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Self Promo Stories: Authors’ Cleverest Strategies to Sell their Books

 

Self Promo Stories: Authors’ Cleverest Strategies to Sell their Books

 

Edited by Valerie Estelle Frankel

 

 

Shakespir Edition

Copyright 2016

Introduction

The Power of Silly Hats…Valerie Estelle Frankel

All You Need is Chutzpah…Sandra Saidak

You Oughta Be in Pictures…J. Malcolm Stewart

The Sandwich Board Parade…Victoria M. Johnson

Guerilla Bookmarking…Steve Masover

Building Your Readership from Your Office Chair…Emerian Rich

Meet My Superhero…Vincent M. Wales

Grace Paley, Octavia E. Butler, Wendy Wasserstein, and the University Bathroom…Marleen S. Barr

Whatever Draws Them…Loren Blowers

Holiday Sales vs. eBay…V.E. Frankel

Reviews, Blogs, Bribes…Elizabeth Barone

Let’s Have a Party!…Valerie Lee

Befriending Local Artists…Dave M. Strom

The Most Attractive Ice Cream…Jennifer Ng

Read it and Sell it…Loren Rhoads

Meal Replacement Units: Sustenance Worth Remembering…Denise Kawaii

Me and KDP…V. Estelle Frankel

Above All, Find your Audience…Daniel M. Kimmel

More Book Promoting Tips

Introduction

As I sell my books at book fairs and conventions, I see so many indie authors struggling for attention—and so many creative ideas. “Come to our booth—we have a mermaid!” Coloring pages, raffles, games, trivia contests, t-shirts and bags, standees to take a photo with. At one of these fairs, I began handing out cards (useful if there’s a plan, less useful if you just randomly exchange them). Hey, why don’t we all write down our cool strategies, make them a book, and share them with all the authors who’d like to know? I had to do this at lots of events, but some of the coolest creative people sent in some truly wonderful ideas. I mean, surely this cute little chocolate-and sticker combo (two Hershey’s nuggets, a sticker and a ribbon on top, and a card on the bottom) here is a thousand dollar idea. So you’re already a thousand dollars ahead.

 

Some authors are more comfortable online and some have more fun in person. Some love speaking at conventions and others would prefer to sit quietly, even work on the next one. Many authors are seeking community—groups online or in person of people in their same boat, some of whom might be willing to share advice, split writer tables, or even join an anthology. To really see self-promotion happen, go watch our blogs and social media—watch what we say about our books and copy our best ideas…or learn the insiders’ secrets within. Some authors, admittedly, would be most comfortable promoting without interacting with others (tougher but actually doable). This book has great ideas for everyone.

I might add that several of the stories shamelessly appear to come from permutations of myself…hey, no one said I can’t have fun with this. And as the author of Free Guide to Self-Publishing and Book Promotion: Inside Secrets from an Author Whose Self-Published Books Sold in Thousands, an ebook available free on Shakespir (see what I did there?), my writer pals know I have lots of wacky strategies. Well, time we moved on from my gratuitous self-promotion to the greater topic…how to do it yourself. With that, let the stories roll:

The Power of Silly Hats

Valerie Estelle Frankel

My Harry Potter parody has flying pigs in it.

Yep, that’s just the way it worked out. So when I was hat shopping online and the shop’s silly hat section had a flying pig hat, I shrugged and forked over the $9. It was my first book, published as self-publishing was gaining popularity and Harry Potter was losing it, so it felt like a good purchase. I could put it on my seller’s table with the sorting hat, sparkly cape tablecloth and other goodies.

At the big Harry Potter conventions that followed, everyone had a costume and most, a specific persona—someone would be Lord Voldemort or Peeves the Poltergeist for all five days. On a whim, at the 2008 Harry Potter con in Dallas, I donned the hat. When people, expectedly enough, asked how the flying pig connected to Harry Potter, I handed them a bookmark (with my first and now second Potter parody on it as well as many flying pigs) and explained that they were in my own book — Henry Potty and the Pet Rock, in which flying pigs deliver the mail. Please take a bookmark, it’s on sale in the dealer’s room or Amazon.

To my delight, as I walked along, someone else stopped to ask me why the pig…but this was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Obviously, I gave my standard answer and followed with “And I’d love to tell you about the books…” They indeed wrote an article about me which I linked to on my website and quoted. The pig had earned its $9 sales price.

By the 2010 con, the attendees greeted me delightedly as “flying pig hat girl”…even though I wasn’t wearing it at the time. Shrugging and mentally surrendering to the inevitable, I assumed the hat once more. It seemed I had my own con persona…at least it was tied to the books.

At the same hat shop, I purchased “giant witch hat” — it’s five feet tall and now has a red blinky on top, thanks to my Silicon Valley dad. When I want attention, I wear it and walk around more conventions, often tangling with my eternal nemesis, the doorway. When people say “nice hat” or point and laugh, I hand them a bookmark, sometimes without a word. Keeping them handy in a pouch or sticking out of my purse obviously helps.

Flash forward several years to the San Mateo County Fair Author’s Day. By then I was writing academic nonfiction as well, but I wore my flying pig for the attention. In a room of authors, I wanted to stand out. The lady in charge asked who wrote nonfiction and I raised my hand. Laughing that someone with a flying pig on her head did serious writing, she held out the mike and asked for my story. Seemed the hat still had its magic.

What’s the takeaway? At book sales all the authors have candy and bookmarks. At conventions, everyone has neat costumes. But if you can find the gag that’s just odd enough to make people ask questions, or the pun that needs explaining, or even just the ridiculous touch that makes everyone laugh, that’s far superior to the handcrafted costume that took weeks to make completely canon. Those are nice, but not as memorable.

I have also been Princess Leia with bagels over my ears. One guy I met at a con that way recalled me four years later. What’s a Jewish Alderanian Princess to do, but go with it…

  • * *

Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of many books on pop culture, including five on Harry Potter. These include the Henry Potty parody series, Teaching with Harry Potter: Essays on Classroom Wizardry from Elementary School to College as well as Harry Potter, Still Recruiting: An Inner Look at Harry Potter Fandom and Harry Potter and Myth: The Legends behind Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts, and all the Hero’s Journeys. Vefrankel.com

All You Need is Chutzpah

Sandra Saidak

My alternate history novel, From the Ashes, was released in July of 2015. This book had a long, involved evolution, spanning over 20 years. It was also a huge departure from the prehistoric novels which had been my brand up until then.

Shortly after the release of Ashes, I learned that Amazon was doing an online TV series based on the novel The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. My first thought was, “Great timing! I wonder if there’s a way I can turn this into publicity for my novel?” I didn’t really think there was. After all, The Man in the High Castle is an iconic classic in the genre, written by a giant in the field and published back in 1962. And, other than both books delving into the question: “What if the Axis powers had won WWII?” it didn’t really have that much in common with my novel.

But with the help of a friend from my writers’ group, I learned that none of that mattered. What mattered was that Amazon makes it possible—necessary, even—for every author to post a description of what he or she sells. And when I took the time to look, I learned that referencing other, similar works in those descriptions is standard practice. Most importantly, I found no cases of established authors complaining about their names being linked to newcomers like me.

I went back into my description of From the Ashes and added the following sentence: “Fans of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle and Robert Harris’s Fatherland will want to read this new voice in alternate history.” By the following week, my daily sales for this book had gone from single digit to double digit—some days very high double digit. While my prehistoric fiction continued to average about one hundred sales per book each month, From the Ashes sold over three hundred books each of the three months Amazon put out new episodes of the series, and continued for another month after that. The best part for me was watching my novel climb to #4 on the Alternate History> Science Fiction list—which left it sitting right below The Man in the High Castle.

With that in mind, I then added a similar sentence to each of my prehistoric fiction novels: “Fans of Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children” series and Michael and Kathleen Gear’s People series will not want to miss Kalie’s Journey.” While not as dramatic as with From the Ashes, I did notice an increase in sales.

The best part of all this is that it’s free, easy (even for technologically challenged people like myself), can be done at home, and does not require me to physically approach strangers and ask them to buy my book. And when it comes to marketing, isn’t that what most of us really want?

  • * *

Sandra Saidak[* *]graduated San Francisco State University in 1985 with a B.A. in English. She is a high school English teacher by day, author by night. Her hobbies include reading, dancing, attending science fiction conventions, researching prehistory, and maintaining an active fantasy life (but she warns that this last one could lead to dangerous habits such as writing). Sandra lives in San Jose with her husband Tom, daughters Heather and Melissa, and two cats. Her first novel, Daughter of the Goddess Lands, an epic set in the late Neolithic Age, was published in November, 2011 by Uffington Horse Press. The sequel, Shadow of the Horsemen came out in July of 2012. Learn more at http://sandrasaidak.com

You Oughta Be in Pictures

J. Malcolm Stewart

Face it friends, the old 1934 ballad is 100% correct. “You oughta be in pictures.” Or least, you and your published works.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Wait a minute, I’m an author, not an actor. My passion is the written word in all its narrative glory, not the shallow visual image. The lofty literary heights of Shakespeare, Austin and Tolstoy is my thing. Whadda take me for? A Kardashian?”

Well, no, to be honest… But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about creating a visual platform for yourself. And before you think doing very thing involves you going to Brazil so you can inject your hindquarters with human fat… Well let’s just say you don’t have to become a reality star to create some interest in your projects.

So, what’s the most compelling reason for you to have your own visual platform for your work? That can be summed up in two very powerful, if overused, words: Social Media.

The buzz term for the 21st Century’s teen years is actually one of your best friends as an indie published author. The importance of being an effective marketer is all about reaching the right audience for your works. So, just like your written words, social media allows you to project your thoughts to a wider realm of potential like-minded individuals.

In ages past, the communal experience of new ideas took place at the market or the local tavern or the newsstand. Now, the metaphorical water cooler is more and more often found on social media. The conversations, debates, and discoveries of old now are found increasingly on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other relational webpages. To boil it down to a fine point, if you and your projects aren’t finding a way onto such platforms, then you’re missing out on the modern wellspring of new ideas. And as an indie author, you can’t afford to ignore the digital megaphone that is Social Media.

However, the fight for attention in the nether regions of cyberspace is serious business. Posting, Tweeting and Blogging are all fine aspects of promotion. But as you may have noticed, it’s not so easy to get the attention you need in order to make the time commitment to social media pay off. The novelty of Like and Retweets has diminished in this decade of Socialness. And unless you’re running for the presidency, reposting and retweeting your projects every three hours is sooooooo 2011.

