Tag Archives: promotion

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!

That Time Again: Writing Update for June 2016

Summer has arrived with a vengeance this week!  Yesterday was 91 degrees here with dewpoints in the 60’s and intensely oppressive.  But I love the longer days of light and feel more energized to write during the summer.  I promised myself last December that I’d do a better job of posting updates about every six months or so, whether or not anything had changed. While nothing extraordinary has happened since last December, nothing terrible has occurred either.  Not that I lead a boring life, or maybe I do….

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107

Perceval Novels:
More reviews at Amazon for Perceval’s Secret and I’ve asked several other book reviewers to review it for me. Charles Ray gave it a nice review here. Sales continue to be slow at Amazon, and none at Barnes & Noble or Kobo.  I found the novel on sale at an online store that I had not asked to sell it, but learned after contacting them that they have a selling agreement with 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, I’ve pulled out all my files for Perceval’s Shadow, the second novel in the series. My plan is to revise it this 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 continue to write notes as I’ve gotten ideas about the other novels.  I’ve decided to definitely set Novel 4 in America as a contrast to Evan’s life in Austria.

Marketing:
Working as hard as time allows on marketing and promo for Perceval’s Secret this year.  Doing a lot of research into 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.

Indiegogo Project:
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 has been transferred to a different credit card to take advantage of 0% interest for 15 months.  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.  This has been a huge step in the right direction.  I’ve also been revising my Indiegogo project — the website has changed the format for their project pages. I have it about half ready to launch now, and need to record videos for it.  I hate asking for financial help through crowdsource funding, but I don’t have the resources to deal with this all by myself.

Short Stories:
I continue work on the science fiction short story, Light the Way.  I’ve taken down the two stories that were on Wattpad, The Negligee and The Light Chamber, and will be revising The Negligee. I had one of those “lightning strikes” of an idea for that story, and I’m eager to work on it.

Essays:
At the end of last year, I decided to stop writing “Word Power” essays monthly for Mensagenda. It was a volunteer gig, and I really need to bring in more money with my writing. 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 want to focus more on the experience of being one of the Working Poor, so it’ll be about economics, money, working, etc. I think.  Life as one of the 98%. This is still in development.

Paid Gigs:
I’ve written two essays about my personal experiences with classical music for ClassicalMPR.org so far this year.  I will continue to pitch ideas to them.  In addition, 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:
I finally launched the website for this small business at the end of March.  Not long after, I received what I thought was my first project proposal for proofreading, but it turned out to be a guy trying to scam me out of about $3000.  Fortunately, I figured out the scam so I didn’t lose any money, but it was a very depressing and discouraging experience.  These scammers believe they don’t hurt anyone because they’re actually stealing from big banks, but that’s not true at all.  I was excited to have work for this business that would bring in good money that I really needed.  This scam hurt me a lot.  I’m not giving up, however.  I just stopped marketing and promoting the business. I know that I”ll need to ratchet that promo up again, probably at LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

The Successful Patient:
I’ve been thinking about this memoir project a lot, even though it’s on a back burner this year.  I continue to be amazed by how my mind works.  I’d like to get something down on paper this year, to get it started.  I think it’d be an excellent book to have out there and would sell well. Its structure still bugs me.

Part-time Job:
I continue to work part-time at the customer service job this year. I’ve expanded that position into receptionist work at the same employer and am looking forward to a raise in July. I really enjoy the receptionist work, and I’ve been thinking that if I need to find a fulltime position, I’d look for a receptionist position (or maybe an editorial assistant).

Reading:
For 2016, I signed up at GoodReads for another Reading Challenge and chose 36 books to read over the year.  There’s a mix of books on the list of fiction and nonfiction, science fiction, mystery, and literary, books in my personal library, at the city library and on my computer.  A friend gave me an e-reader last December that I’ve loaded with ePub books.  It doesn’t accept Kindle books.  I find that I still prefer to read printed hard copy books, and I especially like to read on my work commutes.  How I’d love being paid to read!

Health Update:
I had several sick days in April with lung and GI issues that was apparently an allergic response to something in my living environment.  I’ve since begun a deep and thorough cleaning of my apartment, and my health has improved.  Otherwise, with autoimmune diseases, the most frustrating symptom is fatigue, and that’s been especially intense this year. Fatigue challenges my schedule every day.  I’m doing a very slow taper off prednisone to insure that I won’t have any disease flares, but I’m still experiencing muscle pain and joint pain that responds to heat nicely.  I’ve gotten out my yoga DVD, I’m walking a minimum of 30 minutes each day, and I’m figuring out where in my schedule to put the yoga and my Falun gong practice.

Promotion and Marketing

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107Back in the spring of 2014, just after I’d published Perceval’s Secret, I spent over $3000 on marketing with AuthorBuzz but saw no return on that investment in terms of sales. As a result, I’m now carrying that marketing cost as a debt, along with all the other costs for the e-publication of the novel.  Sales of the novel haven’t increased, so I’m now in the process of finding the best way to pay off that debt.

