Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Five Unique Marketing Opportunities

Our theme this month has been unique marketing methods to promote your book. Promotion does not come naturally to me, but I have marketed books in several unusual ways.

1. Charity Events

Mythikas Island Book One DianaI was approached by the local Optimist Club fundraisers in my neighborhood when they heard I was an author. The first book in the Mythikas Island series was put up for the silent auction, then they mentioned that I would have additional books for sale at the end of the event and would be happy to sign the book for the winner. The selling of books after the auction was their idea. I did not sell a large volume (less than 10), but did gain a few fans. The second year I overhead someone asking if the author would be back because they wanted the next book in the series. I have been asked back every year since. Several people have approached me because they would like to write books. I have cards advertising my Story Building Blocks series on hand to give them. Seek out local charity events to see if they would be interested in accepting your books as a donation to their fundraiser. If the reception is enthusiastic, you could also offer to take books to sell. You could offer to donate a portion, or even all, of your sales to the charity. You can gain fans and give back to the community at the same time.

2. Local Craft Sales

I make jewelry as a hobby and set up a booth at several craft events to sell my wares. I put my books out too. I sold an equal amount of both. Consider setting up a booth at a farmer's market, local Arts in the Park event, or holiday sale venue. Several local authors set up at the Home and Garden show. Cajole writer friends to join you to make it more fun. After all, you will require someone to man the booth when you need to use the loo and get food. The rental fee for booth space is usually quite reasonable. I paid $35 to $50 for each event. If there are multiple authors, take one cash box and give receipts. You can tally each person's take at the end. If someone has a credit card reader, all the better. I did not have one, but would have sold more if I had had the capacity to run credit cards. Even savvy Girl Scouts have Square Readers for their smart phones these days. If you write YA or Middle Grade, you could connect with local schools or the library to see if they have craft or book events.

3. Writing Conferences

I have attended the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie, Indiana in the past and my Story Building Block series sold well there. They also offer attendees' fiction books for sale. This is run by a bookstore that receives a commission percentage, in this case 10%. I leave promotional materials with the book display in case the attendees are not in a position to buy at that moment. Also, anything you can do to benefit other writers will help nudge them to consider your books. In the case of nonfiction, I offered free writing tools on my website. You could have a drawing. Take a bowl or decorative vase and have people drop their contact information inside, then announce the winner at a time convenient to the conference planners or contact the winner by email. This is also a way for authors to build an e-mail list. A lot of promotional materials end up in File 13 after the conference, so I would not invest an exorbitant amount in gimmicks and gadgets. The most useful marketing materials are pens, Post-Its, and colored tabs for marking pages. You could also make up a writer's gift basket and raffle it, if allowed.

4. Radio Podcasts

I was asked by Red River Writers to read the first chapter of Mythikas Island Book I: Diana on a podcast aired on Blog Talk Radio. I am not a natural public speaker and my nerves showed, but it was an interesting way to promote the series. I belonged to Women Writing for Change when I lived in Cincinnati. I read several flash fiction pieces on their radio show. Research writing podcasters and radio shows to see if you can be included in their roster. You could also research local literary events with open mike nights. These are usually poetry-related, but you may be allowed to include a particularly entertaining/intriguing snippet from your book. You could read a flash fiction piece or poem  instead and mention your novels.

5. Group Marketing

Join writing organizations such as Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Mystery Writers of America, or Romance Writers of America. They all have social medial presences and could offer opportunities for you to promote your work. Banding together with other authors in your genre to cross promote is one of the strongest ways to market. Look for groups on Facebook or other social media sites for your genre, fan sites as well as other writers. After all, mystery writers usually love to read other mystery writers, etc. Read the group's mission statement carefully to see if, or how, you are allowed to promote. Most have a document where you can list your titles or blog. Simply getting to know other writers and fans of your genre will increase the odds of them being interested in your work.The more beneficial you can be to others, the more good will you spread.

There are many literary festivals across the nation. If you don't mind traveling, you could purchase a booth and sell your books. Again, take a friend or two to help with the logistics of getting things set up and to defray the cost. A road trip with your crit group or writing buddies could be a blast, even if you don't sell a single book. Take cards advertising your books. Many will end up in File 13 or fluttering down a city street. You never know. A book lover might pick it up. Note, I do not encourage littering. But come to think of it, there is no reason you couldn't leave advertising materials in strategic places, like a table at the library.

When it comes to promotion in a market overcrowded with product, a little imagination goes a long way.

Diana Hurwitz
 is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Taking It to the Mainstream

Once your book is released, how can you reach readers? Getting noticed by the mainstream audience isn't easy, and can be costly. No longer can we rely on social media sites to do the job. Facebook has cracked down on posts which include links, which means if you do post about your book, many of your friends won't even see it. Belonging to a Facebook group devoted to books appears to be a good solution, but don't be surprised if you notice the other members are also authors. Yes, authors do love to read, yet what about readers who aren't authors? Where are they hiding?

Here are some suggestions to ferret some of them out. Yes, an exchange of money is involved, but almost everything seems to fit that description these days. Perhaps one of my suggestions will work for you.
  • Place an ad in a newspaper. You'll be charged by the size of the ad and what length of time you want it to run. The charge may also depend on whether or not it's running in a metropolitan paper. Local newspapers may not reach as many people, but usually cost less. If you want something to really stand out, you can pay big money for a sticker to go on the front page, or you can buy a glossy sheet which will certainly get noticed. If you're offering an e-book, you might want to consider running an ad in the electronic edition of the newspaper for an audience which already enjoys electronic reading.
  • Consider running a spoken ad at a radio station. The rate will depend on whether it's a popular station or locally owned. The length of time the ad will run, as well as how many days, will also factor in on the price. You can specify whether you wish to read the ad yourself and record it for the station, or have someone from the station do the honors.
The above advertising methods don't require stringent approval, except with regard to spelling and newspaper standards. I'm still debating about whether or not to try one. The next method is iffy, but usually if you allow enough time, and offer a professional product, you might get chosen.

