THE GREAT E-BOOK CONTROVERSY, by E. E. Smith

eesmith revised(from Not Born Yesterday on Psychology Today) 

The technology in today’s world would have seemed “Buck Roger-ish” back in the day when telephones plugged into the wall, and a “text” was a schoolbook. Think of all the new terms that have come into the language since then, too:  Internet, laptop, e-mail, upload, download, website, I-Pad, Wi-Fi, SmartPhone, and e-book, to name a few.

 

 

An article on the latter — e-books — appeared in our newspaper a while ago. It was a pro and con debate, two views on the subject, written by a couple of spunky high school kids. The Pro side called e-books “an eco-friendly approach to reading,” the Con took the position that “e-books provide readers with limited options.”

 

 

The Pro argument went like this:

 

 

(1) E-books are eco-friendly because they save on the number of trees being cut down for paper. Statistics show that the world consumption of that commodity has grown 400 percent in the last 40 years. What’s not to like about slowing down tree genocide?

 

 

(2) An e-reader, such as a Kindle from Amazon or a Nook from Barnes & Noble, weighs less than the average printed book and can hold 100 times more material. Think of carrying all that around in your backpack!

 

 

(3) The condition of the books on an e-reader remain the same no matter how many times you read them. Your dog can’t chew them up, you can’t ruin them by spilling coffee on them or leaving them out in the rain.

 

 

(4) Despite the initial cost of an e-reader, they are economical, too, because books are cheaper to purchase — a fraction of the cost of a print edition — and many websites give away books as bundle discounts or simply for free. Try asking your local bookstore for that kind of a deal!

 

 

Conclusion: E-books make more sense, ecologically and economically, in modern times.

 

 

The Con side of the debate had this to say:

 

 

(1) It’s true that e-readers are one of the must-haves in the world of “techno-gadgets,” but there are a few facts to consider before going digital.

 

 

(2) Want to share a favorite book with a friend? With a printed copy you simply hand it over and hope to get it back someday. Unless you are willing to part with your pricey Kindle or Nook for the time it takes him to read it, you can’t do it.

 

 

(3) Although there are people who buy books as investments, the average person only wants to read them a single time. This means that borrowing from the library or buying used is a better deal than paying up to $9.99 to view them once on your Kindle. Add in the initial price of the e-reader and it’s costly, especially If you read a lot.

 

 

(4) There is no limit to where, or how long, you can read a printed book. E-readers can only be used so long before their batteries need recharging. And some have screens that can’t be used in direct sunlight. For people who like to read at the pool or the beach, an e-reader just won’t cut it.

 

 

(5) And then there’s the look, and the feel  of a printed book with a hard cover, a shiny dust jacket, and real paper pages that you turn yourself. E-readers may look flashy, but they can’t compete with all that.

 

 

Conclusion:  E-books limit your options, compared to “real” books.

 

 

I agree with the “Con” position, preferring the look and feel of a “real” book to reading one off a screen, but times change.  Now all my own books, BoardinghouseStewcoverincluding those originally in hard cover, are available only in digital.  Grudgingly, I bought a Kindle “Fire” and put them all on it, including the latest, a new edition of Boardinghouse Stew It contains dozens of photographs, many in color, and that’s where I notice an advantage over the print edition. The backlighting on the Kindle seems to lift them right off the page.

 

 

Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?

 

 

 

 

 

E.E. (Evelyn Eileen) Smith lives close to her native San Francisco, in the “Wine Country” of northern California. She became a professional writer after retiring from earlier careers as an architectural designer and a litigation paralegal. Known primarily as a playwright at first — her plays have been produced in Massachusetts, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and both northern and southern California — she later became a novelist. A New Edition of the first novel, Boardinghouse Stew, along with the sequel, Times Like These, was published in 2011. In Love and War, A Memoir, followed in 2012. A series of murder mysteries will debut on November 29th of this year. The first in the series is titled Death by Misadventure. Three more will follow in 2014.  

 

She is a regular contributor to Psychology Today. To see her blog, go to

www.psychologytoday.com/blog/not-born-yesterday.

Her website is  www.eesmithwriter.com.

Also follow her on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/ee.evelyn.smith?fref=ts

Is there a method to your promotional madness? by PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

I find when many authors consult me, whether to hire my firm for representation or to just get an idea of what they should be doing, that’s the first question to ask. Most have an idea that certain things to be done, but if I ask a few more questions, I often find they don’t really know what now? What next? At what point have I done everything (is there such a point?)?

It’s a rare thing to find an author who sits down long before the book sees the light of day and makes a plan for a reasonably effective promo campaign. The good news is it’s not too late. A book is new until a reader sees it, so even if the release date is long since passed, you can still take some of these ideas and make them work for you.

Obviously, we can’t got through the whole process here, but here are a few things that seem to get overlooked a lot. Determine who your target audience is (who do you think will like to read your books?) then start planning ways to get information about yourself and your work in front of them. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Keep collecting reviews. Make it a plan to send out 2 – 3 copies of your book each month so there’ll be a steady stream of reviews coming in. Use them to keep your website fresh, in your newsletters, on your promo material. It’s important that when people take time to stop by one of your hot spots, they don’t find the same thing they saw there six months ago.

Update your photos. I’ll never forget the clutching feeling in my chest when I sent a client for a television interview and she almost didn’t get on the program because the producer took a look around and didn’t see her there. He was looking for the dark haired beauty in the photo I sent instead of the white haired woman in the waiting area. Yikes! I completely understand that when you get a nice photo you hate to give it up, but I too, have bitten the bullet and have two appointments in coming weeks. One at the hair salon, a second at the photographer. Ouch.

Get blogging. How many blogs are there out there that you haven’t read yet? Oh. Millions. True not all of them are appropriate to your book, but let’s face it, there’s no shortage of blogs that might either run a review, an interview or a guest post from you to help you let folks know your book is out there. I’ll give you a hint. If you offer a guest post, they’re a lot more receptive. Reviewers tend to have a backlog, just sayin. Plan ahead and space them out. It sounds easy to write a guest blog two months away but it’ll be here before you know it and you don’t want to do too many in too short a time. Slow and steady wins the race.

