BOOK MARKETING – HOW TO STAY MOTIVATED

“My” Gym

For the past couple of months, I have been going to a gym. I have always been a walker and I know the importance of strength training, but I’ve never been able to sustain the discipline needed to complete workouts at home. I have hand weights, a weight bench, and dozens of workout DVDs, so you’d think that would be convenient and I would do it, but I didn’t. And when I did get to a workout, I always quit when the weights started to get heavy.

It wasn’t until last week that I started going to regular classes that start at 7 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. Because this is no ordinary gym; this gym is smart. They set you up with one coach who you meet with individually for 12-18 sessions (I did 12 over about 6 weeks) at a time convenient to you. 

They knew throwing me into a 7 a.m. class wouldn’t work.

So I met with my coach around vacation and meeting schedules about two days per week at 2 in the afternoon. She eased me into working out starting where I was, somehow challenging me enough so that there were times I thought I might die but at the same time making sure I was successful so I built confidence that I could do it. Then she said, “I think you’ve got the fundamentals down. Why don’t you just try this one class?” At 7 a.m.! I rarely see that time of day. I agreed, got up on time, got to class, and survived. Last week on Wednesday was my first “regular” attendance. The night before, I didn’t get to sleep until after 3 a.m., but I didn’t let myself cancel. I made myself go anyway; again I was challenged but I did it.

I couldn’t believe it when this past weekend, I was actually looking forward to going to class again the following Monday. (Those endorphins must be kicking in or something.) I didn’t jump up out of bed or anything, but still…

I have heard for years that one needs other people to be successful, and I didn’t want to believe them. My success (so far) has been in having a coach. I finally decided to try to give a fitness coach a try when I finally admitted how much other people have helped me in my business life.

So, what’s this got to do with book marketing? 

Well, like exercise, book marketing is really practicing skills and developing habits. If you’re having trouble doing your marketing, maybe it’s time for some help, like a class or a coach (coincidentally, I can help – just contact me). If you’re starting a new habit, don’t just jump into the proverbial 7 a.m. class, but work up to it.

Also, you will still feel a certain degree of resistance and will probably have to force yourself to do the book marketing you plan to do and sometimes step out of your comfort zone, but you will be more motivated if you make it as convenient as possible. Do what challenges you but also makes you feel accomplished or successful. Keep the logistics convenient. If you hate to travel, don’t schedule far-flung out-of-town appearances. The gym I go to is less than 10 minutes away. Finally, make sure the timing works. I’m really tempted to sleep instead of going to the gym, but getting done at 8 a.m. does leave my whole day open for productive writing and work.

Do you have any ideas to make book marketing more pleasing, convenient, or easier so you’re motivated to do it more? If so, please comment.

BUTT IN CHAIR – IT APPLIES TO EDITING, TOO

I’m sure you’ve heard the biggest challenge to getting your book drafted is to actually get fingers to keyboard and get it out of your head. But did you know that this applies to revisions and editing as well? 

And sometimes it can be even harder to get back to work because you convince yourself that you’re “letting it rest” or “letting it ferment” or whatever catchphrase you prefer.

To avoid this, don’t just set it aside for some arbitrary amount of time or until you feel like getting back to it. Set a specific rest time, whether it’s one day, one week, one month, or one year. And then schedule your revision and/or editing time on your calendar.

I have been reminded of this recently while revising my latest book. During NaNoWriMo, I wrote horrible, disjointed chunks of my original draft, so since then, I’ve been working on rearranging the scenes I’d written and filling in the huge holes. It kind of feels like I’m still drafting, but it’s really just a horrifically large revision.

A couple of weeks ago, I got tough with myself and decided I was going to create a schedule to get this thing DONE. And do you know what? Once I got my butt in my chair and started working, I finished what I set out to do in HALF THE TIME I envisioned.

At this point, all of my big gaps are filled, so I just need to fill in small gaps, plug any research holes, and do a couple of copy edits before sending my book to beta readers.

So, remember, “butt in chair” doesn’t just apply to drafting. It also applies to pretty much everything else, too. Resistance is the author’s biggest enemy. Tweet This

IN THE TRENCHES – DRAFTING WOES

I am still drafting my Taming the Twisted sequel – problem is, I don’t know if I’m on the first draft, or the second, or third, or what. It is going very slow. Maybe you can relate…

This is the least linear book I’ve ever written. I started out writing it from the original novel’s main character’s point of view. Then I realized I was bored with her, so I decided to tell the story from the younger sister, Alice’s, perspective. So I wrote myself a letter as Alice telling the author (me) why I should write her side of the story. This gave me a pretty good outline to use to knock out some words during NaNoWriMo.