  • You can pay an online advertising site, such as BookBub to get your book noticed. The genre will determine the rate per day. For example, if your book is free, contemporary romance is now going for $365.00, but a cozy mystery could cost you $460.00. If the contemporary romance is reduced to $1.00, you'll pay $730.00 to advertise there, and cozy mysteries reduced to $1.00 are going for $920.00 to advertise. And, the cost goes up, if your book is listed higher. The upside is, I did reach 47,000 downloads when I used them to advertise Killer Career.  

  • For $25.00 you can get an online ad from Ereader News Today, which doesn't reach as many readers, but is still a big help. My freebie thriller, Two Wrongs, got 3,702 downloads, when I recently used Ereader News Today to advertise. If you'd like a copy, it's still free on Amazon and other venues.
Since both the above book advertising sites are extremely popular, you'll need to get your request in as far ahead as possible, preferably a month, although two weeks might work. Other qualifications will also apply, which are at the site's discretion. Your book could be great, but if a similar book has already been scheduled for the time requested, your book might still get rejected.

Once you've snagged some readers, you'll want them to come back for more, so make sure to put out an appealing, professional, and error-free product. Otherwise, all the advertising in the world won't snag return readers.

Have you tried any of the methods I've mentioned?

Experience the diversity and versatility of Morgan Mandel. Romantic Comedies: Her Handyman, its sequel, A Perfect Angelstandalone reality show romance; Girl of My Dreams.  Thriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse,its sequel: the Blessing or Curse CollectionRomantic suspense: Killer CareerMystery:Two Wrongs. Short  and Sweet   Romance: Christmas   Carol
Christian Women's Fiction: Hailey's Chance: Will Baby Make 3? Twitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com    Morgan Does Chick Lit.Com.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Word Painting III: Measurement and Metaphor

Photo by Biking Nikon SFO, via Flickr
My husband and I were recently editing the first draft of his latest Y/A comic fantasy novel.1 Because these books are being published in Britain, one of the minor, but besetting issues has to do with conveying measurements like height, width, depth, weight, and distance.

When Britain entered the EEC in 1973, the government agreed to adopt the metric system. Since then British children have grown up using millimetres, centimetres, metres and kilometres in place of inches, feet, yards, and miles; milligrams, grams, and kilos in place of ounces, pounds, and tons. The metric system works brilliantly in modern scientific and industrial contexts, including contemporary and futuristic fiction. However, if you’re writing a fantasy novel, the use of metric terminology seems incongruous, not to say anachronistic.

When I read a sentence like The dragon stood twenty metres tall or The golden sword weighed three kilograms, the effect resembles what you’d get if you patched a rip in your favorite old blue jeans with a strip of bright pink spandex. (Ugh!) Faced with this kind of discontinuity, the British fantasy writer is left wondering, “How am I supposed to convey the size of the dragon or the weight the sword without using contemporary metric measurements?”2

Fortunately, there is a solution: use metaphorical analogies tailored to fit your particular fantasy sub-genre.3

For example, if yours is a work of epic fantasy, you could write, The dragon was the height of a beech tree. / The golden sword was the weight of a woodman’s axe. If, by contrast, you’re writing contemporary urban fantasy, you can use descriptive analogies to highlight the contrast between the mundane and the marvelous: The dragon was the height of a five-story office block. / The golden sword weighed as much as a bowling ball.

This descriptive technique, so helpful in British fantasy, has creative applications in other types of fiction. Compare, for example, the sentence The CEO of Synergy Systems, Inc. was five feet tall, and had an assertive personality with its metaphorical counterpart: The CEO of Synergy Systems, Inc. had the body of an adolescent and the personality of a Rottweiler. The first sentence provides information; the second provides information leavened with humor.

There is also such a thing as negative analogy. Negative analogy is a wonderful vehicle for conveying irony. You could write Senator Bogtwaddle’s summer house was very large and expensively furnished, but this is coma-inducingly dull. If you want to spice things up, try the negative approach: Senator Bogtwaddle’s summer house wasn’t as big as Buckingham Palace, but it had its charms. This description has a sting in its tail.

As with other types of figurative language, the more original the analogy, the better the effect.


1 This book completes his Loki trilogy, published by Floris Books under their Kelpie imprint. The two previous volumes are The Day the World Went Loki (2013) and Thor is Locked in my Garage (2014)

2 American fantasy writers don’t have this problem because America still uses Imperial measurements – so-called because these are the units of measurement once used throughout the British Empire. The commonest units of Imperial measurement are based on the average human body. For example, an inch = the length of your top thumb joint; a foot = the length of your foot; and a yard = the length from your breastbone to the middle finger of your outstretched arm. One advantage of the Imperial system is that you don’t need any technical apparatus to guesstimate how big something is or how far away it is in relationship to yourself.

3 In a previous post, I identified 6 major sub-genres:

Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Contemporary Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, and Comic Fantasy.

