Broken Trust Release Party is Over!

Whew! The month long release party is over. And boy has it been nuts! First of all I learned a lot about marketing a big release, and I wanted to share with you the things I learned. This way perhaps you can have a big start to your marketing project too!

1. Don’t waste your time with preorders!

I put a lot of work on setting up preorders, and I even had massive discounts. And not one person preordered the book.  Not one. Despite all the promotion of it, no one order one.  Not even my family. I don’t know why that is. I think it has to do with the fact that people would rather order from a trusted source. But I don’t know that for sure. And since Amazon won’t let me do preorders on there, I just was stuck with doing it through PayPal.  In any case, this is the third time I have offered preorders, and the first time I have offered it for an extended period of time (three weeks).  And I have never made a preorder sale. So I won’t be wasting the energy setting up that on Paypal and my website.

2. Plan your release early in the party.

My goal with this party had been to build a buzz, and create preorders. I think I did get the buzz going, but since my book didn’t release until the end of the party, I think I may  have lost out on some sales potential.  So for my next book, the release party will come either right after the book releases or maybe just a week into it.  That will be a better option.

3. Too many giveaways means too few entries.

There were so many giveaways in this party. Book a Day in May, Goodreads, Grand Prizes, Kindles. I just had so many.  I really liked the Book a Day in May.  I will do that again, but I don’t think I will do it the same way. Perhaps one entry form with a drawing each day.  This way entrants don’t have to fill out so many forms. That does get rather tedious.   I’ll be experimenting with Raffle Copter to see if that can be done. I also don’t think I will release a book in May while doing this giveaway.

I think the magic number for giveaways is 1 at a time. Yeah, just one.  Otherwise it is hard to focus on them and get a lot of people entering. Of course, GoodReads tends to always draw a lot of entries. But RaffleCopter is solely based on how much work you put into marketing it.  So I will limit myself to just one.

4. Hire a Blog Book Tour Company

I did a blog book tour with Dissolution of Peace, I hired OrangeBerry to do it. And while I wasn’t 100% satisfied, I did get a much better response from it. Putting on a book tour is harder than it looks. I tried to do it myself with Broken Trust. I wound up with four days unfilled out of ten total days. That is really bad for such short tour. With OrangeBerry I ordered 30 days and they gave me 30 days, with most of those 30 being within a 30 day period. So from now on I will pay a little bit of money and not have all the hassles of doing it myself. This includes all the scheduling, finding bloggers, and coordinating the releases.  It just wasn’t worth it to try and do it for free.

5. No one cares about the games.

I created Quizzes for the tour, two of them. And they were hardly touched. I had a trivia game, no one showed up to play. I did an answer this question and win a book, no one did it. I did a first five to share this link wins, and no one shared it. People just didn’t care about the games. They could enter to win without jumping through hoops. Do I think I would have better success with less giveaways? No. I’ve tried this time and time again and it never works.

6. Trivia Facts and Quotes from the book.

Now this I think I will do again.  This people seemed to like. One of the the things people liked most: These quotes and Trivia facts were not accompanied by any “buy me” links. People seemed to like that they could get a sneak peek at the book and not be followed with a “buy me” sales pitch. That’s just it, it wasn’t a direct sales pitch. It was a marketing tool, that is for sure. But, it is not direct and in your face.  The quotes on the graphic (picture) rather than in the body was also really successful for shares and re-tweets. But I think next time I will mix up the quotes with different graphics. I think after a bit, people see the same graphic and assume it is the same quote.  And to be fair, I didn’t think of this graphic idea myself, I saw S.M. Boyce doing it of her books. So naturally I borrowed the idea.

7. Scheduling your posts for various times works.

It is very tedious work.  I planned every promo post for the entire month. I planned them for different times through out the day.  Why did I do this? Because my followers probably check at different times. And I wanted to make sure no one group of followers always saw the same thing.  So I spread it out and it seems to have works. No one complained of post overload and I didn’t lose any followers during the release party.  Also, I never posted the same stuff at the same time on both Facebook and Twitter. I always spread it out. It is a pet peeve of mine when people post the exact same stuff at the exact same time on all their social media. Why follow all of them then?  Anyway, that seemed to work out too.

