Jeanne: Selling Books with Instagram

Instagram logoInstagram is, hands down, my favorite social media application. I love how visual it is. I love how it doesn’t lend itself to angry discussions. I have less love for the selfies you find there, but in every pot of honey there are bound to be a few bee parts.

Anyway, for the past couple of years I’ve been using my Instagram account to post pictures of wildflowers that I take while hiking. I am not really a visual person, but I hike with an artist who has been wonderful about helping me understand lighting and composition, at least in this very narrow context. As a result, my IG page is loaded with reasonably attractive pictures of flowers.

I’ve heard a lot of discussions about how great IG is for selling books, but I’m not clear on how to do that. (Unless you run ads. If you’re willing/able to spend beaucoup bucks, I’m sure it works very well.) Unless your post is an ad, Instagram doesn’t allow you to include a working link there, only in your profile. Given people’s dislike of extra clicks, that suggests IG is not a good platform for sales.

So what’s the deal?

Last Sunday I took an Instagram class, taught by Kat Coroy. She explained that Instagram is more of a relationship-building tool. If people come to associate your posts with things they enjoy seeing and a consistent theme, it will predispose them to buying a book from you when the time is right.

That works for me. I dislike being on the receiving end of the hard sell so I’d never want to be on the giving end.

Without poaching material Kat has created and uses to make her living, I invite you to go look at her page and compare it with mine.

While mine won’t make you want to poke your eyes out with a tuning fork, it’s definitely several steps down from Kat’s. And, realistically, it’s never going to look anywhere that gorgeous. But it’s also clear that with a little bit of work and planning, I can spruce it up and have a very nice page that just might make people think, “I’d like to read a book of hers.”

My plans for next year include:

  1. Identifying colors and fonts to brand my page.
  2. Selecting short quotations from my published books and works-in-process.
  3. Alternating flower pictures with quotes to make my page look more like Kat’s.
  4. Interspersing pictures of my book covers (and maybe even an ad or two!).

I’m also taking a class on Instagram for Authors that is being offered by my RWA chapter in January, so I’m hoping to learn even more. I’ll post an update when I’ve made some progress.

What about you? Are there any social media apps you’ve found useful in selling or promoting books?

 

Jeanne: Can You Spot a Fake Smile?

woman holding picture with big smileOddly enough, one of the most useful skills I’ve acquired from becoming a romance writer is an improved ability to read people’s facial expressions and body language.

I’m not suggesting I’ll be taking up a second career as an FBI profiler, but prior to learning to write romance, I had zero skills in that area. Back when I worked in IT, I would often go to meetings. Afterwards my co-workers would dissect the subtle interactions between the power players who ran our world.

“Did you see the look A gave B?” one would ask.

“I did!” another would chortle. “Did you see the expression on C’s face? She totally did not want to be assigned to work with D.”

I saw none of this.

As I’ve struggled to learn how to show emotion rather than telling it, though, I’ve learned a few things. Emotions Revealed by Paul Eckman was a godsend. It describes, with photographs, not only major emotions (fear, surprise, anger, etc.) look but also the subtle micro-expressions that accompany less strongly felt emotions.

How good are you at deciphering what people are feeling simply by looking at them?

Continue reading

Jeanne: Interview with Kimberly Beckett

LionelsLeapofFaith_505x825Kimberly is a friend of mine from Central Ohio Fiction Writers, my local RWA chapter. Her author story is one many of us would envy. She wrote her first book back in 2017, pitched it to Deb Gilbert from Soulmate when Deb spoke at a chapter event in early 2018, and received a request for a full manuscript, which was accepted.

Her series, Horses Heal Hearts, are set in various aspects of the horse world. The first, Dressage Dreaming, features a member of the British Olympic dressage team who gets a second chance when a black stallion named Tempest enters his life. The second features a former British special forces officer who works to spoil an attempt to fix the Triple Crown Race. I’ll let her tell you about the third one herself.

Question 1:  I love the cover of your newest book! Tell us a little bit about it.

