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My Thoughts About Marketing for Independent Authors

My friend Becky and I seem to have this running “discussion” about marketing our books. She recently shared her thoughts on the matter in this blog post, to which I added a brief comment.

Then I decided a more lengthy response was in order…so here we are.

My Thoughts About Marketing for Independent Authors

Step 1; Write the book

Seems pretty self-explanatory and definitely obvious so we won’t go into any detail about it, other than to say if you ever want sell a book, it’s the only place to start (plagiarism notwithstanding).

Step 2; Sell the book

This is where many authors drop the ball.

In fact, when I released my first novel, Living the Dream, way back in the day, I made the very mistake(s) I’m about to tell you to avoid – so pay attention, because I’m speaking from experience.

First, let’s start with some assumptions;

Assumption number 1 – you didn’t write your novel for fun.

This is not to say you didn’t have fun writing it, I’m sure you did (editing – that’s a different story!). No, what I mean is that your ultimate goal was to sell books.

I wrote a blog post about this very topic a while ago (Do We Write for Love or Money?)

There may be some who are insulted by the concept of producing any form of art for money, but as Dr. Samuel Johnson said ““No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

Let’s face it, you spent months, maybe years, writing that book…did you do all that work just so it could take up space on your hard drive? If so, you can stop reading and go do something else…there’s nothing for you here.

Assumption number 2 – you don’t have a publicist or a PR firm at your disposal.

I once entertained the thought of hiring a publicist – until he told me how much his services would cost. I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was far too expensive…especially when he wouldn’t promise me any results. I was of the opinion that if you’re going to charge me hundreds of dollars to increase my sales, you should at least promise me tangible results, or, at the very least, work on strict commission.

He didn’t share that attitude.

Assumption number 3 – you get tired of people asking you if you’re making money yet, and you’re even more tired of telling them that you aren’t.

This can be very annoying, and somewhat demoralizing for independent authors. When people learn that you write books the conversation usually goes from “Wow, you’re an author? That’s cool!” to “Are you making any money?” pretty quickly.

Not that they’re trying to be rude or inconsiderate, they’re usually just curious.

And of course we try to find creative ways to answer, like “I’m not getting rich, but it’s getting better.

 

The take-away from this is that you need to sell your book.

I’m no expert. I can’t tell you that doing this, that or the other thing will result in a sudden influx of cash. If I could, I’d be writing this from my yacht. What I can offer are a few tips of what NOT to do and a couple of suggestions that might help you a little bit.

First – some do’s:

Do:

  • Be aggressive. How aggressive is up to you. I like to strike a balance that is not too passive, but not obnoxiously aggressive either. I’m still experimenting.
  • Be supportive of other authors. The independent author community is huge, and growing every day. Mutual support helps all of us. If you can’t buy books by other authors, at least help promote them – they will usually reciprocate.
  • Utilize social media. Things like Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging, etc are FREE and provide access to millions of people. Take advantage of it (again, I’m still experimenting with different methods, but it works). (Side note: some people seem to get offended by “paid promotions” on facebook – but I use them. Once or twice a month I create a “buy my book” post and pay to promote it. I never pay more than $10 and it reaches a few thousand extra people. In my mind…it’s $10 well spent. Of course you can spend hundreds if you want…I don’t want.)
  • Block out time for marketing. Writing time is precious for all of us, especially if you have a day job, but it’s critical to save time for your due diligence. Believe it or not, I probably spend 2 hours on marketing for every hour I spend writing…maybe more.
  • Steal ideas. That’s right, I said it. If you see another author doing something to sell books that you think might work for you, it’s okay for you to do it too. Hey, there’s more than one commercial during the Super Bowl, right?
  • Monitor your sales on Amazon. If you don’t know how to do this…find out. It’s easy and it’s the only way to figure out what is working and what isn’t.
  • If something isn’t working, stop doing it. Pretty simple. Try a new promo idea…run with it for a week or two, while monitoring your sales numbers. If you don’t see results, move on.
  • Remember – the only stupid idea is one you don’t try. Getting your book cover tattooed on your butt and posting the picture on Pinterest may seem idiotic, but you’ll never know until you try.

