Monday, October 05, 2015

Marketing to Your Readers, Not to Yourself

I’d like to welcome author and powerhouse promoter, Randi Lee!

There’s a new trend in the publishing world: both traditional and independent publishers are looking more and more toward authors to market their own materials. It is becoming increasingly normal to find a request for an author’s marketing plans on agent and publisher submission guidelines sites. Thus, it is not only self-published authors who are tasked with the precarious job of self-promoting these days; more and more traditional and indie authors are playing the writer/marketer balancing act, too. Regardless of the publishing route we choose to follow, we, as authors, now find ourselves falling under a united flag: the flag of the self-promoter.

In one sense this is a positive, as it is uniting authors in new and exciting ways. I see authors coming together through various social media mediums to support each other and share their knowledge in the fields of marketing and self-promotion. It is bringing together three fragmented units of authors: Traditional, Indie, Self-Published. It’s reminding us that while our roads to publication are different, our goal in traveling those roads is the same: we want our books to be read. We all want to spread our words as far as they can go.

There is a hindering negative to this new trend, however. Just as a doctor’s specialty is in medicine and not in constitutional law, we are authors. Our specialty is in writing, not marketing. Yes, these two fields share commonalities, but they are different. Having spent over eight years in the marketing and communications fields, I can tell you that you may think you know how to write a proper marketing campaign—you know how to write a dynamite 90,000-word novel, after all—but you probably do not. Creative writing and marketing writing are two completely different elements. Authors are not inherently good at marketing because they are not inherently designed to market. I’ll explain…

Authors, the books you write are your own. They’re a recipe of you, comprised of ingredients you select to satisfy your story appetite. Your books reflect your values, they flow to the melody of your word choices, they sing of your character designs and they dance around the world you build. Authors often refer to their books as “their babies.” Rightfully so. Just as all of the elements of life come together in the womb to grow a child, so do all the elements of the world come together to grow your book. As much as you are writing for the reader, the book reflects you, it exposes you, it is you.

That’s nowhere near being a bad thing. The best books come from the heart. They come from that place deep inside you that no one else gets to see. The best books are unique and individual, telling, through similes and clever phrases, your story. For all of us authors to abandon what’s in our hearts and write only what we feel will appear to readers would make for a quite boring, quite mundane and quite redundant library. The art of reading, I think, would dissipate.

What is troubling about your book being all about you, dear authors, is that marketing is the exact opposite: marketing is the art of writing to someone else’s heart. It isn’t about sharing your message, about people understanding the hidden reasons behind why you wrote a certain scene or what you were trying to convey through your character’s clothing choices. It’s about connecting what you’ve written to the reader in a way that makes them feel special and understood, that makes them think the story is akin to their story. It’s about making the reader want to read your story because they can see their own story within the one you’ve written. The creative writing portion of your publishing journey was about you. The marketing writing portion of your publishing journey is about your reader.

It can be hard to determine whether you’re writing your promotional materials for yourself or for your reader. An easy way to ensure that you are writing your message for your reader and not yourself is to ask questions within your materials that include the word “you.” For example, in my recently released novel, Affected, the main character faces a loss when the love of his life runs away from him. I targeted readers who have been left by someone they loved in the following image teaser:

In this example, I spoke directly to the reader’s memories and emotions on the subject of loss. I asked them if something like this had ever happened to them. I asked them what they would do. I created an instant emotional tie between my reader and my story, thereby taking my book, my world, my message, and making it about them. Now my book has given the reader something: it’s provided them with a sense of understanding, a knowledge that they are not alone in what they went through. It resonates with them because they know what it is to lose, and reading about that loss gives comfort and provides validity to their experience. It gives their sense of loss a universality: they are not alone—not thanks to your book.

We want our marketing to be about us, our message, our story. Of course we do. We’ve put everything we have into these books. It can’t be about us, though. It has to be about the reader if you want to create those emotional and spiritual connections that pull cause readers to pull books off shelves. Make your marketing message less about you and your book. Make it more about what your book can give your readers. When you market, market towards your target reader’s emotions, past experiences, likes and dislikes. Market towards your target reader’s hopes and fears. Think about aspects of the book that can help them in some way or something in the book they can relate to. Use that as your pitch, and watch your book sales soar.

Thanks, Spunky, for having me on your blog today! I hope this information proves useful to you, Spunky’s readers. Good luck with your self-promotion and marketing campaigns. I hope that making it about the reader leads to exceeding successes!

Randi Lee is an author and blogger, as well as a freelance writer, editor and designer living in New England with her family and two much-loved dogs. She recently released her debut novel, Affected, and is currently working on its sequel, Ascendance. Randi loves sharing tips and supporting fellow authors. She often posts helpful advice and author spotlights on her website. Affected, her action-packed dystopian thriller, is available at all store fronts, including: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Truth About Ebook Sales, Oyster’s Failure, and Apple Goes to the Supreme Court

Karen Jones Gowen is visiting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group today with tips on how to query a small press.

