Sep 082014
 
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By Colin

So you’ve written a book—not a story that crapped out after four thousand words, but an actual novel. And you think this book might be the one. Whether you use beta readers or go with your own gut, all the signs are right; this thing might actually sell some copies. You’ve decided to go with a publisher rather than putting it out yourself (and the joys of “putting it out yourself” are something I might go into in a future column). Now the question becomes: which publisher?

Because—just in case you’ve had your head in the sand during your book’s gestation—there are an awful lot of them. Even if you’re going with one of the electronic publishers (which, if your book is erotica, you most probably will), you’ve got an amazing number of choices. This month, I want to throw out a few helpful precepts, garnered through way too many years of my own mistakes, on how to go about shopping for a publisher.

First of all, just in case you have had your head in the sand for the past year, and are interested in an overview of the contenders, you’ve got a number of options. Google is not the least of these. A simple search on the words erotica publisher novel guidelines will get you started. If you’d rather look at more specific information right away, check out the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, specifically the Authors Resources page, and, for that matter, the ones at this site (on the right-hand sidebar below Roundtable Posts. Updated Calls for Submissions coming soon! —ed.). Both contain lists of erotica markets, with links to the publisher’s sites.  If you’re willing to spend a little money ($5.00 a month, or a discounted rate of $4.17 for committing to a year up front), I’ve found membership at Duotrope to be both affordable and very useful, not just for erotica, but for pinpointing opportunities in a wide variety of other genres, from steampunk to Bizarro. They also collate response times reported by members, to give you a better idea if your manuscript will meet with a quick answer or a slow death.

Of course, the first thing you’ll be looking for are publishers who put out the kinds of books you’ve written and want to go on writing, but this will also be an opportunity for you to look into areas you might not have thought of before. You might also find markets for material you thought was terminally unsalable, so take the time to really look around.

Alright, now you’ve assembled a shortlist of possible publishers. It’s time to look over their websites and their wares. You can judge a book by its cover, and you can often judge a publisher by their books. Do the covers jump out at you, and make you wonder what kind of story they represent? Or are they muddy, indistinct messes that just make you go, “Meh?” Would you buy their books? Because if you pick them and actually make a sale, your book will be right there among all the others you’re looking at now.

How about the website? Is the ad copy well-written…or at least competently written? Misspellings, tangled syntax and clichéd phrases on a publisher’s site are a red flag; remember, these people will be representing your work. If you’ve landed in a site full of clip-art covers and bad writing, it’s time to move on. If you Google a publisher and nothing comes up but a Facebook page or a Smashwords profile, then what I just said goes double.

If they’ve posted a sample contract (some do, some don’t), read it carefully, making note of things like royalty rates, and how you would go about pulling your book from their catalogue if they (perish the thought) turn out to be a shady operation.

Speaking of shade, reputation is another big factor to consider. Google the publisher—sometimes adding words like “complaints” or “problems” to their name will bring up some very interesting results. If a publisher treats its writers badly, there will be blog entries—usually a lot of blog entries from a wide variety of writers—about it, as well as mentions on sites like Predators and Editors (another one for your web-browser’s Favorites list). You have to take some of this with a large grain of salt, because a single writer who feels she’s been stiffed on her royalties can 1) be awfully loud and 2) recruit a handful of friends to help boost their signal out of nothing more than personal loyalty, and it’s true to say that sometimes “problems” with a publisher are simply the result of misunderstandings.

Some writers make a point of ignoring new publishers (which seem to crop up every week) until they’ve been in business at least a few years. This is generally sound advice; several years in business means the publisher is not just successful, but also has a certain stick-to-it-iveness. But you have to be a little careful here as well; recently, several publishers who had been around for a while and built up solid track records in that time suddenly went belly-up, literally overnight. Obviously, if you’re good at reading warning signs, these are businesses to avoid. Many publishers are iffy about taking previously-published books when the publisher dies; there’s always self-publishing, but that should be an option, not something you’re forced into to get an older manuscript back into print (probably with a less-than-glorious cover).