 

And now the don’ts:

Don’t:

  • Sit around waiting for your book to sell itself. Believe me, it won’t. Books are notoriously lazy.
  • Assume that what you’re doing is enough. Unless you are interviewing chauffeurs and body guards…keep pushing.
  • Do the same thing over and over. Marketing is a continually evolving endeavor – that’s why you don’t see the same TV commercials for Coke and Pepsi today that you saw when you were a kid (unless you’re 11).
  • Listen to the naysayers. There are people who will tell you that marketing is a waste of time. Ask them how many books they’re selling.
  • Be afraid. Remember the old saying…If you want something you’ve never had, you have to be willing to do something you’ve never done. Maybe you’re shy and don’t want to get out there and sell yourself. Too bad – nobody is going to do it for you.
  • Be aloof. I don’t want to hear any of that “I’m an artist, not a salesman” crap. If you’ve ever gone on a job interview you were selling yourself – this is no different. Well, maybe a little different…but you went on that interview because you needed a job. Think of marketing the same way.
  • Pretend you don’t care if nobody reads your book. You do. If you didn’t you wouldn’t have finished it…or even started it for that matter. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to share your work with the world…warm up to that concept.
  • Believe me. Don’t take my word for any of this…find an author who sells a lot of books and ask them if I’m right or wrong (if I’m wrong, please let me know).
  • Give up. There is an audience for every book…keep going until you find yours.

 

I think that’s about all I have.

As I’ve said many, many times…I am no expert, but I have learned a few things in the past 5 years. Hopefully I can save you some time by imparting these nuggets to you.

Conversely – if you have any tips for me – lay them on me—I am definitely not too proud to listen to your advice.

 

Oh – one more thing…my newest book, Eyewitness Blues is now available in paperback and digital formats…buy it! (too pushy?)

 

As always – thank you for reading

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Hugging Dogs, Duking It Out with Other Authors, Horror in Jersey and other Acts of Randomness

I read somewhere that a blogger shouldn’t go too long between posts lest the audience forget him/her.

The last post I wrote (Do You Ever Wonder if You’re a Good Writer?) was two weeks ago (reblogs notwithstanding) so I think it’s time for another post.

The problem is…I can’t think of a singular topic that will give me enough material for a worthwhile post. I do, however, have a few thoughts that, while unable to provide a high word count, are worth mentioning – so I’m going to share them with you.

Hopefully their combined content will be worth your time.

random

For starters – I am very pleased to announce I came up with a title for my latest novel. Up until this point I had been calling it “Protect This”, but I knew I would eventually need a better title.

The book follows a man named Martin Aquino who is convinced that the witness protection plan is the only way he can secure a “good life”. His biggest problem is that he hasn’t witnessed anything.

His plan backfires a bit and ends up putting him, and three other people, in some pretty hot water.

The official title of the book (unless I think of something better before the August 11th release) will be…

To Catch a Break

Now I need to get to work on the cover design.

 

Next on my mind – Since March 17th my novel Backseat to Justice has been in the Top 100 Crime Fiction books on Amazon. It peaked at #16 – and for most of that time it has been in the top 50.

There was a time when I gave ranking numbers very little (if any) credence. That pretty much ended when my book began its run at number one. As any writer will tell you, it’s a great feeling to know that your work is being enjoyed by others…after all – that’s why we do it.

BTJ cover

There is another reason I’m happy about Backseat’s sudden ascension. When it was released in 2011 I promised half of all profits to a Rhode Island based dog rescue operation called Golden Huggs Inc.

Golden Huggs is run by a friend of mine and I wanted to help, but the independent author’s life is not as glamorous as one might think and the sales numbers are never as high as we would like, so I haven’t been able to give GH nearly as much money as I want to.

Hopefully Backseat’s popularity will continue to rise and I can make good on my promise.

You can help a great cause by purchasing a copy here – it’s only 99 cents, and, if I do say so myself, it’s a damn good book.

 

Moving right along – This Saturday night, May 10th, I will be participating in a fund raising event called War of the Words.

The event will combine elements of an author’s open mic night with boxing and horse racing.

wotw

I, along with three other writers, will take turns reading short pieces in front of an audience. There will be four “rounds”…after each round the audience will select a winner. The last writer standing wins.

Voters will be eligible to win great prizes after each round and all the proceeds are being donated to a Flagler Beach charity called Christmas Come True.

