Thursday, March 29, 2012

Marketing: Doing Nothing Works Better?

In the first week of March I made a list of things to do for my writing/publishing goals. Among those things was to start marketing my books again, at least on Twitter. Over the last year I've gone through different phases with the marketing. I got a couple of book review bloggers to look at my books, but mainly I've sent out tweets promoting them. In the beginning this did seem to make a difference. Then I stopped doing anything to promote the books and even pretty much stopped blogging, because I was pregnant/a new mommy and my head just wasn't in it. And now since early March I started up again. Here's what I've observed:

Marketing seems to have no effect on my book sales, at least the tweet marketing. In past months when I wasn't doing any I sold an average of five books a month. This month, with renewed attempts to market, I've sold one.

I've been giving away books as thank yous to long time followers (let me know if you didn't get a DM on Twitter with a coupon code--I think TweetAdder has been patchy with this) and also new followers. The long-time followers got a coupon for Veronica in Paris, and the new followers got a coupon for Broken Ones. So far, about a dozen people have downloaded Veronica in Paris, and one person has downloaded Broken Ones. Generally, I sell about three copies of Veronica for every one copy of either Broken Ones or The River and the Roses. I thought it was because Veronica is priced at $0.99 and the other two are $2.99. But this would indicate that some other factor is at work, since I offered both for free.

Veronica is a novella, while Broken Ones is a full length, if short, novel. I've heard that novellas are popular--I didn't really believe it, though, because I like long books for the most part.

Veronica is a romance and is set in Paris, so it has a travel aspect. Broken Ones is a ghost story. Could people be tiring of the glut of paranormal novels out there? I think this is a possibility. Look at the popularity of The Hunger Games and the Steig Larsson books. No paranormal there. And everyone on Twitter seems to have a paranormal novel to sell. Myself included, of course. It's frustrating because I like paranormal stories a lot, I always have. But I think maybe some of these authors are just trying to sell what they think is popular. Did they all watch every single episode of Charmed via DVR, like me? I don't think so! Anyway, whether all of these authors are sincerely into vampires (or witches as the case may be) or not is irrelevant. I think paranormal may be in oversupply.

Then there's also the possibility that more people downloaded Veronica because they've known me for a while now and they wanted to give my book a try. It was free, so why not? Whereas with Broken Ones, it was offered to folks who've only just "met" me so it's much more of an unknown entity.

What do you think? Have you offered a book for free? What results did you get?

Do you think there's an oversupply of paranormal fiction? What genre are you into these days?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Blog Versus Blog

I recently read that WordPress may be preferable to Blogger for search engine optimization (read the comments of this blog here). I'm pretty lost after trying to make sense of this and all the ins and outs of versus, etc. The conclusion I've come to is I'm going to just have to see about setting up a second recipe blog using WordPress (not .com, though, because I want to do my Amazon affiliate thing, and I think I understood correctly that you can't in any way make money off a blog unless you get some sort of approval, and then you only keep 50%). I think the recipe blog is the best choice for this experiment because the blogger recipe blog I set up is still so new. I should get a fairly clear idea of whether this claim about WordPress having better SEO and getting a lot more traffic is true or not. And I figure if I don't just do it myself, I'm never going to understand what people are talking about. However, what may stop me short is cost. I have no idea what it's going to cost--as I mentioned, I'm not going to do this through, the free site, so I'll be checking out Bluehost because so many people seem to think it's the best for hosting WordPress blogs. How hard would it have been for the makers of WordPress to come up with different names for their free blog and the other thing, the thing, which I can't even think of an appropriate label for (that's how confused I am)? Sigh.

Anyway, I'll report back here on my findings. Although it may just be to say I can't even afford to do the experiment!

Where do you have your blog? Are you happy with it? Do you get a lot of traffic? Have you considered switching? Do you have a good understanding of the ins and outs of WordPress?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just a quick update on the goal...

Last week I announced my goal to write 10,000 words by tomorrow, March 16. I just wanted to check in and say, got there! The difficulty is I promised myself See's Candy or Trader Joe's chocolate-covered pretzels and I will probably not be able to fulfill that, at least at the moment. We live in the boonies and either treat requires a drive of at least an hour, and we're trying to save money.

But next week we're probably driving down to the Bay Area for a few days, so I'll just consider this a postponement, not a cancellation. I will have a scotchmallow, dammit.

The serious upside is that the story is moving along a lot better now, and really, that's the reward I wanted most of all. I didn't get to write today because I had homework to do for the MA program (although technically that's writing too, although it's for history), but tomorrow I'll dive back in. I'm almost to the end of a first section. I'm not really sure how many sections there will be--I'm a weird hybrid of pantser and plotter where I outline some parts and have little idea where I'm going with other parts. But I have been considering releasing the novel in parts as a serial... priced at 99 cents each, and then several parts together for some lower amount (like 4 parts for $3 or something). I do think I'll need to have the first few parts done before I release anything, though, as I'm likely to go back and make changes to part one as I move along.

Am I crazy, as a partial-pantser, to consider doing a serial?

Have you ever written a serial? Do you like reading serials?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writing Goal

I wrote a bit today. For about 20 minutes. Which is better than nothing! Of course. But I think what would really help is to set myself a goal, with a reward at the end. The question is, what would make a good reward. Hm.

Chocolate. Definitely.

So I hearby declare my intention to write 10,000 words by Friday, March 16. If I succeed, I will reward myself with either a scotchmallow from See's Candies, or a bag of Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered flat pretzels.

