Cracking Discoverability

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We continue with my recap of panels and workshops at SleuthFest. These are my interpretations and notes, and any misstatement is my error. Photos are viewable from my Facebook Page. Like my page, then click on Photos, Albums, and SleuthFest 2014.

“Cracking Discoverability” with Terry Odell, Neil Plakcy, Eileen Robertson, Peggy Hanson, and Sandra Balzo as moderator.

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Find your public and reach out to them. Look for mystery listserves like Dorothy L and 4 Mystery Addicts, and join their discussions to establish a presence. Check out groups on Goodreads and LinkedIn for mystery readers. Look for book blogs. Check out Novel Spot for readers.

Terry said, “The key to social networks is being social.” Don’t push your book. You want people to like your post and then they will look up your books.

Peggy gets a lot of hits posting about her cats so she agrees with Terry. “PR stuff is very hard, but if you present yourself as a person, people may become interested in you as a writer.”

Eileen belongs to a group of women mystery writers, and they tour together for events. “The reader is far more important than the writer.” And even if they get your book at the library, then they’ll want to read the rest of your works.

According to Terry, “The best thing you can do on Facebook is to share.” She mentions Rafflecopter for contests and then discussed how to get your Facebook friends to migrate to your Facebook page. Ask them periodically to Like your page.

Neil discussed what makes a good newsletter. You can pepper in short chunks of research, fun and interesting facts, sneak peeks at your next work, giveaways, contests with prizes including other authors’ books. Get readers onto your blog with recipes, pets, or other interesting tidbits.

Friday Lunch Keynote Speaker Ace Atkins

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Ace discussed his road to publication and how he kept persisting. You get knocked down, you get back up and listen how to improve your work. Get out to meet people, real people related to your work. If you’re not passionate about the material and love it, think about why you’re in this business. Leave out the stuff people skip over and get to the story. Listen to people talk to learn to write dialogue. Don’t watch television to learn.

Examine who you’re targeting when you submit to an editor. What are their tastes and interests?

Don’t ever stop writing. If it’s not working, start something else. Keep going. If an agent or editor aren’t working out, move on. Always keep the book going. You’ll only get better.

Coming Next: Editors Roundtable

 

 

 

Business Card Protocol

“Never leave home without it.” American Express uses this advertising slogan but it can well apply to your life as a writer, too. Always carry bookmarks, postcards, or business cards with you. You never know when the opportunity will arise to pass them out.

Today, we met up outside the post office with a former colleague of my husband’s whom he hasn’t seen in years. The men got to chatting. When the friend mentioned how he listened to audio books on his trips north, I whipped out my card. Ah ha, a booklover, I thought! Even though my mysteries are not available in audio formats (and I have asked for my rights back, in case you are wondering, but the publisher is hanging onto them), I figured he might look up my works or pass the card along to his wife.

Then I went shopping for some black leather gloves to take to New York City, when I go there next month for my orientation as President for Florida Chapter of MWA. I gave the saleslady a business card in exchange for my receipt. She was delighted to meet an author. So maybe I scored two readers out of today’s excursions, who knows?

It’s easier to carry a business card than other formats in your purse or pocket, so what should you include? I buy my cards at Vistaprint and use their templates. That makes things simpler. Since I brand myself as a Florida author, the palm tree motif suits my needs just fine.

Side One

You could put your book cover on side one and the information on the other. But I use my first side to introduce who I am as an author.

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Here you’ll find my tag line, social links to Twitter and Facebook, my Website and Blog URLs, plus my email address. In the early days, I listed my PO Box address and phone number. I wouldn’t do this anymore. Few people contact me this way now. However, I do keep a couple of those cards around for conferences or events where I might make contact for a possible speaking engagement. I’ll hand those people the cards with my phone number. Everyone else gets this card, and I carry them everywhere.

Side Two

This is where the book info goes: title, author name, series, ISBNs, formats and buy links. I provide QR codes that take readers either to my Website or my Amazon author page.

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What is a QR code? It’s a box with encoded information that sends customers to a page online where they obtain information or perform an action. The site may be a URL or may show text such as an excerpt from your latest book. Smartphone users must download a free QR reader app to scan the codes. How do you get your own code? Type “QR Code Generator” into your search window. Go to the site and follow directions. Save your code as a picture file to your computer. Make sure you label what it is so you can remember. Then use it on your printed promotional materials.

