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Posts tagged with: Marketing

It All Starts Here (Marketing)

Its so revealing, so exciting, I have no choice but click and learn more.

Getting a reader to pull your book from the shelf or to click though to your book’s page is the prime purpose of your cover.

Today I’ve asked three cover designers to give us insight on marketing, specifically covers. They also tore apart a few mock covers I made up and boy did they do an awesome job, offering wonderful insight as to what makes up a great cover, so read on.

When I asked Judi Fennell whether a marketing plan was necessary and if covers were an important element in that plan, here is what she had to say.

“A marketing plan is a necessity; otherwise, you’re basically writing a book and flinging it on the wall like spaghetti to see if it sticks. The reality of indie-publishing is that you are not only a writer; you are also the publisher. A writer writes the stories; a publisher has to sell it. Selling means marketing. HOW will you sell it? What are the best venues/avenues to sell the book? Who’s your audience? Where do you find them? How do you reach them? Sadly, there is no secret sauce—because if there was, everyone would be doing it and then it wouldn’t be sauce; it’d be water. But there are some constants: professionally edited book and a cover that is just as professional. A cover is one of the 3 main elements to selling your book, so don’t just throw something together, and that includes tag lines, the elements you put on the cover, and the back-cover copy. Traditional publishers have art departments and marketing departments for a reason: they recognize the marketing potential in good covers.”

And Vivi Andrews Rae Monet agreed.

Vivi; “I absolutely believe a good cover is essential for selling your book. It sets expectations –both for quality and the kind of read you’re going to get. Not only is it your reader’s first indication that this is a professional work and you have taken it seriously, it also sets the mood in their mind. Ideally looking at a cover will give you the same feeling as reading the opening page – whether it’s sexy or spooky or intriguing.”

Rae; “Yes, I agree the cover is critical to the branding of the book and the overall sales.”

When asked if authors should use a professional cover designer, Rae Monet cautioned: “I do believe, unless they’re skilled in cover design, it will pay off better to use a pro.”

Both Vivi and Judi concurred.

Vivi: “If you don’t have design experience (and good software), I think most authors are best served by hiring a professional designer. You want to put your best foot forward, and really that doesn’t have to mean spending thousands. Many cover designers will have lower priced pre-fab covers which will still look professional, be well-composed, and give a strong sense of genre. A good cover doesn’t have to break the bank. But if you are doing it yourself, be sure you understand not just the composition but also the rights involved in using images.”

Judi: “Unless you have an eye for graphic design and/or background in marketing, I would recommend hiring someone, yes. Just as there is an art in joining words together to form scenes and chapters and, therefore, a story, there is also an art in blending images, in understanding branding the author’s name/platform, in scale and perspective, and where to place the elements to represent the story and catch the reader’s eye.

A cover is one of the most important marketing tools so you don’t want it to say “Homemade.” It needs to be as professionally put-together as the interior of the book. People DO judge a book by its cover, so make that cover as great as the story.”

What elements are important for an awesome cover?

Vivi; “An awesome cover, to me, is one that evokes a mood—and everything about that cover comes together to support that. The font, the colors, the images…they all support that feeling. Your cover artist might be thinking about negative space or the rule of thirds to control how the viewer’s eye moves over the cover, but for the author I think it’s about the font, the colors and the images coming together to create a feeling.”

Rae: “The author’s name and title needs to be readable in thumbprint size (very small) and the cover needs to be overall marketable and attractive.”

Judi: Think about when you look for books on brick-and-mortar book shelves. You run your finger along the spine titles to find one that catches your eye, whether you’re looking under your favorite author or trying to find a new one. Then you pull the book off the shelf and look at the cover. Then you flip it over to read the back cover. Those are your 3 most important marketing tools: title, cover, back cover copy—with your name growing in importance as you grow your backlist. This is an important point to remember: every book is your first chance to find new readers, but that book will feed your backlist and your front list so make that book as great as it can be. It can mean the difference between being an Auto-Buy or a Never-Buy-Again.

Your title needs to be catchy/stand out. Your cover needs to be eye-catching, and your back-cover copy needs to convey the tone/genre of the story and highlight the stakes and the characters. It is NOT supposed to be a synopsis.

The most important thing to remember about a cover is that is a MARKETING TOOL. It is NOT an artistic depiction of the events of the story. Think of 50 Shades of Grey; the cover of the first book is a tie. The lighting and position of the tie, given the subject of the book, are sexy/suggestive and convey the tone.”

Onto the covers. Would you explain what is flawed by one or all of them and why? I found their insight interesting.

Rae said frankly about all three covers; “I hesitate to criticize other cover artist work. I understand how difficult that can be to take as an artist. I would just say, according to my statements about what makes a good cover; work needs to be done on the author’s name and/or title on all these covers to make them more readable as thumbnails.”

Vivi stated; “These covers all have similar pros and cons. The pros—the images chosen and the titles do give you a sense of genre for each one, which is a good start. The titles are legible and the general layout of each one isn’t bad. However, the fonts, colors and sizing don’t work toward the same goal and flag them as less professional.” She then went on to examine each cover.”

Judi explained; “An overall comment for all three is the author name: when you are designing the layout and font choice, think of the author’s brand. What font goes with that brand? For instance, when we think of Regency romance, we think Edwardian Script or Chopin, which are “flow-y”. That goes with the feel of that genre, which is different from what a Romantic Suspense author would use for her branding.

Also, consider the size of the author’s name. We’re all familiar with the author name that takes up ¼ of the cover—this is great branding for that author’s readers. Should a new author do that? There’s a perception that a big name on the cover means a big-name author. And we all know that perception is 9/10 of reality, so especially if you’re just starting out and have a few books to publish close together, that might be a consideration.” She also scrutinized each cover.

Final Victim

Vivi: The first cover is going toward romantic suspense, but if you look at the top selling covers in suspense (which gives you an idea of what romantic suspense readers are going to subconsciously be looking for when they look for a book) all of the titles and author names are all-caps. Most of them are san-serif (which means more like Arial than Times New Roman). The words are often larger, dominating the space—and the font colors might be yellow or red—something that pops from the background and feels a little unexpected. Which is what the reader will get in this book. Shocks. Thrills. The unexpected.

