Friday, April 24, 2015

Telling Readers about Your Older Books

As with many things in an electronic world, readers tend to notice newer items--whether in digital, paper, or audio formats. This is clear from search engines. I typed in the words "new boo." Yes, that's boo, I didn't even have to finish the word books.

Here are the popular search choices:
New books
New books for 2015
New books out this month
New books released
New books by James Patterson
New books to read
New books released today
New books by Nicholas Sparks
New books out this week
New books released in 2015

So James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks, how about sharing the wealth--or at least in search results?

Here's the rub. Readers buy the books of these two authors, so the search engines assume you are looking for them. The attention is well deserved--great books. People in my mother-in-law's assisted living residence share Patterson books, and at the used book store in my Iowa town, the owner wants "any Nicholas Sparks books you want to trade."

Search for old books and the most frequent references are to the Old Testament, followed by the value of old books. My personal favorite was 'old laws still on the books.'

Authors tend to regard their books as something between a major accomplishment and a precocious (or is it recalcitrant?) child. Having created them, we want them read, not relegated to the bottom
shelf. We want readers to find the older ones as well as the newer ones.

I've developed some ideas for publicizing older books, and will update this post with additional ones as I hear from blog readers. Several ideas may make more sense for a series, and some pertain more to self-published authors.

1) In the back of every book, mention older ones. With ebooks you can have links, but I also have a note that encourages readers to let local librarians and bookstores know they liked a book and that it is available in multiple formats.

2) Self-published authors can easily add links to new books in their older books. If you work with a publisher, ask if they would be willing to add links in newer books to previously published books. If they do reprints of your paper copies, most do this automatically, but don't hesitate to ask.

3) My blog has a link entitled (imagine this) Find My Books. I used to list the web addresses, but am switching to just putting the site name with the appropriate hyperlink. I tweet the link to this page periodically, and put it on the back of bookmarks or other swag for in-person events.

4) Play with prices. I have eight books and a prequel in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, and have begun an approximately eighteen-week process of dropping them (one at a time) to 99 cents. This gives the chance to do a blitz of bargain tweets, Facebook posts, and inexpensive online ads. The book will be new to nearly everyone who sees these promotions.

5) Ask for more reviews. This can be in the back of every ebook, with gentle phrasing such as, "If you enjoyed this book, please let other readers know by writing a review on the web site from which you purchased it. Thank you!"
     Books two and three of my series have relatively few reviews compared to the others. I published the first three within a few months (having worked on them for a long time), and didn't put the effort into seeking reviews for books two and three. Fewer reviews lead to fewer sales. The 99 cent price point will bring in a few reviews. It's never too late to get more. The first book (Appraisal for Murder) was stalled at 25 for quite a while. It's up to 39 now, simply by putting the request in the back and doing a bit more free advertising. Many people get hundreds of reviews in the first six months. I don't, but the numbers will keep growing if I keep working.

6) Promote every site that sells your books. I love Amazon. Its business model changed my life. However, their promotion methods change, and you don't want your sales to rely solely on Amazons algorithms.
     There are fewer books for sale on many other sites, so yours stand out. My older books sell more (proportionately) on non-Amazon sites. You can create pages on your blog or web page for each book, or you can use Kindle Boards to have a page per book. Why Kindle Boards? Because in one place a reader can see links to all Amazon sites (U.S. and international) and three other sites of your choosing.

7) Put your books in more formats. Suddenly an older book is new again. It takes a lot of effort to put out an audiobook, but it can be done at no cost to the author, through ACX (an Amazon company). I also have almost all my books in large print now. Some people say they don't want to take the time because there might be relatively few sales per year. So what? Do the large print formatting while you watch TV (and then proof). As a largely self-published author, I do this at will. A publishing contract may give a publisher all rights for a period of years, or could be just for some formats. Check. Do it yourself if you can.

8) This one is heresy. After thirty years of nonfiction research/report writing work, those skills are pretty well honed. However, since 2010, I've improved some technical aspects of my fiction writing. I am going through early books in the Jolie Gentil series and a couple of stand-alones and taking out extra "I said" and "she said" phrases and doing a few other minor things. I doubt anyone who read a book earlier would even notice, but it makes for a smoother read, which can lead a reader to another book. No, I don't add a new ISBN number.

9) Read, read, read books on book promotion. There are countless more ways to promote via social media than there were when your earlier books were published, and ebooks on marketing are inexpensive or sometimes free. In the physical world, recommendations for media packets have evolved to less is more. Get current with Jeffrey Marks' Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel for a resource that deals with all forms of publicity

10) Pretend social media does not exist and promote without turning on your computer. What?! Some of us don't put much time into putting our faces (and copies of our paperbacks) in front of local media or the kinds of organizations that are mentioned in our books. My Jolie series features a real estate appraiser, and she now runs a food pantry, as a volunteer. My real estate agent in Indiana loved my books. Have I visited real estate and offices in my new town of Springfield, Illinois? Nope. I only made the rounds of some local media outlets and libraries. So, I bought a bunch of "Mystery Peeps," which are marshmallow candies of unknown flavor. I will drop these, plus one of my mysteries and some bookmarks, at some local businesses and media outlets.

