Solving a Marketing Mystery

Blue Lake Christmas Mystery is on sale this month! 99 cents on Kindle started yesterday, Nook and iPhone also 99 cents starting today. I don’t know about other writers, but I’ve never earned a penny from Nook or from iPhone. My publisher makes my books available on all the eBook sites; it’s a mystery why only Amazon sells.

I decided to do this book promotion on my own with no help from my usual tech smart people. I got excited about the idea that I could just do something low key and not make it a huge thing. Something easy. Not too stressful. The mystery is why I don’t approach marketing that way all the time.

Instead I get visions of my landing page wallpaper featuring falling snow as a backdrop to a great tagline and beautiful book cover. That swirling snow looks so pretty, but I’d need to hire someone to do that. And also, I would usually start thinking about trying to place a BookBub ad to get more sales. If you’ve never done BB ads, let me just say it is stressful and can also be expensive.

What I want more of this holiday season is less stress. I cannot stress this enough. 🙂 Also I love reading Christmas novels. I don’t think I’m the only one…so I figured why not be nice and lower my price? I can’t be the only reader who loves a 99 cent deal.

So here’s a fact lots of people don’t know. As you get older, you will like to get into the Christmas mood earlier. This year, for the first time, I read my first (of many, I am sure) Christmas novel before Halloween. I used to be one of those people who thought it was best to wait until after Thanksgiving to make a peep about Christmas. But that’s when I was younger. Now I’m older, time moves faster, so I need more of it to finish up all the Christmas and holiday themed books and films I’ve bought or recorded.

I don’t actually know if all older people feel the way I do about getting started on the holidays earlier, but I do know that retail outlets have no problem beginning marketing earlier (it seems) every year. So I figured I could do the same. Easy research.

The other bit of easy marketing research comes from personal experience. I am so busy in December. Too busy to read as much as I’d like. I tend to stack Christmas novels in a TBR pile, and rather than look for a new book, I just pick from my handy book stack. Or, I’ll watch a holiday movie I recorded in November.

So this is my no-stress, commonsense, low key marketing plan for my Christmas novel. One other happy little coincidence (well happy for me, not for Katie Hill and other victims of revenge porn) that I didn’t have to lift a finger for is that even though my novel was published two years ago, revenge porn is a current hot topic, so my first tagline practically wrote itself.

While writing Blue Lake Christmas Mystery, I thought about all the ways it could be awful if someone you trusted and loved posted a video or nude photos of you online. Might you be so upset you’d kill him? Indeed, is that the reason a perfectly nice fictional guy was murdered at a Christmas party in my book? Because he wasn’t, underneath it all, quite so nice?

The Social Side of Writing

Michigan Sisters (and a Mr) in Crime Critique Group

I’m still reading and journaling with Colleen Story’s book Writer Get Noticed. It’s been so enlightening. Light bulb after light bulb. Today I worked on identifying my strengths as a person and as a writer. I don’t focus on my strengths very often. I take them for granted. Maybe because they’ve hardly changed since I was a child: creative, organized, introspective. I’m social, too, but I’m always looking for the balance between being social and being alone for essential-to-me writing and reading time.

One way I combine being social with my need for writing time is in critique groups. I have two groups I meet with regularly plus another writing group I love in Florida. I’m a member of Michigan Sisters in Crime. Saw those folks Saturday (In photo, I’m sitting next the Mr–yes we have men in our group!) and will see them again on September 28 at Elizabeth Buzzelli’s workshop. Elizabeth always gives good workshop. This will be no exception. It’s open to the public, so if you’re a Michigan writer, you should come! We can be social together 🙂

About six months ago I felt like I was getting a little too social online. I quit Facebook (I talked about that decision here.) This morning I was texting a friend and, not for the first time, thought about getting on Facebook again in a very limited way. I have a few non-writing loyal friends and yes, being off FB meant we were more reliant on text and phone calls. We set up RL lunch or dinner dates. All good. But I was amazed when, after a few texts we spoke on the phone and I found out how much had happened in Donna’s life since we saw each other last, just a few weeks ago.