Fortune ran this article last week: Apple Will Ask Supreme Court to Hear its Ebooks Price-Fixing Case. That’s right, Apple is taking this thing all the way to the top. Do you think they have a chance?

Book Business Magazine ran an article about why Oyster failed:

“But mostly, it is the publishers that killed Oyster, because there was never much interest in seeing it succeed as it challenged their existing and highly profitable ebook business model in their home market.”

There are other ebook subscription services out there, such as Bookmate and Amazon Unlimited. But will they succeed? Is it good or bad for authors?

This one at Talking New Media was really interesting. They wrote that the NYTimes cited monthly sales stats from the AAP and claimed ebook sales were declining. But these figures aren’t accurate.

The 1,200 publishers polled represent only 46% of the publishers out there. (It also included the big five.) According to the article:

“That difference is especially important because the Big Five are the same five publishers which negotiated agency contracts last fall and spring, giving themselves more control over their ebook prices. According to the WSJ, the new contracts resulted in higher ebook prices and fewer eBooks sold.
“And it’s not just the WSJ; there’s independent confirmation in terms of ebook sales in the Kindle Store. According to the Author Earnings report, the share of Kindle ebook unit sales represented by AAP members has dropped from 45% to 32%.”

So, while the bigger publishers are seeing their ebook sales decline, smaller publishers and self-publishers are not because they understand lower, competitive pricing. Think the big boys will ever figure that out?

Just a reminder about the IWSG Anthology Contest.
It’s open to all IWSG blog and Facebook members and the deadline is November 1st.
See the IWSG site for the full scoop.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Google Books, Realms Faire, IWSG Anthology Contest, and Birds

Wonder what ever happened to Google Books? Between lawsuits, settlements, and issues, the project sits in limbo right now. Read the full story at the New Yorker

Can anyone identify these birds?

Yes, they’re cute. But they and their mom have been snacking on my tomatoes. Not cool.

The IWSG Anthology Contest is open until November 1st.

You don’t want to miss this opportunity!

Ten winning stories will appear in a royalty-paying anthology next year.

The Realms Faire is coming!

November 9 - 13 - games and prizes.

A Thunderclap is set up to announce the Faire before it begins. If you can support us through Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, please sign up for the Thunderclap.

This year’s events:

4th Annual Joust

Hosted by MPax. Prizes for the winning knight. Prizes drawn daily for the crowd.

Up to 10 knights can joust. Each will battle daily. Magic words will be granted to each knight to pass out to their adoring fans. Knights score points by commenters using their magic words. Knight with the most points at the end of the week wins. What does the knight win? A year of promo on my blog in the slider and a tumbler printed with your championship boasts and badge.

Winners are drawn daily from the adoring crowds.

Beware the Vortex

Hosted by River Fairchild. Prizes drawn daily.

A vortex opens. Five people are trapped in the Underworld with only one way out – challenge an immortal to a contest of skill. The odds are against those brave enough to accept but enthusiastic fans can help them win their freedom with magic words given to each contestant. Daily prizes awarded to each challenger and a commenter chosen at random.

Dueling Bards

Hosted by Cassandra Webb. Daily prizes.

Your character squares off with another writer’s darling. Can you win? The audience decides.

Unicorn Hunt

Hosted by - me!

You are charged with tracking down the unicorns!

Every day, a new blogger will host a photo. You will have to find the unicorns in the image, much like the famous “Where’s Waldo?” Leave a comment stating how many unicorns you find in that image. The most correct guesses out of five, wins.

Prizes will include books and gift cards.

Five images – many unicorns – only one winner!

The Hero’s Dilemma

Hosted by Tyream Martinson.

Hero’s beware! Here at the House of Hero’s Dilemma, a new cliff-hanging adventure will dangle new heroes above the depths of destiny or despair. In 100 words or less, a hero will face a danger in story form.

Each day, the people of Realsmdom will decide the fate of these heroes in three sentences or less. If fateful endings are giving answer in poetic form, an extra entry for prizes will be awarded.

Daily e-book prizes will be awarded via random name-pulling from the entries. Everyone is invited to participate.

People of Realmsom, you have the power of storytelling might to decide the fate of the would-be heroes. Will they die in glory or shame, live in victory or defeat? It is up to you.

And, after you have decided the fate of the Hero’s Dilemma, try your hand at the other Realms Faire Events for more fun and prizes!


Hosted by Untethered Realms. A simple word game. Prizes drawn daily.

Soak-A-Bloke and Drench-A-Wench

Hosted by Christine Rains.

Come by and soak a blogging friend with wet sponges… or witticisms. Prizes drawn daily.

Who Roams Here

Hosted by Julie Flanders.

Each day I will give clues to a famous ghost from literature or movies. I’ll give new clues throughout the day until someone guesses the right ghost. The first one to guess correctly will get a $5 Amazon gift card and a bundle of ebooks. The only rule is that the same person can’t win the daily game more than once.

