It’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.
You may recall that several months ago I made a vow to really pull out all the marketing stops for my new release. I was thinking BIG. I told my husband I might have to break into my 401K and I didn’t care. Frankly, I wanted to give the book it’s best shot and spend money. Well, I didn’t want to spend money, but I was prepared to do so in the hope of my book being read by actual people. It only took ten books for me to realize I had to step up and “treat my writing as a business” as one marketing article says. I don’t know who, it was on Twitter and you know how easy it is to get lost on Twitter with all the RTs and links and so forth.
So I read that article. Plus three books. Plus the entire marketing plan my trusted publicist, hired just for this campaign, had written. I participated in a book marketing class online. With the marketing plan, I didn’t just read it, I took all the actions. Mostly online so far. The online part is easy but I shall be going out in the world and doing things. I already have. I went to the print shop and made nice copies of the sell sheet Dora designed. I plan to visit the bookstores she recommended and go to a conference, the biggest conference ever.
Bouchercon is the biggest mystery writing conference in the world. I’ll be flying from Michigan to Florida for that in less than a week. Murder on the Beach Books is selling my book there. I’m also doing up a nice basket of books and bling from my Michigan Sisters in Crime group. Lots of people have donated books and the board gave me a coffee mug. So I will really be doing the people marketing thing there. I feel bad because all this is on my Dad’s birthday and he lives in St Pete where the conference is being held. Also Dad is recovering from surgery. He almost didn’t make it. Somehow I’m going to see him on his birthday despite all the Sisters in Crime stuff (a breakfast and later a workshop) happening on Dad’s birthday.
I hear that at some of the Sisters in Crime events, members will get a chance to talk about their books. Which reminds me, I went on television and talked about mine. Television! Me! This is a major feat as I have stage fright something awful but my friend has a cable show and she said it would be just like us talking as they pre-record, so I did it. In the real world, not online. Online I thought I was doing pretty well according to the marketing plan. I have an ad on Amazon my publisher set up and one on Facebook, too.
I’ve been tweeting (not about my book!) and meeting new people. I came across one guy who was just so fun, inviting people to friend him, his response thread went on forever and all the people tweeting him back were hilarious. I have not had that much fun on Twitter since, well, ever. One lady had a gif of a corgi typing. I followed her. I followed a bunch of new people. I didn’t mention my book as I know that Twitter is a social channel and you’re just there for the fun of it. But every once in awhile you can post on your own page about your book. But mostly not, mostly interact and make new friends.
I fixed up my Facebook fan page too, that’s in Rachel’s book, and it’s still not great but I’m trying. Some people’s fan pages look so good. Mine is better than it was. I pinned a post to the top of the page! Did not know I could do that until I read it in one of the books. I have my regular Facebook page with my friends but I am trying very hard not to post anything author-related there or Facebook just might kick me off. They let the Russians post, but me and my new book, no. Anyway, that was a joke. I can tell Mark Zuckerberg feels bad about the Russians.
Really, I did all that and my book was looking like all my other books. That is, no where near #1. So it was a fortunate coincidence that Book Bub wrote me an email congratulating me on my new release and telling me about their new ad program. Book Bub! Writing to me! Inviting me to do an ad. I had to hear them out. It was confusing, the ad thing. Apparently you bid on keywords and there are some other things that seem like what my publisher is already doing. But they still have their famous deals. I couldn’t do the new release deal, as you can’t apply after release date. But there was still the other deal for books on sale. I consulted friends and my publisher because I know Book Bub is pricey and everyone said go for it. So I submitted a deal. Not sure if they will accept me.
I did one Book Bub many moons ago when free books were a thing. I got a ton of reviews and my book went to #1 on the free list. But it was free, so I couldn’t say “Amazon bestseller” because you know if it’s free it’s not sold. Still it was pretty cool and I got more reviews than all my other books put together. 80+ on Amazon and 100+ on Goodreads. I realize for some people that is peanuts. But I currently have four (or is it five?) reviews, not all in one place, for my new book.
Another unexpected thing happened online. I am such a reader. I read 200 books a year. I read book reviews online. There was one gorgeous page and it was women’s fiction central, which the New York Times Book Review is not. The page drew me in and so I wrote to them with my pitch for an essay. I figured if they said no, it would make good blog post. But they said YES! So you see it is good just to go on Twitter and have fun because you never know what will happen there.
I hope you got some marketing ideas from this post. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave your desk and the safety of the internet because you should also speak at bookstores (real ones) and libraries (also real). I plan to do this after Bouchercon. I was going to visit a certain indie bookstore in Detroit this week but now I have an essay to write!
The single most obvious thing (not to me, obvioulsy) I have learned after writing ten books is that it’s okay to take some time and money (but make those $$ choices wisely) and go out there into the world and sell your book. It doesn’t have to happen all on the day, week, or even month your book comes out. Just keep going places where people expect to hear about your book. No matter what.
I admit I am a little…eccentric. I pay attention to the phases of the moon and Mercury Retrogrades. I buy new outfits when Venus tours my sun sign. I listen to psychics. Well, sometimes. I tend to go with my gut first. The thing about trusting your gut is, if you are an introvert like me, it can hold you back. Keep you in your comfort zone. This means, if you’re a writer, you won’t promote your novels much.
