Do you get so caught up in reading blogs, webinars, and posts and/or listening to podcasts, that you get nothing else done? I have been catching up on reading newsletters from my professional writing organizations, trade journals to which I subscribe, plus blogs on marketing and other business aspects of writing. If only I could clear my Inbox, I tell myself, I’d turn my focus to the nine backlist titles that I still have to reissue.
And yet the more of these articles that I read, the more that keep popping up in my email. Moreover, reading this advice makes me feel terribly guilty. Why am I not able to do all these things? The articles offer wonderful marketing strategies and tips, and yet I’d need to be either thirty years younger to have the energy or three clones to manage it all.
Meanwhile, I am accomplishing nothing else. Is it because I’ve lost my mojo? Or is it that I can’t move on to new material until I get these backlist titles done? Then again, maybe it’s burnout and time for a break. It used to be that I put my writing goals first in the morning before glancing at email or social media. What happened to this self-discipline?
So I’ve decided to skim these articles, file the information for later, and do only what I can for now. It’s more important to move on to the next project. This means I need to practice BICHOK more often – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. Get off the couch, and go to work.
This goes for you, too, my fellow writers. Let’s pay less attention to the “should” demons (i.e. the things you should be doing) and more time to the work we can control. Your success is only as good as the next book. It’s not dependent on how many social media posts with cute memes you’ve posted.
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Once you or your publisher sets a date for your new release, you can start planning ahead for the big day. You’ll need to begin months earlier and get your pieces lined up ahead of time. Planning for a new release can be a full-time marketing job, so I’d advise you to set aside a few weeks to get everything done. Here’s a basic countdown schedule to act as a guideline.
4 to 6 months ahead
Prepare your story blurbs and tag lines.
Update the author biography on your website. Have a short and long one along with a separate speaker introduction.
Send out advance reading copies to reviewers and bloggers.
Announce the launch date in your newsletter and on your social media sites.
Schedule a virtual blog tour.
Reserve ad space in trade journals, e-magazines, and online reader sites.
Set up speaking engagements and signings.
Consider doing a Pinterest story board.
2 to 4 months ahead
Send out a press release about the new release and include signing dates.
Do a Cover Reveal once your book is available for pre-order.
Write a page full of tweets and Facebook posts about the new release.
Create your book trailer (optional) and add to social media sites.
Write guest blog articles and interviews for your virtual book tour.
Run contests or giveaways with your ARCs as prizes.
Order print promo materials and swag for conferences.
Consider if you want to put another book in your series on sale during the window of your book launch.
1 to 2 months ahead
Set a book launch party date, time and place. Here’s an example of the online site I share with author Maggie Toussaint: https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/. Other authors might invite their writer friends to participate. Note what appeals to you and use these elements in planning your own book party.
Write the party posts, determine the prizes, and schedule all posts ahead of time.
Create memes for your launch party and the new release.
Send out “Save the Date” notices. Treat the launch as an “event” and broadcast it on your social media sites and to your influential contacts.
Schedule a newsletter and blog to post on the launch date.
Update your website with reviews as they come in. If time permits, thank each reviewer.
Write a book club discussion guide (optional).
Post the first chapter on your website.
Put excerpts on your blog to entice readers to want more.
Do as much of this work in advance as you can. This is simplifying all the effort a book launch entails, but being prepared relieves some of the stress as your book birthday approaches.
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SleuthFest 2018 was a great conference for mystery writers and fans. One of the first workshops I attended was given by book publicist Maryglenn McCombs. These are the points I took away from this workshop on marketing. Any mistakes are due to my misinterpretation.
Reasons why readers buy books:
Placement (i.e. in library or on bookstore display or in airport store)
Interest in Topic or Setting
Need for Entertainment
Hand Sales by a Bookseller
Media such as blogs, radio, interviews, etc.
Public Relations is only one component in selling books. A publicist’s job is to create awareness of your book. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll get media coverage.
