Stealth Book Giveaway

IMG_4768In September, my blog birthday month, I like to do nice things for people who visit my website. A few years ago, I extended the giveaway to my friends on social media. This year I did myself one better. I had an IRL spontaneous giveaway of my new novel. It was so fun. Everything just came together to make it happen.

I was in Florida without internet the first ten days of September so couldn’t set up any traditional giveaways like Goodreads. (The photo above is the basket our Michigan Sisters in Crime donated for a charity auction.) For part of my Florida time, I was at a book convention. I had several copies of my new release with me, just in case the bookseller ran out and needed more. I was walking with my fellow Michigan Sisters in Crime member, Bobbi, and I realized I didn’t want to carry MY books and all the hardcover books we got inside a book bag when we registered. I took out a book and handed it to Bobbi. “Here! My present to you!”

She said she would buy it but I just waved that away. My September giveaway had begun. In the hallway there was a long table full of free books. Lots of people obviously felt like me and didn’t want to carry a book bag full of hardcovers around or maybe they had duplicates or something. Anyway the books were there and I went over and put a copy of my book on top of the pile. I walked by ten minutes later and it was gone. So I put another one in the pile. After the panel discussion, I noticed that second one was gone, too. So I put a third book on the pile and two women who were sorting through the books looked at me.

“You wrote this? You know this is the free table, right?”

I said, yes, I wrote it and yes I knew it was the free table. One of them immediately grabbed it and tucked it in her book bag. I was having such a good time giving away my books. (You know how that works, right? Do something for someone else and you’ll feel happy, too.) Then I noticed on Facebook people were saying they bought the new book or they wanted to order a copy. I was in Florida and two of the friends who commented that they wanted to get the book were there, too. So I gave them books. Then I gave my dad one,  because he asked. He’d never read any of my previous books.

(My dad’s reaction after reading my book was so sweet. On my last day in Florida, he took me out to dinner and he said “I can’t put that book down!” My book. Then he said “How did you do that? How did you know all that stuff?” I told him a little bit about how I researched the book. “You are a really good writer, honey. You are as good a writer as any of them.” My dad reads a book a day, all mysteries, so this was a huge compliment. He looked at me a new way that dinner. He always had loved me, but now he was a little bit in awe of me. It was so sweet.)

Keeping it in the family, my brother had asked via Facebook if he was ever going to get a copy of my novel and I promised him one as well. The first thing my mom said to me when she came to my house for a family party in August was “Do you have a book for me?” I gave her one. I gave my small critique group each a book, and we don’t usually do that. We usually buy each other’s books as a show of support. But I had dedicated this book to them, because parts of it were so difficult to write and they listened to my technical problems, gave suggestions and cheered me on through the whole thing.

They would not let me give up. I almost did. In fact I took a break and wrote a Christmas mystery. So that’s how the giveaway worked this year. I gave print and eBook copies to random people on Facebook and Twitter and print copies to friends and family. I gifted 16 books, which is something I also like to do. Every September, I give away a book for every year my blog has been live. I’ve been here since 2002. 16 years.

I still have one last blog birthday surprise. It is in the works as I write this, and won’t be ready to reveal until early October. I am so excited about this last surprise. I am bursting to tell you what it is but I’m going to hold off until it arrives. Stay tuned.

Where Mystery Readers and Writers Meet: Bouchercon 2018

UnknownMy head is crammed with information gleaned since the four-hour workshop that kicked off this years’ Bouchercon here in St Pete. I’m only down here in my new second hometown for ten days, most of them gone. I miss my husband, so it’s good I’m going home, even though events conspired to get me here. Last year, at about this time, I thought my book might be out and I could sell it at Bouchercon. I’d heard as many readers as writers come to this event.

First crime novel + Home = Synchronicity.

It seemed too good of a coincidence to pass up. If it all came together, and it did. Just barely. My book came out a few weeks before the conference and I was able to get them into Murder on the Beach bookstore. My sweet little home away from home is always ready for me, all I had to do was book a flight and turn the key. The drive downtown every day was a treat as the conference hotel is on the water. Also, it’s a beautiful venue.

Right away I found out that anyone who wants to can suggest their city for Bouchercon. But if you do, you’re agreeing to do all the work required to set up this massive event. This happened when a was writing in one of the many cozy alcoves at the Vinoy and some people came to join me, asking how I liked the conference so far. Everyone at Bouchercon is very friendly. You really can’t find a quiet corner to write, and why would you want to? People are so interesting and I spend enough time with my characters.

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Did I say that I met my friend Marla, who I have known on the internet for many years, IRL for the first time? That was fun. When we shared our schedules, we found that we’d chosen many of the same panels. That’s a big difference at Bouchercon: panels, not workshops, rule. Readers want to hear from their favorite writers, as many of them as possible. There were also interviews with super-popular writers like Karin Slaughter and  Denmark’s “Queen of Thriller” Sara Blaedel.

