Monthly Archives: July 2013

Another BookBub success story (in progress)

Undaunted Love 1000x1600 (Barnes&Noble)

I decided to try for a BookBub free promo listing for my Christian historical romance, Undaunted Love. Despite the fact that people love it, and it has good (if only 10) reviews, it hasn’t sold, and previous free promos have only garnered in the 1200 range of downloads. I didn’t know if BookBub would take it, with 10 reviews (4.5* rating, though), but they did. So yesterday was the day.

When I first got on the computer around 11:00, I had 579 downloads. Not super, but better than anything the book had done previously, so that was a positive. I had lunch with my daughter and checked it again around 2pm. I totally freaked out my dog when I yelled, “WHAT???” (Seriously, I yelled in shock…) I had over 8600 downloads! By the time I went to bed (early because of a migraine), I had over 21,000. The total for the day was over 26,000. Currently, the count is exactly 29,275 in the US, plus another 700 in the international markets. The free promo goes through Friday, so I will most certainly be over 30,000, and maybe…. it’s possible… I could hit 40,000!

Now, this really blows my mind. Beyond scaring the dog. This book has a great cover, people love the story and characters, but it’s had no traction. Not even free. And now… BAM! The book is #1 in all Religion & Spirituality, and #2 in the overall Free Bestseller list. Wow.

UPDATE 7/31: I currently have 36,748 US downloads, and about 1000 international downloads. So I’m hoping for 40k by week’s end!

UPDATE 8/3: I ended at midnight last night with 50,390 downloads! That is freaking amazing! I had a BookGorilla ad on Thursday, and that generated the final 10k plus downloads. I decided at the last minute (yesterday!) to run a sale from Sat-Tues, putting the book at $1.99 and promoting it through several sites that had some last minute availability. I’ve had 24 sales so far today. Not spectacular but not shabby!

While I don’t have any other romances to direct readers to (I haven’t wanted to take the time to write another, when Undaunted Love was not selling), I do have the Quinn Adventures, which are historical adventure with a strong woman and a great marriage/love relationship. Hopefully, they’ll head there if they like Undaunted Love. If people start asking, I’ll write another. I enjoyed writing it, but time is finite, so I’ve spent more of it on things that are getting read/sold. (I also have a Christian nonfiction, BUT GOD: Two Words to Freedom, which would be a potential purchase for the readers of Undaunted Love.

So we’ll see how it ends up. I’ll update here, and keep a tally on my Facebook Author Page and Twitter. I’m pretty much in shock at this point, but it’s pretty awesome. My husband said, “Just think, one day you’ll get those numbers and they’ll be dollars attached to them!” Well, I don’t know about that (one can dream!), but it’s nice to get the atta-girl!

attagirl

Yep, I’m a bestseller! (What???) And you can find all my books on Amazon!

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Marketing Non-fiction – the Dark Chasm

black-hole_00266487

There is a ton of information out there by indie authors, for indie authors, on marketing fiction. Blogs, books, Facebook groups, you name it. But dare to venture into the world of indie non-fiction, and you are suddenly lost in the dark. Don’t believe me? Google it. (Or Bing it. Or Duck-Duck-Go it. You get the picture.)  And if your book is at all controversial (think politics or religion), then forget about it. Even places that do routinely feature at least some non-fiction will turn you down because they don’t want to rock the boat. I get that, but it’s frustrating.

Here are the options and routes I’ve discovered so far in this journey. (To clarify, I’m finding promo sites for my husband’s book on the 2012 election, which is, apparently, as shocking and polarizing as saying that I was abducted by aliens. Actually, more so. People write about getting abducted by aliens all the time!) Okay, back to the marketing.