I thought about my strengths, the ones Colleen made me remember, especially being social. And I dipped my toes very carefully back into Facebook. I know better how to deal with FB this time. I’ve been on Instagram all along so I’ll reconnect those two accounts, post exactly the same and basically keep my friend list very short, as I have done on Instagram.

I follow thousands of people on Twitter, but interaction there is very different and I manage it just fine. You can tweet me anytime @cynthiaharriso1. Twitter is my favorite way to interact online. I met Colleen there! And so many other writers who are important to me. I’m very comfortable with the “super soft sell” approach I take to book marketing on Twitter. I’m not on social media to sell books. It’s nice if it happens, but I wouldn’t do any of it if I didn’t enjoy it.

Which brings me back to why I’m trying Facebook again. I want to see if I can be there in a way I enjoy more. I’m not going to open a new business page on Facebook, as that really never worked all that well for me. I didn’t have a huge following or sell a significant number of books. It’s difficult to interact with readers, there, too.

You might have noticed that Colleen’s book has the words GET NOTICED in the title. I won’t lie, this made me nervous at first. I don’t really want to get noticed. I like laying low, holing up, doing my own thing. That’s why I’m a writer. I work alone. Well, until I send a new book to my publisher and my editor comes on board. But sure I want to sell more books. I thought it was a dilemma but Colleen has made me realize it’s more of a fine line. Finding the best way for me to be comfortably noticed as a writer.

As I get older, and look toward my husband’s retirement, I’m less interested in teaching, public speaking or giving workshops. I don’t enjoy book signings unless they’re group signing with other writers. Some of this marketing stuff is important to do when I release a new book. It’s gratifying to connect with readers in real life, so that’s why I do some limited public appearances. Colleen helped me clarify all that. Her book helps writers figure out ways to work with their natural inclinations and strengths to measure and build the platform that is right for them.

Book Marketing on Pinterest

When’s the last time you had fun marketing your books? My answer until maybe a month ago would have been never. Then, I decided to create a Pinterest board for every one of my books. Sure, my website lists all my books with links and descriptions, but Pinterest goes the extra imagination mile, helping me find photos that express who my characters are and what their setting is, even down to the rings on their fingers and the pillows on their fictional sofas. Since the advent of Kindle, I’ve missed the element of browsing book covers. Pinterest gives that back to me, and more.

Since I’ve succumbed to the deliciousness of pinning, all my books have come more alive to me. Making a perfect board for every book is still a work in progress, but as you see above, my first two rows of boards are all for my books. Lily White in Detroit is my latest novel, so it’s the first board. Obviously you want those novels front and center for marketing. And don’t forget the buy link! I’m working a bit here and there on Pinterest as I try to finish a novel before my husband retires in December. And I have a board for that, too. It’s the best one. Jane in St Pete has categories!

When I got off Facebook, it freed up so much time. Time to write Jane in St Pete (coming in 2020) and time to play. Pinterest is very fun to play with, and while I’m not sure it will be a great marketing tool for me, it’s more than just having fun. Working with visuals spark ideas for my books…and my life.

Twitter Book Marketing


This past week a friend pointed out to me that since it’s December, I should be marketing my Blue Lake Christmas Mystery on Twitter.I’m of two minds about book marketing on Twitter. Mostly, I don’t do it. I depend on blog posts to indirectly indicate that hey guess what I write books too! So she said “pin a new post every day with a fresh picture, hash tags, and a buy link.” I accepted the challenge and posted a new pinned tweet every day last week. I’m not sure I sold any books. I am hoping none of the people who follow me got annoyed.

I find people who post a ton about their products annoying. If that is the only thing they post.

(Just as an aside I am trying to use the new “better” Word Press format. I started this post yesterday and couldn’t finish it because I got so confused. New tech is daunting for me. But I am determined to publish this post today. I see in previews that I do not like the box format at all!! Don’t know how to fix it. Hope it goes away when I hit publish! Sorry for all the !!!! but I am frustrated.)

