From quill to social media – what a leap! by Triss Stein

JPGphoto SteinSocial media finally caught up with me in 2013, when Poisoned Pen Press published Brooklyn Bones. While it is a rumor started by my nearest and dearest that I would prefer to write with a quill pen, it is true that I am not excited by technology. Now I had to deal with it and the way it has changed book marketing.  I wrote a blog about my experiences then. With another book, Brooklyn Graves out, and Brooklyn  Secrets scheduled for December, I thought it was time to update with what I have – I hope! – learned.

(The italicized sentences are from 2013.)

 

Our bookish world is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. While I feel as if I have achieved something with Facebook, my own website and madly guest blogging, whooshing right past me are Twitter, Pinterest and other sites and activities yet to be named.  (By me. I know they are already out there and have names.)

 

I actually used this idea in the forthcoming book, Brooklyn Secrets (Dec, 2015.) My protagonist’s daughter finds some crucial information out on the Web and doesn’t bother explaining how.  She just says, “Leave it to me. You wouldn’t understand.”   That is how I finessed the likelihood that by the time the book comes out, there will be even newer modes of social media, and I could never be really up to date.

 

I hired someone to set up a web site for me. And I kind of liked creating and updating it.

 

That website is overdue for an update and this time I have hired someone with real experience designing author sites. The first result was what I wanted at the time, but even I can see it is not doing the job I need it to do.  Plus, the marketing person at my publisher says it needs to be more interactive.

 

 Then I joined FaceBook after years of refusing to consider it. And I kind of like it, too.  I understand  what  it is: it takes the place  of water cooler conversations at work. 

 

In fact, it takes that place much too well for me as the only thing I miss about having a day job is the social interaction. My new rule needs to be FaceBook after productive  writing – after!-  and not instead of .  (Anyone else noticed this issue?)

 

Well, that hasn’t changed. Facebook continues to be a way-too-attractive nuisance, perfect for purposes of procrastination. 

 

It culminated by promoting Brooklyn Bones the old-fashioned way. In person! I had a launch party at Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan.

 

I had another book launch party at Mysterious Bookshop for the next book, Brooklyn Graves. We had cookies with the book cover on them. They looked terrific and tasted pretty good, too.  The party was definitely fun and we sold some books.

 

What else?  I am going to some of the fan conventions. This year at Malice Domestic, a number of people – not friends or family! – had my books and wanted me to sign them. So maybe this is all working.

 

Brooklyn Secrets  will be not quite out in time for Bouchercon 2015 in October.  I am hoping that if I go, speak on a panel, talk to lots of people – Brooklyn Secrets Coverwith giveaways in hand – it will generate some interest anyway.

 

What else have I learned?

 

  • remember to cross promote. Post regular and guest blog info on Facebook, DorothyL.and other listservs. I probably need to put this reminder right on my computer screen!
  • SAVE all pr information. I had a computer meltdown, and the pr folder for Brooklyn Graves, handy on my screen desk,  disappeared forever
  • Finally, the scariest task. I made an appointment to get a new photo taken. After twenty years, that too needs an update. Wish me luck.

 

Perhaps I can come back in two years and report on the new lessons learned.

 

 

Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York farm country who has spent most of her adult life in New York, the city. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident for writing mysteries about Brooklyn, her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. Brooklyn Graves is the most recent, and Brooklyn Secrets will be out from Poisoned Pen Press in December, 2015. It is available for pre-order now.

 

Find me on Facebook or my web page: http://trissstein.com/

 

Brooklyn Graves 2A brutally murdered friend who was a family man with not an enemy in the world. A box full of charming letters home, written a century ago by an unknown young woman working at the famed Tiffany studios. Historic Green-Wood cemetery, where a decrepit mausoleum with stunning stained glass windows is now off limits, even to a famed art historian.

 

Suddenly, all of this, from the tragic to the merely eccentric, becomes part of Erica Donato’s life. She is a close friend of the murdered man’s family and feels compelled to help them. She is arbitrarily assigned to catalogue the valuable letters for an arrogant expert visiting the history museum where she works. She is the person who took that same expert to see the mausoleum windows.

 

Her life is full enough. She is a youngish single mother of a teen, an oldish history grad student, lowest person on the museum’s totem pole. She doesn’t need more responsibility, but she gets it anyway as secrets start emerging in the most unexpected places: an admirable life was not what it seemed, confiding letters conceal their most important story and too many people have hidden agendas.

 

In Brooklyn Graves a story of old families, old loves and hidden ties merges with new crimes and the true value of art, against the background of the splendid old cemetery and the life of modern Brooklyn.

Crossing the SPAM line

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

I read yet another announcement on Facebook this morning that said, essentially, I don’t care if your book is an Amazon bestseller, or if it’s been selected for reading by some book group I may or may not have ever known, if you keep posting advertising in this group I will NEVER read your book and I suspect I’m not alone in feeling like this.

