Aug 062014
 
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By Sherry Ziegelmeyer

Some authors don’t put much thought into who their target reader is—and it’s one of the most important questions in the publishing game! In some cases, authors slave away for years on a genre where the audience is so miniscule that so much time and effort spent writing a novel for that reader is simply bad business. But ultimately, no matter what genre or niche you prefer to focus on, every book will benefit from a good understanding of who will ultimately buy it. Researching your book’s audience(s) is definitely a step you can’t afford to skip.

As important as it is to research your book’s target audience before writing, it’s just as important to research your audience before embarking on a publicity campaign, so you don’t end up wasting time chasing consumers who will never buy your product.

Be Realistic About Your Audience

Too many authors start publicity campaigns with an unhelpful combination of vagueness and overconfidence, imagining a giant throng of people clamoring to buy their books. Most have some nebulous audience profile in mind that includes millions of potential consumers—with erotica writers, this profile is often built on the assumption that any and all erotica is perfect for “people who like sex.” Don’t we all like sex? I think most of us like sex.

Yet, how many male readers “like sex” with a cock in their bum? That’s a subset of the population of “people who like sex”. And while male/male anal sex does not only relate to gay male readers, trying to entice most heterosexual men into buying gay erotica is going to be a fruitless waste of time and money (time and money better spent targeting the many heterosexual women often found flocking to m/m erotica and erotic romance . . . but more on that later).

The same can be said of authors who specialize in high-end, literary erotica. The type of novels with a fair amount of fetish elements and/or elaborate storytelling involved in the sex scenes . . . that’s a very specific genre, appreciated by an equally specific audience. Even people who “like sex” may be turned off by long passages describing the room in the scene in excruciating detail.

Hit the Right Target the First Time

Whatever type of sex you portray in your books, you probably have a particular vocabulary with which you like to illustrate it—words that not only describe the physical action in a scene, but which also set a specific tone and mood. So take advantage of that insight when creating press releases, cover art, synopses and blurbs, as well as in your social media and any other forum you use to market your books.

How you word the copy of all your publicity, and your overall image branding, will help your target audience decide whether your books will suit their taste—and you can use this to your advantage in your press releases and other publicity activities. Pay enough attention to the connotative qualities of your verbal and visual language, and your target readers will not only know your book is for them, but will start getting excited about it long before they open it up or click “Look Inside!”

If you are writing “fuck books”, for example, your press releases should contain words that arouse the interest of a hardcore just-get-to-the-sex reader (suck, fuck, cunt, slut . . .). Remember that those words tend to attract entirely different consumers than those looking for, say, literary or romantic erotica—writers of the latter, on the other hand, should give potential readers an idea that their story contains “sensual explorations of Sapphic desire, embellished with the heated ecstasy of erotic foot worship.” Sure, there’s some language overlap within the books themselves—literary erotica might talk about cunts and sucking; fuck books will describe something as sensual, etc. As a writer, you want to keep your word choice open and interesting. But as a publicist, you want to remember the tone and mood you’re trying to convey at first glance, so stick to the terms that really get to the heart of your genre (or subgenre, or sub-sub . . .).

The description of the Sapphic desire/foot worship book appeals to a very targeted audience—one who is now aware that this book contains their favorite dynamics and kinks, but who is also aware that your writing style will tend to avoid blunt, fuck-book-esque terms like girl-on-girl sex and foot fetish and, instead, describe things as sensual/ecstatic/erotic. Using the right “keywords” helps you to relate to the person you most expect to pay money for your books. After all, if you have created your stories around your personal likes, you already have a connection to the ultimate buyer for what you are selling. Use that to your advantage, and seek your target consumer where you like to spend your time, using words that you like to see when looking for your own “smut”.

So How Do I Target My Audience?

You can begin to narrow your audience down by asking yourself the following questions:

Which gender(s) am I writing for?

Like it or not, almost all sex novels are marketed—and purchased—at the furthest ends of the gender spectrum: For Women. For Men. If you are presenting an idealized version of sex and romance with sentences like “he approached her jade step, pausing to gently fondle her glistening pearl”, your target audience is probably women. You may be able to sell that book to men, but your target audience is certainly women—and a very wistful, romantic kind of woman at that. Alternately, if you write books that feature rough treatment of sex partners who lack much characterization . . . “the whore gobbled my jizz like a good cum-dumpster should”, you should probably target male readers. While it’s true some women like rough sex and dirty talk, the male demographic for that type of sexual depiction is still much larger.

Whether you choose to play along with these expectations is up to you, but know the risks and do not expect that your groundbreaking, stereotype-smashing stories of gothic heroines who curse and carouse like sailors will support your writing full-time or enlighten the masses in one glorious fell swoop—if you play your cards right, however, you will find the small-but-enthusiastic segment of readers who love your work and hunger for as much of it as you can write.

It’s also worth considering who your viewpoint characters are. In a hetero story, does the male or female lead end up doing most of the speaking and thinking? In whose head do we spend the most time (though, if the answer is “no one’s”, it’s probably a marketed-to-men kind of story) and which characters are secondary and viewed from outside? Roughly speaking, books marketed to women have primarily female viewpoint characters and vice versa.

Is my writing of interest to a particular orientation, kink or lifestyle?

There are many, many ways to be sexual—and thus many, many erotic genres. From homo- and bisexuals, to swingers, to the myriad kinds of fetishists, to bikers, to bisexual swingers with a biker fetish . . . and that’s only the tip of the iceberg to consider. Think about the way your target audience spends their time, their typical philosophical or political outlooks, the words they would use in their daily life and any specific sexual activities they would practice. Think about how your stories fit within different groups and eliminate the groups that your writing tone, style and plot don’t fit well with. Once you have the exact reader profile your writing style fits best with, you’ve found your target reader.

You may have the potential to narrow down your reader to lesbians over 50 years of age, with a penchant for leather and Harleys. Good for you! That’s a very specific audience that you can appeal to in a very focused way.

What words “turn on” my target audience?

Fetishists look for words that describe what they are into: feet, shoes, stockings, smoking, masks . . . the list goes on, but it consists of very specific objects and characteristics. Men who like to read about women being dominated often look for words like humiliated, broken and whore. Gay leather men often look for words like military, rugged and stud. You get the idea. Figure out what words work to get the attention of your target buyer.

How does my target reader describe the way they have sex?

Unless your target audience is very similar to you, spend some time with the type of consumer that you are looking for, learn what words and terms they use for sexual acts. Also pay attention to how they describe themselves by sexual orientation or culture. It will give you a wealth of insider information that will not only make your books more plausible and exciting, but will help you create keywords that you can use to make your product more appealing to a particular consumer. It’s obvious to say “gay sex”, but is that the way a gay person actually describes their sex life to a “breeder”? You won’t be able to answer that unless you do your research.

