My Favorite Promotion Strategy is to Write Every Day by Kathleen Heady

KinScotlandFor a new writer starting out in the business, the biggest hurdle is undoubtedly promoting the books. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have our first novel picked up by a major publisher who sets up a book tour and makes sure that novel is prominently displayed to customers walking into major bookstores. Do any publishers do that anymore?

So you tell yourself, and maybe your mother or husband and a couple of your friends that your book is being published. “Great!” they say, and kindly go out and buy a few copies for their friends. Now what? You have a few sales on that first book, but how do you keep the momentum going?

My best strategy after a book is released, and so far I have been lucky enough to have three novels that have been published, is to get back to the laptop and write some more. I know it sounds trite to say to write every day, but an hour of writing a day does much more than produce the rough draft of another novel. Writing every day means that you can say to yourself before you go to sleep at night, “I am a writer. I wrote today.” It changes your attitude and builds your confidence. When someone asks you what you are working on, you can give them an honest answer, although you don’t have to give away all your secrets and tell them the details. I carry my journal with me always, and have filled many spare minutes and hours in airports and coffee shops around the world by writing my thoughts and observations. I love writing descriptions of people I see and snippets of conversation that I might use in the future.

My second strategy for promotion is to join a writers’ group. My first three novels are in the mystery/suspense genre, so I am a member of Sisters in Crime, which is a national organization with local chapters all over the country. The company of other writers is stimulating and motivating, and as a group, I have found promotion opportunities that I would never have been able to pull off on my own. I have appeared with other members at book stores and libraries, and on panel discussions about mystery novels.

Little by little I am building a reputation as a writer, and my personal contacts along with the huge world of social media both help create a base of readers that I continually work to expand.

 

 

Kathleen Heady is a native of rural Illinois, but has lived and traveled many places, including numerous trips to Great Britain and seven years HotelSaintClarecoverliving in Costa Rica. Her third novel, Hotel Saint Clare, was released in June, 2014. She is also the author of Lydia’s Story and The Gate House, which was a finalist for an EPIC award in 2011.

Buy links:

 

ARE YOU LAZY OR JUST CLUELESS? by Sunny Frazier

Profile 2012I constantly hear authors say they don’t know how to grow a fan base. They tweet, blog, Face Book, email, subscribe to promotional services, blog-hop, all the tried and true methods recommended by the “experts.” They have built it—why isn’t anyone coming?

 

First, let me point out that if “everybody” is doing it, why be the same as everyone? The whole point is to stand out. I’ve heard it said that authors have imagination, yet it seems to me they turn creativity off when it comes time to promote.

 

I love promotion. Probably more than I like writing. I remember BI (before Internet) when it was hard to reach readers. We sent postcards and made the post office rich off all those stamps. Now the opportunities are endless. To me, it’s like throwing out a fishing line and see who bites. I love the challenge.

 

Now we get to the brass tacks and a few of my tricky tactics to build a fan base. First, identify what you don’t like with the promotion of others. Do you really have time to run over to every blog because the author begs you to read it? Unless they are a friend and you feel obligated, I’m going to guess the answer is no. Even if you do, how many times is it a waste, either stuff you’ve read before, thinly disguised self-promotion or just their boring personal musings. If you decide to blog-hop ask yourself “Do I have enough interesting material to keep people following me?” Is another free e-book going to make you rush to buy? I’m guessing you already have too many books on your Kindle that you’ll never read.

 

Now ask yourself what promotions grab your interest. I’m always drawn to great headlines. Maybe that comes from my past career as a journalist. If it makes me smile, I’m in. But, it has to be followed up by content. You have to have a fresh take so I can feel it was worth the 5 minutes to read the blog. I’ll sign up to follow, I’ll spread the word. You also have to have a personality and it can’t be boring. I tend to be plain-spoken and challenging. I want to poke the dragon and get a little fire.

