Category Archives: Author Spotlight

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.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: JON RIPSLINGER – YOUNG ADULT NOVELIST

Jon Ripslinger

This month I’m spotlighting Jon Ripslinger, former teacher and author of eight young adult novels published over a span of 21 years, all featuring 17 to 18 year-old protagonists.

Though he’s marketed his more recent books, Jon has had no formal, written marketing plan. He’s seen firsthand the changes in marketing in the publishing world. For his first three books, the publisher handled all of the marketing and Jon wasn’t asked to do anything. However, he said, “Now, I’m expected to be deep into marketing on social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads, and I have a blog, all of which was unheard of when I started out writing in the 1990s.”

Jon views marketing as a necessary chore; he dislikes it but the publisher expects him to do it. He said, “I find it difficult, and worse than that, marketing on social media takes a great deal of time away from my creative efforts. Some days I spend all my time working social media and none on new novel or short story.”

TWOG JonThe time marketing takes and how it’s shifted his priorities have surprised Jon as his publishing career has progressed. “When I was writing in the late 1990s, I spent all my writing time on writing. Every day at the computer, working on a rough draft, the next day editing what I’d written the day before, then pushing on with the script. Not anymore. Working on my blog and social media sites comes first, then comes working on a script—if I have time. Having said that, let me add this: For my most recent novel, The Weight of Guilt, Red Adept Publishing at no cost to me provided me with a content editor, a line editor, and two proofreaders. The publisher also provided at no cost to me the book’s cover and back-cover text. I get 50 percent of the profits. So I believe the publisher has every right to expect me to work hard marketing wherever and whenever I can.”

Jon has found the most marketing success in social media, in part thanks to his over 500 friends, many of whom are former students from when he taught English at Davenport West High School for 33 years. He maintains a “One-minute Romance” blog which features, so far, 104 approximately 800 word long short romance stories. The blog has received nearly 17,000 hits; Jon expects 20,000 hits by the end of 2015. He’s had successful book signings, too, selling 30 to 40 books at each of his seven at the Davenport, Iowa, Barnes and Noble. He’s found Twitter the least successful: “Most of my fellow twitterers are authors but strangers who, like me, are simply hawking their books, though I try to provide advice about writing in 140 characters or less.” Jon has not yet tried paid advertising but said he will consider some future Facebook or Twitter ads.

For his latest book, The Weight of Guilt published by Red Adept Publishing, the house arranged a blog tour during May and the first week of June. He said, “The tour features 17 book bloggers who have agreed to join in and highlight posts about TWOG. Some bloggers simply spotlight the book by posting a short bio of me and the book’s first chapter; some have interviewed me; some have asked me for guest posts; some have read the book and posted four- and five-star reviews, which is very encouraging, since the reviews are also posted on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and more. I have found the blog-tour strategy very successful for creating a buzz about the book. It’ll take a while before I find out if the buzz results in sales.”

Jon finds inspiration from posters that have hung in his writing room at home for over 30 years that state “Miracles happen only to those who believe in them,” and “Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.” Great advice on their own, but Jon also offers this advice for other recent or soon-to-be published authors: “Establish yourself on social media immediately and be prepared to spend a lot of time on your chosen sites. Study what successful writers have done on these sites. If you can, be unique. Traditional publishers might hesitate to publish your book, regardless of how good it is, how well written, unless you can prove you’re ready, willing, and able to promote yourself and your book. Self-promotion is expected of you. It’s now part of your job as an author.”

Click on the title of each book below to learn more from Amazon. The books are also available at other national and local book retailers.

The Weight of Guilt, 2015, Red Adept Publishing. Two girls John Hawk dates die violently. Suffering from terrible feelings of guilt and believing his life is cursed, John is accused of rape and murder.

Who is Lori Darling, 2013, Martin Brown Publishing. Carl Mueller discovers the girl he’s madly in love with has been and is being sexually molested by her father—since she was ten years old.