Also, the imagery is unclear here. The woman in Final Victim is hard to make out, not even noticeable at the thumbnail size. (Pro-tip: ALWAYS look at your cover at the thumbnail size because that is where many readers will see it for the first time.) She’s small, but not small enough to actually be running in that forest, so I’m not sure if we’re supposed to think she’s actually there. She’s partially transparent, which can work in covers, but in this context it just makes me wonder if she’s supposed to be a ghost or the protagonist. I’m more confused than I am intrigued. And we definitely want to intrigue, not confuse.

Final Victim appraisal by Judi:

This is my least favorite of the three. It looks the most homemade, with a generic font, line spacing that is too big, and the award-winning author should be on one line. The image is good; it sufficiently conveys the spookiness of the story, but the image of the girl is so transparent we almost miss it. I also don’t understand who she is/what she is doing, so the image doesn’t tell me anything about the story. And being on the left-side bottom near the author name lessens the impact and makes it easy to overlook her. A white font blends into the fog.

Hot Nights

Vivi: The second cover is clearly hotter and contemporary with those fireman suspenders, but the fonts/colors aren’t necessarily being used to their best advantage to let us know if this is hot and funny or hot and dark.

Judi: The colors of the cover are dark and not warm, which, with the title, is a problem. The font doesn’t have the right style, and the red gets lost in his skin tone. I would also recommend showing more of his shoulders/neck/bottom of chin instead of his pants and hand. The chest is the draw, so the placement of him on the cover is too high. The cinderblock wall behind him on the left is bland; maybe use the red color as the background to make him stand out.

 

Forgotten Dreams

Vivi: “The third cover also leaves things a little ambiguous. Is this a modern women’s fiction about a bad marriage or perhaps a historical romance? We want to give our reader the best at-a-glance, visual representation that we can of the feeling they will get when they pick up this book, so clarity in that respect is key.”

Judi: “I love the image, especially with the flowers aiming at the ground. VERY evocative of the title. I really like that. I would recommend going with a more “flowery” font and use the burgundy color from the flowers. The black is too stark against the dress and doesn’t blend with the image. You can always off-set the title with a black drop-shadow to give it some depth.”

 

Three final questions I asked were: How many formats of covers are needed by authors?

Rae explained: “Usually an author needs the high resolution 300dpi CMYK cover for print projects and various website sizes for different third party sellers like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks and or/Smashwords: 1700, 1400, 850 and a small 200 for personal use.”

Judi suggested: For print you can either have a full-wrap cover with an included spine that flows from the front to the back and has custom fonts. You can also use the Cover Creator function on KDP where the spine is a solid color and you have limited options for font. For digital, Amazon needs one 2500 pixels high, Smashwords needs 1600 pixels high, the rest need 1400 pixels.

And.. What questions such an author ask of a cover designer?

Vivi; “Any time you’re hiring a freelancer to work for you, be sure you’re clear about costs and timelines before you get started. If you haven’t already vetted them, you can ask to see samples of their previous work. Be sure you know how they work also—some designers will give you a questionnaire and come back with a single cover mock-up that can be revised a set number of times, others might give you a couple options to choose from to hone in on what you’re looking for. Know what you’re looking for—is it a designer who brings their own creative vision or someone who is going to execute your vision? As always, communication is crucial.”

Rae: “I’d look at their portfolio and see if you connect with their work. I’d ask pricing for e-book covers are well as a print flat if you plan to take your book to print. I’d check references if need be.”

Judi:

  • Check references first and foremost.

  • Find out if you will own not only the cover image, but also the files and what program the designer uses. Some cover designers retain the copyright but allow you to use the cover for XYZ, but not ABC. This is why I always assign copyright of the cover to the author I design for—I can’t be bothered checking to see if the author uses the image in bookmarks without asking.

  • Talk to the cover designer about expectations: how many mock-ups they’ll do for X amount of $, how many “tweaks” they will do, how the image costs are handled (my clients purchase the artwork so there is no question about licensing rights), and expected timeline.

  • Remember that time = $, so it is extremely helpful to come to a cover designer with ideas of what you envision, but also remember that you are hiring a designer to do something that is in their wheelhouse and not necessarily in yours. Ideally, the designer will understand marketing as well as being graphically talented.

  • Check references before moving forward.

Finally…How can our readers contact you if they’re interested in a cover design?

Vivi: “I’m pretty quiet about my cover design sideline because I try to keep it limited to protect my writing time (and make sure I always have time for my awesome existing clients), but if you’re looking for cover help you can see some samples of what I do here (http://viviandrews.com/vivi/cover-portfolio/) and email me at viviandrews8@gmail.com. Tell me you found me on the Ruby site.” J

Rae: They may contact us via our website https://www.raemonetinc.com

Judy: There is a link on my website, www.formatting4U.com as well as my portfolio and testimonials from my 7+ years of clients. You can email me directly at formatting4U (at) JudiFennell (dot) com.

If you have any other questions for these ladies, please ask. And remember to thank them for their time.

 

 

 

 

Indie, Are Ya?

So, you’ve decided to be your own boss. Not an easy decision. Kudos to you for grabbing the entrepreneurial reins. And as you look ahead into the future with excitement and determination, despite knocking knees, the Rubies want you to know we’ve got your back. In the coming months, we plan to post information that’ll help you build a fabulous career.

On the second Tuesday of each month, Katie Graykowski and myself (along with a few other Rubies backing us up with current information), will be chatting about the Indie business of book publishing. Our blog will be in two parts, directed at both new indie writers and those who are part of the indie world and need help in certain aspects, such as marketing. We fully admit, we’re not experts, but we do own our own businesses and we’re always on the lookout for new information. We’re also willing to host guests who are experts, so if you’re an industry professional please contact us.

If you have specific topics you’d like discussed, please email me at autumn@autumnjordon.net or Katie at katiegraykowski@me.com and we’ll do our best to address the topic in our next blog.