8. Hire someone to do your Book Trailer

I’ve always hired someone to do my cover art, but did the book trailers myself.  This time I hired someone, and it seems to get a better response from viewers. It is being shared more, that is for sure. So from now on I will hire someone to do them. It just makes sense. I’ll stick with writing and leave the graphic arts to those that know what they are doing.

9. Plan for things to not go as planned.

I got hired a started a new job right in the middle of all this. Had I planned to just do the tweets live, this never would have worked out.  Luckily I scheduled them and they could go on while I tried desperately to focus on my new job. There were also technical issues with the blog tour. So I had to handle those. There were broken links, and unexpected blog posts (which I welcome), and much more to deal with on the fly.  So you have to be prepared for things to not always go as you planned they would.

10. Did this work?

I don’t really know.  I sold 3 Kindle copies on release day.  Not exactly the flying off the shelves that I hoped for. But also there were still giveaways going on. And I secretly hope that people are just waiting to buy to see if they win the book. But experience tells me that isn’t the case. I hoped to create a buzz and the only way to measure that is in sales, though that isn’t a fair measurement. So hopefully the sales pick up now that word is getting out that the book has released. Perhaps releasing the book sooner in the party would have created more sales over the month.  Time will tell on that.

Creating buzz when you are a small time writer is not easy. Many of your “followers” are not paying much attention to you. And you don’t have any name made for yourself. You can’t expect instant results.  My only hope is that as each book comes out, more and more progress is being made in the that direction. Eventually I hope to be able to say that I slowly built a name for myself. And this was one step in that build.

 

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Dry Spells

We writers often talk about writer’s block.  I even had a blog post on the topic.  But sometimes we just have dry spells.  They can be caused by different factors, including writer’s block, lack of time, and lack of motivation.  For me it has been the motivation mostly.  The ideas have been flowing free in my mind.  Both for a sequel to Dissolution of Peace and the current novel I am working on have been very active in my mind.  But I just don’t sit down and write.  So for today’s blog I thought I would talk about how to ride out these dry spells and even do a little rain dance to get things going again.

The first step is recognizing the dry spell.  That may seem easy enough, and for some it is.  But for me it wasn’t so easy.  I only just started thinking about how little I have written.  And when I look at my work in progress, I see the file hasn’t been modified since May 10th.  That is nearly two months ago, and I wasn’t aware of it.  This is by far the longest dry spell I have had in some time.  The only saving grace is that I have still been writing in this blog on a weekly basis.

In fact it was this blog that made me recognize I was in a dry spell, and at the same time it was what made me not realize it for so long.  Each week I sit down and put together a blog post for you.  I’m writing, and perhaps writing these blogs kept my ‘writing sense’ working.  Blogs are great ways to keep people aware of your existence, and to break down writing blocks and walls.  But, in this case it tricked me into thinking it hadn’t been so long since I wrote.  But, when I only wrote a short ‘Happy Independence Day’ blog last week, it clicked to me how little I have written.

You may not blog, so you may see you haven’t written in a matter of weeks.  Or, it could take you some time to recognize it for other reasons.  The point is you have to realize you’re in a slump before you can move on to the next step.

The next step is identifying the cause of the dry spell.  Again this may seem easy, but that is not always true.  Writer’s Block is often the first thing to blame.  But, if your ideas are still percolating in your head, as mine were, writer’s block is likely not your cause.  You have things to write about in your head, you’re just not sitting at the keyboard and doing it.  If you think it is writer’s block, dig deeper.  If you find no other causes, then revert to the steps to break down writer’s block.

The next most common thing to blame is time.  That is what I blamed.  I told myself I haven’t had time because I have been running a magazine.  I’ve been trying to get the first issue ready for print.  But that wasn’t fair.  Sure, running the magazine has taken up a lot of my time, but so does work, and my family.  All valid things to be working on rather than writing, but I’ve worked around all of them before.  But if you work through all this and find that time really is the issue, then you need to revert to the steps to find a time to work on your writing.