That ought to keep you busy for a week or so. I’ll talk more on this topic later. Do you have any thoughts or ideas along these lines that you can add? Or maybe a question? Love to hear from you!

An interview with Connie Knight

connie10PJ: Welcome Connie! How long have you been writing?

CK: I started writing in the eighth grade. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but I will say that Mother Estelle-Marie encouraged me. I wrote a play which she produced, with most of my classmates as actors and the rest of the school attending. Also, I wrote a poem which she entered in a national contest run by the Catholic Daughters of America. I won second place nationally and ended up with prize money of $69.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

CK: Eighth grade, I guess, thanks to Mother Estelle-Marie. In high school, I won another poetry prize in the annual Pegasus contest sponsored by the San Antonio Public Library.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

CK: Yes and no. In the eighth grade and before, I read old books strewn around my grandmother’s house, including one by Bennett Cerf. I imagined writing life as taking place in New York, with dinner every night at the Algonquin restaurant, talking with Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. That’s where I thought I’d end up.  I didn’t realize those days were already over.

On the other hand, I thought I’d be a novelist, and at last I am.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

CK: By this point, after I spent years at journalism and other creative pursuits, I don’t expect authors, singers, dancers, musicians, artists, etc. to make a lot of money. Just a few lucky ones who manage to reach the top rake in the dollars.

Others, who are successful to a moderate degree, may earn a moderate income. We’ll see.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

CK: I am thrilled about being published as a novelist at last, but my focus hasn’t really changed. I’ve been published for years in journalism. What’s new is finding time and a genre that work for me as a novelist. I’m writing a series of mystery novels set in rural Texas near San Antonio, in an area settled by my father’s family.

My first book, Cemetery Whites, draws upon family characters and stories to some degree. Some are totally fiction and others are fictionalized. I loved writing the story, and my focus is really to find readers. I love to hear from readers who tell me how much they enjoyed my book.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

CK: The first thing published was my prize-winning poem in the eighth grade. I wrote a newspaper article in high school, too. It focused on racism and integration, and was published by the Catholic newspaper in San Antonio.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

CK: No, I don’t think I would have much reason to do things differently. For example, I earned my bachelor’s degree in creative writing, but then I followed that with a year of journalism classes so I could find a job and make a living. My creative writing circled around poetry and short stories—no money there.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

CK: It’s not easy. I tend to separate writing time from publishing time, but I’m trying to combine them—somewhat successfully. I’m working on my third mystery right now.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

CK: There have been lots of exciting things. With my first novel Cemetery Whites, at a writer’s conference, I conferred with a literary agent who asked me to e-mail him the first three chapters. I almost swooned. When I left the meeting, I collapsed into a chair in the hallway, and my heart beat like it was ready for an attack.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

CK: This happened early. Back in the eighth grade, I wrote a short story. I handwrote it on notebook paper, fastened it with a bobby pin, and sent it to the Saturday Evening Post.

To my surprise and heartbreak, they returned it! They didn’t give me an A or a prize, and I didn’t understand their kindness in enclosing a nice rejection slip and supplying the envelope and postage. I didn’t know about the stamped, self-addressed envelope I should have sent with the story.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

CK: So far, that would be a speech I gave to a book club here in Houston. It was well-received and many books were sold. Then a member approached me and asked if I belonged to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. I wasn’t, but we agreed I might qualify. She sponsored me, and I did the research and application, which was recently approved. I’m a member now.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

CK: I believe everybody’s work is different, reflecting their experience and views of life, their ambitions in writing, their personalities.

My mysteries reflect my interest in Texas history, sociology, culture, habits of living, and language, as I have perceived them during my life. They have interesting, unusual characters who are portrayed with some humor.

I’m delighted to hear from readers of Cemetery Whites who tell me they enjoyed reading it. That’s my goal. I want readers to enjoy my books.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

CK: That often happens, even to very good writers who ultimately achieve bestseller status. If writing is important to you, keep up with it. Keep sending it out. Find a writer’s group whose critiques are useful. Consider what you could do to improve your work, and try to find a publisher or literary agent who like your kind of book.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

CK: Two independent Houston bookstores come to mind: Murder by the Book, and Brazos Bookstore. They’re right down the street from each other. I’ve had book-signing events at both.

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order.

CK: Cemetery Whites is the name of my novel now being published as an eBook. It’s my debut novel, with the second one ready to Cemetery Whites Coverpublish and the third one in progress.

PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title.

CK: In Cemetery Whites, Caroline Hargrove Hamilton and her cousin Janet Judson solve murders from 1875 and 2010. They find Professor Harrison, a black man, lying dead in a patch of white irises in the Hargrove Family Cemetery in DeWitt County, Texas. He lies close to a grave where it’s rumored a second body is secretly buried.

Caroline and Janet become amateur detectives, uncovering half-a-dozen family secrets related to both murders. Research involves trips to historical sites in San Antonio, a night at a country bar, and another one at a rooster fight. Letters, journals, and oral histories reveal more and more information.

There’s a day when Janet is stuck in an oak tree surrounded by a herd of wild javelinas. She’s rescued by Josh Gaines, related to Professor Harrison. They’d met at the professor’s funeral in San Antonio.

The two of them look for Caroline, who is missing. With the help of Constable Bob Bennett and Uncle Cotton’s hound dogs, they find Caroline—in the clutch of the man who murdered the professor.

When the murders are solved, a treasure is found. It answers a question no one—except Professor Harrison—knew to ask.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

 

CK: Starting on Friday, May 3, it’s scheduled to be available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and other online book retailers. It will be published by Maple Creek Media.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

CK: I think everybody with any interest in the topic knows about me and my work, because I talk a lot about it. The last thing I should say is, Thank you for listening.

