Category Archives: Marketing books

Strategies for Success

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

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Strategies for Success

Now that I know what I’ve learned from experience in the self-publishing game, if I were to start Plain & Simple Press or Camptown Races Press anew, here is what I would do today that I did not do when I started the enterprise.

Hire an experienced marketer with a proven track record—up front

A marketing person would be my first hire. That is where I would put most of my start-up money, and it’s also where I would invest the most effort in recruiting and personnel assessment. I would hire this person before doing anything else.

The woods are full of people who will tell you they can market books. Most of them haven’t the faintest. Some are so hungry, they will lie just to get the job, saying they understand how to engage this or that tool to attract readers and sell books. In addition, a lot of popular ideas about what strategies work are simply wrong, or are outdated.

Where do you find a paragon among book marketers? Ask everyone you can think of, in and out of book publishing.

Track down authors whose books resemble yours and that are selling well. Send each author an inquiry asking if they can recommend their marketer. Most will not respond, so you’ll need to send out quite a few queries. But sooner or later you’ll probably find someone who will refer you to their marketing agent.

Contact the local Public Relations Society of America chapter. This group’s members are working professionals in marketing and public relations. They have a jobs board and invite job postings from prospective employers.[30] Be prepared to budget some money to post an ad and to hire someone for a gig that lasts long enough to produce results.

If there’s a publishers’ association in your state, along the lines of the New Mexico Book Association,[31] attend a meeting and ask members for suggestions. Many of these groups are very active and include publishers and authors with successful track records.

Attend regional and national book fairs. Network actively and inquire among the people you meet to see if anyone can refer you to a good marketing agent.

Attend regional and national writers’ conferences. The larger, better established ones attract New York literary agents. These people do know effective marketers. They may (or may not) refer you. Nothing ventured: while you’re there, you can also ask authors who seem successful.

Budget a substantial amount of money to pay for marketing services and campaigns, which should begin before the book is published. In retrospect, it’s clear this is where the largest share of a publisher’s or author’s budget should go.

Hire a virtual assistant to handle the social media time suck.

Although the effectiveness of social media marketing is, in my opinion, questionable, it cannot be neglected. And it is very time-consuming.

This is another task to which I would dedicate a fair slab of the budget.

You or an assistant should write blog posts every day having to do with subjects related to your books or your readers’ interests. Each of these needs to be optimized for and posted at Pinterest, and then you need to post each one at Facebook groups, on your Facebook business page and on your personal Facebook timeline, at Goodreads, on Twitter, at Google+, and to the extent appropriate, at LinkedIn.

Exclusive of the blogging, which you should be doing anyway, the ditzy social media tasks can easily soak up two hours a day. That’s two hours when you’re not writing, two hours that you’re not out on the town networking, two hours that you’re glued to the computer unable to exercise or take care of your family or read or think or do anything else. And two hours is a conservative estimate.

Unless you truly love passing your time on social media, hire someone else to do this stuff.

Crowd-fund or take out a business loan to pay these contractors.

It’s always better to use someone else’s money than to throw your own down the drain. Platforms such as Kickstarter,[32] Publishizer,[33] and Unbound[34] help fund and market your publishing project. Obviously, you have to share the revenues. But these outfits can generate revenues: a share of something is a lot better than a share of nothing.

Some such organizations function like publishers, but they seem to be more flexible in terms of the kinds of books they’ll chance their money on.

Put books on Ingram right away.

Ingram provides distribution services needed to circulate books to retailers, educators, and libraries. It offers a wide variety of marketing and fulfillment services, as well as a partnership with CreateSpace, a PoD service whose reviews are mixed but which is internationally known.

I would not use Ingram’s CreateSpace for printing, because I want more control over that process than you can get by working through a gigantic faceless corporation that outsources its jobs overseas. However, I would get my books into their distribution system as quickly as possible.

Focus on person-to-person and business-to-business marketing

Early on, I discovered that the 30 Days/4 Months diet plan and cookbook sold easily and in gay abandon when I talked it up to groups in person. Campaigns to sell it on social media generate plenty of “likes” but not many sales.

Acquaintances made in writers’ and publishers’ groups report similar experiences. Almost everyone who is making any money on their books will tell you that speaking in front of groups and arranging author-signings and bookstore presentations sells more books than any amount of virtual jawing on social media.

The next stage of my marketing campaign will be heavy on presentations and in-person networking. If I could have started out knowing then what I know now, I would have hit the ground with personal presentations, radio talk-show interviews, podcasts, and YouTube videos.

Set a Target Income and Ignore All Other Metrics

No amount of “awards” or “Amazon Best-Seller” ego-stroking status changes the real measure of a business’s success: the bottom line.

At the outset, decide how much you believe your book sales should earn: $NNN per year.

Keep accurate records of your income and expenses, in Quickbooks, Mint, Excel, or a similar tool. Nothing else matters in terms of your book’s success. Many “Amazon best-sellers” earn next to nothing for their authors, and many books that do not appear in Amazon’s specious best-seller categories earn well. Pay attention to this fact.

No other device works as well to make you scam-proof.