 

I’ve done two smart things in my career and they have paid off. I realized early on that new authors were lost in the maze of the Internet. I blatantly promised that I could cut 5 years off their career path if they would just blindly follow my lead. I already monitored many sites and by sifting through them I saved new authors the work. I named this group “The Posse” and even made paper badges to wear. I taught them to support each other by running over to the blogs of other members and making comments. It was definitely noticed by blog hosts. Now we’re talking about having a Face Book page. What I created was a group that was very supportive of me.

 

The other thing I did was revive my Coming Attractions column. BI I did this column for my Sisters In Crime newsletter. I found out who was coming out with a book, announced and did a quippy blurb and gained the gratitude of authors. Now I do it over at Kings River Life and I have a much wider readership. I could leave it there, but that would be lazy. The editor offers a drawing for free books just by making a comment. I monitor who makes comments and contact them on Face Book to thank them for their comment. I also take notes on what sort of book they want to win. The next time that sort of book becomes available, I give them a heads up. An offer for a cozy cookbook garnered over 100 comments. Next time there’s a foodie mystery, I will make personal contact and let them know.

 

Let me ask you: if an author took the time to pay attention to you and your preferences, wouldn’t you be flattered? If that person remembers your feline’s name is Kit-Kat and asks after her health, wouldn’t it warm your heart? If someone made the effort to give you free publicity, wouldn’t you be grateful? It really takes no extra time to be aware. Aside from the fact that I enjoy doing this, I’m rewarded ten times over. I get reviews, interviews and meet fans at conferences. They want to thank me. And yes, they buy my books.

 

We’re all on social media but most think of it as a one-way street. I have no time or interest in listening to your pleas to buy your book.. But make the effort to get to know me as a person and I am more than willing to fork over a few dollars to support you.

 

Navy Veteran Sunny Frazier trained as a journalist and wrote for a city newspaper, military and law enforcement publications. After working 17 years with the Fresno Sheriff’s Department, 11 spent as Girl Friday with an undercover narcotics team, it dawned on her that mystery writing was her real calling. Her Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries are based on actual cases with a bit of astrology added, a habit Frazier has developed over the past 42 years.

For more, go to http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

front cover (2)A Snitch in Time

When sheriff’s department office assistant Christy Bristol Is visiting her friend Lennie in the Sierra Nevada foothills when a murder is committed. Christy is conscripted by the homicide team to handle the reports and the detectives put her up in an empty forest ranger’s cabin. As the body count grows it becomes apparent the killer is targeting undesirables in the town of Burlap. When a snitch calls Christy and accuses a deputy of the murders, Christy doesn’t know whether to believe the allegation. Could a killer be hiding behind his badge? Christy decides to solve the case her own way by using astrology to profile the killer but putting her own future at risk.

And time is running out.

 

Sydney and Me in Morocco by Kathleen Kaska

IMG_2661            Writing mysteries set in the past can be challenging. My Sydney Lockhart mystery series is set in the 1950s and to get the details right, I’ve amassed quite a collection of research material about that decade—books about fashion, music, entertainment, politics, economics, and more. And since each mystery takes place in an historic hotel, my research also involves getting a feel for the hotel as it was back then, which can be difficult since most of the places have been remodeled. I usually rely on hotel memorabilia, old photos, and old newspaper articles. Once in a while I find a concierge, like the gentleman at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, who’s become an on-site Menger historian, or the owner of the Luther Hotel in Palacios whose wife’s family were the original owners.

Despite the challenges, writing this series is great fun. I get to travel and spend time at these hotels. So far Sydney and I have found dead bodies in hotels from Hot Springs, Arkansas to Austin, Texas. I think, however, it’s about time to send Sydney someplace far, far way.

The other day I woke up thinking about Morocco. A few years ago I had the pleasure of spending two days in Tangier with my great friend and traveling partner Ruth. Of all the travel adventures I’ve experienced, these two days were the most exotic.

I retrieved my travel journal to reminisce and found the name of the hotel in which we had stayed. The El Minzah Hotel is in the Medina area in heart of the city with rooms overlooking the harbor on the Bay of Tangier. The hotel opened its doors in 1930, and although the rooms have been updated since my trip, my photos show a décor that could have easily dated back to the 1950s.