You need to expand your platform while also connecting your readers and potential readers with your unique brand. And yes, that’s a jargon filled statement which on the surface is less than the sum of its parts. However, it’s still a true one in an age where you need to capture your audience’s attention and keep it more quickly than ever. Words may be your life, but blogs and posts may take too long to reach a media oversaturated potential reader.

So, if words aren’t the way to go, (or at least, not until later) what is the plan of attack? Your secret weapon, oh author, is a method perhaps previously considered a mortal enemy: Video. Specifically, pieces geared towards social video sites like Google’s YouTube, which allows for a wide range of topics and formats that you can shoot, prepare and edit yourself.

No don’t think you have to go back to school and get a video production degree. There are a number of fairly easy-to-master video programs, like Movie Maker, which will allow for users to insert and edit images, video and sound to a single file. Programs like these can also be uploaded to YouTube and other video sites with relative simplicity. And other social media sites like Facebook are now allowing you to stream cellphone and other video right onto the site in practically real time. All that bandwidth at your hot, little finger tips.

So, given the wide latitude of subjects you can discuss, what are you gonna do with a YouTube channel? Well frankly, talk about your projects in as many ways possible. One popular format authors, publishers and marketers use to promote upcoming projects is a book trailer. Think about a movie teaser from your favorite multiplex, luring your hard-earned dollars toward the blockbuster of the week. Now apply that formula to your epic historical romance novel or your page turner of a political thriller and you’re on the right track.

Book trailers have become standard operating procedure for many publishers and authors and, on the highest level, can rival their movie brethren for creative engagement, product enhancement and just plain fun. And don’t think a video platform has to be a selfish endeavor. In fact, having an established video platform can expand your ability to communicate with your audience far beyond just pimping your next book. You can go in depth about your projects, give your audience a behind the scenes glimpse of your creative process, interview friends and collaborators, show the secret life of your cats… Whatever floats your boat.

In fact, you could even make a video about that. Just make sure you keep it all ages appropriate.

Check out your favorite author on YouTube, or even look at my humble offerings… My author interview program, ACTIVE VOICES and my rambling moving review feature, SEVEN MINUTE TAKES, both under my YouTube Channel, [email protected]

Both are labors of love and hopefully add some value to my work and for others. If you do drop in, thank you and enjoy! But don’t expect to see too much of my lovely mug. What can I say? I’m camera shy…

 

Jason Malcolm Stewart is an author, journalist and media professional who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. His books include The Eyes of the Stars, Exodus From Mars and Other Tales, Look Back In Horror: A Personal History of Horror Film, and The Last Words of Robert Johnson. When not working on his writing or reading, Jason can be found driving around Northern California with something radioactive in his trunk. Visit http://about.me/jaymal or www.criticstudio.com for more information.

 

The Sandwich Board Parade

Victoria M. Johnson

 

When Borders closed in our town we went without a bookstore for nearly three years. Imagine the delight of all us residents when an indie bookstore, Village House of Books, opened shop. Better still, the owners, a cute married couple, were super supportive of local authors. One day I asked if they were participating in the Town’s annual Christmas parade. (A huge Los Gatos event with about 50,000 participants and attended by thousands more). The owner told me they had obtained a slot to participate but they hadn’t come up with any ideas and they were beginning to panic. I gave her my idea and she loved it and said, “We’re going with this!” In total, twelve authors walked behind them (He was driving her in a charming yellow bookstore carriage) and we all wore our book covers (large 2’ x 3’ foam board sandwich signs). I had to decide which books to feature on my signs. My newest release was a sexy Christmas novella and it was the Christmas season, but I wondered if the cover image was too risqué for young onlookers. Even the title, Hot Hawaiian Christmas, speaks to the level of sensuality in the story. My helpful husband said, “The kids won’t be looking at you, they’ll be looking for Santa.” Unconvinced, I asked my friends, who all assured me that the cover was fine. For the back sign it was a toss-up between my romance novel, The Doctor’s Dilemma, or my nonfiction grant writing book, Grant Writing 101, which seemed more timely for the season of helping others. Ultimately, I chose the sweet doctor and nurse romance. (If necessary I could flip the back cover to the front if parents started throwing things at me.) I called three local office supply stores. All three gave me a quote over the phone. They informed me about the need for grommets (gold metal hoops that the rope goes through) and holes at the tops of the signs. (The signs cost $34.99 each and I picked them up in two days). I acquired nice looking rope to string through the grommets. It wasn’t difficult to locate white rope (craft stores and hardware stores) while other authors used ribbon, straps, or twine.

On parade day I was so excited. I walked the two and a half blocks from where my husband dropped me off to our meeting point wearing the signs. Free publicity, after all. We had to arrive early to stand at our place in line so everyone was ready to go when it was our turn. I didn’t squander that time. A couple of authors and I walked up and down the lines to see parade participants, and show off our book covers.

 

Finally, marching band music blared in the distance and our turn had come. Throughout the parade route, we received resounding applause and cheers. I like to think that it was due to my brilliant books but I know the enthusiasm and praise were for Village House of Books, which everyone in town appreciated. I was pleased to be a part of their historic first entry.

 Afterward the store (conveniently located at the end of the parade route) hosted us authors for an outdoor booksigning. It was great publicity for us all. We stood our big signs behind us so passersby could see them. Lots of people stopped to talk and purchase our books. I sold some copies and handed out small flyers of my other titles. I told everyone that to get more bang for my promotion buck I would wear my sandwich signs while Christmas shopping at the mall. They might even become part of a “costume” on one Halloween. Or I might show them off at a popular 5k run (I’ll be the slow one, at the back of the pack). I’m still thinking of creative uses. Let me know if you have any ideas—contact me through my web site at VictoriaMJohnson.com

  • * *

 

Victoria M. Johnson knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a writer. She loves telling stories and she’s happiest when creating new characters and new plots. Avalon Books and Montlake Romance published Victoria’s fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma (a 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist). Her other fiction book is a collection of romance short stories titled The Substitute Bride and a novella, Hot Hawaiian Christmas. McGraw-Hill and General Publishing Group published Victoria’s non-fiction books, Grant Writing 101 and All I Need to Know in Life I Learned from Romance Novels. She is also the writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries. Visit Victoria’s website at http://VictoriaMJohnson.com for inspiration and tips and find her Amazon author page or connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter.

Guerilla Bookmarking

Steve Masover

Before releasing my novel Consequence, I ordered a thousand bookmarks from an online printer. Yeah, I anticipated just how unlikely it would be to give that much swag away at signings. But the bargain was irresistible: a thousand bookmarks cost only three bucks more than half as many.

I tucked bookmarks into Goodreads giveaways. I sent bookmarks to friends who promised to post early reviews. I gave bookmarks away at signings, book fairs, and library readings. I fanned a stack of several dozen by the entrance to my cubicle at work, as a conversation-starter for colleagues who didn’t already know I had just published a novel.

And yet, as expected, hundreds of bookmarks remained in the box they shipped in, nestled among the dust bunnies under my desk.

Consequence is about the Triangle, a non-violent activist collective in San Francisco: the sort of chosen-family household that organizes dramatic banner-hangs, bridge blockades, and freeway shutdowns when letters to elected officials fail to stop a war, or an assault on the environment. Collective member and protagonist Chris Kalman finds himself frustrated by the limited effect of the Triangle’s tactics, and so is ripe for recruitment into an eco-saboteur’s clandestine and far more sinister plot. Consequence being a novel, his worlds inevitably collide.

So how does a theme to do with endeavors and reversals in advancing a cause, by means that stray beyond the usual boundaries—and then stray further—intersect with a box of undistributed bookmarks? Once I asked myself this question, the answer suggested itself easily: I needed marketing tactics that cross a line.

Like most authors, I’d already given a fair bit of thought to comps for Consequence. I can compare and contrast my novel with fiction by luminaries from Doris Lessing to Nadine Gordimer to Michael Ondaatje; and by lesser-known authors from Neil Gordon to Sunil Yapa. I could comp my way back as far as Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. An early blurber compared my novel to Edward Abbey’s The Monkeywrench Gang. When I offered a review copy of Consequence to the real-life inspiration for Abbey’s protagonist (Doug Peacock, himself an author of non-fiction and a wildman eco-activist), he lapped it up and gave an enthusiastic endorsement.

It turns out that all these books have something in common. Besides prefiguring Consequence, I mean. And that something is this: any given used bookstore is likely to have copies of at least some of them in stock, on any day of any given week.

And therein lies opportunity.

I can take Amazon’s recommendation engine model—”readers who liked X also liked Y”—right back to brick and mortar. Discretely, of course, as I’m crossing a line. That is, I’m not exactly asking anyone’s permission.

Like the activists of The Triangle, I aim to limit the downside of disruption caused by my samizdat venture. I’d feel sleazy violating a retailer’s new books with my marketing swag: that would imply that an author or publisher endorsed my work. On the other hand, absentminded readers often leave bookmarks tucked between the pages of novels they’ve finished. I often find bookmarks in used books I buy. I’ve inadvertently left a fair few in situ when passing along a book to a friend. But all that leaving a bookmark in a used book implies is a reader’s endorsement. And, hey -- I’m a reader! No harm, no foul. See where I’m going here?

Guerilla bookmarking was born.

I’m lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where used bookshops abound. And, like many avid readers, I tend to find my way to used book stores wherever travel takes me. Libraries are excellent as well.

So when I visit purveyors of previously-read literature nowadays, a modest stash of promotional bookmarks in my pack or pocket, I take a few moments to browse for a volume or three that point in the direction of Consequence. Then, somewhere in the vicinity of the comp’s dénouement, I leave a bookmark breadcrumb for whoever reads it next.

 

***

Steve Masover is a native of Chicago, a grassroots political activist, and an information technologist. He currently lives and works in Berkeley, California. Consequence, his first novel, was published in September 2015. Masover’s work has appeared in Five Fingers Review, Christopher Street, and the anthology Our Mothers’ Spirits. He co-authored the screenplay of a 1988 anti-apartheid movement documentary, “Soweto to Berkeley.”

 

 

Building Your Readership from Your Office Chair

Emerian Rich

To most writers’ dismay, being your own publicist is a necessity in this new brave world of Kindle and instant gratification. Most of us don’t want to deal with it. We’d rather sit back and write in our fiction worlds while the readers come to us. Anyone who’s tried knows, it doesn’t work that way.