 

DON’T KILL YOUR CAREER BEFORE ITS STARTED

by Katie

The indie market is an everchanging beast. What works today may not work tomorrow. I’ve met indie veterans and total newbies who all have the same issues.

 Five years ago, when I published my first indie book, it was an OMG-is-this-the-right-path-for-me moment. In the early days of indie publishing, established authors and traditional publishing companies alike, balked at the idea of self or indie publishing. Thank God readers didn’t and still don’t care how the books that they buy are published.

Now, I know that everyone wants to jump to marketing so that they can sell a bazillion books, retire to Grand Cayman, and day-drink on the beach, but you can’t sell a bazillion books, if you’re manuscript is crap.

Let’s be honest here. If all it took were words on a page to make a good read, then the IRS tax code would be on the NYT Bestsellers List. You need to write a damn good book and then, you MUST have it edited by a PROFESSIONAL EDITOR.

Hear me world, a professional editor is NOT your cousin Sally-Jane who loves to read, your son’s third grade teacher, your mother, your next-door neighbor, or your coworker who has a blog on pet grooming. Or, and this is the worst possible case, your readers.

A professional editor is someone who edits books for a living. You pay this person. They have references that you contact to make sure they are in fact, an editor. I know what you’re thinking, that you can’t afford it. But you can and here’s why.

Let’s go back to letting your readers edit your books scenario. I know what you’re thinking, I’m just being overly dramatic, but no, it’s a real thing. I met a writer at a book signing. We started talking because if you’re not Nora Roberts, James Patterson, or Gandhi, no one comes to a book signing. We had three hours to chit chat about writing. It’s important to tell you that this particular signing was at a bar which is a great gig—free drinks in exchange for sitting at a table behind a giant stack your books, and smiling to people who refuse to make eye contact.

I asked my new writer friend how many books she’d sold and she proudly told me thirty. I was like that’s awesome … thirty thousand books … respect. Nope, she corrected me. She’d only sold thirty. In an effort to pry my foot from my mouth, I then congratulated her on her new release. Guess what, the book had been out for a year and a half. She told me that she just couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t sold more books.

I opened my laptop, pulled her book up on Amazon, and mashed my lips together to keep from gasping. She had ten reviews which for thirty sales is awesome, but her overall rating was a 2.4. Every single review said basically the same thing, she needed an editor. Her grammar was terrible, her story didn’t make sense, and her characters were flat.

I asked her who edited this book thinking that she either needed to ask for her money back or she needed to find a new editor. She told me that she lets her fans edit her books. Unfortunately, I’d just taken a gulp of my Mexican Martini (it’s a top shelf margarita on the rocks with a splash of olive juice). Martini spewed all over my laptop. To this day, my keyboard is still a little sticky.

I can’t stress enough the importance of a good editor. There are line editors who look at grammar, content editors who look at the overall story, and global editors who look at both. You can afford.

I have a global editor who charges $0.0045/word. My last book cost me $378.14. Yes, it was short, but you do the math. You can afford it. Give up online shopping for a month. Don’t buy that new purse you want from Coachonline.com (which is actually cheaper than the Coach Outlet Store). Paying a good editor is just the cost of doing business.

If you like writing and want to do it full time and still be able to eat, HIRE an editor.

As Autumn mentioned, I’m no expert, but I have published 20 indie books, quit my day job five years ago, and still manage to feed my family. BTW-I am an expert when it comes to eating brownies, avoiding people I don’t like, and correcting the misuse of I vs. me. Come on people, I before the verb, me after. It’s not that hard.

 

WE ALL WANT TO MAKE GREAT ART,

BUT UNLESS OUR ART GOES TO AUCTION IT WON’T PAY THE BILLS

By Autumn

 

Indie authors wear many hats and unless you are willing to wear them and are capable of switching them out several times a day, maybe Indie publishing is not for you. You are the President and VP, secretary, accountant, editing department, art department, marketing department, production department, etc. etc. etc. of your company. Even the janitor, as your office probably needs cleaning like mine.

Now, depending on the funds you have, you can hire someone to do some of the jobs, but most likely, initially, you’ll wear most of the hats. Keep in mind, every decision you make will affect your business.

With over 4500 new books reported published each day, it’s no wonder marketing is the topic of most interest to indie authors. Without it, your book is lost and all the hard work you’ve done will never be appreciated.

Over the next several months we’re going to share marketing tips which we’ve used ourselves in order to grow our reader base, along with any new information we’ll learn.

To begin, let me echo the advice of the many marketing experts I’ve listened to over the last year. There is no magic bullet that will propel your book sales to stardom.

There are six steps, however.

  • Write a damn good, emotion infused story.
  • Hire a good editor and copy editor.
  • Have a professional cover made and write intriguing tag lines and blurbs.
  • Have a professional website and landing pages on social media and venues.
  • Know your target audience.
  • Know your strengths and limits of ability.
  • Be consistent with your marketing!

Marketing plans are not done and over within a month or a year. They’re ongoing and take time, research, decisions and funds. Research is where marketing begins. You need to know who are your potential customers. This step is very important and will lay the foundation of your marketing plan. It will also keep you from throwing your hard-earned money into the firepit.

Know your target audience. Take the time to research who your readers also buy and read. You can do this by looking at what other books they’ve bought on different platforms and listed on Goodreads. Look at reviews. Find ten authors whose books are similar to yours. These readers will be who you’ll target through Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads, or Facebook ads.

If you don’t have your first book out yet, start with who you like to read and whose works are the same genre as the book you’ve written. It’s never too early to start researching and cultivating your fan base.

When starting ads, set a budget that wouldn’t break you. Watch which author camp is giving you impressions and clicking on your ads and then following through with sales. Delete or pause those who are costing you money. Keep in mind, it can take three impressions, or more, before your ad will catch a reader’s attention.

Your goal is to whittle your list of core reader camps down to five or even three. And as you get results you can add more funds to your campaigns.