[1] https://www.loc.gov/publish/cip/

[2] Here’s a good place to start: https://www.the-bookdesigner.com/2010/03/cip-what-it-means-how-to-read-it-who-should-get-it/

[3] http://www.bowker.com/

[4]http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/

[5]https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help?ie=UTF8&topicID=200650270

[6] http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/

[7] https://forums.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1323

[8] http://www.bowker.com/

[9] http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/

[10] https://www.smashwords.com/list

[11] https://www.fiverr.com/

[12] http://online.brescia.edu/graphic-design-news/7-prominent-graphic-design-associations/

[13] http://www.thecopyeditorsdesk.com/contact/

[14]http://writeablogpeoplewillread.com/about-this-course/?hop=phxgirl

[15] goodreadsucks.com

[16]http://www.salon.com/2014/10/21/battle_of_the_trolls_kathleen_hale_reveals_the_war_raging_between_authors_and_readers/

[17]http://www.victoriastrauss.com/2014/07/18/on-trolls-and-fake-bad-reviews/

[18] http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-automate-your-tweets-3-useful-twitter-apps/

[19] http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/how-to-automatically-send-tweet-when-you-publish-a-new-post-in-wordpress/

[20] http://www.pinterestforbloggers.net/

[21] http://www.networkedblogs.com/

[22] http://mailchimp.com/

[23] Victoria Strauss, “Awards Profiteers: How Writers Can Recognize and Avoid Them,” June 9, 1915. Writer Beware. http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/06/awards-profiteers-how-writers-can.html . In late 2016, the Writer Beware blogsite remains at http://accrispin.blogspot.com/. Don’t miss this valuable resource.

[24] “Confession: I’m a #1 Best-Selling Author…and a Nanny,” July 18, 2016. http://thefinancialdiet.com/confession-im-1-bestselling-author-nanny/

[25] Rachel Deahl, “New Guild Survey Reveals Majority of Authors Earn below Poverty Line,” September 11, 2015. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/68008-new-guild-survey-reveals-majority-of-authors-earn-below-poverty-line.html

[26] “ February 2016 Author Earnings Report: Amazon’s e-book, Print, and Audio Sales,” http://authorearnings.com/report/february-2016-author-earnings-report/

[27] Jay Yarow. “How Many Kindle Books Has Amazon Sold? About 22 Million This Year,” July 20, 2010, Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/sorry-amazon-kindle-e-books-outselling-hardcovers-isnt-that-impressive-2010-7

[28] Claude Forthomme, “Only 40 Self-Published Authors Are a Success, Says Amazon,” February 7, 2016, Claude Forthomme-Nougat’s Blog, https://claudenougat.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/only-40-self-published-authors-are-a-success-says-amazon/

[29] Jennifer McCartney, “Self-Publishing Preview, 2016,” Publisher’s Weekly, https://claudenougat.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/only-40-self-published-authors-are-a-success-says-amazon/

[30]http://www.prsa.org/Jobcenter/employers/products_pricing/intern_entry_level_freelance/

[31] http://www.nmbookassociation.org/about-nmba/

[32] https://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/publishing

[33] https://publishizer.com/

[34] https://unbound.com/

Pitch Your Book to 10,000 of Your Closest Friends

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

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Pitch Your Book to 10,000 of Your Closest Friends

Prevailing wisdom has it that social media are the key to marketing a book. Your company is requested on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, even YouTube. The folklore contains a germ of truth, given that as a book author, you personally are the main marketing engine for your products.

Along with this advice, we often hear legends of authors who have sold thousands of books by running campaigns on various social media. This, too, may be so. But with a caveat.

Social media marketing requires you to build large followings of real people—not the kind of bots that show up on Twitter and emanate computer-generated “follows.” You need human beings who recognize your name, whose names you recognize, and with whom you have something resembling conversations over the Internet.

You find these people by tracking down and “friending” (or “following” or “connecting with”) everyone you’ve met since before you were in preschool: classmates, fellow workers, friends, relatives, friends of relatives and relatives of friends . . . and on it goes.

It’s best to have built a large following before you have something to market. If you submit a book proposal to an agent or to traditional book publishers, they will want to know where you’re active in social media and how many followers you have. It’s a selling point in trying to persuade a mainstream publisher to buy your book. If you’re self-publishing, you want to have created a pre-existing interest in you and in your subject, so that you have an established audience for your book.

Some say that Goodreads is the most effective social medium for self-publishers. This was true before Amazon acquired it, and it apparently remains so. You can establish a presence at Goodreads as an “author,” thereby giving yourself a little cachet. But that will not excuse you from working steadily to build and maintain your readership there.

Social media marketing requires you to post something almost every day on every platform. But what you post cannot be blatant advertising for your books or products. You must create the effect of real-world conversation on a wide variety of topics, most of them immaterial. Think of social media as small talk, translated to the Internet. It’s a vast cocktail party, without the highballs and canapés.

Unless you serve them to yourself, that is.

At Goodreads, the topic is usually books and book reviews. Conversations may spin off a book discussion, but most people seem to haunt Goodreads because they like to read and talk about what they read.

Because it brings you a built-in audience of book readers, Goodreads is potentially your richest field among the social media. Like any facet of doing business with Amazon, it can also be intensely frustrating.[15] Personally, I gave up on Goodreads after it repeatedly rejected an ISBN that I copied directly from Bowker’s website, making it impossible for me to market the book there.

In the past, too, Goodreads has suffered from very nasty trolling.[16] As a result, some authors’ book sales have been irreparably damaged.[17] Amazon has taken steps to deal with the abuse, apparently with some success. However, you should be aware that the potential for personal attacks, blitzes of negative reviews, and faceless bullying exists and probably will never completely disappear.

