Don’t know why I still read the New York Times Book Review every Sunday. I rarely am interested enough in a reviewed book to buy it. I get upset because they don’t review near as many books by women as they do men. And yet, there I was yesterday, reading NYTBR again. And being happily surprised.
One thing I like is that they recently added a monthly romance review column. They’ve had one for mysteries for years, so, about time! Anyway, I was also gratified to note that many of the romance novels they deigned to review were self-published. The Times, they are a changin’. I bought Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade.
What hooked me in the review was the tie-in to the love story between Aeneas, a Greek god, and Dido, ruler of Carthage. Dido is said to be ugly, yet Aeneas, aided by Cupid, loves her anyway. This ancient storyline, like all the stories of Greek and Roman gods and the humans who amuse and infuriate them, can be found in the 1940 classic Mythology by Edith Hamilton.
Mythology was my first literary love. My first class, in 1973, in high school, whetted my appetite for those ancient origin stories. I went on to read many more of the original plays in college and grad school. Hamilton’s book, pictured above, is my third or fourth copy. I’ve referred to Mythology so often through the years (as I have this morning) that they fall apart on me after twenty years or so. My current copy has yellowed pages but the spine remains intact.
In Spoiler Alert a contemporary novelist retells the story of Aeneas and Dido. His mastery captivates fanfic writers online and nabs a Hollywood remake, which is as horrible as the massive series of tomes are wonderful. The guy who plays Aeneas is a hot and handsome star, who’s smart too. He has a secret. He’s one of the writers on a popular fanfic site. As is his online BFF, a woman.
That’s all I can say about the plot of Spoiler Alert without spoilers. Oh, except when the female online BFF of the actor playing Aeneas decides to out herself as fat (her word, not mine) all hell breaks loose with the Twitter trolls. I’m enjoying this wild brew, a mix of old and new. It’s a nice respite from the historical romances I’ve buried myself in since the pandemic outbreak in March.
Ha! So that’s why I continue to read The New York Times Book Review. It’s rare, but every once in awhile, I still find an intriguing book reviewed there.
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.
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.
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.