Thank you for stopping by, Connie! I’m looking forward to reading Cemetery Whites and hope a lot of people will buy copies and enjoy a virtual trip to the San Antonio area in another time!

Print, ebook, or both? By Judy Alter

TroublesigningBack before electronic books turned the publishing world upside down, status for an author of fiction was having a book published in hardcover (between the boards, as we used to say), followed in twelve to eighteen months by a trade paper edition. Today fiction authors, particularly genre fiction, are lucky to get a trade paper or mass market edition. Many small publishers proudly bill themselves as “e-book only” or “primarily an e-book publisher.”

My publisher for my Kelly O’Connell and Blue Plate mysteries tells me the house sells ten e-books for every print copy; consequently, print is low on the priority scale and sometimes doesn’t appear for months after the electronic version.

I may be old school, but I find this a marketing problem. With my first mystery, print followed closely on the heels of the e-book, and I had a huge signing at a local restaurant—sold seventy-five books. Today the gap is several months, and I barely sold twenty-five at the last signing at the same restaurant. Each book that goes out that restaurant door, with a bookmark, is not just a book sold—it’s a chance for effective word-of-mouth advertising if the reader enjoys it, talks about it, shows it to a friend. Today I have an e-book of the newest one, Murder at the Blue Plate Café, but no print, and friends and (ahem!) fans are asking when the print will come. I afraid by the time print appears it will be anticlimactic and they’ll have lost interest.

I’m all for e-books and indeed do most of my reading on an iPad, but there’s something about holding a book in your hands. Of course, I market my e-books as best I can, with guest blogs like this one, on Facebook, Twitter, my own blog, bookmarks scattered across the globe, whatever and wherever, and I’m grateful for the response I’ve gotten. But I’m uncertain how effective I am. I’d feel better with print that I could launch at a signing, show to friends and send to reviewers that I know. I don’t have time to write, follow all the myriad marketing leads we get on Sisters in Crime, and live my life. So I’m not on the various Kindle lists and I have yet to figure out Goodreads, though I make a valiant effort and do post there.

Maybe it’s all ego—authors are famous for that—and I should put ego in the closet and concentrate on business, sales figures and the like. But that’s not why I write. I write so readers will enjoy my stories.

What about you? Do you find print editions important for marketing?

****

With Murder at the Blue Plate Café, Judy Alter launches a new cozy mystery series, Blue Plate Café Mysteries. She is also the author of MurderBPlate_JAlter_MD(2)the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, and the forthcoming Danger Comes Home. Her fiction and nonfiction about women of the American West has won numerous awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Western Writers of America.

Now retired, she was for years the director of a small academic press. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of seven and lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her Bordoodle, Sophie. Follow her at http://www.judyalter.com, http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com, http://potluckwithjudy.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857?fref=ts, or on Twitter, where she is @judyalter.

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Six Years by Harlan Coben

Six yearsSix Years

By Harlan Coben

Dutton, 2013, 368 Pages

ISBN No. 978-0525953487

Reviewed by PJ Nunn

Some books are enticing because the characters seem to come alive on the page. If you close your eyes you can almost hear their voices. Other books tickle your senses, making it seem as if you can feel the hint of rain on your face, or catch the scent of the ocean on the breeze. These are all characteristics of a good book.

When I picked up this book, it wasn’t the first I’d read by Harlan Coben and I wasn’t surprised that the first line immediately captured my attention. It read:

I sat in the back pew and watched the only woman I would ever love marry another man.

There’s heartbreak waiting to happen. I kept reading. Jake Fisher might be anyone. He could easily have been a friend of mine from college. And who among us can’t relate to a lost love? That’s not to say his story is universal, it’s quite unique. But there are enough commonalities for any of us to relate to him in his quest to find the girl he’ll always love.

Like pretty much everything he writes, Harlan didn’t slack off on this one. It’s really good, but about half way through it gets better. That indefinable essence that pulls the reader in and shifts into high gear comes into play. Suddenly I was questioning everything. Did harlanthat really happen? Did Jake really see that? Or is he hallucinating? Who’s telling the truth? The circumstances had become so vivid it was hard to tell what was real and what wasn’t.

I don’t want to spoil it so I won’t say too much. Suffice it to say that Six Years is unquestionably one of the best books I’ve read in a while. If you like suspense and riddles; if you like to be engaged by lifelike characters and a story that never moves in a straight line, then you’ll want to read this one. Really.

Yes! We Need Beta Readers by Kate Gallison

Kate Gallison You’ve worked through the last thrilling climax. You’ve typed, “THE END.” You’ve put your opus away for a couple of weeks and thought about something else. You’ve pulled it out again, read it through, shouted, “OMG, this really sucks,” fixed all the problems you noticed, and pronounced it cured. Perfected. Ready for prime time.

Now what?

Do you give in to your itch to fire it off to your agent? Or, having no agent, to fire off queries to a list of prospective agents, promising them a completed manuscript? Or, scorning the traditional publishing route, offer it to your eager public as an e-book, with no further tweaking?

No. Ten out of ten successful writers advise against this. You must give it to at least one friend or acquaintance, three would be better, people who normally read, and best of all who read in your genre. Otherwise you risk going out the door with literary spinach on your teeth.

What are they supposed to tell you about your book, other than that it’s great, riveting and compelling, absolutely the best thing they’ve read all year? (They are, after all, your friends. Otherwise you’d have to pay them to read it.)

First of all, your beta reader is not for doing line-editing or correcting your grammar and spelling. If you can’t spell or parse an English sentence by this time, you should probably take up the accordion. What you want to ask your beta readers to do is make note of any egregious howlers they may notice and any questions that arise in their minds about your book. Perhaps you have placed Seattle on the shores of Lake Michigan. Perhaps you have changed the heroine’s hair and eye color between Chapter Three and Chapter Four.  Perhaps some parts seem to lack energy, are in fact stupefyingly boring. Perhaps you have left gaping plot holes.