So back to posting about your book (or your service, or your product that is not a book) on Twitter. It really doesn’t work as a sales tool for me. It does work for some people. I figured out why it doesn’t work for me this week. I usually post to Twitter once a week with a blog link. That’s it. I do look at other posts on the day I tweet. I have my favorites, but I also randomly read those I follow, too. If something someone says interests me, I will retweet it or make a comment or like it or all three.

Lately I’ve noticed people are not retweeting as much. I get many more “likes” than retweets. I thought it was just a new trend or perhaps a new rule. Really, are people sick of retweets? I thought RT was queen of Twitter, but at least for me, not so much anymore. Still, I persist in RTing. It’s what I do most on Twitter.

From what I’ve read, the rule for tweeting your book on Twitter is make it ten percent of your tweets. So that’s one post in ten. I like to mix up comments and RTs. I don’t do a lot of original tweeting because there are so many other people who speak tweet better. But I tweet a bit when I have a flash of brilliance…you see I set a high bar.

For blogging, I like posting on Monday to catch the #MondayBlogs hashtag. But those posts are not supposed to be about your book. They’re not for promotion or sharing buy links. So I kind of got out of the habit of talking about my books at all on Twitter or in my blog posts. I’m less shy about it on my Facebook author page. Not sure why.

So what this week has shown me is that if I pin a new post every day, I will look at my Twitter feed and spend some time on there commenting and RTing and even tweeting an original though every so often. I liked doing the new pinned book tweet every day, too. It was fun, even if it didn’t sell books. I think I will keep up this practice. And there’s always #TuesdayBookBlogs.

Happy holidays everyone and thanks for reading.

Once a Romance Writer

IMG_4778It’s not a bad thing to say that once you are labeled a romance writer, you will always be a romance writer. It’s just true. At least for me. No matter what I write. I’m okay with that label. I’m okay with the multicultural label too. At least it’s a bigger box.

I was on Amazon a lot yesterday because I had a Book Bub ad and was checking on my rankings obsessively. I noticed that all my categories except for “Best Sellers” (My book is #335 on that list this morning) have romance at the beginning of the ranking line, despite Book Bub slotting me into crime fiction, where I think it is better suited. Anyway, on Amazon, my numbers look like this:

#3 in Books > Romance > Multicultural

#5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Multicultural & Interracial

#25 in Books > Romance > Romantic Suspense

Those were my rankings about 10 pm last night EST. Amazon is three hours behind us in Seattle, so it would have been 7 pm there. I wanted to stay up to see if the book ever got to #1 but I’d had a glass or three of celebratory wine and just couldn’t make it. (I have no idea if you can retro-check something like that; if you know, please tell me!)

Another new thing I noticed this morning on Amazon is my “Author Rank.” I don’t know if I ever had one before or if the number was too high to mention, but this morning it is #56 in Romantic suspense , #57 in Suspense #61 in Mystery & Suspense.

I am not a numbers person and I don’t do well with analytics and charts and things. I am not sure what any of it means, not precisely, but in general I think it’s all good. When my book first came out I was #onebilliontrillion in the “best seller” category, and into the thousands in other categories, so a lot of progress has been made.

Writing this post has made me look a little more closely at my rankings and I now see that not all of them call me a romance writer. Those Author Ranks only mention it once out of five labels. The categories are four romance and four other labels. And really, I don’t mind any label. IRL I am an extremely romantic person. I love a good love story and absolutely insist on having Whole Lotta Love in my marriage. My husband likes Led Zeppelin so it works out for us.

Even when I set out to write a book with NO ROMANCE, it still gets in there somewhere in the plot. I’m in very early stages of writing my next book, set in St Pete, and so far there is no romance. I deliberately made the female lead 20 years older than the male lead, who is in love with someone else who does not love him, and for good reason. But like I said it’s early days in the new book and I said the same thing at the start of Lily White in Detroit.  

A wise writer once told me that labels and categories are useful to publishers, booksellers, and agents. Not so much for writers. Gotta say, I agree.