Marketing Step #1 – listen to self and DO IT!

To be honest, marketing terrifies me. I feel totally inadequate and uneducated. Most of the book marketing I see and read is focused on nonfiction. I write science fiction and fantasy. I’ve been told it is much easier to market nonfiction than any type of fiction. As I look over the past four years I realize I have allowed my fear of bucking that statement to keep me from doing just that. I have set up a website, http://www.timberdark.com (which needs a lot of work), a Facebook page, https:// facebook.com/timberdarkpublications (which I do pay attention to almost on a daily basis – my one good marketing exercise), and I also have this blog, https://timberdarkwriter.wordpress.com (I am not nearly as consistent in posting here but part of the plan is to improve on that). So I am not totally without a couple of marketing opportunities. They can all be better, more visitor friendly, and less confusing for me to update.

The odd thing is, two years ago I was asked to present a seminar on how to get started using social media to market the square dance activity.  I did quite a bit of research and pretty  much overwhelmed a group of dancers representing square dance clubs from across the state of Colorado, most of whom were over the age of 65. I presented info on five of the top social media platforms and instructions on how to set up accounts and suggestions on what to post on each. However, I encouraged attendees to just pick one or two to start with. I did not let them know how afraid I was (and still am) of the whole marketing process. I am not currently a whiz at any of this. My learning curve is pretty high and long – BUT I CAN LEARN (at least I keep telling myself).

As stated above I do have three platforms to work on. So, what’s my problem? FEAR. Fear of not being the best or at least better. Fear of knowing how amateurish my website is and knowing how technically challenged I am. Fear of how lame some visitors may view my postings on my blog or my Facebook page. Fear of success. Yes, fear of succeeding is a big one. But, I have to improve on what I have right now before that happens so I have time to accustom myself to success when it comes. Because I must face my fears I returned to my seminar notes and adjusted them to focus on my books and the three platforms that I have at least set up and can improve on. While taking positive steps forward toward improvement I need to keep the following points in mind (a portion of my marketing seminar follows as adjusted to marketing my science fiction books):

Author presentation at Lake County HS 2017-Nov-10 #1You want to find people to buy your product – your book. Every reader is an advertiser whether they want to be or not. What message are you sharing? If no one is talking about you and your books then no one is talking about you and your books.  So, start talking – don’t keep this a secret. There are thousands of people who are looking for a good book to read. Let them know where, when, how, who, and most importantly, WHY they should choose your books. Common responses heard when asked why a reader reads a fiction book are “I enjoy escaping to different worlds.” “It got me thinking.” “I couldn’t put it down.” “I stayed up all night to find out how it ended.” “I can’t wait for the next one.” “I didn’t want it to end.” Have you written a book that receives these types of comments?

You don’t have to become an expert on the internet. All you really need is the desire to learn how social media works, a marketing plan that works for you and a way to measure your results. You can learn how to take advantage of online tools that are mostly free. Social media helps you find people who are looking for relationships. Use social media to develop relationships with people to get to know, like, trust you and only then will they buy what you are selling – books, editing, articles, techniques to write better, etc.

Social media allows us to let people know what’s happening with my writing and how to become a partner in that “happening.”  Current marketing trends are changing to a more social approach where the prospect decides when and where he gets the information. We no longer search for the news — the news finds us. We will no longer search for products and services they will find us via social media. Social media is not a fad; it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. But if I present something interesting that draws your interest, that draws you in, you are more likely to participate in the conversation and then in the activity.

Author presentation at Lake County HS 2017-Nov-10 #2You can’t pay them to like you or your books but you can encourage them to enjoy your company and the stories you offer as entertainment. And if they decide they don’t like it – okay – go find more people to invite. Be useful – would people thank you for your post? Put yourself in the shoes of potential readers. What do they want to hear, see, or participate in? Don’t talk to people – talk with them about your process, your ideas, your struggles, what books you enjoy or have recently read – Social Media is about sharing not selling.

Don’t want to throw your books at them–Draw them into your world. Post something small on a consistent basis – it builds authenticity. Be honest. Be warm. Be authentic. Be real. Be yourself. Have an opinion! It’s okay to make people angry but be responsible and respectful. There is nothing wrong with being disagreeable or to disagree with an opinion as long as you’re not rude about it. Treat them as if they are in front of you – as if they are in the same room. Never say anything on social media you wouldn’t want known as common knowledge. Never post when you are upset.