During Sara’s interview, I spotted Lee Child in the room. Just like he was a regular person. Earlier I’d seen Karin Slaughter on a panel where, aside from the occasional wisecrack and one or two anecdotes, she mostly kept her head down. Both Sara and Karin said they were introverts and public speaking didn’t come naturally to them. That explained Karin’s demeanor during the panel, otherwise, you’d never know it. They are both eloquent, inspiring and funny.

My biggest take-away was that almost all the mystery writers, and especially the thriller authors, used at least pieces of true crime stories to springboard off and start writing their novels. I felt comforted by this fact, since my crime novel also has shades of a famous Detroit criminal case. I was just like them!

I’m also introverted, like so many writers. We are most comfortable in our writing chairs, working on stories. Or reading books. That was another common theme that came up over and over again: these world-famous best-selling authors read all the time. Novels, poetry, non-fiction. It was something brought up on every panel. If you want to be a writer, you must be a reader. I already knew that and I read more than I write, so again, something in common.

imagesMy biggest personal a-ha was realizing that I was happy not to be famous. I would not have been comfortable up there in the spotlight. One famous author confessed to using beta-blockers, and he got plenty of knowing laughs. Many performers use this medication as it masks the symptoms of stage fright. Musicians particularly can’t play their instruments if their hands are shaking with fear and their head is full of panic. I have used beta-blockers myself for migraine, but found that they are equally effective when I popped one for a migraine before I gave a talk at a library.

I don’t like giving talks. I was a teacher for a long time, so I got used to having workshops ( taught creative writing and literature courses). But the ease of teaching doesn’t translate into feeling comfortable on a stage. So I came away from Bouchercon feeling that my own writing career is working out just fine for me. Would I love a million dollar contract, like Karen Dionne (fellow Detroit area writer, who won Best Novel award for The Marsh King’s Daughter) or Michael Connelly (also in attendance) or any of the other stars? Sure. But I’m also fine as I am, and I am for sure not holding my breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marketing Ideas Galore

IMG_4747You 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.

IMG_4746So 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.

IMG_4748I’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.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

 

How to Soothe Pre-Book Release Jitters

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My new novel is coming out in ten days. The same week, I’m hosting a family party for my son, daughter-in-law and two delicious grandchildren. They are staying with me but everyone else is coming here for the picnic next Saturday to see them, especially one-year-old Julia June, whom they’ve not yet met. Also my husband will not be here for the party, so I’m doing this solo. While preparing for my book release.

I learned of this convergence of events a few months ago, so I called Dora Badger from the Woodward Press and asked her to put together a marketing plan and prepare a press release. The plan is working and the press release has been sent.

For reviews, Dora did the research and provided links, all I had to do was contacted book bloggers. Done! I’ve already gotten some responses requesting ARCs, even an interview on one blogger’s site.

Good luck (and the graciousness of a friend) enabled me to tape an interview (did that last week) for local cable news that will air on my release day. Next on the marketing plan is scheduling guest blogs and a book tour. This makes me more nervous than being on TV for the first time, but I will do it. I know I need to front-load as much as possible because the kids are coming and of course I want to devote my time to them.

Luckily I signed up for Bouchercon 2018 a while ago hoping my book would be out and I could sell it there. The largest mystery conference in the world is in St Pete this year where I own a tiny condo, so it seemed sensible that I try to be there. My books will be on sale and I’m gathering a basket of books and other goodies from Michigan Sisters in Crime for the silent auction. (If you are a member of MiSinC, email me to get your book included.) I’m also checking out the only indie bookstore I know of in Detroit, Pages.

A few days ago, I did a little work on the landing page of my website, which I overhauled months ago to reflect the new direction into crime novels my writing has been taking me. Dora designed a new header then, so now she’s tweaking things using that to design and order book marks. She’s also putting together a press kit. I didn’t even know what a sell sheet is, but apparently it goes in the press kit. I saw her design of that, and love it. Dora’s going to have a complete press kit on my website soon. And I’ll have copies to include when I send ARCs.

So this is how I am managing to stay half-way sane during the run-up to publication day, with Dora’s help and also the input of Rachel Thompson author of “Book Marketing Challenge.” Rachel discusses a blog title check on CoSchedule.com It’s an effectiveness calculator and after five tries my title today scored a 72. Rachel says anything over 70 is good-to-go. My first title came in at 20-smething, so I’m glad I finally went there and tested my ability to create headlines that might actually bring people to my blog, which I love writing but is also pre-marketing.

To stop my nerves, jitters, and worries, I’m doing work I enjoy and it takes my mind off ruminating about whether people will like my book or if anyone will even read it. I can’t be the only author who gets the jitters and gives in to self-defeating thoughts just before a book becomes public.

Turns out instead of worrying, there’s plenty of work you can do to stop those self-defeating thoughts come true. Also, rewrite those thoughts into positive ones. “I am doing everything I can to prepare for the success of my book’s release” is my mantra now. Being confident and positive is just as important as all the other book-related stuff.

And now, I need to do laundry.