Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tips for Great Storytellers!

I got asked a really great question by a fellow hiker, “What’s the difference between reading and writing?” He was walking behind us talking to his companion about math. They were doing math formulas. I turned and said, “Are you really solving math problems on the trail?” “Yes,” he replied enthusiastically. I admitted I was a writer, and math wasn’t “my thing.” Then he asked that specific question. My answer:

When you read someone is sharing her imagination with you. When you write you’re sharing your imagination with the world.

I like that idea, don’t you? I know many of my readers on this list are writers. We have the unique talent to tell a story in the written word and give to others. What a unique gift? I am grateful I can give something that amazing to the world. As writers we leave behind a written legacy of gifts to the world.

Speaking of writing, my new book The Abused just came back from the first round of editing. So far, the focus group readers have used words like “great” and “awesome” to describe the story. I’m pleased. The book is my most complicated story to date. I have over a dozen characters in the story. I put a great deal of attention on ensuring it was clear who is who. I don’t enjoy books where I have to flip back to figure out characters.

So, for today’s newsletter I want to share some tips and tricks about writing fiction.

Develop your characters through unique voices and descriptions. Have you ever read a book where everyone sounds the same? It makes it hard to know who is talking when they sound generic. No one talks exactly the same. Listen to how people actually talk. Use your imagination to come up with interesting, unique characters with different dialects and accents. If you’re really good at your reader will know just by the dialog whose doing the talking.

Be colloquial in the dialog but not the narrative. You can use colloquial phrases and slang in the dialog all you want. You should avoid street language in your narrative. If you do use a certain expression put it in quotes, which shows your audience it was purposeful.

Profanity is fine when it’s used in character. I have profanity in my books, and some readers might object. I use profanity to develop characters. Reality is we live in a much coarser world than Shakespeare. I’m willing to bet that Shakespeare wouldn’t object to saying “Where for art thou shithead?” LOL … totally kidding. My point is, you can’t write about a street thug who speaks proper English unless, of course, it’s a point about the character. “Keep it real” means just like it sounds.

Interest in erotica has waned the last few years. Moods shift. Sex and sexuality though are important in the adult world. I’m never opposed to writing about sex when it’s an important element to a scene or story. First, I’m not uptight or concerned about sex. I expect adults to read my books. Part of adult life involves sex. I do know the difference between sex for the sake of creating thrills and sex for the sake of telling a story. I use sex for the sake of storytelling. My feeling is readers of thrillers are inevitably reading about violence. It seems ridiculous to me that we live in a culture that won’t show nudity but has no problem showing murder. So, my private opinion is we’re all naked at one time or the other – get over it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Media Pitching No-No's

Sometimes when we’re working on certain projects, I send out queries through Help a Reporter Out (HARO). These queries put me on the receiving end of public relations pitches. In my business as a publisher and marketing specialist I spend half my day doing public relations activities. I often pitch the media myself. I thought I would take this opportunity to share some tips I’ve learned from being on the receiving end of pitches.

Here are things that DON’T work:

One-line pitches show laziness on the publicist’s part to not even attempt to convince me while his/her client is ideal for my project. I actually feel annoyed when I read a pitch that goes like this: my client Joe is perfect for your project. You can see that gives me nothing to go on. And the inherent expectation is for me to do my “homework” on Joe and be convinced.

Suggesting I watch this video or go to this website or read all of the articles is another sign of sloppy public relations work. Imagine this one: I’m sorting through 100 pitches (true for this project). Instead of convincing me why your client is perfect you’re asking me to cull through your client’s materials to make a determination. As noted, I’m sorting through 100 pitches – most of which don’t ask me to do additional research. Think about it. Am I going to give your client whom I have no idea is an ideal fit (because you didn’t tell me) an extra 30 minutes or so of my valuable time to research if he/she works for me or not?

Here are things that DO work:

A well-written pitch that builds the case for why your client should be featured wins. This means your pitch is well developed and thought out. You’ve written something that makes sense and convinces me your client fits.

Further your pitch answers the query/question and targets what is wanted. Your well-written pitch shows you understand what I am looking for in a client to feature. You read the requirements – and you show me why your client meets the requirements.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Your Book Makes You a Subject Matter Expert

Is your book or product or service just not picking up the momentum you had hoped to achieve? Don’t give up on it. You know what I just said about thinking differently? You have to think about new and inventive ways to ignite that important sales spark.

