Tag Archives: publishing

Lengthening Shelf Life Part 1

Brian Feinblum, a book promoter and marketer, asked in the June 2017 issue of The Writer, “What can – or should – you do to market books that are aging in the eyes of bookstores, the media, and readers?”

Lately, I’ve been fretting about my struggle to promote and market Perceval’s Secret which I published as an e-book in March 2014. The novel’s fourth anniversary as a published book fast approaches.  I’d love to give it a boost to get it into the reading public’s consciousness to encourage them to buy and read it.

Feinblum, in his The Writer article “Shelf Life: How to promote an older book,” writes about how a book’s “window of newness” has been shrinking over the years. If it doesn’t make a big splash in the first three months it’s on the market, selling it after that could be a struggle. But fiction usually does not lose its relevance, accuracy or current status for a long time, while nonfiction could become dated faster depending on the subject matter. Fiction should be easier to promote after the magic three-month period, right?

Promotional Options for “Older” Books

It’s important to know what the possibilities for promotion for an older book are just like for a new book launch. Feinblum describes them as follows:

  • Let the book die and hope for a miracle that someone finds it, reads it, and sparks a word-of-mouth campaign that will boost sales. I call this the “wishful thinking” option. However, if a writer has constraints on time, it could be just as viable as fitting in promotional activities in a busy life.
  • Create and execute a social media strategy. This option demands the writer be on more than one social media platform, and that there is daily participation on those platforms to talk about the book. I’m assuming that a writer’s blog falls into this slot, along with online book bloggers who review books.
  • Target promotional efforts using traditional media, like print, radio, TV. Interviews on radio programs that cover books, book review sections of major newspapers and magazines, or doing interviews on morning news programs be they local or national are some of the possibilities here. Some of these activities could be done in conjunction with a book tour or locally. Having a publicist could be extremely helpful for this category; otherwise, the writer will be doing all the press releases, making the calls and connections, and setting up the engagements.
  • Travel for the book, i.e. do a speaking tour, paid or unpaid. Book tours require careful planning, utilizing connections in book stores and libraries, and getting the word out about a writer’s visit via press release. It’s helpful if the writer can also help with promoting locally his or her appearance in the bookstore’s location by doing interviews or helping with advertising the event.
  • Advertise the book. Print advertising, for example, in publications that the novel’s target audience reads. I continue to consider running ads in Playbill for Perceval’s Secret. This option has a huge drawback: it can be quite expensive not only for buying the media space, but also for producing the ads. Writers can also utilize social media for advertising, working with the platform to create the ads. When I launched Perceval’s Secret, I did a postcard mailing to the musicians of eleven major American orchestras, and would consider another one.
  • Cross-promote with other authors. This is especially helpful if you know a writer who is fairly well known and has a readership, and who writes in the same genre and related genre as you. The better known writer can spark initial interest and give the lesser known writer a bit of a boost. I’ve heard of this most commonly done for book tours when two or more authors hit the road to do readings and book signings together.
  • Have a giveaway. Everyone loves free stuff. Do a free giveaway for a couple weeks and promote that giveaway at GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, as well as on your blog. Keep it a specific time period to generate urgency. If you have a hard copy version of your book, you can do a giveaway on GoodReads (this site is working on setting up procedures for e-book giveaways but don’t yet offer that option). If you have the money, BookBub also offers effective promotion possibilities.

Before deciding which promotional options will work for your book, it’s important to think about the factors listed below, and this is where I am at the moment with Perceval’s Secret. I’ve looked at all my options and have done some cost estimates – for example, to advertise on Facebook or promote the series’ Facebook page, to do a BookBub promotion – then made a list of where I can heighten my presence to talk about the novel, for example, creating a series of short videos to post at my Amazon author page, on BookBub, at GoodReads, and at my page on Publishers Marketplace. These videos, as I envision them, would be a mix of reading a short excerpt from Perceval’s Secret and just talking about my experience writing the book or why I think someone should read it.

The Factors to Think About

  • What are your needs and desires for promoting the book?
  • How much time and what resources (money) do you have available?
  • How strong is your belief that your book is worth more promotion?
  • Would your time be better served by letting promotion go of this book and focus on writing new books?
  • Have you figured out why your book didn’t sell as well as hoped during launch or why it failed to generate more reviews?

