Book Marketing Ideas by Jim Magwood

Please welcome my guest, Jim Magwood, author of The Lesser Evil, who”s talking about INTERNET MARKETING IDEAS .

You’ve written a book. Now your publisher says you need to get out there and sell. But you thought they would do that, right? Guess again. It’s basically now all in your hands, whether published traditionally or by yourself.

You can drive down the street with a trunk load of books, trying to get anyone to be interested enough to let you in the door. Or, you can start getting involved in Internet marketing, which is rapidly becoming THE place to be. So let’s take a look at some ideas that might help you.

To start with, I am not a great fan of social networking. Not to say you shouldn’t be involved, but that you should do it in a reasonable and planned manner. If you pick up the keypad every waking moment just because you think it’s fun to “tweet”, you’re going to waste an awful lot of time doing nothing productive. If you spend two or three hours every day sending out “social” messages, and don’t get any sales from it, count the time you’re wasting.

I’ve seen far too many ads saying you should “tweet” 10-20 times each day, or should “friend” everyone on Facebook. I, personally, get tired of having to scroll through message after message about someone’s dog, or what they had for breakfast, or how boring the taxi ride was. I get tired of people who think their sole purpose in my life is to send out more junk for me to read, stuff I have no interest in, just to get their name known. Don’t bother.

If you have some good quotes, or how-to’s, or a special ad for your book, then go ahead and tweet. But, not many people (certainly not me) are going to buy your book just because they now know that you change your child’s diaper three times a day.

That said, what are realistic ways you can make your presence known on the Internet and sell some books? There are some—but they all come under the heading of having a PLAN. Any businessperson will tell you if you just run out there and shout out your product’s name, very few people will respond. But if you have a structured PLAN, and go about working it in a disciplined way, you will get results. Here are some ideas.

First, what is your PLAN?

1. Is it something you’ve actually sat down and put on paper? If you just dream it up moment by moment, you will flounder. At least, as you dream, put those ideas down on paper and incorporate them in your PLAN.

2. Do you have the PLAN laid out in a daily, hour by hour manner, so you have very definite steps to take every time you get up in the morning? What are you doing from 8 – 11 a.m.? How about Tuesday afternoon? What about at night from 7 – 11? Television, or working your PLAN? If you are really trying to sell your books, you have to work a PLAN like a business, not a game. A game you can pick up and play any day, any time, and toss it aside just as easily. A business you work diligently at Monday through Friday from 9 –5, or in some other structured way.

3. What should your PLAN include? Again, ask yourself if you are really trying to sell some books. Many writers think they want to but simply don’t have the discipline to work at it. I’ve known many businesses, and authors, who think all they have to do is wake up each morning and the sales will roll in. Think of businesses around you who have closed their doors after several years of operations. Were they working a PLAN, or just opening the doors.

Some thoughts for your daily PLAN:

What are you trying to do? If you are just trying to have fun, or participate in a political discussion, then have fun. But don’t expect sales to come in. Keep this in mind.

Set out a definite time to do research for where you can get noticed in the Internet. Keep the proverbial yellow writing pad by your side at all times. As you research a certain topic, don’t get sidetracked into clicking every ad or article that pops up. Write the addresses down on the pad and keep on with the original research you were doing. Come back later and pick up the new topics. On the computer, copy the article or address from the ‘net, then jump into your Word program and paste it as “things to do.” Save the list forever as “Marketing Things To Do” so you can always come back to do the next thing and remember what you’ve already done. Put simple notes with each idea saying what you did and what the results were.

What should you be researching? For us poor, or cheapskate, authors, anything FREE where you can get noticed is where you need to be. Can you find a listing of reading clubs that you can send announcements of your book to? How about finding every bookstore of any size at all in your immediate area? Perhaps other places you might drop off a flyer or a free book – car washes with book racks, small grocery stores that will let you put a couple of books on their counter, dentist offices and hair dressers where you can leave a dozen simple flyers or bookmarks. And leave bookmarks at every restaurant you can find.

What about places throughout the Internet where you can get a free listing (or at least cheap—the next best word to FREE.) There are places like Isnare (http://www.isnare.com/) where you can pay to send out a series of articles for $1-2 each, which then get syndicated out for others to use. You can’t specifically solicit for your book, but you can write articles on areas of your expertise. Then they will give you a small space on the bottom of each article to put your bio and book information with live links for people to click on. Another is MediaSyndicate Press Releases (http://www.mediasyndicate.com/) where you can write actual news releases, pay as little as $5 for them, and they get sent out to potentially thousands of places that re-use them. You can find many more like these.

Another thing you should research is any author/writing website you can join and use, either for FREE or for a very low price. But, look before you leap. Many sites will seem to give you exposure but end up being so limited it’s not worth it. They may give you a page and the ability to write a lot of material within your page, but the page doesn’t get posted or rotated so anyone gets to see it. People have to be actually looking for YOU before they find your page. Or, they give you a fairly good price to get in, but then anything you want to do costs more, or the annual renewal fee gets you. If you are able to spend $500-600 for a yearly site fee, plus several hundreds to renew it each year, how many books are you going to sell to pay for that?