Missing Pieces, 2012, Martin Brown Publishing. Kyle Donavan suspects his dad killed his mom, dismembered her with a chainsaw, and sank the pieces into the Mississippi. River.

The Hustle, 2010, Martin Brown Publishing. Five-foot-one Sean Duffy, a one-eyed pool player, falls in love with six-foot Mary Jo Moon and wins her love be defeating her abusive, former boyfriend in a violent game of nine ball.

Last Kiss, 2007, Llewellyn World Wide.  Billy O’Reily makes love with his girlfriend in her bedroom for a final time—she breaks up with him—and the next morning she’s found dead.

Derailed, 2006, Llewellyn World Wide. Wendell Stoneking’s girlfriend is a single mom, a senior in high school, and when her psycho ex-boyfriend kidnaps their son, Wendell is forced to risk his life before the psycho rapes Robyn and kills Tyler.

How I Fell in Love & Learned to Shoot Free Throws, 2003, Roaring Brook Press. Danny Henderson’s girlfriend, a new girl in school, breaks up with him and goes into hiding, fearing bullying, when he discovers she’s a test-tube baby with two moms, and she’s afraid he’ll tell everyone.

Triangle, 1994, Harcourt Brace.  Best friends since grade school, Darin and Jeremy fall in love with the same girl. And one of them has made her pregnant.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: David Dorris – Author on the Road

David Dorris is taking his Life it Too Short series on a journey still in full swing. He’s committed to marketing the books, and not just in the short term. His first Life is Too Short book, which he wrote during his breaks while working at Nestle, was published in 2002. The second edition, Life is Too Short: Choices in Life was lengthened by 20,000 words and published in 2008. He added another over 20,000 words in Life is Too Short: Life is What We Make It with Tate publishing in 2011.

The first Life is Too Short book was written by accident. David said, “I coached softball for thirty years and always liked to teach the kids about life as well as sports. In August of 2001, [during breaks while working at Nestle Purina,] I started to write a paper to give to my team the next year.” Someone asked him if he was writing a book, so he thought “why not give it a try.” In October of 2002, David presented the books to his team and bought them ice cream at Quad Cities’ local shop, Whitey’s. The Quad City Times newspaper came and did a story about it. He kept going from there.

Life many first-time authors, David was surprised by the marketing involved after publishing a book. When asked how he feels about book marketing, David said, “I am learning different strategies. … It’s a lot of fun and I have a great time at book signings. It was difficult at first, but I discovered that after you publish a book, you are not just an author but also a sales person and the more I work at this, the easier it gets.” He said he’s learned what sells his book and who might be interested in events. “I also have events lined up where I can talk about my book to clubs and organizations and then have a book signing.”

David works with a marketing manager at Tate Publishing, including getting help to line up book signings. After an event is scheduled, he answers a questionnaire, which the book marketing manager sends to the local media. David has had better luck holding signing events at organizations other than book stores, including the YMCA, Jaycees, Optimist Clubs, Rotary Clubs, and local college book stores and libraries. He was told after a signing at a college book store reading on December 5, 2014, that he was the only author who’d sold all of the books they’d ordered for an event.

David said, “I believe I am finding the right kind of audience for my book. I am convinced if I can get my books to the right groups, I can sell a ton of them. I am not saying this because I wrote the book. These books won’t sell themselves, so I find when I explain my book to others and show them my book reviews and tell about the success stories that go with it, that sells my book.”

He explains that it also helps to sell the book when he talks about how he wrote and researched it. While watching movies from the thirties, forties, and fifties, he takes notes about comments about making life better. “I may get twenty-five ideas … [then I] pull up my book and insert these ideas,” netting hundreds of ideas in the book.