Debby Harris is an independent editor living in Scotland. Please visit her website for more information about her editing services and fees.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Targeting Readers with a Traveling Show

On my book tour, friends invited their friends to parties and threw me into the mix as an attraction.
Photo by Cara Lopez Lee
Before I landed a publisher, I established a platform for my memoir, They Only EatTheir Husbands (Conundrum Press, 2014). In fact, my original publisher said my platform was part of what decided him to sign me—on top of my killer manuscript of course. My book was about my life and loves in Alaska and my solo trek around the world, with a theme of moving from dysfunctional relationships to self-actualization. Successful entrepreneurs have taught me the importance of focusing on a narrow target market rather than trying to appeal to everyone. My goal for my memoir has been to target readers interested in: travel, women’s empowerment, alcoholism, and abusive relationships.

I’ve sought to achieve that goal through less conventional events and tours. In that vein, I started Girls Trek Too, which was both an adventure blog and a series of independent-travel workshops. Girls Trek Too helped establish me as a travel expert.

Before and after my book’s release, I posted travel stories on the Girls Trek Too blog about once a week, attracting a small but significant following. I also wrote guest posts for other travel blogs and offered adventurers the opportunity to do the same at my blog. Now that I have more name recognition, I’ve rebranded my blog under Cara Lopez Lee in preparation to market my historical novel.

Offline, I’ve led independent travel workshops at REI outlets around the West, given travel-photo presentations at a travel-gear store called Changes in Latitude (which specializes in such talks), and given travel-writing workshops for literary organizations. Those have provided great opportunities to sell books.

On the subjects of abusive relationships and women’s empowerment, I’ve written guest posts for bloggers who specialize in women’s issues. During my book tour, I partnered with a couple of women’s organizations to give talks and donated half my proceeds to their causes in return for them helping me promote the events. That made it easier to convince booksellers and others to take a chance on a new author, and helped me drum up attendance.

In Seattle, I gave a talk at Third Place Books and donated proceeds to New Beginnings, a domestic violence shelter. That event landed me a guest spot on New Day Northwest, a local TV talk show, where the host was interested in domestic violence issues.

I also did a national radio tour. I was lucky to have a friend at a media relations firm who was kind enough to schedule a tour of about 20 radio shows and podcasts. A few shows focused on travel or women’s issues. A paid tour like that would typically be out of my price range. However, I’ll bet a few of the show hosts and producers would have responded if I had approached them on my own.

I find it important to create events that play to my skill set. I’m at my best with intimate groups when it comes to public speaking, so on my book tour I set up stops with friends who invited their friends to parties and threw me into the mix as an attraction. Those parties were fun and successful. I sold lots of books to people who were genuinely interested in my story because the friends of my friends were likeminded people.

My physical tour was a four-week, solo, low-budget driving tour across the West, staying in hostels, and couch-surfing. That was a great tie-in for my memoir, which also featured a solo budget trek. I kept a journal of the tour and shared it on my blog. In that way, my book tour became another armchair adventure to capture readers’ imaginations.

I’ve also done traditional author promotions: posting on literary blogs, talking at book stores, teaching writing workshops, and networking on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Instagram. Whatever I’m doing, I focus largely on targeted subjects that fit the themes of my writing. Since my writing reflects my life, it’s not difficult.

My advice to writers who are nervous about marketing is to find aspects of your book that reveal your areas of expertise beyond creative writing. Then find the tribe who seeks your expertise: talk to them, write to them, and hang out with them. Marketing success is built on relationships, especially for authors. What more intimate relationship is there than that between a writer and reader? I’ve built my platform on a sincere desire to reach out to audiences I believe will benefit most from the stories I share.

Cara Lopez Lee is the author of the memoir They Only Eat Their Husbands. Her stories have appeared in such publications as The Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Connotation PressRivet Journal, and Pangyrus. She’s a book editor, a writing coach, and a faculty member at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She was a journalist in Alaska and North Carolina, and a writer for HGTV and Food Network. An avid traveler, she has explored twenty countries and most of the fifty United States. She and her husband live in Denver.

Monday, September 21, 2015

May the Force be with you!

A few years ago, the local volunteer library called: Would I be interested in signing my books at Barnes and Noble to raise funds for the library? The store would donate a percentage of all sales.

It sounded like a win-win, but I’m cautious by nature—usually. “Tell me more.”

Just a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon, and the local Star Wars re-enactors would be there to draw people to the store.

Not just publicity and sales for me and money for the library, but fun. “I’d be happy to do it,” I told them.

So I turned up at B&N at the proper time and there were Darth Vader, Princess Leia, a nice selection of troopers, and a Wookie, standing around a table holding my books. I sat myself down, Darth Vader wheezing through his mask at the back of my neck. We chatted about their organization, licensed by the Star Wars franchise to make charity appearances, provided their costumes were really authentic-looking.

The customers came. Well, “customers” is the wrong word. A series of parents came with children who wanted to be photographed with the Star Wars characters. One little girl particularly wanted Princess Leia, but alas, by that time she’d had to leave to pick up her son from soccer practice.

The one thing they didn’t come for was to buy mysteries set in England in the 1920s. I sold two or three, but it couldn’t be called a successful event for the library, B&N, or me.

Ah well, at least they did have my books in the store. I’ve turned up for B&N signings, advertised long in advance, where they didn’t have a single copy of any of my 50+ books!

Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dream Chaser: Taking Chances

I’ve always been adventurous. Skydiving, hiking, mountain climbing, exploring strange places, and much more. Often, I stray from the beaten path, venturing into unknown territory. Even though I do these things from an educated approach, there are always risks and dangers. They say it’s the ones who know better who often find themselves in the most trouble. I don’t know who ‘they’ are… but they are right.

Let’s start with a true story:

As I said, I am adventurous but I know all the rules, precautions, protocols, and I’m a firm believer in being over prepared. But, I’m not perfect. Not long ago, my girlfriend and I decided it was a good day to drive to the mountains. We loaded two dogs into our 4x4 and headed up Rampart Range Road. We didn’t pack hiking gear or supplies since we only intended to drive. We came across Rampart Reservoir. Wanting to walk the dogs, we stopped. We had water in the trunk, but since we were just taking the dogs for a short walk, we left the water behind.