There are sites such as Pat Bertram’s (Pat Bertram Introduces and Dragon My Feet) that will interview you and/or give you the ability to talk about your book. There are sites such as The Author’s Inn where they have a one-time very low fee to get a 24/7 exposure page with no annual renewal. In general, every site ad you see anywhere should be looked up to see what it offers. This takes time and dedication, but can bring great rewards. However, always research each ad carefully.

What sites are out there who are looking for articles to post on their site where you can get a small byline and possibly a live-link to your own site? Google topics such as “articles” and “article syndication,” then keep on looking for those sites as new words come to you. Take a look at Bauu Institute’s listing of sites where you can post your materials (http://www.bauuinstitute.com/Marketing/).

One more thought for now. Where are places you can give something away FREE that will raise interest in you and your book? Consider this: If you have created an e-book, once the basic production cost has been paid, it costs basically nothing to send out beyond a little computer time. Think about finding places you could offer your e-book FREE to anyone who writes to request it. Consider law enforcement people and other first-responders; how about a gift for any and every military service person; missionaries and helps missions around the world? How many might love to read a free e-book, then tell a friend or buy your hardback? Consider clubs, companies and organizations that might offer your e-book at their next annual meeting or corporate fundraiser. If you’re going to pay for some kind of advertising, why not “pay” by sending out a FREE copy of your e-book so the word will spread?

These have just been a sampling of ways to market your works through the Internet. The main idea: Be Creative. You are, I assume, trying to sell your books, so how do you start that process? The Internet is a great sales resource, but get away from the over-used “social networking” scene and do some different things. Research; try things; keep good records of what happens (or doesn’t); then do more research and try again. And make a disciplined PLAN for what you are doing. Then, work your PLAN.

Click here to download my free mini e-book: “So You’ve Written A Book. Now What?”

Best to you all, and Keep On Writing.

I would love to hear your responses if you try anything here, or have questions or suggestions. Comment here, write me at JimMagwood@aol.com, or go through my site at http://www.JimMagwood.com.

Book Marketing 101 by Bobby Ozuna

Bobby Ozuna is a public speaker,  internet talk show host, co-founder to the READ3Zero foundation for kids, host to blog talk radio’s The Indie Author Show, and the author of Proud Souls. I am pleased that Bobby has allowed me to post this information about book marketing. Bobby says:

By demand and an earnest desire to help the many people who appear lost when it comes to the most effective way to brand or market themselves, I thought I would offer some tips for consideration when working to develop a place for your business, organization or art–outside of the actual product. This is what’s called brand-building.

A vast majority of my work involves authorship, but these tips can be applied to any business venture. If you wish to sale a product, then you have to learn to think beyond the product. It’s not good enough to say (using books as an example) [that] “I wrote a book and now everyone should buy it.” Like any successful business, you have to first consider the consumer. People spend money everyday, on something or many things–some of which are true desires to possess (needs) and others are simply purchases based on a good sale to their desire to own something else (wants).

Here are some things to consider when establishing a brand or marketability within your respective field. I use book publishing or authorship as an example here, but you should truly consider aspects of these examples when working to sell your product, contrary to what that may be.

1. Establishing a Web Presence

What does your website signify and is it created and written (and re-worked on a continual basis) to help search engines (potential customers) find you? How much time do you spend learning about the best ways to optimize (SEO) your website and online presence?

In today’s fast moving society of high-tech gadgetry it isn’t enough for an author to be content with simply “having a book on Amazon” (or any other online retail store). It is not acceptable either for an author to say, “I don’t know how to do this stuff” or worse “I can’t learn it.” Whether you chose to publish independently or had little or no choice to see your work in print, if you plan on making a dent in today’s book buying consumer base, then you will have to learn how to establish (at the very least) a web presence that builds on your credibility of your book(s) subject material. If you aren’t interested in building a website or quite possibly, can’t afford a good web developer/designer, there are many free tools you can utilize. Something after all, is better than nothing at all. Personally, I am a fan of blogs and all their optimization (SEO) functionalities to help you gather customers based on your sites material. Establishing a web presence is easy but maintaining the data and staying current is the hard part, because it requires continual effort. I have listed some points to consider as you design and refine your marketing plan.

Questions you might ask yourself when evaluating your present website and/or blog, including any social networking media you might incorporate.

What does my website signify? What does it say about me as a person or literary professional? Are you utilizing every social networking site for fun, or to help establish your place in relation to your artwork? For instance, many people use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and a blog. (These are are great places to start building your online/web presence…hint, hint.) BUT, if you skim through these sites of your fellow author and publisher (and of course, your own material), you might find they are spending an ample of amount of time discussing the weather or their favorite sports game and rarely, if ever, discussing their book’s subject material. If you have a MySpace, Facebook, etc., you want to incorporate links to your storefront, images of your book cover and of course, summations of every blog post for people to navigate to and read. That leads us to one of the most important aspects of developing your web presence: Becoming the expert!