Is my reader of a specific age?

Some storylines, plots and language will appeal to younger adults, some to a more mature audience. Memories of a World War II fly-boy getting laid in France may get some younger readers, but the majority will be well over 30 and most likely male, depending on what wording is used to describe the ins-and-outs of the story.

Do I have a sub-segment of consumers?

Every type of novel has a main audience, but sometimes there will be cross-over segments and you may want to do two different publicity campaigns, one for the target and one for others that will have an interest, but who but aren’t your main consumer audience. As we’ve stated, for example, gay male erotica sells with both gay men and straight women.  So consider using words that attract both audiences in press releases, book covers and book synopses. If you are selling a book titled Billy Kidd and the Long Gun of the Law, using words like rugged, dominant and fisting will more likely appeal to gay men. Using words like romantic, surrender and pursued will likely play better with females. If you do so skillfully, you can combine these terms in a way that appeal to both audiences.

Use Those Questions as a Springboard

Keep asking the above questions (and adding your own!) until you find the perfect reader for whatever genre of literature you are selling. The more details you can attribute to your target consumer, what they are looking for in a a “good read” and what will convince them your books will be better than what is already available, the better. Then you can work on making your publicity campaign much more attractive to that specific buyer.

So Why Am I Doing This Question Thing?

A targeted publicity campaign should be focused on making sure your publicity activities are taking place where the largest concentration of your target audience gathers. For your publicity to be successful in reaching your perfect reader, you have to identify their haunts and learn their habits! I’ll share some secrets on how to find those places—and how to work within them to your advantage—in my next Write-Sex publicity column. Stay tuned!

***

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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Apr 252014
 
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By Sherry Ziegelmeyer

Last month, we discussed media kits; as you may recall from that post, media kits are important for making that first approach to any writer or editor. When you initially begin a relationship with a new media contact, I don’t suggest that you immediately start giving them product for free. If you want to bribe them (and, in the context of getting people to write about you at all, bribery can be a good thing), then do so with something on which you’ll lose nothing, in case they hand it to some civilian, non-writer friend. And no, I don’t think “word of mouth” is worth enough to be handing over your copyrighted, produced-for-profit, material to just anyone; reserve your copyrighted product for writers who indicate a willingness to write about it (themselves, as opposed to passing it on to someone else) and hold off on sending review kits otherwise.

But once you have established that a writer is interested in giving your book a spin, it’s time to set them up with a “review kit”. Review kits can be very important for an author’s publicity campaign—good publicity is based on getting as many other people talking about you as you can. This is especially important with adult entertainment products, be they sex toys, print books, ebooks or adult videos. The consumer has no way to know exactly what the book, product or movie is about (or what it does)—and they certainly don’t know whether they’ll like it or not—until they can actually get their hands on it.

Since a lot of your books are sold online (and often there is no return or refund option for an e-book, or any book), giving an adult-media reviewer a copy—so they can offer their readers a third-party opinion and synopsis—helps you to make the potential consumer more aware of, and interested in, your product to begin with. In the mind of the consumer, the reviewer is going to have more credibility regarding the book’s worth than you are, so reviewers are an essential publicity force.

Review Kits

While a review kit is similar to a media kit, it will contain less information about you and much more about the book. A review kit must include the following, or you’re wasting your time and that of the reviewer:

A Copy of Your Book

Insert a physical sample of the book you are submitting for review. If you only sell e-books, for goodness sake, include a CD containing the book in an easy-to-open and easy-to-read format, such as a Word document or a PDF file; don’t just send them a link to some download. And I have to say, if at all possible, a printed book is much more impressive to a reviewer than only sending them a digital copy, unless you load it into a brand new Kindle or Nook.

An Art Disc

Include a CD containing all relevant artwork concerning your book. You will want to include the book’s cover art, but also include any images that you are using in your book’s overall marketing effort. Sometimes your publisher has created sales slicks or fliers, ads or other marketing tools, any of which may suit the reviewer’s taste, or fit into the layout of the review, better than the book cover does. (Be aware the media will not run ads without you paying for them, so we’re talking only about art to accompany the review itself.)

As with media kits, make sure the artwork you provide in review kits is capable of being reproduced in a print format. This means that images, logos and photos included in your art disc are all capable of being printed on paper at a minimum size of 8.5 inches by 11 inches when set at an image resolution of 300 dots per inch (DPI) or higher. You will also want to include web-resolution artwork in your art discs, so that an editor can immediately use the image on the publication’s web site. Web resolution is usually 72–78 DPI, and all images should be sized at a minimum of 600 pixels by 800 pixels.

If you have Adobe Photoshop, or your publisher has Photoshop files of your book art, include these in their original .psd format—including all photos, logos and book covers—saved as unlocked and layered. This gives the publication the ability to resize and reformat them in any way they may need to run them in print.

Please be sure to label this disc as “Art Disc for [Title of Book] by [Author name]“. You should also write a list of the disc’s contents on its label, or as an insert into its case—this way, the writer can take one look at it and know they have all the art they need to complete their review.

To be safe, write your name and your phone number and/or email address on that label as well; if it gets separated from the rest of the package, or if there are problems opening any of the files, they can contact you quickly and easily and proceed with the review of your book.

A One-Sheet

For all book review kits, you should put together a one-sheet containing all the information the reviewer needs, outlined in a convenient and easy-to-read format.

The top of the page should contain the full title of your book. If you have a second line, or “kicker”, to the book title, such as Sex Slave: One Chick’s Journey into Submission, please make sure you indicate that so the reviewer won’t mistake it for two different titles. Sometimes a book’s cover design won’t make it clear that the book contains one novel with a kicker and not, say, two novelettes (though it should—but that’s a subject for another column), and it’s never a good idea to end up with a reviewer giving their readers the wrong title of your book!

Right under the title (or left aligned with it and all the following text, if you want to be professional) embed an image of the front of the book cover. Sounds odd, but especially if you are sending digitized books, the reviewer needs to be assured what they have in their hand is definitely the book you sent them to review.

Under the photo, include the date of publication, the author name (yours and those of any co-authors), the publisher’s company name, the ISBN number, retail price and any information on where your book is available for sale.

Don’t add in direct links to the book on Barnes and Noble, Amazon and the other retail outlets unless you know for a fact that the publication has an affiliate account set up with a specific retailer. If they do have an affiliate account, make it as easy as possible for them to find your book listing and link their affiliate account to it. Money makes the entertainment world go around, darling.