In a recent conversation with DB Stearns about writing a documentary based on his research done for his Harmonic Wars book series, an interesting discussion sparked. I told him that the documentary wasn’t necessary. He was being invited on radio shows to discuss the research put into the book series. I explained he just needed to reposition his platform of which the book is a part.

Do you understand what is “repositioning”? When you reposition your product you are finding a new angle to pitch. In Doug’s case (and I’m assuming since I didn’t ask), he was pitching a new novel about an interesting topic. What he needed to do since his responses from the media wanted to know more about the “interesting” topic was focus on the topic and position himself as a subject matter expert.

Do you know what people means by a subject matter expert? To some degree all of you are subject matter experts on something. Whether it’s parenthood or what you do in your career. When it comes to your book whatever the book’s topic can make you a subject matter expert on that topic. This concept applies to nonfiction and fiction.

Do you know that even having a book makes you a subject matter expert? Yes, the minute you publish a book on a particular subject you become a subject matter expert. What value or benefit does this give you? Here is the fabulous news from your publicist and guru (me … LOL). As a subject matter expert you can then approach media and pitch your expertise to be a guest on their shows or be featured in an article. The interview isn’t going to be about the book per se. The discussion will be on the topic at hand.

Your first pitch campaign can be just about your book, but sooner or later you will run out of reviewers to approach. What next? This is the value of the subject matter expert. Every time someone wants to talk about that subject you become the go-to expert and at the end of every interview you plug the book.

Do you have a fiction book and you’re rubbing your head asking, “How can a ‘story’ like mine make me an expert?” I’ll give you an example. My forthcoming novel The Abused is about addiction and rehabilitation. Albeit, the story unfolds in titillating style, as one of the addicts kills off the others. However, all of the time and research I put into the psychology behind addiction makes me a subject matter expert on that topic. So once I’ve run out book reviewers to approach I will be able to discuss that important topic.

So ask yourself: How can I give my book, product or service a second media life? I promise you that every single book in our catalog has that opportunity. Just brainstorm and think about it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tips to Get Your Book Sales Sparked

I am on a number of groups on Linked-In and I receive all sorts of newsletters from Kindle/Amazon and Amazon U among others. I read the topic always looking for something to share with you or remark about. A recent topic that caught my attention was called "What to do if your book isn't selling". This topic made me think about it. I wanted to share my own opinions and insights.
The first question to ask is: Did my book ever pick up any sales momentum in the first place? One of three things typically happens when it comes to book sales. 1) The book never picked up any sales momentum and only enjoyed a handful of sales or 2) It picked up sketchy sales momentum or 3) It did pick up momentum and then when promotion died it enjoyed only a trickle of sales. I'm going to address each of these scenarios one at a time.
No. 1: No sales. Some books never catch on, period. I know for the authors this can be a disappointment. No matter what the author does he or she just can't get book to catch on. Twenty reviews later and still only a small number of sales resulted. What should you do? You might try a few quick fixes such as a new book cover. Sometimes a book cover just isn't working. Don't be afraid to switch it up. I've seen books increase sales simply by switching up the book cover. However, if it has been at least a year and you've promoted your book to the degree it has received media exposure, my advice: do a second book and move on. A second book's success can spark interest in the author's other works and may recharge the first book's sales.
No. 2: Spotty sales momentum: this means you might not be promoting or getting enough attention on your book. You have a record of some sales and that shows potential. If you're getting spotty sales, switch up your promotional method. First, you must identify what promotion has been done. Second, identify what new areas you might be able to promote and receive exposure. For example, maybe you got spotty sales by promoting on social media. Now you might put your attention on mainstream book reviews. Different media has its own target audience. Your target audience and the ability to reach them is the most important driver of sales. If you're not reaching your target audience it's likely your sales are spotty at best. The exact media exposure to your target market increases your chances tenfold of achieving sales. We call this the "sweet spot" and sometimes it takes a lot of experimenting to figure out what media is going to touch just the right spot.
No. 3: We'll call this the "flash in the pan" with a lot of potential. One major exposure in national media often ignites a flurry of sales. This flurry of sales can push your book right up to no. #1 on Kindle and No. #1 on Amazon print. Several of our books enjoyed this sudden "flash" from one prime spot on national media. Here is the rub: unless the exposure continues those sales will fade away. You have to keep promoting and not relax and ride one wave. The wave will crash, and it will likely crash after maybe a few weeks. What these quick sales did prove, however is that your book has the potential to sell big if you keep promoting.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