Since I write in two genres, I’ve put one mystery book cover and one romance book cover on my business cards. My latest title is the one that’s usually featured (Warrior Prince isn’t my latest, but you get the idea). Once you have the template on Vistaprint, it’s easy to substitute new book covers and data.

Besides handing out your business cards at conferences or putting them on your book signing table, what else can you do with these items? Stick them in the bills that you still snail mail to the vendor. Hand one with your restaurant receipt to the waitress. Give one to the post office clerk, people you meet at parties, anyone who mentions they like to read. One thing I do not stoop to doing is approaching strangers who are reading. I don’t care to intrude. Otherwise, blatant self-promotion is the rule. Don’t be afraid to toot your horn.

What do you put on your business cards?

 

Time Management for Writers

How do you balance writing with online promotion? Marketing efforts take hours on the Internet. How can you keep up with tweets, Facebook posts, Pinterest, and more?

I am always asked this question whenever I give talks. It’s not easy to strike a balance. Often the online business takes over. But here are my Four Rules to guide you.

(1) Writing Comes First.

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Set yourself a daily writing or revision quota. When I am writing, I must complete 5 pages a day or 25 pages per week. When I’m doing self-edits, I try for a chapter a day but that doesn’t always work out. Either way, I must move forward with my current project.

Finish at least half of your quota before allowing yourself to check email. Or if you must, do a quick email check first to get it off your mind.

Limit your time online or you’ll get sucked into cyberspace. Go offline after the allotted time and return to your writing. Finish your daily quota. Then you can have the rest of the day free for social networking, meeting friends, or whatever suits your fancy.

(2) If things get too hectic, take Time Out.

Planning a blog tour, tweeting about a new release, guest blogging on another website, and running a contest? Does this make you nuts? Does it make your breathing come short and your pulse race? Time to calm down. Do something fun for thirty minutes. Take a walk, polish your nails, read a cooking magazine, play with your pet, listen to music. When you feel calmer, go back to work.

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(3) Set aside time just for marketing.

If things are building to an intolerable level, you may need to take a few days off to focus solely on promotion. Prioritize your projects. What needs to get done first? Tackle one thing at a time. Do you have to get your next email newsletter ready to go? Do it. Need to plan a Rafflecopter contest? Fill out the form. Have two weeks of blogs to write for an upcoming virtual tour? Decide upon your topics and write drafts for each one. Accomplishing a few of the items on your promotional campaign list will help you feel more in control.

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(4) Realize that life interferes. It’s going to happen, so take the time you need to deal with strife, and don’t feel guilty about being away from the computer. It happens to everyone. You’ll get your mojo back when the time comes. If not, you’ll find something else to bring your life meaning. We follow different paths throughout life. Yours may take you in another direction.

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Today is an example of how I work these rules. I did a few pages of revision this morning for about an hour. Then I allowed myself to scan my email. I answered the few items that needed a personal reply, and then shut off my Outlook program. I took a walk. Did more pages. Went on the exercise bike. Line edited some more. Peeked at email again. Back to the chapter. Finally, I finished my page quota for the day. It’s only 12:30 pm, but I started at 4:30 am. And now I’m writing this blog. Oops, the lawn guy is here and I need to talk to him. Big distraction. Go out, have discussion, back to work on blog. And so on through the afternoon. I could work, or I could go out with friends or my husband and take time off without any guilt. Because the writing comes first. When that’s done, all the rest is gravy.

Remember to visit our site over at Booklover’s Bench where I’ve joined with several other writers to offer contests, excerpts, and more.

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Also, please sign up for my quarterly email newsletter. I’ve an issue coming out April 26 and there’s a bonus subscriber drawing for some free books by my fellow BB authors. Look in the left sidebar on my Website for the sign-up form.

How do you balance your writing time with promotion?

Outside the Box Marketing

How can you raise your readership and increase your book sales? Today at the MWA-FL Chapter meeting, Joanna Campbell Slan spoke on Promoting Outside of the Box. Joanna is the author of three mystery series, including the Kiki Lowenstein books and her newest Jane Eyre mystery, Death of a Schoolgirl. Joanna offered tips on increasing visibility online as she explained what works for her. Here are some ideas I gleaned from her excellent presentation:

End each book with a hook. You’ll want your story to have a satisfactory ending, but include an element that will make the reader anxious for the sequel.

