Saturday, August 31, 2013

What Works?

Over the past several weeks I have been delving into lots of venues in order to promote my latest book, Dying to Dream. It's time to take stock of what works, what doesn't. My publisher's senior editor has a particular view of marketing, which I tend to agree with on most points. She emphasized starting with a local environment, building a base of readers and fans who will spread the word. So, what have the local aspects of my efforts entailed?

For one, book signings at libraries and independent book stores. I've done a few in the past three months and more scheduled in the near future. Average sales have been modest, around 4 or 5 books per event. Second, I've attempted spreading the word by asking local newspapers to do reviews. My hometown even interviewed me just this past week. These are still ongoing so it's too soon to predict how this will affect sales and readership. I'm also in the process of contacting the bigger chain stores -- Barnes & Noble, Books a Million -- to work on getting them to stock my book, maybe even letting me do a book signing, although I agree this works better for indie authors when done in groups. Nothing has happened yet. And one other venture I've undertaken is to submit my book to the Buckeye Book Fair with the hopes that it will be accepted for the annual event coming up in November. This one would be a real coup since only 100 Ohio authors are invited each year. Book sellers, librarians, teachers and individual buyers from all over Ohio come to the fair to purchase books on display. I'm keeping fingers and toes crossed. My wait will be over by September 30th when the final invitation is given.

Obviously sales promotion wouldn't be complete without tackling online venues. That is something I've done a plenty. Long before Dying to Dream came out, I established an author website, this blog, an author Facebook page in addition to my personal one, and a Twitter account. Staying active on these is not only socially satisfying but also good promotion sense. Recently, I created a Facebook page for my books and another for topics specifically found in Dying to Dream, such as facts about Louisiana and stories about haunted places. I also have a Goodreads account where I've built a following by participating in the Goodreads Giveaway.

Also online are these promos called virtual book tours. From my experience, these help to build an author's platform and profile, but they aren't for helping immediate sales. Maybe other authors have had a different experience, just not me. Besides book tours, if your book is available in Kindle format, Amazon provides opportunities to promote your ebook, Book Discovery for one. I recently participated in this. For a small price you can have your book displayed on their site. I'd say the sales must have happened because my ranking soared for several days. The problem is it didn't stay that way. Again, initially, promotion online isn't about the sales. At least that's what I've been told. Rather, it's about building an audience, creating a platform, preparing for successful and easier promotion when the next book comes out with the promise that eventually the sales will come.

The downside? As a fellow author once wrote, take a look at the top ten list of bestsellers, keep watching over a long period and I think you'll notice how some of the same authors will appear again and again. Bottom line -- it's hard to be noticed, to rise above the crowd, to become successful, but keep on writing, I say. Keep improving. And obviously, keep promoting. And by the way, if you don't enjoy writing? You are losing one of the greatest rewards of this journey as an author.

Link to Amazon Kindle's Book Discovery:

Monday, August 12, 2013

Both Entertaining and Revealing Interview


Kathryn Long is stopping by Andi's Book Reviews today! Please give her a warm welcome!