Time can be a real stresser. Most of us have day jobs and may not have the time to promote outside the house. Maybe you live in a rural place without many readers, or maybe you just don’t have the means to spend thousands a year on travel to conventions. Maybe you are just shy and need to get your feet wet before making live appearances?

I have a special needs child, so my writing engagements revolve around him. Can I get a sitter and if I can, does the cost of that sitter outweigh the book sales and exposure I will get by attending an event? So what do you do when you are house bound, but still want to make an impact on your reader numbers? Here are four ways to bring the readers into your world, from your office chair.

Be a guest on Second Life. Most people think Second Life is a virtual world where people play house and live out fantasies. Sure, there is that, but there is also a large community of readers, writers, and librarians on Second Life that hold weekly or monthly functions. Bookstacks, Milkwood, and Book Island are all places where writers congregate to write with each other or to hear discussions about writing. They are always looking for special guests to speak on writing, reading, character and world creation, or to read their work aloud. Not only is this a good way to practice reading live, the attendees are hungry for live content and most appreciative and supportive of guests’ work.

Podcast your work. Although most DIY podcasters have faded out with the saturation of movie stars and talk show hosts taking over the market, this is still a viable way to get your work noticed by readers you may not reach any other way. An author reading excerpts of their work, or even the entire book is something audiophiles crave. Can they pay $10-$20 to hear a full George R.R. Martin book on Audible? Sure. But your work is unique to you and giving it away free, at least in the beginning, is a great way to gain readers’ trust. If they like it, they will return again and again. Once you decide to go to print, you will have a ready-made audience to whom to send the link. If your book is already in print, you can gain a whole new audience who would have never heard of you before. Make sure to pimp your book at the end of each segment or chapter and put the link in the show notes so it’s easily found.

Be a guest on someone else’s podcast. I’ve hosted a podcast since 2009 that features Horror writers. There is nothing my listeners like more than hearing a writer read their own work on the cast. We also do interviews and host audio dramas. Find a bookish podcast and contact them to be on the show. Most of the shows have details on their sites about when they cast, how to be a guest, and what they are looking for in a guest. Research the web either by searching your genre on Google, iTunes, or trying a site like Blog Talk Radio. Podcast producers are always looking for guests. If you are a Horror writer, email us at [email protected]

Guest blog. You know how you hate trying to come up with topics to fill your blog? Yeah, we do too. Network with fellow writers to make your writing go further. Offer to guest blog on their blog and vice versa. Sharing readers or cross-promotion is one of the best ways to get your work to the people who really want to read it. Don’t only network with other writers, but also search out bloggers who might be from other fields. Does your book series deal with fictional archeology? Perhaps you can find archeology blogs that would enjoy swapping nonfiction blog posts with you. Talk about your research for the book and their readers might become your readers.

Don’t doubt your ability to make an impact just because you are stuck to your office chair. You can make an impact without stepping a foot out of the house. And the plus? You can do it all in your PJs!

***

Emerian Rich is an author, artist, editor, and Horror Host. She has been podcasting since 2007 and is the editor of the San Francisco Bay Area magazine SEARCH. She is mostly known for her vampire series, Night’s Knights, and her Gothic and Dark Fantasy Coloring Book. She writes romance under Emmy Z. Madrigal and has just released her first Regency Romance, Lord Harrington’s Lost Doe. You can find out more about her writing at emzbox.com.

 

Meet My Superhero

Vincent M. Wales

I write speculative fiction. My first novel was a fantasy, my second a dystopian future tale. For my third novel (and fourth and fifth), I chose to pursue my favorite genre: the superhero. And because my work is very character-driven, I knew I needed a very cool hero. And thus, Dynamistress was born.

Marketing has always been a thorn in my side. I don’t like it. I’m not very good at it. But I was intrigued by all the things I could do with such a character. The first thing I did was hire someone to “be” Dynamistress at comic book conventions (and, as it happens, in a book trailer we ended up creating).

It cost a pretty penny to make the costume, but it was worth it. Dyna turns heads at conventions. Even when disheveled and at the concession stand.

Naturally, she had to have her own Facebook page. And Twitter account. And Instagram. But the prime jewel has always been her website. It began with a blog, excerpts from the book, and images of artwork I’d commissioned. More recently, it began to feature profile pages (including art) of the supporting characters in the books and even—much to my surprise—a comic strip.

The most recent addition to my Dynamistress marketing arsenal is a short booklet that I give away to people who seem genuinely interested but don’t have the inclination to purchase a book on the spot. It’s 12 pages, including the covers, and contains some of the artwork; examples of her Facebook posts, tweets, and Instagram shots; as well as short excerpts from the first book and ending with some words from me about what my plans are for the character. Oh, and a plea to look at my Patreon page.

It’s almost scary how easy it is for me to adopt Dyna’s persona when I engage with people online. And it’s been a lot of fun seeing certain people repeatedly at conventions and be recognized and remembered. But it’s still a lot of hard work and lots of time invested. Obviously, I would rather be spending that time writing, but I know it’s necessary. And at least it’s fun!

***

Vincent M. Wales was raised in the small town of Brockway, Pennsylvania, where he frequently complained about the weather. Since then, he has worn many hats, including writing instructor, suicide prevention crisis counselor, essayist, Big Brother, freethought activist, wannabe rock star, and award-winning novelist. He spends most of his writing time in coffee shops, since his cats fail to grasp the entire concept of “writing time.” He currently lives in Sacramento, California, where he frequently complains about the weather. http://www.vincentmwales.com

 

 

Grace Paley, Octavia E. Butler, Wendy Wasserstein, and the University Bathroom

Marleen S. Barr

I was recently watching Audrey Hepburn lust after Humphrey Bogart and William Holden (playing the very wealthy brothers David and Linus Larrabee) in the great 1954 movie Sabrina. Since this was the fifth time I had seen the film, I knew that Audrey/Sabrina would attain her heart’s desire. My viewing pleasure consisted of noting all the reference to places which are familiar to me as a New Yorker such as Broad Street, the Long Island Railroad, and Long Island Sound. I was jarred from my mid-twentieth century way back machine eye candy complacency when I heard “B. Altman.” For me, B. Altman is no nostalgia location. B. Altman figures in my current professional writing life. The former B. Altman Department Store is nothing other than the present location of the City University of New York Graduate Center. Between attending wonderful academic lectures and writing in the Grad Center library, well, I almost live in the place.

The lust I experience in the academically reconfigured B. Altman building is as intense as Audrey/Sabrina’s quest to land the love of her life by marrying one of the Larrabee brothers. I am not talking about a tryst; I refer to trying. The love of my life is trying to promote my novels Oy Pioneer! and Oy Feminist Planets: A Fake Memoir. I love these novels as much as Audrey/Sabrina loved David and Linus Larrabee. But, unlike Audrey/Sabrina, I never coveted the attention of rich men. I have, instead, chased famous female authors within the confines of the Grad Center. No contemporary versions of Bogart and Holden for me. I engaged in self-promotion by throwing myself at Grace Paly, Octavia E. Butler, and Wendy Wasserstein. How I did so is inimically Marleen, not Sabrina. Just as well. Even when I was an infant, I was not petite enough to resemble Audrey Hepburn. No matter that my mother went to Julia Richman High School with Bogart’s wife Lauren Becall and Bogart wanted Becall to play Sabrina. Yes, my mother brought Becall home to schmooze with my grandparents. But this is another story about fame. The following story is about celebrity female writers in the Grad Center, not famous actresses.

I know the Grad Center like the back of my hand. So when I stood in the lobby and heard Grace Paley say that she had to use the bathroom, I looked at her shoes and headed straight for the lobby floor women’s facilities. I sequestered myself in a stall and waited for Paley to enter. When I heard someone arrive, I looked under the stall to see if the shoes in my line of sight were the ones on Paley’s feet. Sure enough they were. I positioned myself by the mirror directly in front of the stall Paley was using. The stall door opened. Paley stepped out.

“Ms. Paley,” I said feigning surprise and turning away from the mirror. “I can’t believe that it’s you. I can’t believe that I have the accidental chance to meet you. You’re my favorite writer. I revel in your Jewish female New York voice. I emulate you because I’m a Jewish female New York writer too. Actually, I’m known as a feminist science fiction scholar. But I have a first novel in press called Oy Pioneer! You, of course, know how hard it is to promote a first novel. I am getting up all of my courage to use this accidental meeting as an occasion to ask you for a blurb. I can’t lie. This meeting is no accident. I heard you say that you had to use the bathroom and I followed you in here. This took courage. This is Paley-esque. Surely you appreciate my chutzpah. So, can I please have a blurb from you?”

“I am very busy. I don’t write blurbs. But I am in Vermont for the summer. You can contact me there.” I whipped out a piece of paper. Paly wrote her address on it.

“Thank you so much, Ms. Paley. I’ll certainly write to you.”

“You’re welcome, dear,” said Paley as she excited the bathroom.

I did in fact write to Paley. She never answered me. I cherish the address that I have written in her own hand.

I also encountered Octavia E. Butler in that lobby floor Grad Center bathroom. I did not stalk her, though. When Butler emerged from the very same stall Paley had used, I was shocked to the extent that I was speechless. Eschewing the idea that there is a magic toilet stall in the Grad Center which spews out famous women writers to enable me to engage in self-promotion, I eventually found the words to introduce myself to Butler. I thanked her for agreeing to contribute a story to my Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New Wave Trajectory, the first academic anthology about black women and science fiction. Butler was very gracious. Knowing that she was shy, I engaged in no further self-promotion. I was in awe of Butler to the extent that I surreptitiously followed her down Fifth Avenue for several blocks. The terms of her contribution to Afro-Future Females were that she merely requested a copy. I was never able to honor her request; she passed away before the anthology was published. I memorialized Butler in the anthology and subsequently wrote an account about working with her which appeared in the black studies academic journal Callaloo. I remain grateful that I was able to meet Butler in person.

