Author Newsletter


Happy…Tuesday, dearies. (I had to double-check that it was, indeed, Tuesday before I typed that.)

This is just a quick post to announce my new author newsletter. It has been on my mind to start one for some time, but I guess it took a pandemic for me to actually do it…

I’ll be moving most of my book announcements to the newsletter and also plan to share exclusive excerpts and such from works-in-progress. Sign up below so you don’t miss anything! As always, we will only use your information to send you book-related updates and marketing via the newsletter, and we won’t share your information with others.

Stay safe and healthy out there. And happy reading. ❤

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New Year’s Resolutions N’at


It’s that time again (or, as January is almost over, passed that time) to set goals for the new year, including writing goals! So read on for my official, writing-related new year’s resolutions n’at. (And if you don’t know what n’at means, you may need this.)

Last year, I accomplished several major writing and publishing goals. Accomplishments included self-publishing Reclaim, the third book in my Reborn series, as well as a companion novella, Revenge. I attended my first writing-related conference and joined two professional organizations for a little networking and friendship with other writers. I also submitted a standalone young adult novel I’d written to a writing contest (Pitch Wars). That was a major fail, haha, but I’m glad I did it. I don’t know if I’ll try it again this year, but definitely in the future. (If you’d like to find out more about Pitch Wars, visit their site.) I managed to accomplish another goal in 2017, but I’m keeping that under wraps for now…it remains to be seen whether it will be a success or a failure. 😉

Although I didn’t do as good of a job updating this blog last year, I did a lot of writing, even if I wasn’t always writing about writing. Teehee. In addition to the Pitch Wars manuscript, I wrote (most) of a Reborn-world novel for NaNoWriMo. “Reborn-world” because it’s based in the same mythology, but mostly focuses on two characters not in the other books. It’s, quite frankly, not anywhere close to being done. When I took a break from it over the holidays I realized it had some problems I needed to work through. I still think there’s an interesting story there, but I’ve put it on the back-burner for now.

(As an aside, this is also why I shouldn’t gleefully announce projects way in advance, lol. I thought for sure I’d want to do something with it. I still probably will, but it’s not top priority at this time. It was still important writing as far as back story goes, though. As authors, we write down a lot that doesn’t actually end up making it into a book. But we have to know it happened. If that makes any sense…)

In addition to writing projects, which I PROMISE I’ll get to in a second, I have several marketing-related goals I want to meet. This is always hard for me, as it is for any self-published author (and probably any author, really…) because, although I know how important marketing and promotions are, it takes time away from actual writing. Which is what I want to be doing. However, I’m hoping that if I write down these resolutions here, for all to see, I’ll be more likely to do them. At least that’s the idea. 😉

  • Web site: I really need to upgrade this site. Like yesterday. There’s no reason I can’t buy my own domain and transfer everything over…I think GoDaddy let’s you do this. But it’s slightly extra work and I don’t wanna. But I need to.
  • Newsletter: I want to start an author newsletter to give more targeted updates to readers. I’ve been doing some research into this, subscribing to newsletters from authors I enjoy to see what they do. It seems like MailChimp is the way to go for this? (If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments–about any of this, of course, but especially newsletters!)
  • Author Signing/Book Festival: The idea of going to one of these things feels really overwhelming to me, like even just thinking about it. I attended a panel of local authors talking about these last weekend and…even though I expected there to be a lot of prep for these events, there were tons of details I hadn’t even thought of. Yikes. So my goal is to just do one of these in 2018. Just one, and go from there.

Writing Resolutions

And now for the moment you all, or at least some of you, have been waiting for. I did start writing a thing this January. It doesn’t have a title yet…except for Reborn Book 4. 😉 It will likely be the last book in this series with Siobhan, Carly, Jasper et al. as the main characters. But I felt, in addition to tying up loose ends from the previous books, they still had stories waiting to be told. (I do have ideas for other books set in this world…”spin off” books, if you will, for characters that have been more secondary or minor until now.)

I’ve just started writing so am still getting a feel for this book. I think I’m somewhere in between a plotter and a pantser, lol. Although I have the main plot and some of the major turning points in mind, sometimes I just start writing without a clear outline, to see what my imagination cooks up. Then I stop and go back and sort of reassess things, making a clearer outline then. Even when I do outline, things often don’t go as planned, but that’s part of the fun. I don’t want to force the story to go a certain way if that’s not where the characters are taking me.

So I can’t tell you a lot about this book yet, but I can tell you some of the loose ends it will address. This is probably an incomplete list since I’m not looking at my notes, going off the top of my head here (and, if you haven’t read the Reborn series yet, spoilers abound):

  • Sibohan’s origin. Siobhan is unique among the halflings, those who are part human, part Olympian. She seems to have a special set of powers no one else has. In this book, you’ll find out why.
  • Siobhan and Jasper. They’re together at the end of Relapse, but it’s an imperfect union. Jasper loves someone who finds it hard, with good reason, to truly love him back. Siobhan feels more of an addiction to Jasper than actual love, but I think Jasper is on the road to redemption and she will discover there are honest feelings there. In any case, these two need a more satisfying resolution.
  • Eric and Anna. Eric has been the “big bad” up to this point, building his halfling army to overthrow Zeus back on Olympus. He suffered a bad defeat at the end of Reclaim, but he’s making his comeback in this book, his army larger and more formidable than ever. But Eric has secrets still waiting to be uncovered. If you remember from Relapse, Siobhan and Victoria almost happen upon one of them in his penthouse when they’re rescuing Vanessa… Anna had some problems at the end of book 2, to say the least, although she’s since been on the road to recovery. She undergoes quite a transformation in the meantime…it’s been fun to play around with her character more.
  • Prophecies. There have been two main prophecies floating around in the series that are pretty important, and now you’ll get to find out why. Vanessa says one of them in Relapse, and Moira, an Olympian seer, gives Carly the other in Reclaim.

