creating covers for others.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I can spend hours playing around on Canva.  I’d love to invest in Photoshop sometime soon.
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy As a graphic artist I can make digital images pretty quick and I use them on different platforms.
Margareth Stewart
Margareth Stewart I use the same image and color of the cover to call readers´ attention and as an easy step for them to identify the line. I find colors very useful as well as the name of the main characters, one or two main lines from the book and of course, reader´s review. For 2019, my plan is to develop a line of products like T-shirts, recycle bags and mugs with best quotes and front cover on ordering by demand. It is surely one more add to the scene as I usually say.

What works best to sell books for you, as far as marketing goes?
Tom Johnson
Tom's Back Cover Picture Word of mouth. Friends and true fans recommending or reviewing my books.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I haven’t found my magic formula yet. I see a spike in sales when I take part in takeovers and put my work in front of new readers. I’m still looking for the key to unlock the marketing platform for me at present.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Old school word of mouth.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I enjoy entering book fairs online.  You discount your book and buy into the fair.  The fair is seen by countless people online, and hopefully they want to pick your book from the selection.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I only use Amazon.  I have tried using other platforms and have no luck.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy You just have to try as many things as possible to get exposure. The marketplace is saturated, especially in regards to ebooks. That’s why I still prefer grassroots, face-to-face sales like conventions and books signings.


As authors, they say we need to have a brand – an image readers will associate with us and our works. An image that encompasses who we are and the type of writing that we do is a great idea, to be sure, but what if you write in more than one genre?
Logo
I currently have published a western novel, a science fiction time travel short, and a paranormal mystery novelette. What kind of image can encompass all that? I’m currently revising my brand, or logo, (with the assistance of D.L. Mullen and Sonoran Dawn Studios), but you may have seen the red quill and ink I’ve used as a logo up until now, which encompasses all things writing to me, and really, that’s what I’m about. My resulting works are simply the products my writing produces. Below you can see that my new brand encompasses that, as well as being able to apply to all of my writing enterprises. You’ll see this logo soon, along with a full revision of theme on this site and on the new site I’m designing for my other writing endeavors. 
WordCrafter Logo
Tell us about your brand? Why did you chose this image? Do you believe it increases the recognition of you or your work?
RA Winter
RA Winter I write magical realism, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy. My Author RA Winter Logobrand is a ghost cat.  Why?  Because I started writing as a way to deal with the loss of my cat, Dingle.  He became the driving force behind my writing.  He’s usually a character hidden somewhere in each novel too and is just as nefariously adorable in death as he was in life.  I’m still playing with my brand, so it might change, but for now, I can’t let Dingle go!
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Strange, wonderful, horrible, interesting. I try to give my readers a senseQonderland Press that the world they’re escaping to is weirder and more interesting than our own, and that it has both wonderful and horrific aspects. I also want readers to be able to come back to the real world with a sense that they know it better, because they’ve been away to one of my worlds. That part is harder to explain…for example, you might put a fairy tale such as Snow White down and go, “You know what that stupid apple reminds me of? False advertising.” Something like that.

 

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Sorry. My only brand is that I am a pulp writer, and there are dozens of platforms for the genre, and my name is well known among them all.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I have created a brand, one that I feel reflects me. I try to use myLilly Rayman Logo branding on all graphics I create. I also have a branded set of takeover posts that I use on Facebook. I’m hoping for brand recognition to work well for readers to remember me by.

 

 

 

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan  My brand was created by Aaron Siddall.  It is my name within a gear.Jordan Elizabeth Logo  I wanted something to reflect my steampunk books, while still being simple and recognizable.  It doesn’t just work for steampunk.  I like to think of it as gears working in my imagination.

 

 

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy My brand is “Original Cyn” It came as a play off my name and it has a softoclogobutton copy biblical reference about the telling of Adam and Eve…or Original Sin. This is why my logo is a snake with an apple. Its not that it signify evil in any way, its more the birth of something. And yes, I believe putting my logo out there does get me recognition I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve even started a new company Original Cyn Content where I incorporate my writing and fitness background to create useable content to help others live their best lives. I also do freelance content creation like writing, design, and video.


Is it more difficult to brand yourself when you write in multiple genres? In what ways?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Yes and no? I feel like different genres require different emphases. A horror story will focus on the horrible; a fantasy might focus on the wonderful. A mystery might focus on the strange; a sci-fi story might focus on the interesting. But I kind of want all my stories to make the reader feel a little like they’re reading a fairy tale of some kind. A little disoriented, a little more perspective.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Yes, I am a SF writer, but I also write mysteries and westerns, and adventure. Unfortunately, most Groups where I advertise are  heavy in erotica and steamy romance, so I’m wasting my time. Erotica has cornered the mystery and western, and SF genres now. You can’t read any genre today without encountering erotic scenes.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I haven’t found it to be the case. I’ve simply tried to be clever in working the two genres I mainly write in together.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I actually just broke out of my normal writing for a Christmas novella.  My author brand isn’t on that book, but I am still using my pen name (Jordan Elizabeth).  If I decide to write more in that vein, I might come up with a different brand for Christmas novellas…something similar, but different, so people can recognize what to expect.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I think this is why I don’t have a brand yet.  LOL.  I write in many different genres and find it difficult to pinpoint something that covers them all.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart Yes, indeed! It needs addressing different audience, using various platforms, and multiple ways to talk to readers. I actually do this now, but I´d rather stick to one genre in the future. Agatha Christie for instance, she created her style with a peculiar vast audience. That is incredible; it is so rare nowadays, plus her unbeatable style! For me, it is what I head to as a writer.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy So I’ve been struggling with that for a long while now because I simply get ideas that cross genres. It’s difficult to pin them down into one category. For the sake of simplicity I’ve said urban and adventure fantasy but they’re really so much more than that. I have some stand alone thrillers as well.

Look, we all write in different voices. I think its more important to get that across than creating a label that pigeon holes you into a corner. Your readers will get it.


You can see from all the varied answers we have here that different avenues to marketing work for different authors, and what works for one author may not work for the next. Influencing factors may include the genre or genres we write in, advertising budget, and author preferences. Trial and error seems to be the only way to discover what works for you.

I want to thank our author panel members for sharing with us, not only in this segement, but throughout the entire series. Authors are busy people and their taking time out to answer my many questions is greatly appreciated. 

Next Monday will be the final segment of Round 2 of Ask the Authors. Our panel members will be weighing in on follow-up questions in many of the areas we’ve touched on throughout the series. Although we’ve had many readers following this round, we haven’t had a lot of comments, so this will be your last opportunity to post your own questions for our author panel in the comment box for the post on the topic that your question falls under.  Here’s your chance. We want to hear from you. Any questions in the comments will be posed to our author panel for them to answer. So, post those questions and don’t miss the final segment of Ask the Authors (Round 2). 

For convenience, I’ll post the links to each of the previous segments below. 

Meet the Authors: https://wp.me/pVw40-3H7

The Writing Process: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Hs

Plot/Storyline: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Ic

Setting/ Tense/ POV/ Voice: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Ic

Character Development: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Io

Action Scenes: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Jh

Editing and Revision: https://wp.me/pVw40-3JZ

Publishing Platforms: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Ku

Author Platforms: https://wp.me/pVw40-3KT

 

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How and Why You Should Build an Author Platform

Ask the Authors (Round 2)

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Fans, followers, readers: these are what authors strive for. While we obviously want to get our work out there so folks will know about and hopefully buy our books, it all starts with what we call an author platform. Whether you prefer social media promotion or in person appearances, it’s all about making connections and interaction with people. Having an outrageous number of followers doesn’t mean you will sell that many books, it does mean that there are a lot of people who’ve taken an interest in you or your work, and with luck, a percentage of those will actually make a purchase. Hopefully, from there, your work is good enough to carry the ball and bring back repeat customers. But first, you’ve got to have a platform. You’ve got to have followers, and more important, readers.
Today the Ask the Authors panel will be discussing how to go about building an author platform and the options available via the internet in our present media culture. Our author panel consists of authors Amy Cecil, Ashley Fontainne, Cynthia Vespia, Jordan Elizabeth, DeAnna Knippling, Dan Alatorre and RA Winter. As authors, they all strive to gain a following and will be giving us an idea of what is out there, and share their experiences as they’ve built their author platforms.

Hugs for Authors
I think we all would agree the best way to gain a following is to write a good book. But your book could be the best book ever written and no one would know it if nobody reads it. In today’s market, one way to get folks to buy your book is through reviews. Our consumer oriented society has taken to placing high value on what previous consumers have to say. I met many of the authors on our panel when I reviewed one of their books. I do reviews in exchange for a review copy of the book and so do many others, but still it seems like one of the most difficult tasks we’re faced with as authors is to obtain reviews for their books. People are not too busy to read the book, which is good, but they don’t always take time to go to a site and leave a review.
Have you found any effective methods of getting reviews for your books?
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil I have my own ARC team and I also use Booksprout, which is very effective.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne Reviews are difficult to obtain because we, as a society,  are so busy.  I have used many different approaches yet have had the most success with BookBub and audio books. Audio listeners tend to write more reviews. For example,  my novel Tainted Cure has 26 reviews on Amazon and 71 on Audible. I have noticed a lot of audio reviewers don’t post their reviews on Amazon yet I’m not sure why.
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Effective? Not really at this point. I’ve done giveaways and requests and its hit or miss.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Unfortunately, no quick fix to getting reviews. You can spend hours emailing book reviewers and suggesting your book to them for review, or you can pay for a platform to put your books out for review. Amazon is also making it harder for people to leave reviews, which makes reviews almost worthless when you don’t know how long your reviews will be up before being pulled by Amazon.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan The best way I’ve found is to reach out to reviewers personally.  I’ll send an email to bloggers and make sure it isn’t just a form email. I always tweak it to match their needs.  Out of every 20 emails I send, I usually get 1-2 bloggers interested. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but its worth it for those reviews.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Not consistently.  It’s one of those things where you scatter some free copies around and hope for the best.  I have an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) list, but people have been drifting away from it–which is understandable.  You could be the biggest DeAnna Knippling fan in the world and still not want to conscientiously read & review everything I freaking write! I have a free Instafreebie/Prolific Works account where I host giveaway copies, so I don’t have to manually send them out now, which is nice.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Asking reviewers who liked and reviewed one of my prior books is the easiest way. How did I get those first review for my first book? I asked EVERYBODY.


Blogging can be instrumental in obtaining followers. I know most of my followers have come from this blog, Writing to be Read. The more valuable the content posted here, the more followers I get, and 2018 has seen my following increase in great bounds. Again, I’m not seeing a monetary value from this blog, but I am watching my platform grow. Many other authors have blogs, as well, and I wonder about the opinions of our panel members.
If you have a blog, how instrumental is it in building your platform?
 
