Tag Archives: Marketing

Is Anyone Out There?

Photo: NASA

One of my lifelong interests is stars, planets, galaxies, and everything about them. Today, I saw an article about seeing the light from galaxies that were formed over 3 billion years ago. They are so far away from us, it has taken 3 billion years for their light to reach us. Distance in the universe often confounds my imagination. I was thinking, in response to that article, that the blinking lights in the night sky that have always fascinated me are not necessarily single stars but probably entire galaxies. Those tiny blinking lights. Does sentient life in those tiny blinking lights ever look to their sky and see us?

As a writer, I often feel like a tiny blinking light in a massively gigantic universe, and I’ve struggled to find how to be inviting as a writer and encourage readers to read my stories. After all, as a tiny blinking light I am most likely an entire galaxy of planets, stars, black holes, and stardust. And I’m really not 3 billion years away, I’m right here. My stories are right here, too. But how would I ever know if anyone came to visit?

Is anyone out there?

Hope Clark, in her Funds for Writers newsletter several weeks ago, wrote about her perception that nobody is reading anymore. She has that perception because she’s not receiving the responses that she used to receive — at her blog, via email, with book reviews. If people are reading, she’s concluded, they’ve stopped “talking” about it.

Photo: Marina Shemesh

She has a point, but I’m not certain that I agree completely. It’s only been in the last 10 years or so that I’ve considered responding to an author about a book of theirs I’d read. Before that, I read and read, and it never occurred to me to try to reach out to an author to let him or her know how much I enjoyed their work. Now that I’m an author myself, I know how it feels to read a person’s review of my work, or to have a reader comment here, or to send me an email. It’s wonderful to know that my work has been read. Like most writers, I don’t like writing and sending my stories into the black hole at the center of our galaxy and never knowing what happened. Up until 10 years ago, though, I would have said isn’t that to be expected?

Now, we have so many ways to connect with people whether or not they are strangers.  One of the things that I learned over 10 years ago — and it made me want to find a cave somewhere in which to write — was that writers must be accessible in some way to publicize their writing. Traditional publishers expect writers to market their work as well. So writers need websites and/or blogs. They need author pages at all the places online where books are sold, and they need to be an active presence on GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media they can find time to join and be a presence on. It exhausts me just thinking about it.

One of the things I decided to do, though, to be a presence as a writer is to write reviews of books I’ve been reading. I read voraciously — new and old books, fiction, nonfiction, good and bad. I post my reviews at GoodReads, and then if the book is relatively new, I try to also post the review where others will see it and can immediately buy it, like Amazon and B&N. What a difference it would make if all readers took a half hour (or less) after reading a book and reviewed it online? It’s not a big deal, either, and doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning review. Just what you thought of the book and why, and if you’d recommend it or not.

Writers will know then that their work hasn’t disappeared down a black hole, and they are not alone, a tiny blinking light far away in a black sky.

Advertisements

A Week Later — Was the Free Promotion a Success?

It’s April 14 and outside my windows heavy snow falls at a brisk pace. As the snow accumulates, whitening the world, I am trying to make sense of the results of the free promotion I ran for Perceval’s Secret, March 23 through April 7 (and actually into April 8 for a while). I had not set any specific goals for this promotion because it was an experiment. I did have some questions I wanted to answer:

Is it worth it to have Perceval’s Secret on sale at Kobo International (Kobo.com)?

Kobo continued to perform as it has from the first day in March 2014 that I put Perceval’s Secret on sale. That is, a big fat zero. To my knowledge, Kobo has not provided any kind of supportive promotion, i.e. included the book with other similar books in emailings to potential customers. I do know that Kobo has set up an arrangement with another online store to sell my novel also. To my knowledge, sales at that other online store have been zero. As a result of this continued poor showing, I took my novel off sale at Kobo last Sunday.

Why did I choose to use Kobo initially?  I wanted an online bookstore that would cover foreign markets for the ePub format (the same as Nook). That was Kobo International.

How does B&N.com stand against Amazon?

It surprised me that the free sales at B&N were also zero during the promotion. When I first launched the novel, I did have some sales at B&N; and with a promotion I did for book clubs, people who owned Nooks almost equaled those who owned Kindles. So I’m mystified by this result to the promotion. I’d hoped to move more at B&N and possibly garner some reviews at B&N as a result. I’ll leave the book on sale there because now it’s the only place anyone can purchase the ePub format of the book.