A toilet stall did not figure in my planned Grad Center encounter with Wendy Wasserstein. My friend Charlotte who worked in the Grad Center events department came up with the idea of having me do a reading with Wasserstein to benefit the Child Development Center. Reading with Wasserstein in the ninth floor Skylight Room was an offer I could not refuse. It was scary, though. She was, well, the famous Wendy Wasserstein—and I was an about to be published first time novelist. At least I was able to read from my manuscript copy of Oy Pioneer! before she took the stage. Wasserstein would have been an impossibly hard act to follow. Reading with Wasserstein was the most balls sodden self-promotion that I have ever undertook. Immediately after the ordeal was over, I sought the feedback of Carol, an audience member and my lifelong friend.

“How did I do?” I asked Carol.

“You did very well. But Wasserstein was better.” Carol always told me the truth.

“Of course Wasserstein was better. Quick. I need courage to ask her for a blurb. Should I do it?”

“Go for it.”

I approached Wasserstein with trepidation. “Ms. Wasserstein, it was an honor to read with you. As you know, I am a fledgling novelist. Would you help me by blurbing my novel?”

“No,” said Wasserstein. I walked away with my head down. She headed for the bathroom. I did not follow her. I was sure that the ninth floor bathroom, unlike its counterpart on the lobby level, did not contain a toilet stall which seemed to be magical.

I published a fictitious account of the reading in Women In Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal. I described how Wasserstein and then Grad Center president Frances Degen Horowitz (who did resemble Audrey Hepburn either) went flying around the Skylight Room in a manner which would do Peter Pan proud. I left out the part about how Wasserstein curtly refused my blurb request. But thus it was. I did relate the story to Wasserstein’s biographer Julie Salamon a few years later, though.

I went on to marry an alien and write about it in novel number two, Oy Feminist Planets: A Fake Memoir. I said alien, not extraterrestrial. I married a French Canadian who is not an American citizen. I named him Pepe Le Pew and pictured him on the novel cover as a skunk astride a flying saucer. This is another story which has nothing to do with the Grad Center. I am as happy with my husband as I imagine Audrey/Sabrina was with Linus Larrabee. When I look back upon my self-promotional efforts in the Grad Center, I have to admit that they were not very successful. But I do have wonderful memories of in person encounters with stupendous celebrity women writers. I don’t know how the story of my fiction writing career will end. My Oy novels are a trilogy. The third installment is written and in circulation. I am trying to get an agent. If you are an agent and you are reading this, can we talk? Can we talk in the Grad Center? I promise not to stalk you in either the lobby floor bathroom (supposed magic stall aside) or the Skylight Room floor bathroom.

  • * *

Marleen S. Barr is known for her pioneering work in feminist science fiction and teaches English at the City University of New York. She has won the Science Fiction Research Association Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction criticism. Barr is the author of Alien to Femininity: Speculative Fiction and Feminist Theory, Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond, Feminist Fabulation: Space/Postmodern Fiction, and Genre Fission: A New Discourse Practice for Cultural Studies. Barr has edited many anthologies and co-edited the science fiction issue of PMLA. She is the author of the novels Oy Pioneer! and Oy Feminist Planets: A Fake Memoir.

 

 

Whatever Draws Them

Loren Blowers

Self-promotion and the creative process are at odds with one another, a personal bias. First, promoting oneself feels tremendously sleazy. Second, I believe I speak for most authors when I say I’d rather be writing than promoting (or doing anything else, for that matter). Third, self-promotion smacks of playing to the crowd, in other words, compromising the integrity of one’s art. It is, nonetheless, absolutely essential. Now, let’s see what we’ve got so far: sleazy, time-consuming, potentially destructive, absolutely essential. Sounds a lot like real life…which is probably why so many writers shy from it.

In the twenty-first century, however, it is incumbent upon us, if we want to be successful, to have an internet presence, craft a two-minute elevator speech and—if we can afford it—make the convention rounds with an inventory of items that, along with our book (Oh, you wrote a book?), our potential readers will feel they cannot live without.

After completing my first novel, Cigar Smoking Jerks from Outer Space, Book I in The Stingwisher Science Fiction Series, I did not see myself doing any of this. Sleaze-factor aside, I’m an extreme introvert. The very idea of interacting with strange humans via the internet or in person can have a paralytic effect on me. But much as writers love to escape reality—or refashion it according to their own design—certain aspects have a way of rudely intruding. Thus, after a year of waiting for the public to discover me, I admitted defeat, put on my red dress and matching high-heeled sneakers, and trundled off to my first promotional event, Sac Con 2015.

To be honest, it wasn’t as easy as a red dress (which I didn’t really wear in the end). I was physically ill, couldn’t drive, couldn’t even sit in the front seat on the way there, because I was too queasy. My husband drove me, while my daughter drove our SUV packed to the roof with books (none of which I thought would sell), t-shirts, cigars and lighters (none of which I thought would sell). All I could think was of my ultimate humiliation when—after a long day—no one had stopped by my booth and I had, subsequently, let down the friends and family who had generously volunteered to help. As I languished in the back of my husband’s truck, looking more like I was being transported to an intensive care unit than a comic book convention, a thought occurred to me: If I sell one book, I will consider myself a success. I shared this enlightened perspective with my husband who laughed and told me I would sell a lot more than that. No, one book, I told him, just one and I will be successful. I felt a lot better. I had a goal and I had eight hours in which to achieve that goal. Believe me, I thought I would need every last minute.

The comic con started at 10:00 a.m. At 9:50 they opened the doors. I was not ready. I was still a mess when a young woman named Bobbie Vargo approached and asked, “How much does your book cost?”

Book. Book. That had a familiar ring, but I couldn’t quite place it because the Test of the Emergency Broadcast System was blaring inside my head. “My book?” I said.

“Yes, I’d like to buy it. How much is it?”

I lapsed into an extended period of stammering, which concluded with an abrupt confession, “I don’t remember.” Apologizing, I excused myself and took a moment to look it up on Amazon (because I’d also forgotten that the price was clearly printed on the back cover). iPhone in hand, I was trembling so badly I failed twice before successfully typing A-M-A-Z-O-N, all the while thinking, “I’m acting like such an idiot this woman is going to walk away, because no one would buy a book written by a stammering idiot.”

She bought my book.

The convention had barely started and I’d already achieved my goal. Also, I had made a friend. A human! One of those creatures of whom I am most often terrified.

I sold a lot more books that day, some t-shirts and a lighter, too, which was remarkable for a tongue-tied unknown. My success was no accident. I had a professional, sharp-looking booth and an eye-catching book cover. How did this come about? During my refusal phase—what I now refer to as the My Book Will Promote Itself phase—I met my personal Gandalf. In this life, his name is Bill Wallen. A former art director for Universal Studios, he worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars. You will find him in the acknowledgements of Cigar Smoking Jerks. Bill gave me the wisdom and guidance I would need on my quest to become a widely read author, which is sometimes fraught with dark riders, orcs and the occasional Sméagol, also hot elves who look like Orlando Bloom (I digress).

It was Bill’s idea to pair the story of my tobacco loving aliens with the cigars they are famous for smoking. For readers who do not use tobacco, I offer chocolate cigars (See’s). That way I have something to offer men, women and children fourteen or older; my book is not for all ages. The Tultoron, my aliens, also carry Zippos. Hence, I contacted Zippo, Inc.—a wonderful company—and hired them to print custom lighters. My main character, Bianca Lombardi, is a sarcastic LA party girl who wears spaghetti strap tank tops printed with smartass remarks. Ergo, I sell spaghetti strap tank tops with smartass remarks. I recently added bumper stickers captioned with Cigar Smoking Jerk. My website is clearly featured below, an idea I got from seeing Mystery Spot bumper stickers and wondering, “What the hell is the ‘Mystery Spot’?” Now I know, just like someday a lot of people will know about The Stingwisher.

Since it is quite possible you will not have an opportunity to meet Gandalf yourself, look to your story for guidance and wisdom. There you should find a wealth of promotional ideas.

The happily ever after? Self-promotion, from which I initially recoiled, has become fun. It has become the stuff that gets my blood pumping. I now live by the credo, whatever draws them (the readers)—a beautiful cosplayer dressed as Bianca, a hot muscular dude made to look like one of my aliens, a Zippo lighter, smartass shirt, curious bumper sticker. I’ve used them all without shame. I no longer worry about compromising my art, because I believe in my story. And meeting readers has eliminated any sense that I’m wasting time. Involvement with my readers is what inspires and continues to motivate me. I still go to every promotion and convention, however, with the same level of modesty: If I sell one book I consider myself a success. Gratitude above all else.

Sure, I still feel sleazy at times, but that’s usually after a couple martinis.

***

Loren Blowers is a freelance writer, cigar enthusiast and lifelong sci-fi fanatic. She traces her fascination with space back to one of her earliest childhood memories, sitting under her mother’s ironing board, watching a newscast of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin cavorting on the moon. After finishing the compulsory Dick and Jane series, she immediately submerged herself in far more intriguing science fiction, later adding comic books and never-missed afternoon episodes of Star Trek. Her debut novel—Cigar Smoking Jerks from Outer Space, Book I of The Stingwisher series—she wrote as a bedtime story (to herself) after her second child was born. She now lives in Northern California with her three cats and the playful spirit of her beloved dog, Waldo.

Holiday Sales vs. eBay

V.E. Frankel

Y’know those holiday fairs where everyone sells handcrafted necklaces and jams and ornaments? Why not books? When I buy a table there, I’m the only author (most often) and signed books make wonderful, personalized holiday gifts. I admit, though, my own books on popular shows like Outlander or Castle have preset audiences. Many passerby note “My mom/spouse/friend adores this series” and I can pipe up with “I bet she’d love a signed copy.” So this works best if you have a cookbook, a humorous guide to fishing, or something with a clear fanbase already. Of course, a sign that this will appeal to Garfield fans or English teachers could work for you…and a holiday-themed book would be perfect here.

Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling sensation Outlander, did signings at bookstores, and specifically targeted to passerby. As she’s told in stories, she would describe her books as military fiction, romance, scifi, fantasy, or adventure, depending the age and gender of passerby – and indeed the books bridge all these categories. Now the books have a television show.

The catch? Well, holiday fair tables can be discouraging and boring when you sit for three days straight and no one buys (or possibly even comes by). Tables range from free (or next-to-nothing) to hundreds of dollars. You can go the year before and ask the sellers how they like the fair, but ornament sales just don’t indicate how your book will do…though they do suggest traffic. There becomes a question of what you would consider a good show and how much your time (or entry fee) is worth.

