Jeanne: What a Tangled Web

Back in 2017, I hired a local web developer, who also happened to be a romance author, to build a website for me. It wound up taking longer than I anticipated (around five months) and consuming a lot of energy, but in the end I was happy with my site.

It was themed with my brand, matched my very fun covers, and had this very cool animated snake.

Then I learned, much to my chagrin, that ophidiophobia, fear of snakes, is one of the most common fears and that the presence of that snake on my covers and my website would discourage potential readers.

Once I had time to absorb this, I hired a new cover firm, who created the “hot guy” covers that sell so much better and created a website header to match my covers.

toucheddemon-estridge-TW

About the same time, my developer encountered a series of life-altering events and decided to get out of the website business. She sold my site maintenance contract to another firm. 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?

 

Michaeline: Could This Be the Age of the Novella?

Seven short years ago, I worried a lot because I write short – my NaNos are almost never more than 40,000 words, which makes a decent novella (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America defines a novella up for the Nebula Award as 17,500 to 39,999 words). But I hadn’t read many romance novellas, or even seen them promoted.

This year, they seem to be leaping up to be noticed. Romance author Stacey Shannon tweeted that she loves writing novellas in reply to former Carina Press executive editor Angela James’ tweet about loving to edit novellas.

Book Riot has a 2019 post recommending 28 romance novellas. If you look carefully at the covers, you’ll see a lot of them lack a publisher’s mark – I know at least some of these are self-published, while others have found homes with traditional publishers. Notice all the big names here, including some of my favorites like Courtney Milan and Jackie Lau. 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

Justine: Tips for Reader Groups on Facebook

caitlyn oleary fb group header

This is the Facebook header for Caitlyn O’Leary’s Facebook group called Caitlyn’s Crew. You can get an idea of not only what she writes, but the general vibe of the group based on her group logo. Image copyright Caitlyn O’Leary.

A couple weekends ago, I attended the California Dreamin’ Writer’s Conference. It was a lot of fun, and, as I promised when I originally blogged about it, I have some goodies to share with you from some of the workshops I attended.

One of the most fun workshops was about creating Superfans, put on by Caitlyn O’Leary (who is devilishly funny and very sarcastic…she puts it all out on display, and I think it’s one of the things her readers love about her, besides good writing, of course!).

One of the first things Caitlyn talked about was creating an author “brand.” However, she didn’t quite mean it in the “what-do-your-business-cards-look-like” kind of way. Nor did she mean it as “book branding.” Rather, it’s a personality brand…what sort of person are you? Romantic? Whimsical? Practical and to the point? Funny vs sensitive? Goofy vs. serious? Whatever your personality brand, that’s what has to come out and shine in your interactions with readers.

I won’t get into the “how’s” of creating that author brand (because I don’t want to pilfer too much from her presentation), but when determining it, think about Continue reading

Nancy: Happy April and Accountability!

April might very well be my favorite month of the year. So many great things happen during this first full month of spring! My daughter has her birthday. Trees and flowers begin blooming for another year (allergies be damned!). Days grow longer and warmer, but not yet hot and humid (usually).

This year, in honor of this  uplifting month, instead of just discussing my goals and plans on the April Monday accountability thread, I’m sharing the things I’m looking forward to seeing/having/doing this month.

Covers. It’s very exciting to open an email to find your new book cover design attached! Once again, I’m working on covers for the Harrow’s Finest Five series. This time, I’m waiting for the final version of the design for Two Scandals Are Better Than One, which has a book release date of late May. My newsletter subscribers will get the first sneak peek sometime in the next few weeks, and then I’ll share it here by the end of the month – a very exciting way to close out April!

And speaking of covers, I was amused but not surprised when two of the ladies posted about them last week. We do seem to be a little obsessed with them here at the 8LW blog. But now more than ever, covers are integral to categorizing, branding, and marketing books. Maybe sad, often stressful, but definitely true. That’s why I’m also working on a cover update for the novella Too Clever by Half. Continue reading

Michaeline: Hopepunk and Presolutions Weekend

Welcome to Presolutions Weekend for Chez Duskova. What a wonderful idea to have a weekend and a holiday before the new year arrives officially on Tuesday! I’ll be cooking and cleaning – getting the home lucky and at least a little more comfortable so I can start 2019 with a better slate than 2018. I’ll be studying Japanese so I can be a little more literate next year. Of course, the ukulele must be played (I got the sheet music for Blackstar ★ for Christmas!), because music is going to be a big part of 2019. And, I’m going to write just a little bit – just enough to remind myself that I am a writer.

In addition, I’ll make my formal resolutions on January 1, so this weekend is also about sorting out my brain.

Two space-suited humanoids are enjoying the free air and freshness of a beautiful valley on Earth.

Hopepunk: where characters fight the good fight, and enjoy the fruits of their labors. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On Friday, I was reminded of the importance of “keeping up with the industry” – or at least the news of my genre. I read this great article on Vox by Aja Romano about a trend called “hopepunk”. Apparently, the idea of hope-filled, never-give-up, positive fantasy and science fiction (and a whole slew of other narratives) has been trending since July 2017! Alexandra Rowland sounded the clarion on Tumblr with “(T)he opposite of grimdark is hopepunk. Pass it on.”

Vox’s Romano defines some characteristics of hopepunk, then goes on to tie it into comforting trends like the Japanese kawaii culture, and the Danish hygge/hyggeligt that Nancy Yeager has shared with us on this blog. The article also contrasts the self-made do-it-yourself aesthetic of hopepunk with the “she was born with it” aesthetic of Continue reading