Beware! Keep an eye on the changing scene. Take ten minutes a day to review your ads.

Next, Know your strengths and limits of ability. Watch where and how the targeted authors are using social media. We all have favorite venues of social media, but it’s nearly impossible to be everywhere effectively. Could you reach more readers on another platform than the you’re currently using? And would you feel comfortable to use that venue?

Okay. That’s enough information to start our discussion on marketing.  Any questions or advice on learning a target audience?

 

 

 

 

Taking Control of Your Marketing

I love podcasts.  I know. That’s probably not how you thought a blog talking about marketing would begin, but I am a podcast nerd. Now you know.  The thing is, I’m not a marketing person.  I don’t excel at predicting or creating trends.  I’m not good at selling myself.  The business side of this business has always made me feel a little helpless.  Like it was out of my hands and there was nothing I could do about it.  No way for me (awkward introvert) to become the gregarious platform-building maven who would skyrocket to success on a wave of confidence and charm.  I’m not one of the cool kids of romance.  I don’t shine on Twitter or Facebook.  

But here’s the thing.  I write good books.  I believe that.  (Most of the time… when I’m not stuck in imposter mode.)  And people are looking for good books.  Many people are, dare I say, looking for good books exactly like mine.  So how do I connect with those people?  That has always been the mystery of marketing.  The opaque, foggy business of sales that has always made me feel so helpless.

Then came the podcasts.

MY DRYWALL HAS A HOLE IN IT!

I was going to title this blog ‘I’m pissed’ but it’s not about me being pissed as a writer but more so as a reader who recently mentally threw a digital book I bought for $5.99 against the wall. Why? Because the author totally, blatantly portrayed the book to be romantic suspense and she stated that even though there was a love triangle involved and there was sex, it was not erotica. COUGH Right? As romantic suspense fan she hooked me with the first chapter, but after that… hmmm The only thing that hadn’t happened in the bedroom, kitchen, living room, bathroom during the first 40% of book was that the donkey didn’t show up to bring in a new element into the trios tryst. I didn’t finish the book.

I’m sure the situation she created happens or has happened somewhere in the world throughout the centuries, and she is writing fiction after all, but to sell the work for what it is not in my opinion is wrong.

Did I return the book? No. Maybe I should’ve, but I learned a valuable lesson from this author and for that I’ll let her keep the royalty she earned by making the sell.  Will I buy from her again? Even though her writing was top notch, I will not. She lost my trust, not through her writing but through her marketing of the book.

In any genre, there are element degrees: comedy, suspense, drama, mystery, fantasy, love, sex, etc.  The writer’s voice is her style in using the different elements in different degrees. Unfortunately, the cyber book shelves, just as the brick and mortar books shelves only allow us to classify our books in a general genre. It’s only through our marketing that we can let our readers know of the sub-genres and sub-subgenres the work could be classified.  

I write a light comedy contemporary romance series that I tell my readers is written in Hallmark Holiday movie tone. In doing so, I believe I’m letting my readers know the level of sexual tension and the degree of comedy and drama they can expect. The first book in the series, PERFECT, which is a Christmas romance, was given a one-star review shortly after its release because the reader believed for some reason that it was a Christian book. I felt bad that I hadn’t specifically written out that it was not a Christian Romance, but I never said it was.

Writing blurbs and marketing material is hard.

I also write romantic suspense and romantic mystery. I try very hard in writing all of my blurbs to let the readers know if they are getting more of a suspense with their romance or they’re getting more of a mystery. Or if the story is more suspense/mystery with romantic elements. Again, even though, I’ve tried to be up-front, some readers will flat out review the works as failing to meet their idea of the perfect romantic suspense or romantic mystery. All I can say is I tried and the 99.99% of the readers who’ve reviewed my works tell me I’ve done okay in marketing my books.

Do you believe the publisher’s and/or the indie author’s has a responsibility to convey to the best of their ability what genre or sub-genre their work falls into?   Have you purchased a book only to learn it’s not want the author led you to believe it to be?  Have you returned books for the reason, never to buy from the author again?

 

Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby who has a new release out titled PERFECT FALL. Learn more about her and her work at www.autumnjordon.com and join her newsletter AJ Revealed

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Is Short The New Long?

Writing a great short story used to be the training ground for writers. Hemingway started his career by writing them, as did Stephen King, and many renown others.

For many years, the appetite for short stories, nearly disappeared, cutting the number of magazines that included them substantially, and leaving only classic short stories on the book shelves. However, I believe the tide is changing among today’s readers. Their time is limited and there are times when they just want something worthy and short while they’re waiting in a doctor’s office or school parking lot.

Also, many are now reading on their phones, and reading a short story is more feasible on the small device.

This month, I dove into the short market with a novelette titled Perfect Moments. It released on February first. I was nervous about writing it because shorts have a totally different writing style than a full length novel. It was a learning experience, but after receiving emails from readers requesting to know whether Elizabeth and Bob Kincaid (from Perfect) made it home from their overseas duty, I decided to give Elizabeth and Bob their story. Their short.

Another reason I decided to try my hand at writing a short story was because today’s reader wants more product from an author, and quicker. I’m comfortable writing a full length novel in a year, sometimes nine months. But to write quicker, I know the quality of my work would decline. I want to continue to improve my craft, not hinder it. So to feed my fans cravings, writing short stories might be the way to go.

 

I asked my Ruby Sisters their thoughts on writing short stories.

 

Rita Henuber said she wrote her short stories because, “I have many stories bumping around inside my skull. Characters screaming at me to tell their story. Some are absolutely not full length novel material. All but one in my collection of short stories began with an experience of mine. I had to write them.”

And Jeannie Lyn said, I actually LOVE shorts and think they’re a great way to pack a punch in a short amount of space as well as introduce writers to your voice. The last short story that I wrote was meant to be an introduction to my steampunk world for new readers and a little bonus for existing readers.”

Ruby sister Ava Blackstone stated she wrote a short after reading an article in her RWA chapter’s newsletter about writing for Woman’s World. “I decided to give it a try. I found that short stories were great palate cleansers when I was sick of my main WIP. I also liked the freedom to experiment with different writing styles without worrying that I was wasting months on something that might not work.”