Next on the One-Sheet is a synopsis of your book. Please don’t just copy this from the back of the official book jacket! Make an effort to tell your reviewer the plot of your book in easy-to-understand words. You can be dramatic and a bit flowery, but save the “heart pounding adventure on the high plains” crap for the consumer market. Less “hype” is more with the press . . . they get spun each and every day, so they don’t need more spin from you. ;)

In your synopsis, spell out the names of all the principal characters, the location of the story, its period and timeframe (2014? Two hundred years into the future? 410, BC? This matters enough to indicate to a reviewer from the getgo, and will increase your chance of a good review.)

If you have strong supporting characters, or just a lot of them, it’s wise to make a list of their full names and character synopses, so the reviewer can reference this after reading your book. You’d be surprised at how often some minor character in your book ends up getting “star treatment” from a reviewer, when you always thought your leading lady (or man) was the star attraction. So make sure you cover all your bases, and list the cast of characters so the reviewer can easily locate each one’s name and part in the story line.

Digital Copies of Everything

Always include a CD with digital files of your One-Sheet! You may be able to fit this on your Art Disc but if you can’t, include a separate disc that contains them. So many reviewers copy and paste whatever they are writing; you want to give them something to copy from quickly and easily. It won’t hurt to include a digital copy of your book, even if it is available in print. You never know when a reviewer may lose the copy you sent—and it’s better for them to have a backup than skip the review all together.

Your Business Card

A review kit should always have a printed, actual, hold-in-your-hand business card. Most reviewers will end up requesting one at some point, so include one in your review kit (and in your media kit, for that matter). Who says print is dead?

You should also include an Outlook Contact Card on your art disc, or at least a Word .doc containing all of your business contact information.

Goodies!

Seriously, did you think reviewers do this out of the kindness of their hearts? Review kits should come with “swag”! You don’t have to go overboard and include the keys to a brand new Ferrari (that’s reserved for the music industry) or stacks of non-sequential $100 bills (that’s for political lobbyists), but it never hurts to bribe a reviewer to read your book, as long as you’re subtle. Look at retail stores like Dollar Tree or Big Lots with an eye toward items that resonate with your book’s storyline and are easy to pack into a shipping container. Alternately, you can choose useful, everyday items that complement the book you are sending to your reviewer.

In the case of print books, it’s perfectly acceptable to include a beautiful bookmark (if you have some printed with your book title, send along a half dozen of those as well) or a small reading light that can attach to a book, shelf or airline seat. Just make sure that if you include a book light, you also include batteries for it, along with some spares—it’s always good to over-gift and never good to under-gift.

If you want to get more creative, go for it! If you wrote a western romance—how about sending along a bandana or a cowboy-hat-shaped keychain fob. For bondage-themed books, send along a pair of cuffs or some other toy (not a dildo!) featured in the plot. None of this grabbing you? How about a ceramic mug printed with your book title and artwork and a $10 Starbucks card or a box of upscale tea bags? Maybe you gave the reviewer an actual Kindle or Nook containing your ebook . . . think about adding a $5 or $10 dollar Amazon or B&N gift card to the package.

But please beware of sending along goodies that could backfire on you. Nothing ticks off a reviewer who is post-rehab, more than being presented with the object of their former addiction. Cigarettes, booze . . . anything that could possible offend someone should be discounted when choosing swag. That also goes for sending chocolates to someone with diabetes or muffins to someone with celiac disease. Unless, of course, you know a certain reviewer has diabetes or wheat intolerance and you send them something “free” of whatever their personal poison is—in that case, you don’t need my silly columns to be a damn good publicity agent for your books!

Looks Matter

As with the media kits, it cannot be stressed enough that the better your packaging looks, the more interest the reviewer will have in its contents. Be creative, and remember that appearances matter in all aspects of publicity.

This is a physical representation of your professional image—and that of your book—which you are presenting to the reviewer. This is not the time to reuse an Amazon packing box, or use Band-Aids as the shipping tape on a mailing carton. Unless of course your book title is Naughty Nurses, and then maybe the bandages would fit the theme—but really, it’s still better to keep them to the inside of the packaging so your media contact’s first impression of your kit isn’t “…What?!”

Bottom line . . .

Include every possible thing that a reviewer could ever need to go forward with their review of your book. If you aren’t sure what a specific publication needs, ask! And more importantly, write it down for future reference.

Your contact list should contain detailed notes on each and every publication (and each individual writer and reviewer) you are working with. This is part of that all-important relationship that a publicist (you) will build with your media contacts. This level of understanding and cooperation makes a huge difference to a reviewer as they decide whether to work with you or not. If you are willing to give them everything they ask for, and make yourself available for anything else they may request later, it will go a long way toward making them want to work with you as often as possible.

 

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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Mar 242014
 
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By Colin

I’ve said in my previous column that writers are, by and large, not terribly greedy people.  I’ll stick by that, but it should be said that there are some things writers do covet to the point of greed or even obsession. One of those things is attention, and, more specifically, favorable attention. Most of us, after all, began as readers, for whom good books were the most amazing, inspiring things in the world. Whether it was Tolkien or Barbara Cartland or Zane Grey or Tolstoy, there’s that moment where you said I wanna do that. And it’s completely understandable that you’d want to produce something that hits someone else the same way. It’s not always about aiming for the stars, either; I have stacks of horror and sword-and-sorcery paperbacks that did as much as any literary classic to get me writing, and I look at those old writers with great respect. If I can give someone the pure pleasure they gave me, I tell myself, I’ll be happy.

For erotica writers, that impulse to take on the role of master is mixed up with something more complicated—we’re trying to excite, to titillate, to seduce. So if someone does post a favorable review of your new ebook on Amazon or Goodreads, it can be a remarkably sexy experience. You find yourself wondering about this person, this “FatalKittYn79”. You look up other books they’ve reviewed, you linger over their online profile. You fantasize that this reader truly “gets” you, and sees your work in the same light that bathed your favorite books when you were young. Since any book from your hand is an extension of yourself, reading that review can be a bit (just a bit) like meeting a potential new lover. But in that frame of mind, a bad review can be, as the kids say, a real buzzkill.

The biggest problem, though, is that most books garner neither songs of praise nor the sneers and bad comedy routines that too often pass for negative online reviews. Most books come out to a crushing silence.

Sometimes—when I really should be doing something more constructive—I will google one of my pseudonyms along with the word “review.”  This is guaranteed to bring up dozens of online bookstores where my books are for sale, along with canned text along the lines of “Read a REVIEW of Colin’s SWORD OF THE DOMINATRIX Here…” Needless to say, there’s never any review on those pages. It’s crickets, all the way to next Tuesday. Even if your book attracts a number of favorable remarks from your friends and people in your network, you always hope for more, from people who didn’t know you existed yesterday—the FatalKittYn79s of your reading public.