We’ve all seen similar posts and maybe have posted similar posts. I hadn’t had coffee yet, but it set my mind whirling. Most marketing experts tell authors to be more active in social media, to tweet their hearts out and make sure they’re posting regularly. And honestly, what is advertising but putting your product information out in venues where it’s likely to be seen by potential buyers?

If I subscribe to a cooking magazine and sit down to read it when it arrives, I shouldn’t be surprised to find advertising in it that is somehow related to food. It’s expected, actually. I may not know the company that’s doing the advertising. In fact, I probably will come across quite a few products that I never knew anything about until I saw it there. I think that’s the point. Whether I like it or not, or will buy it or not, that’s a different story.

If you ask some people what crosses the line from discussing or introducing a book to spamville, the consensus is often whether the poster is known to the group in which he or she is posting. At first thought, that seems logical to most and heads will nod. But can you give me a comparison from general marketing guidelines? Where are the rules?

If you’re talking about groups to join on Facebook or LinkedIn or wherever, maybe that could be compared to those rare occasions when you get to watch a television movie with “no commercial interruptions”. I’m not saying spam is ok. I can get annoyed as anyone when that typical BUY MY BOOK tweet interrupts my feed for the umpteenth time and, no, I probably will not go buy the book.

Society is bereft of the manners with which I was raised oh so long ago, so I shouldn’t be surprised when some trample over any semblance of etiquette in social media situations. But I admit as a publicist I do feel a twinge of regret that this person wants very badly to see his or her book succeed and it’s too bad that he or she is going about it in the wrong way. I’d like to think that if we ranted less and offered well placed advice more, there might slowly be change. But then few take unsolicited advice to heart and I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to stick their necks out. Pearls before swine, as it were.

What are your thoughts? When does ill-advised attempts at advertising cross the line to spam?

Off to find that missing coffee…

Do I Really Need a Website if I have a Facebook Page?

There are lots of opinions on this topic, but if I had to pick just one of the two, I’d still pick a website – with qualifications.

First, look at what they are. A Facebook page is a social media networking platform. It consists largely of a place to share news, announcements, photos, gossip, you name it – it’s out there. It can be as casual or as professional as you like. I strongly recommend that if you have a Facebook page, you create one for personal use and an author page for professional use and you try not to mingle the two together too much. Maybe that seems like overkill today, but the more people who read your books and follow your pages, the more important it becomes to keep your private information private. As much as we don’t like to think about it, there are people out there who are a little unbalanced and you don’t want to be sharing pictures of your grandkids with them.

A website, on the other hand, is a more “fixed” platform. I work with journalists every day and while they do look at your Facebook page, they also go straight for your website to see if you’ve posted press information there. As you probably know, journalists often work around the clock and on deadline. If they’re working on a story and can’t find the info they need, they’ll find it elsewhere. Your website is the first impression you’ll make on a lot of people. The good news is, there are no rewrites in real life, but you can work and rework the content on your website until it really shines.

In both instances, I come across pages that look professional and even more that don’t. As with any area of business, find out what you’re good at and staff your weakness. Your brand and your professional appearance are NOT the place to cut corners and save money. With all the freebies available today, it’s tempting and I know few writers are independently wealthy, but if every time someone checks you out online they find information that looks more DIY (do it yourself) than professional, that’s exactly how they’ll think of you.

We all want to know and do business with people who are on the road to success. Maybe you’re not there yet, but you need to look like you’re the person you want to be. An author who shows up in shorts and flip flops may be a fun person and a great writer, but the impression is probably someone who isn’t that serious about his or her professional appearance.

Take some time and do a search for author websites. Don’t just look at one, look at several and keep an objective eye. It’s best to look at authors you don’t know personally and visit a few pages on their sites.

  • What do you like?
  • What don’t you like?
  • Do you find any typos?
  • Is the information up to date?
  • Do you find information there that would be helpful if a journalist was writing up a quick article to announce an upcoming event?
  • Is there something missing?
  • What could be done to improve the site?

Once you’ve visited a few, go back and look at your own site. Do you think it gives the impression of you and your work that you want it to?

If you use Facebook and/or Twitter, visit some author pages there and see what kind of impression they make. Do they post things that would be of interest to their readers? Do they include a variety of photos and links that are in good taste?

Usually the best gauge of what any of your pages should be is what interests you, and what works for others. We all have different tastes and opinions, but if you’re drawn to particular posts and pages, chances are similar posts and pages will work for you.

Don’t hesitate to ask trusted friends for their thoughts, but also get input from others within the writing industry. Most of my family have no idea what works on webpages and FB for writers, but other writers should have some good ideas. Good luck with your project!

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.

