Have you seen my book?

I’m lucky enough to have some wonderful writers as friends.  I belong to a writing group, and so many of the members have so much talent.  But we all write for different reasons.  And we all differ on how much we want to invest in what.

A few of our members write because they WANT to, and producing a high quality finished product is their only goal.  They write for themselves, for pleasure.  They study books to improve their skills and listen to critiques, but they don’t want to go through the torture of submitting to an agent or even self-publishing.  They join Scribes because they care about the craft of writing and work hard to make their stories better and better.  And that’s enough.

A few of our members share their work with us, listen to every critique we give, and  work hard to create something worth publishing.  And then they choose to self-publish on Amazon to share their works with friends and family, and that’s enough.  They don’t want to market.  They shy away from promotions and feel awkward “bragging” about themselves.

Then there are members who put their work on Amazon and sit back to watch it sell.  I used to tell my writing friends, “No one comes to knock on your door to ask if you have a manuscript to sell.”  If people don’t know  it’s there, they can’t find it.  Now I tell them that you have to invest a decent amount of work to stand out from the millions of other writers hawking their books.  And that’s where the rest of us in our group fall.  We’ve put our books out there, finding agents or publishers or small publishers or self-publishing.  But we know that’s only a step.  And we also know that the road to marketing and promoting is slippery and devious.

What worked five years ago might not work now.  When I first put my urban fantasy online, authors had a chance of getting their books on BookBub.  BookBub advertises discounted books to millions of readers who sign up for specific genres.  These days, though, getting an ad on BookBub is like winning the lottery.  Without my publisher, I wouldn’t have had much  of a chance.  Plus, it’s expensive.  For my niche–cozy mysteries–Bookbub now e-mails news of a discount to 2,780,000 readers.  If I make my book free, I have to pay $707 for it being listed ONE day.  If I only discount it, I pay more.  It’s so hard to get on BookBub that other book advertisers have gone into business, but when I’ve used them, I’ve had mixed results.  I had some success with Facebook ads for a while, but it’s no guarantee more people will find my book.  A friend’s having success with Amazon ads, but I haven’t tried those.

Other than advertising, there are other options for authors to help readers find their work.  I’ve done blog tours, sometimes with success, sometimes not so much.  For some books, doing #1linewed on twitter has helped my rankings go up.  I’ve had some luck using Debbie Macomber’s Book Launch Checklist:  https://insights.bookbub.com/book-launch-checklist-marketing-timeline-traditionally-published-authors/?utm_source=guest-debbie-macomber&utm_medium=email  .  She recommends changing your twitter header once a month to get readers interested in a new book.  She changes her Facebook header, too.  I’ve been doing that, and I do think it helps.

And that brings me to canva.com.  https://www.canva.com.    I don’t have photoshop, but I really like canva.  I can type “twitter header’ in the search line and it gives me templates to choose from–templates that are sized to correctly fit each header.  I had to give myself permission to play with it for a while and mess things up before I actually tried to create a header I like.  Now, when I’m ready to start promoting a book, I try to create five or six twitter headers, so I can change them up when people grow blind to the one that’s been there.   Example:  Here’s one twitter header I created for The Body in the Wetlands:

 

The Body in the Wetlands--twitter header 1.5

Some writers use their blogs or webpages to connect with readers, and many ask readers to sign up to receive an e-mail newsletter.  I’m finally getting more followers on BookBub when I write reviews for the books I’ve read.  Whatever an author chooses, it’s an investment in time to try to connect with his/her readers.  I think it’s sort of fun.  But I always have to remember ads and promotions won’t do any good if I don’t write books, so writing time has to be sacred.

So for all of you, Hit Those Keys and Happy Writing!

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2017: Nothing to Brag About

I’ve worked hard on my writing for the last few years.  The first year I signed with Kensington, I had three romances come out.  Three more came out in 2017.  When I finished the last romance, I wrote a mystery and turned it in.  The Body in the Attic will come out in November 2018.

Nothing I’ve tried, so far, has worked the way I thought it would.  Way back when I got my agent–who’s with a great agency and really good–I thought I’d sell books and start being more successful.  But I was writing urban fantasy back then, and the market was glutted, so she let me put up digital books (the agency did that for me), and I marketed them myself as Judith Post.  I did EVERYTHING wrong, because I didn’t know any better, but I learned a lot, so I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Then my agent suggested that I write romances, because there was a market for those.  I’m not suggesting that writers should chase markets.  But my particular market was almost impossible to break into at the time, so I was willing to try something new.  And I found out I liked writing romances.  And Kensington offered me a contract for three e-books.  My agent really liked the romance I’d sent her.  My editor really liked all of my romances, so I was feeling pretty successful.  But I took a mis-step on that, too.  Kensington did a beautiful job of promoting my first Mill Pond romance, so I assumed they’d do the same for the rest of the books.  Not so.  My second book came out, sat around for a while, and then fell.  I meant to pay for a blog tour for my third book, but my publicist said that she’d already signed me up for one.  It used the same excerpt and blurb for each stop and didn’t do much.  My fourth book came and went, and I finally paid for advertising and promotion for my fifth and sixth books, but I did too little, too late.  I was hoping romances and a publisher would jump start my career, but not so much.  I hope my mysteries start out stronger.