My newest book is the third book in my Horses Heal Hearts series, Lionel’s Leap of Faith.  Lionel Hayes was first introduced to readers in Dressage Dreaming.  Lionel’s Leap of Faith is a novella and an M/M second chance at love story with one open door love scene and   takes place in the world of international show jumping. Continue reading

Jeanne: Selling Books the Old-Fashioned Way

Indy Bookstore Day 2019On Saturday I attended a book-signing at New and Olde Pages, a local bookstore, in honor of Independent Bookstore Day, where I sold seven books. That may not sound like much, but it’s twice what I’ve sold on Amazon in the past week, including my KU reads. (On Sunday I had to suspend my “trickle” ad when the trickle became a flood thanks to Christmas shoppers who apparently clicked on my ad only to remember that they weren’t shopping for themselves. Since the Zon charges per click, this is the worst possible outcome. Like many other authors at this time of year, I had to suspend my advertising.)

For an author with only two books on the market, selling seven books in an afternoon is a very nice result. It wasn’t especially profitable, because I bought books from two other authors there (of course), but it was an enjoyable afternoon of chatting with potential readers. It was also, for an introvert, insanely stressful. When I got home I walked in the door, ordered up a drink (it’s lovely when your husband is also your bartender) and proceeded to binge on Spider Solitaire while listening to the soundtrack from Hadestown for a couple of hours while I unwound.

(If you’ve never heard Why We Build the Wall, it’s absolutely haunting.)

As I write this post on Sunday morning, though, I’m largely recovered from the ordeal of talking to other human beings and I think hand-sales is something I need to pursue more aggressively in 2020. I believe in my books. I think they’re funny and thought-provoking, with unique and compelling characters. And when I talk to people face-to-face, this comes through persuasively.

So one of my goals for 2020 will be to approach independent bookstores and ask if they’ll take my books on consignment (or order through Lightning Spark). There are only a couple of Indies here in the Dayton area, but there are more in Cincinnati and Columbus. I also plan to approach the local library systems and see if they’d be willing to stock it.

Which means I’ll need to talk to people again.

Is 9 a.m. too early to start drinking?

 

Jeanne: Interview with Janet Irvin

healyjerry_bobbleheadEight Ladies Writing is mostly about romance, but sometimes it’s nice to add a touch of mystery, so today we’ll be talking with Janet Irvin, a mystery writer I met through my local writing community. Back in 2015, her debut novel, The Dark End of the Rainbow (great title!) won the inaugural Jeremiah Healy award, aka the Jerry, for best mystery manuscript. The prize, presented at the Mystery Writers Key West Fest, included a contract with Absolutely Amazing eBooks, free entry to Key West Fest, including airfare and hotel (!), and a bobble-head Jerry trophy. How stinkin’ cute is that? Way more fun than a Golden Heart necklace.

Her newest book, The Strange Disappearance of Rose Stone, was released in September, 2019.

Question 1: Tell us a little bit about your newest book.

Rose Stone coverThe Strange Disappearance of Rose Stone began as a series of connected short stories about siblings Peter and Rose Stone. Inspired by Kahlil Gibran’s poem “On Children,” the stories followed Peter and Rose through their troubled childhood. Once completed, I gave them to an agent, who kept them for a year, said no one was interested, and returned them. I turned to other projects, but the characters refused to go away. So, I rethought the concept, weaving the original stories in with what my instinct determined was their current situation. The main idea of the book evolved into this: Ten days after his sister disappears, Peter receives a note from Rose and a package containing their most treasured childhood possession. Now he must revisit the landscape of that traumatic childhood in search of clues that will help him solve the mystery of her vanishing. At the same time, he and his wife Kelly are struggling with infertility issues, and his detective partner has woman troubles of his own. Yet they work together to anchor Peter as he confronts the ghosts of his past and the ones still to be revealed.

Question 2:  Your first book, The Dark End of the Rainbow, won the 2015 Jeremiah Healy Mystery Award. Tell us about that experience.