Since nothing was in order, early this year, I wrote the scenes I had on notecards, rearranged them into an order that made some sense to me, and then started drafting additional scenes. After readjustments, I think I finally have them in the order in which they need to be, except since the last book ended with the start of the Civil War and the sequel mostly picks up toward the end of it, I have lots of gaps to fill – I’m thinking I’ll have to divide it into two parts or maybe weave more of the during-Civil-War stuff in as more back story.

Just this morning, I finished my most recent read through where I actually wrote additional scenes or simply put notes in: “[Put scene showing XYZ here].” At this point in the draft, the whole thing feels like a huge mess and I’m seriously tempted to scrap it all. Luckily, though, this isn’t my first book, so I remember feeling this way at least somewhat (I think it’s worse this time, though), but I persevered and got the book done in a way that at least was logical to me.

So my writing craft lesson today is this: Have faith!! You will hit speed bumps while writing your story, and it may even seem like such a mess you want to give it all up. But don’t. Just push through and keep going. Have faith that the solutions will come to you.

Can you relate? If so, I’d love to hear about it so please comment.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT : CRAIG HART – THRILLER AUTHOR AND STAY-AT-HOME DAD (OF TWINS)

Craig HartCraig Hart has authored several fiction and non-fiction books, including three thrillers and a coming-of-age story in the past three years. Craig describes his marketing plan as “a crazy combination of scribbled notes and scattered post-its,” so not formal, though he does plan writing goals and targeted promotional spots for the next two or three months. Since Kindle Press published his first book in 2015, everything surrounding marketing his books has changed. He said, “I once had a highly idealistic view of writing and the writing life. You know the drill: starving artist suffering for art’s sake. Over the years, though, I’ve come to realize that for writing, beyond merely being a hobby, to support its own weight, it must justify its existence. Namely, become economically feasible. Again, if someone is doing it as a hobby, that’s fine. There are much worse ways to pass a quiet evening at home. But for me that wasn’t—isn’t—enough. I want writing to play an ever-more important role in my life. And to make that happen, I realized (and I’m somewhat embarrassed at how long it took me to come around to this) that I had to begin treating writing like a business.”

Marketing books is Craig’s least-favorite part of the writing life; he said it’s become easier but he didn’t think he’d ever enjoy selling himself or his work. How basic marketing books can be surprised Craig. He said, “I viewed marketing as a combination of clever taglines and big league contacts and advertising. And it can be all those things. But at its most basic, marketing is just about relationships. Building relationships with readers, writers, and professionals in the field is, in my opinion, the cornerstone of any good business plan. And it’s no different in writing. In fact, it may be truer in writing than anywhere else. After all, there are few products more personal than a stack of pages with someone’s words written on them.” He’s found word-of-mouth to be his most successful book marketing strategy, though “getting that ball rolling is the hard part. Networking can help, however, and making contacts wherever you can. My best opportunities have come through meeting people and creating relationships.”

Craig has spent a fair amount of money on paid advertising with mixed results, including Facebook, Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), Google, and free/discounted book listing websites. “I’ve been a bit disappointed with Facebook ads, although I know some have used them successfully. The same goes for AMS. With those platforms, it can take a lot of money to figure out what works and stay in until you begin turning a profit, assuming you do. Not many authors I know have the ready cash to pour into testing the algorithms, so their usefulness is suspect. I’ve had moderate success with some of the websites, but I would urge anyone to do a bit of research. A ton of sites offer promos, but only a handful can deliver.”

Craig uses social media more to make connections and plan events than to actually sell books. He had used Facebook and Twitter more, but has found there are better uses for his book marketing time, especially with changing algorithms that require advertisers to pay to get their content seen.

When asked what advice he’d give to other authors starting or planning to soon start marketing their books, Craig said, “First, be prepared to do just that: sell and market. It’s a common misconception that writing the book was the hard part and now you just wait for the money to roll in. With thousands of books published weekly, it can be insanely difficult to be noticed by anyone. My single best piece of advice would be to network. Get to know the writers in your area, search out book events, talk to people, make connections, start relationships. Not only will this serve as a support system in the dark times, but will also breed opportunities for selling your books and building your brand.”

Learn more about Craig on his website, Amazon Author Central page, Facebook, and Twitter.

