FREE eBook Promo! & Here’s Why….

#‎FreeFriday‬ and Saturday 7/17-7/18 Read: http://t.co/OK0GFdB6J3 ‪#‎RRBC‬

Why Give Books Away Free?

When I first published my book, I was dead set against giving it away for free. Something about spending years of my life on something and then just handing it out gratis didn’t sit well with me. What I didn’t comprehend then was the massive uphill boulder roll of marketing a novel. It doesn’t matter how good your book is if no one knows it exists. Swirling in a storm of millions of books, it’s easy to disappear and maybe never even be seen at all.

So I tried the free book thing.

For a spell, I became obsessed with Amazon’s Ranking system. My novel hitting some of the Top 100 Lists was a drug, and I needed more. I began running monthly promotions and viola, my everyday ranking remained solid. Better yet, actual sales followed. HMMMM, maybe Amazon does know a thing or two.

Here’s a snapshot of my current non-promotional rank, which changes often.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,045,884 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

 

Why is seeing your book in the Top 100 is worth every free book? Because it means people are potentially reading your book. It means the cover, concept, writing, marketing copy, title, or something in that mix interested them enough to take the time to download your book.

Without readers, we writers lose our purpose. We are asking readers to take a risk. We are asking them to give us their time, which in many ways is much, more valuable than money.

Happy reading and keep writing!

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Book Marketing Blunders

How a fellow blogger solved the mystery of my lagging Euro sales.

 

We all need a little help now and again especially at book marketing. I freely admit to being a novice. I literally learn everything the hard way because it just suits my personality. My novel SECRET AGENT OF GOD has only been ‘out on the street’ since the end of January, but since then, I have learned an enormous amount about book marketing ─ mostly the hard way. If you are like me, you know how difficult it is to know where to invest your energy and marketing efforts. There are so many avenues promising to promote your book. I find it yet another mountain I now need to climb.

On the upside, every road I take leads to another discovery, so as with the writing journey and the publishing journey, I remain optimistic about this one.

I go with my old standby of reading what all of you have to say and then finding the consistencies there. Then again, what works for me may not work for someone else. I am extremely fortunate that some successful writers, marketers, tweeters and bloggers have discovered me and for whatever reason, have not given up on me when I certainly would have. I am simply not that techno savvy.

  • What is working so far? I added an Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/eileenslovak
  • I joined AuthorsDen.com: http://www.authorsden.com/visit/author.asp?authorid=181819
  • I have put more effort into LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com/pub/eileen-slovak/70/7ab/abb/ but could still use some tips on navigating the site. I don’t find it as user-friendly as other sites. I did discover the “The Writers Network” there and found some great new contacts.
  • I have put more effort into content on my Facebook Author page https://www.facebook.com/authoreileenslovak and I try to learn from those who do the job way better than I do like https://www.facebook.com/MelissaFosterAuthor and https://www.facebook.com/blakely.bennett.
  • Recently, I was fortunate enough to stumble into the Facebook of Shah Fazli who interviews people on his site, http://shahsight.blogspot.de/2014/04/eileen-mcguire-slovak.html . We had a date set and I was promoting the event or so I thought. I failed to understand the ‘invite’ button is there for a reason. I get it NOW. It was still a great experience and if you are an author or an artist, I recommend you get on Shah’s calendar and look for other sites like his. Those of you who grew up with Facebook, and to whom social media is second nature, are laughing your butts off at people like me who only joined for the first time in 2009. I had to ask my niece “What’s a status?” Since then, I have come a long way.
  • I have also found some terrific groups within Facebook, like “Writers Group” and “Review Seekers” among others. Balancing all of it and narrowing it down time wise is the greatest challenge. You have to decide where to focus your efforts.
  • I registered for a few Book Fairs for this May and June: www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org and http://frederickbookfestival.com/ and http://t.co/3HWSen2nye
  • Despite my raging commitment issues, I have continued to blog, somewhat sporadically but with a measure of consistency. Blogging helps me feel as though I have some control over my destiny and some voice out there in the blog-o-sphere. Through blogging, I have discovered some amazing writers and supporters and it is where I feel the most present in my marketing efforts. It took some time to get to a point where I did not fear it. I still hide a bit. The quality blogs and the effort the writers put into them is so tremendous that I am always amazed when someone follows mine. One such superior blogger was the person who solved this Euro sales dilemma of mine, which I promise I am getting around to explaining.
  • I have become obsessed with twitter thanks to folks like @seumasgallacher, @DaniseCodekas, @ProofreadJulia, @SinnaptixEdits and so many more.
  • I have also tested out twitter and Facebook ads. Both seem to bring new followers but do they really add any book sales? It is hard to say. I do like the great reporting that each site offers once the ad has run. Maybe this is just because I am an ex-sales, marketing and inventory management geek. Charts, graphs and data thrill me to no end.
  • As I was perusing all of this wonderful charted information from twitter, I made a few discoveries. I have a great European following but sad Euro sales. I had a chat with an ad exec from twitter about it and he mentioned that it might be a good idea for me to focus my ads on English-speaking countries since my book is only available in English. I actually laughed aloud at what an idiot I was, marketing my book to whole world when it was only available in English. I still like to tweet the links to the e-book with the idea that kindle converts to other languages but one I must become more aware of my audience.