In marketing terms, I know that one of the obstacles I must overcome is being an unknown author trying to market a first novel. What I have learned since the spring of 2014 is that this obstacle cannot be overcome by traditional marketing.  This obstacle requires marketing creativity.  And this is where I find myself today.

free

At the moment, my only rule for promoting and marketing Perceval’s Secret is that it must be free.  So what are my free options?

Facebook: Yes, if you go the traditional route at Facebook, it will cost you.  But I’m learning that there are other ways, such as a free public page to promote the novel. I set one up back in 2014 and have been working on pulling in “likes” and readers ever since.  It is a much slower process than I expected.  So….

Recently, I joined an Independent Authors support group on Facebook.  It was free, but by invitation only.  I’d been following the blog for this group for some time — the posts there are helpful — and obtained an invitation through that.  Now I’m trying to carve out the time to participate at their Facebook page in order to keep Perceval’s Secret front and center there for the other participants.

Then I ran across another Facebook page that is devoted solely to promoting the books of independent authors.  It is for Speculative Fiction.  I plan to get Perceval’s Secret up there also.

Other Social Media: I’m not very good at using Twitter but I found a service  through another blogger that may be helpful.  Haven’t had the time to research it.  I need to do more at LinkedIn, too.  As a member of a lot of groups, though, that’s a daunting thought, especially with my limited time.  Still working on finding ways to fit more social media into my schedule and not lose writing time.

Photo courtesy Mashable.com

Photo courtesy Mashable.com

Bloggers: I would love to attract the attention of book bloggers interested in Speculative Fiction who’d be willing to read Perceval’s Secret and review it.  I’m in the process of compiling a list.  Then I’ll approach them via e-mail, I think.

Book Reviews: I continue to seek out review opportunities.  Just sent the novel to a reviewer.  I need to do more work at Goodreads in support of this promotion.  I’ve encouraged readers I hear from to write reviews either at Amazon or B&N/Nook, where they bought their copy, but many don’t feel qualified.  All it takes is a couple sentences like “I read the novel and disliked/liked/loved it because…. I’d recommend/not recommend it.”

Word of Mouth: This can be the best and most effective kind of promotion, but is notoriously uncontrollable.  When I’ve heard from readers, I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about the novel.  I’ve encouraged these readers to tell their friends, family, post on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  How to ratchet up the “buzz” on the book? Still looking for good ideas here that are free.

Other ideas: I recently read an article from NPR about Andy Weir’s experience with The Martian.  It gave me some ideas that I’m following up on.  First was to get my novel in front of the audiobook publishers that published Weir’s novel.  I’d been so focused on print publication, I’d forgotten about other formats.

So the promo/marketing work goes on.  I’m always looking for new ideas and things I could do for free, so I’m open to any suggestions that may have worked for you.  Please put your ideas in the comments section below and send me an e-mail.  Thanks!

 

Success, or a Reassessment of What It Means

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107In May 2014 when I was deep into marketing and promoting Perceval’s Secret, I wrote about success in a blog post entitled “What does ‘commercial success’ mean to you?” It’s been almost 2 years since I self-published that novel.  Has it been a success?  What about commercial success?  Am I happy with where it is today? Do I still agree with what I wrote before?

Sales: The novel has not sold on Kobo International. I am thinking of taking it off that website, except it is an international website. Have the international Amazon sites been selling my novel? Not really.  Only in English language countries.  There have been minimal sales at Amazon US and B&N.com.  Overall sales have been disappointing. Commercial success? No. I knew that it would be a major challenge.  It’s my first novel.  I’m not a household name. It takes a professional publicity campaign to get the kind of attention a first novelist needs to be a commercial success.  I didn’t have the money to buy that kind of publicity.

Marketing/Promotion: I used AuthorBuzz for some promotion during the Summer 2014. While this campaign obtained some attention in the form of “clicks,” it didn’t translate into sales. I managed to secure book reviews in publications of groups of which I’m a member, and there were positive reviews at Amazon and at a couple blogs.  I did a major mailing myself to 11 national American orchestras.  I also created a public Facebook page. I promoted the book on Twitter.  I continue to promote the book on Facebook, Twitter, and handing out postcards of the novel when the opportunity arises.

upside down catI had planned to do a major promotion push the first 6 six months of 2015, but major illness derailed that plan.  As a result, I lost precious momentum.  If I wasn’t working on promotion, there was none.  This is an issue for writers who self-publish, unless they have the money to hire a publicist or marketer. I continue to seek out free promotion opportunities, especially online. If I’m honest with myself, I’d conclude that I’m not happy with the level of sales, with the marketing and promotion.  I am also in considerable debt still because of production, publishing and promotion costs I incurred in 2014.

I now view success in two ways: commercial and personal.  Commercial success is about sales.  While Perceval’s Secret has not sold as well as I needed for it to sell, it did sell, and it did garner reviews at Amazon, all either “good” or “excellent.”  What I need to do is build on this.