Becoming the Expert:
A major part of branding and marketing your book publishing business is solidifying your expertise within your book’s genre or field. Article writing is by far the best way to get this done. If you have a blog (if you don’t go get one now!) or website, you want to start working on a plan to contribute at least (at the very least) two articles per week about your book’s subject matter. You can use these articles as a means to discuss or share quotations from your book and also interview other people, share tips & tricks or help develop others. These people you help are potential book buyers! If people trust your information, then they will surely trust your book. The more consistent you are with refining and defining your online presence, the greater chance of exposure and of course, possibilities for selling your business’s product: YOUR BOOK!

Branding Tip:
Most of us wrote a book, then worked to develop our credibility for the information. Pretend instead, you were the subject matter expert already who HAPPENED to write a book. If you approach  marketing from this perspective, it will help shed light on new methods for marketing your businesses credibility (you) and your book’s material (book) and ultimately, give way for people (followers) to trust you enough to purchase your product (sales).

2.  Marketability

How are you trying to sell your work and have you determined your actual market? Trying to sell book products to people who don’t read or (let’s say) other authors who are competing against you? Are you working to establish an online presence that is catchy (building on wants) of those who fall into your customer base?

If I said the word marketing and then listed some random words, such as: soda, car & shoe, it would be relatively easy to guess what words or businesses came to your mind when you heard me say them. For soda, you might have considered Coke or Pepsi. For car you may have thought of Ford or Chevy and lastly, for shoe, the odds are pretty good you thought of Nike or at the very least, the Nike swoosh symbol. This is what’s called Top-Of-Mind marketing and branding. Top-of-Mind, being, the very first word(s) or business models that comes to your mind when a list of words are mentioned. When a business is working to focus its attention on a certain customer base or “corner of the market” it is imperative they understand just who their customers are and work within their niche to build an effective marketing plan to target that audience.

As an example, I work for Texas based children’s author (Melissa M. Williams/Iggy the Iguana) but my own work of fiction (Proud Souls) would never be considered for marketing to the same audience. Why? Well, (if it wasn’t obvious) my material is written for adults NOT children. I don’t even tell children much about my book, apart from saying, I’m a writer too! It sounds like a relatively simple thing to do, but if at the end of the day, the name of the game is sales, then why would I spend my time (or waste my time depending upon how you measure the quality and cost of your time) talking about, sharing or trying to sale a product to a consumer base that won’t purchase my product(s)?

This installment deals with marketability or your ability to market a product effectively to a particular customer base. Take these points into consideration and these suggestions as you work (and rework and rewrite) to develop your marketing strategy.

a.) Know your customers:

If you write for children, then you need to be in front of children. You need to create a product that doesn’t always fit WHAT YOU THINK is the best product for a child (or children) but what they like. Get out there and ask them. Meet with kids, conduct author visits, and school presentations and ask them what they think of your product. They are after all your entire customer base. If your book is niche, or based on events or circumstances for adults, then find the people who will identify with it the most, and get their perspective. You can offer books for free, to generate a buzz, get some reviews, offer free readings, etc. 

b.) Appeal to your audience

You don’t want to create a cover that is too adult for children anymore than you want to create a cover that is too childish for adults. Look at other books in your genre and get a feel for cover styles. If you aren’t sure, ask yourself the next time  you are in a bookstore. If I read this genre and I walk down that genre’s aisle, what books pop out and grab my attention? Is it a bold title on the spine? Is it an image? Is it dark? Light? The cover design should correlate with your book’s theme, that after all is an old trick of playwriters from ages ago.

c.)  Streamline your visual aids

When you think of shoe, you most likely think of Nike. When you think of Nike, you most likely think of the swoosh sign. This isn’t a coincidence but targeted, planned and effective results of good marketing. If you have a profile picture, it should be the SAME one you use on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and your website. If you have a cover design image on the Internet, it should be the same as well, everywhere. Your business logo on your blog or website should match what’s on your book cover, etc. The idea is to brand one cover design, with one business logo and one author profile picture. That way, when someone sees you on Twitter they may recognize you from Facebook. If they find you posting comments on a book blog, they will recognize you from MySpace, etc. Your job is to make sure people know what you look like, what you wrote, and what your book cover looks like…without thinking twice!

d.) Learn to be convincing–and believe it!
Does one shoe make you run faster than another? Does one energy drink truly make you a better athlete? Does one laptop or personal computer help you work any better than the other? No, no and no…but…the sales and marketing staff at each of these organizations will work to make you believe otherwise. That is the power of a good marketing campaign. If your book deals with overcoming loss (non-fiction) and you have been through devastating loss and rejuvination, then YOU ARE THE EXPERT! You after all, have written a book about the subject! Get out there on blogs, guest blogs, radio shows, Facebook, MySpace, support groups, etc. and remind the people how YOUR information and knowlegde helped save your life…and how it can save theirs too! Period.