Speaking of Carly…she will have a major part to play in this upcoming book as well, and I’m hoping to resolve some of the loose ends involving her. However, I don’t have this part completely ironed out yet so I won’t say anything more. A lot about everything I’ve said could still change because I’ve just started writing it…these were just some of the specific plot threads I’ve left dangling that I want to make sure to tie up…if not into a neat, tidy bow, at least into some sort of complicated knot that’s really hard to get out…

As far as a timeline for all of this goes, I don’t have much sense of a release date. I am sorry for that, but I’m also not going to set one for a while, at least until I have a better sense of how this is all going to come together. Although I am a writer, and I love that part of myself, I’ve been learning not to try to solely define myself by that. I have other goals, other obligations, not related to writing at all, that are important to me, too. Between all of those things, and writing, it’s just hard for me to get a sense of how to time releases. The book is done when it’s done, haha. I want to make it something readers will devour and enjoy, not something that was rushed. If I had to guess, maaaaaaybe I could get this book out end of 2018 or spring of 2019, but we shall see. This is not a hard deadline (clearly).

I know waiting is hard, but I hope you’ll bear with me. The wait will be worth it. In the meantime, if you’ve read any of the Reborn series and enjoyed it, take a moment to spread the word! Tell even just one friend about it, or post a rating and/or short review to Goodreads, Amazon, etc.

Happy 2018, and most importantly, happy reading!

 

 

Adventures in Marketing


Long time, no post. Didja miss me?

The only “real” update I have is that I am giving away two signed paperback copies of Reclaim on Goodreads! The giveaway is open through April 27th (U.S. residents only) and you can access it here.

This post will serve as my monthly check-in for April, but since I don’t have any earth shattering updates, I’ve decided to do a post about my recent “adventures” in marketing. And by adventures, I really mean me trying different marketing platforms to see what works.

So what works? The truth is, I don’t know yet, haha. 😉 I am still learning and exploring what options are out there. And I’ve only recently started toying with Amazon and Goodreads’ marketing tools. I know it will take more than a few months trial and error to see what really works, to figure out what I think works best. So this is more of a post that–if you haven’t played around with any of these tools yet or simply don’t know what’s out there–will hopefully give you somewhere to start. And, if you come across this post with experiences of your own you’d like to share, feel free to comment down below! 🙂

Facebook

I’ll be honest with you: Although I loved Facebook when I was first starting out as an indie author, it’s slowly becoming one of my least favorite platforms.

Don’t get me wrong. I still like it for certain things. I still value it as a go-to spot to connect with friends and readers, to post links to interesting, book-related articles or to my own blog posts. But, ever since Facebook has started pushing its own advertising platform (and, as a result, decreasing the number of followers who see your posts unless you pay up), it’s become less of a fun thing to do.

And, believe me, I get it. I totally get that if you’re going to have your author page or whatever on Facebook, and you’re advertising a product (in this case, my books), that Facebook would like some compensation for that. The only thing is, I’m not super convinced (yet) that paying Facebook to advertise your books leads to tangible results (i.e., book sales). In my experience so far, it doesn’t, and–compared to the other options I’m going to talk about next–it isn’t cost effective, or any kind of effective. And at the risk of getting banned from Facebook forever (would they do that? lol!), I started to feel like the money I was paying to advertise on there would have been better spent getting flushed down the toilet.

Not that advertising on it is completely useless. What you’re really paying for is extending your reach on Facebook, so if you advertise the page itself you will see some new page likes trickle in, or if you boost a post you will see more likes on said post than you would have had you not shelled out $20. But as for any of those people buying your book…I am still skeptical. Maybe if you run it constantly enough and people see it all the time they might finally get curious and buy it or something. However, I’m not convinced enough of this yet to use Facebook for constant advertising, unless maybe it’s around the time of a book release.

Also, just as a heads up, you have to be careful how you lay out your advertisement on Facebook because it gets angry when there are too many words haha. Only a certain percentage of it can be text. As a result, you will likely get a warning message when you prepare an advertise for your book that includes the book cover. Usually it’s okay because book covers are one of the exceptions to this rule (Facebook will still approve the ad), but it’s something to be aware of. I think it’s kind of dumb, though. A LOT of authors are trying to promote their books via Facebook, and including the book cover is an important part of that.

Amazon

Although I will have to experiment more with Amazon’s, for me it’s definitely a more appealing option than Facebook. For one thing, on Amazon (and Goodreads, as you’ll find out next), you only get charged if someone actually clicks on your ad. So, even if they don’t end up buying it, at least they have to physically do something for you to get charged, and it feels a little less like flushing money down the toilet, haha.

Amazon Marketing Services offers two campaign types, sponsored products or product display ads. So far, I have only tried the former. You include a catchy tagline for the advertisement, and you select the start and end dates for the campaign, as well as the maximum amount you are willing to spend per day. So, for example, I ran a sponsored products ad for Reborn for about a month with a daily cap at $5 per day. (Sounds like a lot, right? Because over a month, if you actually reach that threshold every day, you could end up spending $150. But more about that in a second.)

You also choose what keywords may lead to your product getting display (for my book, I chose keywords like “paranormal romance” and “urban fantasy”). Amazon will have suggestions for you based on past searches that have brought people to your book. You can pick as many keywords as you like. You also choose a bid for each click…so, for instance, I could pick “paranormal romance” and bid $0.10, so I will get charged that amount if someone using those keywords happens upon my ad AND clicks on it. I would reach my daily threshold of $5 if 50 people clicked on my ad at $0.10/click.

Next time, I will probably up the bid (I think $0.25 or $0.50 are the usual suggestions). I *think* the bid has something to do with how often your ad is shown (that’s how it works over on Goodreads, at least).