And Vivi Andrews stated, “I’ve always written short stories for anthologies, usually with open submission calls that provided the opportunity to get my writing in front of more readers.  My little gateway stories to lure readers into my world. 🙂  This spring I’ll be participating in the 2nd RWA Anthology.”

I then asked the sisters if they found writing shorts difficult? I know I found it challenging not to add more conflict, more points of view, more of everything.

Vivi said, “Actually, I don’t find them difficult at all.  I was nervous initially about stepping out of my comfort zone, but I wound up loving the opportunity to tell more compact romances.”

 

Rita stated, “Not at all. I enjoyed writing the shorts and the side benefit of stopping those people in my head screaming. I view shorts as a moment in time. A snapshot event giving the reader something to ponder.”

 

Jeannie started writing shorts before she wrote novels. “I have a totally different mindset when I switch back to writing shorts. They’re not just shorter novel storylines — the way I plot and present a short story is entirely different than what I do in a novel.”

 

Ava said, Writing that first short story definitely required a paradigm shift. I had to come up with a much smaller-scale conflict than I was used to writing so that I could wrap things up realistically in 800 words. It helped me to think about it as though I was writing a scene instead of a novel. So then it was just a matter of coming up with a compelling scene that could stand on its own.”

 

 

 

 

So why write shorts? I’d heard shorts help with sales on other books, especially if their part of a series. Perfect Moments just released, so I don’t have a track record to share, so again I questioned my sisters who had published short stories.

 

 

Jeannie stated, I actually have found it helpful bringing in new readers with shorts. Since my settings and worlds are not so mainstream, I think readers find shorts an easy way to get a feel for me without having to commit to a novel. Short stories with direct tie-ins and characters from other series are the best way to go in terms of hooking readership. Teaming up with other authors in anthologies is a also a great strategy for getting that first look.”

Ava had a different use for her short story. I give it away to readers who sign up for my mailing list, and it has worked great as an incentive to drive signups. I’m planning to write another short to go along with my next Ava Blackstone book.”

 

 

 

 

If you’re considering writing a short story, I have some advice.

  • Read short stories. There are many; The International Thriller Writers have released collections titled Face Off. And, I know the Mystery Writers also release an annual collection. Then you have classics like William Faulkner’s That Evening Sun.
  • Pick your story’s moment or moments that really matter and write about them.
  • Stay with one main character.
  • No subplots.
  • Write more words than you need and then pick the words that show don’t tell, show character’s change, and that moves the story forward.
  • Go through the same editing steps as you would for a novel.

 

 My sisters also offered advice or suggestions?

Rita said, “I go by what I love to read. IMO a short story is for a reader’s experience. I will also say I think there is a difference between what is considered a short story to a novella. With a novella, because of its larger word count, I expect story structure, GMC, story resolution, the whole enchilada. Shorter stories can certainly have all that good stuff but I think of them as a bite of the enchilada not the whole thing.

Vivi offered this advice, “I didn’t take any online courses or read any books on the subject.  I will strongly recommend that anyone looking to write short consider the kind of conflicts that can be resolved quickly.  If you give your characters more than they can reasonably solve in a short format, you’re going to have some very grumpy readers.”

Jeannie recommended, Rather than craft books (which I normally love), the best way to learn for shorts is to read how others do it. I think there’s MORE of an art to writing short than writing a novel. The good thing is that they’re short. 🙂

Some authors I love:  Ray Bradbury (for voice, tone, memorable setup and hook). If you can find it, read “A Laurel and Hardy Love Affair”.  Edgar Allen Poe (check out his word choice and how effective his opening lines are)

For romance, these authors’ shorts are actually novellas,  but they establish character and emotional stakes in a relatively short amount of time. Courtney Milan – The depth of characterization is amazing. They feel as emotionally complete as full novels. And Ruthie Knox – She sets up emotional tension wonderfully between hero and heroine

Thank you, sisters for sharing your experiences in the short story market. 

Please ask any questions that you might have and we’ll try to answer them for you.

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Autumn Jordon is an award-winning author of romantic suspense/thrillers and contemporary romance.  Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com. And don’t forget to check out Perfect Moments.

Ava Blackstone is a winner and two-time finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® contest and has five short romance stories published in Woman’s World magazine. She is currently hard at work on the next contemporary romance in her Voretti Family series. You can find her on the web at: http://avablackstone.com  PRETTY IN INK

Jeannie Lin is known for writing groundbreaking historical romances set in Tang Dynasty China starting with her Golden Heart award-winning debut, Butterfly Swords. Her Chinese historicals have received multiple awards and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. SILK, SWORDS, AND SURRENDAR

Rita Henuber; I’ve always had stories in me and now I’m sharing them. I married a Marine, a man I’d known since I was fourteen. I’m fortunate to have lived many places and traveled to the states and countries I didn’t live. I moved back to the barrier island in Florida where I grew up and now spend time writing, weaving my experiences into my stories. My first books have heroes and heroines in the military or government service. But, I’ve started on a new series of books with collections of short stories. LET ME TELL YOU A STORY

Vivi Andrews is a Golden Heart winner & 2-Time RITA finalist. As Lizzie Shane she writes contemporary romance with a pop culture twist, and as Vivi Andrews she writes paranormal romance. ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Hooks -a marketing tool.

What is the BIG hook? Simple. A title.

Don’t believe me, read on. A few months ago, in a reader forum, I started a discussion, asking the question ‘what first grabs your attention when searching for a book in brick store?’ My thread stayed on top for weeks as readers offered their opinions.  A great cover was the overwhelming answer with a catchy title running a close second. Behind them were the back-cover blurb and the author’s name.

When I threw ‘the cyber-stores’ into the mix, a catchy title was hands down, no-doubt-about-it number one. With like a thousand new books being introduced each month in cyber-venues, your title becomes the hook that will make the buyer click, read your blurb and check out your sample pages.