Now, it doesn’t take long for most writers to realize that the silence is part of the job. That realization is healthy; meeting the Silence squarely and spitting in its eye can be a great help for a writer. It can move you away from fantasies and ego to the essential business of getting on to the next book or story. Most of all, it can help you realize that quality isn’t always measured in backslaps and superlatives. It can inspire you to help build your network and develop ways of making things—including reviews, good or bad—happen for yourself.

So next time you’re faced with the Silence, try making some noise.

 

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 102014
 
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By M. Christian

Let’s open with a joke: a guy pleads with god over and over: “Please, Lord, let me win the lottery.” Finally, god answers: “Meet me halfway – buy a ticket!”

Back when publishers only put out – gasp – actually printed-on-paper books I was known as a writer who would give anything I did that extra mile: readings, interviews, PR events, press releases … you name it, I’d do it. To be honest, I’ve always had a small advantage in that my (unfinished) degree was in advertising and I’ve less-than-secretly really enjoyed creating all kinds of PR stuff. I’ve always felt that a good ad, or marketing plan, can be just as fun and creative as actually writing the book itself.

Sure, some of my PR stuff has gotten me (ahem) in some trouble … though I still contest that the “other” M.Christian who staged that rather infamous plagiarism claim over the novel Me2 was at fault and not me, the one-and-only; or that my claim to amputate a finger as a stunt for Finger’s Breadth was totally taken out of context…

Anyway, the fact is I’ve always looked at publishers as people to work with when it comes to trying to get the word out about my books. Sure, some publishers have been more responsive and accepting than others and, yes, I still have bruises from working with a few who couldn’t have cared less about me and my books, but in the end most of them have been extremely happy to see my excitement when one of their editions hit the shelves.

Duh, things have changed a lot since then – but in many ways things haven’t changed at all. Books are still books, even if they are now digital files and not dead trees, and bookstores are still in the business of selling those books, even if they’re now Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo instead of brick-and-mortar establishments … and publishers still want to work with authors who want to work with them.

Not going into the whole publisher-versus-self-publishing thing (in a word: don’t) one thing that has totally changed is the importance of marketing, social media, and public relations. Simply put, it’s gone from being somewhat necessary to absolutely essential.

But this post isn’t about Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, blogs and the rest of that stuff. Instead I want to talk about how you work with a publisher: what they do, what you do, and how to make it all work for the best.

A very common myth is that publishers are finger-steepling, mustache-twirling villains who pay for their volcano lairs and diamond-collared Persian cats with the sweat of writers. Okay, a few do, but the good ones started as writers themselves and have simply worked their way up to being in a position to try and help other writers – and, sure, make some bucks along the way.

Another common myth is that publishers don’t care about their writers. Okay, let’s be honest: a writer who sells a lot of books is definitely going to get the lion’s share of attention, but a good publisher knows that any book in their catalogue can be the one to go from one sale a month to ten a day.

There’s a very important factor: publishers deal with a lot of writers – some of whom have written dozens of books while others have two or three … or only one. With that many titles you can’t really expect a publisher to be able to give you 100% attention 100% of the time. Yes, they want you to succeed – they have a vested interest in your success, after all – but they have to try and bring that same level of success to as many of their writers and books as possible.

That does not let them off the hook when it comes to doing their jobs. A good publisher, most importantly, knows the business of publishing. Often this means they have to do things that authors don’t like: saving money on covers (or refusing to use your aunt’s watercolors as cover art), asking for changes to books or titles, requiring authors to think about social media and audience, asking for copyedited or clean manuscripts … and so forth. They do this not because they enjoy watching a writer cringe, but because they have lots of experience with what won’t sell, what might sell, what is worth a lot of time and what isn’t.

Believe it or not, publishers are also people: they work very hard – too hard in some cases – to be the publisher they, as writers, would want to work with. As such, they don’t just want to make a book a runaway bestseller; they want to make that book’s author excited and happy about their work.

Personal disclosure time: yes, I am a writer but I also have the honor of being an Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks. To put it mildly, it has been an eye-opening experience to start out looking at publishers as a writer, and end up looking at writers as a publisher.

During all this I try to remember my own excitement of when my books came out, and all the plans and strategies and so forth I had the pleasure of putting together. It was stressful and depressing more often than not, but then there were the wonderful moments when I felt the publisher was also thrilled about me and my work. As a publisher, I’ve tried to return to the favor to other writers.

Did you feel a “but” coming? Well, you should because sitting on the other side of the fence I’ve noticed that a few – not a lot, thankfully, but still far too many – writers want to win the lottery but won’t buy a flipping ticket.

Okay, I promise I won’t turn this into a “get off my lawn” rant but I do have a few words for advice for dealing with publishers – and how to making the transition from A Writer to A Cherished Author.

For one thing, always remember you are just one of many writers a publisher has to deal with. Yes, you have rights and a publisher should always respect and care about you and your work – but being demanding or a prima donna will get you nothing.

A good publisher will work very hard on marketing, promotions, exposure, new ways of doing anything, etc. – but, and this is extremely important, you need to as well. In short, buy a ticket!

Don’t have a website? Make one! Don’t have a Facebook page? Create one! Don’t have a Twitter feed? Sign up! Don’t have a Goodreads, RedRoom, etc., presence? Get moving!

The same goes for following your publisher’s social media links and such. Sign up and friend and favor them, and when your book comes out let your publisher know that you are excited and happy about it. Tell them of your marketing plans, send them your press releases, talk to them about the ways you are working to reach your audience … don’t just sit back and wait for them to do all the work.

Social media is timeless: your book might sell tomorrow or next year, which means that your marketing and such should also never stop. It breaks my heart when authors decide that their book is a failure when they don’t immediately see a fat royalty check – when the fact is the book is a failure because it is they who have given up on it. Publishers feel the same way: none of them want to hear that they screwed up by not making a book a bestseller when the author walked away from the title after a few months.

I could go on, and I will in more columns, but let’s wind down by restating the point of this post: working with a publisher is a partnership. They have duties and responsibilities but you, the author, have to step up and enthusiastically show that you, too, want to make your book into a magical, hotter-than-hot, golden ticket.

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Jan 272014
 
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By P.M. White

Writers aren’t social, are they? Aren’t writers at their keyboards, head lowered, with their fingers moving furiously for hours on end? Don’t they hear dialogue in their minds and not out loud?

That’s how it used to be, if we’re to believe historians.

Writers these days, however, have to be both social and prolific if they want to make enough from their stories to stave off a day job. And most writers have day jobs, often two jobs, to support their writing habit. But whether or not one needs a day job, it’s still it’s a full time job just being social—by which I mean the current primary definition of this term: marketing yourself and your writing with social media. Like it or not, most believe it’s a vital part of the literary world these days. In erotica, authors are online chatting it up on a regular basis. If they want to sell more than five books, they have to be.