11) Help others. Every time you give books to a charity auction or do a session at a library, you get new fans. Auction baskets are a really good place for those extra older books.

12) Cross promote with your blog. See what I did here? I have links to some of my books and other blog posts. On the blog, I have an index of posts. Each item can lead a reader somewhere else. If I do a blog post on planting false clues, there will be a link to one of my books as an example. If your social media presence is all "buy my book," you will be boring and few people will act on your pleas.

Things I'm thinking of doing
1. Sending a letter, to librarians and bookstores within fifty miles, highlighting nearly all of my books. In the past, I've publicized primarily new releases. I'll send a few bookmarks and information on how to buy the books on Overdrive. If your ebooks are not there, many librarians cannot purchase them.
2) At the back of ebooks, adding information about how to order paperbacks, including large print, and audiobooks.

Things Other Authors Are Doing
Send your ideas to me via comment here or email to I'll mention your tip in this post and credit you with the idea.

"Telling Readers about Your Older Books," Copyright 2015 by Elaine L. Orr 
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Monday, April 6, 2015

How Broad a Readership Do You Want?

Generally, authors want their books in front of anyone in the appropriate age group. Even so, most of us make conscious choices about our reading audience. We do that in the content itself, and who we populate the book with.

I write murder mysteries for adults, geared to readers who do not want to read about body parts that did not remain with the newly departed's torso. These are typically called traditional mysteries (think Agatha Christie, M.C. Beaton, Raymond Chandler, many books by Robert Parker) or more recently, cozy mysteries (Louise Penny, Parnell Hall, Dorothy Sayers, Donald Bain as Jessica Fletcher, often Mary Higgins Clark).

Many traditional mystery writers strike a middle ground for gore level. A key difference between the traditional and cozy categories is where the murder takes place—usually off screen, so to speak, in a cozy. Cozies often have an amateur sleuth, generally a woman.

You can debate categories. I put M.C. Beaton in the traditional category because her sleuths are (more or less in the case of Agatha Raisin) detecting professionals. Others say she writes cozies because they are set in quaint villages with quirky characters. I have seen Sue Grafton's novels listed as cozy mysteries, but Private Investigator Kinsey Milhone deals with more varied levels of violence than most cozy mysteries.

Cozy books frequently align with a hobby or non-law enforcement profession, and you won't find a car mechanic among them. There are a lot of bookstore, yarn shop, or coffee cafĂ© owners. Why? These authors have defined the bulk of their audience as women, and these are professions  with  more women than men. The pastel-colored covers with genteel furnishings (and cats) also cater to women. Some say cozies focus too much on the hobby/profession (how many kinds of coffee does a reader want to know about?), but for many readers, that's part of their reading enjoyment.

Not all amateur sleuths are in fields that hold more interest for women. Nancy Lynn Jarvis' Regan McHenry is a real estate agent, and my Jolie Gentil is a real estate appraiser. Some sleuths are college professors or people retired from varied professions. I picked the appraiser position for Jolie because it gave her time to get into trouble and she would be involved in a fairly broad cross-section of the town, including its business community.

Before a blog reader comments that my thoughts are sexist, take a pragmatic look at who buys books. Women read more in general, and read more fiction than men. Sadly, readership levels (as measured by the National Endowment for the Arts) are dropping. In a given year, barely half of U.S. adults read a book not required for work or school. Most authors don't write simply to sell books, and book quality can't be measured solely by sales. Still, if you're going to all the trouble to put a book out there…

Authors can't simply decide which readers to appeal to, they have to reach out to them. A traditional publisher helps do that (a lot) simply with a book's designation or the books they promote together. What author wouldn't want their book in the same publisher's newsletter as a new James Patterson, Robert Galbraith, or Janet Evanovich mystery? (None of which are cozies, and some have placed body parts in varied locations.)

As a self-published author, I reach readers through many publicity avenues. Most are through social media, but I also use traditional ways—library talks, book signings, letters to bookstores/libraries. The best (unpaid) publicists are the friends and readers on my monthly newsletter list. Personal relationships are as important in bookselling as life.

Some readers (mostly women) write reviews, and I truly value them. Occasionally I learn something about a character from a reviewer. I may see a person as quiet, readers may see them as aloof and uncaring. Do I want to maintain a character as perceived, or have them exhibit their quietness differently in a succeeding book? You can do that in a mystery series. The bottom line is that reviewer comments influence who else reads a book.

Iowa State Fair flowers
I'm continuing the Jolie Gentil series and starting a new one, the River's Edge series, set in a town on the Des Moines River in Iowa. The new protagonist is a female, but as a landscaper, she is more physically fit and does things that not every woman does. She can drive a tractor and get down and dirty in soil. Her brother taught his wife to rope a cow. Maybe Mel, the landscaper, can learn, too.

In choosing to make another protagonist a woman, I'm probably skewing readership to my own sex. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld says. However, I've given her a more gender-neutral profession, and she drinks beer and roots for the Iowa Hawkeyes. My kind of woman.

And now the book is out! From Newsprint to Footprints is the first of the River's Edge Cozy Mystery series, set in a fictional town along the Des Moines River. Good humor and believable characters. Too bad about the murder...
All Amazon sites
More soon!!!
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 Check out Elaine's web page or sign up for her newsletter