The Dark End of the Rainbow coverIn the spring of 2015, I received an unsolicited announcement in my inbox about a contest based on the first three pages of a manuscript. I sent off the first three pages of both The Dark End and The Rules of the Game, my second novel, and promptly forgot I had done so. Meanwhile, I continued to polish The Dark End and took it to the Antioch Writers Workshop, where I pitched it to an agent. She asked for the full manuscript. A week later I received a new email saying I was a finalist in the competition named after Mr. Healy, who had recently passed away. At the same time, I was scheduled to undergo a brain surgery to correct my hemifacial spasms. The conference awarding the prize wanted all finalists to be there. I called to tell them my family wouldn’t let me fly a mere four days after surgery. We arranged for a Skype connection so I could watch the presentation. I planned to sit in my robe and slippers when my husband said, “You might have won. You better get dressed.” I did, and when they made the announcement, I was absolutely astonished, amazed, and humbled. Later, the contest sponsors told me both my submissions had made it to the top ten. The agent replied to my follow-up emails, but never made an offer.

Question 3: You have a developmentally disabled son. As you may know, my brother is also developmentally disabled. Growing up with a sibling who was intellectually challenged had a profound impact on my life. My mother used to say that whatever my other siblings and I know about empathy we learned from Lynnie and I think she may be right. What kinds of impacts did your son’s challenges have on your family?

Our son Scott’s disability was profound. He never advanced beyond the three-month Rules cover 1400ppilevel. After four years of in-home care, the toll on our family was severe. Having a handicapped child constrains your activities. Since I refused to consent to a feeding tube, his meals took longer and longer to complete. As he grew, it became more difficult to move him. His therapy, although never successful, involved daily visits to a center and the recruiting of many volunteers. Our older daughter started school. Then I became pregnant again. The social worker who counseled us suggested we place Scottie in a facility and, with great reluctance and many tears, we did so. Because of our son, my daughters developed a deep and compassionate understanding of what it means to be blessed. None of us takes for granted the gifts we enjoy: the ability to move on our own, to speak, to swallow, to interact with others. Scott passed away at the age of 19 from a difficult surgery. The sadness and the longing for him never goes away, but we have gone on to honor him as best we can by doing good things.  I agree with you, Jeanne, that these angels teach us many lessons, empathy being one of the most important of all.

 

Janet Irvin

 

J.E. Irvin is a career educator and an award-winning writer. Her stories have appeared in a variety of print and on-line publications, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, The Zodiac Review and SPARK a creative anthology. She lives on the edge of a nature park, where sightings of deer and serenades by coyotes enrich her creative life. She and her husband are avid canoeists, spending as much time as money permits paddling the waters of the Northwoods. A favorite quote by Kahlil Gibran serves to focus the direction of her life and her work: “We live to discover beauty; all else is a form of waiting.”

You can read her very nice blog at www.janetirvin.com (I’m her guest feature for November!) and you can find her books on Amazon.

 

Jeanne: Too Many Buts, Not Enough Therefores

I recently read a book that didn’t quite work for me.

The writing was strong and the author did a masterful job of pulling all the diverse plot threads together, but something about the story somehow missed. It took me a couple of days of analyzing it to put my finger on the problem: too many buts, not enough therefores.

If you’re not a long-time follower of this blog, that phrase may not make sense to you. (It may not make sense even if you are.)

Let me explain.

The single greatest “Aha!” moment during my time in McDaniel’s Romance Writing Program was hearing Trey Parker and Matt Stone talking about “but and therefore.” Here’s a short (2:14) video of the two men explaining this rule to a classroom of students at NYU.

Here’s an even shorter recap: When you lay out the arc of your plot, the individual events should connect to each other via “but” or “therefore.” Like this: Continue reading

Jeanne: Interview with Barbra Campbell

LMB - Moonflower CoverBarbra Campbell is a Persister–one of the amazing women who were finalists for the 2018 RWA® Golden Heart® award for unpublished romance. Since then, Barbra has gone on to publish 20 steamy romance novellas. Today, we’re going to talk to her about her most recent effort.

Question 1: Tell us about your book.

Leave Me Breathless: Moonflower Collection contains 8 steamy romances by 8 different authors for the amazing price of 99 cents for a limited time! The stories each contain an element of ‘dreaming of love’ and everyone knows that can take many forms. But hey, it’s a romance, so you don’t have to worry about the ending…only the journey.

My story, Becoming Her World, follows a couple who had a wild night of sex, and some great follow up, but Connor lives out of town and is elusive about his personal life. When he’s gone, Samantha finds out she’s pregnant but miscarries before she tells him. Continue reading