Now here is where it all comes together…I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a blogger who posts articles about authors. In truth, he found me. I printed out the article requirements over a month ago, and have had it in my “to do” pile on my desk since then. As much as I wanted to do it, I had too many other things to do. That and I get self-conscious talking about myself as the article required. The page finally made it to the top of the pile and I followed all the directions for how to create the post, pictures links, etc. I sent it off certain I had done everything correctly.

The blog is by a UK blogger. I forgot to send the UK link to my book. Go ahead and say it, “Duh!” I really loathe that expression but it is fitting sometimes.

This was when the light bulb finally flicked on. I have completely neglected promoting that UK book link or any of the other links. Sales 101.

So I would like to thank http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/ first for following me, second for not giving up on me while I stumbled around with social media, third, for helping me discover the answer to my UK sales problem and finally, for the post that will run tomorrow on his blog.

Thanks everyone for reading and Cheers!

Boost your writing enthusiasm; attend a Writers Conference.

Who should attend?

Because I thought I needed a finished novel to attend a writer’s conference, I waited until I had what I thought was a complete manuscript before attending one.  In actuality, that may have been a mistake.  The knowledge I gained from attending the conference helped me to redirect my writing efforts, to start promoting my work before publishing and to overcome fears, objections and writers blocks.

Last April I attended the Unicorn Writers Conference in Connecticut:  http://unicornwritersconference.com

I was nervous but quickly found my confidence.  As a result, I had an incredible experience, further solidifying my wish to become part of the writing community.

Dashing preconceived notions:

I was not the only one who still had work to do on my novels.  I met both published and unpublished writers wanting representation for cookbooks, single novels at various stages or multiple novels.  There were also self-published novelists looking for representation and publication for new work.  A further surprise was how many unpublished Authors were writing blogs and already had Author websites.

Just mixing with other writers was a bonus for me.  Writing is such a solitary activity and if you do not already have writing friends, you may not have anyone in your life who truly comprehends your passion for writing and the struggles you face, like the fear that kept me from attending a conference sooner.

Fear is a major obstacle for writers, whether it is fear of failure or fear of success.  Both are roadblocks to power through.  A conference offers an opportunity to attend seminars that will help allay your fears and concerns by offering facts, success stories and pertinent information.

Attendance also gives you a leg up on writers who rely solely on the internet, due to face time with Agents and Editors.  It is a professional but relaxed setting that pulls down the barriers between Writer and Agent or Editor.  They are just people after all, people with the power to make or break us, true, but people in a business seeking good writers.

The self-publishing threat:

Self-publishing was a hot topic, with Agents warning against writers jumping in without proper editing or serious effort made to seek traditional publishing.  Were they nervous about losing clients to self-publishing?  I’m not sure, since so many, take on so few clients.  Some said they only take one or two per year, not great odds for us.  Nevertheless, there clearly was an opportunity for self-published authors to use their online sales to option a publishing contract for new book sales.