The ad for Reborn, as described above, made about 49,500 impressions in the month it was running. It got 79 clicks, and I made two sales. I mean, now that I’ve put all that out there for you, it doesn’t sound super great (ha, ha), but in that month I only spend $12.70 on this, because not everyone who sees your ad will actually click on it. You may not end up spending anywhere near your daily max every single day of the ad.

That being said, I wouldn’t recommend picking a daily max you couldn’t actually afford if you did end up paying that much. I’m obviously still experimenting with this, and maybe if I said I was willing to spend $100 per day on advertising I would get better results, but that is not happening any time soon. Although I think people should be willing to invest both time and some money into their dream, I’m not recommending you splurge your life savings on it. (Please don’t do that.) This is the cheapskate’s guide to marketing your e-book.

Goodreads

By the way, I should probably have put in this disclaimer much earlier, but I do not work for or represent any of these companies. I am just hoping this post can serve as a source of helpful information that’s all in one place and giving my honest opinion about each of them.

Like the others, Goodreads’ usefulness remains to be seen, but so far it might be my favorite. It’s true that it will likely be a challenge to get a click on an ad on Goodreads to turn into an actual book sale, but it also seems like I will be able to run my ads for a much longer time on there while spending the least amount of money. Which is what I’m always aiming for. Like I said. Cheap. Skate.

Seriously, though. You can create ONE Goodreads campaign, with one budget, and run MULTIPLE ads simultaneously. I have one campaign running right now with a budget of $25, and four ads (one for each book/novella in the Reborn series) running at the same time. I chose to just end the campaign (I started it March 22nd) when the $25 credit runs out. In the meantime, it just keeps on runnin’.

On Goodreads, you can also choose a daily maximum so you can cap how much you are willing to spend per day. I again chose a $5 daily cap and this time chose a $0.50 cost per click. You can choose which genders, countries, and genres you want Goodreads to display your ad(s) to. You also choose a tagline and other info you might want displayed (number of reviews, a link to the preview, etc.).

This campaign is currently running and is obviously still an experiment-in-progress. Since March 22 when it began, it’s been viewed 10,556 times. Only one person has clicked on one of the ads, so I’ve only spent $0.50 so far. I think what I like about it is that it will just keep running, I don’t have to do anything, and, like on Amazon, I don’t get charged unless someone who sees the ad makes a meaningful action (i.e., clicks on it). This is opposed to Facebook, who just gets your $25 either way, ahaha. (I’m sorry Mark Zuckerberg. Don’t take it personally.) Talk about paying for people to “like” you.

Addendum 4/17: So, I wasn’t exactly correct about how Goodreads’ ad campaigns worked…namely about how/when they charge you. I’ll fix it above later (when I have more time), but for now I’m adding this. It does charge you when it creates the ad, but only takes money off the credit when someone clicks on it. BUT…but…this still means that your original credit could still go a long way.

*****

It is too soon to tell what my feelings on all of this will be a few months from now, or a year from now. I will keep you posted. For now, I hope this has been an informative post for those of you who have yet to try any of these things out. I know there are other avenues out there I haven’t explored yet. So far, the results of these ad campaigns haven’t been crazy successful. I guess I’m also hoping there is some value in just seeing the ad (in addition to clicking on it) that may prove useful in the long run…that it will, in time, lead to an add on a Goodreads to-read list and, eventually, to a sale.

Only time will tell.

Updates and GoFundMe Campaign


reclaimcoverA quick update post for your Wednesday afternoon.

Last night in a burst of inspiration likely brought on by sleep deprivation, I felt compelled to create a GoFundMe campaign for Reclaim. This is the first time I’m trying any sort of fundraising for my books, so we’ll see how it goes, especially since I’m feeling really reluctant to advertise it. Click here to contribute.

More details are available at the link above, but I decided to do this to raise some money for marketing/promotional materials. My goal is to raise $500 by the end of autumn. This will enable me to try additional marketing avenues as well as pay for book trailers and covers for upcoming books. Turns out, this is hard to do on a postdoc salary and book royalties. 😉

This is definitely not a I-won’t-publish-Reclaim-unless-I-raise-enough-money sort of deal. Reclaim (and subsequent books) will get published either way. This is just a request for a little bit of help. Donate $1 (or two, or more) to help me spread the word about the Reborn series and grow its readership!

Upcoming Cover Reveal and Updates


I like to try to check in at least once a month, even if I don’t have a lot of new updates (which has been the case for the last several months or so, lol). My only major update has usually been “I’m still working on the edits to Reclaim…I swear…” I always think I’m going to be further along with it than I am, but honestly these things just take time. I feel a little nervous that I haven’t let anyone read it yet, but I’m trying to get it into a form that I’m not too embarrassed to let people read yet, haha.

I’m not even changing that much, but there is one kind of important thing that I realized wasn’t working and desperately needed to fix. Last week I was really struggling with how to do that and was feeling frustrated and whiny. I don’t usually like to whine in my blog posts (at least I don’t think I do…), so that’s why I held off on an update post until I was over it. Luckily, over the weekend inspiration struck, and I feel like the edits are going smoothly again. Right now the release date is set for October 25th, 2016…I’m keeping it that way for now; if I do end up pushing it back, it won’t be too much further out (maybe like November). I’m not going to put something out that I don’t think is ready, but one of the nice things about being indie is that I have complete control over the schedule (muahahahaha!). So I could probably still do everything that needs to be done in five-ish months…

Also, I totally put revisions to Revenge, the short story I posted on here last October, and publishing it as an e-book on the back burner. I figure I’ll go back to it once I’m feeling more confident about Reclaim, but right now book three is the priority.

That all being said, I do have one important/exciting announcement! I’ve finally set a date for the cover reveal, which will be on Thursday, June 30th. If you are a book blogger/author/reviewer and would like to participate, please fill out this form (it’s also pinned to the top of my Facebook page for the next few weeks). I won’t share your information with anyone, and all I really need is your blog or web site link so that I can send out links to everyone participating–it’ll be like a blog hop. You can sign up until Sunday June 26th.