Craig’s books:

Serenity (2016): A bullet slams into a wall just past Shelby’s head. A drug dealer offers him $10,000 for information regarding his dead sister. The local sheriff has Shelby in his sights. It’s just another day in the small town of Serenity.

Serenity Stalked (2017): A cold-blooded killer has blazed a trail of dead bodies across the country, with no one to stand in his way…until he starts killing on Shelby Alexander’s home turf: the small Michigan town of Serenity.

Serenity Avenged (2017): A ruthless crime boss…a mansion with a chilling secret…a young man faced with the biggest decision of his life.

Becoming Moon (2015, Kindle Press): Becoming Moon is a coming-of-age story about a young man struggling to be himself amid pressure from a repressive family.

FIND A LOCAL CONNECTION FOR IN-PERSON APPEARANCES

I have been doing signings, readings, and presentations for several years now, and I’ve had by far the best results when what I was peddling had some sort of connection to the location where I appeared. I’ve noticed that attendees gravitate toward other authors’ books with local connections as well. This has been particularly true at author fairs and other mass-signing type events.

I have a couple of theories for why this is the case. I think, except for the rare voracious, super-passionate reader and authors, the general reading public doesn’t care so much about local authors. They’re more interested in the household names and those authors whose books appear at the top of the best-seller lists. So when they go to a mass book/author fair, they are going to be looking for some connection for making a purchase. Unless you happen to be a local author who has one of those household names, the connection is going to be a geographic connection. Since the attendee is likely to be a resident of the location hosting an event, your book about or taking place in or near that locale will probably fare better than your general thrillers, romances, etc.

Another reason book fair attendees look for some sort of connection, of which the geographic is going to most easily satisfy, is there are just too many books available. They want to purchase a book but aren’t able to purchase them all, so they gravitate towards books in which they again feel some connection. If you’re a relatively unknown author (which most of us are), you need something to hook in potential buyers when there’s so much competition. Having a book where readers can say, “Hey, I’ve been there,” foots the bill.

My first four books (two poetry, two novels) have no particular geographic connection. The two poetry books have no geographic identity, one novel is set in a generic unnamed Illinois town, and the third is based in Camanche, Iowa, but with no strong sense of that place. My fifth book, a novel, takes place in Camanche, Iowa, and the story is set off by an actual event, a tornado that occurred on June 3, 1860. I’ve had the most success, by far, with this book because Camanche is only about 1/2 hour away from where I currently live. It’s done really well at Camanche and Clinton County author fairs and other events. 

My most recent book is a poetry book with pieces written while hiking northwest Illinois and east Iowa State Parks. It is too early to tell how well it’s going to do, but I know it’s local chances are greater, so much so that I’m focusing on local marketing rather than online. I was able to get it for sale at the Quad Cities Convention & Visitor Bureau gift shops, the first book I’ve even tried to get offered for sale there because I know that visitors most likely aren’t interested in local authors’ books, but they may be interested in books about the area their visiting. We’ll see.

Do you have any thoughts or experience with selling geographic-focused books in person? If so, I’d love to hear about them, so please comment.

A BRIEF REVIEW OF GRAMMARLY

I have been using Grammarly for a full five months now. For the most part, I have found it useful. I’ve used it the most as the Chrome extension when editing short articles for my local school district’s e-newsletter and social media. It has helped me to catch many, many mistakes I likely would’ve otherwise missed. I also used the Word add-on to do the last check of my book, Versed in Nature: Hiking Northwest Illinois and East Iowa State Parks. This helped me to produce a totally clean manuscript (I believe).

I also have used the Outlook Add-in, but find myself disabling it quite a bit because it slows down the program. I haven’t used the feature where you upload your file to Grammarly.

I have the premium version of Grammarly which cost me $6.56 per month billed annually. As a premium user, I not only get grammar errors flagged with a red dot with the number of errors (or a green “refresh” icon if everything is fine), but I also get notification of lesser errors, denoted by a small yellow dot. When I have expanded the menu and clicked to see the “yellow dot” errors, I have almost never (if ever) chosen to accept those suggestions. Though I agree those suggestions would make my writing technically immaculate, it seems like they would also take my voice and interest out of my writing.

In summary, I recommend the Chrome Extension and Word Add-in but would disable the Outlook Add-in except on the most important emails just because of how it slows Outlook. I will also consider dropping my premium subscription when my period ends because I simply don’t use the expanded grammar suggestions.

Have you used Grammarly? What do you think? Any hints or tips you’d like to offer. If so, please comment.