We get very close to our work, sometimes so close that it’s hard for us to see obvious things. We change things, too, as we go along, and we don’t always readjust the other things that are affected by our changes. Some of us have verbal tics that need pointing out. I once read an otherwise excellent suspense novel in which the author wrote, “He nodded,” and “She nodded,” something like five thousand and seventy-two times in the course of the book. By the hundredth instance I began to be irritated. When at last the writer said, “It was his turn to nod,” I cried, “No! No, it isn’t! Everybody stop nodding, already!” Unfortunately I wasn’t a beta reader. The EdgeofRuinCover 300x453thing was already in print.

Luckily I had beta readers for THE EDGE OF RUIN who pointed out to me that they could see no reason why the murderer committed the second murder. I was able to fix that before it went out. Plot holes are my personal weakness. If you know what yours are, you can get your beta readers to watch out for them. Then, when your book goes out the door, it will be the very best it can be.

Kate Gallison

10 Ways to Promote Your Ebook by Cheryl Bradshaw

  1. START PROMOTING BEFORE YOUR BOOK IS OUT

    Cheryl Bradshaw

    Cheryl Bradshaw

There are several things a writer can do prior to their book coming out.  A month or two before the release, I begin putting things in place that will create a steady momentum once the book is out.  One of the first things I do is to create a press release that my publicist can send to potential reviewers, newspaper agencies, press agencies, etc.  I also create some kind of giveaway on my blog to kick things off.  I give away things like Amazon gift cards and other goodies for any reader who purchases the book in the first month.

This is also the perfect time to schedule your promotions on the internet.  New sites go up daily, it seems, but my favorites right now are BookBub, Digital Book Today, and Ereader News Today.  Some sites are more expensive than others, but you should easily earn your money back on the day your book is promoted, not to mention the boost your book will get several days after the promotion.

2. SOFT RELEASE FIRST

When I put out a new book, I do a “soft release,” promoting it to my fans and followers at the beginning to get things going.  I’ll send out a newsletter to let them know the new book is out and then run some kind of promotion for anyone who buys it or buys it and leaves a review (NOTE: I never, ever ask my readers to give me a specific kind of review—all I ask for is an honest review).  Many of my fans read the book within the first few days, and if I am lucky, they will like it and leave a review.  This is what I am hoping for—to get some reviews and initial sales before I push for the hard launch.

3. ENROLL IN KDP SELECT

Writers have strong feelings and opinions about the KDP Select program on Amazon.  For me, personally, it works, and I am a big supporter of Amazon and all they have done for writers today.  I believe the best time to enroll in KDP Select is when your book first comes out.  The more visible a book is, the more it gets noticed in the program, and the more lends you will receive.

I entered the first three books in my Sloane Monroe series one year ago, and I can honestly say, the program has changed my life.  I was doing well prior to enrolling, but the program took my books to the next level.  I highly recommend using the five free days you are offered each time your enroll/renew, and here’s what I suggest doing:

  • When your book is new, enroll in the program.
  • One month after you publish your book, schedule and use your free days.  To be successful on your free run, you MUST prepare beforehand.  You can learn more about this HERE.   The more free books you move during the promotion, the better your ranking will be when your book comes off the free list.  Amazon uses algorithms (which is a topic I’ll save for another day).
  • I keep my book free for two or three days.  As long as it keeps climbing in the free store, I keep it up.  But if it slips past the top twenty, I take it off.  And after a few months, take your book out if you want and then you can sell it everywhere else.  Trust me when I say that it’s a lot harder to enroll your books in the program if you have to go around taking them off all the other sites first.

4. PARTICIPATE IN BLOG HOPS

There seems to be a lot of confusion about blog hops.  I organize two or three a year in my writers group, and I always get emails from new writers complaining about the fact that during the hop, they didn’t see an increase in sales.  Why?  Because blog hops aren’t about sales—they’re about exposure.  They’re about people seeing your name and your books.  Most people need to see a product (and your book is a product) several times before they decide to purchase it.

But now back to blog hops.  If you get the chance to be included on one that’s organized and has quite a few authors participating, do it.  It usually requires very little effort on your part.  The organizer does most of the work for you.  You create a blog post, give away a signed copy of your book, maybe donate to the grand prize, and you’re done.  For my hops, when a reader visits my page, I ask them to either follow me on facebook, twitter, or sign up for my newsletter.  This is free for them, but it benefits me as well.

5. GET YOUR NAME OUT THERE

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen authors create Twitter accounts for their novel or their series, and not for themselves.  I always hear a noise in my head—that “X” sound from the game show “Family Feud.”  Why?  Because the author is going about it all wrong.  Your name is your brand.  Let me say it again.  Your NAME is your brand.  Not your series.  Not your book.  Not your character.  YOU.   Get your name out there in every way possible.

6. TWEET

There is a right way and a wrong way to tweet.  But first, I want to say this: if you don’t have a twitter account, now is the time to create one.  Right now.  Well, after you finish reading this post, of course.

I avoided twitter for a long time.  I didn’t want a twitter account.  I convinced myself that having an account wouldn’t benefit me.  But then a few of my fans said they were disappointed that I wasn’t on twitter.  See, your fans feel like they connect with you through twitter—like they have some special insight into your life and what you’re doing.  But that doesn’t mean you need to get personal or reveal too much.  I don’t.  I keep it light.  I ask my fans questions.  I interact with them.  And I love it.

In one year, I’ve grown to almost 30,000 followers, and in August of 2012, I was named one of twitter’s seven best authors to follow.  It was such an honor.  And to think, I almost never joined.

Now let’s move on to the wrong way to tweet.  I tweet about my books:

  • When I put a new book out
  • I run a promotion
  • My book is free on KDP Select
  • I offer some kind of giveaway/incentive

This is the ONLY TIME I tweet about my books.  My fans don’t want to get tweets from me all day, every day that shout “buy my book!”  It’s irritating, and it’ rude.  I follow the 90/10 rule.  90% of my tweets are non-book related.  I save the other 10% for my promotions.  Otherwise, you’ll lose followers.  No one will retweet you if you keep saying the same thing all the time.  And during an incentive, you need those retweets.  They sell books, and they spread the word about you and your brand.  Long story short, don’t abuse twitter, and don’t abuse your fans.  Interact with them.  It’s actually a lot of fun.