Thanks for following along, and happy Thursday. 😛

 

Add Reclaim on Goodreads.

The M Word


….Marketing. (Why, what were you thinking?)

I am slowly but surely trying to get back into the swing of writing and blog updating. Just last week I successfully defended my PhD dissertation (hooray!!!), and now my hunt for a “real job” resumes. Since I can’t seem to stick to one field, I’m also thinking ahead to my plans for the rest of the Reborn series, and I’ll update the good ol’ blog about that soon. (It feels good to get back to story writing.) But, like I said, today’s post is about something many writers perhaps view as a necessary evil: marketing and promotion.

I’ve talked about marketing strategies and what’s worked (and hasn’t worked) so far for me before on this blog. Since I’m still trying new and different approaches to see what works–it’s definitely a learning process–I thought I’d touch on this subject again. I know that some of us as writers detest marketing and promotion out of principle–we want our stories to stand on their own and attract an audience because they’re great stories, not because we’re shoving them down our potential audience’s throats. Although I get that, I’ve never really been averse to the mere concept of promotion. No matter how good your book actually is, no one is going to pick it up (or download it onto their Kindle) and read it unless they know it exists/where to find it. Nevertheless, as I’ve come to accept myself, there are definitely other factors–many of them beyond your control–that will affect your sales. So, here is an updated post about what I’ve tried as far as marketing goes, what’s worked for me (and continues to work), and some other factors to consider.

1. Free Promotions

I’m listing this one first because it’s worked the best for me (I can’t speak for all authors), although, as with any strategy, there are upsides and downsides. Clearly one of the disadvantages is you’re giving your book away for free and not making even the 35% royalty from your $0.99 book (or whatever rate/price combo you’ve chosen). But, if you’re just starting out and primarily concerned with building an audience (like I am), it might be something you want to consider more seriously. If you’re new to self-publishing, a little bit of background about Amazon Kindle: At least in the beginning, you will probably sell most of your ebooks on Amazon’s platform. It really does seem to dominate the e-book market. When you enroll your book in the KDP Select program, you are able to take advantage of Amazon’s free promotion tool or something called the “Kindle Countdown Deal” (a note about that in a moment). One possible drawback, depending on your view, is that the electronic version of your book has to be exclusive to Kindle for the three-month enrollment period. So you can offer a paperback version through Createspace (spellcheck wanted to change that to meatspace…), but no Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc, at least until the enrollment period ends.

Advantages: You will likely “sell” lots and lots of books using Amazon’s free promotion tool because readers like to stuff their Kindle Cloud with free books. (There are downsides to this–see next.) My debut novel Reborn sold exceptionally well during the first few months of its release using this tool–and still does the few times I’ve tried it since then–and usually hits the Kindle Free bestsellers list in its genre. Obviously if some people are merely downloading as many free ebooks as possible, like I said, not everyone is going to get around to reading it right away…but even if a handful of people do, that’s a handful more than you may have had otherwise. Some Facebook and Twitter pages are on the lookout for free/$0.99 books, so it helps get the word out about your book without you having to do too much (except put it on sale).

I’ve also noticed that, after the free promotion, my sales remain pretty steady for a time after the book goes back to its original price. Something similar happened when I decided to make Reborn free on Smashwords (which links to a network of other major e-book platforms–again, B&N, Apple, etc.). I had never really tried it using Smashwords before until recently, and I haven’t really sold many books through these other platforms. (Unlike Amazon, your book doesn’t have to be exclusive to these other sites to make it free–you just change the price on Smashwords, and it updates all related sites.) Well, it certainly boosted sales, particularly to B&N, including after Reborn went back to its original price. I picked up a few more readers this way who are excited for Relapse to release to these other platforms this summer. Further, with Amazon’s price match option, Amazon takes the liberty of adjusting the price of your book to better compete with other retailers. (This is a neat trick to circumvent  KDP Select…shhhh, don’t tell Amazon…)

Disadvantages: Since readers are stuffing their Kindle or whatever with free books, don’t expect this to necessarily correlate with more reviews on Amazon/B&N/Goodreads or an influx of followers on your preferred social media sites. With every promotion, a few more reviews, followers, or additions to someone’s TBR list trickle in. So it’s up to you how much time you really want to pump into these types of promotions. Yes, it seems to help–but you also seem to have to do it pretty consistently to start seeing some real results, and it can get frustrating. You also have to put aside your ego a bit since you’re giving away your months and months of hard work for free (or at least very cheap). The jury is still out on how this tactic will work for me in the long run.

A note about the Kindle Countdown Deal (KCD): I wasn’t very happy with the results when I tried this. For the KCD, you reduce the price (but it can’t be free) for a number of days you specify. For example, I set a sale price of $0.99 for my ebook that’s usually $2.99, and on Amazon there’s a little timer that counts down to the day the deal will end. You can also raise the price back up in increments ($0.99 to $1.99 to $2.00, so on and so forth). I created a two-day promotion for Relapse on Amazon.com and sold maybe like seven ebooks in about the first 12 hours of the deal…so, ok, but not great. When I next tried it on Amazon.co.uk (and made the sale period longer), I sold a big fat zero. Unfortunately, you can only run one KCD per market (US or UK) per enrollment period, which is pretty long (three months). Maybe it would have helped to make the sale period longer in the US (where I live), but I’m not re-enrolling Relapse in KDP select, so that might be a future experiment. However, other authors have been pleased with their KCD results.

2. Social Media (subtitle: Popular! You’re gonna be popular!)

Clearly, this encompasses a variety of platforms–Wordpress, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and a lot of newfangled apps that I’m too old/stubborn to try. I’m going to touch on the ones I use here, with some advantages/disadvantages and dos/donts. Obviously, I use WordPress to host my blog. Maybe one day I’ll be willing to shell out cash for a real web site (when I get my real job), but for now my blog works just fine. I use it for the same things and have tried to confine it in recent months to just writing and book-related posts.