I find sharing a table (perhaps even with crafters and their cuddly knitted turtles) much more pleasant. If I split a table with three author friends, the eighty bucks goes down to twenty each and we can gossip and hang out (and even shop at the fair or take a lunch break). I’ve seen many booksellers do a raffle, mailing list, or free ebook so they get an increased fanbase even if there aren’t many sales. Candy’s always popular, and big signs and banners get noticed (okay, I admit that the handmade yellow sign in the picture isn’t doing much – the purple one I printed is much clearer.) With many giveaways like bags and mugs, there becomes a question of overhead, but stickers, coloring pages, resource lists, and bookmarks are fun. My own writing group has started doing some of these tables, and we make a collage-poster by color-printing our bookcovers and taping them to a big posterboard. Bringing extra bookshelves gives us more 3D display room and book stands (or books impaled on thin metal bookends) look great. Occasionally we’ve had to bring chairs, card tables, and even a beach umbrella, but most times all we need is a tablecloth—and we have a great collection of scifi ones. We tally everyone’s sales then one of us who’s gotten a temporary sales permit or permanent one pays the tax and gives everyone their cash at the end. Having a free Square reader (lets us take credit cards) helps, though I’ve used Paypal when needed.

For that matter, why haul your books to holiday fairs when you can sell from home for free? Tables attract local sales, but online sales get all over the world, and those new fans may spread the news. In the holiday season, I list my books on ebay as “New signed guide book to ABC’s Castle,” “New signed Outlander Guide Book” and so on. Fans doing keyword searches or people seeking gifts for fans will find them. More importantly, people who do a search for their favorite fandoms all see my book ad and know it exists. There’s also the delightful knowledge that my book got a certain number of “Watches” and “Page Views”—sometimes it really does look like advertising. And a bidding war is always flattering.

I generally run seven-day sales (which get more bids than quicker ones), starting with a very low price on the high-traffic weekend. In the description, I paste the book description off Amazon and upload the cover photo. I add, “It’s signed by the author. Want it inscribed to someone special? Just ask!” They can put a note in their Paypal message when they want it personalized. Ebay sends me the money for sales and postage, and then I sign copies, add a bookmark, and pop them in envelopes (For this last, I measure my book then buy bulk mailers in batches of a hundred from the cheapest online retailer). Book rate is sometimes much cheaper for heavy books. I add a piece of mailing tape, since a couple have opened in all my years of doing this. Then I take the stack to the post office (okay, yes, there can be a line, but once a week, this isn’t such a terrible strain) and joke with the postmistress again about my authorial career. All done!

***

V.E. Frankel has written a huge stack of Outlander books exploring gender, history, and symbolism—five, counting the two edited anthologies. They and the Castle guides are some of her best sellers, especially around the holidays. Vefrankel.com

 

Reviews, Blogs, Bribes

Elizabeth Barone

Several months before releasing my NA romance The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos, I had a problem. I knew I needed to make a splash since A) the novel was a standalone and B) I had a very tiny budget, but I wasn’t sure how. Then I read Tim Grahl’s Your First 1,000 Copies, a short marketing book for indie authors.

I couldn’t do everything Tim suggested, but I knew I could take the essence of his marketing practices, scale it down, and create a six-month launch plan of my own. Carefully planned timing, I was learning, is everything in this industry—especially over a longer period. Since I’m impatient and want to share my books with my readers the second they’re out of production, this has been a hard lesson for me to learn.

Armed with a fresh document, Tim’s advice, and things I’d learned from launching several short series, I listed all of my assets. These were things like my email list, teasers, Wattpad—everything I already had in my arsenal, including free tools (like social media) or relatively inexpensive services (like small book advertising venues). Then I started thinking about the book itself. The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos was the first romance I’d written on purpose. One of the themes was how we’re all subconsciously judgmental; everyone judges everyone else, even if we think we’re fairly tolerant, cool people. Another theme was DIYing it as a young, single parent trying to get through college. I wanted to incorporate elements from the book into my launch campaign, to really personalize it so that my standalone would stand out in a sea of series.

Aside from the usual teasers, I thought it’d be cool to create these little segments on my blog called Max’s Hacks and Savannah’s Manners. My ideal audience was people 18 to 25 years old—people just starting off into the great journey of adulting, maybe with small children to juggle with careers and relationships. Even though the book was written entirely from single dad Max’s point of view, I knew my core readership would probably be women. Max’s Hacks shared useful tips for twenty-somethings, things like “The Single Parent’s Guide to Surviving College.” Savannah’s Manners taught people how to not be judgmental jerks with guides such as “When People Ask About Your Tattoos.” They were fun little character guest posts and super easy to write.

I also set up a rewards system to boost the book’s adds on Goodreads. For every goal we met, I posted a special treat for my readers, with a full list of each incentive on my blog. When we hit 100 adds on Goodreads, for example, I wrote Max and Savannah’s first kiss from her point of view. People really liked it and I hit over 100 adds in no time before the book even released. Later on, I used the same method to collect reviews on Amazon—which also worked really well! (Hat tip to Molli Moran for this idea, who posted something similar on her blog for her novel One Song Away.) This helped me create awareness for The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos; to date, it has 243 ratings, 77 reviews, and 890 shelf adds on Goodreads, with 43 reviews on Amazon.

A little note: For me, it’s not about the quality of reviews; The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos is definitely controversial. What’s important to me is that it gets eyeballs. The reader can then decide whether they love or hate it.

To really get people anticipating this book, I posted excerpts on my blog and on Wattpad. Every week for five weeks before the book released, I posted one chapter. I also sent a five-chapter sampler to my email list before any of the excerpts were posted on my blog or Wattpad. Since my blog automatically shares to Twitter and Facebook, I didn’t even have to spend extra time doing that (though I did regularly re-share using hashtags).

Speaking of my email list, the most important thing I did for the launch of The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos was taking Tim Grahl’s advice and contacting everyone I knew to ask for a review. This part was a lot of work, but totally worth it; all of this work was how I launched with 10+ reviews on release day. For a relatively unknown author with a standalone novel, that was a pretty big deal.

I made a list of everyone I knew who might be interested in reading The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos. It was a long list (my goal was 100 people), and I knew only about half of those contacts would agree to read it, and an even smaller percentage would follow through and post. That’s just how it goes. An extremely important thing to remember is to not get upset with anyone. You have to keep in mind that most people are just as or even more busy than you are. It’s not personal if they don’t reply or end up posting their review. But reminding them regularly throughout the process helps a lot.

Once I had my list, I converted it into a spreadsheet with columns for marking when I contacted them, the ebook format they needed, whether they posted their review, and where they reviewed. (I asked everyone to please definitely post to both Goodreads and Amazon, with the option to cross-post anywhere else they wanted.)

Then I sat at my desk and emailed every single person individually. I didn’t want to do an impersonal cold calling type email. These were friends and family members, both locally and online—relationships that I cherished. They were also colleagues from my writing life and even people I’d worked with at my various jobs in my “past lives.” I did write a template email to save my wrists (I have autoimmune arthritis), but wrote it as if I were emailing my best friend: an enthusiastic and warm letter telling her all about this book I was so excited about. I emailed everyone three whole months before the book’s release date. Some people weren’t able to do it and others couldn’t get back to me, but 63 of the 96 people on my list said yes—over 50%!

The next wave began. I created reviewer packets with information on how to choose a format and sideload the ebook to their device, a timeline for the book’s campaign and their review deadlines, and a short guide on how to write a review. I didn’t want anyone to feel overwhelmed by anything technological and also felt it was important to let them know their review didn’t have to be a graded high school essay. It could just be one or two honest sentences saying whether they liked or disliked the book. No pressure. Following my own timeline, I sent out the packets, and then sent out review copies as each person responded with their required format. All of my reviewers had at least a month to read the book.

I thought a month was fair because any more time and people might forget the book, and any less time, they might not have enough time to finish reading it. Two weeks before release, I emailed everyone who had agreed to review, just to remind them of the date they needed to post. I also reminded them again the morning of launch day, and once more about a week later.

This launch was my most successful at the time (January 2015). Sales in its first month of release officially put me in part-time earnings land. Considering where I was in my career pre-launch, this was a huge milestone. I knew that if I applied the same plan to each successive launch, I could have a long, successful career.

In April of that same year, I signed with a small press publisher. They re-released The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos in January 2016 under their own marketing plan. It did okay, but its success didn’t come close to that of its initial launch—which was funny, considering when I self-published it, I’d designed my own meh cover, and my publisher’s designer made me a seriously awesome cover. It just goes to show: you don’t need a fancy publisher or a large budget. After it released in February 2015 and its new release sales spike ended, I ran some sales and did some advertising with less expensive book advertising venues like Read Cheaply and Booktastik to keep the momentum going. To this day, The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos is still my bestselling title.

  • * *

Elizabeth Barone is an American novelist who writes contemporary New Adult romance and suspense, starring sassy belles who chose a different path in life. Her debut novel, Sade on the Wall (writing as Kaylene Campbell), was a quarterfinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. She is the author of the South of Forever series and several other books.

When not writing, Elizabeth is very busy getting her latest fix of Yankee Candle, spicy Doritos chips, or whatever TV show she’s currently binging.

Elizabeth lives in northwestern Connecticut with her husband, a feisty little cat, and too many books. Learn more about Elizabeth and her books at http://elizabethbarone.net.

Let’s Have a Party!

Valerie Lee

I held my first book in my hands and thought, now what? I was faced with an even a bigger challenge—how am I going to sell it? After all, I don’t have an agent and my book, The Jade Rubies is self-published. No one wants to touch it without a famous publisher on the book cover. All I knew was that I had to try.

I have been in sales all my life and I know that it’s not easy. I was never afraid of cold calls, knocking on doors and selling a product. And now that’s what I am going to have to do with my book. I do know my audience but how am I going to reach them? I have to start somewhere which means family and friends first.

This was different though. Not wanting to go door to door, the only solution was what I usually like to do—to sell my book through parties. Who doesn’t like parties, with refreshments and others to talk to? I focused on that, wrote a guest list, and then created an invite on my computer telling them about the planned event. I had to test the waters to see how it would all turn out so I started right where I lived in San Jose.

I found the perfect setting, a small bagel shop, and the owner was only too thrilled to let me have the place from 2—4 on a Sunday afternoon. Everything turned out well, I took lots of pictures of everyone who showed up, and I did manage to give a little speech and sold some books.