Facebook has “Groups” whose topics focus on a wide variety of subjects. If you’re a genre writer, you can find people who love your genre, be it science fiction, romance, detective cozies, or whatever. You’ll also find groups of aspiring writers and groups of publishers. These represent ready-made potential readerships.

However, know that you cannot simply advertise to members of such groups, any more than you can on your own timeline. You have to engage them in conversations. This is time-consuming and creates a significant distraction from the real writing that you’d like to do. Nevertheless, if you want to market your book, you don’t seem to have much choice, unless you hire someone to do the job for you.

FaceBook does sell advertising, notoriously now that the company is overriding the adblockers of people who prefer not to be subjected to that kind of intrusion, and even more notoriously after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Because Facebook Ads can, in theory, be closely targeted to specific interests and demographics, some people say they have good results. This claim, however, is controversial. A number of customers have complained that Facebook Ads represent a bottomless pit into which to throw cash.

I hired a marketing agent to create and manage a Facebook Ads campaign for my novel, Fire-Rider. It sold exactly zero copies. The cost was high, and I felt the money was wasted.

In any event, you certainly should make your publishing efforts known on your personal timeline. Those who are most likely to buy your book are people who know you in person.

Twitter has hashtags to attract subscribers’ attention. Use the platform’s “Search” function to find active hashtags (#amwriting, for example) and include two or three relevant tags in each post. As I write this, Twitter still limits post length to 140 characters—the hashtags, the URL you post, and each image soak up some of those characters.

Thus, speaking of time sucks, creating a Twitter post that works can be a time-consuming challenge. Here, too: if you’re corresponding with real people, you’re better off to emit small talk rather than obvious sales pitches.

A drawback to Twitter is the number of machine-generated tweets, likes, and follows. Several apps exist to automate tweets and post them at optimal times of day.[18] You also can install a WordPress plugin that will automatically tweet each new post.[19] These aren’t necessarily bad things. But they do indicate that some portion of the traffic at Twitter isn’t entirely human.

LinkedIn can be useful, because it not only allows you to blow your own horn in a resumé-like context, it connects you with people in the publishing industry and enables a kind of high-level shop talk that can let you highlight your topic or discuss issues related to writing and publishing.

The level of conversation at LinkedIn differs from all the other social media sites. This is not the place to post photos of your kittens. Think of it as social media in a business suit. You want to come across as professional and serious. That characteristic makes some kinds of books eminently marketable on LinkedIn, just because of their nature. (Think books related to business marketing, for example.) With other kinds of books (fiction, inspirational, cute kitten stories), you’re probably better off to deflect the subject of your LinkedIn content to business aspects of your endeavor (what marketing ploy just worked successfully with your collection of inspirational sayings? What demographic buys the most cat books?).

Blogs are another form of social media. If you write engagingly enough and often enough, over time you can collect a surprising number of followers. And you can use your blog openly to plug your books, either in a given post or by installing widgets in a sidebar with links to your book’s Amazon address.

The whole idea of participating in most other social media is to drive readers to your blog, where you can entertain them with lively posts and showcase your wares. Often I post links to posts at the Plain & Simple Press blog, hoping to draw readers to the website, where they can find out more about all our books.

In that line, Pinterest is said to be especially effective. Experienced bloggers will often say that Pinterest drives more traffic than any other social media.

Pinterest features nothing but images with links to personal and business websites. The appeal escapes me, but it is very popular. Lacking any capacity to appreciate the marvels of Pinterest myself, I hire an expert who optimizes my site for Pinterest, creates correctly formatted images, and posts them on Pinterest so as to bring readers over to the Plain & Simple blogsite.[20]

Similarly, it’s possible to automatically link your blog posts to Facebook and Twitter. Networked Blogs[21] is one way to accomplish that.

Your blog can tie into another form of social media: the newsletter. Add a “subscribe” function, and you can easily gather viewers’ email addresses. A program called Mail-chimp[22] will vacuum up the addresses, create a master mailing list, and allow you to send newsletters to everyone who has subscribed. Some people believe a newsletter is the most effective marketing tool for businesses trying to reach customers—and that includes authors trying to reach readers.

YouTube is another popular social medium. Probably the most effective way to reach viewers here is to post how-to-do-it videos. This requires you to have an adequate video camera and learn how to post the file, which is not very hard. I’ve posted lectures for my online students there and found it an easy way to personalize the message. To create the degree of professionalism needed to sell a book, though, you probably should consult with a videographer: someone who has some training in making polished, stumble-free videos.

Podcasts are popular among many social media users. These are comparable to old-fashioned radio talk shows, only without the annoying ads and untethered to a time slot. You do need some broadcasting skill to create an effective podcast. Take a course or hire someone to help produce the thing.

In my experience, the best bet is to reach out, in the persona of a human being, to as many “friends” as you can gather on LinkedIn and on Facebook; to try to capture as many email addresses as you can from your blog; and to send out a newsletter as well as blogging regularly. And hire a social media marketer who really is an expert on how the systems work.

The Complete Writer: Selling It

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

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Selling It

Whether you publish through a mainstream press or whether you self-publish, the bulk of the promotion job falls upon you, the author. One fairly easy way to promote your book is to volunteer to do a presentation on some subject relevant to a group’s interests.