Why your book might not be selling:
You’re not meeting the above requirements
Not wide enough cast of promotional efforts
Trying to do too much at once
No advance planning
Product isn’t professional
Cover isn’t appealing
Too much “buy my book” social media
You’re offensive on social media (i.e. talking politics or using bad language)
Book is overpriced
Not targeting your audience
You get a great review and don’t share or promote it. But make sure you have permission first.
Your book doesn’t have any endorsements.
You aren’t doing signings and appearances. Look for non-traditional outlets.
Writing/editing needs improvement
Bad cover copy
What does not work:
Radio tours, with a few exceptions like Authors on the Air
Lengthy book tours
Purchased editorial ads
“Buy my book” social media tactics
Gimmicks such as dressing in costume for an appearance
These may work or not:
Soliciting Amazon reviewers
Major media coverage
Steady media coverage over time
Personal contact with booksellers
Finding your superfans
Big author endorsements
Making the “Best of” lists
Getting into Gift Guides
Writing a Great Book
Having a Professional Product
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Do you set New Year’s Resolutions for your writing career? I divide mine into creative and business goals and also decide what I need to learn next. At the end of the year, I review my accomplishments and see what has to be carried over to the next term. Here are my objectives for 2018. Any additions or suggestions? What are your goals for the new year?
Reissue revised ebook edition of Silver Serenade
Publish revised Author’s Edition of Died Blonde
Publish Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition
Produce Body Wave Audiobook
Finish and Launch Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
If there’s time left, start on these projects:
Plot Bad Hair Day mystery novella
Revise Keeper of the Rings
Revise Dead Roots
Continue backlist title reissues and audiobooks
Prepare PowerPoint lectures and handouts for upcoming events
Enter Hair Brained in writing contests
Keep up with newsletter, blogs and social media
Learn how to do Facebook Ads
Learn how to put books on sale across various vendors
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I want to offer a big Thank You to my blog followers for sticking with me through the years. You have my special gratitude if you’ve left comments, liked a post, tweeted one or shared it on Facebook. I’m especially touched when you come up to me at a conference and mention that you appreciate my blog. I send these messages out into cyberspace without knowing if anyone reads them. So it’s most gratifying to get any kind of feedback.
As a gift to you in return, I’d like to offer you the chance to win a $15 Fandango gift card, so you can see one of the latest movies. All you have to do is comment below and your name will be entered. The drawing will take place in two days.
In your comment, let me know, if you wish, what you like about this blog, what you dislike, or what kinds of articles you’d like to see more of in the future.
Meanwhile, have a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!
All the best always,
Do you dread writing a synopsis? If so, get used to it, because this tool is essential to your career as a writer. Not only is a synopsis necessary for a book proposal, but the sales force at your publishing house may use it to design your cover or to plan marketing materials for your book.
A synopsis is a complete narrative of your story told in present tense. A synopsis should include essential plot points plus your character’s emotional reactions. It can act as a writing guideline while not being so rigid that your story can’t change. When you finish the actual writing portion, you can return to the original synopsis and revise it to suit the finished storyline. So how should you proceed?
1. Consider adding a tag line (i.e. one liner story blurb) on your first page before the story begins.
2. Open with a hook.
3. Use action verbs. Your story should be engaging as you convey it to the reader.
4. Make sure the story flows in a logical manner from scene to scene. In a mystery, present the crime, the suspects, and their secrets. Then show how the sleuth uncovers their hidden agendas and unravels the clues.
5. Avoid backstory. Stick to present tense and keep moving the story forward. Enter background events in small doses via dialogue or interspersed with action, and only if it applies to the current situation. Less is better. And don’t reveal too much up front. It’s best to keep the reader guessing.
6. Leave out minor characters, physical descriptions unless applicable to the storyline, and subplots unless critical to the resolution of the main plot.
7. Avoid snippets of conversation, point-to-point description of your character’s every move, jumping from one place to another without any explanation, gratuitous sex, or threats on a character’s life unless they evolve from the story.