But often, all the socializing in the world won’t help. So what are the tips and tricks to getting noticed? How do authors market both their work and themselves?

Author Hunter S. Jones recommends loads of reading and loads of research:

As an artist you should have the capacity to read trends. Find out what works for your genre and what feels good for your work. That seems to be the most important thing, really.

Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, offers both advantages and shortfalls, she added.

You can gain scores via some sites, gain followers on all sites, but maybe the important thing to remember is not to lose sight of your own publishing goals. What do you want and how can you obtain it?

Author Kay Jaybee recommends setting aside time each and every day to promote your work. The easiest and most obvious marketing tools, she said, are Facebook and Twitter:

By setting up an author page on Facebook, as well as a Twitter account, you can quickly post buy links, cover reveals, and writing news to help build up an audience of readers. If you haven’t the time to dive into these social media networks more than once a day, you can use Hootsuite to schedule as many posts as you like in advance—that way your work has an online presence on and off all day.

Keeping and updating a blog or a website is equally important, she added. Jaybee herself gets more than a thousand visitors a week on her blog.

Another recommendation I’d make is to go on a blog tour whenever you have a new, full length, novel or novella to market. Ask blog-owners who specialize in your genre to feature your work for a day. You can pay for professional agencies to set up such tours for you, or you could offer to swap blogs with other writers, featuring their work in return for them featuring yours. Blog tours are a great way of introducing your work to a wider number of potential new readers.

Author Giulia Napoli suggests staying active in one to two social media sites at a time when pushing your erotic writing:

You can lose hours per day—hours better spent writing—by getting sucked into long discussions or writing dozens of notes that aren’t directly applicable to marketing your books. For example, a friend of mine who writes sci-fi started to get involved in a discussion of whether or not sci-fi authors should use faster-than-light travel in their stories. He was strongly opinionated on that topic, but there was no return on the time he spent debating it.

Napoli herself can often be found on Goodreads, her preferred choice, due to the author communities found there.

Become known in the communities of readers and authors within your genre. All social sites have ‘interest groups’ of some sort. For writers, Goodreads may be the best site for this—for example, if you write fem-fem erotica, there is a Goodreads group for that. Participate in a handful of groups directly about, or related to, your genre—within reason. Toss out your ideas, but avoid arguments. Above all, be courteous, and observe the group rules!

Street teams, fans who advertise your writing on social media, also work for some authors, said Jones—but what works for some doesn’t always work for others—

What works for me is a pair of black Louboutins, black dress, pearls, small Chanel bag, Chanel lipstick and Bardot hair. And a pair of red leather gloves. This may not work for others. If you write, you live it and surely you love it. Whatever your vocation, you are selling something to someone else. Why not your book or books? If you do not believe in yourself, how can you expect someone else to? Why deny the world your greatness? Get out there and let them know about your work.

Jaybee cited the importance of an author page on Amazon as well, as a majority of book sales in both the United Kingdom and in the USA begin with the online giant. Sprinkle that with a helping of Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest, sometimes LinkedIn—whatever will reach your readers. But no matter which social media strategies and venues you choose, you remain quiet and off-radar at your peril:

LinkedIn works for some people, but not for others, as it is very business based. It is no good writing a book and expecting people to magically have heard of it. If you don’t shout about your work it will be lost in the swamp of the hundreds of thousands of other publications out there. Each and every time you put a book or even a blog post out—tell everyone! Tweet it, Facebook post it—spread the word! Otherwise, you are simply wasting your time. I know I’m repeating myself, but I can’t stress that enough.

In a world where publishers do less and less marketing, promotion has become as much a part of an author’s job as the creation of plot twists and placing of commas. I resent the time I spend marketing my work. It takes up a good two hours of my day—time I could spend writing—but sadly, it is essential. I did an experiment last year to see if my daily round of tweeting, posting and blogging made any difference, and did nothing marketing-wise for a month. My sales disappeared! Needless to say, I am back to marketing my work every day!

Offline, getting a mention in a magazine or newspaper, reading your work at an event, or doing a radio interview is also something Jaybee strongly recommends.

Reviews are another important piece to the marketing puzzle, Napoli said:

Get reviews of your work. Get them on review sites, Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Smashwords, etc. Follow everyone’s rules in submitting or offering your work for review, but get reviews from pros and regular readers of your book. Assuming most of your reviews are good, an occasional two-star review is better than no review at all. There is no such thing as bad publicity.

That said, Napoli cautioned,

An author should never, ever resort to arguing with critics.

This can destroy your reputation faster than anything. If your book gets read, as you want it to, there will be some people who’ll feel they’ve wasted their money on you and want you to ‘pay’ in return. The way they make you pay is by giving you a poor rating. Suck it up. Ignore it and go on, no matter how unfair it is. You cannot win that battle.

Book giveaways, Napoli added, are another way to generate buzz:

I’m not a big fan of giving books away over a long period, unless you’re trying to channel readers into your sequel. I think targeted giveaways, e.g., in Goodreads contests, are the way to go. When you’re getting started, contact readers who show an interest in your book(s). For example, for my erotic novel, Oh Claire!, I sent a friend request with a short note to every reader who put it on their ‘to read’ list. In addition, if a reader writes a particularly well-done review, contact that person, and tell her/him what you liked about the review. But never argue.

Despite all the tricks of marketing and promotion, Napoli said writers shouldn’t lose track of two important points: finding the right publisher and having a polished finished product.

Find a publisher if you can, even if it’s one that only publishes online. For a [rather small] percentage of the online fees, they will help with editing, publishing, distribution, and marketing. Note that online publishing fees range from 65 to 70 percent, if the book is priced between U.S. $2.99 and $9.99. Online-only publishers forward most of that to the author.

Editing is a very big deal. In my opinion, it can make all the difference in acceptance of your book. It takes time, but results in a high-quality product. I write erotica, and I know that erotica publications (short stories, novelettes, novels) are among the most poorly edited. When you find an author whose books are quality (e.g., Lindsey Brooks), you tend to read more of their works. Typically, more enjoyable stories go with better editing, because everybody involved is trying to do their best—quality, not quantity, is the key.

When it comes to editing, Napoli recommends working with other authors and reading one another’s work. But again, a word of caution:

Remember though, a good writer is not necessarily a good editor—at least not without practice.

 

About Hunter S. Jones
Hunter S. Jones is the author of September EndsFortune Calling and other works. When not writing novels and stories, she contributes to expatspost.com. Over the years she’s published articles on music, fashion, art, travel and history. Jones, a lover of all the finer things in life, says, ”The art form I create when writing is much more interesting than anything you will ever know or learn about me. However, since you ask, I have lived in Tennessee and Georgia my entire life, except for one ‘lost summer’ spent in Los Angeles. I was always a complex kid. My first published stories were for a local underground rock publication in Nashville.”
For more information, visit Hunter S. Jones online at HunterSJones.com , Exile on Peachtree Street and Facebook.