7. CREATE A FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE

I created a facebook author page soon after publishing my first novel.  Some of my friends and family liked the page, but in six to nine months, I only had a couple hundred followers.  To me, this was nothing.  I had thousands of friends on my personal page.  So I almost deleted it.  Then I published a boxed set which included the first three mysteries in my Sloane Monroe series.  And it took off.  I started getting up to ten new followers on my author page a day, none of them being friends or family.

You can now promote yourself on Facebook too.  I like their ads because they’re cheap.  If you have less than 1,000 followers, you can run an ad for three days that posts not only to the side of the pages of your fans, but to their followers sidebar as well.  All for around $15.00.

8. AUTHOR FRIENDS = POWER

What does having author friends have to do with promotion?  Everything.  When I was writing my first book, I interviewed traditionally published authors on my blog.  I asked them for their advice for new, up-and-coming authors, and many were happy to oblige.  Some of the biggest names in the business offered tips on getting started, and I learned that making author friends was pivotal to success.  It IS who you know.

I created an author group on Facebook in 2010 and have almost 1,600 authors to date.  We share our books, help one another promote, and offer tips and a helping hand to the newbies.  Many of the authors have become life-long friends.  The group also helps me stay in the loop.  Whenever there’s new news in the industry, I’m the first to hear about it.

9. CREATE AND MAINTAIN A NEWSLETTER

When you’re first starting out as an author, you might only have a newsletter that consists of friends and family, and that’s okay.  It doesn’t grow to thousands overnight.  It’s more like a slow trickle.  The main thing is to have a way for readers to contact you, and it should be on everything—your blog, website, author product pages, in your books, etc.  Keep it consistent and keep it the same.  When a fan emails you, add them to your newsletter list.  I send out an email quarterly and try to match it up with a book release, especially when it’s in the soft release phase.  Your most devoted fans will buy the book as soon as it’s released, as long as they know about it.

10. TRY NEW THINGS

I mess around with my prices several times a year.  I also mess around with different genres.  But let’s start with price.  It’s fun to find a reason to change the price.  One that I use is my birthday.  On my birthday, I lower the prices of most or all of my books, just for the day.  I also run a promotion to go along with it.  Another time I lower the price is after Christmas when all those readers have a brand new kindle in their hot, little hands.  I don’t lower the price for a long time—usually no more than three days.  The benefit of this if you do it right is that you’ll sell more books than you were and your rank will lower.  The lower the rank, the more your book is seen.  The more it’s seen, the more copies you’ll sell.

Now let’s talk about genre.  I don’t move around too much, but there are a lot of different options you can try with your book.  Most of my books are in the mystery/thriller genre.  But, they have just a touch of romance.  While not the main theme, I can still put them in romantic suspense.  I can also put them in action & adventure.  I can also put them in genre fiction.  Sometimes it’s nice to shuffle things around a bit.  After all, lettuce is best when it’s fresh and new.  So, too, are books in categories that attract an entirely new StrangerinTown400x600audience.

Well, there you have it folks – suggestions from someone who’s been there and done that and knows what she’s talking about. If your New Year resolutions include leaping up into the 5 digit range in monthly sales, this is advice that will help you get there. Thank you Cheryl, for sharing with us. I hope lots of new readers head your way as a result! Cheryl’s latest title is STRANGER IN TOWN. Get one!

Something to Tweet About

PJ Nunn

Ok. I missed hearing Bonnie Raitt in town this past weekend so I’m hearing the faint sounds of “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About” 

in my head. Still, it fits my topic and it’s been way too long since I took a deep breath and paused long enough to post something here. Maybe you’ve missed me =).

Most of my life, in one form or another, I’ve tried to keep myself cognizant of the difference between being one of the many or one of the few. I like the “one of the few” idea and have always striven for that. I’ve taught the principle to my children, to my students when appropriate, and hope to pass on the same emphasis to my clients. I love lemmings. I just don’t want to be a lemming.

If you’re reading this, you’re at least somewhat familiar with the internet environment and social media in general. The book publicity of the decade! Or at least the year. I admit, I’m still surprised at how everlastingly many authors there are out there hawking their books. I mean seriously, where do they all come from? I read literally hundreds of Tweets daily, many from these authors. I’ve watched some with curiosity piqued for one reason or another, but most of the time feel more disappointment than anything.

One in particular, who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons, first caught my attention with a catchy quote, so I followed him and watched with interest what he posted throughout the day. After a period of months, I gathered (okay, maybe I was a little slow on the uptake) that he’s got some sort of auto-post device and schedules things in advance. Then the same hundred or so posts ride a big ferris wheel and come back around every few weeks or so. None of which, I might add, inspired or even encouraged me (not for lack of trying) to go and buy his book. Or even to check it out at the library. What’s sad is that in the beginning, when I first saw him, I was curious enough to look further, but before I had the time to do that, I got bored with what he was saying and didn’t care anymore. But I bet he thinks he’s doing everything right. And I’m sure he’s a really nice guy. I believe this is where my son would say “epic fail.”

Point? If I had to pick a group to which I’d assign this fella, he’d be one of the many. The ones who tweet their way into a sale (i.e. me buying their books) are one of the few. Think about it. How many books have you been provoked to buy merely by coming across a tweet? Or two or three? Seriously.

Well, but that’s different, you might say. Is it? Really? Why? Who do you think is out there reading your tweets? I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes. And even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Let’s try something else. What’s the last tweet you read that made you want to Retweet? What’s the last FB status update that made you want to click Share? What is the last thing you heard an author say that you wanted to go tell someone else? It might have been anything, but chances are good it wasn’t, “Buy my book.”