In terms of personal success, I’ve done better.  First of all, I completed my first novel, worked with a professional editor and finished a publishable manuscript.  Second, I worked with service providers to have a front cover for my e-book, to convert the manuscript into the two e-book formats, and then to secure ISBNs and copyright registration. Third, I published my novel as an e-book, selling it at Amazon, B&N.com, and Kobo International.  I completed a marketing and promotion campaign during the summer of 2014. Now when people ask me if I’m published, I can say yes, and yes, the novel has sold. I continue to write fiction as well as promote my first novel. That is success.

Of course, I’ve also published nonfiction for the last two years, and I’ve been writing here since September 2007.  I’ve been a published writer long before I published the novel.  I consider that an important achievement even if other people don’t see it as I do because I’m not making money hand over fist. I think it’s important for writers to understand the difference between commercial success and personal success.  I also believe that writers need to proceed with their eyes wide open, knowing that commercial success depends on elements they cannot control, only work hard to influence.

My writing desk

My writing desk

My goals for the Perceval series?  I’d like to publish Perceval’s Secret as a paperback.  I will do the revision/rewriting work necessary for Perceval’s Shadow, the second novel. I want to publish the second novel also, after putting it through a rigorous editing by a professional editor.  And finally, I want to finish the last three novels in the Perceval series and publish them also. I’ve learned a lot from publishing Perceval’s Secret, but the weak commercial success is not stopping me from continuing to write.

To Review or Not To Review?

Photo: Marina Shemesh

Photo: Marina Shemesh

I love to read.  I’ve loved books since before I started school, and my parents were reading to me.  My favorite book back then was Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.  I gave it a five-star review by requesting it every time anyone offered to read to me.  The truth is, we review things all the time — restaurants, movies, books, plays, jobs, bosses, politicians, everything and anyone.  Usually verbally, but there are those who commit their thoughts to paper (or the computer screen).

As a writer, and especially now as a published writer, I’m occasionally asked to write a review of a novel, or a fellow writer will suggest reciprocal reviews.  It sounds like a good idea, reciprocal reviews.  The one thing to remember about them, or anytime a writer reviews a book for pay or exchange of services, it’s absolutely necessary to include a disclaimer in the review that identifies the review as for pay or reciprocal.  Commercial reviews, i.e. those that appear in newspapers or magazines, do not need this disclaimer, only reviews by consumers. And if there’s no pay or no reciprocity?  No disclaimer necessary.

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107To review or not to review?  As a writer, I’d love for everyone who reads Perceval’s Secret to write a review at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or on their own blogs.  Get the word out there!  Let people know that it’s fun, compelling and worth the read!  But of course, the reality is that most people don’t feel qualified to write a review (even though any thoughtful reader is) so they don’t write even a short review.  They don’t understand just how important book reviews are for the promotion and sales of a novel.  Especially for a writer like me who hasn’t already had a bestseller and has an audience just waiting for the next book.  Word of mouth is a powerful force, and book reviews are a part of that kind of promotion.  Think of a book review as what you’d tell your friends about the book when you’re having a beer at the neighborhood pub.

What about me?  Do I write reviews?  Yes, I’ve been working hard during the last year to get into the habit of writing a review of each book I read.  I post the reviews at Goodreads and usually Amazon or the store where I bought the book.  And I’ve agreed to do two reciprocal reviews.  The first, I’m embarrassed to say, I have yet to do.  I bought the novel and it sits on my Kindle, and that’s the problem.  I prefer printed, hard copy books, usually paperbacks, and if I buy a Kindle edition, it takes me a long time to read it.  I’ve been catching up on my reviewing “obligations,” i.e. reviewing books of writers I know and these are not reciprocal or even requested of me.  I just want to support those writers.  So I fully intend to honor my obligation to my first reciprocal review agreement, and I’ve set myself a deadline of August 31.

The second reciprocal review went in an unexpected direction.  I bought the Kindle edition and read the fantasy novel immediately, fully expecting that its author was going to read Perceval’s Secret immediately and review it at Amazon.  I think I sent him a free copy of the novel, too, to review.  He did not offer to send me a free copy of his book.  When I finished his book, I wrote the review and posted it at Amazon and Goodreads, and I sent him an e-mail alerting him to the review.  It wasn’t a super, glowing, positive review, however.  I had a couple problems with characters although overall I enjoyed the story and gave it four stars.  And guess what?  To date, I have yet to see a review of Perceval’s Secret written by that author.  I am not pleased.

But then, I have yet to do the first reciprocal review, so who am I to judge?  This is the risk.  People won’t follow through on their agreements.  So what’s a writer to do?  Maybe try to make it easier on readers to write a review?

Here are some questions to answer when writing a book review:

  • How did you come to read this particular book? (Maybe you love the genre, it was recommended by a friend, you liked the cover, etc.)
  • What did you like about this book? (genre, atmosphere/tone, main character, secondary characters, setting, story, character-driven action, dialogue, language style, plot-driven action)
  • What did you dislike about this book?
  • Would you recommend this book to other readers?

The next time you read a book you love, please help out the author and write a review!