Does Amazon really dominate the online book market as much as I’d heard it did?

According to the results of my free promotion, the answer is yes. KDP Support was not very easy to work with, since they would not allow me to change the price to $0 myself (as the other two online stores did), and they kept claiming that the links I provided showing the book at $0 on sale at B&N and Kobo actually showed it as not being free. It left me thinking that KDP Support (which I’m convinced is based in India since all the names were Indian) had a real passive-aggressive way of dealing with people.

I did not sign up for KDP Select because I chose to sell an ePub edition as well, so Amazon was not the only online store that was selling the book, and in order to be in KDP Select, Amazon needs to be the sole seller. If I’d chosen Amazon as my only online seller and I’d joined KDP Select, there would be more promotional opportunities through Amazon for me. As it is, to my surprise, Amazon has begun sending out promotional emails that include Perceval’s Secret at the top of a long list of books. Thank you for that, Amazon.

The really good news is that over the 2-week period of the promotion, Amazon sold 245 free copies of Perceval’s Secret. That’s 245 more people (I hope) that now own the book and will read it (I hope). I also hope that out of those 245 people, some of them will be moved to write reviews of it for Amazon, or maybe even GoodReads, too. Or maybe even send me a note, either via this blog or via the Perceval Books Facebook page. 

What’s Next?

As a result of the BookBub Follower promotion run by LitRing that I participated in during the first week of my free promotion, I now have an email mailing list of BookBub people who read thrillers. I plan to use this list in some way, perhaps sending out emails to this list for future promotions. Also as a result of the BookBub Follower promotion, I increased the number of my followers at that site by 156. My expectations for that promotion had been very low, so that number was a nice surprise. I also followed back everyone who followed me and had a public profile.

So, I consider this a good beginning to a year of promoting Perceval’s Secret.

Being a Creative Writer in 2017

Yesterday, while cleaning out e-mail, I ran across several Funds for Writers newsletters I hadn’t yet gone through. One contained a brief musing from Hope Clark on “How to Make Time for Writing.” What really caught my eye were these 2 sentences: “When someone thinks writing is about squeezing it into an already busy schedule, they’ve already discounted it (the writing). Instead, writing ought to simply be more important than something they are already doing, and they stop doing that other thing because it just makes sense.”  To which I thought, “Clearly, Hope Clark doesn’t need to work to pay the bills like most writers in 2017.” Usually that “something they are already doing” is a fulltime job because writing doesn’t pay the bills.

Clark goes on to say: “Fulltime money means fulltime writing, and even so, fulltime writers struggle making enough income to live on.” I’ve been a fulltime writer. Most years I made $0 income from writing and lived off my retirement savings while I continued to write and seek out paying markets. The reality is that getting paid for writing, especially writing fiction, is a tremendous struggle nowadays, and I suspect it always has been. But you can write for free all you want on the internet of course, and websites will welcome your writing.

If you are a writer with a fulltime job to pay the bills like me, you know what I’m talking about. I’m fortunate if I can get an hour a day for writing, and afternoons on the weekends. That’s for the writing and research for writing. That doesn’t include marketing for Perceval’s Secret or promotion for it, networking for shorter pieces like essays and short stories, or reading.  I’m fortunate to have a commute of about 40 minutes in the mornings and 60 minutes in the evenings, so I’m able to read on the bus. If I didn’t have that commuting time, I’d not be reading either. I’ve thought of writing on the bus, but handwriting is hard because of the stops and starts, and bringing my laptop on the bus when I don’t use it at work ends up being too heavy and too much, and too much of a risk it’ll be damaged or stolen.

So, it’s fine to dream about writing fulltime, make money with your writing, and maybe even having a substantial readership someday. To get there you need not only hard work but time in which to do that hard work. Being a creative writer in 2017 means that you will be expected to do everything yourself: writing, publishing, marketing, promotion, and perhaps even distribution although Amazon has made distribution much easier as well as other online sites. And going into debt to do it all.

If you choose to go the traditional publishing route, you’ll need to secure representation from a literary agent which means research, writing query letters, sending query e-mails, and repeat. You could also research publishers to find out which ones publish your genre and accept unagented manuscripts. If you get an agent, then that agent starts shopping your manuscript around. Chances are, you’ll be asked to do more revision work on it as well. Let’s say your agent lands a publishing deal for you. The publisher’s editor now takes over your manuscript, perhaps will request more revision work. Writers working for the first time with a publisher won’t generally be given any say in the title of the book, the cover, and production decisions like font. You will be expected though by the publisher to market and promote the hell out of your book because the publisher won’t. But you won’t have to set up distribution yourself.