For example, my friend, journalist and blogger Donna Freedman has offered to speak to a large writer’s group about strategies for creating popular, readable blog entries. Because the group’s main thrust is not craft but marketing, members will be very interested in what she has to say—and we hope, in her new online course[14] on writing a blog people will read.

Similarly, I talked to a business group about donating directly to breast cancer research centers rather than to self-perpetuating organizations that function as middlemen. Members of this group are active in public service and donate generously to worthy causes, so I knew they’d be interested in the subject. And speaking about the Susan G. Komen foundation and similar institutions gave me an opportunity to plug my upcoming book on the decisions women face after they receive a breast diagnosis.

Some people believe face-to-face and radio show presentations are the most effective tools for marketing a book. One member of a writer’s group in the Phoenix area used her vacation time to visit friends and relatives in five cities, taking crates of books with her. Before leaving, she arranged to do short talks in bookstores and community centers in each town. She sold so many books, she had to order more and have them shipped ahead of her as she proceeded.

My coauthor for Math Magic, Scott Flansburg, made it a regular practice to approach radio talk show producers across the country. A “guest” appearance on one of these shows can be done over the telephone—no need to travel. He discovered that a radio show is a bottomless pit waiting to be filled, and many hosts were delighted to interview him. This, he discovered, was the single most effective way to sell the book, which became a major best-seller for William Morrow in the year we published it. His marketing agents told me that in the first year, his revenues from sales of the book and ancillary products came to $1.5 million, and a million in the second year.

Scott was a very powerful marketer, a good speaker with an engaging product. Most of us, obviously, are not going to become millionaires with our fantasy novel or detective story. But we’re a lot more likely to see some sort of profit by reaching out to the public. People can’t buy something unless they know about it!

A successful presentation can’t just have you step up to a podium and plug your book. You need to offer more than that.

Bearing that in mind, it’s pretty easy to create a public presentation that works, if you follow a few basic rules.

Consider your audience

The talk I made about breast cancer addressed a group of small business owners and executives. They’re committed to charitable works and, since most of them are middle-aged, they’re interested in health-care issues. Those who are not women have wives they care about, and so they can easily be engaged by the hot topic of breast cancer.

The material I put into the presentation may not go into the book at all, since its topic primarily concerns the kinds of choices women have to make, often on short notice and under a great deal of stress, about any number of proposed breast cancer treatments. On reflection I realized this angle would interest group members more and make them less uncomfortable than a frank discussion of what goes on inside the operating theater. For a different group, a different aspect of the topic might fly just as well or better.

Prepare your presentation thoroughly

Check and double-check your facts, and be prepared to answer any questions audience members may ask. Be sure to cover all the ground, even if briefly, within the time limit you’re given. Respecting the time limit is part of your preparation—don’t neglect this key aspect.

Write out a script and rehearse it, preferably in front of a mirror.

You should practice delivering your presentation several times—at least three, and maybe more. Ideally, your presentation should be memorized. Of course, sometimes that’s not possible—too little time is given for preparation, or you have to present complex data that’s hard to remember accurately under the stress of public scrutiny.

In rehearsing, pay attention to the amount of time it takes. It’s far better for your presentation to run shorter than the allowed time than to run over. A long-winded presentation makes the audience restless, even if it’s interesting; most people have someplace else to go. Be considerate of your audience. You can use the extra minutes for a Q&A session, which always engages people.

Don’t read your script to the audience!

Deliver your presentation as though you were speaking to a small group of friends, as off the cuff as you can make it appear. If you need a cheat sheet, list the main points in outline style and let these remind you of the content that you’ve rehearsed. Print out your notes in 18-point type, so you can read them easily under any lighting conditions.

If you use PowerPoint . . .

For hevvinsake don’t read the captions and notes in the slides to your audience! Nothing puts an audience to sleep faster.

Watch a few TED Talks or listen to NPR’s TED Radio Hour.

Study the style and demeanor of presenters. Note how the speakers move and how they engage their audiences.

Provide useful information, preferably in the form of a handout.

In my talk about the controversy around the Susan G. Komen foundation, I provided a one-page list of cancer research institutions to which anyone can donate directly. This was worked into the spiel, but it was offered separately to the group members, as a take-home.

Try not to be crass about plugging yourself.

Instead of reminding listeners repeatedly about the wonders of your new book, mention it in your bio and—ideally—get the person who introduces you to remark on it. Use your time to provide valuable and interesting information.

But make it easy for audience members to find your book.

Have a website that’s easy to find, preferably as your name—JoeBlow.org or some such—and place a link to Amazon or your own store so readers can buy. Bring business cards that carry your book’s title and a link to your book on Amazon or your website. And if you have copies of the book, bring a stack to the meeting, hand them around as a show-and-tell, and let audience members buy direct from you.

Look for the right audiences

This of course depends on your subject matter. A church group might be right for a discussion of some moral issue or—say—of philanthropy. Business groups are interested in a wide variety of subjects that bear on daily life and the well-being of members’ cities and commerce. Do a subject search on Meetup.com for groups that meet to talk about or participate in whatever your book concerns.

Don’t be shy about asking

The worst that can happen is they’ll tell you “no.” But you won’t get an invitation to speak if you don’t ask.

Speak early and speak often

You don’t have to wait until your book hits print to speak on your subject. If you have some expertise that you’re working into a book, begin giving presentations before the book comes out. Then when it’s published, you can go back to the group, remind them of your existence, and proudly announce publication.