5 Book Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

When promoting a new product or book there are typical mistakes that can be made, especially when it comes to how much money to spend and where. I thought for this issue I would discuss what I'm going to call "promotional money-wasters". I always try to guide authors and clients with information I've gleaned from experience and observation.
Drive up a decent amount of book sales before you start over-spending. Here is why. Some books no matter how much money you invest just may never pick up that precious market momentum. I always try to encourage authors to spend conservatively before they start throwing money at the book's promotion. Sometimes the results are the results. You need to measure and gage the market. Don't just throw money at the wall and see if it sticks. You will be unhappy if the money disappears into the marketing abyss. So test the waters. See how initial sales go and overall reaction. If you've got a strong start on your sales then keep pushing and invest slowly.
Using things like bookmarks are nice to hand out but don't count on those bookmarks to generate sales. I don't think I've seen a single bookmark generate a sale. The bookmark though is a nice touch to provide contact information and cement your brand and title.
Flyers with reviewer quotes only work when you're at an event and you're handing them out while the author is at the event, too. A flyer in and of itself won't work. Only invest in a flyer when you're going to promote your book at a reading or book festival. BIG TIP (the one worth reading this newsletter for): hand out the flyers right in front of where the author is actually sitting and talk it up. Then point to your author to close the sales. Every time I do this for an author I have created lines to his table. The other authors who neither brought marketing promo nor had someone canvassing the crowd sat in awe.
Social media "boosts" don't work. Don't bother with those gimmicks. On Facebook you can boost a post. I've talked to so many professionals who have said those so-called boosts didn't do a darned thing. So don't waste your money on boosting a post. Concentrate instead on building up your legitimate network of true connections. ALWAYS interact with your community of connections. Interacting with others helps raise their awareness about you and your book/product. People who really know you will be excited to support your book.
Don't invest anything over $500 in a booth space at a festival. In fact, look for nonprofit literacy groups that put on festivals and sell booth space and tables for under $100. Just think about it. How many books do you have to sell to recoup just the booth cost? Realize that festival attendance will also be a determining factor of your success. Make sure your book festival is a well-established event with a large number of people who come. New and unknown festivals are always bad news. Paying for a booth space and sitting while you can only hear crickets is depressing.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Persistence + pressure = Yippee!

For the first time in almost two years we are finally on the up side of business growth. Persistence + pressure = Yippee! What people believe is "overnight success" is really that formula come to fruition. I don't know anyone who can announce from the rooftops they are an overnight success. People see it that way. The media lauds it like lightning in a bottle, but the reality is that's all "bunk" (as Chris says).
So how did I manage to avoid driving Uber as my income supplement LOL? Remember that one? I pondered driving Uber for about a day and a half. Do you know why I put that random thought away? I am about to share the greatest lesson any businessperson or author could ever hear:
If you have a fall-back option you will undoubtedly fall back!
Don't give yourself a safety net! Don't do it. Don't think it. Don't consider it. Don't create it. Once you've launched a business or a book never, ever go backward. Set your sights ahead and move toward your vision without distraction. When you give yourself absolutely no "get-out-of-jail free cards" you won't use them.
Human nature leads us toward the course of least resistance. If you're on a road full of rocks and blocks and it becomes hard to get from point A to point B, chances are that little side road that looks all nice and smooth will become a growing temptation. Once tempted then you know how that story goes, right? Now you're all naked and aware in the Garden of Eden (that's a joke, but an essential truth). If money is involved and your money troubles are suddenly solved (and money is the temptation) it will make it even easier to stay right where you are at - and that's when your dream has "poof" gone!
Staying on the rocky road requires application of aforementioned formula: persistence + pressure = Yippee! I promise you one thing. You will fail if you allow it. You will succeed if you keep going. One way or the other you will earn the payoff. Maybe the payoff won't look exactly like you expected, but it will be without a doubt in the direction you wanted to go. And it won't be on the side road to nowhere.
What do I mean by persistence? Don't stop pushing. Don't stop promoting. Don't stop trying. For authors it means:
Post on social media (all social media) daily. Give yourself goals to post on every relevant social media spot something about your book. Use Goodreads to promote your book. Create fan pages. Tweet. Do something every single day. Send personal messages to individual "friends" and let them know your book is out and where to purchase it. Post links to book reviews and other press mentions.
Use book reviewer lists and give yourself daily goals. Promote minimally to five book reviewers per day. Do it every single day and start over with the follow up.
Connect with independent bookstores to carry your book. Set up book signings and then promote those book signings to the regional press. At the very least you should be able to get on the Calendar of Events. Now promote those signings on your social media.
Create a blog and post on it minimally 3-4 times a week. Post excerpts from your book. Write about the experiences you're having as an author. Share crazy moments. But share and share often. Use Google index to index your blog.
Create a newsletter like this one to promote your book to a mailing list you've built as you've met people interested in the book. Send it out with excerpts or even ideas about literature and maybe even your favorite authors or movies.
Attend book festivals to promote your book. Pitch to be a featured speaker to the organizers. Make bookmarks as business cards to hand out. Leave a sign-up sheet to capture email addresses to promote your newsletter to interested parties.
Offer your book to book clubs at a greatly reduced discount to their members to sweeten the opportunity. Ask them to post their reviews on Amazon.
Give away books to people in exchange for Amazon reviews.
Go through this list and keep doing all of those promotional activities. Don't stop! Combine your efforts with writing another book. So, one book's sales dove tail into another book's sales. Don't ever forget: persistence + pressure = Yippee.
Now go say "Yippee"!