Months later in Vancouver, my hometown, I rounded up some school chums, family, friends and others and had another book party in a small restaurant on West 4th Avenue. Artists’ paintings with colorful red walls as a backdrop only enhanced their artwork, and it was the perfect spot for my book launch. It turned out to be a hit. Not a full house but a few prominent people from Chinatown showed up and stirred up some excitement. It was wonderful spending time with old acquaintances and chatting with people I hadn’t seen since we were young.

When my second book, A Long Way to Death Row, from many years of candid interviews with Charles Ng, was ready, I decided to try something different, perhaps on a larger scale. I talked to Gisela to see if she would be interested in promoting her books together with mine. She was excited with the idea so I went to Ming’s Chinese Restaurant in Palo Alto to set up a 6-course Chinese luncheon and we decided to charge $25.00 admission to cover expenses. We hired a band, Standard Time, since we knew the lead singer, Willie Santamaria. She and my brother Gary Lee, visiting from Vancouver, entertained us with the oldies. Gary also put out his CD’s for sale next to our books. We did sell some books and Gary also sold some CD’s.

Now a trunk party idea just popped up. Since Clare Mullen liked my marketing ideas, she asked if I would like to have a trunk party. Puzzled, I asked what that was. She directed me into her garage full of clothes. “You said you liked to help others, so how about it? Let’s have a party right here!” Stunned by her request, I didn’t know what to say but then she convinced me she wanted help to sell some costumes that she had created. I told her I would do it but not alone. I wanted to include other writers so Gisela and Marjorie were game.

On a warm, sunny afternoon we set everything outside on the patio. We snacked on various munchies, chatted, looked at the books, and tried on costumes and dresses. Everyone enjoyed themselves. Some sales were made but all in all, we had a good time and that’s what book parties should be all about. I would have liked a larger turnout, but sometimes that doesn’t always work out.

Next time I will come up with something different again. A friend of mine just recently gave a jewelry party, so maybe that’s whom I should approach and we can have a joint venture. After all, my friends like jewelry and hopefully some of her friends like to read. That’s the chance I will have to take.

***

Valerie was born and educated in Vancouver, B.C. She grew up in Chinatown, where life never gets boring, so the subject of most of her writings has a strong emphasis of cultural awareness about the Chinese community. In 2007 she published her first historical novel, The Jade Rubies, a compelling story of two young sisters, Sulan and May, sold in China as handmaidens and taken to Vancouver in 1915. The girls learn early on how to survive in a strange, new, grown-up world. In 2009, Valerie published her second nonfiction book, A Long Way to Death Row, from many years of candid interviews with Charles Ng. She visited him for two decades before finishing that book. To this day, she still keeps in touch with him in San Quentin where he is on death row. Valerie now resides in America and is currently working on two books, one is about children and one around Vancouver, Chinatown, and gambling in the 50’s.

 

Befriending Local Artists

Dave M. Strom

I write action adventure comedy stories about Super Holly Hansson: geek girl, comic book writer, and the Superman of her world. These are prose stories. Text. Words. I write, I do not draw. When I told people I write stories about a superheroine, what’s the first question I got? “So who’s gonna draw it?”

I needed a good artist to draw the cover of my Kindle story, Super Bad Hair Day. I asked Batton Lash, artist and writer for Supernatural Law. Batton knows his stuff: he made Holly’s cape red, not yellow, to contrast with Holly’s blonde hair. He helped me nail down Holly’s beaky nose (the ladies in my critique group liked that) and hip purse (superheroines need a place to put their stuff). As for Holly’s super logo, I thought of a Venus symbol, a cross, an H, but nothing felt right. I emailed Batton that Holly is touchy about guys looking at her chest. He replied, how about an arrow pointing up to her eyes? Bullseye!

Seeing Super Holly in artwork helped bring her to life (if you do not count how she runs around in my head). So at small comic cons, I asked other comic book artists to draw Holly. She’ll say a catch phrase like “Talk to the hands!” while raising her fists like a boxer, or “Pervy paparazzi!” while doing the Power Girl punch. Bob Scott, cartoonist (from Pixar!) of Molly and the Bear drew Holly and the Bear with the Bear wearing a cape and babbling to Holly how he can be a superhero: “I can smell blueberries a mile away, I can sleep for six months straight, I can trip over the ottoman…” Holly also has gazed upon Batman with lovey-dovey hearts in her eyes.

What do I get out of this? Art for my website. Artist contacts. What will I get out of this? Future book covers. Other characters drawn, like Holly’s black cowled and caped boyfriend. And art for a children’s book where super kids like Kittygirl, the Puppy Brothers, and Devouring Debbie save grown-up Super Holly from mean supervillains like the evil Ice Cream Guy. And maybe someday, a Super Holly Hansson comic book. Or even a graphic novel.

In fact, you can see my comic con art page, which adds to my website’s content with something nice to look at: [+ https://davemstrom.wordpress.com/super-holly-art-from-comic-cons.] My Batton Lash page is up at [+https://davemstrom.wordpress.com/holly-artwork].

***

Dave M. Strom writes superpowered action comedy so fangirls, fanboys, and fan-wannabes can also see themselves as superheroes. Like the mightiest of all: Super Holly Hansson, who writes and fights in a world gone comic book. Dave has been a comic book fanboy since before Stan Lee created Spider-Man. He works in Silicon Valley as a technical writer. He won a first place award in the 2016 San Mateo Fair Literary Contest for his audiobook version of his short story, “The Malevolent Mystery Meat!” You can follow his blog at davemstrom.wordpress.com, and you can find his Kindle stories under Dave M. Strom (or search for Super Holly). Super Bad Hair Day! is on sale on Amazon.

The Most Attractive Ice Cream

Jennifer Ng

“Ice cream!”

Those two words are magical triggers to a passerby’s ears. Whether or not the passerby loves ice cream (and yes, there are ice cream haters), ice cream, by its connotation emanates childhood, innocence, summer, and quintessential dessert.

So my title of my book, Ice Cream Travel Guide, piques interest. I hear whispers “Ice Cream Travel Guide” float as visitors pass by table. The intrepid ones approach and attempt the word combinations on their tongue, “What is Ice Cream Travel Guide?”

I offer them a taste of the book. “It’s a book about ice cream around the world,” I say. “I traveled to over seven countries and interviewed over sixty ice cream makers to bring you the stories.”

They nod and pick up the book from its golden stand. But I know the book isn’t enough. In my day job in user experience, I spend hours at my computer pondering the best design for helping users discovering a TV show to watch or choose a healthy, satisfying lunch. Yet I neglected to apply that skill to selling my book when initially published in early 2016. So when released, despite an earlier successful Kickstarter campaign, my book faded into the collections of dessert books. Ice cream, a symbol of childhood innocence and sweet happiness, may invite curiosity, but how might I, as an author, ask a curious reader to browse through the book?

As the summer approached, I brainstormed ways to promote my book—book readings, of course. The physical presence at local bookstores, book festivals, ice cream festivals, and farmers markets. The virtual reviews at Amazon and Goodreads, Goodreads giveaways, distributed excerpts, tweets, shareable Facebook posts, mailing lists, Medium articles, magazine pitches, and podcasts. I focused on the former, specifically book festivals, and thought carefully about the audience. By the nature of the event, the attendees are book lovers. They want books, yet I needed to attract food and travel lovers. So to provoke curiosity, I designed a table spread with that intent while also encompassing the mission of my book. As a frequent attendee of festivals, I understood that many want a good experience, but don’t want to feel like a pansy customer.

My table spread contains coloring pages with ice cream cones (emblazoned with my url no less in case an artist wants to hang it on the refrigerator), ice cream decor that function as paperweights and conversation starters, a scrapbook containing items from my journey, instagrammable displays, and a whiteboard that invites participation. They are not profit-making, but I play the long game. By giving visitors a good experience, they leave with a positive feeling. I understand that it takes repeated exposure to make a purchase. Of course, my books, business cards, book postcards, mailing list, and t-shirts crowd the table. They are ready when a visitor is ready.

But my goals are simple: I want a conversation. I want to invite the curious visitors into my world. I want to build a relationship. Because it’s about the sample, then the desire for the full scoop. 

  • * *

 

If she was asked what she enjoyed doing at the age of eight, Jennifer Ng would have answered ”observing”. A design strategist by day, a writer by night, and an ice cream lover anytime, Jennifer published a book about her global journey about ice cream, Ice Cream Travel Guide, where she interviewed over 60 ice cream shops, stayed overnight at a dairy plant, and visited the Gelato University and Museum. She is currently working on a novel based on her grandparents’ lives from China to Peru to the United States. She also writes about San Francisco, technology, and alternate worlds. Read more at jennism.com

Read it and Sell it

Loren Rhoads

I love to read from my books in public. I love the silence that descends as the audience grows rapt. More than that, I love to hear the crowd react to my words, noting when they gasp or if they laugh. Best of all, I love to gauge the enthusiasm of the applause at the end.

The chief thing to keep in mind when you are asked or volunteer to do a reading is that—while the audience comes to be entertained—YOU are there to sell your book. Whatever you read, make it the best advertisement for your book that you can.

I try to tailor what I read to its intended audience. If I’m reading in a bar, I choose something sexy. If it’s a bookstore, I read an action scene. If I’m reading to science fiction fans, I pick something that’s undeniably SF. If it’s a horror convention, I read something bloody. I don’t try to stretch their tastes because I want them to buy the book.

It’s important to find out in advance how long your reading slot will be. It’s rude to exceed your time limit, because you’re stealing time from the other readers.

I’m a strong believer in reading a complete scene, whenever possible. It’s good to end on a cliffhanger or some other place that will leave your listeners wanting more. In my experience, it’s better to read one long piece, rather than too many short pieces, because it’s easier than most readers realize to overstay the audience’s good will.

I always practice before I perform, not only to time my selection, but also to see how it feels in my mouth. Are some names tricky to pronounce? Are there words I’m uncertain of? I’d rather make mistakes at home instead of in front of people. Also, as I’m practicing, I sometimes add extra commas, so I remember to breathe or leave space for laughter.

Reading to a live audience can teach you a lot about your own work. Sometimes what looks good on a page doesn’t sound good in performance. Maybe the sentences are too long or convoluted. Scenes full of dialogue can be hard for listeners to follow. Long descriptions or info dumps can sound awkward out of context.