In between your regular releases, offer short stories or novellas in digital formats and for a low price. Relate the titles clearly to your series.

Include a list of titles in series order in your works whenever possible. Also add links to all your social networking sites, plus consider links to other sites relating to your story.

If you are self-publishing, ask for Beta readers on your Facebook page. Request that these people do not share the file and that they consider putting a review on Amazon when the book is available online.

Give readers suggestions on how to help when you answer their fan mail, i.e. “Please share with your friends” or “This book would make a great gift.”

Five star reviews on Amazon help readers who search for these ratings to find your books. Encourage your fans to spread the word and contribute to positive customer reviews.

Create an account on Pinterest and put up your book covers there.

When you do posts on Facebook, start the update with a headliner type line or an intriguing sentence that will catch attention.

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These are all great suggestions. Now if only I had a clone to implement them! Thanks, Joanna, for a great session.

Free Writers Marketing Camp

Marketing Summer Camp July 14-15, 2012

Marketing Summer Camp is a free, two-day online conference designed to help authors learn the basics of marketing and promotion, and to fine tune skills already obtained. It will include guest speakers, pitch opportunities, prizes, top giveaways, and plenty of learning and fun. It will be held on the Yahoo group, Marketing for Romance Writers. Membership is open to published as well as non-published authors, editors, publishers, literary agents, author promotion services, cover artists, and virtual assistants. MFRW members are automatically signed up for Camp. If you want to take a particular course, read the messages posted with that title of the class. If you want to skip that class, don’t read them. It’s going to be that easy. Handouts and goody bags will be up for grabs once the conference begins. Giveaways include advertising packages, blog tours, and more. Discounts on services will also be available for all attendees.

PITCH APPOINTMENTS
There will be pitch appointments with multiple publishers for camp attendees. These will take place after camp so you don’t have to miss classes.

Sign up NOW by joining the group: http://is.gd/mfrwgroup

To learn more:
Website: http://is.gd/mfrworg
Paperli: http://is.gd/mfrwpaperli
Newsletter: http://is.gd/mfrwnews
Facebook group: http://is.gd/mfrwfb
Marketing Camp Schedule: http://is.gd/mfrw_camp_hours

The MFRW Friends of Romance Award is presented to companies seeking to aid authors with promotion at little or no cost, and to offer affordable programs. In 2012 they are: The Romance Studio, Romance Junkies, and CoffeeTime Romance. The award is one way we can help authors and publishers save money and obtain ethical and excellent service. http://marketingforromancewriters.org/friends.htm

PRINTED PROMO MATERIALS

A writer can spend days preparing for a new release in terms of printed promo materials. Should you do bookmarks, postcards, or flyers? Tri-fold brochures, business cards, or posters? As more publicity is gained on the Internet, you’d think we could decrease this expense. However, readers still like bookmarks. Postcards are handy to put on promo tables or in goody bags at conferences. Brochures are useful when you give talks so the audience can learn more about you. Flyers or posters work for libraries and bookstores where you’ve scheduled an event. So where to start?

Here are eight points to consider when making your plans:

WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH THE ITEM?

 

Deciding what you want the item for will help you choose what to buy. Do you want something to keep in your purse that you can whip out when you meet someone and they ask what you do? Think business card with book cover on one side and book info on the other. Or a bookmark. Do you want something that will stand out on conference promo tables (other than imprinted cutsie items like letter openers, notepads, pens, etc.)? Think glossy postcards. What about talks where you have the chance to reach a larger audience? You can put your items on each chairs if you are the sole speaker or offer them at the table with your books for sale. Bookmarks and brochures work well for this venue. Or will you snail mail your reading list? Then postcards or tri-fold brochures are a must. Consider ordering return address labels with a preformatted design and your name, book title, and website, or your one liner tag line. These are good for sealing envelopes. Bookmarks and business cards are useful for sticking in envelopes if you still pay bills this way. So decide the function of your item and that will help you make a choice.

WHEN SHOULD I ORDER MY MATERIALS?

 

My book isn’t due out for another six months and yet I already have bookmarks and brochures. Why? Because I have several speaking engagements and a conference coming up, and I want to promote my upcoming title. So it’s never too soon to order your materials as long as you have the prerequisite data.

WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED?

 

Besides the title and author, you’ll want a book cover image usually in jpg format with good resolution, ISBN number, price, format (i.e. mass market, trade paperback, digital edition, etc.), publisher, release date, and how to order. You can restrict ordering to your publisher or say “Available at all retail and online bookstores.” Including your website is essential. Adding other contact info like email address, blog site, Twitter, Facebook, and so on is optional. Usually I offer my website, email, blog, and business address. What else? Depends on the item. Blurb about your book. Back cover copy. Review quotes. Excerpt. Backlist titles. What’s coming next. Short author bio. Recipes or fun tips that apply to your theme. These are optional. Just remember to include the basics.

WILL YOU NEED A DESIGNER?

 

Whether or not you have to hire a designer depends on how talented you are with graphic design and what programs you have on your computer. I use WordPerfect to design my bookmarks in terms of what I want to include on each side, but then I need a designer to add a background that compliments my book cover and to place the text appropriately. I also use WordPerfect to do a tri-fold brochure, and then I have double-sided copies made and folded at one of the office stores. It’s cheaper than hiring a company to do a glossy brochure and works for me just as well. Re postcards, I can put what I want on each side using Word but then I’d need a designer to fit the cover and text into the appropriate template, so I’d have to hire someone for postcards.

WHAT PRINTING SERVICE SHOULD YOU USE?

If you’re handy with templates and following directions, you can use a service like Vistaprint or Printplace.com. You’ll definitely save money. But if you need help, consider companies who are reasonably priced and offer designer services like Earthly Charms and Twig One Stop.

WHAT TYPE OF FINISH DO YOU WANT?

Do you intend to sign the materials or just hand them out? Do you want your items to stand out with a high gloss finish? If you want to sign them, a matte finish is best. Or you can do glossy on one side and matte on the other. Collect a sampling of other authors’ items from your friends or at your next conference and check out what appeals to you. Cardstock is another factor to consider. The heavier the weight, the more solid the item will feel to your readers. If my research is correct, Twig One Stop uses 12 pt cardstock which has worked fine for me in the past with a matte finish. This time my bookmarks from Earthly Charms is 14 pt cardstock with gloss on one side. This means I can only sign the back, and honestly, a nice matte would have worked fine on both sides. Bookmark size is another factor. How much info do you want to include? Again, look at bookmarks you’ve collected and see what size appeals to you.

HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU BUDGET?

If you plan to print your own materials using Avery templates from the local office store, count in the cost of the labels and ink and compare the number of items (i.e. 1000) to the cost if you ordered from a print service. Obviously, if you have a generous advance, you can go hog wild and order whatever you want. If your budget is limited, order only what you think you’ll need. You can always order a reprint if you need more, and the template then will be done so you won’t need to pay the designer fee again. Don’t forget to add in tax and shipping when comparing prices. Also, if you plan to make copies at the local office store, stop by and ask how much for 100 copies? 1000? Black and White? Color? Double sided? Look in the newspaper for discount coupons on Copy & Print services and then decide which is the best place to get your work done for the best price. I had my brochures copied at Office Depot because I got 25% off and their price was lower anyway than FedEx Office.

HOW MANY SHOULD YOU ORDER?

If you want to send promo items to conferences, you’ll need to think in terms of bundles of 50 to 100 items per conference and thus you’ll need to order a larger amount. Twig One Stop has a Publishers Package for $435. This includes 5000 each bookmarks, postcards, and business cards (with either standard contact info or your book promo info). That cost does not include the services of their designer, which you’ll need, or tax and shipping. Yes, you may have lots of items left over, but it could end up being cheaper than 1000 each bookmarks and 1000 postcards together. For example, ordering those separately at Earthly Charms would total approx. $432 including designer, tax, and shipping. For $435, plus designer fee, tax and shipping, you can get so much more. So think about how many items you need to get started and do your homework.

IT’S EXCITING when your printed materials arrive in the mail or you take them home from the print shop. Now you have something to hand out whenever you meet people on the street, in the store, or at your next conference. Wait until you have the essential data about your book and a cover jpg, research the options, and then don’t be shy about offering your new bookmark or brochure or postcard to whomever you meet.