I left less fearful, with some new contacts, the names of some great potential Agents and a better understanding of the publishing business.  I received some strong encouragement for my novels, but have since decided to rework them.

If you attend a conference, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not taking advantage of submitting your work ahead of time for the nominal fees charged, versus traditional costs of $3 or $4 per page charged by many online agencies.  I paid $45 for a review of my first fifty pages.  I also found the query letter review well worth the time.  Every author in my query letter group was given the opportunity to send his or her first fifty pages to the Agent running our workshop, following the conference.

If budget is an issue and you have never attended a conference, you may want to start with a small, local conference.  The next Unicorn Conference will be held on March 9 2013, prehaps I will see you there.  Writer’s Digest lists upcoming conferences monthly in the Conference Scene column by Linda Formichelli.

Finally the most common theme:

In a panel discussion at Unicorn, the Agents and Editors mentioned repeatedly, that they are seeking that next great story idea, but none seemed able to explain exactly what that meant, just that when they saw it, they would know.  It makes sense, if you think about it, they handle the bulk of the business end of writing and they need us, writers, to come up with fresh, saleable and entertaining ideas.

So, here’s hoping one of us is working on that next great story right now! 

Query Letters: Quantity or Quality?

I met a writer at a conference who said he sent 300 query letters before self-publishing.  I read some of his work, he is a good writer; but is writing 300 query letters a good strategy?  Based on my research over the past several years, I would say that quality is always better than quantity.

This may even be the motto of my life.

I am not an expert on writing query letters, but I have found some:

http://www.facebook.com/agent.rachelle

True confessions time!

After researching Agencies, http://www.agentquery.com/  I sent three letters for my first novel Seeing Scarlet before beginning yet another round of rewrites.  The rewrites are my decision, because I know I can better.   Of the three letters sent, I received one request for a full manuscript.  Not bad odds.

For my second, not quite completed novel, I sent one letter and received a very nice rejection.  By that, I mean, several paragraphs, which were both encouraging and offered an explanation about why she could not take on the novel.

What is the consensus?  What do they want?

Send it to the right agent, someone who represents your genre and is actively seeking new authors.

No typos or grammatical errors.

  • If your letter is boring, the assumption is that your novel will be as well.
  • Brevity: agents are busy.
  • No gimmicks, but a good hook doe not hurt.
  • Answer the question:  what is your story and why are you qualified to write it?

If you think have ever been in involved in a job search and who hasn’t, it’s not unlike writing a cover letter, if yours stinks, no one will read your résumé or your novel in this case, no matter how great it is.

Oh, and most importantly, double-check the spelling of the name of the Agency and Agent.  They say this actually happens, but it won’t get you very far.

#Putting Some Win in Your Sales

Question for the week:  Can you sell your words without selling your soul?

If you directly show the desire to sell something or worse, call yourself a Salesperson, can you escape negative connotations? 

Slimy Salesman Image

The word Salesman calls to mind images of polyester leisure suits, used cars and telemarketers hawking something you don’t want, refusing to take no for an answer.

Funny how words work.  The alternate spelling of the word, sails, invokes much lovelier imagery:

Croatia Yacht Charter Sailing Catamarans

Is sales really such a dirty word?  As consumer’s we like to buy things.  So, are salespeople villains?

Is it because it seems so desperate to have to ask, “would you like to buy this?”

Or is it because we like to kid ourselves that we are not being sold to every minute of every day?

As Authors, we shudder at the thought of having to sell our books; it’s not just about book signings and readings anymore, subtle selling events.  At the mere suggestion of promotion, we cry out:  “I thought the Publisher did the selling?”  Maybe once upon a time, when Agents were more like Fairy Godmothers.

Fairy Godmother

The selling starts long before the story is even printed.  First, we have sell our manuscript to an Agent, then it’s (hopefully) sold to an Editor and Publisher.  If we are fortunate enough to find success, the expectation remains, we will do our part literally, to get the word out about our book and sell it to the public.

Even with twelve years in Sales and Marketing experience under my belt, it took a long time to come to terms with this fact.  I thought I’d escape selling by becoming a writer.  The jokes on me!

