Category Archives: Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Kim Sigafus – Native American Author

This month’s author spotlight features Kim Sigafus, a multi-title author in fiction and non-fiction, all of them featuring Native Americans. For her eight titles published over the last decade or so, Kim hasn’t had a formal marketing plan, though she did make a list of ideas to try. She’s always trying out new marketing ideas and networking with other authors to find more new ideas. Over time, she’s learned what works for her and what doesn’t.

When asked how she feels about marketing, Kim said, “Yuk. I find it hard to toot my own horn, which you have to do to get books sold.” The fact that marketing is just as much work as writing the book surprised Kim, “After I got the first one out, I was immediately struck by how creative I would need to be when marketing for such a niche genre as Native American titles.” She added, “At first, I did try all the traditional marketing ideas and they went okay. When I found my platform I now work within, the bookselling and publicity became easier.  In the beginning, I was surprised people would come out and hear me speak and then buy books afterward. Then I realized that WAS the way I would be selling books. I rarely do a book signing at a store these days. I would say 90% of book sales come from my Native American presentations.”

Some things Kim has tried to market her books include press releases, book signings, radio, bookmarks, and social media, but has found that it’s her Native American presentations that sell her books. She’s bought newspaper advertising but said they didn’t go over too well since not too many people read the newspaper anymore. Facebook, email, and a website where “people can see what’s going on with me and the writing by checking up on me there” have worked the best for her online.

When asked what advice about selling and marketing books she would offer to a new author, Kim said, “Everyone has to market their work. Even famous people have to push their work out there. Keep trying new things until you discover what works for you. Network with other writers. Join a writing group.” On the writing life in general, she said, “Becoming an author has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. But it’s nothing like I thought it would be. People have preconceived notions about writers; what we look like, how our day goes, what it’s like to write and create. What I can say about it is, it’s harder than you could ever imagine, one of the craziest things you could ever take on, and one of the most rewarding things you can ever experience. It’s really hard work, so those who don’t have to get those words down on paper just don’t do it. For the rest of us, it’s like clearing your head of the people living in it and taking up space reserved for other things.” She added, “Marketing is really about finding your personal niche and then carving out selling points for yourself. It’s an ongoing process, and changes over time.”

Kim has demonstrated that the key to being a successful author (according to your own definition) takes time, testing, and practice as well as learning about yourself, your readers, and what works for both. Learn more about Kim at her website. Her books are available for sale on Amazon and Smashwords.

Kim’s Books:

The Life and Times of the Ojibwa People, 2006, McIver Publishing

Native Writers, 2011, Native Voices, Book Publishing Company

Native Elders, 2012, Native Voices, Book Publishing Company

The Dress, McIver Publishing

The Mida, McIver Publishing

The Mida Book Two, Finding Genny, McIver Publishing

The Mida Book Three, Destiny of Darkness and Light, McIver Publishing

The Mida Book Four, Perilous Choices, McIver Publishing

Author Spotlight: Lauren Wood – Debut Children’s Book Author

Lauren WoodThis month’s Author Spotlight post is a bit different as I talk with Lauren Wood who is about to release her first book, a children’s book, Something’s Missing, which was illustrated by Johnnie Cluney and published by her Paradisiac Publishing company.

Lauren hasn’t created a formal marketing plan yet, but plans to hold a release party, try to be a guest on a local afternoon magazine-style television show, send out press releases, and “do a big social push.” When asked about her attitude surrounding marketing her upcoming book, Lauren said, “This is my first book but I am aware of the daunting chore that is book marketing; however, I have a naive hope that the combined social network between myself and the illustrator (who has national notoriety) will somehow help this book garner a bit of attention.” She further explained her feelings about book marketing, “Honestly, I am excited to tell anyone and everyone that will listen, and I can’t wait to Facebook/Instagram/Tweet my face off about it; however, the press releases and the follow-up with bookstores and media, in general, is a bit overwhelming. I do have a marketing background; however, I feel like this is going to be a much bigger undertaking than I am able to grasp at the moment.”

Even with the insightful and realistic expectations she has for marketing her book, Lauren does expect that she will still be surprised at the work required. She plans to rely heavily on social media initially, especially Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as research other strategies and learn as she goes, the road to successful book marketing almost all authors take. Other strategies she might consider include paid advertising, “If I’m able to find something that is effective and will garner an ROI (return on investment) for me.”

When asked what advice she’d give other authors about to start selling and marketing their books, Lauren said, “TELL EVERYONE WHO WILL LISTEN. You’ve just accomplished something you should be very proud of and friends and family are there as your first line of cheerleading offense. Do not be afraid to toot your own horn!” On the writing life in general, she offered, “If you’ve always wanted to write a book, just go for it. There’s a lot to be said about marketing and getting the word out, but don’t let that discourage you from sharing your words!”

Lauren is celebrating her new book with a release party at Cru in downtown Davenport, Iowa (221 Brady Street), on November 5, 2018, from 3 to 6 p.m. The book will be available for purchase online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble on November 6th.

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.

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.