At the end of the week everyone who left a comment will be entered into a drawing for the grand prize which is a $30 Amazon gift card and a bundle of ebooks.

Riddle Me This

Hosted by Cherie Reich.

I am a book so popular they made a movie of me. Within the what if realms I lie. Horror? Fantasy? Or am I Sci-Fi? A riddle every day during the Realms Faire for you to take your best guess and have a chance to win a prize most splendid.

Hall of Doors

Hosted by M. Gerrick.

Every book offered as a prizes will be hidden behind a doorway. Under each door will be the blurb for the hidden book. Each correct answer will be put in the drawing for the book given as a prize. will be used to pick the winners.

Stockade Brigade

Hosted by Mary Waibel.

Warrants of arrest have been issued for select authors accusing them of witchery and wizardry. The pillory has been erected and the trial dates set.

Good people of Realmsdom, I call upon you to bear witness to these trials and offer your testimony for or against the author’s crimes.

Points will be awarded for wordsmithing a comment in your best Olde English afore 8 of the clock in the Eastern time on the following scale:
5-Ye speak as one from the days of Queen Bess.
4-Ye could pass muster as a Ren Faire cast member
3-Ye could pass as a Ren Faire attendee
2-Ye wouldn’t be foolin’ yer mother
1-Ye stand out like the sun in a cloudless sky

An e-book will be given every day to the witness who scores the most points. Fear not, your daily score will be accumulated and the person with the highest score shall receive a special prize at the end of the week. So, brush off your Olde English and prepare to testify.


Hosted by Realms Faire. Prize packages up for raffle.

Are you participating in the Realms Faire?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Beware the Blog Leeches, Barnes & Noble Issues, and Japanese Book Chain Defies Amazon

Beware the Blog Leeches

After blogging for 10 & 1/2 years, I’ve seen my share of trolls, flaming, and bloggers behaving badly. I’ve also witnessed leeches - people who attach themselves to you for selfish reasons. They can even come off a super nice, but they’re still out to get something for themselves.

Who are these leeches?

Those who follow just to get you to follow back. They follow just to build up their own following, not necessarily because they want to interact with you. Sometimes they will unfollow you not long afterwards. (Just like on Twitter.)

Those who comment just to get you to visit them. Those people are usually all about the hits. Sometimes it’s just to get more comments, but usually they just want that hit counter to go higher. (So if you see a hit counter near the top, you know that’s what they are most proud of.) Blogging is all about being social though. It’s about interacting. And hits don’t add up to interacting.

Those who comment enough to get listed in your sidebar. They will visit for a while. Most of us have a blog roll in our sidebar where will list regulars. At some point, these people no longer become regular. They might stop by once a month, but that’s it. They’ve achieved their goal already - listed in your sidebar, you’ve added to the search engine fodder for their site and given them free advertising. (Which is why it’s a good idea to go through your blog roll and see who really is visiting you on a regular basis.)

Those who comment or follow just to get you to feature them. Again, blogging is social media. You need a relationship with a blogger before you can ask for a feature. Even with book bloggers, you should be following the site and commenting sometimes before asking for a review or feature. Someone who follows and then immediately asks for a feature isn’t interested in a relationship. They just want a quick and easy way to hock themselves and their stuff.

Those who comment just to get a rise out of you. These people leech the joy out of blogging. They feed on negative energy and get a kick out of starting something bad. Those are the people we just need to ignore.

Been visited by any of these leeches lately? Ever guilty of being a leech?

Industry news:

From The Digital Reader - B&N Says it is (Still) “Considering” Smaller Stores, But is Actually Closing Stores
"In the past 17 months B&N had announced the opening of a single store, and closed at least a dozen.
B&N said they are considering smaller stores, but what they're actually doing is shuttering stores right and left. And that is the real story here, not that a "book retailer considers new store prototype".
Actions speak louder than words, which is why you should look at what someone is doing rather than what they are saying.
Never mind what B&N says in interviews; their real plan is to cut unprofitable stores. They accidentally revealed that plan in January 2013, and have been implementing it ever since."

And on the heels of that news - The Digital Reader reports that B&N revenues are down in the last quarter, even as losses shrink. Not good!

From Publishing Perspective - To Defy Amazon, Kinokuniya Corners the Market on New Murakami
"Kinokuniya, the largest bookstore chain in Japan, has announced that it will snap up 90% of initial print run of Haruki Murakami’s latest title to sell at brick-and-mortar stores and make sure that customers who want to purchase the book will have to go to an actual physical bookstore. It is a move largely seen as a way to stall purchases through Amazon."

Thank you to everyone who commented on my post at The Insecure Writer’s Support Group last week, EPub Formatting and Beyond.

Does that news about B&N surprise you? What do you think of Kinokuniya's attempt?