Your turn. What is your goal, and how will you reward yourself when you reach it?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review of Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races

Maggie Stiefvater's  The Scorpio Races is set on a Celtic island called Thisby (in the early 20th century? there was talk of bowler hats) where flesh-eating kelpies, called capall uisce, wash up on the beach each November. The bravest (or most fool-hardy) denizens of Thisby capture them and ride them in the Scorpio Races.

 I bought this book hoping it would be like The Hunger Games. It was and it wasn't. It had the same quality of tension that exists in the beginning of The Hunger Games, because the characters live in poverty and must take part in a deadly competition. That's pretty much where the similarity ended, though. If you expect The Scorpio Races to get to the racing any time before the end, you'll feel impatient, as I did. Once I realized that the race would happen only at the end and would probably comprise only a few pages of the novel, I was able to stop feeling impatient and enjoy the story. And once that happened, I really did enjoy it. And the end made me cry (not for the reasons you might guess), which is saying something, as books rarely get tears from me. I really liked the characters, and while many YA novels annoy me with the requisite romance, this one, like The Hunger Games, did not, because I didn't feel that the romance weakened the characters. That's a feat most authors don't manage (it's why I struggle with including romance in my own stories).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Using Tweetadder

In order to quiet some of my "shoulds," I've subscribed to Tweetadder, which Michael R. Hicks recommends for marketing your novels. It's a cool utility. You may get a direct message from me in the next week or so if you follow me on Twitter offering you one of my ebooks for free, for instance. I'll be curious to see if the marketing I'm doing with it amounts to anything. So far, I seem to sell between 1-5 books a month not doing any active marketing at all. If that number increases in any significant way, that would be exciting. I'll be sure to post here with my observations either way.

Also, I've redesigned this blog a bit. What do you think? Do you prefer the previous, aquamarine version, or this beige?

Friday, March 2, 2012

My current "shoulds" of writing

My cbt therapist (or should that be cb therapist?) Shiva, would probably tell me to rephrase this, but there are several things I "should" be doing for my writing right now.*

First of all, there's the sequel to The River and the Roses, which has been through one round of revisions, and probably could stand to undergo about nine rounds more. If I gave it some serious time and energy, I could probably get it up to par for April, and publish it. I even have most of what I need to create the cover. I've been meaning to do this for about six months, with the intention of dropping the price for River to $0.99 once the sequel is out. Why have I not done it yet? Well, aside from the whole pregnancy/bed rest/newborn baby distraction, revisions are... well, work. And often annoying, painful work at that. I read a quote on twitter the other day, I forget from which famous author, saying something about how revisions or rewrites are more pleasant than producing the first draft because you don't have the dread of not finishing the novel hanging over you. I can relate to that, but for me, revisions are way more difficult to get into. Still, and Shiva would approve of this phrase, it would be satisfying to get that item done.

Then there's marketing. I stopped actively marketing my books nearly a year ago, I think, or at least nine months ago. I'm still on twitter and I update my facebook page from time to time, most often to notify you all that I've got a new blog post, actually, but as for directly sending out messages on twitter suggesting that people check out my book, no. Michael R. Hicks, one of those lucky and driven self-pubbed authors who is living the dream (he quit his day job last April, I think it was--I admire him so much!) suggests that the "tipping point" for twitter as a marketing platform is to have 1000+ followers. At the moment I have about 845. I use my twitter account to recommend news articles and just talk about things I'm doing or am interested in. And also let people know when I've posted something new on either this blog or the recipe blog. I don't advertise the family blog because it's much more personal and I figure if you're really that interested in me you'll check it out off this page. And probably most people aren't that interested in me! Anyway, I don't have a problem with people posting on twitter to advertise their books (in fact I try to retweet them when it's clear to me what they are about). Although some people will spam the feed for like, ten minutes, and it makes me wonder whether they've ever read an article about twitter etiquette. So my point is, though, I haven't been doing that. Why not? I feel like until I've got something new to offer, I don't want to risk losing followers because I'm self-promoting for the sake of self-promoting. Probably not sound business reasoning, but there it is. Maybe this week I'll send out a couple of links to my books.

I'm on Pinterest, now, too. Please feel free to follow me. I even have a board devoted to books, although they are books I want to remember to check out, so it seems weird to post my own books there. Maybe I'll create a new board for my books and stuff related to them. I do have a decopunk board where I collected a bunch of stuff to help me world build my current story. So I suppose when (if) it's done and I've published it, I could pin it to that board and it wouldn't be weird.

Speaking of the current novel, it is teetering on the edge of that going-to-be-abandoned cliff because I haven't been working on it regularly and I'll lose so much steam I'll never get it back at this rate. And that would be a shame, I think, because I have some interesting ideas for it. So what would be good there is to set up some sort of schedule or something... and bribe myself with some reward for achieving a word goal too, I think. My attempts to create NaNos outside of the official NaNoWriMo have failed thus far. It's silly, it shouldn't (there's that word again) make a difference whether I'm looking at the official site's graph for the word count or a ticker I created myself, but for some reason, it does. So the trick may be to abandon the large goal of a NaNo and make smaller goals. Shorter term, too. And small rewards as a result. Hm... must give some thought to what rewards would motivate me.

Any suggestions? Must be cheap. We are broke-ish.

How about you, do you have any writing "shoulds" or other projects that need your attention? How do you get yourself on task?

* By the way, if you have ever struggled with depression or anxiety, I strongly recommend going through cbt. Changed my life, no exaggeration.