Facebook: This may come as some surprise, but, even after all of Facebook’s changes, it still seems to work the best for me, personally. I have both my Facebook page (S.L. Stacy), and I created a separate profile (from my personal account) to network with reviewers, readers, and fellow authors and writers. (Be my friend! LOL) When I first started out with just my blog, I had about 20 or so followers (mostly my friends and family), and now I’m up to 319…more than some, measly compared to others, but it’s still helping me expand my readership. With Facebook’s new restrictions, there has been a decline in the number of people that see my posts, but some of them still do well considering I don’t pay for ads. And I’m on Facebook more than I’m willing to admit, so I update it fairly regularly.

By the way, has anyone else taken out an ad on your Facebook page to extend your reach? I tried it once (for only $5), and it definitely helped boost the number of people on Facebook who saw the post and increased interaction a bit (as far as likes and shares go). It definitely did not boost book sales, though. I’m really cynical about social media ads because I can’t remember the last time I actually clicked on one and bought something (never).

Twitter: Oh, Twitter. Although I see the possible utility of Twitter and I do use it from time to time, I get super annoyed with it. This is one social media platform that I think authors need to be very careful with. I’ve noticed a lot of writers who just constantly blast tweet after tweet about their books every single day, and I don’t see how that could possibly work. Even though you have your profile description and little picture/avatar, you are still (hopefully) an actual person behind it, so show your followers that and tweet about other things besides your book. Not that you shouldn’t tweet about your book(s) at all-I tend to do it a lot when the book first releases and during any sales, but that’s it. I also HATE getting direct messages from other accounts asking me to buy their book or follow their Facebook page. I don’t see how that works, either (If it’s worked for you, feel free to let me know in the comments. I’m interested in your experiences, too.)

Although, just like the next platform I’m going to touch on, there can be a lot of hate/negativity on Twitter. I’m just philosophically opposed to the whole let’s-gang-up-on-this-artist-and-tweet-mean-things-to-them-because-rage thing that seems to happen on Twitter. You probably wouldn’t do that in real life, so why is it ok to do it on social media because you get to hide behind your computer? (WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?!!!!) The whole idea of it just makes me sad for humanity, even when I don’t necessarily disagree with why people are angry/annoyed.

I do somehow have over 900 Twitter followers now. Again, I don’t really know what that means, but it makes me feel kind of awesome even though it’s not uncommon on Twitter these days with all the follow-back etiquette.

Goodreads: I’m on Goodreads, and, yes, it’s just another way to reach potential readers–and that’s awesome. But beware of trolls. Also, don’t stalk your reviews. (I’m still guilty of that. Do as I say, not as I do.)

Tumblr: I have a Tumblr, but I don’t really use it that much anymore. Honestly, I’m pretty sure most of its users are in high school-early 20s, and it just makes me feel kind of old. As far as book promotions go, it hasn’t really helped or hurt me when I used it more frequently.

3. Brand/Genre

Branding is a fun one, and another thing some may be wary of. It’s supposed to be about the art, not the brand, right? Although often branding seems to take over, diminishing the value of the art itself (this seems to happen a lot with the “music” industry, or is at least talked about a lot), establishing some sort of basic brand/persona isn’t a bad thing. It lets readers know what you and your books are about, what they might expect from them, if your work might mesh with their usual tastes in reading material, etc. Well-designed blog and/or Facebook banners can help convey a sense of this. (Hire a graphic designer if you’re not good at creating banners and book covers. It’s probably one of the best investments you can make as a budding author. I love the work that Heidi, who has designed my banners and both of my book covers, has done for myself and others. I find it’s better to establish a relationship with a graphic designer rather than using those pre-made book covers you can buy on certain sites, but that could just be me.) Your presence on social media and topics you like to cover on your blog(s) also helps establish your brand.

Genre is probably an obvious one. Is your book primarily a mystery? A romance? Sci fi? Literary fiction? Thriller? Horror? Your book might merge elements from multiple genres, but pick a few that you think describe it best.

Although this seems straightforward (and maybe it is, for a lot of people), I’ve found that trying to categorizing one’s book can be a bit tricky, especially when you’re writing “romance.” Apparently, what this genre term means to me and what it means to other readers differs in some aspects. To me, “romance” has always been an umbrella term or euphemism for…lady smut? Haha! I’ve dubbed my series a paranormal romance because it definitely has overwhelmingly paranormal elements, and one of the primary themes (although there are a lot of other plot threads) is an intensely erotic relationship between my two main characters (that is not always romantic, although they have their moments). But, apparently when some people see that PR or romance tag, they want the formula, HEA or HFN ending. Yeah, sorry guys. you’re not going to find that here (or at least not for another few books. (You learn very quickly when you put your work out there that you aren’t going to please everyone, so don’t expect to or even try.) For me, I’ve found the best description for my work seems to be “PR/urban fantasy” or “urban fantasy with strong elements of romance.” (Because urbanfantasciencefictionmance is not a genre.)

This is a little off-topic, but we had a lively little discussion on one of the Facebook groups I belong to, the Indie Author Review Exchange, about genre–more specifically, what constitutes “women’s fiction” and whether or not we should even call it women’s fiction or use designations like “chick lit,” etc. As far as marketing strategies go, it will help you to know who you’re writing for, who you think will want to buy your book. (Are you writing for young adults? 20-somethings? Men? Women? Do you think your work has broader appeal and could be enjoyed by just about anyone?) It’s not a bad thing to want to read a book with a main character who will resonate with you, who you can relate to because you share a certain characteristic with them. And, on the one hand, I’m proud to be a female writer writing for what I expect will be a primarily, 18+ female audience.