Once you have a good presentation, recycle it

Massage it to fit the interests of other groups, work it into your newsletter and send it out to your subscribers, or revamp it into a post for your blog.

Take the opportunity to build your mailing list

Hand around a sign-up sheet and ask audience members to share their e-mail addresses. A quid pro quo is nice: you may offer them, for example, a special deal on the book or a chance at a free giveaway.

With names and email addresses in hand, you can send a newsletter to remind potential buyers of your existence. If you give a presentation before publication, a list of audience members will allow you to send them an announcement of the Big Reveal. Here, too may pitch an opportunity to buy the book at a special discount just because they were at your presentation.

Remember to give mail-list members an opt-out choice. It’s a basic courtesy, especially since some people do not appreciate finding sales messages land in their e-mail in-boxes. A number of mailing list programs will do this for you automatically.

Moving House…to another website

So long…

So, Facebook having royally screwed up my marketing plan by unfairly banning me from its sacred environs, I’ve had to come up with new avenues to bring the golden words to the public’s attention. The new plan will require me to move the copy I’ve posted here as *FREE READS* to other platforms.

And that will require me to delete said copy from Plain & Simple Press, in order to avoid duplication. The desirable platforms explicitly ask that contributions not appear elsewhere.

Truth to tell, it was highly iffy to publish each chapter as a blog post and then to merge them  into coherent books (Ella’s Story, If You’d Asked Me, and The Complete Writer), each in its own web page. I do not know whether Google has zapped me for doing this, but I expect if it hasn’t, it soon will.

…good-bye…

It takes about two weeks for Google to register published copy as not published (so I’m told, anyway). So what I will do is begin taking copy down, a chapter or two each day, beginning today. Then about two weeks from the take-down date, I will re-post these chapters at Medium or at The Writing Cooperative. Gradually, then, all the content will eventually move to the new platform.

I’ll post announcements of these moves here and on Twitter — that is, I’ll let you know exactly when a given chapter-in-transit reappears at the new platform. If you want to follow me on Twitter, follow me as “Funny about Money,” not as “The Girls”: @FunnyAboutMoney

…au revoir

For the nonce, though, I will remove one or two chapters at a time, starting at the beginning of each book, on the days that I publish a new chapter for that book. For example, on Friday — that’s tomorrow, already! — I will post chapter 15 of The Complete Writer, and I will also remove TCW‘s first two posts from this blog, comprising chapters 1 & 2 and chapter 3. In 14 days, when those chapters begin to appear at the new site, most of the old content will be “disappeared” from this site. Since I’ll then be two weeks ahead of myself, after that I should be able to delete one chapter at a time until I run out of content.

The books will have to come down, too. I will remove them on Saturday, replacing the content on their respective pages with a description and an offer to share the content-in-progress in PDF format. So you have about a day and a half to download that content, if you care to do so.

This is going to create a huge hassle, and to the extent that this site has readers, it will undoubtedly cause a reader hemorrhage. I do know a number of people are following Ella’s Story, and I apologize to you for the inconvenience. I invite you to rejoin the story at its new venue.

And yes, if I could afford a lawyer you may be sure I would hire one. I’ve looked for a class action suit to join, but so far have found none. One report claims that 22,000 people have provably been banned from Facebook unfairly, but apparently that is not a large enough class to support a lawsuit. Too bad.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Medium has far more visibility than either Funny about Money or Plain & Simple Press. Apparently contributions appear on its front page briefly, giving you a shot at catching the attention of a reader or two. Ultimately this may turn out to be a good thing.

Meanwhile, it’s already resulted in some benefit in terms of fleeing the cobra’s stare: this past week instead of plopping down in front of the computer and fooling around with Facebook every damn morning, I’ve turned out with the dogs at dawn for a mile-long run. As of today, that comes to eight (8!!) health-enhancing miles of running.

Clearly, Facebook is not only bad for your nation’s body politick, it’s bad for your health. I can’t avoid Facebook’s unwitting (we hope) deconstruction of America’s democratic republic, but I sure can avoid letting it glue me to a computer screen until I turn into a cardiac invalid.

 

New Book a-Borning…

Okay, okay…let’s face it: I can’t resist writing things.

Selling them? Well…if I could sell, I’d be living high off the hog from proceeds of used car sales. Or some such.

Here’s what’s up: a new idea for a book combined with new determination to do a halfway decent job of selling it.

smoking-coverThe magnum opus: The Complete Writer: The Ultimate Guide to Writing, Publishing, and Living the Writer’s Life. It is, in a word, encyclopedic. The thing covers short form and long form, fiction and nonfiction, print and Web…you name it.

The marketing plan: Different.

My idea is not to try to market the book on Amazon at all. Well…it’ll have a presence in the form of a Kindle bookoid. If a few people buy it there, fine. Mostly, though, I’d like customers to buy the book direct from me: from this website.

But by and large the strategy will emphasize face-to-face marketing: presentations, seminars, dog-and-pony shows, radio shows, podcasts, interviews…whatEVER. When I go to speak to a group in person, I’ll bring a few hard copies to sell — and of course handouts with links to the Plain & Simple Press website. If an organization gives me a speaker’s fee, then its attendees (within reason) will get the book for free.

Paypal can be set up on a website to accept payment for digital and print orders. And it’s easy enough to download a Kindle or ePub book into your reading device — I’ll publish instructions to make this easy.