The reservoir was beautiful. It was a clear day over blue waters. Wild flowers were in bloom. It was quiet and peaceful. We walked the dogs and I started taking pictures with my cell phone. We ended up on the other side of the lake. I looked around, assessed the situation, and we chose to go a little further. We saw some runners coming from the other direction. Thinking we were still in good shape, we went even further. Then my dog hurt his paws and could barely walk. We tried to encourage him along, but it was getting late. The sun was going down and I knew we were in trouble.

I’ve made many difficult decisions in my life, but this was the hardest. We had no supplies, no water, and the sun was falling faster than we were walking. My dog could not keep up. We were about to be stranded. I knew we could move faster without my dog who was too heavy for me to carry. I knew he had a better chance of surviving if we got to safety and returned for him. I removed his leash. We left him behind, listening to his heartbreaking cries echo over the reservoir, growing more distant until he went silent.

Unfortunately, the sun fell behind the mountain quickly. The trail was twisting, turning, and becoming more dangerous. Then it became so dark I couldn’t see the way forward. At one point, I had found a spot with the faintest of cell signals. For the sake of everyone involved, I opted to return to that spot and call for help.

A team of four showed up. We had walked twelve miles around the lake and were less than two miles from the car. One member of the rescue team escorted my girlfriend to safety. I went with the other three to find my dog, I called for Lycan, and was thrilled when he called back. He’s a stubborn pup. We eventually met him on the trail, he could barely walk but he was still trying to catch up to me. We carried him almost two miles on a litter before reaching a road and rescue vehicle. The entire family made it off the mountain and our bond is stronger than ever. My dog, he’s walking fine and always at my side.

How does this relate to writing?

We acquire vast amounts of knowledge and try to use that knowledge to make the best possible decisions for our manuscripts. Still, even though they know the dangers, many of the great writers take risks. They ignore the rules and that sense of reckless abandon leads to stories they never dreamed possible. I’m not saying you have to risk losing yourself or your family on a mountain. In fact, I don’t recommend it at all. You have to develop an instinct, know when to break the rules and when to adhere to them. But I encourage you to take the occasional risk. The stories we don’t plan for often turn out to be some of the best.

We all love a happy ending, but don’t forget to make the journey memorable.

FYI: El Paso County Search and Rescue is a non-profit organization. All rescuers are volunteers and don’t get paid for the incredible work they do. They risked their lives to help my family free of charge. I will become a regular donor, and would love if you could give a little as well. Every cent helps save a life.

When he's not working with the dedicated and passionate people of Pikes Peak Writers, Jason P. Henry is lost in a world of serial killers, psychopaths, and other unsavory folks. Ask him what he is thinking, but only at your own risk. More often than not he is plotting a murder, considering the next victim, or twisting seemingly innocent things into dark and demented ideas. A Suspense, Thriller and Horror writer with a dark, twisted sense of humor, Jason strives to make people squirm, cringe, and laugh. He loves to offer a smile, but is quick to leave you wondering what lies behind it. Jason P. Henry is best summed up by the great philosopher Eminem “I'm friends with the monsters beside of my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head.” Learn more about Jason at

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

7 Creative Book Marketing Suggestions

Every writer must think about marketing. Why spend all that time, effort, blood and sweat on something which no one (other than those you emotionally blackmail) will read? You need to think outside the box. So why not…

1. Don’t do the normal postcard advertising your book launch. How about a postcard in the shape of a triangle and something about ‘getting the point’?

 2. Start a blog/Pinterest account/whatever featuring recipes your main character would love. People love recipes. Pictures of food stops people scrolling down the screen.

3. But so do cute pictures of animals. Does one of your characters have a pet? Post pictures of the beast. Also a scroll-stopper.

4. Non-writers are curious about the Secret World of the Writer. Make this shadowy world a feature of your marketing. Why not make a list of music that helps you write? Is there a certain genre that you listen to when you’re writing a first draft? Editing? A romantic scene? A cliff-hanger? Don’t forget about writerly superstitions. Are you someone who has to write your first draft in longhand? Do you tell people what you’re working on? Do you share a title?

5. Many writers (myself included) struggle to find the right title. Do a Pinterest board on The Titles that Never Made It. Yes, make cover art and yes, it can be bad. Let people see the humour in the process. Reveal what working titles you used...even if it’s (like it often is with mine) The Book with No Title or The Book Which I Will Never Finish.

6. Get a book/give a book. Encourage your readers to buy your book for someone else and then for that person to do the same for someone else. This puts word-of-mouth on a whole new level.

7. Give your characters Twitter accounts and let them comment on current issues (or historical issues if that's when they live). Never discount the power of 140 characters.

One more thing...yes, marketing is crucial, but self-promotion is a tricky balancing act. If you’re worried about staying up on that wire, why not take a look at my post “Author Self Promotion: 6 Things to Remember”?

Elspeth Futcher is an author and playwright. Thirteen of her murder mystery games and two audience-interactive plays are published by Her A Fatal Fairy Tale, Deadly Ever After and Curiouser and Curiouser are among the top-selling mystery games on the Internet.  Elspeth's newest game, The Great British Bump Off is now available from her UK publisher, Red Herring Games, as is her Once Upon a Murder. Elspeth's 'writing sheep' are a continuing feature in the European writers' magazine Elias and also appear on this blog from time to time. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Futcher, Author.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Go Local with Your Book Marketing

There’s a saying: Go big, or go home.