BookBub, which is fabulous for a lot of types of fiction, will not take controversial material. Now, this is an educated guess on my part due to several factors, because they never tell anyone they turn down the reasons for their rejection. But another, similar site, does, and that was their explanation. Also, BookBub only has “General Non-fiction” rather than Current Events or Politics, so the fit may not be that great for their subscribers anyway. You can always try it – you don’t pay until they accept you – but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Book Gorilla. This is the site/service that’s similar to BookBub. They are currently reading the book to decide whether or not to take it. I have paid (and paid for a spotlight feature), but they will return my money if they decide not to promo the book. They’ve been very easy to work with and clear in their explanation and apologies, so no hard feelings. Again, the explanation was that they don’t present things to their subscribers that are controversial/polarizing. (Which brings up a point… Shouldn’t we all be able to see the cover of a book in a list of books and not feel personally affronted if it disagrees with our own worldview? I mean, it’s just a photo, right? Sometimes… Well, never mind.)

EBook Booster. They took the ad and ran with it. Now, whether all 45+ of the sites they post to will run it, I don’t know. But there was no hesitancy on their part to take it. I suspect they just take anything that isn’t heavy erotica, but I’m not sure about that. So far, so good, anyway.

FreeBooksy. I have placed the ad request and paid. They take a day or two to get back to you, usually, so I’m not sure if they’ll run it or not. I’ve had success with my novels on this sight, and they do have a Non-Fiction genre, so fingers crossed. UPDATE: We’re good to go!

BlogAd consolidators. I have just discovered this, and am going to get on it after I receive banner ads of the correct size from my graphic artist. What I finally did in desperation was type “advertise conservative sites” in the search engine. This one came up, and it has links to a lot of great sites for my husband’s book, so I’ll be placing ads. It’s expensive, but it seems that most things having to do with non-fiction are. You can break down your search into just about any type of blog/topic, and then select the ones you want to advertise on. The prices vary hugely – advertising on Perez Hilton’s celebrity gossip site starts at $1442 for a little ad. Towleroad starts at $2200. But Legal Insurrection is $30, Kindle Buffet is $21, and This Ain’t Hell But You Can See It From Here is $10. (In other words, all price points for ALL TYPES of blogs!) This is probably the easiest way to hit your target audience with non-fiction.

Guest posting. One of the things about non-fiction is that it seems that people are a lot more competitive. Most novelists in the indie world see their fellow novelists, even in the same genre, as co-adventurers. But boy, in non-fiction, all bets are off! I guess if you write non-fiction, you are pretty sure you’re right, and you want people to buy YOUR book on your topic, and no one else’s. However, it is still possible to find some amenable souls with whom to exchange articles/blog posts, if you’re diligent and nice and complimentary and not too competitive. (For instance, if your book is called The One and Only Houdini, you might not want to approach another author/blogger whose book is called The Definitive Guide to Houdini. Just sayin’.) The worst someone can say is no, and if you offer space in your blog/Facebook/Twitter in exchange, they may just go for it.

Tweeting services. I’m on the fence about this one, because book tweeting services are geared towards fiction, so I don’t know that you are getting the most bang for your buck. However, the couple we’ve used have been willing to discount their price because of that very thing, so it may be worth a shot. The better plan might be to find someone with a similar following to yours (and this is a lot more broad, perhaps, than with blogging), and again, offer to cross-promote with them.

Giveaways. We are planning a Rafflecopter giveaway for WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost… Again. Rafflecopter is super easy to use, and if you have a good giveaway, it’s a great way to boost your Facebook Likes, your Twitter followers, and your mailing list. You can give people who enter the chance to get more entries by Liking you on FB, retweeting the giveaway, or answering a question, plus you get their info in a csv file and can add them to your mailing list. Then ask your followers to retweet the giveaway, too. If it’s a good one, they will. I recently did one for my novel Solomon’s Throne, which has a ton of travel to cool locations in it. I made a “travel pack” with a great, packable hat, a cool bag, a hot/cold water bottle, some lip balm, and two signed books from the Quinn series. It was valued at over $150, and I got a lot of entries, plus the winner was so excited that she was tweeting about it all over the place, giving me more exposure. (And that $150 is a tax write-off!)

Book blasts. I haven’t tried this yet for WTF?, but I’m going to, because this has been a huge thing for my sci-fi trilogy. When I combined a book blast with a giveaway worth over $175 (an Ixeos survival pack that included a Northface backpack, a pocket atlas, a tee shirt, and a bunch of other ‘survival’ items plus signed books), we had over 9,000 entries! So I’m going to approach my usual book blast gals, Book Nerd Tours, and see if they’re open. I’ve also used I Am a Reader for book blasts, so I’ll try them, too. If neither want to try it, I’ll keep searching!