BUT. But. On the other hand, I’m starting to see the downsides to gender-targeted advertising of any kind. It would probably be ok if it felt like it was an even playing field–maybe men tend to like this set of things, and women tend to like this set of things, and it’s all good because it’s all worthwhile entertainment. Well, first off, we know that not all men like the same things…ditto with women. We’re all different.

Secondly, it usually isn’t treated like the above. When you’re a woman, it usually feels like: Men like this set of things, which are awesome and worthwhile and manly, and women, being inherently silly, like this other set of silly, terrible things that are unrealistic and a complete waste of time. (By the way, I’m not saying that only men or all men feel this way. Women put down each other all the time for the things they like. Everyone has done it at some point, myself included. I’m consciously trying to stop and catch myself when I do it.) Yes, some of our female audience-targeted entertainment may indeed be silly, even stupid. I’ve come to accept that I like a lot of “silly” things. But, men–as much as I love you–a lot of the things you like are silly (and unrealistic), too. 😉

I’ve grown in my opinion of this topic of genre and gender since I’ve entered the indie writing world. I’ve come to realize that a lot of the assumptions we make about our intended audience–even though it’s a useful marketing tool–are restrictive and kind of sexist. As a romance writer, I didn’t realize how many male romance writers were out there (besides Nicholas Sparks…). Men write romance and read romance–some because they want to support fellow writers (male or female) in the genre, even if it’s not their favorite, and others simply because they like it. I’ve been able to reach a lot of different kinds of readers with Reborn, which–even if most of my audience will, in the end, be composed of my target, 18+ female readers–is pretty cool.

4. Other Variables

Despite everything I’ve said, about sales/promotions, social media, and branding, I’m beginning to realize that there’s a few major variables in the self-pub equation that are pretty much out of your control. Namely, time and luck. Ok, time you do have control over, as far as just keep on writing–don’t give up, and as you build your brand and your body of work, the readers will come. It just takes time. A lot of time. Patience is not one of my virtues, but I’m working on that. You also have control over how you budget your time between writing, networking, promoting, reading, and doing other life things. But luck? Waiting for the right reader to come along and download your ebook and love it so much they tell their vast social network about you and your book? Yeah, you have no control over that. I hope it happens for you (and for me, too).

But in the meantime, experiment with a few marketing strategies and see what works the best for you. Have a presence on your select social media platforms without becoming one of the “BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!” automatons. The most important thing you can probably do, though, is to start on your next project–write, write, write. Remind yourself why you’re doing this: Because you love it, you love writing, you love your imaginary world, you love your characters and you want so share that passion with others. There will be many ups and downs on this journey, and sometimes you will need to be your own biggest cheerleader.

Speaking of writing…..

*****

Here are some other blog posts that I’ve found helpful (albeit cynical) and that motivated my own evolving attitudes on marketing and promotion:

Marketing, Social Media & Book Signings: Why NONE of These Directly Impact Book Sales

Please Shut Up: Why Self-Promotion as an Author Doesn’t Work

The Journey So Far


I’m trying to write at least a post per week leading up to release day. This post is in part a reflection of my self-publishing journey so far; I’ll also share some things that I’ve learned along the way and offer what I hope will be helpful advice. I’m not an expert, but I can tell you what worked for me, and what didn’t. I hope some of my tips will work for you, too. 🙂

I started this blog in the summer of 2012…looking back at my old posts, it was June 6, 2012, to be exact. I wanted to get back into creative writing, and a blog seemed as good a way as any to do so. I had tried blogging once before, in undergrad–I created a Blogspot blog, where I posted a young adult sci-fi book I had written (and had been rewriting since high school) chapter by chapter. I don’t think anyone ever read it, lol. I didn’t know how to direct traffic to it. I’ve found WordPress to be a lot more straightforward as far as networking with other bloggers goes, but that’s just me. Anyway, I started out on this blog, The Urge to Write, by posting random excerpts from stories I had written, book reviews, and pretty much anything else I felt like. Eventually I made a little blog schedule…which I have since abandoned…but it worked pretty well at the time. I accumulated some WordPress followers and started a Facebook page so my friends and family could follow along, too, if they wanted (and, for some reason, many of them did, and I feel so blessed!).

cover for rebornfinalI also posted the earliest draft of Reborn, a chapter per week. At the time, it was called The Fallen. (I’m glad I changed the title, because, among other reasons, there’s a pretty popular YA series out right now called Fallen.) I can’t say publishing it on my blog was the best decision ever–but I don’t really regret it, either. On the one hand, it was a really, really, really rough draft and wasn’t ready to see the light of day. I wasn’t sure where I was going with it. I didn’t even have all of the mythology ironed out yet. (The Eros and Psyche back story–which obviously turned out to be kinda important to the book–was something I went back and added later.) On the other hand, a few people read it and liked it, and it forced me to write every week.

Eventually, I took it down from the blog, but continued to work on it and refine it. My goal was to do something with it, whether that was going the more traditional route or self-publishing it. After a half-hearted attempted  at trying to get an agent by sending out a handful of pretty terrible query letters, I decided to do the self-publishing thing. I realized there was, unfortunately, stigma attached to it, but I thought, if I did it right, it would help me build a readership base. I didn’t know what to expect. Well…that’s not entirely true. What I expected was that Reborn would languish on Amazon and sell two copies or so after months and months and months.

OK–here comes the bragging part. Somehow, miraculously, that’s not what happened. Well, maybe it isn’t so much a miracle as partially the result of the various marketing strategies I experimented with (see below). Most of it’s probably due to Heidi’s awesome cover art, which is the first thing people see. And I think I wrote a pretty intriguing book summary. The rest of it’s due to taking advantage of Amazon’s free promotional tool. Reborn hit Amazon’s free bestsellers list; it peaked at #15 in New Adult and College Romance and #16 in Paranormal & Urban Fantasy. That was unexpected and super cool. (Of course, it also makes me really nervous. I mean, even if Relapse didn’t do as well, it would be fine, but still…..) Including the free copies, I’ve sold over 4000 copies of Reborn, and over 1000 paid copies. Considering I had really low expectations, it’s been really overwhelming.