About Kay Jaybee
Kay Jaybee is the author of numerous novels, including the Perfect Submissive Trilogies, Making Him WaitThe Voyeur, as well as the novellas Not Her Type: Erotic Adventures with a Delivery ManDigging DeepA Sticky Situation, and The Circus. She has also written the short story collections The Collector, The Best of Kay Jaybee, Tied to the Kitchen SinkEquipmentYes Ma’amQuick Kink One and Quick Kink Two. Kay has had over eighty short stories published by Cleis Press, Black Lace, Mammoth, Xcite, Penguin, Seal and Sweetmeats Press (Immoral Views).
Visit Jaybee online at kayjaybee.me.uk, or on her Facebook page.

About Giulia Napoli
Thirty-something Giulia Napoli grew up in East Lansing, Michigan where her father was a professor at Michigan State University. She earned a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Journalism from a prestigious Great Lakes area university. While an undergraduate, Giulia studied abroad for three years—a year each in London, Florence, and Brussels. Her interest in the many forms of erotica started and grew during her time in Europe. Giulia writes romantic erotica with themes of submission, hair fetishes, body modification and some surprising, unexpected, erotic twists thrown in. Her settings are often exotic and, especially in her new novel, Oh Claire!, global in scope, reflecting her own well-traveled experiences.
For more information on Napoli, visit her Goodreads page, or send her an email at msgiulianapoli@live.com.

About the columnist
Writer P.M. White has toiled on a number of sexy stories over the years, including his newest novella Volksie: A Tale of Sex, Americana and Cars from 1001 Nights Press. His previous publications include the Horror Manor trilogy from Sizzler Editions: Eyeball Man, Desire Under the Eaves, and You are a Woman. White’s short stories have appeared in Sex in San Francisco, The Love That Never Dies, Bound for Love, Pirate Booty and many others.
For more information, visit him on Tumblr at pmwhite.tumblr.com, at his Amazon author page, on Twitter @authorpmwhite and on Facebook.

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Dec 082013
 
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Making Social Media Work for You, Part I

By M. Christian

Okay, to be honest: I used to be extremely anti-Twitter.

It’s not like I’ve done a complete turnaround—far from it—but I’ve begun to use it more seriously, and …I have to grudgingly admit that it can be an effective social media tool.

While I am still fairly new to tweet-tweet-tweeting, I can’t but help notice a lot of authors making what I think are serious mistakes. Part of that, of course, is because twitter is counterintuitive to the way writers think. Unlike blogs and other forms of social media, twitter is ephemeral: tweets coming and going in the space of a few seconds…with few people taking the time to backtrack on what anyone is saying.

This means that quantity is key to tweeting; zapping out a tweet, say, every few days or weeks or only when you have a book or story coming out is pretty much pointless. Even if you have a huge audience of loyal followers, tweeting infrequently means that you will have an very small percentage of that audience who happen to be looking at their Twitter feed for your short pearls of wisdom, or important book announcements, the moment you send them—and that moment, O infrequent tweeter, is the only one you’ve given yourself. To make effective use of Twitter you not only need to tweet every day, you need to tweet several times a day.

And then there’s the question of what you’re tweeting. Yes, you need to talk about your writing; yes, you need to post book announcements; yes, you need to praise your publisher; yes, you need to scream about good reviews…but you also need to come across as a person. So, share interesting information about yourself, share pieces of your writing that you aren’t necessarily trying to sell, talk to your followers as if they were friends (though, not necessarily the kind of friends to whom you’d say anything), rather than potential customers…get my drift? Your followers are interested in your work, but they’re also interested in you.

One thing I’ve been doing—though probably not as much as I should—is a Fun Fact thread: sharing tidbits about little ol’ me that people might find interesting. Hopefully it makes my feed seem a lot less stridently I’M A WRITER READ MY WRITINGS and more human, intriguing, and engaging.

Fortunately, frequent tweeting with varied messages isn’t as hard as it sounds. You don’t have log in to  your twitter account multiple times and send out each tweet manually. With the right tool you can post a half dozen tweets or more all at the same time, and have them sent out every few hours. One of the best tools I’ve found for this (and, no, this isn’t a commercial) is called Hootsuite; it’s a web-based twitter aggregator that allows me to post, schedule, track, and do other fun things, and from more than one Twitter account (which is handy, since I work for a publisher and send out tweets about myself as well about them). The scheduling feature is very handy: I can create multiple tweets and then copy and paste them into Hootsuite’s scheduler—and program them to pop up over the span of a few hours or even days.

Of course, you don’t want the tweets to be mind-numbingly similar and spammy. No one—ever—wants to listen to a commercial, let alone the same one several times a day. So flooding your poor followers with nothing but BUY MY BOOK BUY MY BOOK BUY MY BOOK is not going to sell a single copy, and will more than likely get you unfollowed. Give the repeated content some variety, switch the words around, say the same thing in different words, etc.

Here are four tweets I sent out for one of my books when Sizzler Editions was giving it away free one weekend:

He drank blood but wasn’t a vampire. Even he didn’t know what he was! Free 14-16thh Manlove novel @MChristianzobop http://amzn.com/B00CWNRFYM

#Free 14-16th #Manlove #Vampire classic complete in one ebook Running Dry by @MChristianzobop http://amzn.com/B00CWNRFYM

Like #Manlove #Paranormal #Romance? M. Christian blazes a new trail in Running Dry only @MChristianzobop http://amzn.com/B00CWNRFYM

#Free this weekend only Lambda Finalist M. Christian’s gay vampire classic Running Dry http://amzn.com/B00CWNRFYM

In addition to varying the wording of what is essentially the same information, you can parcel out different bits of information about the same event, in a way that’s easy for late-afternoon or evening tweet-readers to catch up on whatever you’d posted in the morning. Say you were going to a convention where you would be on a panel and also reading. Don’t write one tweet about it. Write a tweet about the fact that you will be there and the dates; another about being on the panel and when it is scheduled; a third about your reading, and when and where.

Another feature of Twitter (and other social media platforms) that a lot of people ignore when sending out info is autosharing. In short, this means that whatever you post to one place gets automatically shared to others. Let’s say I have a blog. Using RSS Graffiti, whatever I post there is picked up on Facebook. Let’s also say I have a Tumblr (I actually have seven). With Tumblr’s built-in system I can share (or not) what I post on it to Twitter and then to Facebook. There is also a setting in Twitter that passes your tweets along to Facebook as well. These settings let you decide what’s automatically reposted where, so your aunt Betty doesn’t end up hearing about your new erotic novel unless you want her to.