Be Positive in how you word your posts. Example: “Do Not Close” why not word it “Keep Open”. Which is more positive? This is especially important for non-English speakers – often the middle words get dropped as unimportant. Keep it simple.

What do you hope to gain from using social media? Conversation, sentiment analysis (are people over all happy with your product?), reputation management (what are people saying about you, your books, etc.). What are you marketing? For me it is entertainment first and then maybe some thoughts on identity and how it changes. These are things you can talk about within your posts, to open up conversations. What is the theme of your book/series? How do you learn new skills or techniques – have you read some one else’s post that has helped you write better? SHARE those postings with your followers, SHARE YOU. Don’t sell your book – Sell you.

So, if I listen to myself what are the next steps I need to take? I need to be consistent with postings and not just to Facebook. Make appointments to write blog posts and DO IT. I need to get out more by attending book signings for authors (who may or may not write in my genres), to find writing/reading communities in my genres and attend gatherings. I need to listen more, share more, read more. I need to visit other author websites, Facebook pages, Goodreads pages, etc. to hear what they are talking about. I need to join the conversations. I need to ask for help when I get stuck and then act on it. DO IT!

 

 

 

 

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Marketing is HARD – but I can learn how!

I now have two beautiful bookmarks, one for each book, and a hanging banner, two and a half feet by six feet. These were made because I shared a table with another fantasy writer at the 2017 Starfest Science Fiction/Fantasy Fan Convention in April. I received all three items in time to do a trial run of the banner and bookmarks at a much smaller convention (dance oriented not scifi or fantasy) two weeks prior to the Starfest Convention to good success. At this much smaller convention I had expected to sell a couple of books, mostly to individuals who I knew had purchased the first book of the series and were expecting me to have the second with me. I ended up selling a dozen2017 Starfest Convention Author table

books and connected with three other dancer leaders who were also writers. I decided that was a fluke and just good timing and placement. The fact I had both books available probably accounted for many of the sales. When I returned home from the dance convention and faced the knowledge that I was jumping off the next cliff by being at an author table at one of the first fan-based conventions I felt more than a bit overwhelmed. I chose to approach this first genre specific convention with the intention of just being there, enjoying the happenings, make connections with readers and other authors as well as get the word out and begin creating a buzz – not just to sell a bunch of books. Whether I sold one book or all 75 that I had on hand I planned to be happy. Marketing is hard and it takes a lot of time to do on your own.

That being said I sold six books. I count that as success! I am slowly learning and adding to my knowledge. I am not trying to do everything at the same time – first thing was to write a good story. Then I brought in a talented network of specialists who make my books and marketing efforts better (editors, proofreaders, book cover and interior designers, eBook transformers, etc). I made inroads to building a presence on Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon.com, LinkedIn, and am very slowly updating my website and trying to keep active on my blog.

The exciting thing about the banner and the bookmarks is that people SEE them, not necessarily me at the table with a pile of books. They don’t HAVE to come over and ask what I am writing the banner, in particular, announces to everyone who walked by our table what was available – often we’d see people pause in their hurry to get to the main auditorium to look at our banners. Just noticing that they slowed long enough to get a visual was a mark of success. We both received positive attention and many of those who paused returned for closer examination of what we offered. They talked with us about our books, our ideas, what was next, and a lot of other fun stuff.

And between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year, 2017, I joined nine other authors at the Georgetown Christmas Market in Georgetown, Colorado, about 45 minutes west of Denver. One of the fun things about that event was the two people who recognized the banner and books from the Starfest Convention in April 2017! I had not yet decided whether I would do Starfest this year (2018) and when both asked if I was planning to be at the upcoming convention again I immediately said yes without much thinking – thus booking a weekend in April 2018. At least one of those people actually came looking for me at the event – bringing a friend to buy both books at her recommendation. I sold over a dozen books during the two day event. Then the woman asked if I was going to have the third book ready in time for the Georgetown Christmas Market in December 2018, because she was planning to come up. I’m guessing that an audience for my stories are building – however slowly, it is cool to be recognized as an author. So, the banner, the book marks, business cards, etc. all have helped get my books in front of people/readers. These are tools I will continue to build on to increase the marketing of my stories.