Mailing lists. I think this is probably very effective for non-fiction, especially if you write multiple books on your topic. I don’t love mailing lists — I just did my first newsletter of 2013 recently! — but if people are interested enough to sign up, go for it! Just keep it content oriented, not simply an ad for your book. A lot of the people who’ve signed up will have already read it. They want new stuff!

Blog/website/landing page. A lot of non-fiction books have landing pages. My husband’s is www.TokyoRove.com. It’s a good idea, and content should be updated frequently. Same goes for your blog and website. Non-fiction readers, particularly of current events, are voracious in their appetite for news and ideas. Give it to them! Be the place they go when they want to know the latest.

Keywords. This is a biggie for non-fiction. You get 7 keywords for your Kindle listing (numbers vary for other publishing outlets). You need to update these frequently, based on what is trending in your genre and on your topic. If you’re compared in a review to a best-selling author, put that author’s name in your keywords for awhile, so people searching for them will also find you. If a topic is trending that pertains to your book, put that in your keywords. Update MONTHLY to stay on top of trends and capture all the searches you can.

That’s all I’ve got so far! It is definitely harder to market non-fiction online than it is fiction, although it’s a lot easier to market it in person. Go to conventions and get a booth, offer to speak on your topic, approach local radio to be a guest, offer your book to groups at a discount. Be creative and proactive. After all, you’re an expert! There are a million (actually more like a billion!) books out there, and you have to get yours in front of your target audience. Build a tribe and all that…

Have more ideas? Let me know! And soon!!

Yep, I’m a bestseller! (What???) And you can find all my books on Amazon!

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I interview an author – me! You could be next!

keep calm interview

Okay, this seems self-serving, but I just filled out this author interview for a spotlight post next week, and thought some of the questions were interesting. And it gives me a venue to say, “Want to be interviewed? Let me know!” Seriously. I’m going to be traveling a lot in the next couple of months, and would love to preschedule author interviews and guest posts. An interview will look something like this, so if you’re willing, let’s do it!

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a wife, mom, business owner, and I founded a non-profit to Uganda (and recently Andros, Bahamas) four years ago. I’m a 5th generation Floridian who is living in NC, so I try to get to the water as much as I can!

When did you start writing and what made you start?

I have always been “a writer” in that I journaled, taught classes for kids, did a lot of editing, and played around with words. I didn’t start writing novels until November 2011, when I did my first NaNoWriMo. That novel became Solomon’s Throne.

Tell us a little bit about your latest books.

 IXEOS 800 Cover reveal and Promotional

Ixeos Rebellion 800 Cover Reveal and Promotional

The IXEOS Trilogy is a YA sci-fi dystopian adventure, with an alternate earth and humanoid aliens. I know, that’s quite a mouthful! In the story, teens from our Earth find themselves in the alternate earth, Ixeos, and enlisted in a rebellion to free the planet and its people from alien domination. The main theme of the story is that everyone has a purpose, and can choose whether or not to fulfill it.

Where did you come up with this idea?

It was a combination of an article in National Geographic magazine about the two hundred miles of tunnels under Paris, and a kayaking adventure I had with my daughter where a flock of ducks disappeared. For a few weeks, we’d text each other silly stories about “where the ducks went.” One day I texted that they went to the tunnels in Paris… And that was the beginning of the story!

Who did the cover art for your book?

Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics. They’ve done all my covers, and are amazing to work with.

Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while working on this book?

This book was different than my other novels, since I was thinking YA from the start. I enjoyed writing a little more casually, and have had fun with the dialogue. I didn’t start out to have a theme, really, but I really believe that everyone DOES have a purpose, so it was a natural expression of that belief.

Who do find to be a huge inspiration for your writing? And why is that?