e.) Become the expert

I can’t stress this point enough. I read once that if you work at anything (consistently) for five years, you become the subject matter expert. Trust me, it may seem like you’re not at times and because of a lack of sales, you may not feel like the expert, but you are! The little things you learned and forgot you learned along the way are the very things someone else is looking for. Why not be the one who feeds them continuous content to help them get where you are? By posting articles, podcasts, interviews, etc., on a continuous (continous) basis, you are allowing people a chance to trust you and with that trust and learning, will come sales–if you have a product–and what better product to sum up your knowledge than a book?

f.) If I like you–I will like your product

Someone told me once that we write because it is our gift and we work hard at it so the world will fall in love with our work. We blog–or utilize any social networking website–so people will fall in love with us. If you want to sale books you must believe in them. If you want to sale books you must be your books biggest and greatest advocate and NOT sit around waiting on someone else to love it or promote it or believe in it more than you! If you want to sale books, then you have to learn to be personable enough that people LIKE you enough to give your art (your work, your product) a chance. Remember who you were when you were just starting out…how much you loved talking about your book…without query letters, sales pitches, guidelines, etc…? That person could inspire the world without any formal effort. Don’t let the formalities destroy the beauty in your heart…to share with the world what is in your soul.

3.  Credibility

Do you write articles, teach classes, offer lectures, that solidify your expertise within your market? Are you available to help others learn how to do what you are (working) to accomplish? To help others with a serving spirit, doesn’t hinder your ability to make money, but rather opens more doors for opportunity by helping others along the way.

4. Consistency

How often are you working online to develop a TOM (top of mind) marketing presence. As an example, when people think car company, do they think Chevy or Ford? When they think (for example) of your product line, art, book genre, etc., do they think of you or your works title? What have you done to help establish that want, based on your businesses product. Your product is not only your item for sale, but YOU!

5. Time

If you are writing a book or trying to sale a book to make money only, people can see right through that. And that, makes you no different than the hundreds of thousands of other authors on the market. What makes you (YOUR BUSINESS) different than the next? What do you offer a community, a market, consumers, etc that truly makes your business worth investing in–and ultimately–buying your product? I read once that anything you do for five years [you] become the expert at. All of this work takes TIME, but if you believe in your product, if you believe in your passion, etc., then time is in your favor, not working against you.

These are a few of the various points to consider when working to write your marketing plan, develop a marketing model and lastly, create your web model (links to) your various websites.

Help Other Writers be More Visible

Anne Lyken-Garner, today’s guest,  is a writer and blogger. You can find her writing blog here:  A Blogger’s Books. Also check out: How to Spend Less by Anne Lyken-Garner. Anne says:

Most writers write about their books on their blogs, or share their links on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and StumbleUpon. These could be extremely helpful mediums through which we could promote ourselves and our work. 

The problem is, we can’t do it on our own. Spamming is terribly prevalent on the Internet and as soon as you’re recognised or noted for being one, the impact you make and the links you share – helpful or not – get painted with the brush of suspicion. 

The way to overcome this as writers is to help each other to become more visible. None of us could be a powerful member on all the social media sites. However, we each have our following or our fan base on our own little patch on the net. If we all helped each other in our own small corner, this could be a good thing for all of us. There are several ways in which we could increase each other’s visibility, but some of them can be slightly complicated. Here are four very easy ones which most of us have the ability to do. 

Follow blogs 

Most of us have blogs. Following other writers’ blogs shows their visitors that they’ve got a solid community. Your stamp of approval makes it easier for browsers looking for writing information to decide to follow them too. More readers mean more new visitors. Visitors translate into more authority for their blogs when the search engines send out their crawlers. A blog that has more authority and ranking is good for all involved because it means your tiny picture on the ‘follow’ panel is exposed to more traffic.

Furthermore, you will be able to see their new updates on your blog’s dashboard. 

Link to other writers’ posts 

If you find something interesting on your fellow writer’s site, link to it in one of your posts. Obviously this is to be done responsibly with the appropriate credits etc. This sort of exposure introduces your colleague to your readers and helps them to discover something new and interesting. Your job as a blogger/writer is to impart knowledge. Give your readers something good, worthwhile and different. They will love you for it.

Linking to other sites also increases their weight and authority where Google is concerned. Many bloggers won’t do this for nothing, but I do. My purpose for writing and blogging is not just for personal gain. I will link freely to sites and articles with the appropriate credits, if I think something is worth sharing. My readers are worth it. 

Tweet their posts 

Most of the writers on the Internet have now got twitter accounts. Tweet good posts now and then and help other writers to be visible on Twitter. There are thousands of other writers there. This has a two-fold purpose: not only will you be known for tweeting quality links on writing, but your colleague will gain some traffic from the link you shared. People notice when you’ve tweeted their work, and this ‘favour’ will come back to you triple-fold. 