David credits self-training to his marketing success. “I worked at Nestle Purina for thirty-five years and the one thing a supervisor taught me was to learn to train myself. … He said, ‘Don’t wait to be told to do something, just get it done.’ As a landlord and an author, I do train myself. I was fifty-four years old when I was told to train myself. If I had learned that when I was younger, I might have accomplished more with my life.” This self-training has included some trial-and-error, including a $300 ad in the local newspaper, which wasn’t successful. He has had good luck with sending letters to the newspaper editors, though. “Since the subject of my book is about life, I read the letters from the editor of the QC Times. I then pick a subject, respond, and I use materials from my book to make a point. Some people recognize my name at a book signing and I have been asked if I had my books advertised in the newspaper.”

Recently, David has started a program to partner with local charitable organizations to share his profits with them. The program was recently announced in a feature article the newspaper printed about David. He cautions, though, “Sharing profits with organizations have strict rules about how it is done. You can’t put it in print what you are going to do with your money. When you give, you donate without any publicity.”

He’s also had success by simply talking to people, including with the approximately one hundred places his marketing manager sent to him in a list. He said, “There are always people that are glad to have you do a book signing and then there are some people who are not very nice about it. When people are not nice, I just move on. They may have a change of heart later. I always try to be polite and professional. As published authors, we are also salespeople and we should try to use our time where it will get results.” This is great advice. Don’t be afraid to try different things to market your books; but if it’s not working, move on.

In considering the four Ps of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion), David emphasizes the product: “I wouldn’t be in a hurry to get it published when you get to that point. Take some more time to work on it as if you were going to take the existing materials and start another book. Take this time to make sure that your book is the best it can be and check to see if there is anything of value that you can add or something you should take away from your book that will improve the quality of the product you are going to get published for marketing.” He also advises, “Make sure that you have a publisher that the book stores will accept. Find a publisher that will go out of their way to help both of you make money. … Also find a publisher that will help you with high quality content, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. The better the product, the easier it will be to market.”

David has also done a lot of work finding his target market. He said, “One of your books may have to be marketed different than another. It could take a while, but you have to find your target audience. Try to find groups who will buy your books.” He also advocates taking responsibility for your book marketing. “You and you alone may decide the success of your book. Marketing is a full time job. There are hundreds of ways to market your book. It’s like panning for gold. It takes a lot of looking to find the right place for your book and when you do find it, that is when you will strike it rich.”

Learn more about Life is Too Short: Life is What We Make It and see the awesome book trailer on Tate Publishing’s website. It’s also available on Amazon.

Author Spotlight: Jim Pransky

pranskyheaderAuthor Jim Pransky has used his over two decades of experience working as a professional baseball scout in his fictional and biographical books. He has worked with Tate publishing to release his two biographies about less well-recognized players as well as three novels. Jim describes his novels as being “like the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew books just sports oriented” placing characters in northwestern Pennsylvania where he grew up, incorporating some of the situations he’s faced.

Jim describes his major challenges in marketing his books as being a lack of connection to the Quad Cities area. He is not from the area and is travelling much of the year in his job, from spring training through the World Series, making it a challenge to schedule personal appearances. His publishing company has helped by sending press releases and requiring him to think about marketing before publishing his books. He takes advantage of his hometown and the hometowns of his biographical subjects by sending books to be sold in those areas.

Jim hasn’t found a one-size-fits-all marketing solution; he tried different approaches for his books. He said, “I have to admit I love to write, but I’ve never been a sales person. I think I have learned a lot about the process through marketing my five books, but I have not found a sole method that works every time.” He’s found the most success by selling books on consignment in Pennsylvania, especially for his first three books, using his connections from home to get the books into barber shops, pharmacies, and grocery stores. He’s also been able to get his books sold in minor league souvenir stores and stimulated direct sales by reducing prices.

Though he uses Facebook and Linked in, Jim hasn’t found them especially helpful; due to budget constraints, he hasn’t used any paid advertising, though he is considering hiring someone to help him. Finding the time to market a book along with supporting yourself and writing is a challenge most authors face. “I think it’s an absolute to be imaginative and creative in your marketing plans just like it is with your writing.” Jim is committed to continuing different ideas to get his books into readers’ hands. He said, “I wish I had THE answer, but I found you just have to ‘dance with who brung you.’” That’s great advice; the only place you can begin with anything, including book marketing, is where you are.