Indie authors moving up a notch by PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

You’ve done it. You’ve taken the plunge and invested yourself in independent publishing, and you’ve achieved a modicum of success but you want so much more! I get a lot of calls like this so I figured it would be a good topic to address here. Of course, everyone is different, but I do see some repeating patterns that make for good discussion. Maybe you’ll recognize yourself in there somewhere.

There’s an apparent hierarchy among “indie” authors when viewed from afar. Essentially it includes those who are just starting out, or who have plateaued early, never achieving more than $1000 a month in ebook sales, and those who excel, which is defined by racking up thousands of Twitter followers and breaking the five digit monthly sales figure. For the purpose of this article I’m addressing the latter, BUT if you’re in the former group, pay attention because sooner or later it will apply to you too.

If you want to move up to a new level, in recognition and in sales, by building a broader reader base, here are some things you need to do:

Change your appearance. Too many authors cut corners in the areas of photographs, websites, promotional material and even personal appearances. If you want to be a bestselling author, you need to look like one. Make sure your promo photo is current, professional, and is included on your website. More than one would be nice. It doesn’t have to be posed in front of a blue screen, but it does need to be high resolution and professional in appearance. It also needs to look like you today, not 20 years ago. When you attend meetings or even when shopping, dress the part. I’m not saying you can’t run out to the grocery store in shorts, flip-flops and a pony tail while wearing no makeup, but I am saying sooner or later someone will recognize you when you do. There’s a fine line. Study to learn where it is. Go to the bestseller shelves at a local bookstore and check out the author photos in the books there. You’ll get the idea.

Professionalize your presentations. Homemade looking websites can be a huge detriment. You can work hard to create a professional sounding press release with all the right elements, then undo it in a second when the journalist who reads it clicks on your website and it looks like your teenaged neighbor did it as a computer project in school. Or when they click on it to get more information about the new release the press page announces, only to find the latest book showing on your site is a year old. Your website is you to a lot of people. Make sure it shows you in your best light, and that it is updated at least every month. In addition to making sure your website is top notch, be sure your press material is, too. You may opt to use a bio page and a book page, or to combine the two into a sell sheet. Basic info should include a short bio and photo of you, a description and purchase info of your latest title along with cover art, and a list of your previous works complete with ISBN numbers. Depending on where you’re sending this information you may or may not want to include links for purchase and/or discount info for booksellers. Proofread. Seriously.

Don’t rely on social media alone. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and many other social media sites have been a huge help in affordable book promotion in recent years. Certainly don’t ignore them, but use them wisely, and sparingly. They’re also an enormous time suck, for lack of a more accurate term. Even in today’s market, approximately 70% of readers do not actively use social media so to neglect promotion outside of that realm is missing the mark. First of all, while Facebook author pages are great, and they have added some wonderful tools to help you sell your books, they shouldn’t take the place of a standard author website. I know many are opting to go that route, to save costs I assume, but it will reflect on the way you’re perceived within the industry, by journalists in particular but sometimes by book professionals as well. You might have noticed there is some snobbery involved (gasp). A good author website does not have to be expensive. It should include an author bio, a list and description of published books, a variety of fun and newsy items, a media page with downloadable bio, photos, cover art and press releases, an events page that is current, and maybe even a subscriber’s page, newsletter, link to a blog. Whatever you feel you’d like to share that will be attractive to your readers and keep them coming back and sharing your page.

Utilize a mainstream approach. Maybe using the term “indie” author helped you get where you are. But think carefully about how you’d ultimately like to be known. A bestselling indie author? A bestselling romance author? A bestselling suspense author? Or a bestselling author? A bestselling Christian author? An African American author? None of those are wrong, but obviously they aren’t all the same. In most cases when a self-published author comes to me wanting to increase exposure, the first thing we have to do is lose the “self-published” or “indie” designation. Understand that we’re not hiding anything. We’re just not magnifying it. In other words, you want to be judged on the basis of your writing, not on who your publisher is, or what genre your book is, or what ethnicity you are, etc. And while people will always tag us one way or another at times, it’s up to us to keep the focus where we want it to be.

One of the biggest hurdles today for indie authors involves getting mainstream reviews. Five years ago that was because none of the major reviewers would review a so-called “indie” title. Today they will, but many of them have pre-pub date deadlines that authors don’t want to meet. In today’s instant gratification market, once a manuscript is ready it goes immediately to formatting and publication. That used to take many months. Today it takes weeks at most. So nobody wants to sit on a ready manuscript for 4 months to meet the submission guidelines. I suggest that you bite it and delay release if you want a chance at having your romantic suspense title reviewed by Romantic Times. You don’t have to do it with every title, but it would be nice to add one of their reviews to your press kit wouldn’t it?