8. Include your character’s emotional reactions.
9. Stay in the protagonist’s viewpoint as you would in the story. Use transitions if you switch viewpoints. Be careful of too much head hopping in a synopsis.
10. Show your character’s internal struggle as well as her external conflict. What’s inhibiting her from making a commitment to the hero? What is causing her to doubt her abilities?
11. Include the emotional turning points. For any genre, tell us what’s at stake for the heroes. What will happen if they fail?
12. In a romance, make sure you cover the goals and motivation of your hero/heroine, how they first meet, their romantic conflict, what leads up to the first kiss, complications that keep them apart, what they admire in each other, the black moment, and the resolution. What makes these two people right for each other that no one else can provide?
13. If it’s the first book in a series, you might begin with a short profile of your main character(s). For a mystery, offer a few paragraphs about the sleuth. For a romance, write a paragraph each about your hero and heroine. What do they hope to accomplish? What is keeping them from reaching this goal? Why is it important to them?
14. Explain the ending. In a mystery, this means you tell whodunit and why. In a romance, it’ll be the resolution of the romantic conflict.
15. What lesson will your protagonist learn in this story? How will she grow and change?
MYSTERY EXAMPLE FROM FACIALS CAN BE FATAL (Bad Hair Day #13)
Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial.
Screams emanating from next door draw salon owner Marla Vail’s attention. She rushes into the adjacent day spa to see a crowd gathered in front of a treatment room. It appears Rosana Hernandez, an aesthetician, was doing a facial on her first morning client. She’d put on the woman’s chemical mask and left the room for ten minutes. Upon her return, Valerie Weston was dead.
Since the receptionist had enough presence of mind to call 911, Marla enters the treatment room to see if CPR will help. It’s too late. The woman has no pulse, and her skin is clammy. The greenish cream mask clings to her face.
The police arrive, along with Marla’s husband, Detective Dalton Vail. He takes charge of the scene and questions Rosana. The tearful beautician claims Val had been a long-time customer, and the only known problem she had was a latex allergy. Rosana was careful not to use latex gloves in her presence.
Marla, owner of the spa plus the salon, is upset about the negative publicity this incident will generate. She has applied to become an educator for Luxor Products, whom she’d worked for once at a beauty trade show. But there’s another person being considered for the job. A smear on Marla’s reputation would be detrimental. But she’s also concerned about Rosana and proving the aesthetician wasn’t at fault.
Marla has an additional problem during this December season, which should be full of happy holiday plans. One of her clients is suing her. The woman claims Marla left on her hair dye too long, and it burned her scalp. Marla contacts her insurance agent.
Doubts roil in her stomach, and they increase when lab tests confirm liquid latex had been added to Val’s face mask cream. Val died from anaphylactic shock. Rosana denies her involvement, and Marla believes her. So who else had access to the room, and why would someone target Val?
ROMANCE EXAMPLE FROM WARRIOR LORD (Drift Lords #3)
A fantasy wedding in Las Vegas turns into a nightmare when contest winner Erika Sherwood realizes she’s married an alien.
Erika has had one drink too many at the blackjack table in Las Vegas when a bearded man wearing a cape and sword drops into the seat next to her. While his strange garb doesn’t arouse her curiosity, his comment on her wristwatch does. A gift from her parents when she turned sixteen, the watch runs with no visible mechanism and no battery, and it has a peculiar symbol engraved on its face. Her nape prickles at the man’s interest but an announcement over the loudspeaker distracts her.
The casino is holding a contest for engaged couples to win fifty thousand dollars. The lucky winners will have a televised wedding and receive a new car, a stay in the honeymoon suite, and the cash.
Erika mutters how she could sure use those funds, and the mysterious stranger overhears. He leans toward her and makes a scandalous suggestion. Why not pretend they’re engaged and enter the contest? He needs a room in the Viking-themed resort, but the hotel is full.
Giddy from the free drinks offered by the staff, Erika accepts his proposition. She doesn’t think they’ll win, but hey, the competition will be fun and all contestants get bonus credits on their club cards.
