December 5, 2011

Marketing – A Waste of Money or A Chance to Sell Books?

Marketing – A Waste of Money or A Chance to Sell Books?
by Nina Pierce

Unfortunately successful writers have discovered that writing books isn’t the only thing they have to become good at if they want their books to sell well. With publishers spending less time and resources on marketing, it’s now up to the author to do their own.

There are many ways and places to market yourself. In reality, it’s not about your debut novel or most recent release— it’s about you and developing your readership. There are some authors who swear by building a brand. In this day and age, with so many authors writing in so many different genres, I’m not sure the benefits or disadvantages of marketing yourself as a brand. So I’m going to leave that topic for another time. I’m simply going to touch on the basic ways for an author to market.

* Internet Website – The first place an author needs to establish themselves is in their own corner of the world wide web. An easy-to-navigate website helps readers find you and your books. Your website should set a mood for your readers. Don’t complicate it with music or fun tricks, those things may annoy and drive readers away.

Blog – This type of promotion isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have the time to blog on a regular basis (at least once a week) and promote that blog to invite people to read your posts, then this may not be for you. Group blogs are popping up all over the internet as authors are looking to save time, but still have a blogging presence. Groups of authors with similar interests blog once or twice a month without the pressure of a dedicated blog. The advantages of blogging are the permanent sidebar topics with links to your books, trailers and reviews. It also gives readers a chance to learn more about you through your posts. The disadvantage is the amount of time it takes to post and promote the blog.

Social Media – This encompasses Yahoo loops, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Googler+, Wattpad or any form of media that allows you to interact with others on the internet. The purpose of these sites is to give people the opportunity to build a community. It is NOT for continually posting me, me, me updates that will turn prospective readers away. Though some of that is expected, it shouldn’t be the sole purpose of your updates. Remember, you’re building relationships. Of course the disadvantage again is the time suck some of these sites require to keep up with your followers.

* Paper Products
Vistaprint.com – Offers all kinds of paper products, (including bookmarks, business cards and cover flats), magnets, bookbags, pens, sticky notes and other miscellaneous products. With a high resolution copy of your book cover (available through your publisher’s art department), it is easy to upload designs and create promotional items. I highly recommend getting an email from a friend with “free” product offers (the cost of your items is in the shipping). There are also designs to choose from for creating author-specific products. This site is inexpensive and shipping times are reasonable. (The 21-day delivery often arrives within in 8-10 days.)

NextDayFlyers.com – Provides the same services as above. As with any print product you need high resolution jpgs to create and order products.

EarthlyCharms.com – This site offers all kinds of products, but with the benefit of having a design staff who will create unique bookmarks, flyers or brochures.

Chapter Samplers – These small books can be made using several different computer programs or can be ordered from the above companies. Readers often comment that this is one of the few paper products they really enjoy receiving. Not only does it give potential readers a sample of your current book, but a feeling for your voice as well.

In general paper products placed in goodie bags or on promo tables tend to get recycled. It doesn’t mean you should never have these items, but be judicious with what you donate to convention bags.

* Promo Items
Things that readers can put their hands on are often expensive. Whether it’s lip balm, chip clips, pens, foot files, combs, hand lotions, mirrors, pen drives or anything in between, the advantage is that they don’t usually get recycled before readers leave conventions. Your name, tagline and website addie go home with them. The disadvantage is not only the cost in the item, but the additional cost of shipping to conventions you’re not attending.

NOTE – Conventions and reader get-togethers often advertise for promo materials for their goodie bags. It’s an excellent way to get your name out there and book buying is all about name recognition.

* Advertisements
Ad space is available on review sites, newsletters and popular blogs for your cover or banner. Prices are usually reasonable. Many authors swear by these ads.

* Contests and Big Ticket Items
Many authors enjoy running contests. But you should be leery of the contest-bunnies who have no intention of buying books, but will enter every author contest coming and going. There are sometimes opportunities to jump into contests run by some of the bigger review sites which offer ereaders or multiple prize packages. The advantage of that is the cost to participate is usually very reasonable ($10 or $15) and with multiple authors there is a lot of promotion across different venues.