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I have a blog though I don’t post often.
Ramblings of a Mad Southern Woman
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy I blog for 2 reasons: to build my platform, and speak on topics I find either useful or entertaining. If you’re going to blog you have to be consistent with it in order to see any growth. I’m constantly updating my blog/site trying to find new ways to attract readers.
Lilly Rayman
L Rayman I’m not a very good blogger. I have a blog on my website, and I tend to share other author’s blog posts rather than blogging for myself.
Blog: http://lillyrayman0007.wixsite.com/lillyrayman/blog
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan My blog is called Kissed by Literature. I originally started it to review books. I still use it for mostly that, but I’ll talk about other book related things at times. To be honest, my blog doesn’t seem as integral as it used to be. I get more traffic on my Facebook Author page.
DeAnna Knippling
deannak I started it in 2003 or so at Blogspot, and it moved to http://www.WonderlandPress.com…I want to say that was in 2009? I don’t remember now. I write a lot of nerdy writing articles. It’s led to more ghostwriting work and invitations to talk at places than actual sales, I think! But I like doing it, which means I do it consistently, and I think that’s the key to platform: What can you keep up with consistently? Not, like, three times a week consistent, but “I just like doing it so I end up doing it even when I don’t actually have time” consistent. That’s your real platform.
Blog: http://blog.deannaknippling.com/
Dan Alatorre
Alatorre I published a book and my wife said I should start a blog to build an author platform and get my book known. I was clueless about blogging, and had NO followers for a long time. I had like 4 followers and one was my wife and one was a spam bot. Now I have thousands, and in 2017 my blog got over 60,000 views. I rarely have a day without 150 views. The secret there was to interact with others, which is part of a presentation I do for FWA and TBAWP and other writing groups, and is part of a planned webinar and book I’ll be selling. However, if I were starting today, I’m not sure I’d blog. Don’t get me wrong, I get a kick our of blogging and interacting with my fans there. I have writing contests there and get beta readers there, etc. But as far as strictly selling books, a mailing list is probably better, and I’m building mine now.
Blog: https://danalatorre.com/

I’m hearing that an author has to have a website, and to be sure, it’s convenient to create a kind of virtual store front where folks can find all your books in one place. But websites don’t have a lot of direct interaction with visitors to the site, so I have to wonder if they are useful for gaining readers or followers.
How effective has your website been for bringing in followers?
 
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil Not effective at all. My Facebook author page does much better.
Website: http://acecil65.wixsite.com/amycecil?fbclid=IwAR2RzmgKSWbBoNn7g8O1i8GreIwNZsrPHVcyVtlpIlHkobx7XvMJSw3P24s
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Not as effective as I have hoped in the past, but that’s all about to change. I’m employing a new strategy, new design, and better content to draw in outside eyes. To you newbies out there don’t be afraid of switching things up. If something isn’t working try a new strategy. I’ve streamlined my author site at www.CynthiaVespia.com but most of my attention is being set on my other site www.OriginalCynContent.com so I can bring useful information regarding marketing, building a business, and building your best self.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Honestly? I’m not sure it has, but I like that I have it there, I can update my books on my website, share a sample of my work and other authors I have come across.

Website: Http://www.lillyrayman0007.wixsite.com/lillyrayman

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan People tend to look at my facebook page more than my website.  When talking to people and the website comes up, they always seem surprised to find out I have one!

 
DeAnna Knippling
deannak It hasnt brought me a lot of newsletter subscribers yet. But everywhere I go, people are like, “So I read your website and…” and want to have some kind of conversation about the things they’re wrestling with because of some blog post I wrote, so I’m good.
Website: www.WonderlandPress.com
Dan Alatorre

Alatorre For me, advertising and newsletters get followers for books. My blog and FB sites are more for existing fan interaction.


Many sites now offer authors a chance to showcase their work on author pages.
Which sites do you hold author pages on? Which ones have you found to be most effective for gaining followers?
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil I just use Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook.
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Cecil/e/B00XUPU5Y8/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1542940066&sr=1-2-ent
Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5888015.Amy_Cecil
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/authoramycecil/
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I’ve signed up to so many, I probably couldn’t remember them all. Bookbub has so far been the most influential in bringing in followers.

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Lilly-Rayman/e/B00X5CR5QC

Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9866872.Lilly_Rayman

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/lilly.rayman.7

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MrsL0007

Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/mrsl0007

BookBub Author page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lilly-rayman

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Lilly-Rayman

Romance IO: https://www.romance.io/authors/5617d075bfc6b5c0fa94082f/lilly-rayman

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I’ve found Facebook to be the most lucrative.

Facebok Author page: https://www.facebook.com/JordanElizabethAuthor/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Jordan-Elizabeth/e/B00P0KBRD4

Curiosity Quills Author page: https://curiosityquills.com/authors/jordan-elizabeth/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jordan-elizabeth

DeAnna Knippling

deannak A lot of these places, you don’t even know that you have an author page.  But I’m involved in the Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub ones.  I don’t know which ones are effective, but they seem to interact with the GR one the most.

Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4456773.DeAnna_Knippling

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/DeAnna-Knippling/e/B0049HF320/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1543066052&sr=1-2-spons

BookBub Author page: https://www.bookbub.com/search?search=DeAnna+Knippling

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I have a Blog, a Facebook page, and I use Twitter. I wouldn’t say I showcase my work on them all, but I do occasionally on my blog. That’s not how I gain followers, though. The blog is for other things, like interaction, writing contests, etc.

Blog Author page: https://danalatorre.com/about/

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/DanAlatorreAuthor/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU

Goodreads Autor page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7847408.Dan_Alatorre


Free books abound these days. Freebies are a marketing strategy which many book marketers swear by, and there does seem to be a rising trend toward using this strategy. Give away something for free and people will buy something else. While it may bring in sales, I’m skeptical. Even if it doesn’t bring sales though, if it brings readers to your platform I can see value in it. I use my perma-free novelette, Hidden Secrets, in conjunction with my newsletter. If you sign up for my monthly newsletter, you get a link for a free copy of the book, but only a few of those who have subscribed have claimed their copy, so I don’t know that it’s the book drawing them in.
For authors who have played with this strategy, fill us in. Does it work to bring in new followers? What has your experience taught you?
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil Yes, it works. I have a series and I always offer the first book free when a new book in the series releases. The first book draws them in and then it goes from there.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I  have a newsletter and if someone signs up they receive two free PDFs. I have done freebies before and had fantastic results, but only when using Bookbub and the book promoted was in the KDP program. The book had thousands of downloads and was over 600 pages, so even though I didn’t make money off the downloads,  I did on the pages read, plus I gained 75+ reviews.
(Side note: Since we’re talking about freebies, Ashley Fontainne’s Ruined Wings has recently been made into a film, which you can now view for free at the link below.)
Ruined Wings
Website: The Dark Southern Bell
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy I’ve not done the “free book for sign up” bit yet but I have done some freebies and they haven’t done anything for me. The only traction I saw was when doing ARC giveaways for a new release and even then it didn’t get the response I was hoping for in terms of reviews. So now I’m very selective in who I give my books away to because everyone I talk to is constantly asking for a free book and it just doesn’t do me any good to keep giving away my profits like that.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I offer a permafree book across all platforms, when I do a Facebook event I share the link. I also have details of the permafree in all my books. I also offer a flash fiction exclusively to subscribers of my newsletter. When I share with people on Facebook they can get a free read for signing up, they usually do.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I’ve done sales with free books. I’m not sure if its brought in sales for my other books. No one has told me that they read it for free and then bought more.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak It depends.  I saw a post recently with (to paraphrase): “Your freebies should be selected based on why you sign up.”  In technical terms, the article suggested “segmenting your list” so people who signed up on a mass giveaway (and who had probably never read your work before) got the first book in a series, and the people who sign up on your website get like a short story, character interviews, etc., in an ongoing series (because presumably they already have the first book in the series and read and liked it, and are there for more).  I’m thinking of doing that, but I haven’t yet.
The mass giveaway things, they’re more about performing a scattershot across a genre or a subgenre:  “If you like steampunk, you’ll like at least some of the books in our steampunk giveaway! But you have to sign up for the author’s newsletter list!”  The newsletter signups on your site, those people should be treated like they’re part of a secret club, where they get info & bribes & treats that a new reader could care less about.  I like that as a theory.  The thing I’m pondering right now is how to send out some automatic posts for the mass-giveaway people so they have enough interest/information to feel like they already belong to the secret club.  I really only have one newsletter, though: the secret club one.
RA Winter
RA Winter About freebies.  If they are used strategically, they can be an excellent marketing tool.  For that to work though, you need a series of at least three books, the more the better return on your investment.  Also, there are sites who won’t charge to post your free books.  Readers who become invested in your story will buy the second and third novels without batting an eye.  I always recommend giving the first book in the series away or writing a short novella that will feed off the series.  Giving away book two or three just isn’t profitable.
Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Free books have to be advertised, too, and on sites that make a splash. As mentioned earlier, those change all the time. The free book has to be of great quality or no one’s gonna read anything else you have, but you still have to have other things. Quality things. And a newsletter to keep everyone updated. A friend has had several books get over 100 reviews by using the Reader Magnets method and as far as I can tell, most authors with successful newsletters used a very similar approach. I mention this because I checked it out and I’ve seen it work, but most people don’t do it (including me). That’s changing. I started working on growing my newsletter last week and plan on getting it to 10,000 subscribers by December 31, 2019. That should help.

Dan, can you explain for those who may not know, what the Reader Magnet method is?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre It’ free: https://www.amazon.com/Reader-Magnets-Platform-Marketing-Authors-ebook/dp/B00PCKIJ4C


Which sites would you recommend for giveaways?
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil I don’t do a lot of giveaways, I have used Goodreads and Amazon, but Facebook works the best for me.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I have had the most success with Bookbub,  however,  it is expensive and hard to get picked up.
Bookbub Author page: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/ashley-fontainne
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Obviously Amazon is the biggest platform. I’ve had success on Goodreads for print books and I understand they’re doing ebook giveaways now as well.. Smashwords lets you set your own discount pricing so you can do a freebie there. I’ve also done some giveaways on FB during author events with some success.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I use Instafreebie which is now called prolific works for my giveaway links.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I’ve found the best to be Amazon.  You can set up a giveaway and plan to get followers on Twitter, Amazon, etc.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I use LibraryThing and Goodreads (on GR, I set up an event where I link to the giveaway code; I’ve also done GR print giveaways and liked those as well). I’m getting prepped to go back into Instafreebie/Prolific Works in a bit. I like them, but it tends to be more newsletter signups than reviews.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I don’t recommend sites publicly, but not because I don’t wanna give away my best secrets. (I can’t write enough books in a year to have a site all to myself, and I need other authors selling books and telling me which sites are doing well for them.) I don’t recommend sites publicly because they aren’t paying me to endorse them. Also, things can and do change quickly in this business. A site I used very successfully five years ago hasn’t done anything good for the past three years. When did it change? It was probably gradual, but what worked for me and my last book might not work for your book or still be working when you publish your Work In Progress. It’s safest to ask all your friends which sites work best right now and to get numbers, see what genre they wrote, and go from there. Track everything and keep using whatever worked, avoiding the sites that are crap. I will say this. When you do a free day or a 99 cent day or whatever on Ammy, do it in conjunction with a site (or sites) your friends have recommended. You’ll make a bigger splash and will usually sell books at regular price after the sale ends as long as your regular price isn’t crazy.


Which social media sites do you use to network? Which sites have worked best for you for gaining followers?

Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil Facebook and Goodreads.  Facebook has worked the best. I have used Twitter a little – but I don’t see a lot of action there.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amy.p.cecil
Amy’s Amazing Street Girls: https://www.facebook.com/groups/201903646918497/
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne Facebook and Twitter are the two sites I tend to frequent.
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/ashley.fontainne/
Twitter: @AshleyFontainne
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AshleyFontainne
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Honestly, I’m not the best at utilising social media. I have a more interactive network on Facebook, but I try and post in Google+ and Twitter when I remember. Generally, I prefer to be writing than to be trying to promote myself.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LillyRayman0007/

Twitter: @LillyRayman0007 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lilly_rayman/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LillyRayman0007

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I use facebook (the best for networking), Instagram, twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Twitter: @JaliaDarkness

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I use Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads; Facebook’s the primary one, though.  I don’t really do Facebook networking on purpose so much as read someone’s comment and go, “That was well said,” and friend them, and then get pulled along into something else because someone knew someone else who knows me.  I think trying to use social media to gain followers is a bad idea in general, though.  It’s the trying and trying and trying part that concerns me.  “How can I try to get more followers?!?” asks the author, and ends up being a sleezy salesman for something that doesn’t naturally appeal to people.  Like, if you want to be a good seller, ask yourself, “How can I make this so tempting they can’t say no,” not “how can I get more followers?”