When they actually win the contest, she goes through the rushed wedding ceremony in a mental fog. Magnor kisses her and something sparks between them. However, she balks when he suggests they stay together in the honeymoon suite. She already has a room at the resort. However, his rationale is valid. If the resort people discover their deception, she and Magnor might lose their prizes.
Soon she’s alone in a room with the tall stranger. She’s drawn to his brooding good looks and muscled form but is puzzled when he becomes taciturn at her attempts to draw him out.
Someone knocks on the door. It’s the official from the televised marriage. He wants Erika’s address so he can mail out the official marriage certificate. With a jolt of clarity, Erika realizes the ceremony was valid.
Quelling her panic, she considers that having an unexpected husband might suit her needs.
I hope these examples make you curious to read on. How long should your synopsis be? Mine average around fifteen pages. Sometimes a publisher will ask for a one or two page synopsis which means you’ll have to encapsulate your story into a shorter form. Stay tuned for my next post on The One Page Synopsis.
Besides giving my own talk on “Book Promotion on a Budget” at the Florida Writers Association 2017 conference, I sat in on a couple of other presentations about book marketing. Here are some of the main points I gleaned. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.
If your book isn’t selling, you may need to:
Change the cover
Get more reviews
Write a letter to readers asking for reviews.
Continue to acquire reviews for backlist titles.
Aim for 100 reviews on Amazon to make an impact.
Evaluate your Amazon page
Check your keywords and categories.
Keyword strings work better than single keywords.
Note the sales rank of each category.
Examine your social media influence
Do you need to increase your engagement? This matters more than the number of followers.
Put your book out in multiple formats, not ebooks alone. Consider print and audiobooks.
Is your book in the right genre?
How relevant is your backlist title? Does it need an update and a fresh cover?
Are you marketing your book to the right audience?
Practice ebook price rotation. Ideal ebook pricing is $2.99 to $5.99. Shuffle your books in and out of sales promotions.
Plan a promotional campaign that includes Publicity, Online Promotion, Events, and Multimedia.
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Goodreads has nearly sixty million members and is where readers go to discover new books. In the Goodreads workshop at #RWA17, we learned about different marketing programs for authors and publishers. As an author, you want readers to add your book to their TBR (to-be-read) Shelf. Awareness leads to Shelvings which leads to Sales which leads to Reads. Your goal in doing a Goodreads Giveaway is to raise awareness and get shelvings.
Participate in Genre Week when you have the opportunity. Do creative things during this promotion to raise awareness, such as sharing your cover or a book excerpt. Create social media posts to drive readers to your site. Cross-promote with other authors. Run a Goodreads Giveaway during genre week. Offer a newsletter and blog posts to bring people in. Make sure you are subscribed to the Goodreads author newsletter to get notified of these opportunities.
Followers, and not friends, get notified when you have a new release. So tell people to follow you on Goodreads. If you’re doing a Rafflecopter contest, add Follow Me on Goodreads or Add [my book title] to your TBR List on Goodreads. Note what shelves readers are using to categorize your books. You can open a private group where you invite your fans to join and offer them exclusive content.
As for other tools, the Goodreads rep mentioned Kindle ebook giveaways, Daily Deals, Kindle Notes and Highlights, targeted emails and native ads. Some of these are only available to publishers. An ebook giveaway costs money, unlike a print book giveaway.
For my part, I’d recommend signing in as a Goodreads Author (or Librarian), so you can click the Edit Details button on your books and make changes. You can combine editions, choose a default edition, link your series books, or manually enter a new title if it’s available on Amazon. With an Author page, you can list your books and offer excerpts, link to your blog post feed, create events, and more. I’d suggest writing reviews for each book you read so that readers see you as one of their own. Join special interest groups and participate in discussions, but be careful to promote your book only in the sections allowed. Utilize the Ask-the-Author feature. It allows readers to ask you questions in a Q&A format. Do a print book Goodreads Giveaway when you have a new release coming up or to gain attention on a backlist title. So go to Goodreads with a good attitude and get involved.
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