This list only scratches the surface of the marketing opportunities available to authors. It’s a juggling act to balance your income to your expenditures for marketing. Just know that there is no right answer. What might work for one author won’t necessarily work for another. Try different things until you figure out what works for you.

Award-winning author Nina Pierce is an admitted promo queen. She’s tried nearly everything at least once, and most things, two or three times. She spends convention season sending out materials in hopes that new readers will discover her books. You can check out her newest books at http://www.NinaPierce.com or follow her on her social media sites facebook http://www.facebook.com/author.nina.pierce  and twitter http://www.twitter.com/ninapierce

You can thank Nina for these tips by stopping by and picking up a copy of her book, Charm Her! It's on sale right now -- only $.99 on Kindle. Here's the link:

December 2, 2011

An Interview with Xandra James

Reluctant Revenge
by Xandra James
Welcome, Xandra! Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they?

First of all, thank you so much for having me here today! Right, my first book was released December first from Pink Petal Books and it's called Reluctant Revenge. It's a paranormal romance novella that, despite having otherworldly creatures, deals with something that many of us come up against - forgiveness and letting the go of the past. Of course, there's also a hot half demon, a sexy almost angel and mean, flesh eating vampires for your paranormal reading pleasure!

What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love the very first chapter of a new story when you have high hopes for it and just know this'll be the easiest story to write, ever! Then I also love the end of the first draft when you come to terms with just how hard it's been to write this story, and you go from disliking it for all the hassle it's given you, to loving it once more.

Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, outline, or...?
I usually start with a first scene that I've seen the basics for in my head. I'm not really sure of the characters completely or their GMC, so I just write about three chapters carrying on from that initial scenario. Then I get stuck J and that's when I will go away, outline the general story and then either tweek the first chapters or re-write them completely. This seems to work for me as I don't actually come up with fully formed plots or characters, straight away. It's almost like I have to mind dump first of all, then I see what works and what doesn't and move on from there.

What did you learn from writing your first book? 
That first attempts are meant to be awful! Lol. The first book I ever completed was a category romance. Looking back, it had no structure and no real plot. I think I was just happy to finish the thing, at the time, and I haven't even looked at it since.

Would you consider self publishing?
Absolutely. Self-publishing has grown so much since I first became aware of it many, many years ago. I can't see myself (for the foreseeable future) stopping submitting work to publishers, but as another option to work alongside? Yes. As long as I do it properly and spend the time and money on doing it right.

How many hours a day to you spend writing?
Depends. If I'm on a deadline then I'll write all day, stopping only for caffeine. Other days, it feels like a drag to make myself sit there and write for 30 minutes. Although usually once I get over my procrastination (I'm the Queen of it!), I'll usually settle into writing if I'm not distracted. Writing every day is a good routine to get into, even if it's a couple of hundred words. I'm glad I usually do that now.

Is your muse demanding?
My muse loves deadlines and will very often only want to work hard when it's imminent. Of course, like me, she can be bribed with caffeine and chocolate so there's usually a compromise…

Are your stories plot or character driven?
Reluctant Revenge, if I had to put it in either category, I'd choose character driven. My second book, released in January, is more plot driven. So I don't think I specifically write a book to be a certain way – it's just a happy accident however it turns out ;)

How do you balance a life outside of writing with deadlines and writing muses?
By not doing housework (okay, that was more wishful thinking). I don't think I can say I balance it very well, I just do what needs to be done, when it needs doing. I'm not the most organized person in the world so I kinda take one day at a time.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?
If they can lose themselves and escape into the story for an hour or two, then I'll be a happy writer.

List two authors we would find you reading when taking a break from your own writing.
Kerrelyn Sparks and Janet Evanovich. I love a little humour with my romance. They're my go-to authors.

Personal Info

A biography has been written about you. What do you think the title would be in six words or less?
Life, romance books, and hitting snooze.

If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?
Well if money were no object I'd live in Venice half the time and a castle in England the rest.

What song would best describe your life?
Carry On Regardless by The Beautiful South

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
Please don't poke with a stick, she bites! 