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deanna.knippling

Twitter: @dknippling

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105906027867306495546

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I blog a lot, so that’s where people come to talk to me. Second is my Facebook page. After that, my newsletter, small as it is, and form there I rarely interact on Twitter or other social media. That’s not where my readers are. That can change with different books, though. For my upcoming YA book to do well, I’ll be pimping it on Instagram, etc.

Twitter: @savvystories

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dan_alatorre_author/


I share links for Writing to be Read and my books on all my social media sites, as well as participating in Facebook book events. I like and comment on the posts of other authors and interact with people. None of this sells a lot of books, but it does bring me followers and new friends.
How do you network on social media? Do you feel it to be effective?
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil I have two P.A.’s that share my links. I have a great street team that shares my stuff everyone and most of the stuff I do on Facebook is in my street team. I do a live video with them every week and am always visible to them.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I used to network quite a bit yet didn’t see any real benefits other than making connections with other authors, so I stepped away from doing events.
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy It’s like you said, it may not be selling alot of books yet but as you gain followers this increases the chances of getting your work out there. But you have to network. Many people make the mistake of just posting about their books constantly and people don’t like to have promotions in their face at all times. When you deliver content to them that they can use or enjoy then you gain a fan and a fan is more important than just a follower because they will buy your books and support you. It makes me laugh when “influencers” talk about how many followers they have. How many of those followers translate to sales? If you’re not making progress in turnover what difference does it make how many people are following you? Again, be smart in your approach. It’s not a popularity contest, its about make intelligent moves in the social media realm that make people want to support you and read your work.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I share posts from my author friends, and try and interact where I can on Facebook, my name being seen, being active within the Indie Community opens the door for other opportunities to utilise other authors and their followings, but its important to remember it’s a game of give and take. As long as you share as much as you hope others will share you.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I like to reach out to people who have enjoyed my books.  I like to connect with other writers, especially so we can share tips.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I pass on what interests me. Is it fascinating? Funny? Horrible? Insightful? If it feels like something that I like that’s pretty normal for me to like, then I’ll share it. Like puns. I’ll share a good pun in a heartbeat. Doing that consistently, over time, tends to become your brand, or part of your brand, without being fake and calculated. Writers are there to entertain, interest, and educate people. Do that. Do the things that you’re comfortable with, and do them consistently and fairly. When people buy stories, they buy them because of your voice, your view of the world. So share that view of the world; don’t keep it bottled up. That’s my theory, anyway. And listen to and interact with other people. It’s networking. It literally is not all about you as an author 🙂

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I’d say this: have a presence on them all, but only use the ones you enjoy. If you aren’t having fun using Instagram, it’ll show, and people won’t have a positive experience with you there. That’s bad, and it’ll hurt business. Take on one new social media every two weeks or so, and work it until you master it. Then decide if it’s for you, while you take on the next one, and the one after that. Don’t try to learn them all at once; it’ll be overwhelming. One at a time, on a regularly scheduled basis, so you actually get to them all, and then work each new one until you get it. THEN decide which ones are for you. I have a presence on all of them except a few, but I use my blog and Facebook because I like them and that’s where my readers are. Don’t try to be all things to all people. I have bestselling author friends who don’t do any of this stuff and sell just fine via lots of paid ads. That works for them. It won’t be the right approach for everyone. What works for your friend might not work for you because she writes murder mysteries and you write romance. That’s always a factor.


Where have you found the most readers/followers?
 
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil Facebook
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne Goodreads and Bookbub
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Personal appearances. When readers meet the author face-to-face they remember you more than if they just buy your book online or interact on social media. This is why I always tout that in-the-flesh marketing is still very important when building your author empire.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Facebook, posting in author or reader groups, participating in page hops, and online party events. Although my BookBub following is picking up.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Reaching out to bloggers has helped me to connected with the most readers, and that in turn has delivered the most followers.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I’m not sure, but I want to say Goodreads.  But I’m a book nerd, as in I read more than I watch TV or anything else, and I review everything I read, so I end up attracting a lot of followers who are like, “I just want to talk about books in general, not necessarily yours.”  Hm…either that or running with several giveaways on Instafreebie/Prolific Works.  I got a lot of signups.  I lost most of them, but the ones who stayed like what I write.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I definitely have the most quality followers on my blog. Twitter says 11,000 people follow me, but I don’t interact much on twitter, so it’s not the same quality as my blog. I’m too wordy for 140 characters. I interact most on my blog, then second would be my Facebook page. Most of my readers come from ads I buy.


There are many paths for promoting our writing available, but not all avenues will end in book sales. Some may be routes that intersect with the roads that lead to book sales, and some may just lead to connections which build our author platform. We, as authors must learn to value those connections for what they are and not expect more than each small venture has to offer. If the path we take leads into an eventual sale, then that’s a sweet surprise at the end of the adventure and we should still value the connections and interactions we’ve had along the way.
Thank you to my author panel members for sharing and to my readers for reading. Their links are listed so you can visit their sites to use as examples. To give you a few more, I’m including my own links below, and you can check out my blog and website right here. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click through my pages. If you find something useful on any of the sites listed here be sure to let the author know with a comment, and if you like their stuff,  let them know by subscribing or following on the site.
My Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Kaye-Lynne-Booth/e/B071791Y9W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1501007020&sr=1-1
Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16728576.Kaye_Lynne_Booth
My Facebook: Kaye Lynne Booth – Author & Screenwriter
                          Delilah – Kaye Lynne Booth
                          Playground for the Gods – Kaye Lynne Booth
                          His Name Was Michael – Kaye Lynne Booth
My Twitter: @GodsAngel1
My Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KayeBooth
My Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kayelynnebooth/
My Tumblr: https://writeitrightediting.tumblr.com/
It’s clear that we each do it different, but we all have to find the way that works best for us. I hope you all will join us next Monday when the author panel will discuss the thorn in many authors’ sides, marketing and promotion. See you then.

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Social Media: What’s it good for?

Pintrest

I posted a link in my Writing to be Read Facebook group a couple of weeks ago. The article discussed the new changes made by Facebook which do not allow us to post promotional materials on personal Timelines. Under the new guidelines promotional posts are only allowed to be made on our Facebook Pages, which are designed to be set up for businesses. If you break the rules and make promotional posts on your Timeline, Facebook can ban you. This information caused quite a stir in my group, and I admit it caused me quite a bit of concern, as well. I came to the conclusion that, as with everything in life, we must learn to be flexible and accoodate change. I changed the title of my Kaye Lynne Booth Screenwriter page to Kaye Lynne Booth Author and Screenwriter and set my automatic posts from WordPress to post there instead of on my Timeline and hoped for the best.

One of the comments I received was a question toward one of the group members who was upset, viewing this as a ploy to force us to purchase paid advertising. The second member asked how using Facebook’s free advertising was going and asked if she had sold many books from it. While I don’t think this change prohibits making promotional posts as long as you make them through allowable channels, the conversation made me stop and think about what we authors are expecting to achieve through such posts.

Free promotion through social media is great. It offers us, as authors, an avenue to get the word out about our writing, without putting a dent on our wallets. For aspiring authors, who haven’t made it to fame and fortune yet, like myself, that’s great. But what results are we expecting?

If you’re thinking your book will rise to the top of the best seller lists, you’re dreaming. That’s not the way it works. The best seller lists, at least those on Amazon, work on algorithms, and if you’re only one of a smattering of books in a category, it may not take many book sales to place your book at the top of the list. Authors who write romance have it a lot tougher, because there are a whole slew of romances out there, a lot of competition, so even if your book is making sales, it may not be enough to launch you to the top because it’s based on the books which sell the most in that particular category.

Likewise, most of the folks who those promotional posts reach are other authors, not the people in your target audience. Authors may buy books, but basically they want the the same thing you do. They are out there to promote their own work. Social media isn’t designed to sell books, although their paid promotions may be quite effective, and anyone who is using free promotions to try and sell books, or anything else, may be sorely disappointed. Social media, my friends, is designed to promote connections, some of which may be quite valuable, but it’s not designed to sell merchandise, hence the word ‘social’. And that is what I get from my promotional efforts on Facebook and any other social media site I use. I grow my blog following and my email list. I find a few people who are willing to review my book. I meet people who can include me in their author services as an editor. I connect with artists who can create the book covers I need.  While many are fellow authors, I tap into that as well, offering them interviews or reviews here on Writing to be Read. They get some free exposure and I great content for my blog. It works out great.

That being said, I’ve come to the sobering realization that nothing is free, and I’m going to have to invest some of my hard earned money if I want to boost my book sales. While I can’t afford paid promotion on Facebook or Amazon right now, there are affordable promotions out there.

  • There are some affordable avenues of promotion out there. Most recently, I found a promotional site called I Like E Books, which has promotional packeages which range from free up to twenty dollars, which seems promising. They provide promotion on social media channels and other cool stuff, depending on which level od promotion you pay for.
  • Although not a promotional site, per se, Book Bub is great for featuring your books under your favorites, so folks can see that they are available. You can follow your favorite authors and hopefully gain some followers of your own. It doesn’t cost anything to join.
  • On All Author, you can have your book featured on their site for six months, with twitter promos, weekly mock-up banners, and review posting for a flat fee of $24.
  • It’s also free to sign up for PromoCave, which is a site for ongoing promotion via social media sites. It helps on this site to post content fairly regularly, since it will bring readers to your profile.
  • BMI Books is a global book marketing site where you can place and manage a book ad for free, although I’m unsure how this one works as yet.
  • You may also sign up for free on Write Globe, which has a nice book promotion platform as well as supporting other types of creativity. This site was listed as number one in a list of “Top 7 Websites for Book and Author Promotion” by Alwin Gnanaraj on LinkedIn.
  • Creative Designers & Writers is a free international classified site, where you can create and post an ad. It is supportive of other creatives as well and can serve as a platform for collaborative works with graphic designers and artists.
  • Books Online Best also allows you to post a free ad in addition to other author services, such as book trailers and author interviews. You can also create a freelance site here.

One day, I’ll be able to afford to play with the big boys. For now, I will be grateful for the benefits I can get from social media, but I will approach it with reasonable expectations, being grateful for every follower I gain and counting any book sales that comes from it as an extra added bonus.

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The Impacts of Digital Publishing

aff77-ipad-typewriter

Everyone talks about how the rise of digital publishing has impacted the book industry and the effects it may have on authors. Some think these effects are good, while others view them as having a negative impact. It is true that digital publishing opened up opportunities for would be writers, making it so just about anyone can write and publish a book with no need to be discovered by an agent or publisher.

But, it is equally true that many brick and mortar bookstores have had to close their doors due to the competition from eBooks and the rapid growth and expansion of Amazon. And, it’s also true that because it is now so easy to publish a book and authors who publish independently are able to circumvent the traditional publishing gatekeepers, there are no gauruntees that the books we purchase will be of good quality writing. There is nothing in place to be sure the books we put out have been edited. So, it would seem that digital publishing had had both positive and negative effects, depending on which area of the business you work in.

