Reaching to Friends and Strangers by Elaine Orr

Orr,Elaine2012,closeto5x7Elaine L. Orr has written fiction and nonfiction for many years.  She began writing plays and novellas and graduated to longer fiction by the mid-1990s. In Trouble_cover_2_from_whit_small-82x1282011, Elaine introduced the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series. She grew up in Maryland and moved to the Midwest in 1994.

Reaching to Friends and Strangers

Writing a series take a certain amount of arrogance and some juggling skills. It is tempting to focus marketing on the newest book, but for a series audience to grow, the earlier books need to stay on reader radar.

Most of my marketing is for ebooks, though I use the paperbacks (including large print) as marketing tools with bookstores.

I have a three-pronged strategy. 1) Give friends a chance to help reach new readers. 2) Write articles and occasionally guest blog posts beyond the writing world. 3) Use social media (especially Twitter) to reach beyond my circles.

There are 360 people on my monthly update list. When I sent the first email I promised two things— recipients would not hear from me more than once a month, and I would never take offense if anyone asked to be taken off the update list.

Creating the email audience took a lot of time. There are some writing friends, but they already know what I’m doing. I drew on people from almost every job I’ve had, service organizations I belong to, my extended family, current and former neighbors, and friends from school. I did not choose everyone who is on my email contact list.

I’m always surprised at those who follow up with notes. Some I have not seen in person for more than a decade, others could be in a book club I joined recently. Some of them post information on new books on their Facebook pages. Finally, if all I say is “read my books,” it’s boring. I mention a personal item or a conference where I learned a lot.

As a lifetime nonfiction writer, I post articles on varied topics on nonwriting sites, such as Yahoo Voices. The first thing my brief bio on these sites says is that I write fiction. I post on my blog and sometimes others, but these posts are primarily read by other writers.

I have a Facebook fan page, web page, and Twitter account. I keep them up to date and allow only 15 minutes a day, unless I’m doing extensive updates to the web page. I also get marketing ideas from the Murder Must Advertise Yahoo Group.

Two things in the electronic world seem to make a difference.  I maintain a $3 per day Facebook ad, and vary the content. It draws people to my Facebook fan page and puts my name in front of people whether they click on the ad or not.  When the ad comes down, I sell fewer books.

Every day I send 10-20 tweets to various hash tags (#mustread, #mystery, etc.) and individuals who say they retweet. These are cut-and-paste tweets rather than individually typed. I mention a newer book and give a link or rotate through the series offering freebies via Smashwords, If this sounds repetitive, the tweets only are to the sender. Each one reaches a different audience, because most people only read tweets that appeared just before they signed on or while they are on Twitter.

This system works for me because it keeps my time on writing. I’d like to hear what works for you.

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Common author mistake #3 First impressions

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

Have you ever noticed that if you meet someone and he makes a bad impression for whatever reason, when you see him again, even if he presents himself in a totally different manner, your memory immediately defaults to the first experience and the contrast is noted but the first impression remains? You may meet this same man several times subsequently before that unfavorable first impression begins to fade.

On the other hand, if you meet someone and she makes a very good first impression, then you meet her again and she looks terrible, your mind will default to the good impression and make excuses like she’s just having a really bad day to explain why her second appearance was less than pleasant. Again, it can take several repeat bad appearances to erase that strong first impression. I’m sure you get the point.

As an author, it’s particularly challenging to manage that first impression because more often than not, you’re not there at the time. First impressions can be forged by a variety of things – comments others make about you, Facebook pages and posts, Tweets, website content, even the cover of your book. Don’t I have enough to worry about already? You might ask. Probably. That’s why it’s important to choose your battles carefully. Know the difference between the things you can and cannot change and put your focus on those you can.

Think about these scenarios and how they reflect on your career as an author:

What if a journalist gets a press release in the middle of the night about your upcoming book release and goes to your website for more info, but the most recent title showing there came out in March of 2012?

What if the Events page of your website says “More info soon” and it’s been saying that since the site went live last year?

What if your promo picture looks like this ellen-degeneres-cover-girl

But when you meet for the live interview, you really look like this  bad head shot 1

Or worse, what if your press shot looks like this  bad head shot 2

But you really look like this?  headshot 1

Probably just a bad hair day, right? But think about it. Most readers you hope to have in a career as an author won’t meet you in person. They’ll hear about you somewhere and try to find you online – on a website, on Facebook, Twitter, wherever. Their first impressions of you will happen wherever they find you. The good news is that if they were to stumble upon you on a late night run to the drug store for cough meds when you’re sick, chances are the impression won’t be that great. You can’t always prevent that. But you can certainly make sure your first impression given by your website is friendly and professional. You can control your behavior with comments in other social media. And, you can fight the urge to drop posters off at Hastings for an upcoming book signing wearing flip flops and a ponytail and wearing no makeup.

What if you are careful with your language on your blog, but the same blog has a twitter feed showing that you are often cursing and critical in your comments?

What if the first time people “met” you, live or on the internet, made a permanent impression on them?

When people who frequent the same social media as you recognize your name, how would they introduce you to someone else? Would they say “Oh, that’s some author who’s always trying sell her book” or “She cusses like a sailor”? Maybe you’re fine if they say things like that. The point is to make you think about what someone else might think of you. What kind of impression are you making when you venture out into the cybersphere?

I know the internet is a comfortable place for many who just want to “be themselves” but think about how you feel about your favorite authors. Has your impression of them changed at all since you’ve come to know them via social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how important first impressions can be for an author. Are they important enough that we should all take time to work on those first impressions?

I like to think of it as an “on purpose” because I like the idea of doing or being something on purpose rather than achieving a designation “on accident”. What kinds of things do you think an author can do – on purpose – to make a lasting and positive first impression?