Monday, March 24, 2014

In Which I Theorize on Marketing

Marketing is an odd bird. In the course of two years marketing the same dang book, I’ve learned a few things. One, (the most obvious), you need another dang book. I’m working on it. Two, I’ve stopped counting my “sales”. I barely check my rank anymore.

When I get to talking to another author, who is inevitably trying to hock their book (like me), the topic always comes back to marketing. What works, what doesn’t, our own theories and ideas on what will be the “breakthrough”. I’m by no means an expert on the subject. My one book (soon to be two) hovers between 100K and 300K on a good day. In its heyday, it hung out at 20K for months, and even hit the top 1000 for a few weeks. Ah, the glory days. Other authors understand this speak: I’m talking Amazon rank, of course. The ever elusive little orange “Bestseller” tag (hurry! Get a screenshot!), what books it’s sandwiched between, what authors you can rub virtual elbows with, those elite NYT Bestsellers that are firmly seated among those ranks daily and probably never even look.

Whenever we chat about marketing, and I say, Oh, I’m on Goodreads or Twitter or Facebook or a member of WFWA or Sisters in Crime or whatever, the other author will eventually, inevitably, ask the question that makes me cringe now (it didn’t always): Does it help your sales? “It” being whatever network is currently on the table. We want that direct link, that easy answer. “Oh, yes! That’s it! I’m not on Goodreads, that’s why I haven’t sold my first million. OF COURSE!” Big sigh of relief, let’s all have a beer.

That’s not how it works, guys. I’m sorry. I wish it was. We’ve all heard it before, I think we just refuse to believe it. Behind every overnight sensation is YEARS of baby steps marketing efforts. Hours of watching page views (blog or Facebook), sending Friend Requests, building a Twitter following, attending book signings, donating paperbacks to libraries, used bookstores, gift shops, and if you’re like me, small press published, then tracking all this information on consignment.

I think book marketing is a marathon. There is no “breakthrough” moment. I try every day to make one new connection. One new person that I didn’t know in my writing world before. Whether it be a new friend who doesn’t really know I’m a writer until I invite them to “Like” my author page, or reaching out and genuinely commenting on someone’s blog that I found interesting/touching. What I don’t do, anymore, is worry about if the action I’m taking today will result in a sale tomorrow. The answer is probably, no, not directly.

In my experience, sales are organic. Maybe you comment on Suzy’s blog and you guys have a nice little chat back and forth, but Suzy doesn’t rush right out and buy a copy of your book. Why would she? She probably has her own book to sell. What she might do is check you out, see what you’re about. Maybe she’ll like your cover or your blurb and add you to her Goodreads shelf. Maybe Suzy’s cousin Sally will see this, and maybe she’ll be the one that actually buys your book. Maybe even a month later.  My point is, there is virtually no way to know where every individual sale comes from. Stop trying. If you can attribute each connection you make to a sale then, in my opinion, you’re not doing enough.

Instead, I strive for connection first. After that, I concern myself with exposure. How many different ways can I flash the book cover around (and not be annoying about it)? Blogs (my own and others) are good. Twitter is good, ask for retweets but give back and pay it forward. Facebook events, bookmarks that I leave around public places like doctor’s offices and my accountant’s office (anywhere with a waiting room), and even the local newspaper.
Share the love. Share sales and giveaways of other authors, especially in your genre. Give back to your readers, tell them about a $0.99 Kindle deal in a genre they would probably like (aka similar to yours), and while you’re at it, tag that author. Maybe they’ll pay it back one day, maybe not. Don’t worry about that. Reign in your expectations and stop tracking those who “hit it big” after two months, six months, a year. Put away the measuring stick. Marketing your book is like a healthy diet: It’s a lifestyle change. There are no easy answers.

I have no proof that this works. It’s just a theory, like all the other ramblings on this blog. But it can’t possibly hurt. Learning to market my book has been this incredible growth experience over the past year. I’ve connected with people from all over the globe and people can’t resist authenticity.

For new authors that have asked me for marketing advice here it is: Connection first, then exposure. Be your real, authentic self. Be vulnerable. Ask for help. Show gratitude. Pay it forward and back. Say thank you. If you’re lucky enough to get real fans that aren’t your mom, take care of them. Forget the destination, it doesn’t exist. Enjoy the journey, it’s half the fun. The other half is… well, writing. Oh yeah, back to that.

This thing, right here? Repeat after me: It's all gravy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Booky Things: Giveaways and Releases and Parties, Oh My!

I usually reserve my blog for ranting on parenting, sometimes writing stuff, and sometimes, well, truthfully, nothing at all. I'm kind of a terrible blogger. Don't get me wrong, I love doing it, when I actually do it.

But, so many fun things are happening in my writerly world. First, Binds That Tie is coming out March 31st! I'm so excited for its book birthday! See details on my website.

Then, Red Adept Publishing decided to do a Goodreads Giveaway! I'm beyond thrilled at this, because I love these. I enter them all the time. In fact, I just won Under A Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Last, but never least, I have scheduled a Facebook party to ring in the second book in style. **CLICK HERE** to join! No invite required! Why would you join an online party, you ask? Because FREE THINGS.  Every 3-4 (ish) hours on March 31st, I'll be giving something away! A signed book, gift cards, swag, the kitchen sink....tell your friends! I just want to show appreciation for all my fans and friends who are relentlessly supportive. I'm pretty sure you're all going to get sick of me one day. I'm not above buying your love saying THANK YOU!

Here's the truth, though: I'm super nervous about this book. I have Second Book Syndrome. This is a real thing, y'all. Thought I Knew You was pretty well received -- mostly 4-5 stars, people seemed to like it. I loved the plot, simple as it was. I loved the characters, as flawed as they were. To me, they were very real, and the whole scenario was so possible.

Binds That Tie is a different animal. Its different than TIKY in weird and wonderful ways -- the characters are more complicated, the choices are internally driven. I'm proud of my growth as a writer. Binds was fun to write -- I love the darker side of human nature, what we all could do if pushed to certain limits. Would we all stay loyal? Selfless? Doubtful. I also liked the idea that everything you do in your life changes who you are in some small way, and you can't go back. You can't return to who you were before, no matter how much you'd like to.

I have no idea if this will translate to readers. I can't wait to find out. In the meantime, my nails are bitten to the quick and I can't stop downing Girl Scout Cookies and Irish Soda bread. And wine. Always, always wine.

This has nothing really to do with the post, except it made me laugh. YOUR WELCOME.