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.

Justine: Drip Campaigns (aka Automation) for New Authors

email marketingI recently switched over my email service from MailChimp to MailerLite (for a detailed explanation of why, read this post by David Gaughran). Mind you, I hadn’t sent any emails to my 46 subscribers since last November, and I figured (now that my kitchen reno is done and the kids are back in school) it was time to saddle up the ‘ol marketing horse again.

At the same time, I’m planning some FB ads in the near future to spread the word about my free short story (which is also a backstory to my first upcoming book His Lady to Protect) and hopefully help drum up newsletter subscribers prior to its release later this year.

However, before I go gung-ho on the FB ads, I wanted to make sure I had a drip campaign–also know as “automation”–set up for my new subscribers. Continue reading

Jeanne: A new cover for my second book baby

demondetails-estridge-ebookweb

Here is the new cover for Book 2–The Demon’s in the Details. If you’ve read the second book, you know the hero is “small, dark, and hairy, with horns and a tail.” Not exactly book cover material. So I chose, instead, to go with a model who looked more like how I picture Seth McCall, the physically attractive (but emotionally repulsive) human Bad possesses in an attempt to get close to Keeffe, an artist who owns a statue that Satan covets.

If you have the original version of the book, it may be worth downloading the updated version. In addition to the pretty new cover, it has an excerpt from the third book, The Demon Wore Stilettos, at the back. I’m pretty sure no human being other than myself has read that yet. Continue reading

Jeanne: Anatomy of a Newsletter

On Friday I sent out my seventh newsletter.

When I started sending out newsletters last summer, just before releasing The Demon Always Wins, I planned on once a quarter. Current marketing wisdom says weekly, but who has something to say that often? Even book-factory authors who spit out books like they’re running an assembly line take six weeks or so to write and release a book. Also, I personally loathe getting author newsletters that frequently. And anything more often than once a week I consider spam and quickly unsubscribe.

Still, over the last few months, I’ve fallen into a monthly pattern because I have had news to share—contest finals, new covers, good stuff.! And now that I have a few newsletters under my belt, I feel like I have some useful ideas on what works.

  1. A header/template that reflects your brand. Here’s mine:

Header

2. News. This goes back to what I was grumbling about earlier. It’s only a newsletter if it contains news. In this case, it was the news that The Demon Always Wins won Best Paranormal Romance and Best First Book in the Detroit RWA Booksellers’ Best contest. It included a picture of my (very hard to photograph) awards: Continue reading

Nancy: A Romance by Any Other Name…

This could TOTALLY be Percy and Finola if he were a strawberry-blond instead of a brunette.

Here on the blog, we spend a lot of time discussing the importance of book covers and branding in getting our books into the hands of the right readers, the ones who will love our particular genres and stories. It probably goes without saying, but in case it doesn’t, I’ll say it now: book titles are an important part of the overall package that positions books.

With that caveat, you can probably see where this post is going. Turns out, the title I selected for my next book, a title I’ve loved and attached to and had at the forefront of my brain while I wrote the book, might not work for my romance sub-genre. It all started when I was working on cover concepts with my new cover designer (this is designer number three, for those of you following along at home). After several discussions of the book with her, I woke up one morning to find an email in my inbox that changed the way I now see my beloved title.

As she had been setting up a design and working on fitting the title into it, it struck her that Three Husbands and a Lover sounded like a reverse harem erotica title. If you haven’t heard of the RH subgenre, it’s one woman with multiple male lovers, and tends to be erotica. Um, no. Not my genre, and not what I intended communicate with that name. If I thought it was just her opinion, well-versed as she is in the romance field, I could ignore it. But now that she’s put that thought in my brain, all I can picture when I see that title is my heroine surrounded by her four lovers. Continue reading

Jeanne: About That Cover…

Recently, a friend messaged me about a bookstore in a nearby town that she thought would be willing to stock my book(s), so last Tuesday I went to visit New & Olde Pages Book Shoppe in Englewood, OH.

I explained why I was there and the proprietress said, “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

I pulled a copy of The Demon Always Wins from the small box of books I’d brought with me and held it out to her.

demon_wins_1500--POD

“That’s a problem,” she said. Continue reading

Jilly: Free Shouldn’t Mean Gimcrack

How many of you download free books, stories or novellas from BookBub, or the Zon, or as a reward for signing up for an author newsletter?

Do you expect the quality of the writing to be worse because it’s free?

Stand by for a rant.

I’m on the mailing list of an author whose books I really like. She’s not prolific, but her stories are quality and well worth waiting for. I had a newsletter from her recently, announcing that her new novel would be published shortly. Excellent, I thought. I read on to discover that she’d written a novella-length story in the same world as the upcoming book, and that she was offering it to her mailing list as a free download to thank us for our engagement and to whet our appetites for the new release.

I couldn’t have been happier. I downloaded the free book, made a pot of coffee and got comfortable on the sofa with my Kindle. For about five minutes, tops.

I knew the novella-length story had started life as a character sketch, a discovery exercise to help the author find her way into the next big book. That’s cool. I love those little extras, behind-the-scenes glimpses and secret nuggets. That’s what I was hoping for. Perhaps that’s what it became in the end. I’m not sure, because I abandoned it after skimming the first dozen pages.

I’m not sure whether the author did just dump her discovery notes into Vellum without any thought or editing, but that’s how it read to me. What I read reminded me of the famous Mark Twain quote: “I apologize for such a long letter – I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

Continue reading