A great title says a lot about the author’s creativity and his/hers capability to market their work. If you’re entering the 2017 Golden Heart and are seeking the interest of professional advocates, you definitely want to have the most awesome title.

Looking at my bookshelf, some of the titles that jump out at me are; Zeroes by Chuck Wendig, Tick Tock by James Patterson, Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters, The Hello Girl by Merline Lovelace, The First Grave On The Right by our own Ruby-sister Darynda Jones and most recently The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison. Each one of these titles reveals the essence of the story. And each one jumped out at me from their spine and prompted me to read the back blurb. Do not dismiss the importance of a great title.

Every now and then, on our private loop, one of the Ruby sisters cries out for title help. She shares a very short blurb and we bombard her with suggestions. Are we good at doing this? Look at our titles and you be the judge.

Today only, if you’re having trouble thinking up a grabber, the Rubies are willing to put on our thinking caps for you. Post a short blurb and we’ll help you out.  Guests, please offer a suggestion too.

 

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning sneaker Ruby and author of Perfect~ a fun, warm-hearted Christmas romance set in the fictional town of Black Moose, Vermont.  To join her rapidly growing newsletter and be entered into members’ only contests, visit www.autumn Jordon.comperfect

Marketing Your Book: Play to Your Strengths

Long before I decided to self-publish, I attended my first workshop on marketing at an RWA national conference. After an hour of PowerPoint slides about engaging with readers on social media, I wanted to hide in a dark, quiet corner with no computer or internet connection. (Have I mentioned that I’m the introvertiest introvert in the world?)

After five or six more marketing workshops with different names, presented by different authors, all of which focused on various social media marketing techniques, I’d had more than enough. So when I saw that the next speaker for my local RWA chapter was going to be talking about—you guessed it—marketing—I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic.

But it was a good excuse to see my friends, so I went to the meeting anyway. And was blown away by the speaker. Her talk was on marketing, but it wasn’t all social media. She talked about things like generating back matter for your book that would help drive reviews and Amazon keyword optimization. For the first time, I realized that there was a way to market my books in addition to the social media strategies I’d heard so much about. And some of those things I was actually excited about doing.

And that made me stop and think. I’d heard a ton of people talk about the importance of “finding your process” for writing, the idea being that some people write most effectively when they plot extensively beforehand, some people prefer to jump straight into the manuscript, and others are somewhere in between. But I’d never heard anyone talk about finding your process for marketing.

I’d love to be a marketing superhero and make optimal use of every single technique out there. But I’m not. There are only so many hours in the day, and let’s be honest—I’m going to spend most of them writing. So I need to make sure that the little time I have for marketing is used most effectively. For me personally, that means focusing on the non-social side of things. I have friends who are just the opposite—they love meeting readers in person or on social media, and can make a new best friend (and a dedicated fan) in minutes. That’s not me.

Will narrowing my marketing focus be an effective strategy for me? My first book came out two days ago, so it’s too soon to tell. But I certainly hope so.

Okay, I also set up my author Facebook page. Just don’t make me sign up for Twitter.

What about you? What marketing strategies do you find most effective? Are there any you find particularly enjoyable or unpleasant?

Marketing That Clicks: What Works On You?

I usually ignore Facebook ads that pop up in my newsfeed, but today, I saw one that made my heartbeat quicken.

The ad was from the Facebook page of Bulgari, the maker of several perfumes I adore, announcing the release of a new Omnia fragrance.

“Omnia Indian Garnet,” it said. “Click to Experience.”

Indian Garnet? It sounded heavenly. I began to salivate, imagining a warm, heady juice, rich with the spices of India. I wanted to smell it! NOW! But how could I experience a fragrance online?

Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing Recap

I attended the Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing conference in NYC two weeks ago, and I wanted to share my key takeaways with all of you. The conference was geared toward publishing professionals – marketers, publicists, and all the people responsible for launching ebooks and getting them discovered by readers. There were very, very few authors in the audience; I know Bob Mayer was there, and a few authors gave programs during the session, but this was truly a marketing conference. I’m kind of a geek for marketing (even though I also secretly despise it), so I found myself loving/hating all of it – but your mileage my vary, of course!

These are the most interesting insights/tidbits I heard during the conference…if you want more detail on anything, leave a comment and I’ll see whether my notes are helpful:

1) If you take nothing else away from this post, know this: the importance of mobile (smartphone/tablet) browsing is increasing dramatically. The head of industry for publishing at Google shared some Google search stats, and the eyepopping one was that in 2010, 93% of Google queries came from computers; now, it’s 72% and still dropping fast, with those other 28% of searches coming from mobile. Mobile search is only going to continue to grow.

What this means for authors: you must make sure that your website looks great on smartphones. For me, my website traffic in the last month (1943 unique visitors / 2571 total visits) was 41.9% on mobile devices – the iPad was 50% of my mobile traffic, iPhone was ~25%, and a variety of Android phones and Kindle/ereader tablets made up the rest. If someone is reading your book on a mobile device and searches your website to learn more, you want them to see a great website optimized for smartphones. This means *no Flash* (flash doesn’t work on iPads), quick loading, etc. Test your site on mobile devices, and if you don’t like how it looks, work with your web designer to fix it.

2) Your Amazon book page is like your book’s homepage on the web. We heard from Jon Fine, the Director of Author/Publisher Relations at Amazon, and his main point was that when someone searches for your book on Google or other search engines, they’re almost certain to see the Amazon page for your book at the top of the search results. You want that page to be as good as possible, with reviews, product descriptions, etc., and a robust author page that gives as much information as possible about your works.

What this means for authors: do as much as you can with Author Central. You may not be able to control your product descriptions (often the publisher is responsible for this), but you can do a lot on Author Central – regularly update your bio, add videos, add your Twitter feed, add your blog feed, etc. You can also add extras about the book through Shelfari (Amazon’s Goodreads competitor), which show up on the product page for your book. Just a little bit of effort on Author Central can make your presence more robust, which helps you show up higher in search results.