More excursions into different ways of marketing fiction are being planned – I’m getting some help because I cannot do it all and with help in areas of technology that I know I am lacking, I am beginning to get the word out on these two award winning booksIMG_1727 2017 EVVY Award 2nd Place even as I have been working on the next book because readers are demanding the third book. Marketing also involves letting readers know that the third book is well under way and the good news is that the rough draft was completed this week! Now for the editing.

While I am busy writing, editing, expanding my knowledge of marketing fiction, and catching up on my stack of books to read (yes, authors do read other authors’ books. It helps us become better writers), I am hoping readers help spread the word. I encourage you to ask me questions, send me comments, and please post a review if you enjoyed reading The Blood and/or The Balance.

  • P.S. By winning a Second Place in the 2017 CIPA EVVY Awards in the science fiction category, The Balance joins book one, The Blood, as an award winning book. Of course, my editor points out that this means the third book should, obviously, be good enough to garner a first place award. No pressure there!

Thoughts Brought on by Hugh Howey’s Blog

I just read “Writing Insights Part One: Becoming a Writer” on Hugh Howey’s blog,  Hugh Howey, the Wayfinder. The first of a four part series. It has started me thinking, given me support, and inspired different thinking when it comes to marketing. I find much of Howey’s ten things he wished he’d known before he started writing hits directly on me. I understand what he is saying. I have either been there, am there right now, or will be there. It is a relief to know that I am not the only one whose first real attempt at writing something I thought might be publishable was when I was a teenager and that it was more than twenty years later before that particular attempt became a finished product. It is a relief to know that it is okay to want to write and read – to need to write and read. It is a relief to know there are readers out there looking for my books, my stories – I just have to write them first. Then once they are written I can spend the time marketing them to those readers. But I have to write them first.

Howey suggests getting five to six books published before really diving into marketing. I am not quite halfway there. So in the mean time how do I get the word out? How do I build that 1,000 followers who will demand my books, share my books, talk about my books? Do I have to figure out how at the same I should be writing? Can I do multiple things at the same time? Should I spend money on getting someone to help me in this area just as I have hired an editor, book designer,  proofreader, and e-book transformer? I know I am struggling in this marketing portion. I know I can’t do it all. How can I get those readers who seem to like what I’ve written so far to help me?

And I have a several readers who are passionate about what I am writing. Some of them are helping me get the word out by telling their libraries to get copies of my books; by telling their friends to get my books; and they are buying books to give to others because they want to share their excitement and enjoyment for what I am writing. They are demanding the next book. I am learning from them – becoming a better writer. I am filled with energy and ideas that I receive from conversations with them about my books. I still have a long way to go. I know I have to get the third book of the scifi series out. That it has to be better than book number two, which was better than book number one. Each one will be better than the last – at least that is my goal. (see my blog about Another Award Winner!)

I am listening to those readers who talk to me. Their voices are filled with excitement. Their body language is animated. They ask lots of questions. Some I won’t answer. Some I can’t – not yet. They give me ideas, they explain their thoughts on why I wrote something, or what they hope I will include or what they hope will happen. They tell me how much they like my writing style, my author’s voice. Sometimes I wish they would write it all down and post to their Goodreads pages, to Amazon, to my Facebook pages, to LinkedIn, and to my blog page. I wish they would go to my website and write down these comments, questions, etc. I so enjoy seeing them, hearing them and I want to share their enthusiasm. Right now these interactions happen between tips at a dance event, during an interlude at a meeting, late a night after an event while Bob & I are trying to clean up a hall or just before an event is to happen and we are setting up.  I am trying to figure out how to let others hear and see their reactions to what I am writing. And I realize that while I am trying to research and learn how to share that, I am not writing the next chapter of the next book. The few I have so far, already really want the third and fourth books, as soon as possible. So, I am in a quandary. Write? Market? Both?

 

I Did Not See That Coming

So, you never know who will read your book and be so excited that they tell every one they know how good it is. I truly was not expecting what happened a couple of months ago.

I was the substitute representative of my Chapter at a P.E.O. meet and greet tonight and part of the introductions included what we “did.” I explained that I owned a small independent publishing company and that my second book had just been published. One of the women present asked what genre of book. I replied that it was a science fiction/fantasy  cross over. She responded with “I love science fiction and fantasy!”

I pulled out a business card which had a photo of the cover of the first book with a list of the awards it has received and a direct url on Amazon. After she studied the cover photo for a minute she announced “My daughter has this book! She has read it and told me that I should look into getting it quick because it was going to be a great series!”