Stumble their posts 

In my opinion, StumbleUpon is probably the best social media site to drive traffic to your blog. Some submissions don’t always make a big splash, but when they do, they’re huge. If you’re a member of StumbleUpon and you pay attention to what others are submitting, lending your support to their interests, your stumbles will soon get the attention of other users on the site. 

Use your networking skills not only to build up your own fan base, but to help other writers along in their journeys too. In an age where Literary Agents and Publishers are holding back on marketing their authors’ work, we have to turn to each other to get where we want to be.

How to Set Up a Blog Book Tour and Why You Should

Alan Baxter is an optimistic cynic and dark speculative fiction author, based on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia. His writing is primarily based in the magical, the spiritual, the religious and the arcane with tendencies towards horror, depravity and battles between light and dark. Baxter says:

A blog book tour is a great way to generate buzz about you and your book. It’s essentially free, it generates a lot of hits on your site and others, and it creates an ongoing interest in your work. As a result of a blog tour, your books and name will gain exposure to potentially thousands of new readers. And all it really costs is time and effort on your part.

Any author, however they’re published, needs media attention. The new media of blogging and social networking is a great tool to use to your advantage. Working with other people, cross posting on a variety of media, gives you a saturation coverage for a period of time that can have excellent ongoing results.

So what is it? A blog book tour is essentially taking your books out on the virtual road, in much the same way that authors would traditionally tour the country, visiting various bookstores promoting their work. In this case, an author visits a different blog every day where they engage in various activities (interviews, guest posts, reviews and so on) and make themselves and their books known to the audience of that particular blog. There’s great cross-promotion as the writer’s audience gets exposed to a variety of blogs they might not have discovered otherwise (which is good for the blog owner) and that blog’s existing audience learns about the author and his or her work.

I currently have two novels out, RealmShift and MageSign, and it was these two books that I recently took on a blog book tour. My books are available in print and ebook format and I also have a novella available as a free ebook, Ghost Of The Black: A ‘Verse Full Of Scum. By taking my two novels on the virtual road, I opened up my both those novels, my free novella and my other work featured on my website to a wide audience that may never have heard of me or my writing before. It also helped to increase exposure to my indie press, Blade Red Press. Building an author platform online is essential for indie authors and a blog book tour like this is a great way to expand that platform.

It helps to offer something special. I really wanted to make an aspect of this tour something attractive — a special offer for people following along. It’s difficult with the print editions of my books through Amazon or places like that to make any changes in the short term. However, all my books are available as ebooks in a variety of places including Smashwords.com. With Smashwords there’s an excellent degree of control for the author/publisher. With any title you have there it’s possible to generate vouchers to vary the cost of your books however you please. So that means that I was able to set up a voucher code that was made available to anyone following the tour, valid only for the duration of the tour. If those people then came to Smashwords to buy RealmShift or MageSign they could enter that code and the books only cost them $1 each, instead of the usual $3.50. Giving very cheap or free content has proven itself many times over as an excellent way of generating interest in new work and it also gives people an added reason to check out the blog tour.

As for how successful a blog book tour can be, it depends on how much work an author puts in? With anything in this game it’s all about how much work you do. It’s also about working smart. If you get involved with a variety of blogs, with a widely varying audience, and you ask those people to promote the tour for you, then a lot of publicity can be generated. You can also make sure that you and those others involved cross-media promote with things like Twitter, Facebook and so on, to attract as many potential readers as possible.

To set up a blog book tour you firstly need, of course, a quality product to promote. Then it’s a case of contacting the owners of blogs that you think are relevant to you and your book. For me it was based on blogs that I read a lot or that are owned by other indies I’ve met or that had a fan base interested in the kind of writing I do, which is speculative fiction. There were also some blogs of friends and one blog that I’m an active contributor to. I contacted them all, asked if they’d get involved and asked what sort of thing they could host for me. I explained how the extra traffic could be a boon for them and then, if they agreed, we worked together to decide what I would do there.

It’s important to have variety. If you just go to a different blog every day and say, “Check out my book!” you’re going to bore people pretty quickly. It was essential in my mind to create something that people would want to follow every day, to see something new each time. The best explanation is to show the itinerary of the tour I did in July. I ended up with a ten-day tour that looked like this:

Day one: Guest post: Dark Fantasy – What is it exactly? – Monday 20th July at The Creative Penn. This is a blog all about indie authorship, but Jo is hosting a blog from me about the genre of my writing. It’s something new for her readers and hopefully interesting for everyone.

Day Two: Interviewed by Leticia Supple – Tues 21st July at Brascoe Books Blog. Brascoe Books is an small press in South Australia, so Leticia interviewed me about the nature of going it alone, the process of editing and so on.