Booklist

Reluctant Revenge from Pink Petal Books, released December 1, 2011
Nash was bound to Sienna completely – by a blood connection and a deep desire. An Enforcer for the Supranormal community, he was obligated to protect his sexy assignment, despite her family devastating his world.
After being betrayed, Sienna falls into the arms of her surly protector; a demon with a secret of his own. But can she face her destiny knowing she's more dangerous than those Nash was protecting her from?

Fill in the Blanks

I love pizza with a can of pepsi.
I'm always ready for  chocolate.
When I'm alone, I am always on my laptop.
You'd never be able to tell, but I hate celery.
If I had a halo it would be crooked and dusty.

Books Coming Soon

Shadow Justice from Siren Publishing, coming January 2012.

Contests

Check out my website for details of giveaways and blog hops I'm involved in over the next couple of months.

Find Me Here

Blog: as above and http://thebookbordello.com

November 17, 2011

Blame It on the Full Moon?

Author Shara Lanel offers her take on werewolves, lycanthropy, and the full moon...
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Lycanthropy is "the change of man or woman into the form of a wolf, either through magical means…or through judgment of the gods in punishment for some great offence," according to Sabine Baring-Gould in The Book of Werewolves. In The Complete Book of Werewolves (yes, similar titles) by Leonard R. N. Ashley he states: "The werewolf is an outcast, shunned. Medieval laws stated that for certain crimes against society the offender must 'become a wolf.'" In other words, the law won't protect this man and he can be hunted and killed like a wolf. Ashley says the Catholic Church acknowledged the existence of werewolves, but considered them a form of possession or a glamour that makes the person believe he is a beast.
From True Werewolves of History by Donald F. Glut: "Generally…the term 'lycanthrope' refers to the unfortunates who believe themselves to be transformed into beasts without an actual physical metamorphosis. 'Werewolf' mostly pertains to those physically changed into animals or hybrids."
You can change into a werewolf by wearing a wolf's skin or by performing a ritual or using a magic ointment. Or you could just be insane or have a genetic anomaly. This forum thread discusses several more ideas on how to become one (http://forum.werewolfcafe.com/viewtopic.php?id=3817).
Or it could run in your family. Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf (1985) probably influenced my thoughts on werewolves the most. I'd never seen the black and white movies or read any books about werewolves. I might've seen one on Scooby Doo, but it was the image of Michael sprouting fur in front of the bathroom mirror that stuck with me. In fact, when I was creating the character of Haden Blackwood in Blame It on the Moon, I gave him a similar memory from his teenage years. But Haden was given to human parents for adoption, so he had no idea whether his case was a genetic anomaly or hereditary.
Did you know there's a Werewolves Anonymous? "'Werewolves Anonymous' by Kevin Creed, tells about the organization now with 257 members, that was started in early 1993 for victims of OCL (Organically Caused Lycanthropy) or testosterone poisoning, patients of Dr. Mason Grumler, Baton Rouge, LA." (Resource: http://michaelhalm.tripod.com/id173.htm) Another interesting tidbit--there was a study saying that werewolves went extinct in the 1800s and one that recorded werewolves going at 60 mph.
Almost every werewolf site or book includes a list of classic movies like The Wolf Man, The Werewolf of London, or the She-Wolf of London. Ashley's book has awesome reviews or comments on even the most obscure film. This page (http://www.werewolfpage.com/multimedia/posters.htm) offers a compendium of werewolf movie posters—now that's cool! Hmm, could Chewbacca be a descendent of a pack of werewolves?
Since there are entire books on historical references to the werewolf in different cultures through time, I won't try to cover those here. My question to you is, with all the pop culture about werewolves, do you prefer the beasts to retain a somewhat human form or to turn completely into a wolf? And do you like your weres scary or sexy? In Blame It on the Night, I went with the pack turning into actual wolves and staying sexy men (or women) the rest of the time. Do you think a werewolf has to change at the full moon, or do you like them to have the ability to shape-shift at will? I can't wait to hear what you have to say!
Shara's info:
Awards: VRW HOLT Medallion Winner for Blame It on the Moon