Category Archives: Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Mary Davidsaver – In Her Own Words

Thank you to Mary Davidsaver for this guest blog post about how she’s approached marketing her first book, Clouds Over Bishop Hill.

Mary Davidsaver, in her own words:

Mary DavidsaverMy book came out last summer and I had the opportunity to schedule its launch over the two days of Bishop Hill’s Ag Days weekend. I was the fortunate beneficiary of all the publicity that came with a major event weekend for a town that’s been promoting itself as a tourist destination for decades. It has suffered through a downturn in visitation, but it still was a great boost for me. Having my book available in Bishop Hill shops was always in the marketing plan, and I have my book placed in two.

I was also fortunate in that I had another well-publicized book release at the Midwest Writing Center in Davenport, [Iowa,] before its move to Rock Island[, Illinois].

Those events and sales through Amazon pretty much took me through the end of 2016 in pretty good shape for sales numbers.

“Sticky notes are my life – photo of the virtual ones I’m using to try and organize myself.”

Marketing is necessary, but it’s definitely out of my comfort zone. I have to be in it for the long game, and it’s an ongoing effort to stay focused. But the New Year has begun and this is where the heavy lifting of my marketing plan begins.

My marketing plan began as a one-page proposal I drafted for my 2015 pitch to MWC Press. It was basically a brainstorming session of everything I’d learned from having my own craft-based business, from marketing workshops I’d attended through the Midwest Writing Center, and a lot of “Why not try this?” ideas.

Out of the 17 items I had on my original list, I can check off ten as used in one way or another. I have: made personal appearances, published press releases, networked with the QC Convention & Visitors Bureau, consigned books in Bishop Hill shops, created a Facebook author page, created a Goodreads author page, created a Kindle book, updated my mailing list, entered contests, and followed what other authors have done. Can I do more with these? Yes, of course.

I’ve had the best results with press coverage with my old hometown newspaper. I haven’t paid for any advertising yet. My major expenses so far have been for travel, my Davenport release, and giving away books for review and goodwill.

The surprise income has been from a couple of panels I’ve been on. It was nice to get paid and the exposure to public speaking was very beneficial. I think the timing of the panels was perfect for my interview for Scribble on WVIK. I had intended to send out a query for that radio show, but a sudden cancellation and a friendly referral came through for me. I was prepared and able to help Don Wooten and Roald Tweet make it a good show.

I’m following one piece of advice about not overextending my personal resources. I’m focusing my social media use with the Facebook author page first—Goodreads, second. Those will be ongoing projects that entail growing visitation by using contests.

And speaking of contests, one of my New Year’s resolutions has been to make an effort to enter as many writing contests as I can find that seem appropriate for me. The costs will be spread out over monthly budgets. The Total Funds for Writers website, the paid version of Funds for Writers, has been a major asset.

I feel that I’m still in the early stages of implementing my marketing plan. I need to work with what I have and be on the lookout for anything new that might help me.

Next year at this time I’ll have a better sense of what worked for me and what didn’t. Right now I have to be open to all opportunities.

My best advice about marketing is to be open to anything that will promote your book and you as an author. Look for local resources and workshops. Remain flexible. New things and ideas will open up. Try to push yourself outside the usual comfort zone.

Clouds Over Bishop HillClouds Over Bishop Hill was published by MWC Press, an imprint of the Midwest Writing Center, in August, 2016. It is my first book.

Brief synopsis: A reckless driver sends recent college grad, Shelley Anderson, off the road and into the mysterious past of folk artist Olof Krans. Drafted into searching for Krans’s last portrait, her only clues are an old woman’s dreams and an uncle’s guilty conscience. How dangerous will it be to find a lost treasure?

I’ve kept my website simple, only one page, for now.  I found Weebly.com easy to use and I haven’t begun paying for any extras yet.

http://marydavidsaver.weebly.com/

Facebook author page:

https://www.facebook.com/MaryDavidsaverAuthor/

I haven’t begun paying for anything extra here either. I imagine that will change soon.

I’ve used my blog as a tool for writing about the progress of the novel and for helping out other writers when I can.

http://marydavidsaver.blogspot.com/

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15698205.Mary_R_Davidsaver

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Mary-R.-Davidsaver/e/B01LQNU9TQ/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Scribble interview:
http://cpa.ds.npr.org/wvik/audio/2016/11/SCRIB_1646.MP3

Mary Davidsaver is a retired jewelry designer who has written for local newspapers since 2007. She is a member of the Midwest Writing Center who has won two Iron Pen first place awards. In 2013, she was the first local writer to win the Great River Writer’s Retreat Contest. She has published her first novel with MWC Press.

Author Spotlight: Karen Nortman – Camping Novelist

Karen Nortman

Karen Nortman is the author of seven titles in the Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries Series and two titles in the Time Travel Trailer Series, all published between 2012 and 2016.

Karen began writing the campground mysteries because she thought the cozy mysteries would be a good complement to the camping environment, and there weren’t any at the time she started writing them. She said, “About 8-9 million households in American own some kind of RV–and that doesn’t count tent campers. When people camp, even if they have TV, often they don’t have much reception, so my plan was to write short, light mysteries that could be read in a weekend, with a cast of retirees and occasional mishaps typical of campgrounds.”

Trailer on the FlyKaren hasn’t had any formal marketing plans as she’d rather be writing, but she has gradually built up a readership. She finds book marketing a necessary chore and difficult. This attitude hasn’t changed since publishing her first book, though her marketing efforts have adapted over the years. At first, Karen thought she would be able to tell people about her books through RV’ing forums, but that didn’t work out. So she now takes advantage of her camping-related niche by distributing postcards with recipes on one side and information about her books on the other. “I give out two or three books in each campground we stay in. I also leave copies in exchange libraries in campgrounds. For me, word of mouth is still the best advertising. I once received an email from a man in Australia that he heard about my books in an Australian campground!”