Day Three: Guest post: Writing a good fight scene – Wed 22nd July at David Wood Online. David is another indie author – he writes action adventure novels with a speculative edge. As I’m often complimented on writing convincing fight scenes (my “day job” is as a kung fu instructor) he asked me to write about writing fight scenes.

Day Four: Interviewed by April Hamiltion – Thurs 23rd July at Publetariat. Publetariat is a hub site for indie authors, telling them all they need to know about self-publishing and indie publishing, from print to ebooks to just about everything. This is the site I’m a contributor to already, so April interviewed me about my experiences.

Day Five: Guest post: Demons and where to find them – Friday 24th July at Joan De La Haye’s blog. Joan writes in a similar genre to me and has a fascination with demons. She always has a Demon Friday post where she writes about a different demon every week. In this case, she gave the Friday over to me and I wrote about demons in general. Again, this is something different for her readers as well as being something interesting for those following the tour.

Day Six: Wily Writers published my short story “Stand Off” (featuring Isiah, the protagonist from RealmShift and MageSign) as both text and podcast – Sat 25th July. This was a great result for me, to get a story published and podcasted alone is a great result. To have it key in with the tour so nicely was fantastic.

Day Seven: Ruthie reviews MageSign – Sun 26th at Ruthie’s Book Reviews. This one was a bit of a risk. Ruthie agreed to review the second book, MageSign, and post the review to coincide with her day of the tour. It worked out as she loved the book and gave it 4/5 stars!

Day Eight: Pat Bertram interviews Isiah, the protagonist from RealmShift and MageSign – Mon 27th July at Pat Bertram Introduces. Pat often hosts interviews with the characters from books, which is a great idea. This was a fun one to do.

Day Nine: Guest post: Indie authors and the future – Tues 28th July at Musings Of An Aussie Writer. Brenton is another Aussie author and he asked me to talk about the nature of indie publishing and how I see things progressing as time passes.

Day Ten: Guest post: The inspiration for RealmShift and MageSign, what they’re about and what’s next – Wed 29th July at The Furnace. The last day here is me talking directly about the books, which is the first time on the tour that I’ve done that, and also talking about my future projects.

As you can see, I tried to build an interesting and varied experience for everyone involved to enjoy. Hopefully, with ongoing and interesting content like this, plenty of people will follow your tour, comment on those blog posts and generate lots of discussion and interaction. It will hopefully interest people enough that it also generates a few sales. Mine certainly did.

It was hard work and took a lot of co-ordination with other people to pull it off. It meant keeping in touch with those blog owners, putting together a lot of content for them to host and sending out a lot of reminders to make sure everything went smoothly. But it was worth it. I saw a definite spike in sales of both print and electronic editions of my books during the tour and I’ve hopefully piqued enough peoples’ interest that they’ll remember me and maybe buy my books in the future.

(Incidentally, if you’re interested in any of the articles listed above, they’re still available to read. Another advantage of a blog tour. You can find direct links to all those blog book tour posts, along with a wrap up of some sales and web-hit stats from the tour, here: http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/2009/08/02/blog-book-tour-wrap-stats.html )

Negative Reviews: Are They Really Negative?

I am the administrator of the Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook. Our discussion this week was about negative reviews, and Marshall Karp left a comment that I wanted to pass along because I thought you’d find it as helpful as I did.

Marshall Karp, the author of Flipping Out, is an award winning former advertising executive, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a novelist. He has also written, produced, and executive produced TV shows for all the major networks. Karp says: 

Picture this: I walk into a room and 99 people applaud wildly. One guy is just mumbling “here comes that asshole.” Guess who I pay the most attention to? What is it about the negative reviews that seem to always get a writer’s attention?

For years I wrote TV commercials just because they were never reviewed. When I finally wrote a play and then moved on to TV sitcoms, I thought of my negative reviews as Public Shame. As for my great reviews — I just figured I fooled another critic.

I’ve come a long way. These days, I only take a few negative reviews seriously. They come from people I respect, and I try to learn from them. But most of my really negative reviews are downright laughable, so I refuse to take them seriously.

In fact I can now get a lot of mileage — and a lot of laughs — out of my negative reviews. I read them to my audience at book signings. One guy on Amazon gave me one star for my new book FLIPPING OUT. Reason: foul language and sexual references. I write murder mysteries — what are the cops supposed to say — oh fudge?  So I check his profile. He got my latest book free from the Amazon Vine program. Normally he reads Christian Romance and Church Insight. When I tell the story my audience is laughing and I’m quietly blessing this guy for being such a judgmental ass.

Another guy gives me 2 stars for THE RABBIT FACTORY. He too claims not to be much of a mystery reader. I check his other reviews. He gave 5 stars to a Scooby Doo Chia Pet planter, and 4 stars for a Shrek Chia Pet planter. I tell my audience I don’t understand how Scooby can get 5 stars and Shrek only gets 4, but even so, this dude still thinks the Shrek planter is twice as good as my book. All this gets a lot of laughs and a lot of empathy from my audience. And it doesn’t hurt that the reviewer called himself (or herself) Church of the Flaming Sword.

