Saturday, February 22, 2014

Best Bets for Marketing Books

Writing a good book is not easy. The characters have to be interesting, better yet memorable, and the plot has to go somewhere. Somewhere can be as simple as an afternoon at the beach, but it can't be boring. I write cozy mysteries, which are less gory than detective novels or police procedurals. I think of them as murder without maggots, but that's not a good marketing slogan.

Getting a book out the door

I self-publish the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, and spent almost five years writing the first two books. Now that I'm semi-retired, I write two books every year. After all that hard work I have the audacity to want people to buy them, and not just for a sense of self-fulfillment. I want to make some real money.

Electronic book production altered the publishing industry as much as going from typesetting by hand to desktop publishing changed getting a book from author's draft to final copy.

Writers now have many of the capabilities of a New York publisher, and sometimes make more per book than a publisher would pay. It used to be that if you wanted to put out a book yourself you either paid thousands of dollars to what was termed a vanity publisher or you found a printer and had them turn over the fifty boxes of books to you. In either case, you did most of the marketing, which meant going from bookstore to bookstore, with a few stops at libraries. And there was no room for a car in your garage.

There are formatting guides at each site, so I taught myself how to format a book for sites such as Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble. I can load the finished product to those sites, preview the product, and have it for sale in two days. This is two days after the book had been finished, received comments from friends or other writers, revised, edited, and proofed.