One area of impact that many authors don’t realize or appreciate, is the fantastic promotional opportunities the digital era has supplied for us. Due to social media promotion and email, we are able to access direct communication with fans and followers that via means which weren’t available in the pre-digital era, and this is a great plus for us. We need to take advantage of these great opportunities and listen to our readers, when we’re fortunate enough to get a comment or a review. I try to respond back to every comment readers leave me, and check my reviews for new ones frequently. And yes, these days posted reviews can make or break a book’s success, influencing potential readers, so reviews do matter.

Today’s author doesn’t have a fan base of faceless readers. Today’s authors have the opportunity to make connections with their readers. Some authors have found ways to take advantage of this by gathering their followers together in Facebook groups or put together street teams who actively promote their writing or go out and get reviews for them.

I can see how beneficial these practices are, because I know how much time and energy I have to put into marketing and promotion. But even though I don’t harness my fanbase as a promotional asset, I still appreciate the chance to reach out and chat with my readers to find out what works for them and what doesn’t. And while I don’t have a gazillion reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, the ones I do have are good ones, making Delilah a four and a half star read. It’s all because of you, my readers. So, I can appreciate the impact that digital publishing has had in this area.

The negative impacts, the fading of brick and mortar bookstores, the increase in the number of poor quality books put out. They are still there and likely will be for time to come, although I’ve heard the trend for print books is rising again. Unless digital publishers implement some type of quality control system, or all authors act professionally and create quality writing that’s been edited before publication, a poorly written or unedited book is liable to pop-up here and there, being generally unavoidable.

I don’t have all the answers, and I can’t change trends that I feel are negatives on the industry, but I can appreciate the positives that digital publishing has brought with it. I like getting to know my readers. So, before I sign off on  this post, I’d like to urge you to reach out and let me know who you are and what you like, or don’t like, about my writing. It only takes a moment to leave a comment, and I promise to respond to each and every one.

 

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The Perils Of A Writer’s Career: Guest Post by Art Rosch

I’ve known Art Rosch since 2009, when he became a member of a writing site I was administiring called Writers’ World. Although I’ve never met him in person, we’ve been online friends, supporting one another like only authors can ever since.  Art is a great guya da, and a fine photographer, and a damn good writer. You can feel the honesty in his words as you read them, and that’s not something all authors can do. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Art’s books, Confessions of an Honest Man, and The Road Has EyesI’ve also had the privilage of featuring an interview with Art in my 2016 series on publishing, as well as having him as a member on my more recent Ask the Authors series in March and April. 

During my Ask the Authors series, I did a segment on Building an Author Platform. As a member of the author panel, Art expressed his frustration with the whole author platform/marketing and promotion thing and wasn’t sure how he could respond to my questions in a useful manner. Art had tried many paths to marketing and promotion, at times investing much money with little returns. He didn’t understand the problem and explained, “I can’t even give away books.”

This is one of the pitfals for today’s authors. We’re writers, not marketers. I think we all have gone through it at one time or another, (or will for new and upcoming authors). It’s easy for writers to become disheartened with the whole promotion process, especially if they’re not seeing results from their efforts. I told him to give me whatever he had. If he couldn’t tell me what had worked, he should tell me what hadn’t worked for him and why. I would take whatever he could offer. His response was a wonderfully told author’s journey that was too lengthy to be included in that segment of Ask the Author, but was worthy to appear on Writing to be Read, none-the-less. So, with that in mind, I give you this Guest Post by Art Rosch:

Art Rosch

I’m the last person to ask about marketing and publishing.  Perhaps my experiences might be cautionary, might enable other writers to consider how they proceed.  I can only offer my history as a writer.  You can call me disillusioned, but that’s actually a positive state.  It’s good to dream but it’s important to temper the dream with reality.  You can get swept down some terrible false paths by unskilled dreaming.  I believe that this mantra, “dreams can come true if you persist” is a shibboleth.  A lot of bullshit.  It takes skill to dream the right dream. It takes skill and practice to execute a dream and bring it to fruition.  Everything else is about karma.  Destiny.

In 1978 I took a chance and sent the manuscript of a short story to agent Scott Meredith.  At the time, Meredith had a branch of his prestigious agency that read unsolicited works for a fee.  We’ve been warned countless times about this flaky practice, but it was, after all, Scott Meredith.  He represented Norman Mailer and Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and James Michener.  I scratched together my fifty bucks and mailed the 3600 words of my comic science fiction tale about a planet where there are six distinct genders.  It was called Sex And The Triple Znar-Fichi.

Eight weeks after mailing my story I received two envelopes.  One was small and one was large.  The small envelope contained a check for $1800.  The large one contained a two year contract to be represented by Scott Meredith.  The agency had sold my story to Playboy Magazine.

I was thrilled and motivated to write.  I was young, ambitious, and not a little fucked up.  There were problems in my life but everyone has problems.  A writer without problems is hamstrung.  Embrace your problems!  They’re your fuel!

A few months passed.  I was sending my works in progress to my editor at Meredith Agency.  He was doing his job.  He made it clear that my first science fiction novel was a bust and that I should focus on the book that has become The Gods Of The Gift.  Then I received a package from New York.  It contained a clear lucite brick featuring an etched Playboy logo.  It carried the news that my story had won Playboy’s Best Short Story Award.  There was another check for $500 and permission to use Playboy’s expense account to bring myself to New York City to attend the Playboy 25th Anniversary banquet and awards ceremony.

The Playboy Banquet was an amazing experience.  I met Playboy’s fiction editor, I got business cards from the editors at The New Yorker, Penthouse, Esquire.  I was a celebrity for the requisite fifteen minutes.  I was hanging with the big hitters.  My table mates at the dinner were Alex Haley, Saul Bellow and their wives.  I was in!  I had made it!

The Gods of the GiftI brought The Gods Of The Gift to a sort of completion and it went on the market.  And didn’t sell.  The agency kept batting for me but I wasn’t turning out viable material.  I wasn’t writing long form books that would sell.  But I was learning.  Two years went by without a sale, and the agency did not renew my contract.  I went into my personal Dark Night Of The Soul, a period that lasted a long time.  In spite of all the obstacles, I continued to play music and write.

In 1976 I had started work on my autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man.  I was dealing with a paradox: how does one write an autobiographical novel at the age of thirty?  The answer isn’t complicated.  One starts.  And one lives.  Here I am, now, at the age of seventy, sitting on a huge body of work.  When I was contracted to an agent, I couldn’t write to sell. Now that I can write to sell, I can’t find an agent.  The ground has shifted.  We live in a new era.  Even with a publisher and an agent, we’re still on our own with regards to marketing.  Unfortunately, I’m not much of a marketer.  It takes money to market, and I’m not rich enough to front a sustained advertising effort.  I’ve been online for fifteen years.  I have eight hundred ninety Twitter followers.  My Facebook stats aren’t much better.  I have an excellent blog that features all my media work.  It’s gotten so that I’m shocked when I receive a comment.  I’m all over the web.  I’m on Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, you name the social medium, I’m there.

It’s my photography that gets the attention.  I suppose that’s natural.  Images are so much more accessible than literature.  We live in a tough time for writers of quality.  There are so many writers, yet it seems as if there are fewer readers.  The sales figures for my books are shocking.  I can’t even give them away.  In three years I’ve sold twenty five copies of my e-books.  I’ve given away about eleven hundred.  Those figures are spread over three books.  In spite of this epic failure I persist.  I figure I’m somewhere near my peak with regards to my writing skills.  I’m a late bloomer.  I’m also a writer who works a long time on each project.  Like decades.  Confessions Of An Honest Man only reached its completion when I switched from past to present tense.  It changed everything.  I finished that work last year.  Begun in 1976, finished in 2017.  Same with The Gods Of The Gift.  It didn’t totally gel until I had revised it countless times and solved a thorny structural problem.  Begun in 1978, finished in 2016.  I can at least regard my non-fiction memoir, The Road Has Eyes with some affection.  It took a year to write.

The Road Has Eyes

I again made contact with the Meredith Agency in 2001.  They didn’t give me a contract but one of their editors was interested in me.  Barry N. Malzberg is/was a science fiction author, critic and NYC literary personality.  His editorial approach (with me, anyway) was brutal, confrontational, maybe even abusive.  The cumulative effect on me was positive, but the experience gave me a two year bout of writer’s block.  He helped me with Confessions Of An Honest Man.  I’m considering making contact again.  With some trepidation.  He was a rough editor.

Confessions of an Honest ManMy plan?  I’m going to invest in Confessions Of  An Honest Man and produce paperbacks.  There’s something about a physical manifestation that enlivens a book.  My intuition tells me that this is the right step.  I’ll follow with my other books. I have an as-yet-unpublished fantasy book, The Shadow Storm (about fifteen years in the writing).  I’ll bring it out.  I expect nothing.  It’s not that I don’t care.  I’m just too f’ing old to have an attachment to results. It’s about the process of writing and publishing.  It’s obedience to my inner voice.

I’m a very flawed person. I’ve lived at the extremes of life.  I’ve experienced the horrors of addiction and homelessness.  I’ve been a yogi/junkie.  How’s that for a paradox?  But I survive and have found a niche in the world.  A place to write.  I live in an RV with my partner and two obnoxious teacup poodles.  That’s good enough.

Thank you for sharing with us, Art. Watch for my review of The Gods of Gift in the near future. You can learn more about Art and his work at:

Novelist and Memoirist, literary fiction, science fiction, poetry and essays
Arthur Rosch Books

Blogger 
Write Out Of My Head

Confessions Of An Honest Man
The Gods Of The Gift, science fantasy
The Road Has Eyes: A Memoir of travel in an RV

If you’d like to have a guest post you’d you’d like to have featured on Writing to be Read, contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com. I wish I could, but at this time, I am unable to compensate you for your words. This blog is a labor of love, and so must be all guest posts.

 


Ask the Authors: Final Answers

Books and Coffee

We’ve reached the final segment of Ask the Authors, which will bring our series to a close. This has been a fun series and we’ve covered a lot in regards to writing. In this segment, our panel members will answer follow-up questions for each segment and wrap things up, so let’s get started. We’ll skip over the introductory segment, as there are really no follow-up questions as to the panel members identity, but if you missed that one, you really should pop in and check it out.  Our panel had a great line up, with DeAnna Knippling, Chris Dibella, Carol Riggs, Cynthia Vespia, Tim Baker, Janet Garber, Art Rosch, Margareth Stewart, Chris Barili and Jordan Elizabeth.

I want to thank each and every one of our panel members for their participation. This blog is a labor of love for me, which means I can’t pay for guest posts, etc… The time and energy each author took to respond to all of my, sometimes lengthy and open ended questions is greatly appreciated. When asked if they would be up for another round in the fall, many said yes, so it looks like we have another round of Ask the Authors still to look forward to.

Our first segment takes A Look at the Writing Process, where each of our panel members found different things most challenging, from sharing and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to self confidence, to marketing and finding readers, to the actual act of writing. The process is never the same for any two authors. Some prefer to write without distractions, while others like to write with music or other things going on in the background. Many authors like to write in public places, such as coffee shops, while others like Tim Baker find this too cliche or just need their privacy for writing, like Carol Riggs. We approach our writing in different ways, as well. While Janet Garber writes in vigenettes, Cynthia Vespia writes her first drafts by hand, and authors like DeAnna Knippling just let the characters go and see what happens, and most of our panel members are morning writers, like Chris Barili. Most of our panel members claim to lean toward character driven stories, but I’m with Cynthia Vespia in thinking that all stories must be a little of both. Most, like Art Rosch and Chris DiBella say the titles of their books just come to them, usually before actual writing begins, while the book is still in the design stage. Be sure to check it out and see what each of our panel members’ best pieces of advise for upcoming authors.