I’ll also sell hard copies, either in person or from Plain & Simple books. And I’ll try to peddle the thing to libraries.

There are a surprising number of venues for public speaking, including 87 gerjillion small business networking groups, whose members are constantly trolling for new blood in the form of speakers. Podcasts are pretty promising, too.

Before I actually make the thing available to the public, I’m going to do a little hustling up front. Make arrangements for speaking events, get on some podcasts, invite myself to radio shows, pitch stories or columns to business publications on tangentially related topics.

Ancillary to the project: I’m not getting in a big slobbering hurry to do this. I’m going to take my time figuring out what needs to be done, meeting and schmoozing with people, getting things set up in advance, planning give-aways, laying groundwork. Then when the thing finally goes online, a whole series of pitches will already be set up and ready to go. Instead of thrashing around trying to figure out what might work and how to do it, I’ll have already figured that out. And the groundwork will be laid.

Ideally, one would hire a marketing agent. Alas, though, I can’t afford such a creature. And…it’s easy enough to see that fellow scribblers in the West Valley Writers Workshop — a marketing group for writers — are making sales on their own, without benefit of expensive hired guns.

A slower pace and a more carefully considered, focused strategy will make it easier to handle the little crises that naturally arise every time you try to do anything you want to do (as opposed to all the things you have to do). Whether or not it sells books, that’s going to make life a lot easier.

🙂

AH HAH! Moment: A new use for indexes

So here I am, dragging through the index for 420 pages of the new book, The Complete Writer.

On the side, I index books for a living. I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the past several years. But must admit: indexing makes my eyes glaze over.

After I’d compiled this index, a previously unnoticed pagination error surfaced in the content. This dork-up required me to rewrite the whole damn index — that would be SEVEN single-spaced pages in 10-point type and double columns.

Then as I was contemplating the result, it occurred to me that the example I’d used for the chapter on how to write sex scenes was so tame that…well..it wasn’t really a sex scene. I’d tried to be nicey-nice, not wanting to offend anyone’s dainty sensibilities. Bad idea: offend no one, accomplish nothing. So I lifted a livelier scene from one of the Roberta Stuart books, a romp concocted by one of Camptown Races’ best writers. That changed the pagination again, from page 235 forward.

{sigh}

So now I had to rewrite the effing index again. It’s finally done, all the way from A for abstraction ladder to Z for Zinsser.

For writers: How to jump-start your creative engine when you're stuck

W… “How to Beat Writer’s Block”

As I got about into the R’s, it occurred to me an index to a book would serve nicely as an index to public speaking topics.

Yeah…

One of the plans for marketing this book entails doing presentations for groups of writers, students, and the like, at which I will offer folks a marvelous opportunity to buy the thing.

R…
….Revision
……..six-step strategy, 57-66

Et voilà! There’s a dog-&-pony show: “Six Steps to Revising Your Book”!

S…
….Scams, 343-49

S...Six Scams to Avoid

S…”Six Scams to Avoid”

Yeah! “Avoid these Five Scams for Writers”!

Too, too good, isn’t it? Nowhere near as good as

S…
….Sex scenes, writing, 343-49

Woo hoo! “How to Write Sizzling Sex Scenes!”

It gets better and better.

Well, come Thursday I have to give a presentation to a business group I belong to. Now’s my chance to start practicing these things! 😀 I think probably “Scams for Writers” would be better for this august bunch than, say, “Sizzling Sex Scenes.” Not that they wouldn’t enjoy contemplating that particular aspect of the writer’s art. Just that…well…I’d never hear the end of it from that bunch. 😀

So there you go, fellow scribblers. If you have a nonfiction book that’s substantial enough for an index, use the index as a source for public speaking topics. The index entries work a lot better for the purpose than does the table of contents, because they’re much more specific: better focused. And if your index is complete, it’ll point you right to the material you need to create a presentation.

S...How to Write Sizzling Sex Scenes

S…”How to Write Sizzling Sex Scenes”

Marketing: They have to know about it to buy it…

In my last little blurb, I touched briefly on the marketing conundrum. To return to that: I suspect the most important aspect of book publishing is marketing. You may have the greatest book in the history of Personkind. But if no one knows about it, no one will ever buy it. Readers have to know about it to buy it. And marketing is the way you help them to know about it.

So how can you go about this marketing stuff? From the vantage point of experience, here’s what I’d probably do now, if I were to start all over from Square One today:

Hire a Pro

A marketing person would be my first hire. That is where I would put most of my start-up money, and it’s also where I would invest the most effort in recruiting and personnel assessment. I would hire this person before doing anything else.

The woods are full of people who will tell you they can market books. Most of them haven’t the faintest. Some are so hungry, they will lie just to get the job, saying they understand how to engage this or that tool to attract readers and sell books. In addition, a lot of popular ideas about what strategies work are simply wrong, or are outdated.

Where do you find a paragon among book marketers? Ask everyone you can think of, in and out of book publishing.

Track down authors whose books resemble yours and that are selling well. Send each author an inquiry asking if they can recommend their marketer. Most will not respond, so you’ll need to send out quite a few queries. But sooner or later you’ll probably find someone who will refer you to their marketing agent.

Contact the local Public Relations Society of America chapter. This group’s members are working professionals in marketing and public relations. They have a jobs board and invite job postings from prospective employers. Be prepared to budget some money to post an ad and to hire someone for a gig that lasts long enough to produce results.