I did not see that coming. I was skeptical that it was the same book but she insisted, saying her daughter described the cover very well and that it was just too different not to recognize. She then asked if I had either one with me. Now how did she know I had several copies of both books in a box out in the car? She pulled out her check book, asked me how much for both books and could I sign them both to her daughter. Well, I was not going to say no to that. I brought in the box and several other women passed them around – sharing the excitement and small worldliness of the exchange. Another of the attendees said she remembered seeing an article in the May issue of the P.E.O. Record about the book.

Yes, it is a small world and therefore you as an author need to make sure your book is the best it can be because, believe me, people will talk about what they read. Plus you should always have business cards with your book cover images on hand to hand out to interested people. Make these clear and concise without too many words and include a link or QR code to where they can purchase it/them. This is ESPECIALLY important if you don’t have actual copies of the book with you.

She was so excited about giving her daughter two signed books and she is planning to swipe her daughter’s current copy for herself and bring it back to Denver so I can sign that one to her. I asked her where her daughter lived. The answer? Washington state. Kind of bizarre if you ask me.

This interaction has made me aware of several things:

  1. If you write a good story people will read it and encourage others to do the same.
  2. Make your cover memorable – it helps with recognition.
  3. Design a good business card and always have several on hand.
  4. Be proud of what you write. Own being an author. Don’t keep it a secret.
  5. Always have a couple of copies on hand.
  6. Keep writing – because if they liked this one they will want more.

 

 

Radio Interview!

Last fall I participated in an author interview on KYGT in Idaho Springs, Colorado. I was nervous but show host Jerry Fabyanic had given me a short list of topics he planned to cover, so I was not going in to this new experience totally unprepared. Even so I hope you will pardon all the umms and uhs on my part because it was broadcast live – no cuts or retakes on that first airing. The link, below, has had the local announcements of sponsors and upcoming programs removed but otherwise it is what it was. Jerry has been a radio host on KYGT, known as The Goat, since 2004. He interviews local and regional authors on his radio show “The Rabbit Hole.” I was introduced to him  early in 2016 at a Colorado Independent Publishers Association meeting as he was preparing to publish his first book, Sisyphus Wins, which garnered a 3rd Place award in the 2016 CIPA EVVY Awards. His editor, Melanie Mulhall of Dragonheart Writing and Editing, is also my editor so we have a bit more in common than being award winning authors.
mtn-goat-8-july-2006Anyway, for your listening curiosity, here is a link to that show: Radio Interview. Jerry made me feel very comfortable and we wandered around a variety of topics involved with writing, especially on writing science fiction and fantasy. He was intrigued that the characters in my books talk to me in dreams and often won’t leave me alone until I tell their story the way it “actually” happened.

You can read more about Jerry and his works at www.JerryFabyanic.com and you can listen to all his interviews and shows on “The Rabbit Hole” at www.kygt.org, The Goat.

If you are an author living in the Colorado area, you should consider contacting Jerry to see if he can get you on his schedule. It was a fun and different experience. My husband, Bob and I got to Idaho Springs early and walked the main streets until show time. We were delighted to be scheduled that particular weekend because the town was celebrating “Dynamite Days” and the streets were lined with all sorts of artisans and performers. All that helped me relax. Once at the radio studio Jerry and I exchanged books and then launch into the interview, which lasted about one hour. It sure went by fast! Afterward Bob and I celebrated this event with a late lunch at a restaurant, Mountain Prime (MTN Prime), across the street from the famous Beau Jo’s Pizza. Since I shouldn’t ingest gluten or dairy products (darn, I love pizza but really cannot handle the usual crusts & ,toppings – they cause the joints in my hand to swell and hurt, a lot) the menu at Mountain Prime suited my alterations better. And, honestly, I had one of the best hamburgers (without the bun) and sweet potato fries I think I have ever had. We will be going up there again!

Have you been on the radio? What did you do to relax? What about celebrating?

The Balance is here!

Now the marketing work begins – or rather continues to ramp up. How am I marketing this entertaining second installment of The Stone’s Blade series? Here is a list of the things I have started:

First I had my book designer, Nathan, upload the print version of the book to Create Space and made it available on Amazon after approving the file. Then, with support from my eBook transformer, Helena, I learned how to upload the The_Balance_Cover_for_Kindle.mobi file to Amazon’s KDP program. That one took about four tries before I got it right but it did work after a good night’s sleep and a fresh outlook on the process.