Yet I find myself in the middle of a massive (for me) promotional campaign. I’m not sure how it happened. Two psychics told me I should “take a bigger stage” that it was “my destiny.” I doubted my inner voice saying “NO! Stay home and write.” It felt a bit cowardly. After all, I had to launch three books in three months. And so I talked myself into hiring a PR person to make up a media plan. Now that I’m in it, I can’t believe I began such an intimidating enterprise. What was I thinking? It might have been the steroids I was on for a sinus infection.
Whatever the reason, I find myself okaying a press release (my first ever), giving interviews to journalists, pulling together media kits, agreeing to book signings, reviews, workshops, conferences, social media suggestions. Just a big fat YES to everything.
Already I feel overwhelmed and I’m only one day past the first release of three books in three months. Yesterday was release day for Blue Heaven, the Encore edition. An in-dpeth profile appeared in the local papers; I participated in a Facebook Launch Party. Both things never part of my experience before. It may have worked. Blue Heaven went from being ranked in the sub-basement of five million up to two thousand. (UPDATE: In July of 2016 Amazon featured Blue Heaven in a summer read campaign. Blue Heaven hit the top 100.)
I need a break. The keyboard calls. I must write. Immerse myself in what I do. I have an all day event, a book signing, but that’s not until next month for the second release. And I promise myself I’ll submit review copies and do other things on the list this winter and perhaps participate more in real-world events next spring. Because spring is a long way off and perhaps the stars will align again for me.
Looking familiar, hey? In accidental artist mode, trying to create a beautiful postcard with limited tools. Okay, tools are adequate, skills limited. Have other side, too, all my book covers, but I could not get them down to thumbnail size so I’m just going to throw myself on the mercy of Speedy Printing, who does my friend Iris’s beautiful cards.
Noticed with alarm that my supply of print books to sell at conference next Saturday (Still time to register; would love to see you there!) has dwindled alarmingly. So I will hand out the postcards if I sell out of books. Big IF …
Because I am not a salesperson. Or an artist. Not even the kind who can make a cool collage on PicMonkey. But I am learning a few things about promotion and how to sell without spamming. I’m taking courses and workshops and yesterday did a “join me” session online with Rachel at BadRedHead Media. That was fun!
I love learning and being a student comes far before being the teacher, which is also pretty cool. Aries here! We like to strut. When we are not crippled with social anxiety. Notice how I went from “I” to “we”? Distancing technique. Like the movie stars who answer questions with “you” instead of “I” ~
Anyway, this is what I’ve been working on the last few days in my moments when I am not falling over from half moon pose or thinking deeply about my newest characters between scribbles. Lots of pages this morning. Writing first thing is best for me. And writing is the first thing every author should do. Write the best book you can. Then you’ll have something you’ll be proud to take to market.
This is the basic format I intend to follow today as I help some friends get comfortable with Twitter.
First, sign up.
Now add a picture and bio. Make sure your bio links to your blog.
Follow some people. Use hashtags #writing or whatever interests you to find like-minded people. DWW conference hashtag is #aWritersWorth. I did a thing where you sort of claim the hashtag, but anybody can post with that hashtag attached. Whenever you see that hashtag or anything about DWW, hit retweet.
Follow each other.
Twitter is unlike Facebook in that it is considered polite to follow back. But you have to weigh the follow. Look at bio, check out blog, see what the follower tweets. Don’t follow bots. Don’t follow anyone who only retweets or only quotes. Don’t follow people who say they can give you a thousand follows for $10. Etc.
To follow, simply click the name @CynthiaHarriso1 and then click follow. Try to keep your follows and followers about the same number. “Just Unfollow” lets you see who is not following you and allows you to unfollow a certain number of folks for free.
Links are great. But with 140 characters to work with, sometimes links can be too lengthy. Bit.ly is great for condensing links. Twitter condenses links to some websites.
I spend the most time on Twitter on “connect” not on “home” ~ home is not really home-like at all. It is a bewildering stream of nonsense unless you understand Twitter.
Read blog posts on “What Not To Do” on Twitter. @bodiciasapple and @mollygreene are two of my favorite bloggers. Molly does a lot with Twitter and Bodicia is a book blogger. Writers need book bloggers, and Bodicia is the best. When I first joined Twitter, I read “The Tao of Twitter” and it was quite helpful.
Why tweet? It’s supposed to be a marketing thing. But I don’t do a lot of “buy my book” posts. I do link to my blog if I think the topic may be interesting. I do talk about my books, but mostly I just connect to other writers.
I like to balance original tweets (or as my friend @JohnLacey says, carry on monologues with myself), quotes, books I’m reading, blogs I like, retweeting (RT) valuable or fun tweets or links. If you venture into home, you can always butt into a conversation. Most people will let you in. Sure, there are snobs on Twitter just like anywhere. Ignore them.
When I first met Linda Anger, I asked her to tell me the biggest marketing secret. She said “name recognition” and this is why I tweet, so people recognize my name, and maybe they’ll buy a book “Oh yeah, she’s funny on Twitter” or “She wrote that great post about bragging.”
That’s why if you are building a platform for marketing your work, you want to use your own name on Twitter. @CynthiaHarrison was taken, so I got @CynthiaHarriso1.
Check in daily with Twitter. Just to see who followed you. Follow them back. Who RTed you. RT them back unless they are a silly bot who RTed something stupid, like a line in the middle of a conversation that makes no sense out of context. Check in with your friends. You can put people in lists, it’s pretty easy. Then you just go to lists and check on your pals. What are they up to? What are they blogging about? If it’s helpful to you, RT it. If you think it will be helpful to others, RT it.