Marketing a book effectively

Okay, you've got a really good book and it is error-free. Now what? Here are things I do to make sure people who buy cozy mysteries can find my books.
  • Don't be shy. Let your friends and colleagues know about a new book. I do a bi-monthly email to many people. These are not names I scooped from a Yahoo group or a blog post, these are people I know, mostly in person. Each email says if a recipient does not want to get more update emails, just say so. In the email I mention things such new books, a blog post they might like, and a recent success. Your friends will be your biggest fans, and they'll tell their friends about your books.
  • Seek reviews. Potential buyers look at a book's ratings and reviews. There are many sites that publish these, and you should ask local papers to mention your book, even if they don't do reviews. Ask a few people you know to write reviews of your books when they are first issued. Do NOT go around saying, "I need some five-star reviews. Just read the synopsis and you can say something good." This is unethical. If these are your plans, please stop reading.
  • Start a blog. No, not because the entire world wants to read what you think. You should be so lucky. A blog lets people find you, and it's a place where you can keep a list of all your books or things such as samples of good book reviews. Blogs are free and easy to set up. I use the Google-sponsored Blogspot because I found it easier to set up than a Wordpress blog. Once you have one, post regularly, and don't make every post self-promotion.
  • Create a web page. Use a web page only if you want to spend the time keeping it updated. I have elaineorr.com, which I did myself. You can tell that I did, and I may get a professional to start from scratch someday. Right now, it meets my needs. Remember, there are fees to register your domain and often fees to host a site. Blogs are free, and generally easier to update.
  • Tweet. I delayed doing this and wish I had not. You cannot document books sold as a result of your tweets because you use many marketing techniques at once. However,
    Tweet like a birdie.
    I sold no books to overseas markets until I tweeted. You will not have a large Twitter following immediately, so send tweets to people with common interests using hashtags. Some I use are #cozymysteries, #avidreader, #womensleuths, and #mustread. My Twitter address is @elaineorr55. I almost always follow back. There is a post on my blog about tweeting.
  • Use the correct link. If you tweet, or do anything else designed to reach markets in a country other than yours, make sure the book links provided go to sites where, for example, folks from the UK can purchase your books. They cannot buy them on Amazon.com, they have to use Amazon.co.uk. If you search for Amazon International Sites, you can get to an Amazon page that has flags for most countries in which they sell. Search for your book on each site and use that link as needed. You can then tweet to #kindleuk, #kindleaustralia, and the like. You can list international links on your blog.
  • Use Kindle Boards. Kindle Boards has forums and you can create a profile for each book. Then use that page as a link for the book. It will be a super-looking page and there will be flags for each Amazon site. Amazon also permits links to other sellers on KB Boards' profile pages. (I did a post explaining how to use the KBoards.)
  • Set up a Facebook fan page. If you don't know how, do a Yahoo or Google search about how to do it. My personal page is for friends, family, a few writers I've come to know even if not in person, people from my church... Get it? Personal. My posts are not public. A fan page can be public and deals only with your writing. If you give it a title such as Elaine Orr's Fiction Page, then when people look for things related to fiction, your page comes up. Don't post what you had for dinner. Stick with writing. Do a post if you write a book review, read something that might be helpful (such as this article), or are pleased with the new cover design an artist sent you.
  • Do not do your own cover unless you are a graphic designer or expert hobbyist. Never. Ever. Do an online search for something like 'bad covers' or 'finding a good book cover artist.' You don't have to pay a lot for a cover. I even used Fivver for a couple of nonfiction books.
    That's a site where you can get anything done for five dollars. Smashwords maintains a list of people who assist writers for a reasonable price. You buy cover artwork in a work-for-hire arrangement, which means it's yours to copyright with your book, and use for marketing. The one shown here is for Behind the Walls and is among my favorites.
  • Join a Yahoo Group that deals with your genre or subject matter. I belong to Murder Must Advertise. Members of these groups share what they know and are often generous with ideas.
  • If you enjoy social media, set up a Pinterest account or use sites such as Tumblr. Some authors post videos on sites such as You Tube. If you use the latter, don't do it yourself. You can get recommendations from friends or people on social media.
  • Create an Amazon Author page. I know of no other sales sites that let you do this. (Tell me if you do.) You can modify a book's description, keep your bio updated, and provide your thoughts on each book. Best of all, if you have books produced by a publisher other than you, you can add them to your profile and include more info than is in the book description on Amazon's page for the book (which is only what the publisher put there).
  • Use Goodreads and Shelfari. The latter lets you list characters, settings, and more for each book. Goodreads (which Amazon bought in 2013) is a world unto itself. Create an author profile and link it to your books. I now do a Goodreads giveaway for new paperback books, which draws a lot of attention. If you agree to send books to other countries, be aware you will pay international postage, which is not cheap.
  • Here's a don't. Don't make your entire Internet presence relate to selling your books. If your writing features pets, go to some pet blogs and post comments. If a book features a realtor, ditto for those sites. I post to Twitter links to how-to blog posts I've done. Anytime I tweet I get at least one hundred views.
  • What about KDP Select or Kindle Countdown? I make a good deal of money on Amazon. I'm a huge fan. Amazon also looks out for itself very well. For example, you cannot price a digital book lower on another site. You agree to this when you publish a book, and that's the policy whether you use an Amazon marketing program or not. If you sign up for a special marketing program, you cannot sell a digital book on another site for the ninety day period. You can use KDP Select, which lets you give away books for five days during that ninety-day period. The Countdown alternative (you cannot use both concurrently) lets you price a book very low for a period of time and then work the price back to its regular price. I've done both, and believe they are especially effective if you publish a series. For now, I keep a couple of books on KDP Select, and sell the rest at all sites. I make enough money elsewhere to want to keep the books available through all sellers. 
  • If you do special promotions, publicize them. It may seem that if you have a free book people will flock to it, but there are other authors doing the same thing. Readers are not likely to see your book unless you point them to it. One site (Book Marketing Tools) now gives you one place to link to sites to promote your free and discounted books. Some charge a fee and some do not. Other sites with multiple promotion links are Savvy Writers and ebooks' list of twenty-six sites, and a similar list from Galley Cat. You will find broken links, as not all promotion sites stay operational. There are also Facebook groups that let you promote. Bookmark every marketing site you find so you can go back to them.
  • Publish a paperback. If you don't, what would you show people when you give a talk or attend a writers' conference? Create Space (an Amazon company) is truly simple, and they have help available 24/7. I am about to use Lightning Source for additional editions. Bookstores are sometimes more comfortable ordering from Lightning Source, but there is a fee. Create Space is free and books are listed on all major book retailers' web sites. Also, if you use KDP Select, having a paperback on Barnes and Noble or iTunes lets readers know there may be an ebook somewhere else.
  • Set limits. Whatever you choose for Internet marketing, make a commitment not to do it more than a set amount of time each day. You could spend a morning going from link to link.
  • Market everywhere. Jeffrey Marks has written Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel. It deals with all aspects of marketing, including Internet. If you buy one book, I suggest it be this one. You need to do press releases, visit bookstores, and volunteer to give talks at the library or to groups such as Lions or Rotary. Authors get used to marketing from their chairs, and that is not enough.
Want some more ideas? Check out the tab that says Index, and you'll see several articles on formatting and marketing books.

Finally, keep writing. The best marketing tool you have is a new book.
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And what kind of marketer would I be if I didn't tell you where to buy my books? Here are links to my books on major sites.
www.smashwords.com/profile/view/elaineorr (all ebooks,
all formats)
itunes.apple.com/us/artist/elaine-orr/id467570687?mt=11
www.amazon.com/author/elaineorr
www.barnesandnoble.com/s/elaine-orr?keyword=elaine+orr&store=allproducts
http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/Search?Query=elaine+orr
play.google.com/store/search?q=elaine orr

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Snowy Day to Write

A view from my brother's back door, in Waters Edge, near Baltimore. The water is Bear's Creek, which feeds into the Patapsco River. I wanted to be closer to the fence to get more of the water, but the snow was up to my knees. It's a good day to write.

Lately I have had trouble putting my tailbone in the chair until afternoon. I'm usually more disciplined. There is nothing like being snowed in to focus your attention on writing.

I am well into the seventh book of the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series. My goal is to finish before the end of the month. That will require more cooperation from my tailbone.