If you can’t attend, but would like to donate you can do so here.

It should be a fun evening and hopefully we will raise a ton of money for a fantastic charity.

Read more about it here.

 

And finally – a few months back I submitted a short story for consideration in a horror anthology called State of Horror: New Jersey.

State of Horror is a collection of short horror stories released by Charon Coin Press, and each state will have its own book.

Much to my surprise, my story was accepted and will be part of the anthology. I’m not really a horror author, but I have always been a huge fan of The Twilight Zone…so my story is more twilight zone-ish than horror.

I don’t know when the collection will be released, but when it is I will let you know where it can be found.

 

I think that’s all I have for you today.

 

Oh, wait! One more thing – About a year ago I landed a gig as a disc jockey on a small AM radio station here in Flagler Beach. As of June 1st the station will be FM – and – in addition to doing 3 hours on Friday nights I will also be on the air from 10:00 to Noon every weekday morning.

SurfLogo

For an audiophile like me – it’s a dream job!

If you’d like to listen in go to www.flaglerbeachradio.com.

Check out my facebook page too – https://www.facebook.com/BlindoggsBsides

Now I’m done.

 

As always – thank you for reading

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Things I Learned at The Inspired Mic

The community I call home (Flagler Beach, Florida – even though I technically live next door in Palm Coast) has a fantastic creative element.

Authors and artists of all types live here, and in the past couple of years have gravitated to each other and are really starting to make their presence known.

I’m writing to tell you about one of the events that is bringing attention to some great local talent and also to tell you of some very valuable lessons I’ve learned at said event.

programIt’s called The Inspired Mic and it’s basically an open mic night for authors, poets and anybody else who has something to share (there have been magicians, mentalists and musicians as well).

Each presenter gets five minutes of mic-time to share their material.

The event takes place on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at a fantastic little eatery called The BeachHouse Beanery on scenic A1A in Flagler Beach. The stage is a stone’s throw from the ocean – so there are much worse places to spend a Tuesday evening.

Inspired Mic began in May (2013) and drew a crowd of about 20 people (including readers). Not a very auspicious opening, but after only four months, the most recent performance had 65 people in attendance and that number would have been higher if not for the limited capacity of the venue.

I didn’t go to the first night, but when I bumped into event organizer Michael Ray King in town he asked me if I’d be interested in reading the following month.

To be honest, I wasn’t.

In the first place, I don’t dig the spotlight. I much prefer being a behind the scenes sort of guy. Second…I didn’t think it was the proper venue for authors.

However, Michael is a good guy, and pretty persuasive, so I agreed to go. My friend Becky Pourchot read at the first one and enjoyed it, which told me there must be something good about it, so I dragged Armand Rosamilia away from Special Gal for a night and we went.

Unfinished Business had just been released so I read the opening chapter.TB at Inpsired Mic

To quote Gloria Gaynor, “at first I was afraid, I was petrified” at the thought of reading in front of people, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be (nothing ever really is). The response from the audience was not only flattering, it was reassuring. I also had a great time listening to the other presenters.

I can’t speak for other authors, but I often wonder if my books are as enjoyable to others as I hope they are. According to the response on that first night, I don’t worry about it as much anymore.

Now I’m a “regular” in the lineup and I look forward to attending and reading each month.

So what has The Inspired Mic taught me?

Several things.

First; it taught me that stage fright need not be paralyzing. Sure, it’s a bit intimidating to read your words to a bunch of strangers, but, as I said above, it’s not nearly as bad as you think it’s going to be.

stage fright

Second; hanging out with 50 or 60 creative people is a blast. My decision to move to this part of the world looks more and more brilliant every day!

I also learned two other things that are really important for all authors and writers.

The first two times I read at the event, I picked my material well in advance and edited it down to fit the 5-minute time limit and practiced reading it aloud several times.editing

This editing process gave me a great insight as to which words and sentences were really important and which ones were just there to fill space on the page.

Naturally, I wanted the audience to fully understand what was happening, but I had to make sure I could read it in 5 minutes (Michael is quick with the hook!). Therefore, every word that wasn’t absolutely necessary was chopped out. I was amazed at how much I was able to cut without taking away from the story.

That was important lesson #1 – if it isn’t necessary, cut it out.