Karen offers her first book in e-book form for $.99, which includes a note at the end offering the second title free to anyone who signs up for her email list. She said, “I send out a newsletter to that list about once a month with news about books I have coming out, when one of my books will be free, and any awards I may have won. I also tell people what I’m reading and occasionally give away $5 Amazon gift certificates. A few people unsubscribe as soon as they have their free book, but it’s a pretty small percentage.” She rounds out her marketing efforts by offering a free day or two a month for most of her books, which are in the Kindle Select program. Then, she posts on RV Facebook pages about the free books. “The free days usually boost sales and help with reviews.” She stated she hasn’t used Twitter as much as she should.

Campy ChristmasKaren has avoided paid advertising for the most part, though she did buy an ad in Outdoor Iowa once, but thought she got few sales from it. She also ran an ad on a camping website, but couldn’t evaluate her results well since the sales are through Amazon.

When asked what advice she’d give to other authors starting or planning to market their books, Karen said, “Don’t be discouraged–it’s a slow building process. Take advantage of local venues and writer’s workshops. It has been tremendously beneficial to me to exchange ideas with other authors. Especially if you are self-published, enter your books in contests and submit them to review sites. Some are quite expensive, but there are many that are free or charge a reasonable fee. Five of my books have been IndieBRAG medallion honorees. You can only submit one book at a time and it takes about six months for results, but I feel it helps with credibility.” On writing in general, she shared, “I think it’s important to provide readers with as many formats as you can. E-books are the easiest and certainly are my biggest sellers. But paperbacks are important for those without e-readers, book signings, craft shows, etc. Just this year I have finally gotten six of my books on Audible and they have done better than I expected.”

Learn more about Karen on her website, Amazon author page, Facebook page, or on Twitter @RVmysteryauthor. You can also email her at Karen.musser.nortman@gmail.com.

Karen’s books:

The Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries:

Bats and Bones, 2012
The Blue Coyote, 2013
Peete and Repeat, 2013
The Lady of the Lake, 2014
To Cache a Killer, 2015
A Campy Christmas, 2015
The Space Invader, 2016

The Time Travel Trailer Series:

The Time Travel Trailer, 2014
Trailer on the Fly, 2016

ERIK THERME: MYSTERY AUTHOR

Author photo (Erik Therme)Erik Therme has authored two mysteries: Mortom was originally self-published and then was acquired by Thomas & Mercer Publishing in 2015, and Resthaven was a 2016 Kindle Scout winner published through Kindle Press.

While Erik doesn’t use a formal marketing plan, he does keep organized: “I use a spreadsheet (of information) to make sure I don’t overlook anything when I release a new book. The spreadsheet contains everything from bloggers, promotional websites, to paid advertising opportunities.” His focus with marketing his first mystery, Mortom, was to build his fan base, which has helped him in marketing Resthaven. He said, “Now that I have a core group in place, they do a fantastic job of sharing my books with other readers, who then do the same. The great thing is that once you’ve hooked a reader with one book, they’re usually loyal to you for everything you write.”

eBook Cover (Mortom)Erik describes marketing as a necessary evil, but clarifies, “I’m OK with that.” He learned early on that even with a publisher, only big author names like Stephen King or John Grisham don’t need to extensively market their own work to be successful, but, Erik said, “Fortunately for me, I don’t mind the marketing process, as I view it as yet another way to be creative.” In fact, Erik has been surprised by how addictive book marketing has become for him. “After the release of Mortom, I spent the next six months doing nothing but promotion, and I neglected to do any new writing. The irony (as I’ve come to learn) is that the best marketing an author can do is to write more books, because each new book reaches new readers, which brings more fans into the fold. It’s definitely a challenge to find a balance between promoting and writing.”

Social media has been a big help to Erik in marketing his books, though he’s also done everything from hanging flyers on telephone poles, his least effective strategy, to handing out and leaving bookmarks at random places, “forgetting” copies in places like hotel lobbies when he travels, and donating copies to libraries through their return book slots. He describes Facebook as being “instrumental” in helping him market his books. He clarified, “That said, smart authors use Facebook to connect with people and develop relationships—not just as a platform to repeatedly shout BUY MY BOOK! That doesn’t work.” The least effective social media outlet for Erik has been Twitter, though he admits, “I struggle to share ‘quality’ content with my Tweets, and that could be part of the problem.”

eBook Cover (Resthaven)Erik has used paid promotional websites to advertise his books when they launched, with widely varying results. “It can often be a crap shoot, but it’s another good way to reach new readers. The most important thing is to set a budget, as fees can range anywhere from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars.”

When asked what advice he’d give to other authors starting or planning to soon start marketing their books, Erik said, “Connect with as many authors as you can. Most are friendly and generous with their time and advice, and many are happy to share your work with their own fans. Following authors on social media is also a great way to see how they promote their work, and many times I’ve discovered author events that I never knew existed. Lastly, reviews (in my opinion) are incredibly important to a book’s success. Mortom has been released for over a year, and I still work hard to find readers to review the book.” On writing in general, he shared, “A writer writes first and foremost because they love to write. Most of us aren’t in this for the money. But if you are serious about making a go of it, you have to treat your writing like a business to be successful.”

Learn more about Erik on his website, Facebook page, and via Twitter. Learn more about Mortom here and Resthaven here.

 

Erik’s books:

Mortom (Thomas & Mercer, 2015) is a “follow-the-clues” type mystery about a guy who receives a hidden inheritance.

Resthaven (Kindle Press, 2016), Kindle Scout winner, is a young adult mystery about a group of kids who have a scavenger hunt inside an abandoned retirement home.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: MISTY URBAN

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Misty Urban’s latest book is a short-story collection published by Snake Nation Press, A Lesson in Manners. These ten stories “offer a how-to manual for dealing with love, lies, loss, and loneliness.” Her other published book-length work is Monstrous Women in Middle English Romance, which won the D. Simon Evans Dissertation Prize for Medieval Studies and was published by Edwin Mellen Press in 2010.