Click here to learn more about Jim Pransky on his website. His books, Champion Expectations, Playoff Run, Josh and Josh: Small Towns, Big Leagues, The Comeback Kid, and John “Flash” Flaherty: Behind the Mask, Behind the Scenes are available on Amazon.com and other online retailers.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Joan Mauch, published by Whiskey Creek Press

Joan Mauch
Author Joan Mauch

Welcome to the inaugural Author Spotlight blog post, focusing on how authors market books. I’m proud to present author Joan Mauch who I met in a novel workshop series prior to publication of her first book, Halifax (2013, Whiskey Creek Press). I remember Joan was in the middle of a complete re-write of her book, but I could tell it would be good.

Joan Mauch’s background ranges from teaching and working for nonprofit organizations advocating for the poor to a career in marketing and public relations. She lives in Davenport, Iowa; she has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s in urban studies.

Joan created a marketing plan for her books based on her experiences in the marketing and public relations fields, with sections for “personal and professional contacts, news media, social platforms and public appearances.”

When asked if her attitude toward marketing had changed since her first book’s release in 2013, Joan said, “With my first book, I hosted a ‘launch party’ at a local pub and gave away 35 copies to family and people who helped me over the years. After adding up the expenses versus the income, I realized I was spending more than I was earning and that it wasn’t an acceptable business model. I justified it by the fact it was my first book and I needed to get my name before the public, but realized I couldn’t continue promoting future releases in this manner.”

This is an important lesson: though we are artists, authors still need to keep the bottom line in mind. If the finances don’t make sense or the potential intangible benefits (exposure, for example) aren’t great enough, reconsider what you’re contemplating. For example, I recently considered running a Twitter ad to promote one of my books, but the cost to get it to appear in a person’s feed was $2.75 – I make less profit than that for each sale of that particular book.

Joan has met some challenges in marketing her books. “Marketing is difficult for me despite my background. It’s one thing to promote an organization or product and quite another to promote yourself and your own work. It feels a lot like bragging, which is what we have all been taught is unacceptable.”

She’s also faced some surprises: “What surprised me was the amount of time it takes. Also the realization that over three hundred thousand books are published every year. I thought it would be easy to attract readers, but considering the huge number of books for sale, gaining a readership outside one’s personal circle is difficult.” This is so true; it’s so easy for first-time authors to naively adopt the “publish it and they will come” mindset.

Joan has found that what currently works best is promoting her books through personal appearances and direct mailing her contacts (and likely working to increase the volume of those contacts). She says it’s worked marginally well for her so far and she’s hopeful she will gain traction over time. Marketing books is definitely a marathon and not a sprint.

A strategy working for her most recent book, The Waterkeeper’s Daughter (2014, Whiskey Creek Press), is holding a joint presentation with the Quad-City Waterkeeper, Art Norris, at the Bettendorf Library’s Read Local series. This partnership has helped Joan spread the word in several ways, including an article in February’s Radish magazine, library produced and distributed brochures and fliers, and inclusion in the city of Bettendorf’s email news briefs. And none of it has cost Joan a penny.

Joan says, “Connecting the novel with a local issue or personality makes it easier to get publicity because it will be promoted along with a topic of local interest and the event or news story won’t simply be an obvious effort to sell a novel.” She’s also had good luck with book signings at the local The Book Rack locations and Midwest Writing Center’s signing at Southpark Mall in Moline, Illinois.

The Waterkeeper’s Daughter

Of course, some things haven’t worked so well. Getting listed on various book listing websites hasn’t been beneficial. “While that sounds like the perfect place to promote a book, I haven’t seen much by way of results – although I have received several editorial reviews, which is helpful.” Joan has listed her book on Readers’ Favorite, Manicreaders, Shelfari, Authors database, Book Pleasures, and Night Owl Reviews.