It can be a tad confusing—to put it mildly—but it saves a lot of time and effort to automate these things. That said, one word of warning: you want to be careful with a quantity-driven thing like Twitter that you don’t choke your slower-rate social media places like Facebook with too many autoshared reposts—that’ll start to get pretty spammy. Hootsuite, nicely, allows me to post to Facebook as well as Twitter, so I can vary the number of posts I send out to match the nature of the media venue. It may take a bit of trial and error to get this all balanced for rate and time and such but it’s really worth the investment.

Pay attention, as well, to hashtags…though the #trick with #these is #not to overuse #them as your post will look really #silly. You can check trending tags and use those—but all that means is that yours will compete with millions of others. Far better to use them only for what you are really writing about, and then only a few per post.

And retweet items you find important, amusing or interesting. Remember, Twitter is supposed to be social media: meaning that the goal isn’t to talk at people but to them. Tweeting a lot but not actually communicating useful or interesting information is going to get you zilch.

Relatedly, don’t, as too many people do, ignore retweets of your tweets or mentions of your name. It’s not a quid pro quo situation, but it’s nice to pause and acknowledge that someone cared enough to spread your tweets further out into the world. Being ignored, specially by a writer whose career, or books, you have retweeted or shared…well, it doesn’t take much of that for a “follow” to turn into an “unfollow.”

Sure, Twitter too often sounds like a parrot who’s been sitting next to the television for too long and is about as deep as a Justin Bieber song—but the fact remains that, if you approach it intelligently and efficiently, it can be a valuable source of marketing for writers.

Just, as with all social media, try not to get sucked into spending so much time playing with it that you don’t #get #any #writing #done…

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Jul 052013
 
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Yeah, it’s going to be an odd bit of updating for us for awhile as we decide where to cut the fat out of our careers but until then I’m sliding in for a post about cover art and promotion.

That’s right, the dreaded P word in erotica/romance is one that halts all authors, makes us all cringe (even badasses like me) because OH NOEZ, we can’t just write the book,  we have to promote it.

I’ve been speaking with other publishers and editors plus taking cues from what’s selling in fiction and WHY it’s selling.  According to a blog post I read at The Writing Bomb, it’s still possible to make a ton of money using Amazon’s KDP program as there are only three obstacles to a reader buying your book.

  1. Price
  2. COVER ART
  3. blurb

We’re focusing on one of the two things we can control.  Cover art.  I’ve already stated that authors aren’t the best judge of character for cover designs, which is why self publishing is a bad idea.  Writers write. Artists art.

Repeat after me.

Writers write.
Artists art.

What this means is that the author hasn’t always the best judge of a cover, BUT that cover does become part of their overall branding.  Let me give you an example using the covers for two of my Decadent Publishing books:

And we’ll go with the other cover I like a lot over there, Surrender to Love:  The two covers have a very similar feel, noting image-wise that the books aren’t overly heavy stories like a lot of my other work, but they also reveal the style and tone of the book.  Both stories are actually BDSM stories, albeit light kink is used, and the covers tell us that.

The folks at Decadent would LOVE for me to spread the covers around along with a myriad of various blog posts and Q/A (which I’ve happily done) because let’s face it, they ARE part of my image.

Also, though, and this reinforces image (bad boy, etc) is the cover for my newest release “Torn to Pieces.”  Another paranormal story, another menage.  The cover reflect that as does the cover for my Red Sage release (due out next year).    For the cover of ENDANGERED, I flat out told the artist “ I don’t actually care enough to stifle the artist’s knowledge.  I’m a writer, not a cover artist. 

I stand by that statement, so she came up with a concept that turned into the art you see in this post.  I’m pretty thrilled actually.  Given what else I’d said about the cover, she nailed the idea and it took some getting used to because the story itself isn’t a light hearted romance but rather a dark one.  So dark in fact that one of my big name friends found herself unable to read the book as it messed with her head.

Somehow I felt validated by this.

Anyway, the grand point I’m making about cover art is that publishing is a numbers game just like many other careers and the more people who see your cover and enjoy it, the more potential for sales you’ll have.  And remember, it IS part of your image, that sexy cover art.  OH, and make sure you have your art on your site!

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Nov 082012
 
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Promotion is the activity around which you sell your book.

There are literally hundreds of book promotion opportunities on the internet and all around you in the real world.  Some cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, some are free. Here’s the problem … BOOK PROMOTIONS lump many authors together in one place (creating a competitive environment) or they try to create urgency sales by giving away free, 99 cent books or discounted books within a limited time period. Many of these are silly games or puzzles which in and of themselves aren’t bad ideas, except for the fact that so many authors are doing the same thing at the same time, and almost none of these promotional ideas focus on the elements that make your book special. Being herded into a tight environment with other authors is less successful than you think. Now keep in mind, I’m not telling you NOT to do any of these things … I’m simply explaining that using such promotions alone will not gain you the book sales above and beyond other authors. You have got to go further and move into areas other authors haven’t approached with your promotions.

Yay, it’s finally time to promote that book you’ve been writing, talking, blogging, Facebooking and Twittering about. Time to promote the book to all those prospective readers you’ve been reaching out to. Remember all those goals listed under Tool #1? Now you can make them happen.

The question is, how to promote? Again, it’s all inside your manuscript. Create promotions and events that are so tightly related to your story and characters you can hear it squeak. If the murder in your mystery takes place in a museum, hold your book launch events and speaking engagements in museums or museum gift stores. Find the hook and twist it tightly to make it your promotional key.  Is your main character a coffee expert, (cognac lover, cigar connoisseur)? Have your events in a coffee shop (liquor store or cigar shop), use the store’s discount coupons as bookmarks, campaign to have a coffee drink at the coffee shop named after your book. Does you story involve a corrupt lawyer poaching wild animals in Africa? Hold your events at the zoo and have tee shirts that say “So Zoo Me!”

Promotion is about making a splash but you can’t make a splash without any water, a whole sea of unique hooks you’ve already written into your book. The water’s there, all that marketing and publicity is just waiting for your activity.

E-published? Again, there are perfect venues for your promotions. The Zoo has a website. So does the museum and the coffee shop. They might be thrilled to let you show your book on that website, perhaps sell your book with a link on that website, especially if you’re donating a portion of your profits to support the zoo or museum or a charity near and dear to the coffee shop’s heart.

Get creative. Seek every opportunity and promote! And by the way, don’t forget the simplest and most effective way to promote. JUST TELL PEOPLE! Tell all those friends on Facebook and Twitter that your book is now available and where they can buy it. Let all your associates in those “hook” interest online and live groups that the book is out, and remember to get the news out to your email groups too.