If there’s a publishers’ association in your state, along the lines of the New Mexico Book Association, attend a meeting and ask members for suggestions. Many of these groups are very active and include publishers and authors with successful track records.

Attend regional and national book fairs. Network actively and inquire among the people you meet to see if anyone can refer you to a good marketing agent.

Attend regional and national writers’ conferences. The larger, better established ones attract New York literary agents. These people do know effective marketers. They may (or may not) refer you. Nothing ventured: while you’re there, you can also ask authors who seem successful.

Budget a substantial amount of money to pay for marketing services and campaigns, which should begin before the book is published. In retrospect, it’s clear this is where the largest share of a publisher’s or author’s budget should go.

Hire a virtual assistant to handle the social media time suck

Although the effectiveness of social media marketing is, in my opinion, questionable, it cannot be neglected. And it is very time-consuming.

This is another task to which I would dedicate a fair slab of the budget.

You or an assistant should write blog posts every day having to do with subjects related to your books or your readers’ interests. Each of these needs to be optimized for and posted at Pinterest, and then you need to post each one at Facebook groups, on your Facebook business page and on your personal Facebook timeline, at Goodreads, on Twitter, at Google+, and to the extent appropriate, at LinkedIn.

Exclusive of the blogging, which you should be doing anyway, the ditzy social media tasks can easily soak up two hours a day. That’s two hours when you’re not writing, two hours that you’re not out on the town networking, two hours that you’re glued to the computer unable to exercise or take care of your family or read or think or do anything else. And two hours is a conservative estimate.

Unless you truly love passing your time on social media, hire someone else to do this stuff.

Crowd-fund or take out a business loan to pay these contractors

It’s always better to use someone else’s money than to throw your own down the drain. Platforms such as Kickstarter, Publishizer, and Unbound help fund and market your publishing project. Obviously, you have to share the revenues. But these outfits can generate revenues: a share of something is a lot better than a share of nothing.

Some such organizations function like publishers, but they seem to be more flexible than “traditional” publishing houses in terms of the kinds of books they’ll chance their money on.

Put books on Ingram right away

Ingram provides distribution services needed to circulate books to retailers, educators, and libraries. It offers a wide variety of marketing and fulfillment services, as well as a partnership with CreateSpace, a PoD service whose reviews are mixed but which is internationally known.

I would not use Ingram’s CreateSpace for printing, because I want more control over that process than you can get by working through a gigantic faceless corporation that outsources its jobs overseas. However, I would get my books into Ingram’s distribution system as quickly as possible.

Focus on person-to-person and business-to-business marketing

Early on, I discovered that the 30 Days/4 Months diet plan and cookbook sold easily and in gay abandon when I talked it up to groups in person. Campaigns to sell it on social media generate plenty of “likes” but not many sales.

Acquaintances made in writers’ and publishers’ groups report similar experiences. Almost everyone who is making any money on their books will tell you that speaking in front of groups and arranging author-signings and bookstore presentations sells more books than any amount of virtual jawing on social media.

The next stage of my marketing campaign will be heavy on presentations and in-person networking. If I could have started out knowing then what I know now, I would have hit the ground with personal presentations, radio talk-show interviews, podcasts, and YouTube videos.

 

 

Website Upgrade! And a Handy WordPress Hack

The Website Empire has been looking a little tattered around the edges. In our first three months, Camptown Races Press writers — we have four of ’em! — cranked out so many books it was hard to keep up in the production department. We were publishing eight to ten bookoids a month, many of them short-shorts, but several full-length books.

Meanwhile, here at Plain & Simple Press, I had broken my War & Peace-size magnum opus into 18 installments, all of them significantly longer than the Camptown Races “Racy Books.” Most of the Fire-Rider installments are novelette or novela length. Once these were online, I began collecting them in three “boxed sets,” Amazon’s ungainly way of presenting collections and anthologies. Two of those are now “published” (scare quotes: to my mind self-publishing on Amazon is more akin to “posting” than to real publishing, which entails many layers of quality control) and the last one is on the way.

That’s a lot to keep up with. I’d fallen behind with posting and describing Plain & Simple Press books, and just now I’m pretty far behind with Camptown Ladies Talk, too, largely because of a hectic holiday season complicated by the fine respiratory infection that’s going around — you’ve probably enjoyed that one, too; if you haven’t, brace yourself, for you soon will. 😉

So yesterday, the first day of relative peace in two or three weeks, I focused solely on tidying and updating the P&S website. I’d put off developing a “Books” page for Plain & Simple Press, largely because of an annoying WordPress characteristic that makes it damn near impossible to display Amazon “cover” images in an attractive and coherent way. Plug-ins notwithstanding, you can’t insert a table that lets you display two, three, or four images across a page, add links to them, and be confident the things will make any sense on a mobile device. “Gallery” plug-ins don’t seem to fill the bill, and plug-ins for tables require more technological expertise than I have or want to learn. This means you have to use the formatting tools available in your WP theme, which are very basic, indeed.

WordPress is programmed to “clean” your copy every time you save or publish…by deleting any extra line spaces you’ve entered. So if, say, you’d like to post a cover image flush left, enter a block of copy to the right of it, and then drop down three, four, or more lines to enter another flush-left image and block of copy below that one, you CAN’T. The extra line spaces are invariably deleted, leaving a gawdawful mess in place of your elegantly designed page.