That’s great to say if your goal is to pump someone up, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with “going small.”

Going small can actually help you in many activities, to include marketing your book.

Buy Local image by Stuart Miles with FreeDigitalPhotos

If you want to market your book, start in your own backyard.

Why go local when marketing your book?

Well, you know the area, you more than likely already know people who could be a benefit to you and your book, and you might find yourself paying little to nothing for the endeavor!

Where do you start when “going local”?

There are several places, depending on your hometown:

Contact Local Media, Big and Small

When I first moved to SW Louisiana to pursue my MFA, I didn’t tell people that I was a published author (long short story). When it was discovered, almost immediately, I was being interviewed for our local newspaper. The press would be good for not only me as the author, but also the university and the program. You can send a press release and a book to the editor of the newspaper section dedicated to arts and entertainment. You can delve into your book and find themes and topics to write short pieces for and pitch them to local newspapers. If your town has alternative papers, check them out, too. Here, we have a few alts that feature art and entertainment and desire to spotlight local talent.

Radio Stations
Yes, we are in the digital age; however, radio stations (and newspapers for that matter) still matter when it comes to finding venues to market your book. Just like local newspapers and their positive attitude toward spotlighting local talent, radio stations are a great place to pitch your book or specific themes and topics from your book for a possible on-air interview (or even just a short promo by one of the DJs).

TV Stations
Local TV stations often have a segment where they spotlight hometown citizens who are making moves in the area. Learning about your local TV stations, finding contact info and info regarding those specific segments can help you to make a pitch to each station.

Contact Schools
If you write children’s fiction or YA fiction, why not try to contact area schools about conducting a creative writing presentation? Or an after-school writing activity? Or a talk about the importance of writing in people’s lives? Or… whatever… the activity would give you the opportunity to connect with your specific audience, to connect with your community, and to hand out flyers, business cards, and other marketing materials to students, who may actually remember to give them to their parents.

Even if you don’t write children’s or YA fiction, you can consider contacting both local schools and universities. Many universities have leisure learning or continuing education programs, and they are almost always looking for new classes to offer. Perhaps you could pitch teaching a writing class, and by doing so, you’d make a little money from the teaching and possible money from having students buy your literary wares.

Contact Bookstores and Libraries, Big and Small
Yes, getting into Barnes & Noble is a great thing, but don’t look down at those local bookstores because they are small enough for you to get to know the owner, build a rapport, get your book into the store, and perhaps more easily create opportunities to speak and hold events at the store. Libraries often have reading events, where someone—whether author or library employee or volunteer—will read a book and have discussions. You’re a local talent; why not contact your libraries about having a reading event? And when you get that event, bring those marketing materials… and a couple of books… and a great pen to write your autograph.

Contact Those Places Outside of the “Norm”
Does your town have an art/music/entertainment scene? Here in Downtown Lake Charles, LA, we have a growing spot where venues host art, music, and other entertainment. Here, and throughout the city, there are coffee shops and local stores that hold readings and that sell products from local merchants. There are always places outside of the typical places one might market a book to; find them and initiate contact.

If you want to get your book into readers’ hands, it won’t hurt to go local.

Get out there, smile, make nice, and get to learn about the people and places around you so that you can market your book locally…and successfully.

Are you marketing locally? If so, what activities have been successful for you?

Creative Passionista Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment.

Friday, September 11, 2015

DIY Look-Inside for Picture Books

I Own All the Blue, illustrated by Bess Harding
My publishing project for this year is a short picture book for ages three to seven. As a parent, I’ve bought picture books and chapter books online, and I’ve discovered the frustration of attempting to gauge the content of a short book using the Look-Inside feature that Amazon offers. I say ‘discovered’ because Amazon’s flaw (i.e., the 10% rule means you get to view maybe one or two pages at the most) has given me an idea for promoting my own book.

I decided to offer my own Look-Inside-the-entire-book to the subscribers of my mailing list. I know parents want to vet books before their children read them (I certainly do). Sometimes a book might seem great, only for the last page to go against the message a parent might want their child to learn. I want people who buy the book to do so knowing exactly what they’re going to get.

But this is much more than a mere Look-Inside. It also:
  • Works as pre-launch content
  • Offers an incentive to sign up for my mailing list (thereby, hopefully, building a well-targeted mailing list)
  • Allows me to follow up with people who might have seen the content (or remind those who haven’t checked it out yet)
  • Allows parents/grandparents, etc., to view and vet the entire book
  • Potentially avoids some negative reviews
  • Promotes the sale of physical copies rather than electronic (but may hinder ebook sales)
  • Can be run as an autoresponder following this launch campaign, for new sign-ups
  • Rinse and repeat with the next book
The beauty of using a picture book for this process is that it is quick--both for me to send off, and for the people I’m emailing to look at (which means it’s more likely to be opened and read).

Mileage is likely to vary for longer books, but, with this method over permafree/KDP Select/Look-Inside at Amazon , you still have the benefit of collecting email addresses of interested readers (or parents of keen readers). And that’s gold these days.

Elsa Neal
Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at or

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fun With Marketing

This month we are exploring unusual marketing venues and strategies. With the Internet and social media, the opportunities for promoting are increasing, and it is possible to do a lot of that side of the business without leaving the comfort of your home office and your PJs. But if you do venture out, please change your clothes, unless you look as good as this lady when you drag out of bed to your computer.