As a salesperson I preferred to view my job as educating people on a quality product.  I chose to offer a service or fulfilled a need.  Of course, in doing so, I was in fact, selling something. My sales improved when customers viewed me as likable or better yet, as possessing a sense of humor.

Can selling a book be so different from selling some other type of product?  How do you make yours the one people want to buy like some of the blogs turned books that sky rocketed to success:  Author Julie Powell’s, “Julie and Julia” or “Fifty Shades of Grey”, by E.L. James.

“Julie and Julia”, by Julie Powell, (Little, Brown)

With  416, 039 bloggers just on WordPress alone, and how many are seeking book deals, has this ship already sailed?

Okay writers, time to get creative!

In Writer’s Digest, September 2012 issue, Author, Laura DiSilverio used Pinterest to show the items in her character Gigi Goldman’s wardrobe, to promote her book.  Clever.

At the Unicorn Writers Conference, self published Author, Joseph J.   Bradley handed out bookmarks instead of cards, which included the book cover, a brief plot synopsis and all of his pertinent information.  Smart.

Candace Knoebel, a blogger/Author I discovered here on WordPress.com, produced a book trailer for the release of her new book, “Born in Flames”.  Inventive.

http://www.youtube.com/watchv=bu5qbaMXxh0&feature=share

I love this idea.  For me, writing is visual.

Small businesses have used t-shirts, magnets, direct mail campaigns, pens, pencils, golf balls and ball caps among other things to help promote their businesses for years.  Maybe your character likes to play golf?

Over the summer, I saw an airplane banner advertising wine.  It did make me a little thirsty.

Airplane banner

Skywriting would work, after all, it was a big hit for the Wicked Witch Of The West.

Skywriting Spells Out, “You Didn’t Fail”.

Writing the book it seems is only half the battle.  The challenge is before us to seek out  the next best way to sell our work without sacrificing integrity.

For now, my mission is to finish writing what I hope will be a quality novel that might fulfill a need to read, with hope that readers will find my characters likable and maybe even entertaining.

Thanks for reading and keep writing!

Getting to know your ABC’s: Author Websites, Blogging and Contests

Thought for the week:  If you do everything you’re told, will you win a prize in the end? 

Reading the writers magazines and listening to industry guru’s the word is you need to build a platform to succeed as a writer in today’s marketplace.  This is a terrifying prospect to those of us who are technologically challenged.  And what if you prefer a little anonymity and are not driven by ego or insecurity and refuse to measure your worth by your number of Facebook friends?  Is self-publishing the only alternative?

I was dragged kicking and screaming into the age of technology, having written my college papers on one of those giant word processors using word-perfect.  If you are under the age of 30, now you are wrinkling up your nose and thinking, huh?

The papers disappeared into that blasted machine, often lost by my incompetence and haste in writing assignments the night before their due date, still, I cursed the computer for eating my work.

It took me years to get an ATM card, trusting my a passbook savings, something I had control over.  Again-huh?  Was anyone else convinced the machine would give their money to the next customer or that the funds would disappear altogether?

Am I alone in a preference to receive letters and cards in the mail, you know, tangible paper objects that you hold in your hand?  Does anyone still get butterflies finding odd-shaped envelopes among the bills and solicitations in the mailbox, the kind that give paper cuts, as a remembrance or enjoy examining handwriting and noting what it reveals about the writer?

The modern wonder E-mail, doubled my workload;  I hand wrote messages before typing them on the computer screen, then, deleted and re-wrote them, repeatedly, just because it was possible to do so.

A few years ago, an acquaintance publicly mocked me for not having a Facebook account, as if I were some Dinosaur who slipped out of the muck and landed accidentally in the modern age.

Joining Facebook happened out of sheer laziness; living in Europe, it was too difficult to keep up with everyone back in the States via e-mail and nearly impossible to share pictures of places visited.  It took awhile to get the concept of whole thing.  Why would anyone care what I am doing?  Once, I deleted half of my “friends” because they were not writing to me regularly.  Until I realized, I wasn’t writing to them either.

So hearing that success means you need to build a platform, I know I wrinkled my nose and went, huh?  To what end?  To jump off? 