So now you’ve narrowed your list down and you’re pretty sure you know which publisher you want to submit to.  What happens now?  Come back in a month and we’ll talk.

***

Colin is a fetish writer and the single most prolific professional author of tickling erotica working today, with dozens of books to his credit. www.gigglegasm.com and www.ticklingforum.com.

 

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Mar 202014
 
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By Sherry Ziegelmeyer

Publicity does not start and end with a press release. It certainly doesn’t end with your social media feeds, either. The one thing that no one selling “social media marketing services” will tell you is that the press doesn’t go looking for Twitter feeds and Facebook pages to fill their publications with content. I can say a hell of a lot of bad things about “social media” as a marketing tool (and will in the future), but for now I’ll refrain and tell you about what does work to get press attention, namely media kits and review kits.

You send out a media kit or press kit to get the initial attention of media outlets and introduce writers to you—and whatever you may be selling. It’s a friendly way (and in the case of media kits, a proactive way) of saying Hey, I want you to get to know me and do a story on me, so your readers or viewers will get to know me too.

“Media kits” are a general term for a package put together by you to give to the media. It is a prepackaged set of materials distributed to members of the media for promotional use. Media kits should contain both printed and digitally formatted images, your biography, a fact sheet about your book or series of books, and a copy of recent press releases or some other type of document that tells the press about your most recent newsworthy accomplishments or activities.

There are two common types of media kits: the press kit and the review kit. There is a slight difference between the two, but they both have some things in common, so let’s look at each one individually. We’ll start with press kits this month and take a look at review kits in Part 2.

 

Press Kits

A press kit contains information about you and product. It should include a “sales slick” (a printed page with images of book covers, synopsis, distribution and price information) or a sales catalog of the various books you’re selling, and other items that help the media consider running a story, or arranging an interview, with you about your books.

Here’s a list of what items should be in your press kit and explanations of what they are:

A One-Page Biography Sheet

Think of this as a cover letter. You can include photos of yourself, and you should include a header or footer with your email address, phone number and mailing address. But overall, the Bio Sheet is intended to present the press printed information about you.

The bio and personal information sheet should include a full biography, touching on everything from your life story to why you originally started writing smut—and do include where your ideas for your book(s) come from. The more information you can offer about yourself, the better.

However—and this is an important caveat—don’t drivel on for three pages! Keep the content of this biography focused and in bite-size, easy to read and digest, “sound bite”-type statements. You really want to give your whole story in about four paragraphs—you’re not writing your memoirs. Don’t get sidetracked with the yellow crayon incident and how your best buddy pulled you back from the brink of destroying the world by re-telling it for you. (If you don’t get that reference, google it!—your pop-culture history knowledge is lacking. ;) )

Include a “Company Information” Sheet

This should be a separate sheet from your bio! Make sure that your Company Information Sheet includes all of your business emails, phone numbers, addresses and any other contact information the press could possibly need to get in touch with you and your publisher(s).

The Company Information Sheet is also where you can give the media your website URL, your social media feed information and information on anywhere else you “hang out” regularly online.

An “Art Disk”

A professionally packaged press kit always includes Art Disks, so the media has all the graphics they will need to complete the story or interview for publication. Art disks should have multiple, different, photos of you, your book jackets, your company logo and any other graphic elements you are using in your publicity campaign. If you are including any video or audio in that campaign, it should be included on the art disk as well.

Many people forget that all entertainment—especially adult entertainment–is a visual medium. Most websites and publications make heavy use of photos to attract and retain viewer attention.

Make sure the artwork you provide in press kits is capable of being reproduced in a print format. This means that images, logos and photos included in your art disk are all capable of being printed at a minimum size of 8.5 inches by 11 inches (the dimensions of a standard piece of printer paper) when set at an image resolution of 78 dots per inch (DPI) or higher (ideally 300 DPI). You will also want to include web resolution artwork in your art disks, so that an editor can immediately use the image on the publication’s web site. Web resolution is usually 78 DPI or less (generally 72), and should be sized at a minimum of 600 pixels by 800 pixels.

