Category Archives: social media

The business side of writing

At writers club this week, we had three great readers but still had time to spare.  That’s when Les B. brought up the article in the Wall Street Journal that an investment company is buying Barnes and Noble.  That got everyone talking about marketing and whether it’s better to get an agent and a publisher or to self-publish.

People in our group do both.  Some self-publish because they love the freedom.  And they still get enough sales to make them happy.  Some self-publish because they just want their books available for family and friends.  Two members are actively looking for agents.  That’s a nail biter job in itself.  And I self-publish AND have a publisher because I want to write two different kinds of mysteries, and I didn’t think I could get a taker for my supernatural series.  Let’s face it.  Some genres are a lot easier to sell than others.   And, to be honest, I wanted to see what would happen if I stuck Muddy River on Amazon on my own.  Ilona Andrews wrote a great post about the pros and cons of each: http://www.ilona-andrews.com/hybrid-authors/

Going it alone, though, means that it’s up to you to attract readers to your book.  And I think that’s getting harder to do.  True, writers have to work at promotion, even if they have a publisher, but they at least have some backup.  One thing you can do with or without a publisher is a blog tour.  Sometimes, they work.  Sometimes, they don’t.  But so far, Kensington has signed me up for a blog tour for every one of my books when they  come out.  The more work that goes into the blog tour, the better it is.  I’ve written 20+ individual pieces for a single blog tour before, so that each site has something unique to offer.  The one tour that only featured cover reveals and excerpts with a blurb wasn’t very effective.  Why would readers keep reading the same pitch over and over?

Advertising helps.  There are a crap load of books out there.  You need to find a way to get a reader to find yours.  Today, on twitter, I found a link to how to sell more books with Amazon ads.  I tried that once and bombed.  My friend tweaks her ad as she goes, and she’s been successful with it.  Here’s the article I found: https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/how-to-sell-more-books-with-amazon-ads-for-authors/

I’ve tried Facebook ads, but those are really hit and miss for me, too.  Still, you can invest $20 to boost your post and give it a go.  (I’d read the article on Amazon ads to get ideas first).

We all know that nothing beats BookBub, but trying to get a slot there takes a miracle or more.  And they’re expensive.  Luckily for me, Kensington put The Body in the Attic on Bookbub and they’re putting The Body in the Wetlands on it July 10.  I’m a lucky girl, and I know it.  Still, if you can’t get an ad, you can get some traction there.  I highly recommend becoming a BookBub partner, signing up and doing an author profile, listing the books you’ve written, and then–and this helps–recommending other authors’ books and reviewing them.  I recommend books under my name for urban fantasy–Judith Post (https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judith-post?list=reviews&review_step=search ) and under my pen name, Judi Lynn (https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judi-lynn)  The good news is that when people follow you on BookBub, BookBub sends them a notification when you add one of your own books to your book page.  That means, if you have 100 followers, an e-mail goes out to each of them when you publish a new book.  The more followers, the better!

I just paid for an ad for Mixing It Up with Mortals on BargainBooksy at Written Word Media and dropped the price of my book to 99 cents. https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/about-us/#  And it did what I wanted it to do.  It got the book in front of a lot of new readers.  It’s only the second book in the series, and I’m not expecting big results.  That usually takes a while, if you get lucky.  I’ve had luck advertising on The Fussy Librarian, too, but that site’s pickier–you have to have at least 10 reviews with a 4.0 average, and I didn’t have 10 reviews yet, (sigh), so I went with Booksy.  For The Fussy Librarian: https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/advertising

There are other things you can do to help promote yourself and your book.  I’m going to use Ilona Andrews again (because I read her on twitter).  She posts snippets of whatever book she’s working on, on her webpage and then feeds that onto twitter: http://www.ilona-andrews.com/working-on-hidden-legacy-5/