I don’t really have a person or other author who is a huge inspiration. It’s more the love that I’ve had over the decades reading great books. I like books that entertain – I’m not a literary fiction aficionado – and that’s what I strive to write. Books that people read and enjoy, characters they like, and situations that offer excitement.

Which one of your characters would be the best to meet in real life?

Oh, that’s hard! As far as the most mysterious and interesting, that would be Landon, who brought the outsiders to Ixeos. But if you want a fun time, probably Marty is your best bet.

What are you reading right now?

I always have several things going! I’m reading Steve Berry’s The Tudor Plot on my Kindle, Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager on my iPad, The Heist by Janet Evanovich on my phone, and listening to Book 1 of Rick Riordan’s The Lost Heroes in my car!

Besides the genre you write, what genres do you like to read?

As you can see from the last question, I’m all over the place! I like books with adventure in them. That’s probably the unifying factor. Action adventure, YA adventure, mysteries, the occasional romance as long as there’s adventure. I actually don’t read a lot of sci-fi, but I love sci-fi in movies.

What is the most embarrassing mistake you’ve made as a writer?

When I first published Solomon’s Throne, it was full of typos and grammatical errors. I had edited until my eyes felt like they were going to pop out, but I had never edited a 90k+ book before, and my patience gave out before it should have. I have since republished it, but that was embarrassing!  Now I spend a lot more time on editing.

If you had to pick one trait that makes you a better writer, what would it be?

I think stick-to-it-iveness, as my first boss used to call it. I write quickly, which is great, and I just keep going. A lot of great writers never become authors because they can’t finish their novel.

What is the one thing that seems to always get in the way of writing time?

Life! There’s always something going on, and I have to be creative sometimes to work around it. I did well from January until mid-February this year, when I went to Uganda for my non-profit. Since getting back, we’ve had 2 graduations, a milestone birthday, a wedding, remodeling, putting our house on the market, more remodeling, and the rest of life happen. I’ve learned to go with the flow, though. If I’ve had a long day, my creativity isn’t good, and I try never to write after dinner (I can’t sleep if I do!). I don’t beat myself up over a missed day.

When you are not writing, what are you doing?

I’m almost always editing something, and I have a writing related blog. As a long-time homeschool mom, summers are pretty sacred to me for family and beach time, so besides my daughter’s wedding in June, I’m taking it a bit easy. I’ve got 2 international work trips coming up in August and September, though, so I have to work some!

What is one of your favorite places to write?

We have a sunroom on our house that is surrounded by trees, with a creek running almost right next to it. That’s my favorite place.

What is one of your favorite places in the world?

Uganda, definitely! I’d move there in a heartbeat.

What is one thing about you most people find interesting (or unusual etc.)?

Most people think my starting a nonprofit and venturing out into Uganda without any outside “institutional” support is interesting. Or crazy. Depends on who you ask!

Are there any more projects you are currently working on? Do you know when we might get to see those?

I’m currently working on the final book in the IXEOS Trilogy, Darian’s War. It should be out in November.

What is your favorite quote?

It’s never too late to be what you might have been. George Elliot

What secrets would you share with aspiring authors?

My favorite writing motto is stolen from Nike: Just do it! So many people ask me how to be a writer, and an astonishing number haven’t actually written. Just write!

Name one author you’d love to meet and tell us why.

I’d love to meet CS Lewis, but obviously that’s not possible. The Chronicles of Narnia is probably my family’s most treasured series, other than Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. But a living author? Probably Janet Evanovich, because she is obviously having fun when she writes.

You’re throwing a fiction character party.  What fictional characters would you like to invite (name and where they are from (book/TV/Movie/etc.) and why?

Oh boy, that would be awesome, wouldn’t it?? Okay… all the hobbit main characters from The Lord of the Rings (Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin). Reepicheep the mouse, from The Chronicles of Narnia. Stephanie Plum from the Janet Evanovich novels. Mma Ramotswe from Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Percy Jackson from Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus books. Jamie and Clair Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. And, of course, Aslan, from Narnia.

Yep, I’m a bestseller! (What???) And you can find all my books on Amazon!