Then I moved to Goodreads and created a Giveaway for five autographed copies to readers in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. I am running the Giveaway for a full month and three days in 138 people have entered. So take a moment and enter the Giveaway (see below for the link).

I have announced that The Balance is live and ready for reading on both my personal and business Facebook pages.

If you want to purchase a copy directly from me you only have to attend one of our dances. One benefit to doing that is you will receive a twenty percent discount. Granted none of the books I sell personally gets recognized on Amazon but that’s okay. I do receive a larger royalty by selling on my own too. And that helps my bank account. I am hoping that one day I will break even on this venture. At the moment that means selling between one and two thousand copies. And you can help by purchasing a copy or two (insert smiling face here!) for yourself, family and/or friends. To buy from Amazon click here.

If you enjoy reading this second installment please take a moment to post a brief review on Amazon and Goodreads. This way you are helping me spread the word.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Balance by Allynn Riggs

The Balance

by Allynn Riggs

Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details

 

I thank you in advance for joining me on the continuing adventure of The Stone’s Blade series. Let me know what you think and share your thoughts. Help me celebrate!

 

Marketing Experiment for December 2015

December 2015 has been an interesting experiment in marketing book one of The Stone’s Blade series, The Blood. In preparation for the upcoming release of the second installment of the series, The Balance, I launch a multi-pronged social media announcement scheduled across three different sites.cropped-the-blood-at-tattered-cover-hr-rmas-shelf-6-24-14.jpg

I began the month with by paying for several advertisements on a website for readers called BookDaily. Their daily e-mails to general audiences and targeted e-mails for readers of specific genres included a brief blurb, copy of the cover and link to Amazon for purchase along with the first chapter as a sample.

Then I set up a five day FREE Kindle download from Amazon which ran from December 18 through the 22nd. This was been a very interesting result. Day One 148 downloads, Day Two 158 downloads, Day Three 40 downloads, Day Four 231 downloads, Day five 92 downloads. The jump on day four is directly related to a single day announcement on Goodreads of the free Kindle version.

On December 22 I decided to check on the rankings: this was my posting on Facebook: So here’s the good news on the Kindle down loads and rankings on Amazon for The Blood.
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,048 Free in Kindle Store
#4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Time Travel
#7 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Opera

If you look carefully you will notice that I broke into the top 10 in two categories – Time Travel and Space Opera! Thank you to everyone who downloaded the past five days. I look forward to seeing your reviews when you get the chance to post. I hope you enjoy the read.

Then on the evening of the 23rd I returned to Amazon to see how far the book had dropped in the rankings. This was what I found:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,432 Paid in Kindle Store. #403 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Time Travel. #1614 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Opera. #1871 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Sword & Sorcery

A fascinating difference, don’t you think? Now I am hoping that of the total of 669 downloads of the Kindle version at least 65 (I’m thinking 10%) will actually read it and perhaps post honest reviews to Amazon and or Goodreads. That will have wait I guess because it should take most readers a couple of weeks to read. I mean a lot of people actually collect free downloads and probably read none of them. I hope to see an uptick in the number of reviews around the end of February 2016. That’s when I am hoping to get The Balance out. Somehow I am hoping for some bleed over from all the Kindle downloads of The Blood to purchases of either the Kindle or paperback version of The Balance.

This marketing is all a learning process. I really just want to write the stories but I must learn how to be more effective in my marketing – essentially no one else is going to do this for me. I promised the characters I would write their stories and I promised to do my very best. Learning marketing of fiction, particularly science fiction and fantasy is not an easy task and I believe it will be worth it. My goal is to break even. At an average of $3 to $5 profit from each book I must sell at least 2,000+ paperbacks just to break even on The Blood. I believe this is possible. I will be patient. Most series don’t really get noticed until at least the third installment is well into publication. I have five titles. I truly can hardly wait to get started on number three, The Blades. Yet, again, I must wait and be patient. Number two, The Balance demands my attention for now. I promise it will be good. I am doing my best and with help and guidance from my editor, proofreader, book designer and a couple of beta readers, it is worth the wait.Book Promotion

Have you read The Blood yet? What do you think? Please post a review on Amazon, Goodreads or BookDaily. Don’t keep it a secret.

I thank you for sharing the stories of The Stone’s Blade.