You might find it is depression, lack of motivation, or you have something new in your life that you’d rather be doing.  You may even find out that writing isn’t what you want to do.  But chances are that if you’ve realized you’re not writing, and are looking for ways to start again, you genuinely miss writing.  Once you find the cause, you need to dig deeper and find the true cause.

For me, I found it was a lack of motivation.  The ideas were there, but I wasn’t writing.  I dug deeper to find the cause of my lack of motivation.  That was a series of bad news in my writing.  I have received five rejection letters in those two months.  Three of those were for a story I have really felt confident in.  It has been stacking up the rejections and it has started to take a toll on my confidence.  In fact I have two short stories that are not selling despite approaching a year in circulation.  I’ve reminded myself that my first stories sold remarkably fast.  I’ve also reminded myself that I have not turned out a short story in almost eight months.  That is not a bad thing though.  I’ve been focusing on putting out novels.  When the right idea hits me, I’ll write another short.

There have been other delays in my novel as well.  I still don’t have cover art.  The edits may be delayed.  That coupled with the lack of sales of my son’s children’s book, has me worrying about my ability.  I get frustrated when people are not as excited about something as I am.  I feel as though they don’t approve of it, or even thing it not as worthy of their time.  I am a pessimist by nature, so I see all these things for the worst rather than the possible truth.  I see cover art delays as an artist who is disinterested in my story.  I see edit delays as an editor who thinks my work is so bad it needs more time.  And I see lack of sales on my son’s book as validation of my worst fears (that I can’t do this).

Long story short the reason for my dry spell is a lack of motivation because I am suffering from the “I can’t do this” and “I’m not good enough to do this” mentality.  We all hit this.  Everyone, in anything they pursue, hits a point where they think they can’t continue.  But if you stop, you are only proving yourself (and your critics) right.  It is the people that continue and refuse failure, that make it to their goals.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Next, you need to break past your road block.  You have figured out what the cause of your dry spell is, but now you need to break on through and keep working.  For writer’s block, it may be as simple as sitting down and typing until you get something going.  For a lack of time, you can schedule in writing time.  If it is more complicated, break it down into simple ways to motivate yourself.

For me, I inflated my ego a bit.  I went to the reviews of my short works that are previously published and saw what they had to say.  Reminded myself that people do enjoy what I write, and that eventually an editor will.  I also recognized that not everyone is able, or willing, to fall into finite deadlines.  I either need to live with it, or only work with people who will follow deadlines (likely a mixture of both).  Last, I think I am good with marketing.  But I had to recognize that when it comes to books, I am new at it.  And when it comes to Children’s Books, I am unsure where to start.  So I’ve started asking around for help on that.

The point is whatever is holding you back needs to be addressed.  You need to either make peace with it, or solve it.  Either way you have to get those things out of the way before you can start writing again.

Last, perform a rain dance.  You will never get past a dry spell if you don’t start getting things going.  If you have a work in progress, open it up and get working.  You’ve worked past all your issues, but your desire to write won’t magically spark up.  You need to start writing.  You might find that you will jump right back in.  Or, especially in the case of writer’s block, you will struggle to start up again.  But after a little time at the keyboard you will find the rains will fall again.  And hopefully once you get going again your next dry spell will be a long way off.

Some people hit dry spells and give up.  For some people they simply don’t feel the need to write anymore.  But, chances are they would not be interested in finding a way to start writing again.  If you have the desire to keep writing, but you just can’t seem to do it, you are a writer in a dry spell.  Don’t give up on it.  Clearly writing is something you enjoy doing, or you wouldn’t seek out advice on how to end your dry spell.  Now get to work on fixing it, and get those words on paper.

 

Inside an Editor’s Mind (Tips for Writers)

As some of you saw in my Updates: May 2012 post, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Plasma Frequency.  I’ve been doing this  just shy of one month, and I have learned a lot about being an editor.  But, I’ve also learned a lot about being a writer too.

Odds

I was very surprised by the sure volume of submissions we have had in the first month.  To date, our editors have read 125 submissions, and there are currently 68 stories in queue.  We never expected this type of response and it has been a blessing for sure.  We keep getting more and more responses and I’m very grateful for all the writers that contribute.