Joan has invested in some paid advertising. “I signed up for ‘Author Shout’ which promotes books on Twitter. I’ve seen it promoted and had some retweets as a result. I can’t say whether or not sales resulted, although it did get my book title and name out there.” She also gave away three copies of her first novel on Goodreads and over 700 people entered, but none of the winners reviewed the books (a courtesy, not an obligation, suggested to winners). This evidences the volatility in book marketing – what works for one author or even one book might not work for another. I’ve given away book copies through Goodreads and though not all the winners gave me a review, some did.

We all have personal (sometimes personality-based) weaknesses when it comes to marketing books. Joan says, “Using social media isn’t really my strong suit. I realize I need to work harder at participating. I have a website and blog which I use to promote my novels. When I blog, it is automatically published on my Facebook author page, Twitter, Amazon and Goodreads, so that’s a lot of exposure with not a whole lot of effort. I also participate in Pinterest and LinkedIn but again, not to the extent that I should.” She relates that using her website’s blog works best, though it hasn’t reached the volume she’d prefer just yet.

Joan offers this advice for marketing books: “Don’t overlook your personal contacts – friends, family, high school and college classmates, neighbors and co-workers. These are the people who will be most thrilled to hear that you’ve been published and will spread the word for you. Don’t be embarrassed to ask them to let everyone know and to post their comments on Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble (if they carry your paperback or e-book).”

She also advocates creating a website to promote your book titles with a blog chronicling your journey before and after publication. “Hook your website up with Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and Goodreads so every time you blog, it will get wide exposure.” She also advises, “Your book can be listed for pre-release on Amazon a month or so before it’s released, which builds excitement. Do the same on your blog, Twitter and Facebook. Don’t forget to send a news release to the local media, especially your local newspapers.”

The Mangled Spoon

I asked Joan if she had anything else she’d like to say about writing, being an author, or book marketing: “Many authors, myself included, give little to no thought about what happens once their book is published. They assume the publisher will do the heavy lifting with respect to promotion and marketing and all they have to do is show up from time to time and sign books for a long line of admirers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, publishers will send your book out for review and list it on some websites, but that’s about the extent of it unless you’re a top-selling author. The rest of us have to shoulder that burden on our own. While most writers prefer to sit in their study and write, the fact is, unless they actively participate in promoting their own books, their sales will languish and they will eventually be dropped by their publisher. Writing a novel is not only an art, but once it’s published, it becomes a business. Writers who think they’re too good to promote their work will most likely be disappointed in the outcome.”

Obviously, Joan is doing a great job promoting her books, since all three of her titles have been published by Whiskey Creek Press:

Halifax (January 2013, Whiskey Creek Press). Forty year old Eleanor Hurley is leading a life of quiet desperation when a single moment of violence changes everything. She kills a homicidal man to save a group of children. Rather than being repulsed, she is exhilarated and fearing she may be turning into a serial killer, flees to Halifax, but cannot escape herself or the trouble that lies ahead.

The Mangled Spoon (May 2014, Whiskey Creek Press). Psychiatrist Marcus Rukeyser’s newest patient is catatonic. Discovered foraging for food clutching a damaged antique spoon, he learns she’s connected to three dead or missing nuns from a prominent Chicago parish. With only two weeks until she’s committed to a state mental institution, authorities make it clear they’ll go to any length to prevent him from uncovering the ugly truth—including destroying his career, his home—and potentially his life.

The Waterkeeper’s Daughter (November 2014, Whiskey Creek Press). Twenty-one year old Annie Whitaker arrives home from college to devastating news—her beloved father, Lake Okeechobee’s waterkeeper is dead. Meanwhile a very angry man is bent on revenge for the damage done to his family by her estranged grandfather. Very soon the word “regret” will have a whole new meaning for the Whitakers—but by then it will be too late.

You can find Joan’s books on Amazon.com (click the titles above) and other online retailers. Visit her website at to www.joanmauch.com. Click here to connect with her on Facebook.

Halifax