Writing Craft Book Review – SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder

Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder has been on my to-read list for quite a while. I don’t have any particular aspirations to write screenplays, but I know learning about writing from all different viewpoints is helpful, and this one had been recommended to me as a particularly good book.

Save the Cat is entertaining and enlightening. Spoiler Alert: The title comes from the part of the movie where unsympathetic protagonists do something to endear themselves to the audience, such as saving a cat.

What resonated with me the most about this book and that I can most closely apply to my own writing is the idea that I must know what my book is about, including the who, what, when, where, why, and how. It also reinforced the importance of the elevator pitch or very short summary you can spit out in a breath or two when someone asks you what your book is about. 

Save the Cat essentially gives a formula for writing screenplays that may make it to the mainstream movie theaters. I enjoyed reading about the author’s movie genres and found the discussion of beats instructive, though the beats of what I write are different than what you’d find in a movie screenplay.

I would agree with those that recommended Save the Cat as a good book to read regardless of what you’re writing and encourage you to do the same.

Start Planning Your Book Marketing Today

When I surveyed a group of authors late last year, the number one thing respondents said was holding them back (a full third) was getting started in planning their book marketing. So I’ve created a mini-course guiding you through three simple things you can do to start planning your book marketing.

Here’s a video with more information:

Ready to take the course? Go here to sign up.

Save Cash with Beta Readers

Occasionally, someone will ask me if I can read their work and “tell them what I think.” Though I love writers and readers, unfortunately, I don’t have time to read everything that’s put in front of me. Plus, I realize that what they are usually asking for is a developmental edit (well, sometimes they’re just after validation that their work has value). 

This is a whole different request, but it is a service I offer. However, I think developmental “editing” is a misnomer. I think developmental “consulting” is more accurate. On the few developmental projects I’ve done for hire (you’ll see why just a “few” shortly), I’m essentially asking questions, pointing out areas that may need clarification, suggesting areas where they could show instead of tell, or directing them to resources that might help them (such as The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson), along with my thoughts about the characters, plot, setting, etc. I don’t actually make any changes.

What I usually suggest (and the reason I’ve only had a few developmental projects) is to save their money for copy/line editing and instead get beta/test readers. The more beta readers, the merrier, but I think at least six to eight is a good number. They need to be people you trust, who are thoughtful readers, and who will be honest with you (albeit kind) in their feedback. Give them the manuscript as a PDF (or print if you can afford it and they insist) and at least one to two months to read. You can receive the feedback in written form, during one-on-one meetings, or in a focus group format.

People seem to have the most trouble finding beta readers. First, look to your family and friends; you are bound to have a couple who don’t mind providing honest feedback. This is also where networking comes in (maybe you thought you didn’t have to worry about networking as an author – sorry). Attend writer gatherings, workshops, and conferences to meet and develop relationships with other writers with whom you may be able to trade beta reading in the future. You can also participate in Facebook groups and get to know people on other social media sites so that you may get responses when you post to ask for beta readers. If you really can’t find any beta readers, this is where paying for a developmental edit (or consult) might be worth it.

When you get beta readers and they are helpful, treat them right. Make sure to thank them personally and in your book acknowledgments. Sending them a finished copy of the book is also a good practice, and they are likely to share about how they helped to shape it, which will help sales.

Do you have any tips for getting or working with beta readers? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Planting Evidence in Mysteries

I touched on this topic when writing about storyboarding a long time ago, but I thought it might be helpful to add more detail, hence this post.

When writing mysteries, you are likely going to have lots of evidence you need to bring into your story. There will likely be evidence that points to the actual criminal, to the someone whom you want readers to wonder about (the decoy), and perhaps to others unrelated to the crime. To keep track of this evidence and make sure they got into my story, I developed a system.

First, I drafted one- or two-line summaries of each of my planned chapters. I then printed them out, cut them apart, and pasted them to a piece of foam core board with enough space to insert small sticky notes between them.

Next, I wrote my bits of evidence on different colored small sticky notes, using one color for the real killer, one color for the decoy, and one for others. Then, I stuck the notes underneath the chapter descriptions into which I wanted to include the evidence.

As I wrote the chapters, I kept the board in front of me to keep on track and make sure I included the evidence I needed. Using the sticky notes allowed me to rearrange them if I changed my mind.

Do you have any tricks for keeping crime evidence (or other facts you need to incorporate) organized and ensuring you include them in your story? If so, please share them in the comments below.

and everywhere in between.