Authors have all sorts of administrative tasks, from answering emails, to fielding workshop requests, to creating book ads, to keeping up with social media and writing blogs. These behind-the-scenes duties can keep us busy from morning to night.
When I’m in a creative phase, the writing comes first. But right now, I am taking a moratorium from writing to get these other jobs done. Yesterday, I spent the morning updating all the buy links on my website. This was necessary since I’ve added my full-length Bad Hair Day mysteries to Ingram. Readers should be able to order the entire set in print at their local indie bookstore. The paperback editions are also available at Barnes and Noble, but they have to be ordered online because they’re coming from another distributor.
Meanwhile, I finished the final proofing for my first futuristic romance trilogy that required substantial editing. I’d written these traditionally published books years ago and needed to bring them up to my current standards. These will need new covers and reformatting. Hiring a cover designer is next on my agenda. If I have to help search for images, that could take hours. At least I already have a concept in mind for each series. I’ve also asked ACX for my audiobooks to go non-exclusive so I can put them “wide” in terms of distribution. Once I get the rights cleared, I’ll kick this project into gear.
Price promotions and box sets are on the horizon also, but these will involve a learning curve. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but had to get all my books uploaded first.
As you can see, these are full-time tasks. Once they are completed, I can move on to new works. Or maybe by then, this virus will be gone and I’ll want to enjoy life and being a grandma. Who knows? At the moment, we have to take things day-by-day.
Thankfully, as a writer, this doesn’t mean much in the way of adjustment. Our normal routine is to stay home in front of the computer. Since we are in forced isolation, we can get even more done if we focus on our work and not the daily news. So batten down your hatches. Make a list of all these nagging tasks you’ve been meaning to do as a writer. And get to work! Use this time to your advantage. What will be the first item on your list?
Goodreads is where readers go to share their reviews and to discover new books. As an author, you want readers to add your book to their TBR (to-be-read) shelf. Shelvings can lead to Sales that can lead to Reads and hopefully Reviews. Your goal is to raise awareness of your book and entice readers to buy it. Goodreads should be a part of your book promotion campaign.
1. Sign 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, add a book cover, 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, link to your blog post feed, create events, and more.
2. Search for Goodreads author promotions so you can take advantage of them. Or run a Goodreads Giveaway. These cost money but can be effective to raise awareness of your upcoming release.
3. Followers, and not friends, get notified when you have a new book launch. So ask people to follow you on Goodreads. If you’re doing a Rafflecopter contest, add Follow Me on Goodreads as an option. Add this link to all your social media posts and sites.
4. Since Goodreads is primarily for readers, contribute reviews for each book you read so that other readers accept you as one of their own. It’ll also help get your name out there when it shows on your update feed.
5. Join special interest groups and participate in discussions, but be careful to promote your book only in the sections allowed. Read the guidelines before you post about your own books.
6. Utilize the Ask-the-Author feature. It allows readers to ask you questions in a Q&A format.
7. On the Home page, click on General Update and add your contest news, book release info, or anything else you wish to promote.
Back to the launch dates. Why so far away? Because launching a book takes more than polishing your manuscript to perfection. It means soliciting reviewers and giving them time to read the book. It means planning a book launch party, writing blog posts, scheduling a virtual book tour, creating memes, reserving ads, ordering print materials, and much more. A lot of work and time goes into marketing a new book. This is also the reason to allow some space between releases. After a book is launched, you still need to promote it on social media, continue your guest blogs and in-person speaking engagements, collect and post reviews. You might run a sale on a backlist title or offer a giveaway. So it’s wise to allow for some breathing space between book release dates.
A Bad Hair Day Cookbook will be ready for pre-order soon, and I’ll be sharing the awesome cover with you in an upcoming post. This would be a great gift for your holiday gift bags, and remember to order one for yourself as well.
I will have a limited supply of digital review copies for the cookbook. Please notify me if you have any interest in being added to my list of potential reviewers. I ask for reviews to be posted on Amazon, plus BN, Apple, and/or Goodreads. Spotlights are also welcome on your blog site, in which case I’ll send you an info sheet alone. If you’ve reviewed my books before, you’ll get priority. Please add these release dates to your calendars.
Is it worthwhile for published authors to enter writing contests? That depends upon your goal. Here are the pros and cons for you to consider before entering your book in a contest. These are paid competitions, where judges actually read your work, and not the ones at conferences where people vote on their favorite books or authors.
Gain exposure for your work to new readers
Potential to call yourself an award-winning author
Placement as a semi-finalist or finalist will provide a sense of validation
A winner’s badge will add prestige to your credentials
The contest fees can be high
Entering contests may be time-consuming
Winning awards won’t help you sell books
Low scores, if feedback is provided, can be demoralizing
Prestigious awards are offered in every genre. In the mystery/thriller field, we have MWA’s Edgars® and the International Thriller Writers contest, the Thriller Awards Competition. These books are read by dedicated judges. Mystery conferences like Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic have contests, but your book has to be nominated and voted on by attendees.
