Friday, February 28, 2014

Marketing for Self-Published Authors: Give-Aways?

Give-aways! Should we self-published writers truly give our books away? An accountant would say, check the cost of goods sold first.

But how do we get our books out to a wider audience?

One strategy is to use a sponsored give-away, like that through GoodReads.

If you already have your Author Dashboard set up on GoodReads, you simply add your book cover, set the time for the give-away, decide how many copies to give away, and follow up at the end of the give-away to send your copy to the winner.

I set my give-away for two weeks, ending February 28. During that time, 334 people entered the give-away and 178 added Standing Stones to their "to read" list. I could have added a widget to my blogs, alerting blog readers they could enter the give-away. Next time.

Another plus: GoodReads encourages those who win the book to write a review.

Have I seen a bump in sales? Not yet. Will I offer another give-away? Perhaps. Some of the research suggests that giving away our books is not the first or best marketing choice.

Other marketing strategies I'm working on this week:

  • Bookmarks to give away at a book signing at a local book store.
  • Lining up readings/visits with local book clubs (and drafting book club questions/handouts).
  • Preparing materials for guest posts (Self-Published Sundays coming up in March). 
  • Working on final edits on Book 2 for another launch later this year.
If you are a self-published author, what has been your most effective marketing strategy?

Writer Unboxed offers this post on "The Year Long Book Launch" which intrigues me. The links follow the journey a writer of literary fiction undertook to find an agent, a publishing house, and the launch. Her concerns mirror the concerns of any writer. We may find useful gems here, even for the self-published writer.

May your writing go well.

Detail, stained glass window at
St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh (Camp 2009)
Inspiration for Lord Gordon in Standing Stones

Friday, February 21, 2014

A little book launch . . . a lotta fun . . .

Oofta. What a day. My launch party for Standing Stones. I'm right in the mainstream of those writers who resist marketing, but one strategy intrigued me:  the launch party.

Caught between advice from marketing gurus who plan elaborate book launch parties and spoofs that recommended several bottles of wine, I wondered what would work for me -- a self-published author with a limited budget and an inclination to stay home.

Knocking myself on the head with 'should' was not productive (as in, 'I should have organized this last month'), so I ordered paperback copies a month ahead, set a date, sent invitations by e-mail, and sent out a press release to our local paper (into the black hole). 

On the appointed day, I ventured forth to my favorite coffee shop here in Spokane -- Forza Coffee Shop serves Sweet Venetian coffee lattes, my favorite occasional treat.

What worked!

Invitations by e-mail brought a variety of people in and notes from those who could not come. The e-mail invite included a pic of the book cover and was sent to my friends from writing groups, quilting, and swimming. Two of my writing groups (Spokane Authors and AAUW) forwarded my invite to everyone on their list. 

The invite sounded something like this:  Drop by to help Beth celebrate the release of her new book, Standing Stones. Rachel will play a little classical music. Enter a book drawing. No purchase necessary -- unless you would like a cup of coffee! 

The no-host coffee bar venue was perfect. I scheduled a large meeting room with lots of comfy chairs and a big table. Some 30-35 people dropped by; some bought coffee, nearly all stayed to chat. Copies of my two books were arranged on that big meeting table with this sign:

If you would like to buy a book, 
the red-winged blackbirds will sing spring, 
and all the snow will melt. 
You really don't have to buy a book, but 
if you would like to take one home, here are the prices. 

The timing was perfect! The two hour no-host coffee drop-in was set up for 9:30-11:30, right after my swimming class to make it easy for my swimming buddies to drop by.   Two ladies who love historical fiction found out about the launch from friends. Two ladies wanted the link to Amazon for the Kindle edition. And attendees bought books!

What I will do differently next time!
  1. Make BOOKMARKS with websites and book info! People can give them to their friends.
  2. Think about what to write in the book ahead of time. Everyone wanted a personal note! At one point I had three books backed up to sign. 
  3. Post a sign at the venue, directing people where to go. 
  4. Have a formal sign-in to capture who attended, if they want to be added to newsletter, etc. 
  5. Move around and keep talking to different groups of people.
  6. Make sure the venue is large enough. A few people had hearing problems, which may have been exacerbated by the small room.
  7. Plan something extra! Before I set up the open house, one friend asked if I was going to have 'eye candy'. Well, that was a good idea, but I opted for my daughter to play classical violin. Everyone loved her playing a small 10-minute concert.  
  8. Have someone else collect the money. 
  9. Maybe ask for reviews . . . this seems a bit forward to me. 
  10. Make posters to publicize the event about a week before. Post at libraries.
  11. Don't drink coffee before the event. 
I ended the two hour session amazed by how many folks came to celebrate with me. One friend made soup so I wouldn't have to worry about cooking that day. Folks really talked to each other, and I saw connections between people I knew from different groups who didn't know each other.

Several times attendees wanted to talk more about their own writing journey (which was fine with me); others were curious about my book, how it got started, how much time it took, what research I've done, why I chose to self-publish. All these questions were easy to answer, and everyone seemed interested in the next book out.

I hope this overview helps you plan or feel better prepared for YOUR book launch party. For self-published authors with that shoestring budget, my suggestions may help you look at the launch as a time to celebrate your accomplishment.

If you've already had your book launch, any tips to share?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Beta, beta . . . boom!

Writers need readers. We all know that. Being a shy person, I've long cherished the role of writer, tapping away on the keyboard in sheer isolation, until those final words . . . 'the end'.

Readers can be exceptionally helpful throughout the writing process, though, and especially at 'the end'.

Whenever I've finished that fabulous-to-my-eyes first draft, I dive into NOVELS_L, an online critique group, part of The Internet Writing Workshop. Here writers can submit chapters, read and critique other chapters, and in a kind of 2-for-1 exchange (2 reviews for every sub), gain feedback from seasoned readers at the chapter level.

But when the whole book is nearly ready, then I'm hoping to find a good beta reader, someone I trust and someone I know will give me the deepest kind of feedback on how I can strengthen my story.

Here, risks abound. For if the beta reader is too critical, you might find yourself not editing or writing at all. That happened to me once. Oh, I'd rather not go there again.

Beta readers will tell you what works and what doesn't. They can function at least at two levels -- micro and macro.

At the micro level, a good beta reader can find typos, grammatical and punctuation errors you really should have caught at this stage, and even extra spaces (for those of us still struggling with one space after a period instead of two). She or he will also spot when you've suddenly reverted to calling a character by a previous name. Oh, those little proofreading and editing inconsistencies that plague us all.

At the macro level, a good beta reader will delve into the structure of the novel itself, the character arcs, the underlying meaning of the theme and how well it translates into shaping the conflict and action of the story.

Julie Glover, in her very useful article, "When the Book Isn't Working," says "Sometimes we've been over a book so many times, we can't see it fresh anymore." That's the moment to reach out to a beta reader. Julie suggests that we might keep the questions as simple as: "Where did your interest wane, even a bit? Which characters did you relate to? Did any characters feel one-dimensional or unnecessary? Where do you think the story could be strengthened?"

I've lost count truly of how many times I revise a novel before it's released into that wider world of readers. How I write requires patience for these seemingly endless rounds of editing and revision, for I want my stories to be good enough to move the reader with compassion for other lives and other times.

Writers: Have you used beta readers? What have you gained from this experience? Would you recommend it to others?

Read more about:
The Internet Writing Workshop
Julie Glover's "When the Book Isn't Working"