Jilly: Booksweeps!

Do you know about Booksweeps?

I discovered them last year, when Jeanne included one of her Touched By A Demon books in a paranormal romance sweep. Since then I’ve heard good things about them, so when I saw they were running an Epic Sword & Sorcery Fantasy sweep I knew it was my turn. Here’s the graphic for The Seeds of Power:

A Booksweep is a contest that aims to connect avid readers of a particular subgenre with authors who’d like to reach a wider readership. First prize is usually something like an e-reader plus a free copy of every book in the sweep. Second prize is a free copy of every book.

Authors pay to be included. Readers don’t pay to play. They sign up for the sweep by joining the mailing list of the authors they like the look of out of the selection offered. They don’t have to join every list, but each one they join gives them a better chance of winning. Of course they could immediately unsubscribe from every list they choose, but past experience suggests that many of them don’t—as long as they enjoy the newsletter.

The giveaway I joined is called Epic, Sword & Sorcery Fantasy. That’s a nice, broad definition and I think the seventeen books in the bundle offer something for everyone. Some have battles on the cover—weapons and action, red-eyed dragons, mythical creatures and whatnot. Others highlight a central character, often female. Those look like my catnip.

I’ve been reading the blurbs and the Look Inside samples, and I’m especially tempted by Continue reading

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: 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?

 

Justine: The Exhilarating, Nerve-Wracking, Terrifying Moment of Publishing a Book

Last week was a monster moment for me. Late Saturday night a week ago (when I totally wasn’t expecting it), I got an email from KDP telling me that my first book, His Lady to Protect, was available for pre-order on Amazon.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 4.53.30 PM

AACKKK! THAT’S MY BOOK!

A multitude of emotions swirled through me. Happiness. Fright. Panic…lots of panic. I can’t take this book down. I really DO have to finish it now!

I cried, laughed, danced around the kitchen, shared my news with my husband (who was busy playing Fortnite with the kids, so it was a bit anti-climactic at first), and told my critique partners, who have been my day-to-day sanity over the last several years. They cheered!

When I’ve been out and about and friends ask about my book (better yet strangers that I meet when I’m in an airplane!), it’s nice to be able to tell someone that your book is up for pre-order (because all I’ve been saying for the last 6 years when asked if I’m published is “not yet”).

But now the real scary work begins. I received edits from my developmental editor (she made great suggestions) and it’s time to get my rear in gear and make changes to my manuscript. Once that’s done, I have to get my book loaded for pre-sale on the other e-retailers, plus come up with a marketing plan, get my full-wrap cover done, solidify my release schedule, and keep working on my second book.

In other words, only a few moments to…well…enjoy the moment. I’m sure more exhilaration, anxiety, and fear will abound when my book is actually out there for the world.

Have you hit “publish” yet? What emotions did you experience?

Jeanne: More About Amazon Ads

Kindle UnlimitedI’ve been playing around with Amazon Ads since my first book, The Demon Always Wins, released a little over a year ago. Here’s what I’ve figured out/read about/had someone teach me so far. These ideas may not work for you, but maybe some will.

1)  How many keywords do I need?

More keywords mean more opportunities.

You can have up to 1000 keywords, but they need to be keywords that will generate clicks and those clicks need to convert to sales or KU reads. So don’t go for glitzy keywords that really don’t relate to your book. You need strong, relevant keywords.

2) How do I generate a list of strong, relevant keywords?

The best way to generate a strong keyword list is to purchase a subscription to something like KDP Rocket, which provides suggested keywords based on data the proprietors have scraped from Amazon’s sales data. As well as suggesting keywords, it will tell you how often a specific search term gets entered. Continue reading

Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Which Cover Works?

The current cover, circa 2012

I was so pleased with the covers I commissioned for the “Phoebe” trilogy I just finished that I took a look at the rest of my books with a new eye. Back in the old days, six or seven years ago, when ebooks were still pretty new and finding freelancers who had good skill sets for book design was more difficult, I had some covers commissioned that I thought in the end were all right but not wonderful.