The first time Misty thought about book marketing was with A Lesson in Manners’ publication; she created a marketing plan for the collection after completing Midwest Writing Center’s Book Marketing Workshop Series (led by yours truly). She said, “The class gave me a template for a marketing plan that encouraged me to develop a sense of how I wanted to present the book and brand myself as an author. Portions of the template prompted me to think about competing books and how mine compares, identify my ideal reader, and decide how and where I wanted to promote the book. The marketing plan gave me practical tools for tracking the financials, keeping a schedule, and collecting press clips. I would have figured all this out on my own eventually, through trial and error, but the guidance offered by the class was enormously helpful. Having a marketing plan helped me enjoy the publishing process and feel I was prepared for the next step.”

Because the medieval study was a “high-priced, highly specialized book” and she knew her target audience was small, she didn’t spend much time thinking about or marketing it. When A Lesson in Manners was picked up by Snake Nation for publication, she knew she would need to do more marketing to find the wider audience to which the collection appeals. “Signing up for the book marketing class was my first step, and it really made me plan in advance. I decided how I wanted to brand myself as an author, selected my platforms, decided which tools I would use, and learned about other marketing networks and resources I could participate in. I actually want people to read this book, so that’s motivating.”

Misty said she ended up enjoying marketing more than she thought she would. “I thought at first ‘marketing’ meant ‘trying to get someone to buy something,’ and I felt really uncomfortable about having to get in people’s faces and beg them to buy my book. But then I decided to think about marketing as a process of visibility. I get my book out there, on the website, on the shelf, and then let the reader decide if it’s something they want to buy. It’s a short-story collection from a tiny press, so let’s face it, I do not expect great sales. But if my book means something to the people who read it—if it gets talked about, passed around, maybe taught in a class or two—that, to my mind, is the pinnacle of success. What I’m really interested in is seeing a community of readers grow around the book, seeing how people respond to it. That’s the real payoff for the marketing time spent.”

When asked what has surprised her most about the book marketing process, Misty said, “I think the biggest hurdle I overcame was getting the right mindset. I feel much more at ease when marketing is an outgrowth of my larger participation in a literary community: talking to readers, talking to authors, networking, teaching, holding and attending events. I’m a writing teacher (composition and creative writing), and I run the writing center at the local community college, and I also participate in a local community writer’s group. As a teacher I get invited to run workshops and do classroom talks, so I feel like my larger contribution is as a teacher and literary crusader and then, by the way, here’s my book. I don’t like to sit behind a table and try to answer the question of ‘why your book, and not the book of the person sitting next to you, or a nice steak dinner?’ Um—because it’s my book? Only I can tell those stories? But if it’s medium-rare, and there will be wine, then honestly? Maybe the steak. Having the marketing part be one piece of my larger participation in a literary community takes away much of the humiliation and aversion I feel about self-promotion.”

Misty has learned the value of having professionally printed promotional materials, like bookmarks, to give away. She’s enjoyed more interactive personal appearances like readings, question/answer sessions, craft talks, or discussions about writing and publishing. When she has a table, she fills it with things that would appeal to those who don’t buy her book at that event. “I printed up acquaintance cards and flirtation cards, old-fashioned calling cards that people can take with them, along with my business card. I have handouts on how to do a formal place setting, a riff on the etiquette theme. Lately, because I like to feed people, I’ve been bringing snacks ‘developed’ by different characters. At my book launch party, I had a table of displays and a table of prizes inspired by the book. It’s a way to give people a feel for the book when there’s not a narrative to summarize.”

By far, the most successful marketing tool Misty has used is her website. She said, “Years ago I bought my own domain and paid for a website hosting service so I could have e-mail as well as full control over design and functionality. I wanted a professional online presence to help collect and describe my work as a scholar, teacher, and short-story author, to distinguish me from the other Misty Urbans floating around the world. (There are more of us!) I’ve switched to WordPress as my CMS, because it’s free and flexible, easy to update, and it comes with built-in tools to handle things like comments and subscriptions. I don’t have a huge following, but when you Google ‘Misty Urban,’ my site is the first link that comes up. So that’s useful for people who are gathering information or following along from home.”

Misty has used a mixture of learning from other authors’ experiences as well as getting creative on her own to expand her marketing toolbox. “When Manners came out, I sent out the book for review to a few places, and I’m lucky that the response so far has been welcoming. I was warned in advance that sending out cold copies is a waste of time, so instead I just chose to send free copies as gifts to the writers who have most helped or influenced me. If they want to give me a blurb or review, great, but I mostly wanted to share my pride in my book. I’ve also been told not to read Amazon or Goodreads reviews, ever, but I ignored that advice immediately. My reviews are coming from people who read with care and honesty and interest, and their thoughts mean a lot to me.

“I’m also trying two new tactics that were my own brainstorm. I recorded audio of certain stories and put those up on my website as samplers. And I’m currently hosting a contest for readers to write their own story inspired by the book. A couple of professional publicists who heard about this didn’t think it was great as a marketing strategy—too much time for too little return, they said—but for me, and my hopes to network with other writers and participate in a writing community, it’s perfect. I love hearing other people’s work and I already have a few entries. I might come up with more such reader-interactive activities and contests in the future—quizzes, games, whatever.”

Other than bookmarks, postcards, business cards, and other promotional items, Misty hasn’t used any paid advertising but said she might consider Facebook post boosts, Goodreads ads, or other paid advertising in the future. At this point though, she doesn’t think paid advertising would net a great enough return given where A Lesson in Manners is currently distributed. For social media, Misty uses Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest. She also has a LinkedIn profile.

I asked Misty what advice she had about selling and marketing books for authors who just completed a first book or are about to be published. She said, “Have a marketing plan! It’s so essential to get things organized from the beginning. Spend the time thinking about what how you want to brand yourself—what kind of presence you want to have as an author? What kind of publicity do you want to do? The very best thing the book marketing workshop taught me was to play to your strengths, make sure you’re having fun, and don’t do anything you don’t want to do. My own advice is to be strategic about the methods you employ. You really do have to budget your time. Maintaining websites, being active on social media, subscribing to the blogs and reading the book marketing books will take up the mental space and energy you need for writing your next book. Have a plan, have a budget, set your limits, and retool as you go.”