I thought when I got a publisher, I’d sell more books.  Not really.  I should have hit the ground running, promoting myself more, but I didn’t.  Marketing, for me, is as tricky as always.  I’ve been happy with the blog tours I did with Gallagher Author Services and The Goddess Fish promotions.  I chose tours that offered unique material for each stop.  They’re more work, but I think they’re worth it.  The first Facebook ad that I placed did well, but the second wasn’t as effective.  Not sure why.  I tried Tweet ads, but they didn’t work for me.  The truth?  No marketing has made a big difference in sales except Book Bub, and it’s a miracle if they accept new authors anymore.  So I feel stymied with markets, too.  I know I need to promote myself, but it’s a crap shoot if whatever I choose works or not.

I write a blog once a week, I put something new on my webpage once or twice a week, and I tweet, but I’m not sure that any of that leads to sales either.  I enjoy sharing and staying in touch with fellow writers and readers, but I can’t really call it marketing.

For the first time, I joined a group author giveaway during December as an experiment.  B. L. Blair organized it and did all the hard work, spoonfeeding the authors who signed up for it.  She’s wonderful to work with and is starting to look for fellow mystery writers.  Here’s her blog:  http://www.blblair.com/blog.html.

With the giveaway, I got a lot of e-mails that I can add to a mailing list (if I ever get off my duff and start a newsletter).  And the giveaway was a great experience, but I have to be honest.  Most of the authors took their turn on the giveaway and then didn’t support any of  the other authors.  That confused me.  I thought the whole purpose of joining together was to WORK together.  I tried to retweet each of my fellow writers, but only a few of them retweeted each other.

To wrap up, I accomplished a lot this year, but I’m ending 2017 with more questions than answers.  Maybe 2018 will be the year when everything comes together.  I hope 2018’s a great year for you–and happy writing!

 

Webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter:  @judypost

Sagging

I’m not young anymore.  Things that used to be perky…aren’t.  Gravity takes its toll, and things shift and sag.  The same thing can happen to your writing.  The sales take a dive, and you have to work to lift them again.

When I got a publisher, I thought I could spend more attention on writing and less on marketing.  Not so.  Yes, Lyrical Shine lists my romances on their Facebook page and twitter.  They create covers and do cover releases.  For my first book, they did a great blog tour with Gallagher services http://gallagherauthorservices.com/author-assistant-services/.    I got good feedback.  For my second book, they only advertised on their own Lyrical sites, and that book fizzled and died.  Any momentum I had disappeared.  For my third book, I got excited because they were doing another blog tour, but this tour listed the book cover, a blurb, and the same excerpt at every site.  People yawned after the second one and disappeared.  For my latest book, SPICING THINGS UP, they did the bare basics.  It was sad.

I still like working with Lyrical, but I learned a valuable lesson a little too late.  Even if you have a publisher, you’d better have a plan in mind to promote yourself when you’re a new author with little or no name recognition.  And hopefully, you’ll have a book cover that grabs readers’ attention.  When I self-published my urban fantasies, I never sent a bundle/book out into the cold, cruel world without paying for some kind of advertising.  Sometimes I’d go the $20 or $30 route, and once I went for broke and used BookBub.  NOTHING beats BookBub.  The problem is that it’s almost impossible to get BookBub to accept you, and it’s expensive.  But I more than earned out what it cost.  Using it when you only have one book online is a risky proposition.  It’s useless if you make the book free.  How will you earn back any  money?  But if you have a series, it’s awesome!  At least, it was for me and my writer friends.  I had a lot of luck with the Fussy Librarian, but it did nothing for my friends.  The type of genre you write makes a big difference on which site is best for you or not.

I can’t set the prices of my books on Lyrical, so can’t offer sales or specials on my own, so I’m going to try a different tactic this time.  I paid $65 to start a blog tour with something original on each blog, using Goddess Fish Promotions.  http://www.goddessfish.com/services/virtual-book-tours/  They’ve been every bit as nice to work with as Maggie Gallagher.  I chose a little different approach.  I’ll be featured on a different blog each Tuesday for 8 weeks.  It’s an experiment.  I don’t know what I think works best yet, so it will be interesting to see what happens.  And yes, once April 25th comes, you’ll be pestered by me every Tuesday for a couple of months.  And I’ve answered more questions than I’ve answered for a long time.