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Marketing Mix that Sells Books

I never tell clients to do anything I am not willing to do. When I encourage my clients to market, market, market and never stop marketing, it's because I don't let my own promotion wane. Whether it's a book you're trying to make a best seller or a product or service that you're trying to sell, you have to continually market it. Few businesses enjoy momentum without pressure. Once in a while a company can't keep up with its growth. They cut down on marketing because they can't keep up with demand. And while that sounds like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it can also cause a slow death. You have to find a middle ground to handle business growth. You have to find a scale-able business model that works when things are growing fast, and it doesn't kill your company if things slow down.
When it comes to independent book publishing I've noticed an interesting business model that seems to work effectively for self-help books. Having been through a divorce and end of a 22-year marriage followed by a couple of botched relationships, I began to read up on how to have a successful relationship. I subscribed to Christian Carters thrice-weekly newsletter. I really admire Carter's business model. He has a catalog of relationship-related books, videos and workshops. I read his newsletter religiously and enjoy it. While I don't always agree with him, I like his "style".
Carter has developed his own cottage industry of relationship books. He also publishes two senior psychologists' book and another one written by a woman named Rori. In either case, he mixes up their newsletters with his own under his brand. The senior writers don't interest me. Rori at times kind of interests me, but overall it's Carter who steals the show. It's his brand. What seems to be working for him are the nonstop articles he posts on his website on relationships, the consistent and outgoing newsletters, and his videos. I personally don't like his videos. They are too infomerical-like.
Carter though has set the standard and created an industry that works for him. I have purchased one of his books. His main strategy is using (much like I do with this newsletter) education-based marketing. He is extremely generous in the information he sends each week. He doesn't give you a skimpy "tease" to lure you into buying his products. He really shares a chunk of information. Because he shares so much, you really learn a lot from him. He takes the point-of-view that I have adopted:
Give away as much information as possible. Lure them in with your expertise. Understand the average person cannot do what you do. They will appreciate and admire your expertise and somewhere down the road invest in you.
Information-based marketing is an excellent brand-building technique. Carter uses it. It's obvious he's been successful doing it. He's not afraid to really share with his audience. More concerned authors would protect their "intellectual capital" and not share so readily. This limited thinking prescribes to the idea that people will just use this information and not do business with you. It's simply not the case, especially in an area that is not someone's expertise. And even if they never invest a nickel in your company, chances are they will refer a friend.
Now for you authors out there, apply this to your fiction or nonfiction books. Many authors (including the guy who wrote The Martian) got their start doing "fan fiction". They published their books first on their blogs, which anyone could read for free. As their "fans" became their followers the book became popular and eventually got published and made into a movie. He initially gave away his book. This giveaway didn't stop people from eventually buying the book. The book 50 Shades of Grey got its start this way too.
Don't be afraid to give away free books or post free chapters. You will build interest - even if you giveaway the entire book, people will still want to actually buy the whole thing.
Now I have to go back to my "slice of bed" and give my beautiful big man some loving and tenderness. Did you know touch is a very important part of healing? Yes, it's true. I cracked up because we were "canoodling" when the nurse came in and turned on the light. I don't know what she thought since we weren't doing anything I wouldn't do in public, but it cracked me up. She literally "giggled," covered her mouth, and said, "Excuse me." LOL Okay...