3) Email marketing is a bigger sales driver than any social media platform. Jessica Best from Emfluence Marketing said that for every $1 she spends on email marketing, they drive $28 in revenue. I don’t think that these stats are perfectly accurate for authors maintaining their own email lists – but purely from a time/money spent perspective, my (very infrequent) newsletter is more valuable than anything I’ve done on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It costs some amount of money every month to maintain a mailing list through a mailing list manager like Mailchimp or Constant Comment – but the people who sign up for your mailing list are interested in what you have to say, and you can use Mailchimp to track how many people open it, make sure that it looks good on smartphone mail clients before sending it out, and see how many people subscribe/unsubscribe every month.

What this means for authors: build your email list. Facebook or Twitter could go away tomorrow, but if you own your mailing list, you can always reach your biggest fans. Key caveat: do it ethically! Don’t violate CAN-SPAM law (or public opinion) by adding people without their permission. But I make joining my email list a key way to enter my contests, and I can track to see how many of those people stick around when I send out my next newsletter. I also have a link to sign up to my mailing list in my ebooks – this is easier to do if you’re self published, but it should be obvious how to sign up for your newsletter as soon as someone hits your site. Use something like Mailchimp or Constant Comment, which will help to make sure you don’t break CAN-SPAM law and also help you track stats.

4) Get a few metrics you can measure consistently and act upon – and then track them. Angela Tribelli from HarperCollins spoke about the importance of metrics, which I totally agree with. But it seems that most authors (and I’m guilty of this myself) obsess over their Amazon sales rank but don’t track anything else. Instead, you can track things that you can actually impact – visits to your website, newsletter signups, Twitter follows, Facebook likes, contest entries, etc. Then, if you do a blog tour, for example, you can see whether there’s any increase in averages for those stats in the days/weeks after the tour – if you don’t see any lift beyond your average, it might tell you not to do a blog tour again.

What this means for authors: pick your stats, track them, but don’t obsess. Daily tracking of things like Twitter or Facebook likely isn’t helpful. Instead, you can pick a day of the week or a day of the month, write down all your stats, and ignore them until the next time you need to track them. For me, this helps to decide whether to invest money in a giveaway, whether to spend more time on Twitter, whether to spend money promoting a post on Facebook, etc. This can also be helpful for showing publishers that you’ve built a platform – if you’re able to show steady growth and things you’ve done to grow your platform, this could theoretically help to get a deal.

5) Final thoughts: the jury is still out for me, but I’m starting to believe that it’s less important to do blog tours before a release and more important to spend that time making sure that your profiles and information on all the major platforms are thoroughly updated and have as much info as possible about your latest books. Obviously your website is key to this – your website should always be updated, even if you don’t treat it like a blog. But your Author Central page, Goodreads and Shelfari profiles, Facebook, Twitter, and any other outreach methods you use should be updated regularly so that search results are accurate. The primary goal is to make sure that anyone searching for you or your books finds out how to buy them! The secondary goal, with the help of a good web designer, is to figure out how to get your own site or book higher into the general search results for terms like ‘regency romance’ or ‘best contemporary romance’ – that’s a much harder nut to crack, but it’s worth thinking about.

But I’m not an expert, and I would love to hear what you think – what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, and where you’re focusing your efforts. I’m looking forward to your comments!

Are You a Writer or a Cave Painter?

At some point in your life, I’m sure you’ve read a book and hated the cover and wondered why on earth the publisher used it. Maybe you’ve even received cover art for your own novel that you don’t feel fits your story. Romance readers get totally bent out of shape if the hero and heroine isn’t depicted accurately on the cover as compared to how the author describes them.

Many of you may recall my debut novel, The Memory of You, had an extremely different cover when I first released it. All of my romance-writer friends told me how much they loved it. I don’t know if they were being honest or just sparing my feelings. In any case, I really liked the cover.

When my son, who has a master’s in marketing, saw it, he hated it—which frankly didn’t surprise me. I have a have an honest open relationship with my kids, and they have no problem telling me when they think something I’ve done sucks the big one. Normally, I might shrug off his opinion, but this time I couldn’t, because I knew on this particular subject he spoke as an authority. His father and I spent a lot of money helping to educate him in his chosen field, and he made us extremely proud by graduating just a hundredth of a point shy of  summa cum laude (and don’t think that didn’t royally tick him off).

He told me my first cover made him think of an old lady story about a funeral. He reduced the image to thumbnail and pointed to the vase of hydrangeas and said, “What is this? It looks like a purple tree. And who’s that guy in the background? Is he a ghost? Is this a paranormal story? What’s that gold blob in the corner. You’re selling your books on the Internet, you need a design with pictures and fonts that readers can see in a thumbnail.”

I loved my cover and didn’t want to admit he might have a valid point. So I did what mother’s do best, I argued with my son, and tried to explain what the book is about. I showed him other covers on Amazon that were no different than mine. That’s when the poop hit the fan. “Are you a writer or a cave painter?” he asked in a not so soft voice.

“I’m a writer,” I answered defensively.

“Then stop trying to tell the story with pictures! The only thing your cover needs to accomplish is to get people interested enough to find out more about your book. You only have to catch their attention and give a sense of the genre and the tone. It doesn’t matter if the artwork matches the story. Covers are designed for shoppers. The inside is for readers.”

Well, I still don’t totally agree with that, but I understood the lesson he was trying to teach me. Giving the shopper an impression of the type of story is far more important than the accuracy in the cover art. My son then explained many NY publishers are still designing covers for brick and mortar bookstore shelves instead of the digital market. He reworked my first two covers to illustrate what I should use to sell my work.

Many were disappointed  by the new  cover for The Memory of You (like my 80-year-old mother, who is one of the little old ladies my son mentioned) because they’d truly loved the original. I had to explain time and again that, although the first cover might have been  aesthetically pleasing, it was a lousy representation of what the reader should expect from the book.

 

 

From that point on, I took my son’s advice and made sure L.L. Kellogg’s first cover gave the right impression of Hypnotic Seduction’s genre and tone, which is a red-hot romantic comedy that’s A Little Bit Naughty and a Lot of Fun. The Great Bedroom War’s cover told readers they were going to get a fun, sexy, contemporary read.