On the writing life in general, Misty said, “Heaven knows the writing is agony—Getting the words on the page! Revising the words! Getting the words fit for publication!—exhilarating, but also agony. The book marketing shouldn’t be. Do try to have fun. Do what rewards your time and energy, sparks you with inspiration, makes you want to get busy writing. Connecting with readers is hugely satisfying—hugely!—and having somebody read and love my book validates my career, my life, my worth as a human being. But at the end of the day, being read or not being read won’t stop me from writing. It’s the writing I really love.”

Learn more about Misty at her website or Facebook page or about A Lesson in Manners on her Goodreads page.

Misty’s books:

A Lesson in Manners (Snake Nation Press, 2016), short story collection: Ten very different stories that offer a how-to manual for dealing with love, lies, loss, and loneliness.

Monstrous Women in Middle English Romance (Edwin Mellen Press, 2010), winner of the D. Simon Evans Dissertation Prize for Medieval Studies. A study of Melusine, Constance, Medea, and murderous women.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: DENNIS MAULSBY

Dennis MaulsbyDennis Maulsby is the author of numerous short-story and poetry pieces and books, including many that have won awards. His first book was a poetry collection he published in 2003 that won silver medals from the Military Writers Society of America and the Branson Stars & Stripes organization; his latest is a poetry collection released in 2015 titled Near Death/Near Life.

Near Death/Near LifeDennis takes a highly organized approach to his marketing, using what he describes as a graphic approach. He provided instructions, “Draw a long line on a sheet of paper. The left end is the beginning date and the right end, the finish or perhaps infinity. Along this timeline, I mark my progress and goals to be achieved. Example: prior to the finish date for manuscripts, I note marketing things that need to be done in advance of publication, i.e. building up my social platform (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) so I can generate excitement among contacts/buyers as I reach significant goals and finally offer the book for sale. Other items along the timeline might be writing workshops, authors’ fairs, cultivating contacts (librarians, writers’ groups, news media folks, etc.). I mark when news releases should go out. Items on the timeline form a progression of events in the order they should occur. Items can be added or subtracted or slid forward or back as events change and Murphy’s Law demands.” He also submits to poetry and prose contest to help build his author’s resume to impress potential buyers.

Night of the PookaDennis’ attitude toward marketing hasn’t changed since publishing his first book in 2003; he still finds the most fun in research and writing. He said, “Promotion and marketing is also some fun but not as controllable as the writing, and therefore can be more unsettling.” When asked how he feels about book marketing, Dennis said, “I like to meet and work with people, whether individual buyers at an authors’ fair, performing at a reading, or working with media folks. Some of the personalities I have met have ended up as characters in my books. Everything is grist for the mill.”

Frozen ChosinThe great support he received from his publisher, Prolific Press, has surprised Dennis. “They sent out hundreds of news releases, got the book (print and e-book versions) posted on Amazon and all its international versions and with Barnes & Noble. They offered a drawing for a free book on Goodreads and did other promotional items.” The marketing Dennis found to work the best has been working with news media contacts, appearing at authors’ fairs and readings, using a website, enjoying word-of-mouth, and networking through writers’ groups and social media. He’s had the least luck with convincing libraries to carry his book; he said, “A few bought the poetry book, but not many.”

For those who’ve just completed their first book or have a book about to be published, Dennis advises not waiting for the book’s publication to start marketing. “Don’t wait for the book to be published. Build your media contacts, writers’ groups, social media, reading dates, etc. well in advance of publication.” On being a writer, Dennis said, “Know why you write. What drives you? If you write for friends and relatives or personal therapy, no need to dig deep into marketing. If you have a strong desire to be published, improve your craft, attend writers’ workshops (Iowa Summer Writing Festival is excellent), acquire marketing skills, and prepare a plan/timeline prior to publication.”

Learn more about Dennis at his website here and purchase his latest book on Amazon here.

Dennis’ books:

Free Fire Zone — (Traditionally published fiction) to be released by Prolific Press in the latter half of 2016. A book of linked short stories bound together by the main character, Rod Teigler. Teigler’s Vietnam War experiences, helped along by government experimentation, leave him with a severe personality disorder. Fear or anger turn the hero into something you don’t want to meet up with in broad daylight let alone in a dark alley.

Near Death/Near Life — (Traditionally published poetry released in 2015) The ninety-seven-page book strikes a meaningful and tender balance between the appreciation for life’s poignant moments, and the human experience of war, both as a construct and a memory.

Night of the Pooka — (First place short story award 2015 Montezuma All-Iowa Fiction Contest, also published in Mused Literary Magazine) Father Patrick Donahey has retired to the small town of Winterset, Iowa. He is thrust into a supernatural happening more consistent with the rocky hills of his native Ireland than the cornfields of the Midwest. A Celtic shape-shifter, a wraith has appeared among them. He must decide what action to take to protect his new flock. This is the first story in a book of linked short stories.

Frissons — (self-published poetry released in 2011) A chap-book of award-winning haiku and senryu. Original cover art by the author.

Remembering Willie, and all the others — (self-published poetry released in 2003) Winner of silver medal awards from the Military Writers Society of America (2005) and the Branson Stars & Stripes organization (2009).

Other:  Sixty-one poems published with forty percent winning awards. Seven short stories published with five winning awards.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: JEREMY STROZER, FLASH FICTION

threadsofwar1lowJeremy Strozer is the author of two unique short-story collections that take real events from 20th century wars and turns them into flash fiction pieces. For Volume 2 of Threads of The War launching this month, he’s also posting on Smashwords and Amazon and handing out coupon codes to fuel launch day.