I don’t propose to be a social media expert – that’s not what I do. There are plenty of others out there who are much better at it than I. However, anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well so I figure we all should take every available opportunity to improve our skills in whatever arena we’re in. And in this case, the general principle translates to book promotion at large. If all you do is go around calling, “Buy my book”, “I wrote a great book,” “You need to get this book,” you’re wasting your time and probably offending potential readers. OR if you hire a publicist who essentially does the same, same result. Bust.

If you want to be one of the many, there are logically many of them out there you can mimic. Go for it. But remember that they aren’t making much money if they’re one of the many and you probably won’t either. If you want to be one of the few who are breaking records, defying odds, and <drum roll> making money, then you need to be one of the few. The problem with that is that there aren’t many to follow, and determining who “they” are is tricky. In fact, they didn’t know for sure that they were one of the few until they became one. That means you’ve got to go out on a limb, or out into uncharted territory and even, gulp, be willing to fail a time or two before you find what works best for you.

I’d love to be the publicist who gave you a checklist with points A, B, and C and told you that if you do these things in this order you will arrive at destination D. But then I’d be one of the many and not one of the few because I’d be telling you what you want to hear, not what I know to be true.

When I started BreakThrough Promotions back in 1998, I did an extensive market survey of the book publicists I could find. I was shocked, and probably a little naïve, at the prices they charged and the little they promised. I was just looking to do a favor for a friend. So after much examination and surveying, I concocted what I hoped was a reasonable list of services and fees and determined I’d be the best book publicist I could be. It was not at all what I expected and I’ll be the first to admit I had some great ideas that bombed like those turkeys on WKRP (remember that show when they thought turkeys could fly?). Talk about on the job training!

There were bookstores everywhere back then. Nobody had ever heard of POD or “indie” publishing or ebooks. There was no such thing as Facebook or Twitter et al. A different world. Over the years, the industry has evolved in more ways than anyone would have believed back then. Is it any wonder there’s no “one size fits all” book promotion formula? The industry changes daily!

BUT what we don’t want to lose sight of is that people don’t change that way. People still basically want the same thing; we just use different vehicles to get us there. And a captivating story is still what people want, whether it’s presented on pages that are fragile and tearing with age, or on the newest version of a Kindle or Nook with a backlight for reading in bed. However advanced people become, they still won’t buy a book they’ve never heard of. So in that sense, the problems faced by authors are still the same. How do they get the word out about their books in a manner that encourages potential readers to buy? If I had a succinct answer to that question, my waiting list of clients would be around the world. So I’ll work with what I have.

Just keep these things in mind:

  1. What worked yesterday might not work today. What works today might not work tomorrow.
  2. On Twitter you may get more attention Retweeting or Replying to what others post than what you post yourself.
  3. Sending a press release announcing the release of a new book once is enough. Unless you’re somebody notable, it’s not really news that first time. Repeatedly sending the same release will repeatedly get you the same response. Include the info about your new book with a newsworthy release. Do something newsworthy.
  4. What you post to Twitter or FB doesn’t have to be big enough to make the front page of the Dallas Morning News, but should be at least mildly interesting or entertaining to those who are following you.
  5. While you have to budget your time and not stay on social media all day, you should hang around enough to interact with others by way of RT or Reply. Conversation, when appropriate, is a good thing.
  6. There’s comfort in being a big fish in a small pond, but the next level is always a bigger pond. Leave your comfort zone frequently and purposely associate with those who know more about it than you do.
  7. There are MANY self-proclaimed experts on the internet who talk knowledgeably about the industry and promotion. Most of them have developed a group of followers who sing their praises. They’re not all wrong. But they’re not all right, either, and it can be challenging to tell the difference. Beware of those who speak too emphatically – few things are carved in stone.
  8. On the internet, especially in social media circles, remember that it’s a lot easier to burn a bridge than to build one. Practice editing your words before you press SEND.

Here are some things I hope my posts will say about me:

Amusing

Informative

Approachable

Skillful

Knowledgeable

Fun

Professional

Affordable

What about you? Are your posts painting the right word picture of you?

An interview with Richard Brawer

I’ve only recently met Rich Brawer online, although we’ve probably “seen” one another on various lists and such. He’s here to talk with me today about his newest novel…

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Rich: Since 1994.  I commuted by train for years. I read newspapers in the morning and mystery/suspense novels on the trip home. Then I read a newspaper story about a father who refused to take his child home from the hospital because the newborn was diagnosed with a brain impairment.

That newspaper story struck a nerve because it was so horrendous.  I asked myself, “What if the baby was misdiagnosed?”

With that question as a plot line, I began making notes. The notes turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. Thus, my first book, The Nurse Wore Black, was born.  (This book has been rewritten and re-titled as Secrets Can Be Deadly and is part of my Murder at the Jersey Shore Series.)

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Rich: After I finished The Nurse Wore Black I sent out query letters to agents and received a stack of rejections. Lamenting my woes to a friend, he told me about a local independent publisher in the town next to mine that published books about nurses.  Excited, I dropped in cold to their office. Two weeks later they said they wanted to publish my book. Wow!

Being a total novice, I had no idea what to expect from a publisher.  I thought publishers would do the editing as well as create a proper cover.   When I saw the finished product, the “Wow” factor fell into the depression factor. The cover was not well done and leafing through the book I saw a number of typos.  Needless to say, it was an embarrassment and I could not sell it.

The moral:  Make sure you are pro-active in every phase of your book’s production from editing, to layout and design of the cover.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?  At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Rich: The answer to both questions is when I got rave reviews for my work.

In 2006 I had finished Silk Legacy, an historical fiction novel.  Every single review was positive. “Magnificent Characters” “Remarkable Storytelling” “A Tribulation of Yesteryear” “Vivid Enticing Characters” “An Absorbing Page Turner of a Novel” “Realistic Dialogue” “The fictional family is made up of flesh-and-blood characters. They laugh, love, argue, fight, and have adulterous affairs.”

It was those reviews that whispered in my ear, “You’ve have made it as an author.” But was Silk Legacy a fluke?