Whether you are going to do your marketing strictly online, or go out to real places where you will see real people, you might want to consider this list of things in the DO NOT TRY THESES category. As you read, keep in mind that it is my job here at The Blood-Red Pencil to keep us amused, which I try valiantly to do.
  • Do not put a banner about your book on the side of the garbage truck. Moving advertisements can be effective, but...
  • Do not schedule a book signing at a nursing home. I did this once and the results were less than successful. Unless you count a sing-along. Details HERE
  • Do not show up at another author's signing event and sit on the corner of the table to sell your books.
  • Do not post a "buy my book or else" message on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Do not stand on street corners. Even with a box of books in hand you could get arrested for solicitation. 
Now here are a few things to do.
  •  Find out what "branding" really means. It doesn't involve a piece of metal and a fire.
  • Prepare a press kit for that one opportunity to be in the newspapers. It really is tacky to send a reporter a link to your Facebook page where he or she will have to sift through pictures of your cat, your dog, your pesky next-door neighbor, and your grandson's successful first job in the potty, to find the cover of your book.
  • When you start using SKYPE for face-to-face chats at book clubs, for heaven's sake, change out of those PJs first. And make-up might be a good idea. Oh, and comb your hair. 
  • Proofread your online queries for a book review and make sure you have the correct name of the blogger. I'm still trying to decide if I want to respond to the request that was sent to "Linda." 
Okay, now to be serious for just a few minutes, I do want to offer a suggestion for a marketing possibility you might want to consider. Podcasts are gaining in popularity, and some time ago I joined J. David Core in his new venture, the Thrills and Mystery Podcasts. This is a weekly fiction show featuring crime stories, noir, thrillers, mysteries, adventure and other tales written by a number of indie-writers and publishers. This LINK is to the first season on iTunes, and all of the stories are free. (Just in case you are dying to read mine, it is number four, Escaping Raul.)

Podcasts are fun to listen to, and there are quite a few mystery writers who have submitted stories for the Thrills and Mystery series. Some of the authors read their own stories, while others, like me, let J. David read them. He does a great job, adding information about the author and the books to the front end, and then giving a dramatic reading.

Teaming up for marketing and promoting is something that many authors are doing quite successfully, as Merry Farmer wrote about in her September 4th post here at The Blood Red Pencil, Author Cross-Promotions. There are multi-author blogs, authors contributing to boxed sets of books, and authors contributing to anthologies. We even did an anthology of stories from the staff of The Blood Red Pencil - The Corner Cafe, and I have contributed stories to other anthologies, including Stacy Juba's 25 Years in The Rearview Mirror, which she offered free to herald her mystery Twenty-Five Years Ago Today.

Some of the anthologies and prequels are offered free in the hopes that readers will like the gift and purchase other books by the authors. That works well for the most part, and is certainly worth trying. Sales of Open Season and Stalking Season, which are promoted in the Thrills and Mystery podcasts, have been steady. It is hard to measure if sales are coming from that exposure, but I believe it has had some impact. If I was really into numbers and analyzing said numbers, I'm sure I could trace hits and links and all that stuff, but I'd rather spend my time writing.

And now for one last chuckle:

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?"
She answered, "If I tell you, it will defeat the purpose."
Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Marketing: Writing the Pitch

Marketing a book starts long before the book itself is more than a gleam in the author’s eye. For me as a writer, the toughest part of the marketing package is one that comes early on: the pitch. This is the teaser that will hook an agent or an editor to read the manuscript. Or, if you're publishing your work yourself, the pitch is what goes on the back of the cover, or in the description on the e-book websites to hook readers.

A pitch isn't a summary, but it does need to give a sense of the writing and the story. It also needs to explain why the book matters. And it should be short: certainly less than a page.

What works for me in writing a good pitch is to step back–way back–and focus on the essentials: why the book matters and what makes it unique. The pitch below is the draft I wrote on a recent weekend for my memoir, Bless the Birds.

Let me know what you think!

Bless the Birds is part of a national conversation that is happening quietly and privately, but needs more attention--how we die. We spend a great deal of energy and billions of dollars denying that death will happen to us--but we're all going there. We even shy away from the word itself, preferring euphemisms: We "pass away," "meet our end," "lose our life," or even "cross the great divide." Yet death and dying is the next big issue for nearly 40 percent of our nation's population, the 76 million Americans who are Baby Boomers. Will they be the generation that reshapes how we die as they have reshaped how we work, love, and live? I fervently hope so, because we all need practice learning to accept and integrate what the poet Rainer Maria Rilke called "life’s other half."

In late summer of 2009, my husband Richard, an economics professor just finding success in a second career as an abstract sculptor, woke one morning and saw thousands of birds. Birds lining every barbwire fence, birds perched wing-to-wing on power lines; tiny birds on each blade of grass, huge birds on the rim of distant mesas. Birds that existed only in his brilliant mind. Those bird hallucinations lasted just 24 hours and were the only significant sign of something growing in his brain. That "something," we eventually learned, was a glioblastoma, the most deadly form of brain cancer.

Bless the Birds follows our journey with Richard's brain cancer, a journey we were determined to live well, mindful of our every-days and with a great deal of love. We weren’t perfect--if we humans were perfect, we couldn’t stumble and fail and thus learn and grow. Which Richard and I did a lot of. Among other things, I learned that the war he thought he had forgotten--Viet Nam--still shaped this reluctant veteran. While he, used to being a strong and physical man, learned to respect my strength and stubbornness, as his caregiver. We learned together how to live honestly and with a great deal of joy even when it became clear that Richard's life would end much too soon.

What carried us through four brain surgeries, a course of radiation, two courses of chemo and innumerable MRIs and other tests and procedures, through the shock and anger and grief, the insights and grace, the pain and laughter, and ultimately, through our parting, was love. Love for each other and our family, for the village of friends who sheltered us, and for the earth and its whole extended community of lives, the miracle that quickens our existence on this blue planet. At heart,
Bless the Birds is a love story, an intimate and unflinching tale of the choice to love life--every moment, no matter how painful--through its end.