Audiences appreciate a writer who doesn’t take himself too seriously. So reading your negative reviews out loud can go a long way to making people feel good about you. One more thing — I always tell my audience that if they really like my book, don’t just tell me. Tell everyone else.  Post a glowing review on BN.com, amazon, goodreads or any one of a hundred other book sites. I tell them it helps offset the reviews I get from all those Flaming Swords and other Flaming Assholes.

Bottom line — I have learned to make the most of my negative reviews — I even work them to my advantage. It’s those damn raves that always wind up throwing me for a loop.

Thanks for a great topic. See you on Facebook.

Radio Interviews and How to Get Asked Back

When I was asked me to be a guest on a  blogtalkradio show, I immediately posted a discussion topic on Facebook, and my writing community there came through for me with some wonderful suggestions. Chuck Collins was especially generous, and he gave me permission to share his wisdom with you. Collins says:

Here I am an expert, no modesty needed. I have been a broadcaster for more than 30 years. There is one simple rule: there is no such thing as a yes or no answer. If you stop reading here, you’ll be fine.

A little physical prep is good. You certainly don’t want to jump off the treadmill and pick up the phone. You want some water nearby (you will get dry-mouth). And you want to make sure the room from where you take the call is totally quiet and you are the only soul present; that includes pets.

Write down the person’s name and city on an index card that you can see almost without looking at it. I don’t care if you are talking to the local swap-meet guy or Larry King, you will forget. Good idea to know the time zone at the destination of your talk. It’s also good to know a little bit about the interviewer, Simple things such as is he or she a parent, of a certain racial or ethnic group. Google him or her!

Be in comfortable clothes, but wear clothes! No sweats or jammies. That will give you a false sense of empathy. A good interviewer will want to throw you off at least a little. Stay sharp.

A bad interviewer will not know where to place the question mark. They will qualify a question to death. Be ready to interject your answer; trust me, he or she will thank you for that.

Have a clock or timer near. I like to use the timer feature on my iPhone. No answer should go longer than 2 minutes. That sounds like a long time, it isn’t. Ideally you want your answers to be in the 90 second range. I am not suggesting you obsess over time, just be aware of it. The interviewer is.

Assume that the interviewer has not read your book and never will. And you don’t care. It is the listener you want to get interested in the story.

Talk about the story or the subject matter. If you get a groupie question such as, “what made you start this project?” Talk about the genesis of the characters and the plot. It really doesn’t matter where your head was at the time. And yes, say the title of the book as often as you can.

One thing to keep in mind: good radio sounds like a conversation but it is not. We know this from composing good fiction. Nearly everyone can write, but few can craft a good novel. Nearly everyone can speak, but few actually sound good on the radio.

You can have a pleasant conversation with a host. Come away feeling good about the segment and not compel a single listener to buy your book.

You must help the host create an atmosphere that is as magnetic as your story. Use your voice to paint a picture that the listener MUST complete by buying the book. In short you need to convey passion, emotion and attraction.

This is not casual. It is quite deliberate. Have you ever heard or seen Garrison Keillor give an interview? There is always something that makes you wonder. It doesn’t matter what you wonder about, but he sticks in your mind long enough to take action, click on Amazon and buy the book. The host talks about the interview after you are gone. If you are lucky even the next day, perhaps replay it, podcasts it on their website! Mr. Keillor is a master of both art forms, but we can certainly learn from him.

The radio interview is a remarkable opportunity. You do not want to become a quivering mass, but you want to serve yourself first.

Generally the people listening to the interview are not interested in us. But we can give them reason to choose our work over the literally millions of options. Convince one person, that is really all you have to do.

If you are on a show about books and authors then you can relax some and just be yourself while still keeping the work central to the discussion. But if you are lucky enough to get on mainstream radio you are expected to perform, not as a radio professional but as an artist. We are supposed to be interesting people, we who have the nerve to create.

As far as selling, there are many ways to do this. The best way is make the product irresistible. No amount of begging can compete with a must-have product. Of course you never want to say, “please read my book,” but you can say “I have reserved a number of books just for your listeners. I will gladly sign them and for the next 24 hours wave all shipping costs.” I don’t believe in discounting the price, that is an insult to those who have already paid full price. But shipping, now there’s a coupon.

There are several ways to get asked back.

Sound like you belong there. This is delicate because you want to remain the “junior partner” in the presentation. In this dance, the host leads.

Remain humble, but not sycophantic. Know your stuff but when possible attribute your knowledge to others the interviewer and her audience may know and admire; maybe even interviewed recently. “You had a great interview with X on your show last month. He is a strong inspiration…” Show that you are a fan of the show, too.

Don’t ask for anything from the show! Arrange to have the show recorded yourself and offer to link the interviewer/program site to yours.