When asked how he feels about book marketing, Jeremy said, “So far I’m still very much in the learning process, so I have not developed an opinion of it. I would prefer to focus on writing, but understand marketing is part of the self-publishing (and even traditional publishing) process, so I can’t deny it needs to be done.” Jeremy’s attitude toward marketing has changed since Threads of The War, Volume 1, was published in September, 2015, and he’s been surprised at the amount of time it takes to market his books. He said, “I’ve not found any new skills as a marketer yet, but I do tap into a lot of my writing and organizational skills to get better at it as I learn what’s needed.”

threadsofwaramazon2lowThe bulk of Jeremy’s book marketing has been trying to get as many people to read his book as possible in the hopes that they will spread the word. “At first I sent the book out to 100 people, asking them to share it if they liked it.  That worked, but there was no way to track what happened. A lot of people received free copies of my first book. I think that was a great way to launch initially, getting anyone to read it from the start. Now I am focusing on building a platform for my books, building a broad audience I can track. I am also posting pieces of my work on LinkedIn and Facebook, both as posts, and in forums on those sites, to increase my presence.”

He’s avoided paid advertising, but uses social media, joining groups on LinkedIn and Facebook related to fiction, military history, and war. He also posts some of the individual stories to social media, observing, “It’s worked well as my site readership went up over 900%. It’s still relatively low, but it’s growing from this. I write three stories a week, posting one on social media, leaving two for my books. In this way, I can produce at least three books a year with new, unread material.” This is a great strategy; hooking readers in, but not giving away everything.

When asked what advice he’d give to new authors about book marketing, Jeremy said, “Use social media more than you expect to. It’s amazing how you can grow your market by getting your stuff out there. Without it, it’s almost impossible.” He also had this to say about his experience so far being a published author, “I love my topic, the wealth of stories available to write, and that people are interested in my work. Being able to do this part-time is compelling me to move toward it full-time. The money is not there yet, and may never be, but the ability to do this is driving me, creating a powerful emotional push to live and work. I love how this makes me feel and recommend it to anyone seeking a purpose filled life!”

Jeremy’s books:

Threads of The War, Volume 1 – September 2015.

Threads of The War collects and shares personal narratives during real events across the span of The 20th Century’s War. Each story in this collection opens the door to a unique personal facet of war; exposing the reader to the facts, fictions, and fallacies of armed violence. Following each story, the reader is provided specific and revealing facts about the events narrated, offering both entertainment and education within the time it takes to read a blog-post.

Threads of The War, Volume 2 – March 2016.

Threads of The War, Volume II collects and shares personal narratives during real events across the span of The 20th Century’s War. Building off of the success of Volume I, Threads II takes us from the celebratory streets of Paris in the summer of 1914, under the coast of North Carolina in 1918, across the ocean to the evacuated beaches of northern France in 1940, and finally within the minds of both the liberated and the confined at camps in 1945.  Within short easily-readable, yet emotionally compelling, bursts Threads II continues opening the door to the personal facet of war; exposing the reader to the facts, fictions, and fallacies of armed violence.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: TERESA LA BELLA, TRILOGY AUTHOR

headshotTeresa LaBella is preparing to release Belonging, the third book in herher romance trilogy that begins in New York City with characters Alison Clarke and Darien McKenna and continues in small town Iowa. Teresa tapped experience building strategic, fund development and marketing plans as a consultant to write a business plan that includes an executive summary, target market description, and a budget and marketing action plan.

Since her first book, Reservations, Teresa’s approach to marketing has changed. She said, “My chosen life change from full-time paid employee to self-employed writer and consultant has required a change in attitude, goals, and strategy toward marketing my books. I have to make money to pay the bills and to do that I must be as creative in selling myself as I am in telling the story.” When asked if her feelings about marketing have changed since Reservations, Teresa said, “Marketing takes time away from writing. But no marketing means no sales and no one reading the work that consumed all that creative energy and time. No matter the level of previous experience, there is no ‘easy button’ in marketing. The way forward requires professional commitment and a personal belief that persistence and a plan will pay off.”

Reservations
Reservations

Even with her marketing background, marketing books has been more difficult than Teresa had imagined. She’s found that the marketing climate for books is always changing; “The first time or two out are total experiments of trial and error. What works for one person may or may not work for someone else. A successful strategy today may not work tomorrow.” Teresa learns from her readers and loves getting the negative and positive feedback, which she incorporates into the product part of her book marketing. She also learns by talking to readers and other writers at book fairs, workshops, and conferences.

Teresa has sold the most books at personal appearances and book signings. She said, “I scoped out locations and venues that have hosted book signings and asked to schedule a date and time for my event, offered to supply in-house signage and promote their hospitality via my website and social media platforms, and asked if their business would reciprocate. I have bookmarks printed with a QR code that links back to my website and distribute those bookmarks at book fairs, workshops, conferences, and locations where romance readers might be – libraries, salons, and specialty stores. Giveaways are great for a limited time to create urgency – 24 hours, tops. A Memorial Day giveaway of my first book on Amazon resulted in 1,000 downloads and a brief spike in sales. But Amazon doesn’t let the author capture the email addresses of the readers so the long term benefit isn’t there.” The only paid advertising Teresa has used was a Fiver campaign on Twitter which produced little, if any, results, and a Facebook post boost that reached a targeted audience of over 1,200 women age 35-65.

Heartland_Cover_for_KindlejpgWhen asked about her social media strategy regarding her book marketing, Teresa said, “I have an author website that I update with blogs and news of publication release dates, book fairs and signings, and an author Facebook page. I cross-post most Facebook posts on Twitter. I’ve had the most success with Twitter as far as attracting followers. My business/marketing plan sets weekly post and blog post goals for my website, Facebook, and Twitter, and I belong to a couple of author based groups on Linked In. I plan to post promo videos on You Tube, Facebook, and my website.”

Teresa said that the best advice she can give and will take herself this year is to seek out more opportunities to guest blog on other author and reader websites and be more active with participating in groups and posting on Goodreads. “I also plan to create an author newsletter and schedule giveaways to encourage email list sign up on my website.”