The follow up question for this segment is: What are your top five writing rules for success?

Cynthia Vespia: 

1. Write what you want, don’t follow the trends

2. Characterization is key

3. Have fun with world building

4. Think outside the box

5. And of course show don’t tell

Chris Barili

1. Learn your craft. Whether through college studies, mentorship, reading a lot, whatever. Learn what makes good stories.
2. Learn the business of your craft. All the writing in the world does you no good if you don’t know how to get it sold.
3. Find your writing tribe. A support crew of fellow writers is crucial for keeping you going.
4. Submit. Everywhere. You don’t get published if you’re not submitting.
5. Get your ass in the seat and do the work. Don’t wait for the stupid inspiration fairy or muse to sit on your shoulder and whisper bullshit in your ears. Write. Then write some more.

Janet Garber: 

1. Jot down phrases and ideas when inspiration hits no matter where you are.

2. Work on making the language sing.

3. Submit like crazy

4. Don’t take rejections personally. Just move on.

5. Don’t ever give up!

 

Art Rosch: 

One, be yourself.  Write to please yourself.  There is no other way to achieve authenticity other than to make your writing a means of exploring yourself, your humanity and the nature of your life experience.

If you’re writing fiction you need a great villain.  Nothing propels a story like a character that you hate, someone whom you want to see brought to justice.  I pay special attention to writing my villains.

Write with feeling or your readers will not feel anything.  Emotion is the fuel of story.  Be a storyteller, engage readers with plots that invoke high stakes.  The ultimate investment in a story can be the life or death of the characters, or the survival of a society, or the triumph of a civilization.  All the elements of story break down into conflicts of virtue versus destruction.  What makes a story interesting, however, is when it’s difficult to tell who is good and who is evil.  Things aren’t always simple.

A good book has three attributes.  It should be entertaining, informative and inspiring.  I can loosely define inspiration as the evocation of insight.  Insight feels good and you know when a writer provokes an understanding of the human condition.

That’s not exactly five rules, but it’s an overview of things I put in my writing.

Tim Baker: I really only have one rule…keep writing. If you want to be succesful as a writer you have to keep writing. Not only is it the best way to hone your skills, but the more you write, the more chance you have of being succesful.

Chris DiBella: I don’t have any rules for writing “success” because the term success will vary from person to person. What works for me may not work for other writers, and vice versa. There are a million blogs posting the same 5 to 10 rules for how to be a writer, but none of them seem to be putting out any books themselves, so why take advice from someone who isn’t successful doing what they are trying to tell you to do? There’s no secret magic formula, but you can’t be successful if you don’t write…..so just go write.

Carol Riggs: 

1. There ARE no rules.

2. Everyone writes lousy first drafts; get the words down on the page and learn to revise.

3. Always have other people check your work for inconsistencies, grammar, punctuation, etc.

4. If you truly love to write, never give up!

5. Not everyone will love your book; it’s subjective and there’s no way your writing will speak to every single person.

Margareth Stewart: 

1. Write. Don´t stop.

2. Don´t copy anyone else. Find your own voice.

3. Craft your stories.

4. Be humble. Be proud.

5. Keep it up.

P.S. Just write if you have something to tell, and then forget about it all. I don´t believe so much that we can predict success though we need to do our best for it. I see authors who might be famous, and they might not be the best ones, or even the most influential ones, or the ones that are still going to be recalled a century from now. I would rather quote Jorge Amado and say that writing is like living: 

“The world is like that – incomprehensible and full of surprises.” Jorge Amado – Brazilian Author. 

Jordan Elizabeth:

  1. Never give up on your dreams.
  2. Write what you know.  Write a book that you would want to read.
  3. Don’t write a shocking scene just for the shock value.
  4. Don’t write in a genre just because its selling; write in that genre because you’re passionate about it.

DeAnna Knippling:

1. Read.
2. Study what you read.
3. Practice what you study.
4. Get what you practice published.
5. Honor the people who read what you published.

The second segment was on Character Development. Many of our author panel develop characters from real people and composites of people they know, or at least give them realistic qualities and flaws to make them feel more human, easier to identify with, and most admit to having a little of themselves in their characters. Chris DiBella, Jordan Elizabeth, Janet Garber and Art Rosch even offer up real life examples. None of them openly admited to creating characters from archetypes, but I maintain that all characters fit into archetypes, whether the author does it consciously or not. Chris Barili offers his method of character development using a character triangle to determine what the character’s motivation is, what the character’s fear or flaw is, and what it is the character truly needs. It is clear that for all of our panel members and myself, our characters often come alive and take over what happens on the page, surprising even their creators at times. While Art Rosch and DeAnna Knippling like to take a more psychological approach to character development, authors like Tim Baker use life observation to ‘keep it real’. And I don’t think any of the panel members would disagree with Carol Riggs when she stated, “The more rich development you can give to a character, the more the reader can identify with them.” After all, that is what we’re striving for – characters that readers can relate and identify with.

Emotions

The follow-up question for this segment: How do you evoke emotion in your readers?

Cynthia Vespia: This is one of the most important parts of storytelling, and one of my favorite parts as well. Developing characters that readers resonate with is what stirs emotion. If they can see part of themselves in the character they will gravitate towards them more and that makes them care what happens to them in the end.

Chris Barili: You do that by creating a character they empathize with, then killing him or her, usually. No, wait. That’s the George Martin approach. Seriously–build a character about whom readers care, then put them in situations where they are threatened.

Janet Garber: This is admittedly not always easy. I concentrate on creating relatable and sympathetic characters.

Art Rosch: If you write with feeling your audience will respond with feeling.   Fiction is mostly about overcoming obstacles.  You cause your heroes to act bravely and unselfishly and your villains to act with malice and manipulation.  If you create a lovable hero, (that is, someone with flaws who intends to do a positive thing) your readers will respond. I don’t know if emotion can be taught.  Writing is a very psychological pursuit, and our emotions are unpredictable and all but uncontrollable.  So…be a psychologist.

Tim Baker: By giving my characters real emotion and letting the reader see it. Whatever emotion the characters are feeling in a particuklar scene I try to have them think and react the way any of us would (as much as allowable for the story anyway).

Chris DiBella: I just try to make my characters as real as possible and hopefully my readers like them enough to care about what happens to them.

Carol Riggs: I write in first person for (what I think is) the most close, personal experience. I also try to include a lot of sensory images—smell, taste, sounds, and sights to make things more real. With crying and sobbing and sad emotions, often less is more; otherwise it starts feeling melodramatic. And if the character is going through general experiences the reader can relate to (betrayal, loss, anger at a friend or parent) that helps make an emotional connection.

Jordan Elizabeth:  I rely on my own experiences when writing.  Many of the emotions I write about are ones that I have experienced, so I’m able to write from the heart.  If its a funny scene, then I’m laughing out loud.  If its a sad scene, I have tears drenching my cheeks.

DeAnna Knippling: One of my pet peeves is when an author is obviously playing for my emotions rather than letting the combination of plot, character, etc., do the work in a more logically consistent fashion.  You’ve seen it every time a beloved character gets wiped out and it really doesn’t affect the narrative, other than to “inspire” the rest of the characters to carry on or set the grounds for “anything could happen!!!!!!!”

If I want a reader to cry, I better have already wept bitter tears over the manuscript as I was writing it.

Our third segment was on Action and Dialog. While all authors want dialog that flows smooth and sounds realistic, different authors take different approaches to the task. While most of our panel members agree that listening to people and being able to hear the dialog spoken in your head are great ways to approach this, Carol Riggs offers the really great advice to read your work aloud, and Art Rosch offers the advice that dialog should always serve a purpose, rather than being just a space filler. In true life, we tend to talk just to hear ourselves sometimes. In writing, that sort of thing just takes up space on the page and the only purpose it may serve is to bore the reader, and of course, we don’t want that. Achieving a balance between action and dialog seems to come natural for many of our panel members claim the only trick or secret is to keep the story moving and not let it get too bogged down with details. Tell readers what they need to know, but keep things moving. If you missed this segment, be sure to drop in and check it out, because it features excerpts of dialog scenes from authors Chris Barili, Janet Garber, DeAnna Knippling, Cynthia Vespia, Tim Baker, Art Rosch and Margareth Stewart.

The following is a reader comment left regarding Dialog. While a couple of our panel members replied directly in the comments, DeAnna Knippling’s reply seemed spot on to me and I wanted to include it here.

Reader Ken Hughs said:

Lots of excellent advice there.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to analyze dialogue a bit deeper than that. For instance:

Who talks more? Does she say a lot on her favorite subject (an expert, or just concerned about it) and less on other things, or is she nervous or social enough to chime in a little after everything– or so full of herself she does both?

How organized are his sentences? A longer sentence can mean he has a more complex complete thought, unless it’s a run-on; several short sentences could each mean new thoughts still coming in behind the last ones. Or the most eloquent person might be the one with the simple line that says it all.

Adjectives and adverbs? Someone passionate, or more in tune with their senses, is more likely to pile on the modifiers, while others are plainer-spoken. Similes and metaphors take this even further– if you can keep someone from becoming cliche about using their job or background to compare things too.

DeAnna Knipling: It sounds like the commenter, Ken Hughes, is doing some good things with pacing.  Huzzah!  Once you get past the point of being able to make dialogue that sounds natural and gets the point across in a scene, the next step is to start working on the pacing of the dialogue–and all the issues Mr. Hughes mentioned are relevant there.

To back up a bit for writers who aren’t quite down in the weeds of studying pacing yet:

  • Pacing is the art of connecting content (what you’re writing about) to form (the layout of the little black marks on the page, for writers).  When the word lengths and patterns, sentence lengths and patterns, scene lengths and patterns all line up with the meaning of the story somehow, the story is “paced well.”  Pacing is about building your story like a woodworker, choosing your material and construction techniques to fit the final purpose of the project.  Any element of a story can have pacing.
  • Each character’s dialogue will also have its own pacing, just as Mr. Hughes says, and it should depend on the nature of the character.
  • The examples that Mr. Hughes gives are excellent examples of what to consider with pacing dialogue.
  • I’d like to add that anything that you add between pieces of dialogue also reflects the pacing of the dialogue, so if you have chunks of description between bits of dialogue, the reader will take them as pauses in the conversation, or as the POV character’s mind wandering during the conversation.
If you can handle the things Mr. Hughes brings up, you’ll be doing well indeed 🙂

Mr. Hughes and DeAnna bring up another issue here, which we haven’t really touched on.

Action

Naturally my follow-up question is:What methods do you find effective in controlling your pacing?

Cynthia Vespia: I don’t. I just write what comes to me.

Chris Barili: I don’t know. I just go with what the characters are feeling, I guess. Their tension tells me how to pace a scene.

Janet Garber: Ah. You must make every scene count. Have it lead readers somewhere, to the destination you intend.

Art Rosch: I’ve watched a thousand Samurai movies.  They’re great for offering templates for action sequences.  Samurai didn’t waste effort in useless display and they were completely focused on surviving the next duel or battle. Unless you’re writing about super-heroes your characters need to operate within reasonable physical parameters.  I act out movements and gestures at my chair in front of my computer.  Does this look reasonable?  Can my characters do this-and-that?

In my novel Confessions Of An Honest Man, I have a 70 page battle sequence that takes place in Afghanistan.  It’s a much admired passage with editors and readers. It has an arc, or several arcs.  There’s the build-up to an initial confrontation.  A mini-climax occurs early in the scene.  But it doesn’t end there.  A greater threat appears unexpectedly and my hero must cope with expanded dangers.  Each time a resolution seems to occur another and greater threat appears.  The point of this sequence is that my hero learns things about himself, learns that he has more courage than he thought. There’s outer action but there’s also my hero’s thoughts and emotions as the scene(s) unfold.  This pendulum between action and a character’s inner dialogue offers a means of pacing.