Surely, some of us could get around this somehow.  What of those of us longing for the old style of publishing, sifting through the one thousand-page, onion-skin, “Writers Market” handbook in search of publishing houses,  Sending full manuscripts in the mail along with a SASE.  Go ahead, say it-huh?

Born too late, I could have been a Pilgrim or at least a Settler’s wife, writing about my hardship with a quill pen.  Using a wooden churn to make butter.  Incidentally, I made butter with my class once in elementary school following a field trip to Plymouth Rock.  Please do not say huh?

Author Websites:

Launching an Author Website, I literally held my breath while pushing the publish button.  It felt just like diving off a large cliff into the open mouth of the sea.  The choice of background photo clearly was not accidental.  Funny how the unconscious mind is so much smarter than the conscious one.

Can you call yourself an Author if you have yet to publish any Novels?  Will anyone know you exist if you don’t?

Amazingly, friends rallied around and it feels safe having an intimate audience of 39 fans.  I have to marvel at people with over one million.  How do they keep up with everyone?  Does having that many fans make them feel comforted or naked and exposed?

Blogging:

Writing a blog is supposedly part of platform building.  Again, I wondered why anyone should care.  What do you say?  How do you come up with something interesting to write about week after week or unimaginably, day after day?

Posting once a week, about the behind the scenes struggle of writing and the effort involved in mounting the hurdles of the changing Publishing world seemed a good way to start.  It might help make someone else’s journey a little easier somehow.  It is also a sort of social experiment, to see if following all of this sage advice will work out or not.

It’s easy writing to an intimate group of nine blogger followers and silent readers, without risking too much.  I’m blessed garnering any interest at all.  It’s interesting reading followers blogs to see what they have to say.  There are some great writers in cyberspace, blogging, because they like writing and will do it gratis, even for a small audience.  It makes sense now, this alternate form of social network for support and sharing of ideas.

Contests:

Of contests, let me preface this by stating my intent in this blog is to help not hinder and I have mixed feelings on this subject.  Coming to terms with who wins and why frustrates me.  Not hearing feedback annoys me.  Am I spending too much time trying to win and need to step back and ask myself why?  To what end?  Is it just a competitive thing?

People have launched writing careers by doing these things, but doesn’t that mean its time for the next great thing? 

Does winning a contest validate a writer?  Or does it mean selling out as a writer to appease the masses or a panel of judges?  Is this winning or losing?  Is it possible contests only benefit the magazines or sites that run them?  After all, if they cared about good writing they could drop entry fees. Struggling writers are poor; do they consider this?  Or am I just “Bitter Pants, party of one,” as my friend L would say, because I have yet to win?

Well, if you read this entire, long-winded post, then I am already winning!  

Thanks for reading and keep writing!    

Yet to come:  The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference; Query Letter Hell; Are You an Artist or a Craftsman?; Where’s The Reality Show For Writers?; Thinking on a Different Plane; What Compels Me To Write? & Why Trying Too Hard Fails

The Starting Line

Thought for the week:   If I freeze at the start, I will surely never finish.

I write for sanity, but I run for fitness.  I seem to lack coordination for any other form of exercise.  I have tried group exercise classes, perhaps you have seen my kind, the one capsizing in the warrior pose, knocking down the perfect yoga poser next to me or zigging in Zumba when everyone else is zagging.  So I run.  It is relatively safe.  Although, on occasion I have tripped over my own feet and wiped out, sprawled on the concrete, it is a rare occurrence.

Since I began both hobbies at an early age, I see parallels in my life between running and writing.  I wrote for years before ever thinking about going public and I ran for years before ever entering my first official race, terrified of being last, thinking I should be a ‘real’ runner to compete in a community  race.  Not true.   Anyone can run a 5K; some do it without any training at all, although I would not recommend that unless you enjoy being sore for days afterward.

The more races I ran, the more comfortable I became as a runner.  At the finish line, there were always people ahead of me and always people behind me.  After years of racing, I decided to push myself a little harder and trained over several weeks to run a ten-mile run, The Blessing of the Feet, in Narragansett, RI.  Guess what?  I was not last.