For authors just completing their first book about to be published, Teresa offers this advice: “Whether you traditional or self-publish, you must market yourself and your books. I’ve read and heard from many disappointed authors who thought they didn’t have to worry about promotion and that publishers took care of marketing and sales. Wrong! Authors who self-publish and successfully market and sell books are attractive to traditional publishers because they have built and bring a fan base who will buy more books written by that author.” On the writing life in general, Teresa said, “We write because we must. Don’t let the daunting and baffling task of marketing your work prevent or discourage you from doing what you love.” Great advice; your definition of success as a writer isn’t required to be to sell millions of books. Though marketing is usually necessary to sell books, selling books isn’t a prerequisite to being a writer. Get the writing done now, and worry about marketing later.

Teresa’s books:

Reservations, published December 2013 self-published by LaBella Designs
Description: Sparks fly and desire ignites between reluctant lovers who got burned when they looked for everlasting love with the wrong partners.  Both Alison Clarke and Darien McKenna escaped into successful, high-profile careers – she as a self-employed business owner of a successful media consulting firm in Brooklyn and he as executive chef at an upscale restaurant in mid-town Manhattan.  Can chemistry and shared delight in food, wine, and film bridge the age gap and resolve mutual reservations about their longed for happily-ever-after?

Heartland, published January 2015 self-published by LaBella Designs
Description: Successful New York City power couple Darien McKenna and Ali Clarke McKenna had everything – except enough time for each other. Tragedy on the eve of letting go shatters their happily-ever-after. Truth and consequences confronted along an uncharted path to a place in Iowa called Harmony leads to new life and love in the second novel of the “New Life in Love” trilogy.

Belonging, scheduled for publication June 2016 by LaBella Designs
Description: Heartbroken, confused and unsure of the future she once had been so sure of, Chef Darien McKenna’s teenaged daughter Marisa abandons a planned culinary arts career and struggles to discover her true life path. Her journey leads to New Life in Love in a place of “Belonging.”

To learn more about Teresa and sign up for her mailing list, visit her website at www.storyteller30.com or like her Facebook page.

Author Spotlight: Poet Trisha Georgiou

Trisha Georgiou, fellow Midwest Writing Center board member, is set to release her latest poetry collection, A Bizarre Sentence, on December 9th at Read Local at 7 p.m. at the Bettendorf Public Library. A Bizarre Sentence is the latest title published by literary publisher 918studio, soon to be known as the selective subsidized publisher, 918studio Press, which incidentally, I have partnered with Lori Perkins to run. Independent of those relationships (though not unrelated), I asked Trisha to provide her insights about book marketing for this Author Spotlight edition.

Trisha has not had a formal, written marketing plan, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t given deliberate thought to marketing her books. About her marketing, Trisha said, “Before A New Life was released, I had the opportunity to attend a writing workshop given by Hay House. It was through this workshop that I learned the difference between marketing your book and marketing your name. This has been my focus since. Instead of focusing on marketing my individual book titles, I shifted my energies to market my career as an author and poet. The goal for this shift in energy is to create a name or brand. Because my name remains a constant, it is easier to market as my titles increase. In essence, I am building a reader base so the sale of each title remains constant. In turn, with each new title released, this marketing approach provides more ‘news’ to help market myself.” This is a great point. Often, after our first book, we are just excited to get that out into the world and don’t stop to think about our long term branding goals.

Trisha believes that every writer of every genre must market their books. She said, “There are thousands of titles being published yearly from a variety of publishers and self-publishers. How do you entice people to buy your work, pick your book? Marketing is the key to selling books. In the beginning, it was difficult for me to have enough confidence in my work to get it out into the public. After a few successes and finding a niche, it became much easier. Writing is my passion. I am excited about the written word and promoting literary arts. It is through this excitement that begins conversations and opens doors to new opportunities.”

When asked if she has had any surprises while book marketing, Trisha said, “Every new experience, success and failure, is a learning opportunity. I have learned a great deal through my experiences and being a part of the writing community through the Midwest Writing Center. Marketing for me certainly has not been an exact science and I can’t say I have a natural talent. What has helped me is word of mouth. That has been my best advertising. When your readers are excited about your next title and you share their excitement, it is a great thing.”

Trisha hasn’t focused on marketing strategies or tactics other than attending a marketing workshop. Instead, she focuses on getting out in the public and sharing her passion. “I am not saying wear a neon sign with your book cover. When an opportunity naturally happens, take advantage of the moment. As an example, I volunteered to speak at book clubs. This has been a huge success for me. I not only sell the book we discuss but it also helps to build a readership.” Trisha has followed this passion-based approach to book marketing in her paid advertising as well, “I donated money for an ad benefiting a music program my children were involved in. The ad was placed within the concert notes which announced the release of Quartered Enlightenment. I received a lot of positive feedback and publicity, not only for the contribution to the children’s concert but advertising my career and upcoming book.” She warns that paid advertising is tricky and she isn’t sure she’ll ever solve the math proof to warrant it. “I believe there are advertising opportunities that exceptionally target your reader base. That is a very individual, case by case situation considering most books have a zero or limited advertising budget.”

In addition to building relationships and very selective advertising, Trisha uses social media to market herself as an author. She said, “I am just shocked how it has helped me and the contacts that I have made throughout the world for my books and freelance opportunities. In a cybersecond, hundreds of people can be reached globally with a snippet of insight about your latest work and upcoming events. Book titles are not frequent. Somehow the momentum needs to keep steaming ahead. Readers need to get excited about your upcoming work. I think social media, freelance publishing, and blogs are essential to maintain a following. I use most of the big social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.”