The hardest part has been saying “No, thank you.” to very talented writers with very good stories.  The issue has a limit to how much we can publish and in the end it came down to picking the very best out of an excellent crop.  I spent two nights debating over many of the stories before making a final choice.  But even before it came down to final selections, there were so many good stories.  There were many well written stories that were simply not my style or the style of the magazine.

This got me thinking about all the stories I have sent out and how crushed I have been when I was rejected by some of those markets.  Especially when I thought I had the perfect fit for their publication.  Now that I see what I am getting as a semi-pro market, I can only imagine the volume and quality that a publication like Daily Science Fiction is getting. I got nearly 200 submissions this month, that means I’ll get 2400 stories in a year.  I will only publish roughly 100 stories in a year.  That is only 4% of the stories I get submitted.  I suspect DSF is much lower.

Skill is very important.  You must have the art of story telling down.  But, luck is also just as important.  The Editor you get has to enjoy the style you write in.  They have to like your prose, and enjoy your tale.  It is almost like lining up the stars.  Should you be discouraged?  No.  Just remember you are up against the odds more than anything else.  But, there is a huge plus to this all.  There are currently 4200 markets listed on Duotrope alone.  Even at the odds per publisher, there is still a good chance one of those 4200 will line up for you.

There are ways to get into those slim odds.  Here are some common mistakes I’ve seen already:

Join a writers group.

Join one that is outside of your friends, family, and other well known colleagues.  Let them read your manuscripts before sending it.  Together you will catch these common mistakes that can cause for a quick rejection:

  1. Missing words
  2. Punctuation Errors
  3. Story Pacing Issues
  4. Readability
  5. Missing Parts
  6. Extra Parts to be cut

Submission Guidelines

You have seen that the odds are small of getting accepted.  This is why it is very important to follow submission guidelines when you send in some work.  Some publications are extremely strict on their guidelines and will reject your story unread if you fail to follow them.  Check everything over carefully.  Look for errors if you convert your file type.  If they don’t want multiple submissions or simultaneous submissions don’t do it.  Multiple submissions are when you send more than one manuscript to the same publications.  Simultaneous Submissions means you send the same story to two different publications.

I’ve heard it argued that in today’s market you can’t not simultaneous submit because it takes so long to hear back.  Well, I don’t agree with that.  In the day and age of getting everything handed to us in an instant, we now are becoming impatient with the response times of publications.  But, there was a time where six months to a year of waiting was considered the norm.  That was a time when there were fewer publications, fewer authors, and submissions were sent by mail.  My experience shows that most publishers take 30 to 60 days to respond now.  That is hardly a blink of an eye when all things are considered.  And now we have caused editors to speed read the “slush” pile.  Our own impatience (in my opinion) has caused writers to get more stories rejected without a real in depth reading, just because of reading deadlines.  The point is that you can wait 30 days, or even 90 days, to get a rejection before sending it to another market.  If you don’t like how long the response times are, don’t submit there.  I don’t submit to a few publications for just that reason.  It won’t hurt any of us to breath a bit between submission and response.  Who knows, maybe you can work on another project.

I’ve also heard that there is no real way for an editor to know you have simultaneously submitted.  This is true so long as all the markets reject it.  But if one accepts it, you should tell all the other markets to remove it from consideration.  Now those markets know you sent it to more than one market, despite guidelines.  Even worse, what if it is accepted in two places?  So much work goes into accepting a story.  When an editor accepts it only to get an email saying it was accepted someplace else a week earlier, that will equal an upset editor.  That can burn your bridges with that publication (more on burning bridges below).

Now if you like simultaneous submissions, then submit to those markets exclusively.  That really goes for any publication’s guidelines.  If you don’t like them, don’t submit to them.  Where you submit is your choice, 100%.