Eventually I even got faster.  I won a third place medal for women in my age group, two years running, in the Keep Your Colon Rolling 5K in Southern Maryland.  Now there is a T-shirt to wear proudly!  The race raises money for colon cancer research, a good cause and no joke; I have lost family members to this disease.  Granted it is a small race and I was competing against a tiny group, but it was an accomplishment for me to place.

Around this same time, feeling triumphant, I wrote a sample story, sent it to Bay Weekly, a local paper, and received an e-mail back from the Editor, which led to roughly two years of freelance writing.  The paper with an estimated circulation of about 50,000 and I was an infrequent contributor at best, but published.

The first time I saw my words in print and my name on the byline, I was both nervous and ecstatic.  I walked around town a little prouder.  Still, I fretted about public recognition.  Once, while sitting in a local restaurant, the customer at the table next to me was reading one of my articles including photos of myself and family members and yet, I still went unrecognized.  Amazing!  My fear of publishing and the remains of my ego quickly dissipated.

I was content for some time, running and writing, doing two things I loved.  I marveled at marathon runners the same way I marveled at novelists.  I could never do those things; I was a short distance runner and a short story and essay writer.  Then one day, I thought, if I can run ten miles, maybe I could write a novel.  I started writing, only a few pages at first.  I put the project down for weeks, coming back to it and then writing some more.  It took ages to write the first ten thousand words.  It was a start.

Years later, my family and I moved to Italy.  I was still running, still writing here and there but still nowhere near completing the novel.  A friend asked me to train with her for the Rome to Ostia half marathon.  Me, run a half marathon?  Well, I ran a ten mile race once.  I trained, progressively adding miles to my training over several weeks.  At the midpoint of my training, I developed runner’s knee and thought I was doomed, but I rested, used alternate training methods and quickly started training again.  After months of preparation, I ran the race with my friend and finished in a respectable amount of time.  I was not last.  It was a proud moment.

By conquering my inner running demons, I realized that I had always possessed the stamina and the self-discipline to do whatever I set my mind to, including finishing my novel.  What I lacked was courage and commitment.   To compete at the half marathon level, training almost every day was essential, just as completing a novel requires consistent daily writing.

I challenged myself to write every week.  I began with a weekly goal of ten hours.  Vigilance was difficult with so many distractions, responsibilities, family, friends, and fun.  Life gets in the way of writing.  I had a single-minded goal and remained fixated on that.  Before long, I was writing twenty hours per week, sometimes at night, weekends, early in the morning, when I could steal time.  Finally, I completed the novel.  It did in fact, take years, but maybe, had I begun sooner, with more focus, it would not have.

Polishing and publishing it is another story, hopefully a shorter one.

Now I have characters waking me at night when I am trying to sleep.  While standing in line at the grocery store, I daydream about plots.  When I meet someone new, I immediately start thinking about what a great character he or she might be in my next book.  On non-writing days, I am cranky; I take this as a sign that writing is essential to my mental health.

Consistency, creating your own rhythm, I believe, is the secret to writing, not only talent and education, although these are helpful.  This is the one piece of advice I have seen appear with frequency in author interviews.  It makes sense.  It sounds simple.  However, it requires sacrifice to make writing a priority, especially without income attached.

Becoming a published novelist is an entirely different bag of worms, but I cannot allow that to steal my momentum.  In addition, about those nagging doubts whether the novel is ever truly finished, I continue to make changes.  It is all part of the process.  However, I started writing a second novel, in the midst of tweaking the first, so as not to waste time staring at blank pages.  The second is nearly finished and considerably more expeditiously than the first.  What do you know?

I no longer count the hours.  I write every chance I have.  Some days, while my children are at school, I look up from the computer screen to realize hours have passed.  In my mind, I have stopped considering writing a hobby and begun thinking of it as a serious profession.  As for hobbies, I still have running, the one thing that quiets my mind, offering solace, a refuge, an escape.  Someday, maybe I will run a full marathon, but first, I have a few novels to finish!

So, you want to write a novel.  What are you waiting for?  On your mark, get set, you know the rest!

Thank you for reading and keep writing!

Yet to come:  Writers Group, Momentum, My First Writers Conference, Query Letter Hell and Seeking Support:  Surprises and Stumbling Blocks