In 2010 a wonderful independent press, L & L Dreamspell, took me on and published Beyond Guilty.

The reviews of Beyond Guilty solidified in my mind that I had become a writer.

“Twisting Action” “Thought Provoking” “A Fast paced Thriller” “Sympathetic Engaging Character” “Authentic Dialogue” “Complex Characters” “Spirited Prose” “A Real Winner” “A Damn Good Story” “Don’t go in expecting stereotypes because you won’t find them.”

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Rich: The quick answer to that question is, no.  Like most authors, I wanted to make money from my writing.  However, I quickly abandoned the idea that I was going to get wealthy.

I ran a linen and curtain store for twenty-five years and it was a lot easier to make money at that than it has ever been from writing.  I competed with ten or so similar stores in my market area.  Compare that small amount of competition to the million or so books published every year.

Building a following for my books compared to the promotion I needed to attract customers to my store became astronomically mind bending.  Where it took me an hour or so to create an ad for the one newspaper and the one radio station in the store’s market area, it has taken many hours “talking” about my books on the huge number of internet sites and blogs.

I have made money from my books, but the time it will take to make a lot of money is more than I am willing to give.  However, there is a light growing ever more brightly for authors to make money and that is the e-book market.

Relating again to my retail experience, once I got people in my store, they could easily see and touch the entire product.  If they liked it and the price, they bought it.  However, readers only get a taste of books from blurbs, excerpts and reviews, and they are getting more and more savvy about the value of those smidgens.  Many are reluctant to take a chance on an unknown author at $15.00 for a trade paperback to $26.00 for a hard cover.

Enter the e-book for 99 cents to $4.99 as well as many free books.  The amount of time to promote and e-book is the same as for a print book, but it’s far easier to get a reader to take a chance on a new author at those prices.  I have made more money from e-book sales than I have from sales of my print books whether I self-published the e-book or my publisher placed the book on e-book sites.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Rich: Before e-books the only books we could read were the ones the big publishers “chose” for us to read.  Those books were selected by the publisher based on the publisher’s idea of what the greatest number of readers would like.

I wrote my first books with that same thought in mind.  Now with the ability to publish myself as an e-book, I write what I like.  If I can’t find an interested publisher, so be it.  My book will still be available to those who like my subject.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Rich: Of course an interesting plot is important, but the two things that make a book standout are the characters and the conflict.

For example, I have been told that my protagonist in Silk Legacy is not likeable, but his motives are understandable.  Yet those readers have loved his wife who is constantly in conflict with her husband.

The same goes for my Murder at the Jersey Shore series.  One reviewer said, “What really grabbed me was watching the hero deal with his issues while his girl friend dealt with him and her issues involving him.”

In Beyond Guilty it’s the torment the protagonist goes through because she knows she is responsible for her sister’s deaths.

In Murder Goes Round and Round it about a man who overcomes his mourning for his deceased wife by solving a murder.

In my latest book, Keiretsu, coming out this fall it is the conflict between the protagonist, a third generation Japanese American brought up with every advantage an American can have, and his father who blames the U.S. for the murder of his parents by a mob after being released from the internment camps.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Rich: I have sold the most books after reviews and interviews on a blog such as yours.  Also, there are many interactive sites on the internet where you can join the discussions.  Like all advertising, repetition is the key.  Keep your name in front of readers by participating in those discussions.  Sooner or later people will say, let me try one of his books.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Rich: Once you begin your writing try to find a critique group that will give you honest feedback on character development, dialogue, voice, plot, conflict and setting.  But don’t automatically take anyone’s critique as gospel.  Remember, it’s your story.  Analyze the critiques to see if they have merit.  Say you have a six person group.  If one person criticizes something then it may or may not be valid.  But if three or four in the group say the same thing about a segment then you should take it under serious consideration.

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title.

Keiretsu is a political thriller ripped from the headlines.

 Toshio Nagoya, ultra-nationalist CEO of Japan’s largest keiretsu (conglomerate), foresees dire peril for his country from China’s growing military.  Toshio and the CEOs of Japan’s other keiretsus form a secret cabal to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent to China.  However with the United States’ demanding Iran and North Korea end their nuclear weapons programs these men know that when the U.S. discovers Japan is making nuclear weapons the U.S. will have no choice but to demand Japan cease-and-desist.

With the help of his cousin, a lawyer in the United States, (father of the protagonist. See above) Toshio and his associates begin to build a powerful Political Action Committee spread across many states to garner widespread influence in America’s congress which they will use to blunt any administration’s demands that Japan abandon its nuclear ambition.

Conspiracy, lust, infidelity, treachery, betrayal and murder permeate this political thriller and make Keiretsu a riveting read.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Rich: Getting reviews from reviewers who post in mass media.  While I think that reviews from readers who recommend your book to other readers is really the best review, a review from a syndicated reviewer that reaches possibly millions of people will sell many more books.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Rich: When Silk Legacy was available in print, I had a book signing at a small book store.  I had advertised to friends and family and put a small add in a local newspaper.  I sold thirteen books which wasn’t a lot, but it was the only business the store did during the three hours I was there.  Sadly, the store is no longer in business.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Rich: This is embarrassing, but I got Ds in English in College.  The last thing I would have ever thought I could do was write a book.  Then I wrote that first one and I was hooked.

PJ: LOL That’s a first for me! Where can we buy your books?

Rich: See my website:  www.silklegacy.com  for book jackets, excerpts and links to book sellers.

Murder at the Jersey Shore trilogy, Silk Legacy, and Murder Goes Round and Round are sold through Kindle or any e-reader that can access Amazon e-books.

Beyond Guilty and Keiretsu are available wherever books are sold whether print or e-book.  Book stores may have to order them for you.

Richard Brawer has published seven novels in mystery, suspense and historical fiction genres.  When not writing, he spends his time sailing and growing roses.  He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife.  Watch for Keiretsu in fall of 2012.