I do the same thing.  I use weebly to put up cover reveals, new books, and free chapters.  Then I feed that onto my twitter account.  I think of this page (my blog) as a way to reach writers, and my webpage as a way to reach readers.  C.S. Boyack includes little snippets and news about the books he’s writing on his blog, too.  I think it’s effect, but it takes both–posting the snippet AND linking it to twitter.  My webpage: https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

C.S. Boyack’s posts:   https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/its-a-brain-purge/?fbclid=IwAR16n0RCckMZ-L3E-DxWF4H9jsxtJC5XzFsY3gNt6jEUhyfnKGjz6q7Bcoc   

Which brings me to three places that authors can promote themselves for free:

an author Facebook page  (Look up the Facebook page for some of your favorite authors and see what they do).

Twitter.  I make myself post something on twitter every day (at three different times, if I can) and to retweet some of the posts that I especially like.  And I always list book releases, cover reveals, and sales there.  Why not?  If you’re lucky, friends and others will retweet you and help spread the word.

Goodreads.  When I finish reading a book (and I can give it 3 or more stars), I write a review for both Bookbub AND Goodreads.

One last thing–and I know, I’ve written a tome this time, but I wanted to put in my 2 cents on marketing–, some authors have great luck with newsletters.  I haven’t done one yet.  Just haven’t gotten around to it.  But Story Empire wrote a decent article on it if you’re going to give one a try (and most authors do). https://storyempire.com/2019/06/07/how-to-tweak-your-newsletter/

One more thing, I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Debbie Macomber’s advice on how to launch your book when it comes out.  Yes, I’ve shared this before, but someone might have missed it.  And it’s good. https://insights.bookbub.com/book-launch-checklist-marketing-timeline-traditionally-published-authors/

Okay, I’m running out of ideas and steam.  You’re probably ready for me to shut it anyway.  I promise not to bombard you with marketing ideas again for a while.  But if you’ve tried something and it’s worked for you, please share it with the rest of us.  And happy writing!

Hitting it Hard

My second Jazzi Zanders mystery comes out next Tuesday, April 23, and Kensington has been ON IT with the publicity and promotion.  When I published my six Mill Pond romances, they didn’t get much love, and I watched them sink lower and lower in sales and rankings every day.  It was sad and frustrating.  But Kensington restructured their publicity teams, and right now, I’m ecstatic with the pushes they’re giving my mysteries.  They even paid to put The Body in the Attic (Jazzi 1) on BookBub.

They’ve signed me up for a blog tour that starts on book two’s book birthday–April 23 and runs through May 2nd.  I love blog tours.  It’s a great way to meet readers and get feedback.  Bless book bloggers.  They do a lot of work and put in a lot of time to promote authors.  On the flip side, it takes a decent amount of work and time to get ready for a tour.  I lost count of how many 300 word blogs I’ve written, how many character interviews I’ve done, and how many Q & As.  Once the blog goes live, I try to visit every host who’s volunteered to support my book–sometimes up to three a day, and if someone comments on the blog, I try to respond.  This time, my publicist added something new.  I’m going to do an author chat from one to two p.m. on April 29 on Kensington’s Between the Chapters Facebook page.  That one makes me a little nervous.  I’ve never done one before, but I guess it’s time.

I mentioned before that I use canva.com to make twitter headers and twitter posts, as well as Facebook headers, to promote books.  I’ve done that for The Body in the Wetlands, too.  I started a countdown of days until the book goes up for sale and created a new twitter post with an image and a short blurb for each day.  I made a different twitter header for each month for the last six months.

I still don’t do everything Debbie Macomber suggested on her post for BookBub, but I do more than I used to.  I’ve shared her post here before, but in case it slipped past you, here it is again.  https://insights.bookbub.com/book-launch-checklist-marketing-timeline-traditionally-published-authors/?utm_source=guest-debbie-macomber&utm_medium=email.  And before I leave this week, I want to share one of the posts I created on canva for twitter.  And happy writing!  Have a wonderful Easter.The Body in the Wetlands, twitter 6

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!

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