Susan J. Tweit is a plant biologist and award-winning author of 12 books, including her most recent, Walking Nature Home, A Life's Journey. Visit her website at:

Monday, September 7, 2015

Marketing & Selling in Unusual Venues

For us “creatives”, putting on a marketing hat may be the most difficult part of the book process.

Many people mistakenly think that selling and marketing are the same. They aren't. Selling is the “instant gratification” we all like—you hand someone a book and they hand you money.

Marketing is a little like planting seeds in your garden. You put them out there and water and fertilize and you hope they will bear fruit (or vegetables.) With marketing you are putting your name or your books out there and maybe some people will buy it right away and maybe two years from now, someone will come across your name and decide to buy. You may not be able to tell how many sales you make from a website or a virtual book tour until you receive a royalty check from your publisher.

Global management consultant Alan Weiss says, "There is no music if you don‘t blow your own horn."

Like it or not, these days authors HAVE to get involved in the business side of publishing. And I’ve discovered ironically, bookstores are not necessarily the best place to sell your books!

Probably the most unusual outlet for my books have been local feed and ranch supply stores. My books are about rodeo, ranching, cowgirls (and boys), so I’ve done well with signing and sales in this venue. Another time, I got permission to set up a table at a local dinner theatre production called “Cowgirls.”

One author acquaintance says she keeps a trunk full of books and when she’s traveling, she’ll pull into a parking lot of a big box store, open the trunk and sell books. (I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend that, but it takes guts to put yourself out there!) Another author stood on a busy street corner near a popular park to sell his books.

Others will dress in period costumes and do presentations at events, at Rotary Club or Soroptimists meetings. Does your book have recipes or center around food somehow? Do a signing/presentation at a kitchen store. Is there a theme around a medical condition? Do a signing/presentation at a support group meeting.

It’s all a matter of finding a niche and trying different things. Put on your “ideas” hat and do some brainstorming about your book.

What have you tried that is unusual and worked for you?

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreamsis based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series is Dare to Dream, and a non-fiction book Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women, is also available. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Author Cross-Promotions

This month on the Blood-Red Pencil we’re taking a look at unusual forms of marketing that you might be able to implement to give your sales a boost. Who doesn’t want to see their sales go up, right? Well, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all my years of publishing, it’s that the old adage “Writing is a solitary profession” isn’t as true as it sounds at first. In fact, the biggest boost to my career that I’ve had yet has come from working with friends.

Me and some of my author friends. I swear, they told me not to smile for this picture
Working with and cross-promoting for your fellow authors can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. First and foremost, it’s important to have a network of writers who write in your same genre. Whether you write Romance, Mystery, Science Fiction, or Literary Fiction, you need to have a like-minded group that you can go to for help and support, for beta-reading and feedback, and for help with promo.

The easiest way that authors can cross-promote each other is simply to talk about each other in public. This can take the form of sharing Facebook posts and tweets when new releases come out. But even more effective is giving someone a shout-out or highlight in your author newsletter. And if you don’t have a newsletter, you need to get one! But that’s a whole other blog post. These are all simple, direct, easy-to-manage ways of bringing your writer friends to the attention of readers who might enjoy their work. But make sure the relationship is reciprocal and they’re doing the same for you.

Our box set for Wild Western Women...which has done very well!
Another big, popular, and highly effective trend in author cross-promotion these days is the box set. So now that you have a network of writer friends who write the same thing as you, why not put together an anthology of your work and sell it for a low, low price? The thing I love so much about box sets is that they enable writers to share readers. I’m a part of two box sets (with two more in the works) that involve four other historical western friends of mine. We’ve each contributed a mix of previously published material and sometimes new work to our box sets. And without going into numbers, we’ve done very, very well. More importantly, we’ve shared fans as well as sharing the profit.

But the newest trend in author cross-promotion, one I’m both involved in and seeing more and more of, is series with connected characters, settings, and themes, in which each author writes one of the books. I was just part of a trilogy written this way over the summer. The premise was that three Texas billionaire oil baron brothers landed in some trouble, and three heroines ended up helping them out in each book…and making more trouble. We had a simple, overall plot, a few points that needed to be hit in each of our books, but each of us had a lot of freedom within that framework to write whatever story we wanted. The books were very, very successful…but also a lot of fun to write.

Multi-author series are all the rage, and we each included links to our other books in our contribution

I know of a lot of other multi-author series projects in the works out there…some so secret and groundbreaking that they could be industry game-changers. The point is that by banding together with other authors, whether in simple, one-off collaborations or in extensive multi-author projects, you are tapping into a wider readership and making yourself discoverable. Nothing beats being discovered by a reader who loves your genre and has been dying to find someone like you.

Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Step Out of Your Story by Kim Schneiderman

An excerpt from Step Out of Your Story by Kim Schneiderman:

Every life is an unfolding story, a dynamic, unique, purposeful, and potentially heroic story with bright spots, turning points, and abounding opportunities for personal growth and transformation. From the day we’re born, we become the star and spin doctor of our own work in progress, with the power to tell our stories as triumphs, tragedies, or something in between. Our story has supporting characters who provide love and assistance and antagonists who cause us to realize the substance we’re made of and what’s really important. Like stories, our lives are filled with suspense. Our personal decisions, both big and small, affect our storyline — the relation- ships we choose, how we spend our day, and how we nourish ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Yet few of us take time to explore the character we’re playing. We don’t stop to discover what our story is about, who’s writing our script, and how the challenges we face can help us develop the insights and skills we need to move to the next chapter.