Answers to these questions could steer you in one of two directions. The first is simply to proceed with the new promotional efforts.  The second could be to revise and repackage the book and do a re-launch. This second direction offers the opportunity to make improvements if you decide they are needed or to add promotional items like testimonials from readers, quotes from reviews, or getting blurbs or a writer to actually write an introduction. I know that I want to eventually issue a paperback of Perceval’s Secret once I’ve paid off completely the debt I incurred for the e-book. This might serve as my repackage of the novel with a specific paperback launch. But for now, I’m concerned about promoting the e-book edition.

Next week in Part 2, how my strategy does or doesn’t fit with what Feinblum wrote in his article in the June 2017 The Writer.

Have you ever been faced with promoting an older book? What did you do?  

Ready? Set? Go!

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?




Do You Make Money Writing?


Recently, I read this short article in E. Hope Clark’s newsletter Funds for Writers (from her Funds for Writers website where you can sign up for it) and it really resonated with me.  I thought I’d share it here.


If you haven’t been asked this question, you will. Family, especially, are noted for asking if the time you invest in your work is worth the money derived from it. It’s as if you are choosing to make what you do. It’s as if you are too stupid to walk away when it’s the last thing you want to do.

So, let’s empower you a bit. 

The next time someone brings this question up, turn it around. Ask what they make in their job. Then ask if it’s the best they can make. Ask if they feel shortchanged. And when they say they deserve to make more, ask them why they aren’t hunting for another job. Then ask if the time they spend on their job is worth the money derived from it. Why are they working that job if they aren’t being compensated properly?  

Chances are, they’ll tell you they have no choice. They need the work. They need the money. They hope to make more. They haven’t been able to find other work. They’d leave if they could. Whatever the excuse, they will say the last thing they can do is quit. So, chances are they’ll also add that they sure wish they could leave because they hate their situation, hate the boss, hate the grind. How do I know? Because 80 percent of people in the world hate their job.

That’s when you say that you don’t make what you’d like to make either, but heaven forbid you have to quit because you love it so much. As a matter of fact, you are thrilled to be doing something you intensely enjoy, and it helps compensate for not making more money. On those days you feel you haven’t been paid enough, you still smile because thank goodness you are working in a profession you adore. That alone makes it all worthwhile.

And then you add . . . you hope you never have to retire from it.

That’ll shut them up.

Thanks, Hope, for this much-needed tip for dealing with people who want to know how much money I make with my writing!

Being an Author: Readers

Photo: Marina Shemesh

Photo: Marina Shemesh

Now that Perceval’s Secret has been on sale at Amazon, B&N and Kobo for seven months, i.e. published, I am finally feeling that I have published a novel. Last April, I even thought that I was still working on the publication process and had to remind myself that it was done.  It’s a strange feeling, actually. Writing a blog has helped me deal with the feeling of exposure that sending a piece of writing into the world can create.  I’ve been doing that for seven years now and I’m acclimated to a certain extent.  I also write for Classical MPR online, and that has added to my feeling of exposure but thankfully in a good way.

Being an author can mean different things to different people, I guess.  To me, it means that I’ve written a work of fiction that’s published. It’s now available for people to buy and read.  Often people who are complete strangers.  A few have written reviews at Amazon for the novel, and I am ecstatic to hear what they think of the book and that they enjoyed it.  I think it’s important for authors to hear from readers — a meeting of minds over a work of fiction.

But what about when readers don’t respond in some way?  It’s understandable to me that readers who don’t know the author might remain silent, which is the reason I’m thrilled when a stranger writes a review.  What has been a surprise is my reaction to the silence of readers I know, people I know have bought the book — they’ve told me — but then say nothing after they’ve read it.  Did they hate it that much?

My insecurities come gushing out.  Why hasn’t so-and-so told me what she thought?  Why hasn’t this relative responded or written a review?  Why haven’t other relatives bought and read the book?  I need to take a deep breath, let it out, take another deep breath, and let it out.  Breathing is an amazing defense against the ego’s chaotic sensitivities.

Credit: Deepak Nanda/Wikipedia.org

Credit: Deepak Nanda/Wikipedia.org

I remind myself that I know not everyone will like Evan’s story. Some people won’t like being immersed in the classical music world, or read about PTSD and its effects on a person’s life when it’s untreated, or like Evan’s dilemma and his way of dealing with it. Maybe some people just won’t like my writing. It’s impossible to please everyone, but I would hope that people will try the book before making any kind of judgement or forming an opinion.