What was the inspiration behind 'Dying to Dream'?
I love exploring anything about the paranormal. Several years ago I came up with the idea of creating a character who could paint drawings of people who would manage to “come alive” somehow. She would be haunted by these drawings but eventually discover they could give her clues to solve a mystery. When I wrote Dying to Dream I changed the idea somewhat and had the main character, Marin Seurat, have the psychic gift to dream the dreams of spirits. From these dreams she gathered clues to help her solve the mysteries occurring in the story.
To which character do you most relate?
I’d say Marin because she seems to always struggle with some turmoil in her life whether it’s with the living – like her ex-flame, Trent Robesaux, and her father, Cal – or with the dead – like Marguerite or Cousin Francis. Not that I’m struggling with any spirits! And my future self? I’d like to think I will be as feisty, outspoken, and determined as Tante Louise Picault. She’s definitely my favorite character.
What was your favorite scene?
That would have to be the final scene in the Baulliere’s cellar. I can’t say anymore without giving away details about the ending, but it really was exciting to write.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book?
I often call myself the Research Queen of authors! Whatever I don’t know, I look it up … online or in books (I have several on Louisiana and hauntings) and if necessary, ask a knowledgeable person. Fortunately, the French phrases came easily since I have a degree in French, but if in doubt I always double checked. I have been on a couple of “ghost tours” in the past. It’s interesting what you can learn from that sort of experience.
Will we see these characters again in a sequel or spin-off?
I hope so. I’ve already started developing ideas to bring out more of Charlie’s character. In this novel she stayed a good deal in the background as Marin’s sidekick. Also, I would include Tante Louise. She could even have a series of her own! Like Miss Marple or the female version of Hercule Poirot.
Please tell us about your other published works.
I have a cozy and humorous mystery series with main character, Lilly Millenovanovich, single, forty, and a mystery writer who often finds herself mixed up in real life mysteries. Three comical aunts add to the fun, along with an eccentric neighbor who thinks he’s Davy Crockett and stands on his balcony with his trusty musket Old Betsy by his side. Released so far are Whips, Cuffs, and Little Brown Boxes and Gangs, Illegals, and a Rose Tattoo. Under the pen name K. Sean Jennkrist I have written three young adult novels, loosely based on fairytales. Cinderella Geek, Not So Snow White, and Alice in Realityland are in that series.
On what other projects are you currently working?
I have another book coming out with publisher, The Wild Rose Press next year. It’s a romantic suspense story, tentatively titled A Deadly Deed Grows. I am currently working on a third mystery in the cozy series and will be starting another ghost mystery, soon.
You write YA and adult fiction. Do you prefer one genre over the other?
I prefer writing adult fiction -- mystery or suspense in various sub genres. That’s what I enjoy reading, too, so I guess that makes sense. My motivation to write the YA novels came from my experiences in teaching high school Language Arts. One reoccurring theme in them is bullying. I witnessed that all too often.
Have you ever had your own psychic encounter or ability?
I participated in a couple of “ghost tours”. During one I was using an EMF detector which detects paranormal activity. The device started reacting when I pointed it a building that was supposedly haunted. Still, it could have been reacting to manmade current and not spiritual. We’ll never know!
What is the appeal of ghost hunting? Have you ever been successful?
Alas, I’ve never personally felt a connection, but the idea of it is so thrilling that it keeps me interested enough to explore further. I’m always looking for opportunities. For instance, my husband has been wanting to visit Gettysburg for years. I told him I’d agree to go, but only if we visit the haunted battlefield!
You are a retired schoolteacher. What did you teach? Do you miss it at all?
I taught high school language arts to special needs students. Though the experience gave me many rewarding moments, it was also very challenging and draining. I think the time seemed right to retire. I’ve been itching to write full time for several years, and now I have the opportunity to do so.
How do you think your career as a teacher influenced your writing?
Like many jobs do, this one gave me the discipline and courage to grow as a writer. Unfortunately in my profession, especially with the population of kids I taught, all too often there were students I couldn’t reach. Yet, I had many who did benefit from my help. That taught me to persevere and never let one failure stop me from achieving my goals. In writing and trying to get published, I find similar challenges, but I keep trying, always looking at that one successful moment to motivate me.
I am also an Ohio native, having grown up just outside Toledo. What are some of your favorite places in Ohio that you would recommend to visitors?
My husband and I love a retreat to Salt Fork Lodge, near Cambridge. It’s a beautiful setting and such a comfortable place to stay. We make a yearly trek in July to the Mohican Indian Pow Wow near Mohican State Park. And I can’t leave out our visits to Amish country, traveling through Holmes county, stopping for dinner on the way home at The Barn outside of Smithville. Finally, I need to mention Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in west Akron. The former home of the Seiberlings is beautiful to visit anytime of the year, but especially during the Christmas holiday.
What is something readers may be surprised to know about you?
I didn’t write my first novel and have it published until I was fifty-three. And I love editing! Go figure.
Thank you so much for your time!
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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blog, Blog, Blog ... Does It Really Help Sales?

So, my book blog tour has been in action for six days now, with eight more to go. I've had a couple of nice reviews, displays on blog sites, and interviews and more reviews to come. The purpose? Well, I hoped to promote sales of my latest mystery, Dying to Dream. I think it's probably too soon to tell if it will pan out and be worth the money I shelled out for the tour. Until then ... Let's discuss it.

Do you think blog tours work? Do blogs even work anymore, period? Or have they faded away, disappeared into the shadows while Twitter and Facebook have become the giants of social media? I did read a recent survey results about the various aspects of social media and consumer habits. Facebook seems to be what readers look at more than anything ... more than blogs, more than Goodreads, more than author websites, even more than online retailers such as Amazon ... when it comes to news about books, authors, and such. So, back to my question: do blog tours work?

First off, any type of network publicity needs multiple efforts. If I don't promote the promotion, then it doesn't spread to a wider audience. Lost opportunity there. Second, (and this isn't me whining or making excuses; it's me just stating an obvious fact) the amount of books being published every year, every day tends to put one in that proverbial sea of millions of fish. Write a great novel, and then pray for the best. That's the motto. Of course, unless you land the big one, that literary house -- one of only a few existing and surviving -- that sits atop the thrown who publishes you. Then you're golden, right? Wrong. I site the case of J.K.Rowling, otherwise known for a very short while as Robert Whats-his-name. She had a big house publishing her. Yet, until the "real" name was revealed, Robert"s book wasn't selling all that much, the publisher didn't put anything of substantial value into marketing the book (that's the norm with newbies -- take a chance on publishing them, see if they sink or swim on their own merit, and if not swimming, get rid of them ASAP). After the true identity came out? Bingo, sales soared.

But back once again to my original question: do blog tours work? Well, write a great novel, climb aboard the blogging gravy train, and then pray for the best!

To be continued in about eight days or so ...

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