Responding to Editor Comments

One thing I pride Plasma Frequency on is that we provide a reason for rejection.  We tell the author how far in the manuscript we read, and at least one sentence as to why it was rejected.  As the story advances to the second reading, we add that editors thoughts as well.  You don’t see many personal rejections in this industry.  I was warned by fellow editors to stick with a form letter.  And, I’m starting to see why.  Many people have taken our rejections and never responded (which is exactly as it should be unless a response is requested in the letter).  A few have responded with a “Thank You”.  But some have responded with threats or anger.  While anger may be a natural response to rejections, I know I have been angry by a few rejections (and those were just form letters), responding to the editors with your anger is not good.  This includes putting a comment on their Facebook or Twitter pages.  It will only hurt those odds above.

First, the editor is not wrong no matter what you think.  They have chosen to provide you with their OPINION.  You may not agree with their opinion, but they are not wrong.  Opinions rarely fall into the category of right or wrong.  You are allowed to disagree with them, you can change nothing in your manuscript and simply submit it someplace else.  Another editor may read it, love it, and accept it.  His/her opinion is different then the opinions of the previous editor.  You might agree with the opinion and change some things and send it to another editor and they will reject it because they don’t like the changes you made.  Yikes.  But that is that is the beauty of art.  The artist is the only one that can decide to change it.

Second, editors talk to each other.   Just as writers share information about editors and publications, editors do the same with each other.  They let each other know about a great new talent they see.  Or, about the person who responded rudely to a rejection.  I’ve been warned about a few authors, and I’ve warned a few editors.  Editors will  be sure to “watch out” for them.  No editor deserves to be treated that way and any good Editor-in-Chief will protect his staff by refusing to accept submissions from writers who belittle editors.  So not only will you be burning your bridge with that particular publication, you will be burning your bridges with many others.  Because those editors will share with each other and then they will share with others.  One think I have learned is that things spread like wildfire in this industry.

Third, Publications are often run by bigger presses.  When you burn your bridges with one publication, you may well catch a few other bridges on fire as well.

This is why it is important to take a moment to be angry, disappointed, or even sad over getting that rejection letter.  But think before you click send to any editor.  Let it go.  It really is just a minor thing in the long run.  You have a right to disagree with an editor’s opinion.  If you do, ignore the feedback they gave and move on to the next submission.  No matter how angry the few personal rejections I have got made me, I was still so pleased to know why it was I got rejected.  It gave me something to work with.  Maybe they just don’t like my style.  Maybe they just didn’t get it.  But it is so much better then “we decided not to accept it.”  Also, as an author you will be exposed to a lot of people’s opinions.  And many of those will be much harsher than those of an editor.

Why the information?

Why did I decide to give you this rare glimpse into an editor’s mind?  Because I will always thing of myself as a writer first.  I want to see my followers succeed.  And with the odds as they are, why not get a little boost with some insider information.  I hope it helps you.

Blurbs

Every time I blurb, my wife gets mad and opens a window.  All joking aside, blurbs are an important part of selling a book.  But, I find it rarely discussed in writing groups.  This is because in a traditional market, blurbs are often left to the Editor to write.  So, with my recent post on book covers, it seemed important that we discuss the back of the book.

Blurb Versus Synopsis

A synopsis is a very important part of pitching your book to traditional publishers and markets, but it is not a blurb.  If you want to sell your manuscript to a publisher you need a synopsis.  A synopsis is a summary of your story including key plot points and the ending.   You provide this to editors and agents in an attempt to get them to read your manuscript (and hopefully sign it).  It is not something you would use for marketing your book.

A blurb is that teaser you find on the back of the book.  Think movie trailer in written form.  It is a quick teaser.  It provides just enough plot, character, and scene to entice someone to read your book.  It is a tool for marketing your book quickly and effectively.

A self published author will find themselves writing more Blurbs.  Where as traditional publishers will usually write the blurb for the Author.  This goes back to what I have talked about in my post on self publishing, marketing is left in the hands of the author.  But really blurbs are not that hard.  In my opinion they are a bit easier, and certainly more fun, then a synopsis.

How to Write a Blurb

I mentioned this already, but you need to think movie trailer in a written form.  You need to construct your blurb in a form to sell your book.  Entice an audience.  Get them to take your book home (virtually or physically).