Tim Baker: When writing action I try to write only the action. By this I mean if I’m writing an action packed scene I don’t stray away from the action with anything that will slow the reader down. I want the reader to be able to be in the action.

Chris DiBella: I’ve never thought about trying to control my pacing. When I get to action scenes, I just try to write them in a way where I’m describing enough that it paints a picture for my readers. I don’t have a formula for how many pages an action scene should be. I just write them until I feel it’s time to move on with the story.

Carol Riggs: I try to keep some sort of tension, question, or compelling forward movement on every page, whether internal for the characters or external to them. I use cliffhanger-type chapter endings to keep the reader turning pages. It’s also important not to rush the “big moments”—sometimes the pace needs to be drawn out on powerful scenes to heighten the impact or emotions. In an action scene, short punchy sentences help move the pacing along.

Margareth Stewart: Word count and daily targets; otherwise, it does not flow. Sometimes, I feel like I am a General to myself: “for instance, no chocolate if I don´t finish 2.500 word count today”, and there it goes. Other times, I need to be a little more flexible because things do happen in between word counting, not with the plot or story itself, but in terms of living – ordinary living – bills to pay, a tire to fix, and so on. Another good and productive management is during November Writing. Besides that, I use the same method for editing – this week I have to review 50 pages and by the way I am late, so I will have to do extra work at the weekend. Therefore, I have told my kids, we can only go to the cinema if I can complete the goal before Sunday. By the way, that´s another point about being a writer, we feel quite weird and funny.

Jordan Elizabeth: I tend to just write, write, write.  I don’t plan my stories ahead; I just go off a basic plot idea in my mind.  Pacing falls naturally into place.

In our third segment, our author panel members discussed Setting,  where author Carol Riggs suggests basing fictional worlds on real life places as a good method of world building, and travel for authors is recommended in order to expand on their true life experiences that shine through in their writing, although most of our panel members have written about places they have never been or don’t really exist, like Jordan Elizabeth, who writes YA fantasy. DeAnna Knippling loves to write about Victorian England, and all agree that sensory details should be added to make the setting feel more real. This segment also features setting excerpts from Cynthia Vespia, Art Rosch, Chris Barili, DeAnna Knippling and Janet Garber. (Strangely enough, I just realized I gave no follow-up question for this segment, although we could do a whole series on world building and setting. Wow!)

Our fourth segment covered the topic of Publishing, which many authors opt to do themselves these days. Our panel members were a nice blend of traditional, small press and self-published authors, with three strictly self-published authors: Art RoschChris DiBella, and DeAnna Knippling; one author who is strictly small press: Jordan Elizabeth; and five who have done a hybrid combination of small press and self-publishing in one form or another: Cynthia VespiaMargareth Stewart, Tim Baker, and three authors who have done a combination of traditional and self-publishing: Janet GarberChris Barili, and Carol Riggs. Together, they bring their own experiences to the table to talk about the pros and cons of each publishing venue.

I have two follow-up questions for this segment: 

Are your books available in print or digital format, or both? Why?

Cynthia Vespia: Both. Because I like to have my work available in as many formats as possible to appeal to different readers. Next I’ll do audio books.

Chris Barili: Both. And why wouldn’t you do it that way? You’re robbing yourself of readers if you ignore one medium.

Janet Garber: My books are in print and in digital form and the first traditionally purchased book is on audiotape as well.

Art Rosch: I need to emphasize a huge fact with regard to the whole publishing venture.  It takes money to market books.  I don’t have money, I’m living on a fixed income.  I started my enterprise by going to Smashwords.com and e-publishing three of my books.  I did the same at Amazon.  An author can publish digitally for free.  I designed my own book covers, using my stock of personal photography and my skills in Photoshop. Such as they are.

I am now about to turn my novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man into a paperback on Amazon.  I have no illusions about getting sales.  I just want to have a physical object, MY BOOK, in my hands and have it be available to people in my environment.

Tim Baker: My books are available in print, digital and audio (not all of them are currently available in audio, but the ones that aren’t are in production.) The reason why is simple…give more options to people and increase your chances of being read.

Chris DiBella: Both. There are still people out there (somewhere) who like to read physical copies of books.

Carol Riggs: All my books are available in both print and digital formats. This is important, because some readers prefer print and some prefer digital.

Jordan Elizabeth:  Both (except for Kistishi Island.  I have to sell 500 ebooks before it will be in print).  I like having a combination of formats.  Some people prefer print and some prefer ebook.  I’ve heard from a lot of readers that they have to use ebooks because of eyesight problems.  Print books are great for book signings.

DeAnna Knippling: Yes and yes.  See writing rule #5.  I really ought to be working on audio as well.  Readers should be able to read conveniently.

Which publishing platforms do you use? Which do you recommend? Why?

Cynthia Vespia: I’m focused on Amazon at the moment because that’s where the majority of buyers/readers go. I’ve also used Smashwords and Barnes and Noble for digital.

Chris Barili: Amazon and Smashwords for my self-published stuff. I prefer Smashwords because they distribute to a bunch of other retailers, saving me time.

Janet Garber: I used Lulu.com and was satisfied with their speed and the look of the final product.

Art Rosch: I think Smashwords is great.  There’s all the support and information you need.  Amazon is, of course, the giant, but as with everything in digital publishing, it’s all automated.

Tim Baker: I use CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing and ACX (for audio). Since those are the ones I use – those would be the ones I recommend.

Chris DiBella: I use Amazon and CreateSpace. It’s easy to set up and get my books out to potential readers from those sites.

Carol Riggs: Three of my books are traditionally published, and the publishers distribute in various ways (Entangled Teen uses Macmillan, for instance). For self-publishing, I use CreateSpace and Amazon KDP; it’s relatively easy to release a book on these platforms.

Jordan Eizabeth: My publishers use Ingram and CreateSpace.  I can’t speak to the ease of use.

DeAnna Knippling: It’s not so much which ones, as how you decide which ones to use.  I’m starting to look at these things as, “How does this company treat its readers?  Are the readers happy with the experience?”  Another good set of questions is, “How does this company treat its writers?  Does it pay them promptly? Does it have good reporting?  Do they have good avenues for books that aren’t bestsellers to reach readers? Is the damn site hard to use?”

I’ve dropped a number of publishing platforms that don’t adhere to these things, or at least stopped using them directly, but approach them through other distributors.  [Cough] Barnes & Noble [Cough]

Our fifth segment of Ask the Authors covered the topic of Genre Differences. Again, we had a nice mix for this topic. Among our author panel members we had: Jordan Elizabeth, who writes YA Fantasy and Steampunk; Carol Riggs, who writes both Fantasy and Science Fiction; Tim Baker, who writes crime action adventure novels; Cynthia Vespia, who writes speculative fiction for adults and teens; and those who dabble a little in all of them: Janet Garber, Chris Barili and DeAnna Knippling. They discuss the use of tropes when writing in the different genres, and also the differences in the creative process, the different types of research required, and the differences in audience and marketing. No follow-up questinos for this segment.

In the sixth segment, our author panel discusses The Business of Writing. According to Jordan Elizabeth and Carol Riggs, marketing can make or break you in the world of writing, and in today’s digital world, much or all of those duties fall upon the author, requiring us to treat writing not only as a job or a passion, but as a business. Today’s author may be responsible for everything about their book, from writing the book, to editing and cover art, to publishing, to marketing and promotion, and everything in between. While many of these tasks can be hired out, not all authors can afford to do so. I didn’t have any follow-up for this segment, mainly because the next two segments were follow-up to this.

For the seventh segment of Ask the Authors, our author panel discusses the many ways there are to Building an Reader Platform.  Most of our panel members prefer face-to-face events, over online activities, but it seems they continue to use the Internet and social media to promote their books, feeling that both are needed. Some panel members come up with some very creative ideas, like Tim Baker, who had a tire cover made for the spare on his Jeep with his logo on it, or Chris DiBella, who had customized tee-shirts made telling the world that he is their next favorite author. Who knows? It might work.

Book Reviews

The follow-up question for this segment is: What methods have you found successful for obtaining reviews?

Cynthia Vespia: Asking. I ask other writers, or I seek out bloggers who do reviews.

Janet Garber: Approaching authors who write in a similar humorous fashion; writing reviews myself as a pay-it-forward tactic; bugging people who enjoyed the book.

Art Rosch: I completely suck at this and it’s my own fault.  I must have social media halitosis.  There are billions of people who don’t know about me.  I’ve been hammering at this for many years and haven’t cracked the code yet.  I do recommend one author-marketing guru (among the many who haunt my email inbox).  That’s Mark Dawson.  He refunded my money long after the expiration date for one of his courses and he didn’t have to.  He teaches at a good pace and he has much to offer to authors who want to market independently.

Tim Baker: I haven’t found a successful way to get reviews. People generally don’t like to write them. I’ve done everything from blog posts, social media requests and even offered to include people in a book if they wrote enough reviews. It’s the thing I find most discouraging about writing.

Chris DiBella: I don’t like to hound people for reviews. There are some authors who post constantly about it, and I find it annoying. We all want reviews, but it seems some authors will only ask for reviews from people they know will give them a favorable review. I simply do not like that approach. The way I look at it is the reviews will come in time – or maybe not. They’re nice to get, but I don’t stress about it. I also have my own little rule of thumb of not to trust any book with less than 15 reviews of all 5-stars (unless there’s some bad reviews in there too). Anyone can get 15 friends or family members to write a good review. It’s that first bad review I usually trust the most. Same goes for my books. My first bad review was actually pretty spot-on with the critique. She liked the story, but drilled me on editing. No friends or family members would have left a review like that. I pulled the book and re-edited it. Of course it sucks to get bad reviews, but they can be turned into a positive. And for the love of everything you consider holy, please stop arguing with readers who give you a bad review. Let your fans battle it out for you.

Carol Riggs: My publishers used NetGalley for obtaining reviewers from bloggers. A newsletter also works decently for requesting reviews. I try not to ask for reviews too much, however, because it’s off-putting. Either a reader will leave you a review or he/she won’t. No one should be obligated; an author doesn’t get honest reviews that way anyway.

Jordan Elizabeth: Author friends have told me they have good luck when posting free books on Facebook in exchange for reviews.  I haven’t had luck that way.  I usually reach out to bloggers.  Most of the time, they are willing to review.

Just a note: I also see the other side of this issue, as I do honest reviews in exchange for ARCs right here on Writing to be Read. The problem I’ve run into is that since I’m supplied with a free copy, at times Amazon will not aknowledge my reviews because they can’t verify the sale. I imagine those exchanging reviews on Facebook might run into the same type of issues. So, even if you can give away some e-copies in exchange for a review, there is no gaurantee that Amazon will acknowledge it.

DeAnna Knippling: Asking nicely.  I was using Instafreebie for a while, but I think that exhausted its readers fairly quickly, because it was mostly a platform for trading newsletter subscribers, not a sustainable model.  What new readers was Instafreebie bringing to the table?  Not as many as the authors themselves had brought.  I did well by it, but I think that was a matter of getting in at the right moment and not “what a great site for reviews!”

I think your best bet is to treat reviews like a pyramid.  At the base, write good books and make it easy for readers to read more.  Next level, make it easy for your newsletter subscribers to get review copies.  I have an ARC list.  Up from that, whatever social media sites you’re on, keep an eye out for ways to attract reviews OR newsletter subscribers.  At the top of the pile is a review that will be seen widely, a review on a radio show or in a newspaper, things like that.  Go for it when you see it.  But be more loyal to your base of writing good books and making them easy for readers to read them.