Another element that should be considered when you’re preparing for a reading is how you will introduce yourself. Usually you will be expected to provide the host, if there is one, with a short bio. Crafting the perfect bio is a whole ‘nother essay, but briefly, this: Give your name, the title of the book you are selling, and your web address. If there is more information that your audience will find useful, mention it. Highlight your authority as an author and what you have in common with your listeners. Keep it short. You can be funny, if that comes naturally, but don’t bring up your cat or your marital status—or any other personal information, for that matter—unless that’s what you’re reading about. Otherwise, it’s obvious filler that erodes your audience’s patience.

Once you get up in front of the crowd, think about how well you can be heard. If there’s a mic, lean toward it. If there isn’t, pretend you’re talking to someone at the back of the room. My voice tends to be soft, so I begin my readings by asking people to wave at me if I grow hard to hear.

Of course, that means that I have to occasionally glance up from my text. Even after all the readings I’ve done, I’m still self-conscious enough that it’s hard to tear my eyes off the manuscript. To get around that, I mark places in my scene to look up. I try not to meet anyone’s eyes, because that would distract me from what I’m doing, but I want to get a brief glimpse of the audience to see if their eyes are on me, or if they’ve glazed over and I should wrap things up. The glazing-over has yet to happen, but I always worry.

The (almost) final thing to think about is how to end your reading. When I reach the end of my text, I let the words run out, take a breath, and then say thank you. I feel it’s important to thank the audience for their attention. I try to thank the host and the venue too, if there’s time and it’s appropriate. Write what you plan to say on your text, so you don’t forget it.

Lastly, stand still a moment to enjoy the applause. It can be surprisingly difficult to face your audience after you’ve done your bit. It can feel like you’re hogging the attention, especially if you’re reading as part of a lineup. I try to stand still long enough to make some eye contact with the crowd before I rush off the stage. After all, the applause is why we do this. Well, that, and the book sales.

***

Loren Rhoads is the co-author (with Brian Thomas) of Lost Angels and its upcoming sequel Angelus Rose, about a succubus who becomes possessed by a mortal girl’s soul. Loren has read at bookstores all down the West Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. She’s read in bars, cafes, theaters, art galleries, an antique store, a Day of the Dead tchotchke shop, a gaming store, and at a Death Salon. She’s performed on podcasts and college radio stations, pirate radio, Top 40 radio, and even on NPR. She’s set up and hosted group readings, solo readings, release events, fundraisers, open mics, storytelling events, and addressed the Cypress Lawn Book Club. And she still gets nervous every single time. www.lorenrhoads.com

 

 

Meal Replacement Units: Sustenance Worth Remembering

Denise Kawaii

In another life, I helped with advertising for a restaurant franchisee and then did promotions for a small family business. One of my favorite things in that time was scouring promotions catalogs for quirky and fun things to give away en-masse. Putting a logo on something is a lot of fun, although if you hope for your brand to be remembered it also takes careful consideration.

The problem with giveaways is that they need to be cheap so you can afford to give them away. Unfortunately, low-budget promotional items are often junk no one wants. YoYo’s, stress balls and wind-up toys are all things that I throw in the trash if they weasel their way into my convention bag. So, when I think about something to use as a promotional giveaway I try to find something I would use. Even if I’d only use it once.

When my first YA Sci-Fi, Adaline, came out I knew I needed to do something to get my name out there. Adaline was my second published title. My first, a romance called Age/Sex/Location, had underwhelming sales so I was still considered a new author who no one knew. That’s a problem when you are trying to sell books. I looked online for advice. Most of what I found was a variation of, “hand out bookmarks and hope for the best.” I wanted to do something different. I flipped through my novel and tried to think of something in the book that I could give away. Robots? There are loads of robots in the book, but they’re too expensive to give away. Still, I did pick up a couple to display alongside my books at shows. Some sort of gadget? I looked briefly at tech-y handouts like thumb drives and styluses but quickly discovered that I couldn’t afford enough of them to make a meaningful impact. Meal replacement units? Hey—now there’s something no one else was doing.

In my book, the humans are raised by robots. We humans are messy and inefficient eaters. Who has time for that? Not the machines of Adaline. Feeding humans via meal tablets is both clean and economic. If I could replicate a meal tablet to give away, I knew it would be something memorable to a potential reader. I considered several petite food items and decided on candy because it’s purchased pre-made. More importantly, candy is pre-wrapped. An imitation tablet made of wrapped candy could be cheap and break away from the standard convention booth candy dish.

I went to my favorite printing site (vistaprint.com) and had some stickers made that I could use as labels. I also had some small zip-top plastic bags left over from another project. The bags are the exact size of the labels, and are perfectly sized to hold three Starburst candies. When the labels arrived in the mail and I started packing Meal Replacement Units, I knew I had something great. The labels read:

 

These Meal Replacement Units

are 100% Adaline Approved!

Adaline, a novel by Denise Kawaii

https://kawaiitimes.com

 

The zip-top bags are transparent, so it’s easy for the recipient to see from the back of the packet that the contents are candy. If I’m not getting a lot of action at my table I stand outside the booth and shout, “Meal Replacement Units! Get your free lunch here!” I quickly explain to potential customers that in my novel, Adaline, my characters are fed meal replacement pills. As I’m handing the packet to the intrigued listener I slowly turn the packet over and say, “I brought some with me to share. But when I transported them, they turned into Starburst candies.” They almost always end up tucked into a pocket for later.

To take the giveaway a step farther, I also worked with a talented artist (commonly known as my brother) to create a simple logo that would make the labels look more convincing. The logo has an image of a robot’s head at its center. Since lucid dreaming is also a big part of the novel, I surrounded the robot with the words, “I Dream of Adaline.” I loved the meal replacement unit logo so much that I had it printed onto t-shirts by CafePress for myself and for family who are likely to help me at events.

With my t-shirt matching my candy label, I have a cohesive, professional look that helps people remember me long after the candy is gone. Often, someone who picked up one of my packets at the beginning of a show will come back to the table hours or days later to pick up a book because the candy label keeps my book front of mind every time they pull it out of their pocket or re-discover it when they dig through their bag of convention goodies.

Meal Replacement Units won’t work for everyone. But if your characters have a running theme, gag or profession, you may be able to tie that into a giveaway that will help make your work memorable. Halloween style rubber severed fingers work well for a book full of murder. Magnetic calendars could promote a book that has heavy use of the seasons or holidays to push them along. Finding a tie-in to your book makes giving things away more fun for you, keeps your handouts from going straight into a junk drawer, and helps to create a connection with a reader that may bring them back to you again and again.

 * * *

Denise Kawaii writes from a laptop that she carries between Portland, Oregon and Longview, Washington. Her stories vary from romance (Age/Sex/Location: Love Is Just A Click Away) to science fiction (The Adaline Series). She has also branched out into psychological thrillers with S is for Serial as D.K. Greene. She houses all of her personalities under the umbrella of KawaiiTimes, and the full catalog of her work can be found at KawaiiTimes.com.

Kawaii fills bouts of writer’s block with micro-farming, taking care of family and discussing the merits of composting toilets and rainwater collection. She believes that there’s no such thing as a bad manuscript; anything not worth reading can always be composted.

Me and KDP

V. Estelle Frankel

I earned myself 4,700 downloads during my KDP free days (on a book with only one review). How did I manage it? Lots of work.

First I scheduled the promo of my Doctor-Who related book (Doctor Who: The What, Where, and How) to release a week before the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who (earlier would have been better and gotten me some reviews, but I just didn’t have the time). I scheduled a five-day giveaway beginning the day before the anniversary release and ending at the end of that weekend (five days at once allows more people to see all of your posts, of course).

Starting a few days before, I joined Doctor Who fan groups on Google Plus and Facebook, along with science fiction groups and author self-promo groups. I befriended top Doctor Who posters on Twitter, following them and sending them a message that many reposted. I began posting my messages on Goodreads (where they’d linger in their categories for a few days).

 

Goodreads and Facebook message:

Free Dr Who Guide Today!

Doctor Who: The What Where and How: A Fannish Guide to the TARDIS-Sized Pop Culture Jam To celebrate the 50th anniversary release this week, the book is FREE on Kindle TODAY-Monday. http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/

With optional book paragraph to follow. But a pitch where you can hook them in one sentence is best. Pasting the link ensured a picture would go up too.

 

Tumblr and Google Plus message: Same as above but with hashtagged keywords too.

 

Twitter message: Variations on the following:

Doctor Who: The What Where and How #free Nov 21-25 #freekindle http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Whereebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/ #ebook #freeebook #DoctorWho #DoctorWho50th

 

I didn’t like the look of tiny URLs, but some people do. Varying the hashtags helps to reach more people. Don’t forget hashtags can be part of the information. #freekindle means the same as “free on kindle.”

Starting early the morning of my free promo, I went nuts. Basically, I posted my message on all the applicable Facebook pages. My tweets went to Facebook, and I individually tweeted book promo people and Doctor Who people, many of whom were kind enough to retweet (even without the RT request I likely should have included). Granted, Facebook will bar you if you look like you’re spamming (too many posts or posts on sites that don’t encourage it, I would think). On all the pages, I checked what other people were doing. If the rules on the upper right said no self-promotion, I moved on. I never posted more than once a day on a site, or if my previous post was still visible. (There are so many sites to cover, after all). Obviously, a group or fan page with thousands of watchers is better than one with just a few. In a day I could do some Google Plus groups, some Facebook groups, some Goodreads groups, some tweets, some forum posts. Better than overwhelming the system.

For Doctor Who weekend, thousands of fans were posting with Doctor Who hashtags, and other similar hashtags, which I noted and copied. They were also publishing THOUGHTS on the anniversary special and original content, from reviews and blog posts to memes. I wrote several insightful blog posts, pasting my book link at the end with a note on where they could find similar material. Then I alternated posting my book ads with announcements about my blog.

 

#DayoftheDoctor In-Joke References List http://wp.me/p10chw-5y review of #dayofthedoctor and easteregg list of cool stuff at https://valeriefrankel.wordpress.com #DoctorWho50thAnniversary #DoctorWho50th #DoctorWho

 

Everyone was posting great websites and reviews. So I commented on these in their comments section on the bottom, generally including “I wrote a similar review available at…” I retweeted other people’s clever posts and announcements—I had many new Doctor-Who related Twitter followers, after all. Not all of my comments had my ad— only where applicable. But my social media picture was my book cover after all…

I put the prettiest pictures on Pinterest, which each were also posted to Twitter. Many new followers were repinning and admiring the great pics in my Doctor Who Pinterest Gallery. My own book covers were there as well, with a comment on the website for purchase.