Next time we’ll cover Author Success Tool #9, Resources Required.

Feel free to contact me at writerchef@sbcglobal.net with any questions or to share your success stories! If you’d like to know more, let me know and I’ll put you on the mailing list for online workshops and information about my book, Finding Author Success: Discovering and Uncovering the Hidden Power within you Manuscript, “Finding Author Success” available in print and ebook on Amazon, B&N, Apple and Sony

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Sep 202012
 
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Marketing is building awareness that your book exists. An author’s marketing tools are:

  • Your Polished Image
  • Your Platforms Activity
  • Your Social Networking

Sound a little like everything discussed in these Tools for Author Success so far, doesn’t it?

It’s important that you understand that Marketing – creating awareness – is the only way promotions can work! If no one has heard of your book when you finally begin promoting it and creating events to sell it, NO ONE RESPONDS. They need to know the book and you exist before they’re willing to spend the money to buy the book.

 If you don’t blog regularly, use Facebook and Twitter effectively and on a regular basis, keep your websites updated and Media Room neat and full with every element readily downloadable for the media to use, you’ve dropped the ball. Only with all these things in play and working like a perfectly oiled machine, can you know that you’ve done your job and created awareness for your coming book. If you haven’t, all your promotional efforts will fall on deaf ears. Sorry. Sad but true.

Marketing isn’t a general rule, it’s the life blood life force for success. Take a serious look at your marketing efforts and determine if you’re doing everything you can to create awareness, or doing the bare minimum and wondering why your book sales are not fantastic. Marketing is like wearing a red silk tie every single day … everyone around you recognizes you as the person wearing the red silk tie! What we’re shooting for here is that every time the name of your book is mentioned on social networking, blogs, living, active websites and among readers of your … you and your book’s red tie are getting more and more recognizable! Soon everyone will be wearing red silk ties and reading YOUR BOOK!

Next time we’ll cover Author Success Tool #8, Promotion.

Feel free to contact me at writerchef@sbcglobal.net with any questions or to share your success stories! If you’d like to know more, let me know and I’ll put you on the mailing list for online workshops and information about my book, Finding Author Success: Discovering and Uncovering the Hidden Power within you Manuscript, “Finding Author Success” available in print and ebook on Amazon, B&N, Apple and Sony


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Aug 232012
 
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Oh, dear, I’ve done it again.

You’d think would have learned my lesson – what with the fallout over the whole Me2plagiarism” thing – but I guess not.

Just in case you may have missed it, I have a new book out, called Finger’s Breadth. As the book is a “sexy gay science fiction thriller” about queer men losing bits of their digits – though, of course, there’s a lot more to the novel than that.

Anyhow, I thought it would be fun to create another bout ofcrazy publicity by claiming that I would be lopping off one of my own fingersto get the word out about it.

Naturally, this has caused a bit of a fuss – which got me to thinking, and this thinking got me here: to a brand new Streetwalker about publicity … and pushing the envelope.

The world of writing has completely, totally, changed – and what’s worse it seems to keep changing, day-by-day if not hour-by-hour. It seems like just this morning that publishing a book was the hard part of the writing life, with publicity being a necessary but secondary evil. But not any more: ebooks and the fall of the empire of publishing have flipped the apple cart over: it’s now publishing is easy and publicity is the hard part … the very hard part.

What’s made it even worse is that everyone has a solution: you should be on Facebook, you should be on Twitter, you should be on Goodreads, you should be on Red Room, you should be on Google+, you should be doing blog tours, you should be … well, you get the point. The problem with a lot of these so-called solutions is that they are far too often like financial advice … and the old joke about financial advice is still true: the only successful people are the ones telling you how to be successful.

That’s not to say that you should put your fingers in your ears and hum real loudly: while you shouldn’t try everything in regards to marketing doing absolutely nothing is a lot worse.

But, anyway, back to me. One thing that’s popped up a lot lately has been people telling me that I’ve crossed a tasteful line in my little publicity stunts – that somehow what I’ve been doing does a disservice to me and my work.

Yeah, that smarts. But hearing that I also have a rather evil little grin on my face: for what I’ve done is nothing compared to what other writers have done.

Courtesy of Tony Perrottet of The New York Times (“How Writers Build the Brand“), comes more than a few tales of authors who have done whatever they could – and frequently more than that – to get the word out about their product. Case in point are these gems: ” In 1887, Guy de Maupassant sent up a hot-air balloon over the Seine with the name of his latest short story, ‘Le Horla,’ painted on its side. In 1884, Maurice Barrès hired men to wear sandwich boards promoting his literary review, Les Taches d’Encre. In 1932, Colette created her own line of cosmetics sold through a Paris store.”

Ever hear of a fellow by the name of Hemingway? Well, Ernest was no stranger to GETTING THE WORD OUT. A master of branding, he worked long and hard not just to get noticed but become the character that everyone thought he was – to the point where we have to wonder where the fictional Ernest began and the real Hemingway ended.

Then there’s the tale of Grimod de la Reynière (1758-1837), who turned the established idea of “wine and dine to success” by staging a dinner in celebration of his Reflections on Pleasure – though the guests were locked in until the next morning and, while they ate, Grimod lavished the assembled with anything less that praise. Outrage ensued – to put it mildly – but his book became a bestseller.

One of my personal favorites, though, is Georges Simenon – and not just because he lived in a rather exotic arrangement with his wife and claimed to have made love to over 10,000 women – but because he’d planned a stunt to write a novel in 72 hours while in a hanging glass cage in the Moulin Rouge – with the audience encouraged to choose the book’s characters, title, and more. While Georges sadly didn’t carry out his plan that hasn’t stopped other writers from trying their hands on the similar: Harlan Ellison, for instance, used to write in the front window of the now-defunct Change of Hobbit Bookstore in Los Angeles.

So should you lock yourself in a glass cage? Lock in a party of critics? Hire a hot air balloon? Stick flyers on windshields? Claim that another writer has stolen your identity?

Well, it’s up to you, but keep in mind what another author has said – also known for his publicity: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Oscar Wilde may not have lived in the age of the Internet but he, like Hemingway, Grimod, Poe, Simenon, Maupassant, and so many writers before or since, understood that it’s important to stand out from the crowd.

Certainly it’s risky, absolutely it can backfire, but at the same time there is a very long tradition in authors having a total and complete blast in getting the word out there about their work.

Before I wrap this up, I want to say one final thing about near-outrageousness and publicity. While I can’t speak for Hemingway, Grimod, and all the rest, I can speak for myself: money would be nice, fame would be pleasant, but why I’ve taken these risks and accepted the occasional backfires is because I’ve had a blast writing these books and so I’ll do whatever it takes to get them out into the world — and read.

To quote Groucho Marx: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

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