If you have Adobe Photoshop, do include the .psd files of all photos, logos and book covers with all of the original, unlocked layers you ended up using in the final image. This gives the publication the ability to resize and reformat them in any way they may need to run them in print.

Digital Copies of Everything

Always include a CD or DVD with digital files of every page you created for your press kit! You may be able to fit this on your Art Disk but if you can’t, include a separate disk that contains them. So many editors copy and paste for news stories, you want to give them something to work with quickly and easily.

***A Word about File Formats: Please make sure that all your files included in art disks and the digital copies of your other press kit pages are created and saved in standard file formats. And always try to include file formats that will work with both Mac and PC systems. So create your page copy in Word—and, especially, do your best to use a “compatible” version of Word, so if the person at XYZ magazine is still running Windows 98, they can open your file! Don’t assume that just because you’re sending the kit to a magazine, everyone at its office will have the newest software. Some writers won’t even be able to open a .docx file! Above all, never include a PDF of anything—it just frustrates your recipient.

The same goes for image files . . . While you should include images and logos that are created in Adobe Photoshop, don’t assume every reporter has Photoshop (or that their versions are up-to-date, if they do). You’ll also need to include JPG files of all the images associated with your press kit contents, so the writers can use the files no matter what software they have. And be careful about including PNG files, as lots of online publications have older software that can’t read them.

Supporting Evidence

If you feel you need to substantiate your place in the pantheon of erotic writers, you can also include photocopies of any publication’s reviews of your books, or other published news stories about you and your books.

However, it is best to err on the side of caution and include less of these types of enclosures than more of them. No editor wants to feel like they are out of the loop on a big news story other publications have already covered. There is also a natural feeling of competition between publications, which could make the editor receiving your press kit feel like you are comparing them unfavorably to a rival publication that already covered you. You want to avoid pissing off any editor you approach in all aspects of your publicity campaigns!

Making a Good Impression

Always package your press kits as if they are a gift to the person receiving them. First impressions are so important . . . you can’t afford to slack off on how the package you’re sending to an editor looks, smells and feels. While you may have a limited budget to work with, your press kit should be as beautifully packaged as you can possibly make it. This is the time to spend the $150 or so to have stiff, coated paper folders with your logo or other suitable images printed. Alternately, use one of the clear acrylic cover, sheet folder, binders that are available at all office supply stores. This makes a nice presentation for minimal cost.

Make sure you label your Art Disk not only with your name and book title(s), but also with exactly what is included in it. You should list things like “box covers”, “author photos”, “Bio in Word” and so on, so when they see the disk, they know what’s in it!

Put your Art Disk in a CD/DVD envelope. Whether it’s a “teabag” paper cover or a thin, plastic case. You may want to take a look at the local office supply store and purchase the plastic, stick-on, CD/DVD wallets to attach your Art Disk to the folder. Having everything attached together makes it more difficult for a harried reporter to lose a crucial piece of your press kit!

The outside of your package should look as good as the inside, so this is a great time to invest in specialty envelopes to enclose your materials. There are a wide variety of them available for minimal cost, everything from coated paper envelopes with full color images, suitable for sticking a mailing label directly on the front along with postage, to colored plastic envelopes that are opaque enough—and strong enough—to stand up to Postal Inspector standards. Be creative! A stunning packaging job arriving in the mail will get noticed among all the crappy flat-rate USPS envelopes.

And don’t forget—all press kit mailings must include your full name or company name, full address and a “regarding” line on the front of the envelope. Media members tend toward paranoid types, with good reason. Tell them on the envelope who you are, where this package came from, and write “[Author Name/Book Name] Press Kit with Art Disk Enclosed” on it. You’ll be much happier with the response your press kit gets if you don’t have Homeland Security knocking on your door because a reporter thought you sent Anthrax to their office and wants you investigated.