I asked Trisha what advice she had for authors who are just embarking on the book marketing journey. She said, “This is a great question. I certainly do not consider myself an authority. What did take me time to discover is not everyone is going to like your work. In fact, some will really hate it. The sooner you can honestly be ok with that concept and gravitate to the niche you are writing about, it saves a lot of wheel spinning. If you are writing about knitting, target knitters, not necessarily readers. For example, a few years ago author Jennifer Chiaverini spoke at an MWC luncheon. She has a huge following with multiple books on best-selling lists. She writes stories relating to quilting. Who bought the most tickets to that luncheon? Was it writers or readers? Nope, it was quilters. Quartered Enlightenment and A New Life both have garden themes, targeting middle aged women who like plants. It is this category where I focused my time and energy. I was invited to speak at garden clubs and books clubs, which again helped build my readership.” Trisha explained that marketing is essential and an author’s books are the extension of the author and advises that if authors find marketing difficult, they should invest in marketing services to help them get on the right track.

On the writing life in general, Trisha said, “Writing for me is a lot like breathing. You just have to do it. Writers look at the world so much differently. I am really thankful that I have been cursed with these writing glasses. Yet at the same time, it is difficult, heart wrenching, soul searching, and absolutely chaotic. If it is a part of you, you do it.” Well said.

Trisha’s body of work includes My Name is A (1999), Quartered Enlightenment (PbPublishing, 2013), A New Life and other poems of Living Passion (918studio, 2014), and A Bizarre Sentence (918studio, December 2015). Learn more about Trisha and her books on her website at www.TrishaGeorgiou.com or read her TrishaGeorgiouHerWritingLife blog. Reserve your copy of A Bizarre Sentence at http://bit.ly/bizarresentence.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: LILLY SETTERDAHL

Lilly SetterdahlThis month I spotlight multi-published (mostly traditionally) non-fiction and fiction author, Lilly Setterdahl. Lilly’s latest book is a novel. The action in Second Love After 50 begins with a three-car accident in which Andrea is hurt. When the man who hit her car visits her and gives her flowers, she wonders if he is doing it because he might be made liable. Andrea is attracted to him but she has two other men visiting her, one of whom appears to be in love with her, and the other who is a hot, live wire that she is afraid to touch.

Since publishing her first book in 1981, Lilly says her attitude towards book marketing has changed. “In the beginning of my writing career, I wrote research articles that were published in Swedish and Swedish-American papers and magazines and gave me name recognition. For my first non-fiction books, I depended on the publisher for marketing.  Gradually, I began to give talks and book signings. I consigned books to gift shops and independent bookstores, but didn’t always get paid. Now, I sell them outright to those outlets. At one time, I was paid to write one large research book, which took me five years.”

As you will see in her list of publications below, many of Lilly’s works cover Swedish heritage. Lilly has been interviewed in local and Swedish papers, gave numerous presentations in Sweden, and appeared locally on Augustana radio and the Paula Sands Live television shows. She sends press releases to Swedish-American periodicals, which has resulted in book announcements and reviews. “My nonfiction books always result in requests for review copies, and I can expect professional reviews to appear in quarterly magazines. Other than that, I rely mostly on sending out emails, the social media, and Amazon.com to market my books.  Many of my books are available on Amazon sites around the world.”

Lilly relates that she’d rather spend her time writing and she hates marketing. She has been surprised that organizations have sought her out as a speaker, thus discovering a talent for speaking to audiences she didn’t know she had.

When asked what book marketing tactics have worked best for her, Lilly said, “Of the marketing I’ve been doing, I think that personal contacts work the best, talks with book signings to the right audience. The individual approach has potential (doctors, hairdressers, exercise friends, etc.).  Recently, I’ve created an author’s page on Amazon.com, and I have yet to find out how productive it will be. I also made a video that I uploaded to YouTube and posted on various sites. I like self-publishing with independent online publishers because it gives me control and a decent return. It also gives me free listings on worldwide Amazon.com sites. For me, it’s very important to have my books available on Amazon sites in Europe, and that is seldom possible with traditional publishers.”

Lilly hasn’t used any paid advertising to market her books, but she has used Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube as well as Amazon’s author page feature. When asked what advice she’d give to those new to book marketing, Lilly said, “My advice to new authors is to hustle your book yourself the best you can, but also to use social media and the world’s largest bookseller, Amazon.com. Try to get your readers to post reviews. Avoid paying to get published. It is possible to self-publish without paying a cent if you can do all the formatting and electronic submissions yourself. Always set your book price as low as possible. It’s better to sell more books at a low price than fewer books at a high price.”

Her final thoughts for you? “Writing, formatting, and marketing books can be a full-time job. One has to allow much time to the learning process, and there is always something new to learn. Proofreading is another time-consuming task. As a retiree, I devote almost all my time to writing and everything else associated with producing books.”

Learn more about Lilly and her books on her website, her Amazon author page, or her Google website.

Lilly’s complete list of titles:

Nonfiction:

Swedish-American Newspapers: A Guide to the microfilms held by Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center, Traditional, 1981.

Bror Johansson’s Chicago (Lennart Setterdahl, coauthor). Traditional, 1985.

A Pioneer Lutheran Ministry: L. P. Esbjorn and his Family in Andover, Illinois. Traditional, 1988.

Memories Preserved: The Inventing Bostroms and Guide to Interviews with Swedish Americans. Traditional, 1988.

Memories Preserved, Vol. II. Scandinavians in Alabama and Gude to Interviews with Swedish Americans. Traditional, 1992.

A Century of Song: American Union of Swedish Singers 1892-1992. Traditional, 1992.

Rockford Swedes: American Stories. Niel M. Johnson, coauthor. Traditional, 1993.

Minnesota Swedes: The Emgration From Trolle Ljungby To Goodhue County 1855-1912. Traditional, 1996. Second edition revised published as a printed book and for Kindle by Self, 2015.

Minnesota Swedes, Volume II: Trolle Ljungby Families in Goodhue County 1855-1912. Traditional and Self, 1999.

I Emigranternas spår: Människor vi mött, 1959-1995. Traditional and Self, 2002.  (In Swedish)

Swedes in Moline, Illinois: 1847-2002. Traditional and Self, 2003.

Growing up in Sweden: In the Shadow of World War II. Self, 2008.

Chicago Swedes: They spoke from the heart (based on oral histories by Lennart Setterdahl), Self 2010.