This is the reality of being a creative writer in 2017. And in my humble opinion, it’s perfectly OK to squeeze in writing in my busy schedule whenever I can because I need to write, I need to market my writing, and I need to keep writing. That is not discounting writing at all. I’m saying it’s important and as much a part of my life as the job I have to pay the bills.

Do you squeeze writing into your busy schedules? How do you do it? Do you think that’s discounting your writing?

 

 

 

How do you choose books to buy?

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”  — Winston Churchill

Sam Shepard

In another word, perseverance.  Success and what it means has been in the back of my mind this week.  Sam Shepard died as the week began, and reading about his life as a playwright, writer, and actor proved provocative to my mind. Shepard told an interviewer once that he felt most comfortable in the theater, writing for the theater. That made me ask myself where do I feel most comfortable in my creative life? How does that feeling relate to production and success? I know I am happiest when I am writing fiction.

This morning, I ran across a short essay by Hope Clark, a mystery writer who has a well-known newsletter called Funds for Writers. In this essay, Clark wrote about what the most important thing is about being a writer.  Is it getting credit for writing and publishing? Or is it giving the world a great story experience?

My next thought was that maybe success could be measured in just how great the story experience was that you’ve created. But how does anyone know that? And could one person’s great story experience be another’s failed story experience? Today, for example, I finished reading a novel that has won rave reviews and that I’d heard friends and acquaintances rave about for a long time.  I didn’t think it was that great at all.

I don’t rely solely on what my friends and acquaintances recommend when I’m looking for a great story. I read reviews, I subscribe to the NY Times Book Review newsletter, as well as reading the review sections of other papers and magazines. I have to admit that I don’t pay much attention to marketing blurbs or any kind of promotional pitches. What I pay attention to are the descriptions of the novel’s story, and then a little to genre. I love books, though, that blend genres or bend them. So I guess it’s important to know your own taste and interests before going off to Amazon or a bricks and mortar store to buy books. I do miss bricks and mortar bookstores where I could wander around and actually see, touch, and smell the books!

In her essay, Clark describes the kind of promotional copy that will turn her off a book, and the kind of promotional copy that will spark her interest. Her ultimate point in the essay, though, is that authors need to remember their responsibility to readers, i.e. to provide them with a great story they’ll be glad they paid good money for and spent their time reading. That whatever they say in their pitches and promotions, they focus on the story.

So, Mr. Churchill, I think I’d define success for a writer in this way: Committed to writing the best you can, knowing what makes your stories great,  giving your readers one great story after another, and attaining the recognition of being a writer who produces great stories, i.e. the kind of stories that people want to buy and read.

What draws you to a book? How do you choose the books you buy? What was the last great story you read? Please respond in the comments section!

Updates:

Image from Pixelstalk.net

Image from Pixelstalk.net

The last day of 2016. The prevailing feeling online is “good riddance” to this year. No doubt about it, 2016 has been a challenging year in many ways. Right now, I’m in a strange place because of the election. Back in June, I wrote about the election in terms of my work on the future world in the Perceval series. Now the election results have brought America maybe one step closer to the America I envisioned for 2048. Let’s hope not. It’s challenging me as a writer, thinking about protesting against the actions of the Trump administration through my writing, and realizing that I probably will not be alone in this. A friend recently asked me if I were prepared to be arrested. Wow. I never thought anyone would ask me that in America because I’m a writer.

My last writing update was in June of 2016. Time for another:

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107

Perceval Novels:
No new reviews at Amazon for Perceval’s Secret since June. I continue to search out book reviewers.  Sales continue to be slow at Amazon, and none at Barnes & Noble or Kobo.  If you have not yet bought your copy (only $2.99!), please do, and give it a read.  The reviews continue to be good to excellent!  I’d love to hear from readers through reviews at Amazon and B&N, or at Goodreads.

As for the other novels in the series, last spring I pulled out all my files for Perceval’s Shadow, the second novel in the series. My plan was to revise it during the summer, then move on to finish the first draft of Perceval in Love, the third book (I have half the first draft done already).  I did not accomplish this goal because I became caught up in the part-time job and a job search for a fulltime job, and I didn’t sit down and figure out when I’d be working on the novels. I hope to do better in 2017. I know that I feel much better physically and psychologically when I’m putting words on paper.