Now, here comes the what I’ve learned/advice part (in no particular order):

1. It’s not going to be easy. It’s like the saying goes: Anything worth doing isn’t going to be easy. I’m an impatient person, so accepting that this wasn’t going to be an easy undertaking (if done right) was a big step for me. There was a point when I was tempted to just throw the original version of Reborn up on Amazon because it seemed so easy. Obviously, I’m glad I didn’t…when I reread it I realized how much work it needed, and I got some valuable input from beta readers and such that I was able to incorporate. I’m just saying: The temptation to put up an unfinished product will be there, but you must resist! I appreciate all that Amazon’s done to make self-publishing easier for independent authors, but I don’t like that they overemphasize the “easy” aspect in all of their marketing materials. Yes, maybe getting your book up there is relatively easy, but you have to realize and accept that there’s going to be a lot of work leading up to that moment. (On a side note, it’s not as simple as Amazon makes it out to be. You have to strictly adhere to their formatting guidelines and then check the previews to make sure it’s going to look good on someone’s Kindle screen. No, it’s not rocket science, but it takes up a little bit of time.)

In my opinion, if you think any of this is “easy,” you’re doing something wrong.

2. Tell people about it. “It” being your book, of course. This is probably the hardest step for most writers. Many writers are introverts and may not feel comfortable with marketing their work, putting themselves out there. I’d say I’m an introvert because I like doing intellectual or creative solo activities and I sort of live in my head a lot. I definitely have hermit tendencies, lol! But I’m not the type of person who’s afraid to put themselves out there or talk about my work–or talk in front of people, for that matter. So maybe I’m not a true introvert. In any case, you may have to dig up some courage to market your book(s) because, otherwise, people simply won’t know about it or how/where to find it. This advice goes for any author,not just self-published. I’ve heard that a lot of the promotional responsibilities fall to authors just starting out, even when they have a publisher. Maybe you think your book should just be able to stand on its own–and, if it’s a good book, people will find it and read it. That’s a nice thought, but, if potential readers don’t even know your book exists or where to find it, they’re not going to read it.

As far as social media goes, Facebook and this blog have worked the best for me. This blog was a great way to connect with fellow authors and book reviewers, and it’s also how I found my incredible graphic designer! My Facebook page enabled me to update my family and friends about this blog and, later, Reborn, and I’ve managed to build up a small following on there–mostly by following other Facebook book club pages and pimping my page there. Twitter has worked out ok, I guess. I have over 700 followers on there, but except for a handful of people, I’m not sure it’s very meaningful–at least not yet. There are a lot of spam profiles on Twitter. Twitter seems best for, again, networking with authors and book reviewers. (By the way, when you’re first starting out, a lot of the people who are going to read your book are also writers.) Fellow authors: I’d like to know which social media platforms have worked for you, so please share in the comments!

Goodreads is another platform you can use, although don’t stalk your ratings/reviews on there unless you have a thick skin. Then again, if you’re going to do this and put your work out there, you’re going to have to

3. Grow a pair. Haha, I’m just being blunt. But, seriously, you’re going to have to. Because, even though I’ve interacted with a lot of nice, supportive authors, bloggers, and reviewers out there, there are a lot of @$$holes on the Internet, too relapsecover(as you may be aware of from reading any comments section to basically any article on the Internet, ever). You might think you’ll be able to handle it well–that first time someone criticizes your work–and, hey, maybe you will. But I don’t think most people (writers) are like that. Now, I have noticed that, in the indie author world, people don’t seem like they think anyone should ever criticize their work, ever (I’m talking about helpful criticism here that might actually help you develop as a writer). I mean, no matter what you do in life, no matter what you choose to pursue, someone out there is going to disagree with it/criticize it/have something to say about it. Or maybe because I’m in grad school I just go into everything now expecting to get shot down. To be honest, this is why sometimes I find the atmosphere of the indie world to be a little thin-skinned.

That being said, the first time you get a bad review , it probably won’t be from a fellow author or a book reviewer, and it’s most likely not going to be the helpful kind of criticism that helps you improve your craft. It’s going to be someone venting about how your heroine is a slut and that, ugh, there are cheerleaders and sorority girls in this book! 😉 Yep…I can’t help you there. The book is simply not for you. And you have two hands and a keyboard and can vent about whatever you like on Goodreads, Tumblr, whatever. The anonymity of the Internet gives everyone the urge to vent.

Then again, knowing/accepting this isn’t going to make handling bad reviews any easier. You’ve dedicated precious time between work/school/your family/whatever to perfecting your novel, and in two minutes someone finds a way to shoot it down. I’m not sure I have a great advice on how to handle it, except to be ready for it…and maybe don’t stalk your reviews (especially on Goodreads, which has a lot of trolls). It’s hard to resist, though…I don’t do a very good job of it. The best way I’ve found to deal with it is to vent to my family and friends…and also to incorporate it into my book somehow, lol. Yes, I got a few people who, in so many words, called Siobhan a slut…and so several side characters in Relapse make snide comments about Siobhan’s love life/how many boyfriends she has. (I don’t cast these people in the best light…let’s stop calling women sluts, ‘k?) I’m not saying my approach is going to change any minds–and I’m not trying to–I’m just putting it to creative use rather than continuing to mope about it.

And, whatever you do, don’t do the reverse catfishing thing that one author did to the person that gave her a bad review. I’m not even linking to the author’s article on here because she went way too far and mentioned way too many personal details about the true identity of the reviewer (even if she didn’t mention any specific names).