Every writer writes for different reasons and has different expectations.  I know some wonderful, talented writers who are happy just putting their books on Amazon and hoping people find them.  That’s fine.  If you want to build an audience, though, advertising has worked better for me than other things I’ve tried.  Social media helped until I switched to romance.  There wasn’t much carry-over.  Urban fantasy readers aren’t impressed with kissing.  I get it.  Kickass battles don’t compare to relationships and angst.  But if you want to find readers for the genre you’re writing, advertising can help.

If any of you have any methods/tricks that have worked for you, and you want to share, I’d love to hear them.   In the meantime, have a great Easter/Passover/holiday and happy writing!

 

 

Blog/webpage

A while ago, I blogged about trying to keep up with writing a blog AND a webpage.  At the time, I was behind on my writing and sweating a deadline, AND my publisher had sent me pages to proof.  I felt buried, but thanks to my awesome critique partners, I got everything done on time.  And I started rethinking what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. And, once again, I decided I like both the blog and the webpage for different reasons.  I’m not toting this as something any sane writer should do or even telling you that it will increase readers or boost sales.  I’m just saying that I like it–for me.

When I write my blog, I think about the craft and business side of writing.  When I first started working on the blog, I shared writing advice that worked for me.  But let’s be honest.  You can find writing how-to tips online from Chuck Wendig (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/), K.M. Weiland (https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/), and occasional articles by Stephen King (https://smartblogger.com/stephen-king/), so I feel a little out gunned.  Now, I don’t even pretend to be an expert, I just share what’s happening with my writing–the good, the frustrating, and the ugly.  I figure other writers can relate to most of it.  At the  moment, my third Mill Pond romance just came out, and I’m working on the sixth one in the series. My goal is to finish it, turn it in, and then squeeze in enough time to try to write a mystery. I have the mystery all plotted out, and I’d like to start working on it in January.  I’m thinking snow will be on the ground, temperatures will be cold, and I’ll be in the mood to hibernate and pound on my keyboard.  It sounds good on paper, doesn’t it?  My worry? When I write a romance, I have at least 40 plot points (or chapter ideas) to move the story and come up with 70,000 words–if I’m lucky. For my mystery?  I came up with 23 plot points, but they’re more involved, and I HAVE to have 70,000 words.  Will that work?  I sure as hell hope so.

When I go to my webpage, I switch gears.  When I write my webpage, I think of readers, not writers.  And it’s sort of my “spill” zone, where all the random, little ideas I have for characters or series that I can’t use in a book, spill out of my head.  For instance, when I wrote Wolf’s Bane, I fell in love with Wedge and Bull, the two werewolves who help Reece and Damian protect Bay City.  But they’re always supporting players, so I wanted to write short stories that featured each of them.  But what would I do with those stories?  Easy.  I’d put them on my webpage.  And sometimes, I put snippets from the novels I’m working on on it, too.  I even posted my one and only YA witch novel–The Familiars–on my webpage, because–why not?  Sometimes, I use my webpage as a place to experiment with writing techniques I’d never dare try in a full novel.  For Perdita’s Story, I wanted to write a story where the protagonist made one bad decision after another until the end.  I’d never do that for a book, but it was fun to play with for a short piece.  For Mill Pond, I introduced characters that would never get a full novel of their own, but I liked them and wanted to give them a happy-ever-after, so I did–in a short story.  Another thing I like to do on my webpage is introduce fellow writers whose work I like and think they might like, too.  In my  mind, when I go to my webpage, I think of readers more than writers.

As for marketing?  Well, I do my best, but I’m no wizard, so I post any new news on my author Facebook page or twitter.  It’s not the most efficient system, but it makes me concentrate on different areas of my writing:  fellow writers, readers, and marketing. Marketing, right now, is probably my weakest.  I still haven’t learned how to do rafflecoptors and give-aways, and I think I did better when I tried a blog tour and paid for advertising, but I’ve never had a publisher before, so I’m learning as I go.  One step at a time, right?  Hope you’ve found what works for you.  Happy writing!

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

twitter:  @judypost

 

Have you tried to make yourself sound interesting?

I’ve never worked with a book publisher before.  I’ve worked with editors of magazines and anthologies, and I’ve gotten feedback from my agent–the wonderful Lauren Abramo, who–by the way–looked at the last pitchmad on twitter.  Which means she’s looking for new writers, if you have a spare pitch lying around. But boy, is she picky. In a nice way.  All agents and editors are.  They know exactly what they’re looking for, so if they turn you down, it just means you’re not writing what they think they can sell.  Nothing personal.  They might have all the horror or fantasy writers that they can find homes for.  Writing’s a business.  It’s market driven.  It also means if you haven’t tried pitchmad or pitchwars or whatever kind of pitch tweets they’re into on twitter, you should.