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The crazy world of book trailers

book_trailer_b

I have lately been making book trailers. I’ve made one for IXEOS, and one for Solomon’s Throne, as well as one for my husband’s nonfiction book on the 2012 election. I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed making them, which is weird, because it’s basically a visual blurb, and I’m not very good at writing blurbs. After all, if I could tell the story in a couple hundred words, I wouldn’t have written 90,000!

Here’s what I’ve learned about making book trailers.

  • If you, like me, can’t figure out iMovie or another video editing program, pop over to Animoto. They have great templates, a ton of royalty free songs, and the program is very easy to use. I’m thinking about doing book trailers as a service, and if I do, I’ll upgrade to the Pro level for more templates, but there are plenty available without that. (I also may bite the bullet and learn iMovie, but I won’t have time for that until at least October!)
  • A trailer is a commercial. You don’t need to tell your whole story. You need to entice the viewer to want to check out the book. To that end, think of it exactly like a blurb or a query letter to an agent/publisher (if you do those!). You need to make the trailer compelling and provocative, using words, images, and appropriate music. The three together can create an exciting preview of your book… Or leave the viewer scratching their head!
  • The text part of a trailer is going to go by relatively quickly. You can’t use too many words! Not everyone is a speed reader. Take advantage of both text panels and captions. For instance, in the Solomon’s Throne trailer, I didn’t want to drag out the geography, so I used captions rather than a text panel followed by photos. Photos of Africa are more evocative than the word “Africa” by itself, so make use of images to tell your story.
  • Watch out for spoilers! Just like in your blurb, you need to be careful not to give out too much information. Leave the viewer questioning the plot. Things like, “Well, how would they get out of that?” or “Why would she fall in love with him?” are great questions to evoke in your viewer.
  • Pay attention to the feel of the music. I personally don’t love techno music, but for IXEOS, it’s a perfect fit. Just because you love a song, doesn’t mean it’s the right song for your trailer. If you’re writing horror, the music should leave you feeling a little creeped out, when heard in combination with the images. A light romance should have music that makes you feel happy; a heavy romance needs music that has a bit of pain in it. Unlike a book, a trailer is going to engage multiple senses in the viewer, so take advantage of it.
  • Be careful with images. I use a combination of purchased images from stock photo companies, and ones found on the web that are either “public” or where no attribution can be tracked down. Photos and illustrations are the property of their creator, just as your book is your property. Respect that. The interwebs have a lot of pictures that have been published so many times that the original is impossible to find, if indeed the photographer even made him/herself known. Just be careful, do the best due diligence you can, and if you get a letter stating you used someone’s photo without permission, be prepared to remove it.
  • Be clear in the text, and watch spelling and punctuation. I wrote “county” instead of “country” the first time around in my husband’s trailer, and I spelled “Quinn” “Quin” in the Solomon’s Throne one. Editing is still king!
  • Get feedback from others. Before you publish the video and make it permanent, have beta-viewers take a look. This is a key piece of advertising — you want to make it the best it can be!

If you’re not a visual person, this might be more of a challenge than you want. There are others out there who will make great trailers for you, just like people doing covers and editing and formatting. View their portfolio and pick someone you’re comfortable with. Also spend a bit of time talking to them about their process and what they want from you. Will they want you to write a script or just give you a synopsis? How much control will you have — and how much control do you want? Will you get to see the video before it’s produced? How many re-edits do you get at the set price? What resolution will the finished product be?

There are many pieces to the advertising/marketing/promotion puzzle, and I think you should do as many of them as you can. You never know when your next “biggest fan” is going to stumble across your book trailer or audiobook and fall in love with your writing.

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Solomon’s Throne Trailer

Solomon’s Throne Trailer.

Here it is, finally! The trailer for Solomon’s Throne. What do you think? And what do you think about book trailers in general? I’ve done one for Solomon’s Throne, and one for IXEOS. Next up is one for Undaunted Love, and one for my husband’s non-fiction book. I would love to know how to use iMovie, as I know I could do even more with it… Maybe if I had a lot of time to play with it (or is there an iMovie for Dummies??). But I don’t, and Animoto is a great tool for videos.

booktrailers

 

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