4. Become Amazon’s bitch (at least at first). I’m borrowing the phrase Amazon’s bitch from Mr. Tom Benson. (I hope you don’t mind, Tom.) You can read about his self-publishing experiences on Amazon here and here. Besides everything else I’ve talked about so far, utilizing Amazon’s free promotion deal, which gives you up to 5 days of offering your book for free for Kindle (assuming that number hasn’t changed since I used it), enabled readers to take a chance on a new author (me) with no strings attached. There are also a lot of Twitter accounts, blogs, Facebook pages, etc. that scour Amazon for free books and promote them without you having to do anything (except make your book free). The only downside is, in order to use Amazon’s countdown deals or free promotion, the electronic version of your book has to be exclusive to Amazon for three months (hence, you are “Amazon’s bitch,” lol). Which might sound like a bad thing, except, as a self-published author, most of your sales are going to come from Amazon, anyway. Reborn was exclusive to Amazon for the first three months or so, then I uploaded it to Smashwords, which in turn makes it available to Barnes and Noble (Nook), the iTunes book store, Scribd, etc. I’ve made a little under $5 from all of these other sites combined.

Do whatever works best for you, but I would seriously consider being exclusive to Amazon for the first few months, especially if you’re just starting out.

5. Edit, edit, edit. I also get the sense sometimes that some indie authors place less importance on the editing part than the writing part. And get offended when a reviewer mentions it. Polishing your story for spelling/grammatical errors/typos is just as important as any other aspect of the process. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves when I’m reading something. I don’t bother to mention it in my own reviews of fellow indie author’s work–because I notice a lot of avoidable errors in all of them. Yes, I’m reading critically, but there are usually a lot more in self-published books than traditionally published ones. This is a tough area, too, because, let’s face it, a lot of writers don’t have the money to hire an editor at first, or even a copy editor. And I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using Amazon’s editing service, although I don’t speak from experience–it just seems like a bad idea to send your precious book off to some faceless editor you haven’t built a relationship with.

But at least have more than yourself read over it, even friends and family that are sticklers for picking out these kinds of mistakes. Make it as polished as possible. Your book is, essentially, a product–don’t sell someone a bad product. Don’t sell something for $4.99 that isn’t finished and still has a bunch of spelling and grammar mistakes.

(As another aside, even when multiple people read over your book, a few mistakes are of course going to slip through the cracks. Poor editing is one of my biggest pet peeves, and yet I noticed the other day, when I was looking something up in Reborn, there’s a typo in chapter one–it says “titled” instead of “tilted.” It made me cringe. I’ll go back and fix it, at some point…..)

6. Be patient. I said this before, and I’ll say it again. Building up an audience is going to take time. Just have patience and keep on writing. It’s great to have people to write for, but remember to still write for yourself–because it’s something you love to do.

And, last but not least:

7. Don’t give up! 🙂 Even if your first book sells two copies in two years…even if it has a one star average on Goodreads…don’t give up. Just keep learning, keep improving your craft, keep writing!!!

*****

I hope some of this, at least, was helpful! If you’ve gotten to this point, thanks for “listening” to me babble. And get excited, because Relapse releases December 2, 2014! You can read the prologue here.

Genre-Bending


What genre do I write?

In my About page I loosely call myself a smut romance writer. But I’ve come to realize, I don’t really write that much smut -do I? Some of my fanfic ideas pretty much revolve around S-E-X, but, while there are sex scenes in my other stories, I wouldn’t necessarily say that the plot depends or revolves around them.

I’m not even really a “romance” writer, paranormal or other. Romances follow a formula: Two people meet, usually hate each other but have undeniable sexual tension, stuff happens, it looks like they’re not going to wind up together, but then they do. (I’m not saying this is a bad thing, at all -sometimes you want a predictable ending, and it doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy yourself on the journey to get there.) But while I would say that love and romantic relationships are very important themes in my stories, I don’t think they really follow this formula. So calling myself a romance writer could be misleading.

I throw around the term “urban fantasy” a lot to describe my novel-in-progress. I think it’s a pretty fitting description: It’s a fantasy or paranormal book, and the setting is in the city. My author idol Karen Marie Moning identifies her Fever series as being urban fantasy. But I’ve also heard the genre “urban fantasy” used to specifically describe stories or books that combine African American main characters and culture with fantastical elements. Most of my stories or even mere ideas for stories involve sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal themes, so I think they’re still fitting descriptions for my work. And obviously, if the main characters are of high school age, you can stick it in the “young adult” category.

I’m just trying to find a niche for myself, to be able to succinctly describe my work to other people. To be honest, I’m not even sure I want to stick a specific genre on my stories. I want to borrow elements from different genres, although as I said all of the categories I’ve mentioned above do fit. I don’t want my work to follow a formula. I want my books to be sexy, but I don’t want the whole point of the book to be waiting for the two main characters to have sex. I do love a good love triangle, though, which unfortunately has also become a popular formula as of late. This also isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just I’ve always loved this device, but now that it’s in every single immensely popular book that’s out there, it’s overdone. Now it’ll just seem like I’m joining the crowd.

My WIP The Fallen has a love triangle developing, but again, that wasn’t the point of my writing it. It’s really about this girl who is forced to confront some demons from her past and who is trying to reconcile that with her new life in college. Although the book is certainly not supposed to be anything super profound -it’s meant to entertain -I did want it to follow Siobhan’s journey of self-discovery, which is why it takes place in college. She’s trying to unravel the mystery behind these powerful new people in her life. And sure, all the while she has three hot guys who all want her: Her college hook-up Max, her high school beau and sexy punk rocker, Jimmy, and her handsome but manipulative TA, Jasper.

Sorry, I know this is a weird post -I’m just typing as I think this over. I guess I’m trying to get in marketing mode so if/when I write some query letters, I can be very persuasive. 😉

What genre do you classify your own work as? Or do you like drawing from a variety of influences? What genre do you think I write (lol)? Feel free to sound off in the comments!