Don’t put all your eggs in a basket that’s essentially just moving piles of email addresses around, or reviews that you have to pay for (and that Amazon will delete as soon as they get a chance), begging for reviews from your writer-friends (which screws up your also boughts something fierce), or whatever short-term solution everyone is chasing at the moment.  Play the long game, take advantage of what you can when you can, then drop back into your long game.
Believe me, I know how freaking slow this all goes.

 

In the last segment, our author panel members discussed many of the issues involved in Book Marketing and Promotion. This is a big topic for many authors, including me, because unlike writing, it does not come natural to us. It is such a big issue that a couple of our panel members, DeAnna Knippling and Janet Garber, bowed out of this segment, rather than express the frustration of not having the answers. But those panel members who did participate had some insightful things to share. They talk about their favorite social media sites for promotion, marketing and giveaway sites, marketing platforms, the effectiveness of author websites and blogs, newletters, press releases and interviews. Be sure and catch this segment, or you’ll never know why Chris DiBella’s mother is his greatest marketing tool.

Book Sale

The follow-up question for this segment is: Many of you said in last week’s segment that you preferred face to face events over Internet and social media marketing and that you found face to face marketing to be more effective. What type of face to face events have you found to be effective?

Cynthia Vespia: The reason conferences don’t work is because there are waaaayyyy too many writers all vying for attention at these things. Also, the majority of the writer conferences only alot 1-2 days for signings and sales that are usually only a few hours long. That is not enough time to make a dent in sales or really do any type of networking with your readers, especially when there are so many other authors there doing the same thing. Some of the more popular ones get all the attention. So imagine you’re a little fish in a sea of whales…how do you get noticed? I’ve run into some very bad etiquette at some of these things before, as well. The guy next to me would skate every sale I tried to make by talking over me and offering a free book. How do you compete with free? You don’t.

So the face-to-face events I prefer are my own individual signings, smaller book fairs, or (and I hate to mention this because it was a well guarded secret before) but I do the comic conventions and they work the best. Plus, they’re alot more fun.

Chris Barili: I’ve found genre cons to be MUCH more effective at selling books and gaining followers than writing conferences, and if you think about it, it makes sense. A genre con is full of fans of whatever genre you like. They’re LOOKING for genre stories. At a writers conference, writers are there looking to SELL stories.

Janet Garber: I find book fairs and readings most enjoyable as I get a chance to speak with the potential readers. Being a guest at a book club meeting is great too because you hear your characters discussed as if they were real people and you learn what readers liked and didn’t like.

Carol Riggs: I personally like/prefer book fairs or festivals over bookstore signings, because they’re more informal. I feel less “on the spot,” and I don’t have to make a microphone presentation. Instead, I can conversationally chat with people who come up to my book table. It feels more like a relationship that way, instead of a “buy my book” spiel. For instance, last summer (as well as this coming summer) I will be participating in the Lane County Fair in Eugene, Oregon, with a book table. Last fall I was also part of the Literacy for Libraries author event in Eugene, and I enjoyed schmoozing with fellow authors and with the crowd who wandered through the building. Sometimes authors can band together and create their own events at libraries and bookstores; it’s less intimidating than going it solo. The purpose of these events aren’t to sell as many books as you can, but rather get to know your readers and get your name out there—that’s an important marketing tip that a seasoned author shared with me.

Jordan Elizabeth: I prefer craft shows and library events.  The crowds are manageable, and as I write young adult, many teenagers and children come with their parents.  Parents and grandparents are also eager to buy gifts.  Because these events are smaller than most conferences, you’re able to have a one-on-one conversation.  You get to really understand what types of books these people read and you can gear them toward the book like might like the best.

DeAnna Knippling: Some people are great salespeople.  I am not.  That’s not some kind of subtle insult or anything.  I’m learning.  But I’ve always found networking more valuable to me than selling per se.  If a sale comes out of it, great.  And I’m not like, “Here’s my business card, call me!”  To me, a face to face event means that people are far more likely to put their hair down and tell me things.  Interesting things.  Gossip.  Rumors.  Scandalous lies!  And I love connecting other people and providing a safe place to talk.  I have a SF/F/H writer group, the Colorado Tesla Writers, that is basically just a Facebook page and a monthly meal for people to hang out and feel like Real Writers(tm) and let our hair down.  That’s it.  I’m not sure what it’s effective at, but people tell me that it is, so I keep doing it.

To wrap up this last segment, I want to thank our panel members for the great writing rules. If you create characters who are not only realistic, but who the readers can identify and empathize with, and if you write with emotion which comes from your soul, you can evoke in your readers and make them care about your characters and your story. And while pacing is important and can be controlled with tension, conflict, action and dialog, most of our author panel don’t consciously write with pacing in mind, but rather it seems to come naturally. Also, we may need to pace ourselves to get the story out, as well as controlling the pacing of the story itself.

It does make sense to offer your books in as many formats as possible, because readers aren’t all the same. Amazon and Smashwords appear to be the favorite for digital publishing and CreateSpace was preferred for print publishing, although I believe they have made some changes and now Amazon is also providing print books as an option, so that may change.

Reviews are an author’s calling card these days, and it seems the best way to get them is to ask, whether in a newsletter, in person, or in the book itself, but it’s best not to be pushy. Genre conventions, book fairs and festivals, book signings, and library events are the preferred face to face events to make connections with readers. 

Well, it’s time to bring our time with our Ask the Authors panel members to a close. I do hope we’ve provided some helpful information and advice for all you authors out there, and maybe even made you smile once or twice. Thank you all for joining us. Be sure to watch for round two, this fall, where we will have several of these panel members back, as well as inviting other authors to join our panel. The best way to be sure not to miss out on this and all the other great content here on Writing to be Read is to sign up for email notification of follow me on WordPress. I hope you all will drop in frequently.

Next Monday, on Writing to be Read, I’ll be interviewing author Mark Shaw, who has optioned his book, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, for film. Something all authors dream of and some actually get the opportunity to do. How exciting. We’ll also be talking about his new book, Courage in the Face of Evil, which is to be release in June. Don’t miss it!

I want to extend a big thank you to our panel members, Carol Riggs, Tim Baker, Jordan Elizabeth, DeAnna Knippling, Chris DiBella, Art Rosch, Janet Garber, Margareth Stewart, Chris Barili, and Cynthia Vespia. You guys and gals were a great panel and together we created a great Ask the Authors series. I feel it was very successful and I had a lot of fun with it. I hope all of you did, too. Until next time.

 

 


Ask the Authors: Marketing and Promotion

Mountain of Books

Marketing and promotion is a tough one for many writers. While some may have artistic or designing abilities in addition to their writing skills, others, like me, must learn from the basics up, and its not an easy task. To get our book noticed amid the multitude of books, ebooks, and audio books that are out there today, we might have to be a little creative and search out multiple marketing avenues. It can be so daunting, that even someone who is knowledgeable about marketing and promotion, and is succesful in many of their efforts, like panel members DeAnna Knippling and Janet Garber, can be worn down with frustration, as the following comments regarding this marketing segment of the Ask the Authors series, as the following comments illustrate:

Janet Garber: Kaye, I don’t have answers to the questions. Wish I did.

DeAnna Knippling: I am so frustrated with marketing and promotion stuff right now, so I’m bailing on that.

In this day and age, more and more, the responsibility of marketing and promotion falls to authors. Digital publishing has changed the industry, and small press and self-published authors carry the brunt of it, and traditionally published authors may ask authors to carry more of the responsility than in the past, as well. Like it or not, marketing and promotion now fall under an author’s job description, as Cynthia Vespia reminds us with her publishing story: “Originally I was self published back before self publishing was cool I’ve been small press published, and I reverted back to self publishing. ALL of the marketing and promotion is on my shoulders.” Let’s see how our panel members handle the task.

What works best to sell books for you, as far as marketing goes?  

Jordan Elizabeth: Book signings have sold the most.  I get in people’s faces and just have fun.  I’m normally a quiet person, but at events I can become someone totally new and outgoing.

Carol Riggs: I’ve sold the most e-books with BookBub ads, for 3 of my traditionally published books. I also sell books at SCBWI conferences because people know me and support me there. :o)

Chris DiBella: This is probably an off-the-topic answer, but my mom is actually my best marketing tool. She helps me to sell more books than anything. Everywhere she goes, she tells people about my books and somehow gets them to buy one. They all seem to like them, so I guess I can’t complain….then again, my mom seems to think I should already be outselling James Patterson, so there’s that expectation to live up to.

Cynthia Vespia: Public appearances have been my best resources. There’s something to be said for selling something face-to-face as opposed to using the Internet. I don’t have a massive community rallying around me, so it’s up to me to make my own sales. I do that best by being personable with people, interacting, and talking about common interests.

Chris Barili: Face to face things like signings, conventions, and so on. You can actively push your books at these events.

For marketing and promotion, do you prefer online advertising and book events, or face-to-face events? Why?  

Jordan Elizabeth: Face-to-face feels more personal.  I can talk to people about what they like and I can explain my books in detail.

Carol Riggs: Both have their strong points. Being introverted, I probably enjoy the online events more, but there’s a certain zest to actually meeting people and talking to them. I can get myself in a social mood for that, and find I enjoy it.

Chris Barili: Face to face has brought me more measureable success, but online reaches WAY more people. You can’t choose one or the other. You have to do them all.

Pintrest

According to WordStream, Facebook ads provide the biggest advertising opportunity since search, with twenty-two billion ad clicks per year. Of course, not all of those are book ads, but the fact is authors are faced with many choices when it comes to where to promote their books. While Facebook may get the most clicks per year, all social media are becoming a huge avenue for marketing and promotion, but how to know which venue is best? While some authors may do the research and promote on the sites that seem most profitable, many authors don’t have that much time and thus promote on the sites which we like best. That being said, let’s Ask the Authors and see where our panel members like to promote their work.

What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?  

Jordan Elizabeth: I like Fussy Librarian best.  They only promote a few books a day, so you know your book won’t be lost in the shuffle.

Carol Riggs: I like Twitter, because promo is about making connections, not just shouting, “But my book!” all the time. And I can connect to people on Twitter whom I’ve never met, just by happy chance. It’s great! On Facebook, it’s mostly for connecting with people I already know, but with Twitter, I can expand my horizons and meet new people (while still connecting with the ones I already know).

Chris DiBella: Facebook works best for me because it reaches the most potential readers. I don’t use my blog any more, and I rarely use any other social media outlet, although I know I should. I use Amazon for free book promos, and I think I’m going to run one this weekend if anyone is interested in checking out one or more of my books.

Lost Voyage

Cynthia Vespia: I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I lean more towards Instagram now because you can do alot more with a single image than with 40 characters or an entire Facebook post. I’ve also found Facebook has become stained with controversy, overrun with politics, and just isn’t fun anymore. The only issue with Instagram is not being able to put a hyperlink in your post. But if you’re imaginative you can get some good attention.  

Chris Barili: I think Twitter does a good job of announcing things. It’s short, so people read it, but I’m not sure many people click. I’ve had some success using Facebook boosted posts, too, and I think those are my favorites because they’re cheap, easy, and for me pretty effective.

What sites have you used for marketing and/or giveaways? Which do you recommend? Why?  

Jordan Elizabeth: GoodReads is best for giveaways.  Amazon is the second best.  I’m still figuring out which sites are good for which books.  So far, I can only recommend Fussy Librarian.  I haven’t had good luck with the others.