The blur should be short, somewhere in the 250 to 300 character range.  After all it has to fit on the back of the book but it also needs to be a quick “PICK ME” type of a sale.   A short quick description will hold the reader’s attention long enough for you to finish.  After all you want them to make a decision based on your whole sales pitch, not half of it.

Blurbs have three parts.  You can divide these parts up as paragraphs if you are looking for a simple formula for an effective blurb.  Obviously these would short paragraphs just giving a quick taste of what they can expect to read about.  Or, you can use the parts in your own way to make a blurb that fits your style and book.  Either way, you need these three elements to have an effective blurb.

Part 1 is typically a quick introduction to the setting and the characters.  The “In a world” line we’ve heard so many movie trailers start with. The first line needs to hook them.  Some blurb writers suggest starting with controversy or even asking a question.  But a hook is more then a punch in the face.  Sure a punch in the face gets your attention, but it would also piss you off.  Think of it more as a tap on the shoulder.  Get their attention, while giving them something to look forward to.  Don’t give away too much plot and certainly not any twists.  A question may work.  Think about every time some one has sold you something.  Most of the time they start with a question.  Questions call for an answer.  There is no formula for the perfect hook.  Establish setting and character in a way the interests the readers.

Part 2 is typically where you introduce the conflict, the major one at least.  Remember you are not highlighting plot points.  This is where you want to introduce the same conflict that got your story going in the first place.  Do NOT reveal the resolution to the conflict.  Why read if you already know how it ends?  Have you ever watched a movie trailer, thought it was great and went to see the movie?  Only when you saw the movie you realized all the best stuff was in the trailer.  You felt a bit disappointed with the movie, didn’t you?  Use some good stuff, but save the best stuff for the book.

Part 3 is the hardest of the part.  You need to lead the reader to the resolution with out giving it away.  Leave the reader wondering:  Will he escape?  Does she defeat the empire?  Is is possible they could fail?  In fact many blurbs end with a question.  Because once again our brains are wired to want an answer to a question.  The only way to get the answer is to read the book.

Blurb Tips

  1. Read a lot of blurbs.  Get some of your favorite books and read the back of them.  Go to the book store and read the blurbs on books you’ve never read before.  Take note of the blurbs that make you want to read the book.  What was it about that blurb that hooked you?  Identify it and learn from it.
  2. Make the reader care.  Give them characters they can relate to and a plot they want to read.  Provide an element most people can relate to.  A tough work assignment, a romantic crush, a victim of something out of their control, an injustice, or anything else a reader can relate to.
  3. Use riveting words but use them the right way.  Victim, hate, Peace, conflict, war, hopeless, are all words that bring a certain emotional impact.  Find strong words that invoke the emotional impact you want your story to have.
  4. Suggest all the possible outcomes.  You don’t want to give away the ending.  The key word here is “suggest”.  You don’t need to say:  “Will she win the war?  Will she die trying?  Will she lose everything for this one cause? Or, will she triumph over all in everlasting glory?”  First, saying all that is a mouth full.  I got lost several times just writing it.  But, you can hint that all these possibilities could happen.
  5. Shout lines.  This is a term used to describe bold text or other text that is distinguished from the other text.  It could be a short line that lets the reader know the type of book they are reading.  Personally, I haven’t seen much need for something like that.  But, if you are going to highlight a part of our blurb, make sure it is a strong part.  A defining line.
  6. Look at your manuscript.  Is there a great line in there that you think sums up the book well.  The blurb I am putting together came from the lines I had written.  Give you manuscript another read before you put together the blurb.
  7. Give your blurb the same love and care as the rest of your manuscript.  Edit it, read it over.  Give it to trial readers, and then edit it again.  It is okay to start with more that 250 words.  You can cut out what you don’t need.  But look over your blurb carefully.  Make a bad impression here and your book will sit.  Remember you can have gold written on the inside pages, but if no one ever opens the book they will never know.

The cover of a book is important.  The back cover may be even more so.  The blurb is your chance to tell a reader why your book is worth their time and money.  Sell them on your book with an effective, well thought out, attention grabbing blurb.