I began to wander further down memory lane. Ruth and I had hired a local guide named Abdullah to give us a tour. We spent the day exploring the Kasbah, the souk (market) historical sites, and some of the oldest, most intriguing shops in Tangier. As we wandered through the city, Ruth and I kept close to Abdullah for fear of becoming lost forever in the maze of streets darkened by shadows of tall edifices. We came upon a turbaned man crouched near several baskets. With a gentle shove from Abdullah, I took a peak. “Cobra!” the man said in English as he handed me a sedate reptile, which turned out to be a common grass snake. We snapped a few pictures, passed over a few coins, and continued on.

Next we stepped into the Boutique Majid. Our arrival was announced by tinkling brass bells draped over the doorknob. The dimly lit room, redolent of sweet, heavy incense, was tastefully cluttered with collectables both new and old. Abduel Majid Rais El Fenni, the owner, dressed in an embroidered robe and fez, proudly showed us around his treasure trove. Exquisite jewelry, engraved silver boxes, and chests inlaid with camel bone and gems were displayed in glass cabinets. Etchings and prints, cracked and yellowed with age, adorned the walls. Carved wooden furniture and silk carpets were stacked in aisles, creating a narrow path among the treasures. I purchased a pair of sixty-year old amethyst earrings and a garnet-studded silver pin before we bid farewell to our host. Abdullah deposited us back at our hotel at dusk.

The follwing day Ruth and I braved the city alone and found the Bazar Tindouf. At first glance the placed looked like a small antique shop. But the front room led to a back room, which led to another back a room, then another, and another. At the end of the labyrinth, we discovered stairs that took us into a basement full of more rooms that seemed to trail into oblivion. The shop owner claimed the underground portion of his shop wound for several blocks under the city.          Fearing we’d never find our way out, Ruth and I backtracked. We spent the next two hours pulling treasures off shelves, unearthing prizes hidden underneath tables, discovering drawers, cabinets, and trunks of junk we couldn’t live without. I left with an eighteen-inch high silver and lead impala sculpture, which now sets next to my desk, several ornate wooden boxes that hold stuff I don’t need, an a antique silver rope-bracelet that is still my favorite piece of jewelry and my most treasured find. Ruth’s most treasured find was a small lamp with a ghost-skin shade. We left the next day before we got into any serious trouble.

Serious trouble? That’s Sydney’s middle name. So now I’m thinking, should I send Sydney to the El Minzah Hotel? Silly question, but to make sure I get the hotel details just right, Sydney and I need to make the journey together.

Links:

http://www.kathleenkaska.comGalvezCover_Web_333x500

http://goo.gl/v2GOw5

http://www.leroyal.com/morocco/thecomplex.asp

 

Bio:

Kathleen Kaska writes the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. Her Sherlock Holmes and Alfred Hitchcock trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC Award in nonfiction.

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion by Marilyn (aka F.M.) Meredith

MarilynoncruiseThat’s what has been occupying a lot of my time lately.

I just finished a blog tour which everyone knows is time-consuming. I’ve been doing them for a long time, and my tips for a successful tour is this:

Ask your host if there is anything special they’d like you to write in your post. If they don’t have any ideas, come up with something different from what you’ve done for others.

If possible, send the post along with the bio, book blurb and attachments of the cover and yourself in the same email.

Change up the photos of yourself. If someone is following your tour, it’s fun for them to see different pictures of you. I like to include photos of me at different events like book fairs, speaking engagements, and on panels.

You could add other photos that have something to do with your book.

On the day your post is to appear on someone’s blog, be sure to leave a comment thanking them for hosting you.

Promote the blog everywhere, Facebook, Facebook groups. Twitter, and all the listserves you belong to.

Be sure to put the tour schedule with clickable links on your own blog.

Return to each blog several times a day that it appears and reply to comments left by others. Check it once or twice in the days to follow.