Stuck in the same old story, many of us remain so entrenched in tales of victimization and martyrdom that we can scarcely imagine an alternate, positive, or redemptive reading of the text of our lives. Perhaps because we have been taught to view life through one particular lens, we simply don’t see other, more inspiring versions of our tale that could liberate us.

Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly sifting through various competing narratives to make sense of our world for ourselves and others — whether it’s describing our day to a loved one, explaining why we didn’t get promoted, sharing our political perspective, or justifying why we spend a fortune on organic produce. We may struggle with many contradictory stories to explain our biggest decisions: why we got divorced, or never had children, or changed careers, or never pursued our dreams. Our perspective can change from day to day, and even moment to moment, depending on our mood and where exactly we are situated in the timeline of a problematic chapter. For example, the bitter tale we tell a month after ending a failed romance is probably not the sentimental story we will tell twenty years later after we are happily married to someone else. And neither of these stories will be the same as our former romantic partner’s, even though it’s the story of the same relationship.

You can see this for yourself. Think of something funny, touching, interesting, or meaningful that has happened to you in the past few months. Now imagine telling this story to your spouse or your best friend. When you’re done, imagine describing the same story to a parent or a boss. What about to a stranger in a café? What about five years from now, or twenty years? How might it be different?

While some details might remain the same, you might, depending on your audience, emphasize certain aspects of the story over others, or omit certain details that seem irrelevant, inappropriate, or too complicated to explain. As you tell it over and over, you might remember certain parts you had forgotten initially, or new insights might lead you to spin the story in a totally different direction. Over time, your values might change, and so you would revise your story accordingly, or hindsight might connect once-disparate episodes of your life.

Following a loss or a tragedy, many people engage in a prolonged period of story-wrestling in an attempt to make meaning of events that are hard to digest or that seem to defy explanation. Whether you consider yourself a heroic figure overcoming obstacles or a tragic victim of destiny often depends on how you choose to read the text of your life and the way that you tell your story.

Kim Schneiderman, LCSW, MSW, is the author of Step Out of Your Story. She counsels in private practice and teaches as a professor and guest lecturer at venues including New York University. She also writes a biweekly advice column for Metro Newspapers and blogs for Psychology Today. Visit her online at

Excerpted from the book Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life ©2015 by Kim Schneiderman. Published with permission of New World Library

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Launch Day for Kindle Scout winner, Indiscretion.

Today is launch day for my Kindle Scout winner, Indiscretion. This isn’t my first book, but after my debut novel, written under a pen name, this is probably the biggest deal for me. To win a Kindle Press contract, which includes a $1500 advance, I first had to be accepted into the program. Then, for the next thirty days, my book needed to remain “Hot and Trending,” as much as possible. I tweeted, posted on Facebook, and gave shout-outs to people on my writers' groups to nominate the book if they liked the multi-chapter sample.

Those thirty days were very stressful, especially when my book went off the H &T list. I gave another push on social media and hoped my fate improved. Here are the thirty-day stats: 370 hours of Hot and Trending out of 720 hours. That’s a little better than 50%. 2,195 page views. That does not mean 2,195 nominations, just readers who looked at the sample. 51% came from the Kindle Scout site and 49% came from external links, mainly Facebook. Some came from my website, and others from this site, The Blood Red Pencil. Surprisingly, very few came from Twitter. I always wondered how many of my tweets were actually read, or do they just turn into retweets. There’s always been a bit of a “preaching-to-the-choir” element on Twitter, at least for writers. I know the couple of Facebook groups I belong to were very supportive, and most members nominated the book. Nominations cost nothing, and if the book was selected, the nominators would get a free copy two weeks before the book's release date. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good because the nominations resulted in success for winning the contract. Bad because so many people got it for free that when it goes on sale today, many of my readers already have it. That means promoting it to readers who don’t know my work. Part of that goes to Amazon, as that's part of the lure of the program. You can't been the Zon for its marketing strength.

I don’t know what criteria the Kindle Press people use to make the final determination. I do know that people with more Hot and Trending hours than I had weren’t selected, and others with even less were chosen. I imagine part of their decision is based on a writer’s sales history and part on what the Kindle Press editors feel has potential to be a good seller.

After being selected, I got the edits. Mine were fantastic. The editor found a big plot hole that all my previous readers and critiquers didn’t catch. Obviously, neither did I. It required a rewrite of nine pages and became a better book. There were other edits, some a matter of style, others punctuation, some just nitpickers. I accepted those I agreed with and ignored the rest, which was my prerogative.

I always create characters with a complicated past or present. Characterization is important to me. Besides the crime fiction part, Indiscretion goes deeper and more seriously into a deteriorating marriage, so it becomes women’s fiction in parts. That’s a little different for me, and it was also challenging to depict that part of the story and still interweave it into the mystery.

So, as I mentioned, today, September 1st, is release day. As I give this piece my final perusal on August 31, I have already accumulated eight reviews from people who nominated the book — all excellent, so I’m happy about that. A couple of the reviewers claimed it’s my best book. I’m not a good judge of my work. It stands to reason I like the books I write, or I wouldn’t publish them.

The following is the blurb:

Separated from her controlling husband, romance author Zoe Swan meets a charismatic art history professor on the beach and begins a torrid affair. But who is he really? By the time Zoe finds out, she’s on the run with her husband, his jewel thief brother, and a priceless painting stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. With the FBI and the murderer in pursuit, the trio heads to Boston. The only way to prove their innocence is to make a deal with the very people who want them dead.

If this sounds interesting to you, you can download it on Amazon. Happy reading.

Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.