What if, for example, you’d like entries in your Books page to look like this?

Dark Kindle LoResA doctor put Victoria Hay on blood pressure pills and told her he didn’t believe she could lose an excess twenty-two pounds. She proved him wrong. With a “real food” diet free of artificial and highly processed ingredients plus some mild exercise, just sixteen weeks she dropped thirty pounds. Her blood pressure returned to the normal range and stayed there.

Yes. Like that. Without this paragraph right here pulling up to the right of the image. With this paragraph right here STAYING PUT, dammit.

When you google up this issue in as many variations as you can imagine, you find that the techies at WordPress don’t even understand what their customers are talking about when users post questions at the annoying forums. They don’t seem to know what the user wants to do or why anyone would want an extra line space in a page of copy, and so they’re unable to offer any advice that makes anything like sense.

After what seemed like endless searching, I stumbled across this piece of code: <br style=”clear: both;” />

Enter this at the end of your paragraph while in “Text” mode et voilà! you get an ineradicable line break! NO MORE “CLEANING UP” the design you entered on purpose, not as some sort of mindless typo. You may have to enter it twice in order to make the added line break stay put.

Absent this nifty little snippet of code, you end up having to center images and then set descriptive copy flush left, like this:

The Travelers’ Tales
A Roberta Stuart Series

A huge storm over the East Coast shuts down air travel, leaving travelers stranded in airports all over the region. As evening turns to night, seven weary travelers are stuck in a waiting room, hoping to hear at any time that they can reboard their plane. Fighting boredom and frustration, one of them suggests they pass the time telling stories. The subject? Your most memorable quickie!

Presentation6 LoResOne Night in the Library

First to go is Aileen, the librarian whose mousy appearance is, as it develops, deceptive…

♥♥♥

Presentation7-3 LoResScience Teacher

When the microscope repairman shows up at her laboratory door, Janice is surprised to find he’s there to fix something altogether different.

♥♥♥

This is not awful. It’s just not what I want. IMHO, setting the descriptive type directly adjacent to a flush-left cover image is easier to read and more intuitive. And I hate the way the subhead under each image pulls up tight against the image’s bottom border.

<br style=”clear: both;” />  Try it. You’ll like it.

Social Media Guru Hates It…

LOL! You’ve heard of “Mikey Likes It”? Well, Darrell Hates It!

😀

Yesterday Social Media Guru Darrell and I were studying the Blog and Social Media Empire, and I chanced to show him my latest little cheat-on-Twitter’s-140-words JPEG.

All very well and good, said he. But are you crazy? Only about a third of that shows on Twitter’s minuscule snapshot of your image. Don’t make Readers click on the image to see all the words. ’Cause they WON’T.

See this? says he.

Bonnie AdGet rid of paragraph 1. Then take “He stroked her cheek, the fine chestnut creature.” Add dot-dot-dot; videlicet, He stroked her cheek, the fine chestnut creature… Delete the rest of the graf.

Delete the next graf.

Keep “Yes. Two of them…” to the end of that paragraph.

Fix the remainder. Republish.

Argha.

Well, point taken: Use your 140 characters to lead in with the first few words of the passage you want to quote in your marketing copy. Then use the fake-out-Twitter image to contain JUST enough content to cover the truncated view you get at first glance.

How do I hate Twitter?

Let me count the ways.

Twitter Mystification

Half my day was absorbed in the Twitter/Facebook Time Suck. Work started at 7 a.m. and went through until 12:30, when I had to leave to meet some friends for a prearranged get-together. Got home around 4:30.

At that point, I had to undo a mess the lawn guy had made in the garden when he repaired (thank goodness!!) the sprinkling system. This unplanned chore took until almost dark

What was on the schedule today? To begin creating covers for 15 new books. These need to be done by this time tomorrow night (it’s almost 8 p.m. now). I should start on that right now but am simply too tired to move. How exactly I’m going to get to twice as many covers as I planned to create tomorrow escapes my comprehension.

So basically what happened is that all of my productive time today was sucked away in Twitter. The outcome, to the extent that one can identify an outcome, was 22 incoming messages informing me of “favorites,” “retweets,” “direct messages” (most of them advertising the sender’s product or site), and new followers. That’s probably more than I’ve ever gotten in a single day. They really liked this little squib I posted, about reviews for the first three Fire-Rider bookoids :

5-star reviews LoRes

I’m having a very difficult time figuring out how social media are supposed to work, REALLY, as marketing tools. Or if they do. The fundamental problem behind that issue is that I don’t understand social media at all.

Videlicet:

  • Why would anyone other than a kid spend time on something like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Periscope? Who other than a teenager or a nine-year-old has the time to diddle away on this stuff?
  • What are they seeking?
  • Who are these people? Are they in fact adults? Or are most of them teenagers and children?
  • What kind of people are they?
    • What do they do in their lives?
    • How do they have time to waste on social media?
  • What do social media provide that more focused, less trivial media do not provide?
  • What is one trying to accomplish when one engages a social medium?
    • Evidently it’s not a direct sale.
    • I understand the principle that the point is to lure people to your website. I don’t understand how that would happen, though, because going to other users’ websites is not something I ordinarily do myself — at least, not often.
  • How does one focus and deliver a message on, say, Twitter? Or any of them, really?
  • How does one avoid getting lost or drowned out in all that static?
  • Which one or two platforms works best for marketing books?

It’s all one huge mystification.