Do blog tours work? I wouldn’t do them if I didn’t think so. When I’m on a tour, I always get an uptick of sales. It’s also a way to get your name out there. On the tour I just finished, besides my loyal followers, I had many unique commenters—unfamiliar names who expressed interest in my latest book.  (I also think tours are fun.)

This is the book I was promoting, the latest in my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series: Violent Departures.ViolentDepartures

Blurb:

College student, Veronica Randall, disappears from her car in her own driveway, everyone in the Rocky Bluff P.D. is looking for her. Detective Milligan and family move into a house that may be haunted. Officer Butler is assigned to train a new hire and faces several major challenges.

Bio:

 

F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of over thirty published novels. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Besides having family members in law enforcement, she lived in a town much like Rocky Bluff with many police families as neighbors.

FinalRespects.best

One last bit of news, starting May 1 and on, the first book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series, Final Respects, will be free on Kindle. Why am I doing that? In hopes that after reading it, people will want to read the rest of the books in the series. I’ll come back to P.J. Nunn’s blog and let you know how it worked out.

 

Is Facebook of any use? by Judy Alter

darkerbackgroundMy teenage granddaughters never use Facebook. They’re constantly texting, and I think they’re on Instagram, though, Luddite that I am, I have only a vague idea about Instagram and what it does. One of my youngest daughter’s friends tried earnestly to explain it to me one night but it went in one ear and out the other.

I hear authors say that they no longer think Facebook is effective, it doesn’t boost sales, it’s a time suck, etc. I’m here to say that I’m a big fan of Facebook, even after more years than I care to count. I try to comment on several posts each day, to leave a post on my personal page and author page, and to post my daily blog. Yeah, I really do try to blog daily, though I miss some days when the well runs dry.

Here’s what I think Facebook can do for us as authors: give us a chance to connect with fans and to enlarge our pool of potential readers.

The wrong way to post on Facebook, to my mind, is to push your books constantly, to make your posts repetitive sales pitches or, should you get a good review or an award, endless BSP (blatant self-promotion). I rarely mention my books, although more often on my author page. My goal on Facebook is to present myself as a likeable person, someone people want to be friends with, someone they might go to lunch with. So I post about my dog, about a day at an antique mall, about something clever my local grandson said to me. Sometimes I post deep thoughts about things that concern me, from spiritual matters to economic and political.

I know both religion and politics are no-no for a lot of Facebook people and on a lot of blogs. But I feel it’s important, personally, to express my point of view. It doesn’t quite come to the evangelical tradition of witnessing, but it’s along the same vein. I have a friend who is vocal on Facebook about women’s rights, liberal politics (and the folly of conservatives), and matters of the Episcopal Church, in which she is deeply involved. But she also posts pictures and comments about her wonderful and extensive gardens, which include a chapel; pictures of her grandsons and dogs and cats; pictures of especially beautiful plants. She explained to me once that she didn’t want people to see her as just a harsh liberal but also as a nice person with a soft side. I’ve adopted her stance.

One of the nicest things I ever read in a review of one of my Kelly O’Connell mysteries was that the characters were comfortable, friendly, like people Desperate-for-Death-JAlter-MDyou’d meet in the grocery store. That’s the image I aim for on Facebook—friendly, casual, so that readers might say to themselves, “I like her. I think I’ll try one of her books.”

My blog is particularly important, and I’m pretty sure almost all my blog readers (150-200 a day) link to it through Facebook. People I know only casually stop me and say, “I enjoy your blog so much.” It took a long time to build to the point that I got comments but now I almost always get comments and likes. I do think that’s a great marketing tool, although I also hear some say blogs are as outdated as Facebook.

Some people say an author page is not worth the effort. I maintain one, though I suspect there is much audience overlap with my personal page. But I try to post on it several times a week, and I’m pleased with the statistics (if they can be trusted—many people claim they cannot, citing click farms in Asia, etc.). I get enough comments that I think it’s worth maintaining, and my comments there tend to be more about books, reading, etc. and less about my last trip to the grocery store. Do you really care?