Then I remind myself that no one is required to communicate with an author with a response to the author’s book.  Even the people I know personally.

The best way to move away from all this ego chaos is to write. I write in a journal daily. I write my blogs. I write e-mails.  I write promotional materials for the book.  Slowly, I write my way back to fiction. My current projects are short form: a short story entitled The Negligee that is finished and only needs some tweaking, and a short story that I’ve begun writing. Eventually, once I’ve completed shorter writing projects, I’ll begin work on Perceval’s Shadow, the second book in the series. Its first draft is done, but needs a lot of work.

No matter what anyone thinks about me or my writing, I shall write.  Once I have this mantra back into my mind, I’m fine.  The ego quiets down so I can give it something else to preoccupy it while my imagination comes out to play. So, as much as I’d love to hear from readers and what they think of Perceval’s Secret, it is not essential to my writing life.


Perceval’s Secret is still on sale at Amazon, B&N, and Kobo for $2.99.  Now would be a good time to buy your copy if you haven’t already.  I’ll be raising the price on January 1. Or take a shot at guessing the mystery element in the book’s cover design to win a free book! (See details under the “Free Book!” tab)  And if you’d like to write a review to let other readers know what you thought about the novel, that would be grand, and I thank you for it….

Rowling or Galbraith? Or…what’s the color of author envy?

I’ve been feeling a little snarky this week as a writer.  You know, I sure wish I had J. K. Rowling’s problems as a writer.  She now doesn’t need to find an agent, she has one.  She doesn’t need to find a publisher, she has one and an editor who’s willing to go along with her charade as Robert Galbraith.  When she decided to publish under that name, she didn’t start with seeking an agent for Mr. Galbraith, no, she used her own.  So, I began to wonder just how serious she was about publishing completely incognito.

(From npr.org)

(From npr.org)

Lev Grossman in the July 29, 2013 issue of Time, reported on this story — some called it “shocking,” others “stunning” — with his own comments.  It turns out Galbraith’s bio was as much a fiction as the book submitted under his name.  I suppose that needed to be.  Someone might have recognized Rowling’s bio.  As it happened, Richard Brooks, a Times of London editor, sent the book to two experts for computer analysis.  The experts found similarities to Rowling’s writing style.  Mr. Brooks presented the evidence to Rowling’s agent and her charade was over.  She issued a statement in which she bemoaned not being able to carry on the charade longer, and then said, “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Oh, poor Joanne.  I do wish I had her problems of publishing with hype and expectation and receiving feedback under my own name.  Yes, I am a bit envious of Ms. Rowling, and I suspect that any writer who’s been paying attention for the past 15 or 16 years harbors a bit of envy for her too.  It can be difficult to watch another writer hit it big — for Rowling, extraordinarily big — when you’re struggling just to get an agent interested in your work.

I love the story Lev Grossman related near the end of his article about the aspiring writer in 1979 who submitted Jerzy Kosinski’s novel Steps, which won the 1969 National Book Award, as his own under the name Erik Demos to 13 agents and 14 publishers.  Every one rejected it, even the novel’s original publisher, Random House.  Now that’s a shocking story.

Publishing has changed so much in the last 40 years, I doubt there are many of the same editors left at the New York publishers.  Everyone hungers for the next billion dollar mega-bestseller and no one has a clue what it looks like.  But the interesting thing about Galbraith-Rowling is that under Galbraith, The Cuckoo’s Calling sold only about 500 copies in the U.S. despite glowing reviews.  Now that Galbraith has been unmasked to reveal Rowling, the publisher is going back to press for another 300,000 copies.  Galbraith or Rowling?  The book’s the same, the author’s name is the only change.

(From: telegraph.co.uk)

(From: telegraph.co.uk)

Whoever decided that the color of envy was green must have figured it usually involved money, at least in the U.S.  Maybe also the U.K.  It’s possible to envy someone their physical appearance or their good luck, their parents or their talent at languages or Tai Chi, but I believe envy, and its sister jealousy, are created by a desire to be rich and successful taken to the point of obsession.  Author envy for another author’s success is far more common than one might think.  I’ve learned it’s a waste of time and energy, time and energy better spent on my own writing, marketing and life.  Why?

Some people just get all the luck…good or bad….and I want to be ready for mine….