 

In the April WriteSex publicity column, we’ll focus on Review Kits, because while they are similar to press kits, there are some differences in the content you will need to include.

 

Do you have specific questions concerning how to generate publicity for your books? Please email questions and comments to Sherry; answers will appear as future WriteSex blog topics.

Sherry Ziegelmeyer is a professional publicist and public relations representative, who happens to specialize in adult entertainment (in all its various forms). She resides in Chatsworth, California, affectionately known as “ground zero of the adult entertainment industry.” When not working on writing press releases, arranging interviews and putting together review kits for her clients (among dozens of other career related activities), she reads a LOT, loves cooking, appreciates beefcake eye-candy, spending time with friends, family and with her assortment of furred and feathered “kids”.

Get to know Sherry at blackandbluemedia.com or www.facebook.com/sherry.ziegelmeyer.

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Jan 182014
 
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By Jean Marie Stine

“My ebook sales are declining!” and “Why are my sales declining?” are litanies being heard increasingly from established authors who have been writing for at least three years or longer, and from publishers who have been in the business for the same period. And yet, we are told more ebooks are being sold than ever before. How can that be?

In fact, total ebook sales have risen over the past few years, but not even double—whereas the number of published books available for sale has gone up twenty-three hundred percent during the same time period.

Here are the figures: When Amazon opened the Kindle store, they announced that they had 100,000 ebooks for sale.  Today the site shows their number of available ebooks at 2.5 million. There are now categories in the Kindle store that have more ebooks in them than were on the entire store site when it first opened.

2.3 million titles (and this is just ebooks, not counting print) is at least 5 times the total number of books for sale in the U. S. before the advent of the Kindle.

It is an unprecedented, watershed event in publishing history.

It means the individual ebook today, your book, is vying for attention (and the reader’s dollar) among 2.3 million others. Whether you have written one book or thirty—30 out of 2.3 million is daunting odds.

Of course, the number of titles your ebook is competing with is appreciably smaller than this.

People generally write, sell and buy ebooks according to their favorite genres and categories. Since these categories are smaller, you have a much smaller number of ebooks clamoring for attention along with yours. If you write romance, for instance, your book is only in a pool with slightly less than a quarter of a million other romance ebooks available for sale at Kindle. In addition to which many readers, naturally, have a particular subcategory of romance they prefer, such as paranormal or bondage or m/m, etc., where the number of competing books is smaller still, and the odds improve even more. Your paranormal romance will be offered for sale among only 30,700 others at Amazon Kindle.

The situation for those writing erotica is much the same. Amazon reports slightly over 131,000 books for sale in erotica.  But if you specialize in bondage, you only have to make your book stand out in a field of 19,000. And, if you write about male dominants, you are only competing with 9,000. That is still a lot whether you have written one book or thirty, and individual readers can only afford to buy so many books per month or year—and even the most dedicated readers of bondage fiction with the most time on their hands will probably not buy not 19 thousand.

So, practically speaking, what does that all mean? How many sales can you expect on average when purchases are spread thinly over so many titles?

At a recent industry conference I was on a panel with a woman whose husband worked for Amazon’s Kindle division and she said the average ebook sells 4 copies per week. As there are a number of writers selling thousands per week, that means overall there are hundreds of thousands of books that do not sell even one copy per week.

Finance writer Mike Cooper analyzed reports from Amazon and other sources and concluded that the average ebook at Amazon earned $297 last year. Again, that means there have to have been hundreds of thousands that earned nothing or virtually nothing. Cooper concluded that the average author would have to write and publish “48 books per year just to make minimum wage.”

“But what about Facebook and Twitter,” some authors say. “I have a hundred fans who have friended me and ten times that on Twitter who follow me.”

Sadly, those FB and Twitter fans also follow other writers, and have only a certain amount of disposable income for purchasing books. According to the same woman I was on the panel with, for all the efforts writers put into them, FB and Twitter followers account for at most only 28 copies out of the average ebook’s sales.