As authors, most of us lead a fairly reclusive life, but I think it’s important to us and to our writing to stay in touch with world events. That’s another advantage of Facebook. It is a source of information for me. I once told my son-in-law that I wouldn’t buy pre-grated cheese because it has wood slivers in it. “And where did you hear that?” he asked. When I said Facebook, his sarcastic reply was, “Oh, of course. That makes it gospel.” I realize you have to take things on Facebook with a grain of salt and a huge dose of skepticism, but it’s sometimes the place where I first learn about major news events—such as the conviction of the Boston Marathon bomber or the horrendous doings in Ferguson, Missouri or the recent tragedy in South Carolina.

Facebook also provides moments of amusement and chances to catch up with friends. Some of the stuff on Facebook is silly, but a lot of it is downright funny, and I enjoy sharing posts, cartoons, and the like with individual friends that I think will enjoy them. I first got on Facebook as a way to keep in touch with my children—they’ve abandoned it, all except a couple, but I’m still there. Yes, it’s a time suck—but we all need self-discipline.

‘Scuse me now, I have to check Facebook before I go to sleep.

 

Coming May 5, 2015! Desperate for Death

Just when Kelly’s life has calmed, she faces yet another of life’s puzzles. Except the pieces in this one don’t fit. First the apartment behind her house is torched, then a string of bizzare “accidents” occur to set her off-balance. Who is stalking her? Where does the disappearance of a young girl and her disreputable boyfriend fit in? And why are two men using the same name? Is the surprise inheritance another part of the puzzle? At a time when she is most vulnerable, Kelly can’t make the pieces fit, but she knows she must protect her daughters. Before Kelly can get the whole picture, she helps the family of a hostage, rescues a kidnap victim and attends a wild and wonderful wedding.

Killing Me Softly by Sharon Woods Hopkins

Sharon and Bill Hopkins

Sharon and Bill Hopkins

I once participated on a panel called “Killing Me Softly” at a writers’ conference. It wasn’t about the 1973 Roberta Flack song, as I first thought. Rather, it was a lively discussion about what that title would mean relative to a mystery novel. Everyone on the panel concluded that that “Killing Me Softly” described cozy mysteries, since the “softly” meant that no hard-core descriptions of the acts of murder, mayhem or sex would appear on the page. We also vigorously agreed that cozies are indeed, mysteries. We all know another key element in a cozy is the amateur sleuth protagonist. Think Miss Marple as opposed to Inspector Poirot.

Why would a______ (fill in the blank with banker, horse trainer, cook, crossword puzzle champion, scrapbook shop owner, cheese shop owner, dressmaker, you name it) be solving a crime in the first place? And, honestly, would they be solving murders? That is a major “willing suspension of disbelief” element critical to all good amateur sleuth mysteries. Outstanding examples of this are the Camel Club mysteries by David Baldacci. Four unlikely partners are positive there is a growing conspiracy in Washington, when, in fact, nothing is going on. Until, something terrible really does happen.

The reader needs a believable reason for the sleuth’s involvement.

One reason could be that the police don’t believe a there is a murder. The sleuth knows otherwise, but the police won’t believe him/her. This was the case in my first Rhetta McCarter mystery, Killerwatt, where Rhetta discovered a terrorist plot, and no one believed her. Another reason could be that the sleuth himself/herself or a best friend is a suspect in the murder. That was how Rhetta got involved in Killerfind.

Yet another reason could be that a chain of events begins happening that only the amateur sleuth knows about, and is therefore the only one who can stop it.

The point is that the involvement of the amateur has to be believable. The normal horse trainer, banker, etc., isn’t a professional and probably gets in the way of the police who are trying to solve the murder. Giving the amateur a reason to be there is vital to holding the story together.

When a waitress’ ex-husband dies of food poisoning while eating in the restaurant where she works, she becomes the suspect. She knows she is innocent, but the police arrest her. The only person who believes her is her best friend. And so on. The best friend becomes the sleuth. Or, if the waitress is out on bail, she may become the sleuth.

Perhaps the amateur has information that no one else believes. He/she is compelled to move forward and act on it if no one else (read: authorities) will.