I attended several live Doctor Who parties (which I had planned to write reviews of for more content). I asked many friends to let THEIR friends know about my free guide, and I messaged them a copy of my ad when I got home. Many retweeted it, specifically tagging their friends who were Doctor Who lovers.

I did all this for British sites as well as American. If the page seemed British (co.uk) I used the British Amazon link.

Basically, I sent out messages for five days straight, on every place I could think of, particularly those where my potential readers hang out. It worked.

(Admittedly this took place in 2013, when free ebooks were more of a draw. I still leap on the hashtags of whatever’s trending though. )

***

V. Estelle Frankel loves Doctor Who and fandom—she’s now written two more books on Doctor Who (Doctor Who and the Hero’s Journey and The Catch-Up Guide to Doctor Who), though they didn’t have such an exciting debut. She can be found bragging about these and other books at a long list of wonderful science fiction conventions, lined up at vefrankel.com.

Above All, Find your Audience

Daniel M. Kimmel

As I write this I’m getting ready for the release of my seventh book, my second novel. Since my last two books—Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and other observations about science fiction movies and Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide—were both small press books from Fantastic Books—promotion was important.

What works for me is humor. As the titles suggest, I use humor to attract attention to my books. It starts with the titles. In the first case, the title was mine. It is probably the best title I’ll ever come up with and one that immediately lets me know whether I’m dealing with a prospective reader. When I would appear at conventions and announce the title of the book, the room would break out in laughter and applause. Elsewhere, reactions ranged from knowing laughs of recognition to what I called my mother’s reaction: “Very nice, dear. What does it mean?” In the latter case that person is clearly not in my audience.

The title of the second book was not my working title, which my publisher changed to Shh! It’s a Secret. I suggested the addition of the explanatory subtitle which a.) hinted at the book’s plot about a space alien who wants to be in movies and b.) suggested by its juxtaposition of disparate elements that it was going to be a comedy.

Humor may not work for all books or all people, but I’ve found it a good fit. When I’m autographing books I have certain comments that I know will get a positive reaction and will let the reader feel they’ve had a personal moment by giving them an anecdote they can retell if they choose. For example, I’ll look at the person and ask, “Should I make this out to you or to ‘Dear Ebay Customer?’” Or I’ll tell them about the real advice I got from another author about autographing: don’t sign books the same way you sign your checks.

The key thing about this kind of self-promotion rather than giving out a bookmark or pen or the like, is that it should never seem like self-promotion. When people talk of finding a rare copy of a book by a particular author—one that wasn’t autographed—they’re making a wry observation about a person who treats every encounter as a chance to sell his books. No one wants to be treated as a “customer” when meeting an author, and yet they will indulge the author’s need to promote their books if it’s done right.

The year Jar Jar Binks Must Die came out I was invited to emcee the Sunday Night Short Film Festival at Balticon. This was a perfect audience for my book, but they were there to see the films, not listen to a commercial. So when I introduced myself at the start of the evening, I said that shortly after I had arrived for the program I saw that my publisher was there:

“He asked me, ‘Are you going to tell them you have a new book out?’

“Of course I am.”

“And are you going to tell them it’s called Jar Jar Binks Must Die?”

“Of course I will.”

“And will you tell them it’s for sale at the Fantastic Books table in the Dealer’s Room?”

“Of course not. That would be shameless self-promotion.”

You can imagine the reaction. I got a big laugh, and in making sure everyone knew the title of the book and how they could get it, I turned it into a comedy bit. Instead of doing a commercial, I had provided entertainment.

So my best advice is this: whether humor works for you or not, treat potential customers as fellow readers and fans, and not simply as walking wallets and purses. Leave people with a positive impression of you and, even if you don’t make the immediate sale, they may check you out in the future.

And you can check out my time travel comedy (title currently being negotiated with my publisher) in 2017.

  • * *

 

Daniel M. Kimmel is past president of the Boston Society of Film Critics and founding co-chair of the Boston Online Film Critics Association. His reviews on current movies can be found at NorthShoreMovies.net and on classic SF films in Space and Time magazine. He was a finalist for a Hugo Award for Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and other observations about science fiction movies and for the Compton Crook Award for best first novel for Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide.

More Book Promoting Tips

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Tweet about it and tweet it to book promotion groups. Make friends and trade posts. Use keywords whenever a related subject trends.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Post on Facebook – especially in book promotion groups.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Create a VIP group on Facebook or somewhere with fan exclusives like bonus content, early access to books and prizes.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Load your Amazon AuthorCentral page with content – photos, videos, Twitter feed, blog feed, bio, and more.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Show off your book cover on Pinterest. While you’re at it, share photos of your friends with the books, your book events, or fan art.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Have kdp free days and sales. Head on over to sites where you can list your freebie. There are tons of them, but here are a couple to get you started: igniteyourbook.com, ebookswag.com, and our “Your eBook Deal How-To Guide!” post.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Write blog posts on a related topic and share them on social media.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Make a book trailer and share it on social media.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Hold a Goodreads giveaway and share it on social media.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Run a contest or a giveaway for your book from your website or Facebook page using an app like http://woobox.com/http://www.shortstack.com/, http://www.rafflecopter.com/ or http://www.wildfireapp.com/

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Ask friends and family for reviews. Visit book blogs and ask them for some. There are review exchange pages on Amazon and Goodreads.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Make cards, bookmarks, postcards, flyers. Leave your business card, bookmark, or book flyer wherever you go.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Put your book on Goodreads and Amazon lists so people searching for titles like yours can find yours.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Comment on threads in Facebook groups or on other people’s threads to build your reputation as an expert. Try Quora and other bulletin boards too. Contribute advice and ideas to LinkedIn groups. Use discussion forums on your topic, or even places like yahoo answers, to get on front of people who want to know what you know. Make sure you have a link to your book in your signature.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Create short presentations and put them on SlideShare.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. While being an expert, speak on your topic at a local meetup group or store.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Do a quick Internet search for local writers’ conferences or book festivals you can attend. Speak, sign, hand out cards, make friends. If it’s a kid’s book, you can try for schools.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Talk to bookstores and libraries about doing a presentation, stocking your title, or giving them a free signed copy to use as a prize. What about a coffee place or a friend’s event? Book fairs? Craft fairs?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Do some radio research and pitch yourself to at least five stations. Here’s a great place to find radio stations.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Post some free content or excerpts from your book on Scribd and Wattpad. And your own site.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Write and distribute a press release for PRWeb and other free press release sites.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Make an email mailing list and make announcements and offer interesting tips. Give them a reason to buy — with enough sales you’ll put on a special webinar or teleseminar.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Put a link to your book in your email signature.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Create a URL forward that directs people to your Amazon page. It’s where people want to shop anyway.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Offer a free or cheap book to hook people into your universe

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Make a series of how-to videos for YouTube. On YouTube, readings, interviews, guest-stars, book trailers, and reviews are all good. Get as many video testimonials as you can. Get some fun, slightly silly, videos done on fiverr.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Start a podcast or guest-speak (see above) 

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Start a blog or guest-post (see above)

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Pitch yourself to your local television stations.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Pitch yourself to your local print media.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Don’t enable the “Digital Rights Management” option in your kdp dashboard. You might find your book being given away on free sites but more sharing counts as advertising.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Create an Amazon associates account and add an image of your book and a link back to Amazon on your website .

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p<>{color:#000;}. Try selling books on eBay if there’s a logical tie-in event.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Make special giveaways – ribbons, candies, coloring pages, stickers…

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p<>{color:#000;}. Have a party. Invite tons of people on social media and post pictures there too.

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p<>{color:#000;}. You can host a party via Skype or on Google Hangouts and then promote it on your social media sites as well.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Subscribe to Talkwalker.com or Mention.com and make sure that you are getting alerts under your name as well as your book title(s), brand, and keywords.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Run a big charity fundraiser so that for every book sold on a certain day you give profits to a charity of your choice. Advertise this on social media.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Develop a set of questions or discussion topics that book clubs or online book clubs can use for your book, and post them on your website for handy downloads. 

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p<>{color:#000;}. If you have a WordPress blog, use the “Ad Rotator” plugin to rotate your book or books on your sidebar. You can use your own image or use the “Click Here to Look Inside” image that Amazon provides.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Add resources and extra goodies at the back of the book. Because this also increases the overall length of your book, the reader will see more than 10% content when they click the “look inside” feature which will help you sell more books because they can see how great your book is.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Hire people from Fiverr to post information on your free days to the ever-growing list of sites that promote free books.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Do a Squidoo “lens” on a few of the tips from your book. You can also then link your social media

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p<>{color:#000;}. Create a Speaker One-sheet, you’ll need this when you start booking interviews with the media or speaking gigs. Check this out for more info on them.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Start an Ask the Author on Goodreads. Here’s how, from the blog.

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p<>{color:#000;}. How about getting an account on Vine or Instagram and doing short videos and pictures about your book or topic? 

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p<>{color:#000;}. Find some catalogs you think your book would be perfect for and then submit your packet to them for consideration. If you’re unsure of what catalogs might work for you, head on over to catalogs.com and peruse their list.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Is the topic of your book in the news? In a world that’s increasingly connected with 24/7 news outlets, there is a never-ending source of news materials. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to share your expertise (and promote your book!). 

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p<>{color:#000;}. Going on vacation? Use your away-from-home time to schedule a book event or two wherever you are traveling to.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Send thank you notes to people who have been helpful to you.

Good luck!


Self Promo Stories: Authors’ Cleverest Strategies to Sell their Books

Just published? Self published? Indie title? Looking for wonderful advice on self-promotion? This book has it all: silly hats, theme candy, sandwich board costumes. There's also plenty of up-to-date social media advice -- Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogging. There's advice for KDP free days and linking your book with bestsellers. Getting reviews and arranging bookstore events. Basically, these stories by award-winning authors can help you build you brand and pick the gimmicks that'll get you noticed....and best of all, it's free! Read these authors' wonderful true stories and learn how to sell your book.

  • Author: Valerie Estelle Frankel
  • Published: 2016-11-19 04:50:17
  • Words: 17644
Self Promo Stories: Authors’ Cleverest Strategies to Sell their Books Self Promo Stories: Authors’ Cleverest Strategies to Sell their Books