 

 

While choosing the cover art for my new release, The Parent Pact—book three of The Return to Redemption series, I somehow forgot my son’s marketing lesson and began cave painting again. I designed a cover I absolutely love and which illustrated the story wonderfully. The kids look exactly like the little boy and girl in my novel, and there’s even an issue with the heroine’s son kissing the hero’s daughter against her will.  I’d already finished the cover before the Anaheim RWA conference, so I naturally included the cover image for my upcoming release on the promotional material I distributed in the Goodie Room.

As I was admiring my handiwork on the flight home (in coach), my flamboyant alter-ego, L.L. Kellogg, sauntered back from first class to gloat about how much roomier her seat was than mine . Since my butt is twice the size of hers, you can bet she grated on my nerves.

She snatched the promotional card I’d distributed at the conference from my hand. “What the hell did you do!” she shrieked loud enough for the passenger in the closet-size john at the rear of the plane to hear. She pointed at the sweet covers for my next two releases. “These are awful! Where’s the sexy hero and half-naked heroine? Is this a romance between children?”

“No,” I answered, “but the hero and heroine are both single parents.”

Aww, isn’t that sweet.” She tossed the card over her shoulder and into the lap of the sixty-ish female passenger on the opposite side of the aisle. “Change it,” L.L. demanded.

“Why should she?” the passenger interjected. “This looks like a wonderful book. Exactly the kind of heartwarming story I’d like to read.”

“Do you like hot, sizzling love scenes?” L.L. asked the woman. “Because I forced her to make the hero walk in on the heroine while she’s bathing in his huge whirlpool tub, and things get mighty steamy—and not from the hot water, if you get my drift.”

The woman blushed.  “Well, I don’t mind a little kissing, but I really don’t prefer explicit love scenes.”

“Then this book ain’t for you, lady. It’s hot! Especially the skinny-dipping scene when they finally get it on.”

The woman dropped the promotional card as if it were covered with the Ebola virus.

L.L. picked up the card and flapped it in my face. “THIS is exactly why NY wouldn’t buy your book. Their marketing department couldn’t think of a way to illustrate the fact that, although your stories are heartwarming, they’re far from sweet. You’re cave painting again. Remember what your son taught you.” She turned and wiggled her way back up the aisle to first-class and shouted over her shoulder, “Are you a writer or a freaking cave painter?”

As much as I hated to admit it, L.L. the bimbo-beeyotch was 100 percent right. Granted, the marketing blurb (see below) makes it crystal clear it’s a sexy story, but the title and graphics indicate the exact opposite. The passenger across the aisle had given me a glimpse of the awful reviews I could expect from outraged readers who didn’t bother to check the blurb before clicking the buy link. And the saddest part was they would have every right to be upset about not having their expectations met.

Naturally, as soon as I arrived home, I immediately redesigned the cover. I don’t like it nearly as much as my original cover art (I love the adorable kids), and it’s not accurate to the story. At no time does the heroine run around the hero’s kitchen half naked.

However, this IS a sizzling, different worlds, Cinderella story. The contrast of  a sexy, barefooted, penniless heroine kissing a successful lawyer who’s wearing $900 Italian leather shoes is a much better marketing tool and will give shoppers a more accurate impression of what they’ll get when they buy The Parent Pact—Steamy, Heartwarming, Romantic, Fun!

Cinderella and Prince Charming never had to consider the welfare of their children

When widower Tyler Fitzpatrick meets Annie Barnes at his daughter’s school, his libido goes tilt. The sexy single mother is everything he and his grieving little girl need. Unfortunately, Annie flatly refuses his dinner invitation. She wants a husband and a father for her son—not just a boyfriend. And the last time she checked, wealthy, summa-cum-laude lawyers didn’t marry high-school-drop-out housekeepers.

Tyler concedes there’s a vast difference between their experiences and lifestyles. Still, he’s inexplicably drawn to the impoverished young woman—even though her little boy reminds Tyler of an underprivileged past he’d rather forget. While becoming better acquainted, he offers Annie a job caring for his daughter and home in Redemption, PA. He also proposes a Parent Pact—an agreement to become role models to each other’s child and to fill one another’s needs as single parents while they continue to search for true love.

Accepting Tyler’s offer would solve a lot of Annie’s problems. However, surrendering to her weak-in-the-knees attraction to the irresistible widower could very well leave her and her son heartbroken. Yet, when circumstances threaten her ability to feed her child, Annie reluctantly agrees to the pact, making it clear she has no desire for Tyler to fill her so-called needs in bed. It’s a bald-faced lie, but she knows the man’s desperation to give his daughter the nurturing she needs will compel him to accept a purely platonic relationship.

Now, Annie’s only problem is resisting the overwhelming temptation to let sin-in-a-tailored-suit Tyler seduce her.

So the next time you pick up a book with a cover that doesn’t accurately depict the story, think about why the publisher chose the picture they did to market it.  And if your publisher gives your novel a cover you hate, consider the marketing aspects. You may realize that, even though the artwork may not be pretty or accurate, it’s eye-catching and a great selling tool.

Now I’d like you to share your experience. Can you think of a cover you really didn’t like, but you can see why the publisher used it? Have you ever quit reading a book simply because the picture on the cover didn’t accurately illustrate the events or characters in the story? What do you envision as a cover for your WIP and why?

Leave a comment to enter a random drawing for a free digital copy of The Parent Pact, available now at Amazon and soon to be released for the Nook and paperback.

 

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The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: You’re very welcome. I learned a lot.
  • Bev Pettersen: Such a helpful post, Thanks Autumn. And also thanks to Vivi, Rae and Judy!
  • Autumn Jordon: Everyone of these cover designers is so talented. I wish I had their eye for detail.
  • Autumn Jordon: I totally agree, Kate. I think it takes a certain eye to make an awesome cover.
  • Autumn Jordon: They did a amazing job answering my questions, didn’t they. I also learned a lot.

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