Lesson #2 came at the most recent event. I didn’t prepare at all. I didn’t select any material ahead of time, didn’t rehearse and didn’t edit.

What I did was to hand 3 of my novels (Water Hazard, Pump It Up and Backseat to Justice) to a woman in the audience whom I had never met before. I asked her to pick one, but I didn’t tell her why. Once she made her selection (Pump It Up) I then asked her to pick a page. She opened the book to chapter 24 and I read from there until my time was up.

I hadn’t read this material since before it was published (August 2012) so it was much less familiar to me than it had been back then. I was disappointed to realize, as I read it aloud, that there were a couple of spots where I stumbled over the words because things were not as clear as they could have been.

Mary Dreds

Mary Dreds reading from her semi-autobiographical work at The Inspired Mic.

Important lesson #2; As you write (especially dialogue) it’s always a good idea to read your work aloud and see how it flows. You’ll be amazed at how a few simple tweaks can really clear things up for the person who is reading it “cold”.

All in all, The Inspired Mic has been very good for me (Hell, I’ve even sold a few books from it). One of Michael Ray King’s reasons for starting it was (and I’m paraphrasing) writers suck at putting themselves out there. Generally speaking we prefer the safety and anonymity of our own little made-up worlds. At some point, however, we need to put in some face time in order to sell our work, and what better practice than reading it to 50 or 60 people?

Summing up…Flagler Beach – fantastic place to live…The Inpsired Mic – great event for discovering some awesome local talent…reading aloud – best editing method you’ll find.

As always – thank you for reading

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Independent Authors Need to Think Globally & Act Locally

Think Globally – Act Locally

It’s a phrase that gets thrown about quite a bit in discussions about the environment, but I think it can be put to good use when it comes to marketing your books as well.

The phrase urges people to think about the “big picture” (global) while focusing their efforts on a small piece of it (local).

Every author who releases a book these days understands, or should understand, the value of social media. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, My Space, Goodreads, and whatever other sites you can think of, are invaluable tools in reaching people from all over the world without paying high-priced PR Firms or Marketing Consultants—but in your quest to sell books to your many fans in Australia, don’t forget about the readers in your hometown.

Even if you live in a small town, like mine, there are still thousands of potential readers who probably don’t know you exist. Try to focus at least half of your marketing efforts on them.

Half? Crazy, you say? Why spend half of my efforts focusing on ten-thousand people when I can reach millions on facebook???

Here’s why;

Don’t think about them as ten-thousand people…think of them as ten-thousand FREE marketing assistants. Each one of them has friends, relatives and coworkers. Chances are they also have facebook accounts, twitter followings and Pinterest boards. Ipso-facto…if you can reach millions with your one facebook account, imagine your reach if you get just one-thousand of your local fan base to post or tweet about you.

viral

 

Any effort you can put into having a signing at a local library, book store, bar, restaurant or laundromat is bound to pay off way beyond the fifteen or twenty books you sell.

Let me give you an example;

Last year I met another author in my town named Armand Rosamilia. We quickly became friends and soon began tossing marketing ideas around to gain support right here at home. We both write books that take place in our own community, but we thought our local “presence” could use some bolstering. One night, while enjoying a pint at a local watering hole with several friends, the idea of collaborating on a “short story” was brought up. It soon became a full blown group discussion and it was determined that we should set the story in town and use as many local people for characters as possible.

Our goal was a 10,000 word short story featuring several locals as characters with the action taking place in a well-known local setting.

What we ended up with was a 24,000 word novella. We also included preview chapters from each of our recent releases along with bios and lists of our back works.

cover2We arranged a book signing at the bar where the idea was conceived and spread the word by creating a facebook “event”. Naturally, we told all of the named characters about it and invited them to attend and guess what they did?

They came, they brought friends and relatives and they facebooked, tweeted and pinterested the crap out of it.

Both Armand and I saw immediate spikes in sales of our back catalogs and the little novella we wrote (in roughly four days) sold fifty copies at the signing in less than two hours. Our facebook and twitter followings increased greatly as well.

So when you’re working on your marketing strategy, by all means incorporate social media as much as you can, but don’t forget the power of good-old-fashioned word of mouth. Build your local following as much as possible and let them work for you as well.

Think of each local reader as “patient zero” in your efforts to go viral.

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