Carol Riggs: If you can snag one and can afford it, I’ve had good luck with BookBub. I used to like Goodreads for giving away paperback books, but now they are charging for this service and I can’t afford to do that.

Chris DiBella: Goodreads helps to reach a bunch of potential readers, but I don’t like to do giveaways on there. As I’ve mentioned in a previous week here, everyone is willing to sign up for a freebie, and who knows if you’re even giving the book away to someone who will actually read it. I guess the same can be said for Amazon as well, but I’ve found that my giveaways for Amazon Kindle usually generate some sales afterwards, so for me, this is the route I typically take.

Which of these marketing platforms have you tried? How effective did you find each to be? (Facebook ads, AMS, other paid ad campaigns) Which do you feel were money well spent?

Chris DiBella: I decided to pay for a promo on Facebook once. From that experience, I would never do it again. You get what you pay for, but I’m just against having to pay to reach potential readers on a social media site. I didn’t think it did anything to gain new followers or to help with sales. My advice is to spend your time on target advertising and get the people to your site who actually want to be there. I gained a few hundred followers from a paid promo, but it all seemed a little sketchy when those new followers were from some small little African nation I had never heard of. And as I expected would happen, I began receiving some very weird messages on my author page shortly thereafter. I won’t pay for Facebook ads anymore because of that.

Which book marketing sites have you found to be good (free or paid)? What do you like about them? What is the downside?

Chris Barili: Ebooksoda did pretty well for me during a Halloween sales press of the Hell’s Butcher series. So far, they’re the  only ones I’ve tried.

If you’re an author, you need to have a website. An author must have a blog to gain followers. You really have to do a newsletter to keep your followers up to speed on all your new releases. You absolutely have to build a mailing list. Who among us hasn’t heard all of these at one time or another? But, you would have to be a super author or a super marketer, or a little bit of both to maintain all of these, and let’s face it, no one wants to invest a bunch of time and/or money into something that isn’t effective in either gaining readers, selling books, or both. So, do we really need all of these things? Which ones work, and which don’t?

Website, blog, author’s page or a combination? What are the benefits of each?

Chris DiBella: I’ve recently decided to start using my personal Facebook page as my author page. I find that my posts reach more people and I don’t have to pay extra to “boost” my visibility. I’ve pretty much abandoned my blog and just use it as my website for now until I build my actual one.

Cynthia Vespia: I have all of them. My blog is on my website.The author page is through Amazon and Goodreads. I think you definitely need a website. It doesn’t have to be lavish, just a place where people can learn more about you and your writing. For the blog I try to use it to help people getting into the business.

I only recently began to build a mailing list for my new monthly newsletter back in March, and so far the going has been slow. I think perhaps my method of sign-up, which is a sidebar pop-up right here, on Writing to be Read, may not be noticable enough and since very few of the sign-ups have claimed the free e-copy of Hidden Secrets, my paranormal mystery novelette, I’m thinking the thank you message with the Instafreebie link is getting missed as well. (I just told you how to sign-up for my monthly Newsletter and get a free e-book! What are you waiting for?) It’s just a trial and error thing for me. Every marketing adventure is a learning experience , so I’m eager to see what our author panel members’ experiences have been. Shall we Ask the Authors?

Do you have one or more mailing lists? Do you have a newsletter? Which do you find to be useful or effective?

Carol Riggs: I’m building up my newsletter subscription for fans and friends who are interested in hearing about my latest releases and giveaways. I give them special treatment, and many of them are kind enough to leave reviews in return for reading my freebies, which I appreciate a lot.

Chris Barili: I have one mailing list, but it’s small. This is something I’m trying hard to improve on.

Cynthia Vespia: I have a newsletter. It hasn’t done much for me in exposure or sales so I’ve basically discontinued it.

Interviews help get exposure for the author and their books. I’ve been on both ends of the interview. In fact, I have interviewed many of our panel members. In addition to sitting on the author panel for this series, I interviewed Tim Baker for my 2016 Publishing series and my 2017 Book Marketing series, and Jordan Elizabeth for both Publishing and Book Marketing, as well an interview to start off 2018 on New Year’s Day. I’ve also interviewed Art Rosch for the Publishing series and Cynthia Vespia  and Chris Barili for the Book Marketing. And my interview with Margareth Stewart for the release of Open is how she and I met. But in book marketing and promotion, we want to look at the other side of the interview, from the author’s perspective.

interview

I’ll never forget how excited I was to do my first interview with Dan Alatore shortly after Delilah came out, back in May of 2017. I don’t know that it helped sell any books, (it was before D.L. Mullen made my awesome covers, and the cookie cutter cover my publisher provided was baaaad), but it sure helped to make me feel as if I had made it to the big time. Dan made me sound good, so it was pretty cool. So, let’s Ask the Authors how effective our panel members think interviews are. Do they sell books, or are there other benefits? Is landing an interview something we should strive for?

How effective have interviews been for you in your overall marketing scheme?

Carol Riggs: Friends and fans tweet for me on Twitter, invite me to guest post on their blogs (like this interview series, thanks so much!), and share things on Facebook. All those things are invaluable and help me out a lot.

Chris DiBella: I’ve done several interviews, but I don’t think they’ve really been effective in terms of generating more book sales. My advice for any new authors wanting to do interviews is to research who is conducting the interview. If they only have 5 followers, is it really going to help you in the long run? The argument can be made that reaching even one new reader is a success, but I guess you have to pick and choose when and where you decide to do spots.

Cynthia Vespia: It really depends on the person doing the interview. I’ve done alot of podcasts and for the most part I’ve had fun, but there have been a few times where the person running the interview has been monotone, dull, distracted, and just brought the entire show down. There’s only so much I can do when the person on the other end isn’t holding their end up.

What interview has been the most effective for you in terms of marketing? Why?

Jordan Elizabeth: I enjoy doing interviews because I can connect with the person interviewing me, and I like to think it gets my name out there, but I’ve never had anyone tell me they bought my book based on seeing my interview.
Cynthia Vespia: I was fortunate enough to get on the local news specifically to promote my writing in a one-on-one interview. It got alot of attention.
Follow-up: How did that interview come about?
Cynthia Vespia: For the interview, I ran into one of the newscasters at a store and spoke to her about my books and things. She told me who to contact.

What was the most fun interview you’ve ever done? Why?  

Jordan Elizabeth: Yours.  You ask the most interesting, thought-provoking questions.

(Kaye: (Blushing) Thank you.)

Carol Riggs: The most fun interview I did was with Moriah Chavis on A Leisure Moment for my book, THE LYING PLANET. It was a unique and creative interview, in which she asked me questions as if I were the Machine—the sinister contraption that judges each teen in the community on their 18th birthday.

PlayA picture speaks a thousand words, and a video can speak an entire book. Well, maybe. It’s certain that images attract attention more than posts with only words, if you want to sell books, you at least need to post an image of your cover. But some authors go beyond that and posts videos or book trailers to attract people to check out, and hopefully buy, their books. I recently made a book trailer for Delilah, and it certainly got more Facebook views than other posts I’ve made. (Unfortunately, I can’t feature it here for you, because the free plan on WordPress doesn’t support video.)Whether it increased my sales is yet to be seen, but let’s Ask the Authors to see what out panel members think about book trailers.

Do you use  book trailers? If so, do you create them yourself or hire them out? How effective do you think they are?

Chris DiBella: I created a book trailer for my first novel, Lost Voyage, and then for my first zombie book. I created them myself. It was pretty easy to do it on my own and make it look more professional than it actually was. For Lost Voyage, the music I used was from my band at the time, and for the zombie book, I used the music from a friend’s band (appropriately enough, it was a hard rock remake of the song “Zombie” by the Cranberries.). People liked then and thought they were fun. I’ve thought about making another trailer for my most recently published book. If it gets people to click on the post, it can’t be a bad thing.

Margareth Stewart: I do like having my books transformed into book trailers. This helps readers to experience them through motion pictures – Images may speak better than words. I have also hired this kind of service from “Fiverr” which has a fix price of US$ 5 dollars for each short film. It is an amount really worth spending. There are video editors available online where it is possible to produce and edit our films. I always make sure the images are copyright-free and I hope they call producers´ attention – more to the story than my film-making techniques – “who knows?”

Cynthia Vespia: I make a book trailer for every new release. They are effective enough to get attention.

Press ReleasePress releases, in my mind, were something a publisher did for an author to create buzz for a new release. But today’s authors are doing their own marketing, and a lot of the time, there is no publisher besides the author. I wasn’t even sure if folks still did press releases in a digital age, but I came across a template for a press release in the self-administered crash course in marketing and promotion I’ve been doing, so I made one up, geared to the local author angle and sent it out to several of my local papers. I also played on the fact that Delilah is set in Colorado, so I sent one to the Leadville paper, where most of her story takes place. I had one two positive responses, and one that for sure published it, which I just happened to catch with Google Alerts, which notifies me when my selected key words appear online. I don’t know if any of the others published, but I considered it a success just to get it in the papers I know about. I’m not sure how to measure its effect on book sales yet. It was an experiment for me, and I’m curious to learn about our panel members experiences with them. Let’s Ask the Authors.

Have you tried Press Releases? How effective were they?

Margareth Stewart: Yes I have, and I reckon it is a great mean to call people´s attention to my publications, especially new releases. I usually prepare a text with images, and send them by email. I have been figured out in radio programs and local newspapers. It is worth taking the time and the effort to straighten up relations with local audience. Sometimes, it does not immediately reflect on sales, but it works as the branding an author´s name. Besides, it is also a mean to being found through search engines! 

Cynthia Vespia: Yes. They haven’t done much for me.

Many authors today utilize street teams to find reviewers for their books or just get the word out. Street teams are usually made up of enthusiastic fans who don’t mind helping out their favorite author, and unlike P.A.s, they usually volunteer for the job and are not paid. I haven’t employed a street team, but anything related to marketing and promotion that doesn’t put a dent in my pocketbook is always of interest. Let’s ask our Ask the Authors panel members how effective they have found street teams to be and how they have utilized their street teams.

Do you have a street team? If so, how do you utilize them? What do they do for you?  

Jordan Elizabeth: I used to, but the girls started to be harassed by other authors and bloggers.  One by one they dropped out.  We’re still good friends and they read my books, but they no longer help with marketing.

Chris DiBella: My wife, my mom, and my brother are my current “street team”. They wear shirts I had made advertising my website. It’s not a massive marketing effort, but at least people are seeing my name intermittently….even if it is on the back of a shirt.

It seems no matter what publishing route one takes, a major portion, if not all of the book marketing and promotion falls to the author. Different authors approach the task in many different ways, from social media marketing, to live book events, to creating booktrailers, tee-shirts, and tire covers, to paid advertising spots, to newsletters, to press releases and interviews, to utilizing street teams to acquire reviews and or do promotion, to hiring ad agencies. Most of our panel members claim live events are more effective in marketing, but it seems both live and Internet promotion is needed, and perhaps even desired ina digital world. Of course, all of this barely scratches the surface of the world of book marketing. There is enough on this topic to fuel several series, but perhaps some of the information presented here will spark an idea for promotion or inspire a new marketing campaign for your own books.

If you have a question you’ve always wanted answered, but it’s not covered in the post on that topic, or if our panel’s answers have stirred new questions within you, pose your query in the comments. Make note if it is directed toward a specific author. Questions will be directed to the general panel unless otherwise specified. This is the last chance to pose a question for these panel members as next week will be the final post for this Ask the Authors series, I will present your questions and the responses I recieved from panel members there. See you next Monday!

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