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?

When I’m 64

All of my adult life, I have been collecting my favorite books and authors, promising myself I’d read them all again when I retired. Some day in the distant future. When I was old.

BTW, I don’t give the word “old” a negative connotation. It’s a place the lucky ones will all arrive at one day. At 64, I have arrived. Old is a place that you can’t really pack for…how was I to know in 1975 that there would be a little electronic book called the Kindle that stole my heart and helped my eyes? I have as many books saved on the Kindle as I do on my shelves. And I won’t need a van to move my Kindle to Florida. It fits in my purse.

I’m a planner. That plans often go awry is a lesson learned. I’ve gained mental flexibility as I’ve aged. When Al retires and we begin living on a “fixed” income, I’ll slow down my book buying (something Kindle makes far too easy!) and read again all those books I’ve loved before. I’m looking forward to it, but now I wonder if the book and the time of life have more to do with reading pleasure than I’d previously considered. Soon, I’ll find out.

My ideas about what to do in retirement are not for everyone. Some other surprising things I’ve done are completely change my diet and let my hair grey naturally. The diet makes me feel so much better and coloring my hair made my scalp burn as I got older. So I adapted my way of doing things. Now after completely reloading my pantry with nuts and seeds and coconut, two or three times a week I’m batch-cooking healthy foods that contain no sugar or wheat. If you would have told me this just eight weeks ago, I would have said no way.

Now when my body yells at me, I take the approach of “well, I’ll try this new thing.” It’s working out just fine. I don’t even miss bread. Or pasta. I kind of miss pizza, but everybody has gluten-free pizza these days. I made fudge this weekend. I used Swerve instead of sugar. Swerve does not raise blood sugar like other artificial sweeteners. It was a test and for my delicate tummy, Swerve did not pass. I made peanut butter cookies with Swerve, too. Al liked both sweet treats and didn’t have any digestive issues. But he doesn’t have problems with sugar, either. Next time I’ll try brown rice syrup, which my body tolerates better.

As for the hair, it is finally growing out to a longer length. Not sure if I’ll like it this way, but it will be easy to put in a ponytail in Florida and, as I get older, I am all about easy.

Goodreads Holiday Giveaway & More

 

 I love reading Christmas novels so much I wrote one of my own last year. This year, beginning November 8, for a limited time, I’ll be giving away 10 signed print copies of my 2016 novella Blue Lake Christmas Mystery on Goodreads. If you love reading on your Kindle like I do, Amazon has Blue Lake Christmas Mystery on special for 99 cents beginning Friday, November 3 and continuing for two weeks.
While I can only do a 99 cent sale on the Kindle titles my publisher owns. The Wild Rose Press is in charge of that. But for Goodreads, it’s very easy to do these giveaways, for me and for you. Goodreads does all the work. They list the title in their giveaway section and choose ten random winners. Then they send me the names and addresses and I ship the books to the ten winners.
Not on Goodreads? It’s easy to join, through Facebook or just by going to the site. I’m an avid reader, so I love visiting Goodreads. I have an author page there, too, but I use Goodreads more to see what others are saying about a book I just read or am thinking of reading. It’s like an always available book group!

The Long Road to Print

41QYVx8F5vL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_My first published novel, Sister Issues, is finally in print. It only took a dozen or so years after I wrote it for this to happen. What took so long? Paradoxically, my impatience to be published is what held this book back from seeing print for so long. Readers of this blog know that I’m a fan of publishing online. When the Kindle came out, I already had one book in print, an indie non-fiction title I used to teach creative writing. My campus bookstore kept it in stock, so I had a built in distributor in a brick and mortar store.

In 2007 not many people even knew about the Kindle. E-readers had been around for awhile but only a few tech savvy readers were on to them. Amazon popularized e-readers, and I took notice. One day I decided to upload my own book to the Kindle Digital Platform (KDP) for students who preferred an online version. I think I may have charged 99 cents, a significant savings. What I found was other people, not just students, bought that book. Which amazed me. And gave me an idea.

I’d been writing novels and knocking on the doors of traditional publishers for a long time. I’d also been blogging for five years. I knew how fun it was to be published digitally. Maybe I should just by-pass all the traditional publishers and put my most polished book out on KDP. I well remembered the hassles and the long months of indie publishing a print book from my experience with the creative writing manual. Had I known the work and time involved, I don’t think that first book would have ever seen print.