Not my time to die: Titanic and the Swedes on board. Traditional, 2012.

True Immigrant Stories: The Swedes of Cleveland, Ohio, 1873-2013. Traditional, 2014.

Historical Fiction:

Maiden of the Titanic. Traditional, 2007.

Hero of the Titanic.  Traditional, 2011.

General Fiction:

Second Love After 50, Self, 2015.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: POET SANDRA MARCHETTI

sandra marchettiYou do not have to be a non-fiction or novel author to successfully market books. To prove it, this month’s Author’s Spotlight features Chicagoland poet Sandra Marchetti. Sandra currently has published three books, with a fourth forthcoming, in creative nonfiction and poetry: “The Canopy, published in 2012 with MWC Press, is a short chapbook of poems about the Midwest, particularly the environment and weather. A Detail in the Landscape, published in 2014 with Eating Dog Press, is a limited letterpress, illustrated edition of poems and micro-essays about how one locates him or herself into the environment. My debut full-length collection of poems, Confluence, was just released with Sundress Publications in April 2015. This is a longer book of poems that traces a long distance love story of both people and place. My fourth book, co-authored with Allie Marini, Les Kay, and Janeen Rastall, is Heart Radicals, and is due out with ELJ Publications in February 2016. This is a chapbook of love poems from various perspectives.”

Sandra’s book marketing plan consists of a few Word documents and Excel spreadsheets to track sales and to-do list items. When a new book comes out, Sandra said, “My attention focuses on a few major categories: getting reviews, doing interviews, setting up book tour dates and local readings, and sending out press releases.”

Marchetti ConfluenceThe strategy with which Sandra has approached book marketing has changed with each title. She said, “Each publisher’s approach to promotion is different, which in turn changes my approach. Also, the audience for each book is slightly different, which shifts my strategy. Midwest Writing Center marketed The Canopy well in the Quad Cities’ local media, and they also helped me to find blurbs and set up a few readings. I made sure a press release went out to local papers in Chicagoland, and I sent out review copies to friends. I set up a few readings in support of the book, and added on as necessary for a few years. Detail was a limited edition press run, which was mostly sold out before the book had even shipped. I set up just a few readings to support the book and didn’t bother much with reviews, simply because I had no physical review copies to send out. Confluence has been the object of my biggest marketing push–I set up a national book tour to promote it this summer, with readings all across the country. So far, I’ve done over 20 readings and events in support of the book, which launched in April. I also sent out about 40 review copies to specific reviewers and we’ve already seen about 10 reviews printed and sold a few hundred books. Of course, a great social media presence is also essential!”

Sandra admits that she loves the marketing part of being an author; in her experience, this is unlike most writers. She enjoys scheming about strategy with her husband, who holds a marketing and business degree, and her father, who worked as a sales director for 35 years. “I enjoy promoting the book on social media, participating in readings, and lining up reviews. It can be time consuming, and if I give a reading and sell no books, that can be disheartening. It’s all about finding one’s audience. If you hate marketing, it’s probably because you are thinking about it the wrong way. I don’t think of myself as a salesperson. I think of myself as a writer desperately trying to connect with her readers. My readers are out there, but we won’t meet unless I make sure to go out and find them. So, that’s the fun part.”

When asked what has surprised her about book marketing, Sandra mentioned the help being a good performer and live reader provides. “Once folks hear my poems aloud they seem much more likely to buy a copy of the book. It also helps to have conversations with folks at events. Sit down and find a point of contact with a potential reader. I am an extroverted person by nature, but doing events can be exhausting and I find I do need downtime after a long string of events right in a row.”

The book marketing techniques Sandra has found the most helpful have been those that are the most personal. She interacts with her fans mostly through social media and in person. She advises getting someone else to help you sell copies if you can and gives the example of her publisher who is always posting new work, reviews, and interviews to its social media pages so she’s not always the only person doing the talking. She also recommends partnering with other authors for promotions and doing giveaways on Goodreads and other social media platforms. She said, “The key is to follow up after posting something initially. Ask questions and respond to folks’ comments. Be interactive.”

In addition to giveaways, Sandra also uses social media extensively elsewhere to connect with readers: “I use Facebook and Twitter to promote, along with Goodreads. When I post, I am enthusiastic about my own work. I try to promote professionally and double and triple check my posts for typos. I make sure to tag folks involved in posts so that they can share them/retweet the message. I try to post when themes that relate to my projects are in the news, or at times of day when I know social media waves are cresting. Lately, I’ve had success posting on Facebook late at night, so it’s the first post folks see in the morning. I tweet between nine and five. Facebook is a great place to interact with fans; Twitter is great for getting the word out to a larger audience you might not be aware existed.”

Sandra hasn’t used any paid advertising for book marketing. Instead, she said, “I do exchange services quite a bit with other authors and outlets. For example, I wanted a professional press kit and sales sheets made for Confluence, but my publisher wasn’t in the habit of producing these. I knew a woman who was starting a PR business for authors and needed some ‘guinea pigs’ to test out her services. So, in exchange for some feedback on her work, she made the documents free of charge. Also, I write quite a few book reviews, and wrote even more than usual the year before my last book was released. Then, when I asked folks to write reviews for me, or to run reviews at their outlets, they were much more receptive.”

When asked what advice she’d have for authors about ready to publish their first books, Sandra said, “Be excited about your accomplishment and don’t be scared to toot your own horn! You worked hard and you deserve to revel in your accomplishment and share it with others. Get out there, to the best of your ability, and shine. Do readings, contact other local authors and put together events, throw a cheap book launch party (even in your home!) and have fun. In the end, be grateful for every reader. If a handful of people read your book, it’s a success–that’s what we’re all in this for, right? Own your promotion and don’t be ashamed to get out there, celebrate yourself, and sell some books!” Great advice! If you aren’t excited about your book, it’s difficult to expect others to be.

Click here to learn more about Sandra on her Poets & Writers page. Click here to purchase The Canopy or Confluence. And, finally, click here to find out how Sandra can help you with her writing services.