States also have writing awards you can enter, and so do smaller regional or chapter conferences. For example, there’s the Florida Book Awards competition in my state.
How do you decide which contests to enter? Consider these factors:
• Sponsoring Organization: Will readers or fellow authors recognize this award? Do you care?
• Judges: Are they readers, booksellers, librarians, or other authors?
• Prize: This is a prime consideration since you’ll be spending money to enter the contest. Is it worth the entry fee and effort merely to get a certificate if you win? What types of publicity come along with the award? Do the promises of cash and exposure to industry professionals ring true? Will you get a plaque, medallion, lapel pin, or trophy? Do you have to be present to accept your award, or will the sponsors mail it to you? A digital badge is useful, because you can add it to your book cover and website and use it in your promotional posts. Are printed award stickers available for your print books if you don’t want to redo your cover?
• Cost in Entry Fee: These can range from $25 to over $100 to enter. See if there’s an early bird discount and try to get your book in before then.
• Book Requirements: Does the contest require physical books, which will cost postage, or digital entries?
• Competition: Are there multiple categories so your subgenre is represented, or is one general category applied? For example, can you enter for best cozy mystery or amateur sleuth novel rather than best mystery novel? You’ll have a better chance with narrower categories.
• Categories: Some contests tempt you by offering additional categories with your submission for a reduced fee. Be careful of your spending as costs will add up. Is this to your benefit or more to the contest organizers who make money from each submission?
• Past Experience: If you’ve entered a contest two or three years in a row and your books never place in the finals, or reach the finals but never win, it might be time to save money and move on. Perhaps their judges just don’t appreciate your subgenre or style.
Keeping Track of Entries
How do you find these lesser known contests? Follow your author colleagues and see what contests they’re entering. Look on Facebook at your author friends sites for announcements of contest wins. Also check your local writing organization newsletter. Make a list for your book title of which contests might be appropriate to enter. Be sure to check for your work’s eligibility, entry deadlines, fees, judges and prizes.
When you enter, make a note of the contest name, the sponsor, the costs, the categories you’re entering, the date of submission, the format or number of copies sent, and the dates when finalists and winners will be announced.
Making the semi-finals or finals of a contest where your book is evaluated against other works is an ego boost. It’s not easy to place against potentially hundreds of other authors, so consider it a well-earned reward if you do place in the top tier. Here are some of the badges I’ve earned and can proudly display on my website book pages.
If the award doesn’t come with a badge, hire a graphic designer to create one for you or make your own.
Be happy to accept your kudos where you can get them and post about your successes. We want to celebrate with you.
This is Part 10 in my Self-Publishing Made Simple blog series.
The Library Market
What format do libraries prefer?
Librarians responded to one author’s query stating they preferred trade paperback in large print over hardcover books, because hardcovers were heavier, more expensive, took up more space on the shelves, and were difficult to hold for older patrons. This may not be true across the board, but it’s something to keep in mind. You might want to conduct your own survey.
Library of Congress Control Number
Libraries use the Library of Congress number to organize their materials. This program allows them to catalog books before they’re published and to add the digital record to their computer search program.
If you have an imprint that buys ISBNs from Bowker, you can set up an account with the LOC. You cannot, as an individual, order a number for a book. You have to buy at least 10 ISBNs. Publishers must list a U.S. city as place of publication on the title or copyright page.
Apply online through the small press option at https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/ about two to four weeks before you go to final formatting. You’ll need to assign your ISBN number first, because LOC will ask for the title and ISBN. They email you the LOC number and how you should put it on the copyright page.
Be aware that getting a Library of Congress Control Number does not guarantee the LOC will catalog your book. If they choose not to, when a librarian plugs your number into their system, they will pull up a blank entry.
Items that are NOT eligible include works under fifty pages unless it’s children’s literature, E-books, mass market paperbacks, books that have already been published, and more. Complete list is here: https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/about/scope.html
Getting Your Book Into Libraries
You can help make your print book available to librarians by offering a discount through IngramSpark and by listing your book in their new release catalog. You can also offer it through Baker & Taylor at Draft2Digital. Having an LOC number is an optional choice.
See if your county or city library system accepts books by local indie authors. Some have special programs just for this purpose. Offer to give talks and participate in panel discussions to get to know your librarians. For e-books, make sure your book is available through Overdrive. See Part 6 below.
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. GIVEAWAY Enter Here Aug 9 – 23 to win a signed advance reading copy of TRIMMED TO DEATH, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
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.
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
Winning awards Big author endorsements
Making the “Best of” lists
Getting into Gift Guides
Writing a Great Book Having a Professional Product
ENTER HERE to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.
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
Enter Here to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.