Find your niche and get in it. It’s true many of the mainstream organizations like RWA or MWA and so many more originally didn’t have a place for indie authors, and some still don’t readily accept independently published works in some of their conferences. I say join anyway and make yourself invaluable to the group on a local level. Change in any established organization almost always comes from the inside. It’s a wonderful way to network within the industry and make friends across the country who will buy, read and talk about your work. But like with most organizations, if you join only for what they will do for you, you won’t get much. If you really get involved and give to them, it will come back to you.

That’s probably plenty of info for now. I wish you well and I’d love to hear what you think. What are some other ways you’ve found to start taking your career to a new level?

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?

Working With What You’ve Got: How To Promote Yourself Naturally

Natalie Buske Thomas and Cassandra Thomas discuss using natural talents to promote yourself and your business.

Natalie Buske Thomas

Natalie Buske Thomas

Natalie: I gave it my best shot, but I discovered that I’m not a natural blogger. I’ve never been

good at sticking with journals. I remember the pure joy of receiving my first diary. It had a pretty picture on the cover and it came with a tiny padlock and key. I was so excited! I named my diary Taffy. She would be my friend and I’d write in her pages every day! My nine year old self kept up with that pledge for less than a week.

Sadly, my adult self never took to journaling either. So when I read one article after another about how one “must” blog as a part of a successful marketing plan I felt nothing but despair. What would I blog about? I didn’t enjoy reading blogs, let alone writing them. I simply couldn’t see the point of it. I gave it a good try, in fits and starts. My career as a blogger ended the same way poor Taffy did – within a week I had forgotten all about my blog.

Today my blog serves as an announcement board for all the other things I do to promote myself, things I am naturally interested in. And unlike the dismal failure of my blog, the things I’m naturally interested in work! For example, my “Does your pet have what it takes to be in a mystery novel?” pet contest has been popular from day one. The animal photos are wonderful and their stories make me happy. Their human owners are campaigning for their pets by sharing my website on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The winner will be decided by the highest number of votes.

I’m promoting myself by doing what comes naturally to me: bringing people together. I’ve always loved organizing events – anything from a small open house party to a live show involving hundreds of people. Staging interactive events plays to my natural interests and talents, whereas blogging, while it works so well for many people, has never worked well for me. Ironically, ever since I quit blogging I get asked to write guest blog articles for others! This is a good fit for me because it is interactive: someone contacts me to write the article and because I’m a guest, there is usually feedback of some kind. Also, unlike my own blog, there is no commitment to keep doing it.

Other examples of how I promote myself naturally:

– I’m also an oil painter. I realized that I should be painting my own book covers. Posting the progress of my paintings gives me Covert_Coffee_Cover_for_Kindlesomething to share and interact with my fan base.

– When I couldn’t combine my talents or interests in an obvious way (like painting the book covers) I found other ways to draw upon what comes naturally to me. I gave my fictional characters some of my own interests. This allows me to wrap my interests into the promotion of my books. Even something as simple as a love of flower gardens has opened the door for promotion. I have a Pinterest board for gardening, and now that a garden scene has been written into my latest mystery Covert Coffee, I can promote the novel when I share my flower photos and indoor gardening tips.

– I also enjoy meeting new people, celebrities, and going behind-the-scenes at shows. When I did a recent author interview I told radio talk show host Bob Krejcarek about how I sometimes ask my friends if they would like to be a character in my Serena Wilcox mysteries. Bob volunteered himself (live on air!) to be a fictional character in my next mystery, Bluebird Flown. It was a fun moment, and I’ve already written him into my work in progress. A few weeks later I saw America’s Got Talent semi-finalist Eric Dittelman’s show at my daughter’s college. Afterward, I was able to talk with him for a few minutes and I asked him if he would be willing to be a celebrity character too. He agreed. It’s been an absolute blast writing Bob and Eric into Bluebird Flown.

Cassandra: I use Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter and other social media to promote my work, but I too find that promoting myself

Cassandra Thomas

Cassandra Thomas

naturally is less stressful, more effective, and even fun.

– I collaborate with my mother (Natalie) on “Dramatic Mom“, a cartoon series written by my mother and drawn by me. My talent for drawing cartoons makes this an enjoyable and natural side project for me to promote my graphic novels. Since “Dramatic Mom” is about our real life family, it’s also a way for fans of my work to get to know me better. Also, working with my mom is a way for us to help each other. Focusing on partnering with someone else can take the focus off of self-promotion.

– I enjoy knitting and crocheting. My first project I used for promoting my graphic novels was a crocheted doll of one of my characters. I set the doll on my display table at a convention to draw attention to my display. Currently I’m creating clothing designs based on the clothing and accessories that my characters wear in my comics.

front_cover

– I don’t get nervous public speaking, so I am comfortable giving live drawing demonstrations in front of an audience. I can record these demonstrations and maximize their promotional value by sharing them online as well.

Natalie: Working with what you’ve got is a genuine and enjoyable experience, and isn’t that what life is all about?