Thank both the host and producer in writing. Let them know how much you enjoyed the opportunity and are available anytime they would like you back…”

Don’t try to be funny. The key word here being TRY. You WILL be funny, don’t worry. You can even prepare a humorous story, but it will come naturally and that is the most engaging and memorable.

Here’s something from the AP Interviewing class: Relate to the audience directly as much as possible. This takes practice. For example. Instead of saying “When I find an author I like…” say “when you find an author you like…” same sentence, same set up. We know that the most magnetic words heard on the radio is one’s own name, short of that is “you.”

Finally you can forget all this and still do great! The worst interviews I ever had were with radio people — Don Imus, Howard Stern, etc. The best were fiction authors who would rather lick a porcupine than talk on the radio. That’s because I admire what they do and was genuinely interested in the craft. You’ll sense that from Rita and other good interviewers and the time will fly by.

How To Do a Blog Tour

Marshall Karp, the author of Flipping Out, is an award winning former advertising executive, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a novelist. He has also written, produced, and executive produced TV shows for all the major networks. Karp says: 

When Pat asked me to write about my Blog Tour I had to remind her that I have less knowledge of Blog Tours than Sarah Palin did of Russia.

But before I started writing novels, I spent 25 years in marketing. I have promotion in my DNA, so I am always thinking how do I push my franchise toward the tipping point. And while I am hardly an expert on blog tours, I’m learning fast, because I’m in the process of doing one.

Since my publisher can’t afford to fly me from city to city to promote my books (actually, no publisher can) I realized that I can still travel the World Wide Web

If you’re thinking about a blog tour, here’s my version of how to do it.

First you research and recruit bloggers who talk about books. Some are better known than others, but if you’ve been published in the past, and you set up a Google alert with your name and title, Google will notify you whenever your name pops up on the web. That’s how, over the past few years, I have found bloggers who give positive reviews to my books — even though they bought their own copies, and they never imagined they’d ever be contacted by the author. But when I find them, I either email them directly or comment on their site. I’m genuine in my appreciation, and they’re floored because what the hell — I’m a real author, and usually they are bloggers who love to read — although some have their eyes on being published one day.

And then a bond is formed.

So I suggest you line up bloggers. Three months before your pub date send them ARCs. Assuming your publisher sends advance copies to bookstores and libraries, they should have some left over for bloggers. Then set up a calendar. Let’s say you’re doing a 15 day Blog Tour. You give each of your 15 selected bloggers one exclusive day on that calendar in which to review your book. You become available on that day to be a guest on that blog site — either doing Q&A, or an email interview, or writing q guest blog. You also should do a quid pro quo, which includes posting a Blog Tour calendar and giving a permanent link from your site — sending your fans to the blogger’s site.

This takes a lot of time, and I won’t know for a few months if it’s worth it. But at least you can do it from home. Which is good if you’re shy. Or you’re tired of having a TSA guy with a big wand pull you aside and ask if you’ve ever had this done to you before. (It’s a straight line I can never resist and my wise-ass answers have gotten me into a lot of trouble.)

As much time as it takes, ultimately it probably takes a lot less time than a 15 city tour. Let me reiterate that I am a Blog Tour Virgin. I’m planning one — but I have no first hand experience, just information. But I do have first hand experience at doing book signings. On my first signing for my first book, I sold 140 copies, and the store ran out. Friends and family. Second store signing — 25 books. Friends and family who couldn’t make it to the first signing. Third store signing — all I heard were crickets chirping. So for me a Blog Tour feels like a worthwhile experiment.

Booksellers and librarians are your very best allies. They handsell. Even in those cities where I flew in and only half a dozen people showed up at a store signing, the bookseller was grateful, responsive, and got to know me and my work well enough to sell my books day after day, appropriate customer after appropriate customer, long after I left.

I still am friends (real and virtual) with many of those booksellers. The same goes for librarians. My first thought when I found out that 14 people were on the waiting list for my book at a local library was — what kind of business plan is that? Sell one book and 14 people get to read it? I soon learned that libraries are a Mecca for book people and while many people may borrow your book, if they like it, they usually spread the word to their friends who buy books.

Sorry to ramble on. No editor handy. In fact I’ve gone on so long I can’t believe anyone will read this far. So I can get it off my chest right now and tell you that Jimmy Hoffa is buried in my basement, and I won’t have to worry about recriminations.

One last thing. Writing books is a not-so-delicate balance of art and commerce. Nobody expects you to be a natural at the commerce part. As you go through the marketing process, try to stay in touch with the Inner Joy. You started with 500 blank sheets of paper, filled them with your ideas, your words, your emotions, – with everything that is you, and now it’s a Real Book.

Hey, there are lots of people who can keep you from becoming a world famous, best selling, household name author. But only one person can prevent you from feeling the sheer joy and exhilaration you get every time you say . . . I write books.

See also:
Review of Flipping Out  review by Pat Bertram
Titles: What Makes a Good One by Marshall Karp
Conversation with Marshall Karp, Author of Flipping Out