So I was not anxious to do that again. Enter KDP. Suddenly, everyone was using it to self-publish their novels, why not me? So I went ahead and did it. What a thrill. Then the bigger thrill came when The Wild Rose Press (TWRP) accepted another novel I’d written. Soon I had a book contract with a bona fide publisher and didn’t have to worry about cover art, formatting, ISBNs, uploading or printing a book. All that was done for me. As I continued to polish my manuscripts and publish them with TWRP, I never forgot my first novel. I couldn’t submit it to my publisher because it was already published online. If only I’d waited!

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All this time I was teaching too, so life zoomed by pretty fast. Before I knew it I had ten books to my name. Amazing! And yet…I really wanted to publish a print edition of Sister Issues. I wanted to hold it in my hands. A decade into my career as a published author, specialized companies run by tech savvy entrepreneurs sprouted up everywhere. These companies helped indie authors do all the zillions of things I had to do myself when I self-published my first book. I started to see the impressive results of friends who worked with one such start up here in Detroit.

Another idea was born. I could hire Woodward Press to bring Sister Issues out in print! Really, how much could it cost? I was sure it would be less than the $3000 I’d paid to order a modest print run of 500 books on my first endeavor. After all, with POD there is no need to order a print run. A single book is printed as it’s ordered. So I called Woodward Press and found out that the costs were significantly lower to publish this way, even a decade later. Working closely with Woodward Press, I began the process of preparing Sister Issues for print. From start to finish the project was significantly less anxiety provoking than doing it myself. And it only took two months for me to receive a copy of Sister Issues and hold it in my hands.

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If you still prefer print books to e-books, and many many people do, now you can order Sister Issues in print from Amazon.

How I Got to #1 on Kindle

I’ve recently had the experience of five “free” days on Kindle. What this means is my publisher allows Amazon exclusive rights to my novel for three months, and in those months, I agree to give  my book away for free for five days. It’s a marketing thing. I am not good at marketing.

Also,  I’m deep into a semester of teaching college freshman how to write, so there’s not a ton of extra time to promote my other career as a writer.  Friends pitched in with advice. One said I should RT (retweet) more. Another said I “must” buy a Book Bub ad. The Wild Rose Press publicist gave me a three page list of websites to contact for free and paid promotion.

I did some of this, but not everything. Teaching takes priority when I’m working the day job. No way could I publicize the way I needed to. This realization gave me new respect for how hard authors and publicists have to work to get noticed in the e-book market. 

I love Twitter, so it was easy to RT and tweet a bit more every day the month of September. My free days were October 1-5, so I front-loaded the increased Twitter time. Not a problem. Like I said, Twitter is fun for me. Some reviewers and bloggers, (Big thank you Rosie Amber, Bodicia, and Melissa Snark) offered to host me on their websites. I didn’t ask, they generously offered, which was a bonus, because I really don’t like asking for things. Especially free publicity. Writing guest posts and answering interview questions are fun. I love to write, be it tweet or blog post or novel.

The only thing I don’t love to write is the begging letter, in which I ask for favors. I don’t even like to ask my friends to buy my book. But giving it away for free, that I like. I asked Book Bub to consider advertising Blue Heaven, and they agreed. I paid them to advertise my book because I didn’t have time to do everything myself. Their fee was about equal to two hours of teaching pay. Worth it.

The day before Blue Heaven went “free” I checked my stats. Blue Heaven had been out for a month and was at approximated 600K on the paid lists. My stats in the “free” realm were decent. Nothing to get too excited about. I got up to #125 in romance and somewhere close in contemporary novels while hovering in the low thousands for all free books.

Book Bub publicized my novel on October 5, my last free day. After Book Bub stepped in, Blue Heaven shot to #1 on all three free lists: #1 Kindle Top 100. #1 Romance novel. #1 Contemporary novel. Woo hoo.

The day after the free spree my stats went up and down, but I’ve gotten several new reviews and stayed for a bit in the Top 100 “paid” Romance category. My “free” adventure, because that’s what it felt like, was a blast. I’d do it again in a minute. And if you’re a reader, keep checking those free Kindle lists. You might find a new favorite author.

*First published on Melissa Snark’s Snarkology