Marketing:

I continue to work as hard as time allows on marketing and promo for Perceval’s Secret.  I continue also to research free marketing and promo, especially online.  I need to talk more about the novel and hand out the postcards for it far more than I do.  Still need to utilize the marketing/advertising tools at GoodReads, LinkedIn and Publishers Marketplace.  Time has not been kind to me.  I continue to promote the novel on Twitter and Facebook.  I’ve been writing more posts at the Perceval Novels Facebook page, too.  Please go and like it, and visit often for updates on the novels.

A-hand-writing-with-a-pen-006

New Novel Project:

As a result of reading a couple of gothic romance novels this year, I’ve hatched an idea to transform a screenplay I’ve written, Over the Rainbow, into a novel. I love the story, the main character, and the potential of it, so I’ll be doing some foundation work on it in 2017.

Indiegogo Project now GoFundMe Project:

The one change I made in this area was the website I’d use for this project. I’ve had experience with GoFundMe, and I like the option to have ongoing fundraising rather than a deadline. All the rest is the same: I continue to pay off the credit card debt I’d been carrying from production, publication, and marketing expenses that I incurred to publish Perceval’s Secret as an e-book.  I’m now paying off the principal rather than having the interest eat into my payments, and I continue to pay more than the minimum each month.  I hate asking for financial help through crowd-source funding, but I don’t have the resources to deal with this all by myself.

Short Stories:

I completed a short story, Into the Woods, taken from some of my early work on Perceval’s Secret, and submitted it to a contest. I continue work on the science fiction short story, Light the Way.  For 2017, I plan to work more on short stories to get more of my writing out there for people to read. Short stories do not take quite as much time as novels to write.

Essays:
I continue to write posts at the Eyes on Life blog (as Gina Hunter) and here at Anatomy of Perceval.  My focus at the Gina Hunter blog has become a bit fluid: I continue to write “The Successful Patient” posts, but in addition I’m writing about the experience of being one of the Working Poor, so it’ll be about economics, money, working, etc. I think., and more about politics and how it affects the Working Poor. I hadn’t planned on getting into politics, but it looks like I’ll need the outlet for my outrage.

Paid Gigs:
I’ve written essays about my personal experiences with classical music for ClassicalMPR.org this year and I continue to pitch ideas to them. I’m presently working on an interview with a young composer for them.  I continue to search for other places that will pay me to write about subjects that interest me (or that will pay for fiction).

Yager Editing Services:
After dealing with the scammers last spring, I decreased my marketing and promo activity for this small online business. As a result of my Publishers Marketplace page, however, I received an inquiry for editing a novel last month. This put me face-to-face with something I hadn’t thought about before: the need to be 100% in support of the book in order to spend so much time editing it and in order to be fair and objective. The inquiry involved a book I could not be 100% behind, so I declined to work on it. I need to write something at this website that will clarify my position on what interests me and my need to be 100% behind the book in order to be an effective editor of it.

The Successful Patient:
Nothing has changed on this project — still on the back burner.

Part-time Job:
I continued to work part-time at the customer service job and the receptionist position. A raise in July was most welcome but wasn’t enough to offset my expenses. A good friend stepped up and offered a no-interest loan to pay my rent so I wouldn’t get evicted, and I accepted. I began looking for a fulltime front desk receptionist position and have had several interviews but still haven’t clinched the job for me. Since my financial situation is so precarious, I’ll be working harder at selling my possessions as well as promoting my writing, and my editing services.

Reading:
I met my 2016 Reading Challenge at GoodReads! Not yet certain if I’ll sign up for another in 2017. It has been helpful in giving me incentive to read more than I was. But I want my primary focus in 2017 to be writing fiction. I’ll continue to read, but perhaps not as much as I return to journal writing, for example, and work on fiction in the evenings.

Health Update:
Autoimmune fatigue continues to challenge my schedule every day.  My very slow taper off prednisone continues, and the lower the dose, the more I experience joint pain with occasional tiny flares of my other autoimmune issues. So far, I’ve been able to control it all. I’m also working on getting off some other medications. Dealing with my medical insurance company takes more time than I’d like, and I have to say that they definitely do not make it easy for their customers. I’ve begun my favorite stair exercise (to music) and plan to move my body more through walking, yoga, and Falun gong practice in 2017. Since writing is such a sedentary activity, it’s important to get up and move on a regular basis.