 

Rich, thanks for taking the time to share with us today. I hope you gain lots of new readers from this endeavor!

Does Promotion Work for Small Press Authors?

PJ Nunn

I get asked similar questions quite a bit and the topic came up yet again today so I thought I’d take a minute or two and share my thoughts with you here.

If you’re reading this, you already know how competitive it is out there. Getting attention for a single title – whether print or ebook – is like trying to identify a particular grain of sand on an endless beach. Some days it really feels hopeless. How can a little-known, small press or self-published author successfully promote his or her book to the point that there’s a visible increase in sales?

I wish I had an easy answer. If anyone tells you there is one, don’t believe them. First of all, understand that while writers and those within the book industry seem inordinately aware of who the publisher is of any title, readers can rarely tell you who published the book they just read. In fact, in working with broadcast media, they rarely ask me about the publisher. Truth is, they just don’t seem to care. Stores care. Libraries care. Newspapers care. There are ways around that.

So, while there is a negative stereotype against self-published books and small presses within the industry (gasp! Not everyone feels that way, but some do), it doesn’t preclude successful promotion efforts. It can, however, make it seem impossible to have a chance at getting your book on many or any store shelves. There are ways around that, too. And, since these days, nobody’s book is in every store, you have a good chance of getting yours in some stores if you really want that. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

If you’ve heard you’re at a disadvantage because your publisher can’t afford to do much marketing, guess what? NO publisher these days can afford to do much marketing. I work with several large publishers in addition to the small press and self-published authors I represent. In the last five years I’ve seen many in-house publicists laid off while those that remained took on twice and even three times the client load they once had. For the same pay. Yikes! Every one I work with tries really hard to get good attention for their authors, but one person can only do so much, even when I often talk to them still in the office at 6 or 7 pm “just finishing up one more project”.

That said, when books from small presses, or any presses, fail to achieve much recognition these days, it’s usually more a problem of too little promotion or too intense in a short time. Slow and steady is what wins the race these days. Repeat, consistent exposure. Too much too soon can make it feel like you’re getting somewhere, but six weeks after the blitz, will anyone remember you? Have you ever heard a short author interview on the radio during drive time on the way to work and swerved off the highway in search of a bookstore to buy the book you just heard about? I know I haven’t.  But I have tucked the name away in my mind if it sounded interesting, then promptly forgot about it later. UNTIL a few weeks down the road maybe I heard it again on another program. Or saw a review of it in the paper. Or maybe just happened to catch a tweet about it online. If the name keeps popping up, sooner or later I’ll pay attention. And so will somebody else.

Because it’s unlikely that anyone will rush out and buy your book the very first time they see your name or title, it’s hard to gauge the success of a campaign. But in the 14 years I’ve been doing this, it’s invariably the ones who just keep going who ultimately build a following and see sales increase. Granted it doesn’t come overnight or without effort, but if you do it right and keep doing it, it will pay off. The question then is how bad do you want it and how much is it worth?

That can be hard to calculate because it’s almost impossible to judge which promotional effort affected which sales. Still, if you’re diligent, you can estimate your cost and approximately how many books you need to sell to cover it. The main problem is you can still be reaping sales for months after the fact. I suggest that you take time to figure out what you make on the sale of each book so you can determine what your sales goals are for a twelve month period. Or until you estimate your next book will come out. Once you’ve determined a realistic sales goal, make sure your promo budget stays beneath that figure. That way you can plan a campaign that won’t put undue financial strain on you, but will still assist you in getting the job done.

At one time, a few years back, the average lifetime sales of a self-published or small press title was 200 – 500 copies. That’s all. IF the book is trade paper and sells for $14.95, and IF you make a 15% royalty ($2.24 per copy) and IF you sell 500 copies, you’ll gross a whopping $1,120. If your only real promotional expense is postage you’ll turn a profit, but most have a few more expenses than that, even without hiring someone like me. So how can you make that work? Obviously you have to sell quite a few more books. Selling 1500 instead of 500 raises your gross to $3,360. Double that at 3000 and so on. Those are reasonable goals. Of course we’d all love to break that 100,000 mark but it might be best to aim a little lower the first time. Like someone once said, if you aim for heaven and fall a little short, you’ll still have reached the sky!

Once you have that budget established, you can map out a campaign to fit. I always promote the author more than any one title, but I do focus on the latest title, unless there’s a special audience that might be more interested in a previous book for some reason. The goal is to make your name familiar so that ultimately when a reader hears you have a new book out they’ll want to read it, whatever its title is. I’ve found a lot of authors would rather focus entirely on the book and don’t like to feel they’re promoting themselves. And other authors, who don’t mind promoting themselves, sometimes come across as conceited and abrasive. There’s a fine line and it’s important for you to learn how to put yourself out there gracefully. In order to accomplish that, we’d want to target several different markets in a variety of venues. Establish yourself as an expert and a professional so that media hosts want to talk to you, journalists want to interview you and store personnel want to get to know you. Most of all, readers will want to read your book!

Back to books not being in stores – that’s the way of the future at this point. There are so many more books being released each month, and so many fewer stores that it’s difficult to get books on the shelves unless you’re touring. Even then it can be a challenge, because so many stores don’t do signing events anymore and it’s so expensive to travel, but it’s doable. The more reasonable goal for most is to make sure they know about your books and know how to order them. That’s one way radio interviews can be of help.

If at all possible, we contact independent stores in the area when we schedule you for a radio interview and ask them to order in a few copies, then make sure you mention on the air that the book is available at such and such a store. Most stores (particularly independent stores) are happy to get the free mention on the radio, and often they’ll continue to carry your books long after. That’s just one way. It can seem endless thinking you have to do that one store at a time, but book promotion is nothing if not a snowball effect. One event builds on another then another and after a while, you’ve created a good trail. It doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come quick, but it will come as long as the book is good.

Only one thing is truly a guarantee – if you don’t promote it, you won’t sell many. So stop thinking about reasons why promotion won’t work for you, and start finding ways that it can!