Both editors and agents have the same goal in mind–to push your writing to its best and find something that’s saleable.  But when I signed with Kensington, I didn’t just get John Scognamiglio as my editor–which was lucky enough.  I got a whole team of talented people who are determined to get my name out there.  They’re great at promotion.  I’m not terrible, but I’m not wonderful either.  And sorry to say, promotion makes a big difference if you want readers to find your book.

I realized I’ve been a slacker at promotion when I got a list of questions to answer for Kensington to use on a book blog tour.  Every blog needed something unique to submit to its readers.  Absolutely fair.  A blogger is taking her time and being generous enough to do a sales pitch to her readers for my romance, COOKING UP TROUBLE.  Each blogger wants to offer her audience something special, just for them, that they can’t find somewhere else.  And I appreciate every single person who signed up to help me get the word out.

My only problem?  I quickly discovered that I’m a pretty boring person.  I spend a lot of each day in front of my computer, writing.  I love to cook, but if I revved up about that, most people would fall asleep.  My sisters would.  Their idea of food is take-out.  I have a few perennial gardens that bring me a lot of pleasure, but that doesn’t mean I keep them neat and tidy.  Kyra Jacobs, who was a guest on my blog last week, has well-tended, beautiful flower beds.  Me?  It comes down to survival of the fittest.  A rose bush has to want to live to bloom here.  I love to read, but I don’t even read as much as I used to, because I now divide my time between reading and writing.  Honestly, it’s hard to make me sound interesting.

While I answered questions for various blogs, it occurred to me that I’m not an expert at much of anything.  My cat and chihuahua sound like more fun than I do.  But then I remembered the poem About Ben Adhem, by Leigh Hunt–http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173698.  Maybe I don’t need to write about what I do or who I am, even though I’m happy to share, but the things that make me passionate are what I love.  And I have many loves, and those I can go on and on about.  And I did.

Have a wonderful Easter, (if you celebrate it), or holiday (if you don’t), and Happy Writing!

COOKING UP TROUBLE comes out April 12th.  The book blogs start soonCoockingupTrouble

 

 

 

Connecting With Other Writers

I went to our main library’s Author Fair yesterday.   75 authors attended it, and 10% of any sales went to the library.  The fair had been advertised really well, and a steady flow of people came and went.  I was lucky.  My friend, Mary Lou, and I had asked to share a table, so we got to yak on and off from 1:00 to 4:00, when no one was around.  The good news?  Enough people wandered to our table and asked about our books to keep us entertained.  The bad news?  Not many authors sold more than a few books, but that’s what we expected.  Author Fairs aren’t really about selling books.  They’re about meeting people.  I’ve never been a BIG author with hordes of people lined up to buy my books, and I didn’t expect that to change in one afternoon.  But it sure was fun meeting people and talking about what they liked to read, even if it wasn’t what I write.  I like talking to readers as much as I like talking to writers, so I had a great day.

Mostly, authors stayed behind their tables to interact with people who attended the fair, so I didn’t meet authors who were new to me.  I did get to say hello to some of the authors I already know, though, and I got to catch up with a few of them before the fair started. The fair isn’t about selling books, and it’s not really about connecting with writers, either. It’s about connecting with readers.

My main connection to fellow writers is at my writers’ club twice a month.  That’s the best, and I’m so lucky I have it.  I occasionally attend the writers’ meeting Kyra Jacobs runs at Barnes & Noble, too.  That’s in the evenings, though, and it’s harder for me to juggle time to get there.  I used to attend a writers’ conference once a year to meet authors outside of our area, but I haven’t done that for a while.  It’s a great way to meet writers who have similar interests, though.  Another way to connect with fellow writers is on social media. But I have to be honest, I’m starting to get grumpier about what I spend my time on.  Just like with any friendship or acquaintance, if it’s all one-way, I’m over it.   If I like a writer, I’ll retweet and share for a while, but if the favor’s never or rarely returned, I stop bothering.  I’m not saying I expect tit for tat.  That’s too much work–for me or anyone else. I can’t get to twitter or Facebook every day, so I don’t expect other writers to be able to either.  I’m talking about one-way streets.  And I’m talking about fellow writers.  When I think of myself as a reader, a fan, that’s a whole different story.

Anyway, connecting with readers and fellow writers is fun.  If you get a chance to be in an Author’s Fair, Anya Breton wrote a great post on how to prepare.  She covered it all really well:  http://blog.anyabreton.com/2015/11/book-signings/

In the meantime, Happy Writing!

P.S.  I put up chapter 6 for Babet & Prosper’s River City Rumble on my webpage:http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/.  I plan to post a new chapter every Friday.  I love comments!

Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/

On twitter: @judypost