I’ve read hundreds of amateur sleuth mysteries. Some are terrific, some not too good. I love the good ones so much that I chose to create an amateur sleuth series. My protagonist is mortgage banker. She is always a reluctant participant. She always gets in the way. And so far, she has always solved the cases.

Another element that the amateur sleuth mystery needs is that the protagonist must have a day job. Since they are not professional detectives or cops, sleuths need a visible means of support—unless, of course, they are retired and solving murders in retirement homes. Myrtle Clover, heroine of Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Myrtle Clover Mysteries is an octogenarian. And quite the humorous character, to boot.

Which brings to mind another element: How old should the sleuth be? That has been a debatable issue for a very long time. I’ve had agents tell me that my female protag shouldn’t even be in her forties. That’s too old, many of them said. Hold on. Who are the readers? Only people under forty? Which segment of the population is growing the fastest? Seniors. Which segment of the population has the most disposable income? Baby Boomers.  Most, if not all folks 50+ are very tech savvy and love e-readers, iPhones, iPads, and so on.

So now we have a profile of the cozy mystery and the amateur sleuth of today. He/she can be middle aged, or older, or even retired. But he/she has to have a darn good reason to solve a murder. Or it isn’t quite believable.

 

Sharon Hopkins is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Southeast Missouri Writers’ Guild, and the Missouri Writers’ killergroundGuild. Her short story, DEATH BEE HUMBLE, appeared in the SEMO Writer’s Guild Anthology for 2012, and her story, REARVIEW MIRROR appeared in That Mysterious Woman anthology in 2014. Her first three Rhetta McCarter books, KILLERWATT, KILLERFIND and KILLERTRUST were all finalists in the Indie Excellence Awards.

Her fourth book, KILLERGROUND, was released April 15, 2015. All her books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at bookstores.

WHAT MAKES THE ROCKY BLUFF P.D. MYSTERY SERIES UNIQUE? by Marilyn Meredith

Marilyninpensivemood_edited-1

This is a question I hope I can answer adequately. I suspect every author of a series believes it is different than others in the same genre.

The following is what I think makes the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series unique:

  1. The series has a cast of characters who progress through each book.
  2. The focus may change to a different character in subsequent books—though Detective Doug Milligan has had the lead the majority of the time.
  3. Because of #2, the point-of-view changes from character to character through-out the books, but you won’t have any trouble following it.
  4. Though it’s basically a police procedural it is much milder than many—no bad language or explicit sex. Some have called it a cozy police procedural—but it doesn’t have the requisites for a cozy.
  5. Time moves on, but at a slower pace than real time. Usually the next book starts where the last book ended.huenemebeachislands
  6. The setting is a fictional small beach community in Southern California between Ventura and Santa Barbara.
  7. The focus is as much on the characters as it is about solving crimes.
  8. It isn’t necessary to read the series from the beginning. Each book is written to be complete. Of course it makes me happy when someone does want to start at the beginning.

Perhaps one of the blog readers who has read one or more of my Rocky Bluff P.D. series might have a comment to make about this subject. I’d love to hear a RBPD reader’s opinion.

  1. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith

ViolentDeparturesBlurb for Violent Departures:

College student, Veronica Randall, disappears from her car in her own driveway, everyone in the Rocky Bluff P.D. is looking for her. Detective Milligan and family move into a house that may be haunted. Officer Butler is assigned to train a new hire and faces several major challenges

 

Bio:

F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of over thirty published novels. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Besides having family members in law enforcement, she lived in a town much like Rocky Bluff with many police families as neighbors.

 

Contest:

 

Because it has been popular on my other blog tours, once again I’m offering the chance for the person who comments on the most blog posts during this tour to have a character named for him or her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.

 

Or if that doesn’t appeal, the person may choose one of the earlier books in the series—either a print book or Kindle copy.

 

Links:

Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com/

Blog: http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://facebook.com/marilynmeredith

My blog tour ends tomorrow with a final interview: http://blog.jamesmjackson.com/