This first cover to the left is one of them. I like the image a lot, but I’ve never liked the type treatment. And these days, it’s design best practices to have some kind of tag line on the cover that gives readers a third hint (after the image and the title) of what’s in the book.

Maybe, I thought last week, it was time to redo these old covers.

Betting on Hope is set in Las Vegas. Hope, our heroine, holds her family (sister, mother, niece) together with a lick and a prayer. And then to her shock, she finds out that her father, a professional card player, lost their ranch—the family home and her sister’s livelihood—in a poker game.

Cover 1

Cover 2

A child prodigy poker player herself, Hope had given up the game long ago after too many betrayals by her father. But when the family is given thirty days to move out, she decides to try to win the place back from the east coast Mob boss who won it.

She enlists the professional players from her past to help her brush up her game. They introduce her to the hero and his daughter. The Mob boss brings his moll to Vegas and then the wife shows up. Not to mention, the Russians. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

Cover 3

Cover 4

There’s a lot of poker playing in the book, and a lot of the reviews on Amazon think the story is “about” gambling. When I wrote it, I thought the book was about what family is and means. I read thirteen (count ’em! Thirteen!) books about Texas Hold ’em, the game Hope plays, and by the time I was finished reading those books, I’d decided that people who play poker professionally can benefit from luck, but they must have skill to win consistently, which is what makes professional card players not the same as gamblers, who rely solely on luck, unless they cheat.

Cover 5

But as we learned at McDaniel, the book you write is only half the experience. The reader brings the other half.

I mention all this by way of pointing out that some of these covers are more about card playing, and some of the covers de-emphasize this aspect. But I’m interested in what cover best reveals the story.

I have my favorites. What do you think?

 

Jeanne: Things I Learned from Publishing My First Book

1. Rely on others

I’m not a very visual person, so when I got my teaser ads back from my publicity agency, I asked other more visually gifted friends to look over the ads. They came back with issues I never would have seen.

Takeaway: Rely on your posse. (And plan to be their posse in return when the time comes, with whatever you have to offer.)

Even though I’m not very visual, because I’m less emotionally invested in their stories than they are, there’s still a chance I’ll notice things they didn’t.

2. Give yourself more time than you think you could ever possibly need.

Once you get a final draft completed, it feels like most of your work should be done. While that’s probably true, there’s still way more to do than you realize, especially if you’re going to give your book a sendoff that will allow it to sell well.

3) Give yourself plenty of backup. Don’t rely on any one arena to promote your book.

I have a couple of friends with upcoming releases, one a debut. A couple of weeks ago their web host ghosted them. Their sites are down and they can’t get support from the hosting company.

4) Make sure you know your target market and the comps for your book.

After The Demon Always Wins came home with the Golden Heart, I kind of expected agents and editors, maybe not to flock to my door, but at least to be interested. So it was really disappointing when they weren’t.

Now, four years down the road, I understand why they weren’t. Paranormal romance wasn’t selling well at that time and the demon sub-genre was almost non-existent. When asked for comps for my book, I didn’t know of any. I wasn’t sure why it mattered, since the book wasn’t likely to wind up on physical shelf anywhere.

Then I tried running an Amazon ad. Amazon ads live and die by your keywords, and your keywords are mostly going to be a list of comp authors for your book.

These days I can list half a dozen off the top of my head.

5) Understand the conventions for your niche.

We’ve covered this in some detail in other posts, so I’m going to keep this brief, but my covers were all wrong. Very cool, but all wrong for romance. Your cover should not be weird and exotic and intriguing. It should be similar to the covers that sell those comps we just talked about.

6) Recognize that you don’t know what you don’t know.

There’s a learning curve to the book promotion game.

You can bypass some of it by hiring people to do some of it for you, but the fact that you don’t know how to it very likely means you won’t know how to hire the right people either.

You can bypass some of it by reading books and taking courses in book promotion. I read some books, but I didn’t take the courses. I have a friend who did. Her first book will debut later this year, and I’m waiting to see how well she does before passing judgment on the value of the course.