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: 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

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: WHEN Do the Kids Go Back To School?

overwhelmed momI’m not sure what sort of writer you are, but I’m definitely a big chunk writer. I need time to GET into my writing world and time to STAY in my writing world (preferably without interruptions).

With the kids home this summer (they’re 11 and 10), that just isn’t happening. So I’ve pretty much written off getting any substantive work done on my MS. Fortunately, their return-to-school date is August 1st (believe me, I’m counting down the days).

Instead of writing, I have been focusing on other things that are still career-centered, but make it a bit easier for me to handle interruptions switch gears.

Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula (SPF) Course

For those of you unfamiliar, Mark Dawson is a British writer who has put together some very thorough and detailed web courses on the ins and outs of self-publishing. It’s pricey and there are limited times during the year when you can sign up, but I think it’s well worth it. In addition to the typical nuts-and-bolts of self-publishing, he gives you some good tactical and strategic advice, such as about maximizing newsletter sign-up (both from your ebooks and your website), pros and cons of going narrow or wide, and launch strategies. All of his courses are one-cost-for-life, so you’re eligible for all course updates in the future. Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Ghost in the Machine

I may not Tweet or follow anyone on Twitter but, thanks to my Facebook feed, I often see odds and ends from the Twitter-sphere that catch my attention and provide fodder for blog posts.

Back in June there was #CockyGate, where an author registered and received a trademark on the word “cocky” and then went after other authors for using the word in their titles.  Months of outrage and lawsuits ensued before she eventually surrendered her trademark registrations and withdrew her lawsuit(s).  On the positive side, many people now know a lot more about copyright and trademark law than they used to, including the fun fact that a book’s title cannot be copyrighted.

Early this year the #CopyPasteCris plagiarism scandal reared its ugly head (as I posted about here).  In that case astute readers identified what appeared to be the blatant “recycling” of bits and pieces of other authors’ published stories.  The list of authors whose work was thought to have been plagiarized read like a Who’s Who of Romance – Courtney Milan Tessa Dare, Bella Andre, Loretta Chase, Victoria Alexander, Sarah MacLean, and Nora Roberts – just to name a few.  The author in question initially claimed innocence and then later blamed her ghost-writers.  She has since virtually disappeared, but the fallout and legal wrangling continues.  On the positive side, Nora Roberts is now on the warpath. Continue reading

Jeanne: What’s in an (Author) Name?

Because I’m a feminist, there was no question that, when crafting my author persona, I’d include my maiden name.

Because my husband has been wonderfully supportive through multiple dead-end manuscripts, a year of grad school, and all the expenses and woes attached to self-publishing a pair (so far) of romance novels, there was equally little question I’d want to include my married name.

So that’s how my author name ended up being Jeanne Oates Estridge.

It’s not the most euphonious romance author name in the world. (The most euphonious author name is Lorelei Celador (I just made that up. Close your eyes and say it out loud. L’s and R’s and S’s are the most pleasant sounds in the English language.) ), but it is who I am. That means it should be a) natural for me to answer to and b) easy to enter into whatever software requires it.

Right? Continue reading

Nancy: Another Day, Another Cover

 

Victorian Reader Drawn


This is the placeholder ‘cover’ I’ve had on my website for Too Clever by Half. This week, I can upload the real one!

I’ve been away from home and offline for the past several days, so I just caught up on the cover craze that took over 8LW this past week. That’s very fortuitous, as I now have a cover of my very own to share!

I wish I could say I had the designing chops (and confidence) of Justine, the whimsical eye of Michaeline, or the cover-judging savvy of Kay. Let’s just say I’m not one of those people who judges or buys a book by its cover. I had high hopes that I’d be able to have a quick conversation with a designer, turn the task over to her, and do a happy dance when the best cover I could ever imagine appeared in my inbox. (I can’t help that I sometimes live in fantasy land. Hazard of the fiction writing profession.)

So, when no cover fairies appeared to do my bidding for me, I began my long, arduous journey toward a cover for my soon-to-be-released (!) novella myself. I allocated a mid-level budget for the project, narrowed down the list of well-established and recommended romance cover designers in that price range, and finally chose The One. It didn’t work out. So I spent more months researching, returning to my original down-selected list, and contacting designers for scheduling information. I chose the second One. That almost crashed and burned as well. But the second time, I at least got a proof copy to consider.

The first thing I noticed about the proof copy was color. So much color. You might recall I was traveling in September, which is when the color bomb hit my inbox. I opened the email attachment in the middle of the night Copenhagen time, gasped, blinked hard, said something like ‘dear lord, that’s pink’ (possibly with a few expletives thrown in), and went back to bed for a nearly sleepless night.

Nevertheless, I persisted. From the ashes, and through some teeth-clenching emails and what felt like never-ending negotiations, a cover that started out as unworkable gradually became something usable, maybe even pretty. I’ll let you be the judge: Continue reading

Justine: Finding My Own Cover Models and Staging a Shoot (part 1)

photo shootThis will be the first in a many-part post (which will happen over several months) about finding my own cover models and doing a custom photo shoot for my future book covers.

It stems from a lovely conversation-in-the-comments the Eight Ladies had with Ron Miller from Black Cat Studios, who designs many (if not all) of Lois McMaster Bujold’s covers. He talked about the creative process and showed us, via a series of links, how he goes from a simple picture of his wife or daughter (frequent models for him) to the final cover.

This and other conversations on various Facebook groups got me thinking that it might be worthwhile to find my own cover models, because here’s the problem in historical romance: there is a lack of original stock photography (assuming one wants a lady or man in proper historical clothing…I could always go for the 80s prom dress look as some authors have done, but that doesn’t suit me). Continue reading

Nancy: The Big Reveal: Harrow’s Finest Five Series

If you’re a long-time follower of the blog, you’ve no doubt seen Harrow’s Finest Five mentioned in many of my blog posts. It seems like I’ve been discussing this series for years because, well, I’ve been discussing it for years! You might have wondered if the stories in this alleged series would ever see the light of day. You wouldn’t be alone – I’ve had the same question myself. But today, I’m happy to announce the first novella, which launches the series, is coming out this November!

Next week, I have so many things to share about that upcoming release: the cover, the back-cover blurb, how to sign up to be an ARC reader, and where to read an excerpt of the first book PLUS a free prequel short story and sample chapters from the next two books! And, if all goes according to plan, I’ll also be able to share the exact release date of the book.

In the meantime, though, it occurs to me that while you’ve heard of the series existence, I haven’t told you much about the whys and wherefores. Today, let’s remedy that, shall we?

What: Harrow’s Finest Five Series, seven (we’ll get to that shortly) mid-Victorian era romances centered around five old school mates from Harrow, one of the handful of boarding schools for boys from all the best British families (read: titled and wealthy). They were given their tongue-in-cheek name by novel 3’s hero, who is also the group trouble-maker and all around fun guy.

But let’s remember these are romance stories! So they’re as much about the fab women these men love as they are about our Harrow mates. Here’s the series tagline: Continue reading