And here is a final set of figures, the number of free books for Kindle available at amazon: 54,000! Let’s break that down a bit. There are over 2,000 free romance novels, written by newer writers and even quite famous ones, all trying to gain new readers for their work. Almost 200 free lesbian novels. And if you write bdsm erotica, readers will find over 100 free titles.

And who doesn’t like free? No wonder the average Kindle title sells only four copies per week.

Of course, these are daunting figures for those seeking to earn some or all of their income from writing, and for smaller publishers trying to find sales for their authors. But they do pinpoint why everyone’s sales are declining. Since the first step in solving a problem is to find the cause, being aware of the romance and erotica markets for ebooks is a major step forward.

What can you do about all this? In a market this gargantuan, how can you draw greater attention to your ebook, make it stand out above the others, let alone generate big sales?

The fundamental principle of marketing is first, study your customers. In this case, study your potential readers. You may think you know your readers because you have dozens, if not hundreds, of Facebook followers and because you meet readers at events—but, while helpful, these folks do not necessarily represent the typical book buyer.

Findings on such matters as the influence of Facebook, author blogs, Goodreads, cover, price, reviews, video trailers, famous author endorsements, twitter, publisher name and more on readers’ decision to purchase a books are, to say the least, illuminating. If you haven’t read our summary of the widest reader survey ever undertaken on contemporary book buying habits—and what does and doesn’t influence readers to buy an author’s book—click here now to read it.

The second step in marketing something is to educate yourself on the best ways to promote and sell your product. Working “smarter, not harder” is not just an oft-repeated cliche of the business world; it’s a fundamental, applicable principle, especially when it comes to online marketing. Of course use your blog, your site, your Twitter and Facebook. But use them more wisely and realistically, recognizing their limitations. and learn how to automate functions—that step may save you time otherwise unnecessarily wasted. Generally speaking, do yourself and your books a huge favor and search this blog for tips from established writers and marketing professionals—in addition to the articles linked above, there are many more on these subjects!

And remember, sometimes success strikes with the first book, and sometimes with the 50th. But if you give up on writing, it can never strike at all.

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Apr 072011
 
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by oceania

I was reading a radio newsletter and they asked if stations had a digital strategy… seems the old saying if it ain’t broke don’t fix it was being mainlined and hard by the radio industry! Unfortunately they aren’t the only ones! Except for a few most authors feel that if they write it readers will come (oh my – and orgasm too perhaps)

If you subscribe to the idea of 1000 true fans, (anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living),  a creative needs to  reach out on all levels to potential readers and make them fans. Most authors know in their heart of hearts that they need to be focused more on digital media because that’s where a significant portion of their true fans will come from. So what is your strategy?

Do you have a website?
Is it mobile compliant?
Do you have video book teasers?
Do you have both a facebook and twitter account?
Do you make time to voice an opinion, write a weekly blog?
Have you gotten yourself interviewed?

Think outside the wordpressor!

There is no excuse for not having a website. Free sites can be had on wordpress and blogspot and even on some publishing houses servers. A writer cant even use the I dont know html excuse now that wordpress has made life simple with themes that just require one to type and post.

The same goes for twitter and facebook… many writers have them but most are gathering dust. Social media requires a daily commitment! Hence the name SOCIAL MEDIA – not recluse or anti-social

Radio Interviews should be an essential part of any publicity campaign a writer embarks on… Podcasters and online radiostations, like Radio Dentata offer great packages for authors from interviews to books read out loud, places like that offer more than the standard banner or video teaser display.  Plus radio offers more bang for your buck in the way of connecting with a fan base… Market rearch has shown that “… online radio listeners are more than one-and-one-half times more likely to have a profile on a social networking site as compared to average Americans and that they tend to be power-users, with one-third of online radio listeners logging on to their social networking site nearly every day or even multiple times per day.” <<<<tapping into that market can make it easier to make those sales!

Why not comment and let me know how you’re maximizing your visibility!

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