Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 30, 2010

Day 76 of 365

Books sold so far (May and June 2010): 246

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – Characters’ back stories
  • Marketing Topic – What’s a Word Worth? Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Writing topic – Characters’ back stories

Okay, so the five of you that regularly follow this blog probably didn’t do your homework and create epic back stories for you’re the characters in your next novel. That’s okay. I understand you are probably adults and you either have demanding jobs, demanding families, or both and you either spend you evenings doing something akin to TPS reports or telling your four-year-old for the 87th time not to jump up and down with a rusty straight razor in one hand and an open cup of Kool Aid fruit punch in the other on the new Haverty’s couch that won’t be paid off until June 2014. So, let’s all go out into the virtual academic quad where it’s always a crisp 72 degrees and sit underneath the white aspen trees in a circle on the soft blanket of Kentucky bluegrass and just do one together shall we?

Brandon Styles – the name just evokes a yuppie punk, doesn’t it? Now our tale is set in the 1980s, but in a rural Texas town, so young Brandon, who is just a smidge under 16 and looking forward to Daddy buying him a brand new Ford pick-up for his birthday, shouldn’t conjur images of James Spader in Pretty in Pink or even Jake What’s his Face from Sixteen Candles. No, think James Dean from Giant meets Judd Nelson’s character from the Breakfast Club…a guy with a stoner’s laissez-faire attitude but wouldn’t dare put smoke inside his hallowed temple of a body, a delish dessert of a young man where the swagger of frosting hides the angst hidden in the dense cake underneath.  Although he is the younger of two brothers, his lanky, 6 foot 3 inch frame has never had to deal with hand me down clothes, and he wouldn’t be caught dead in anything less than ostrich skin Lucchese boots, or brand new Michael “Air” Jordan basketball sneakers. He does however, have to deal with the legacy of his older brother Clayton, who still holds the record for most touchdown receptions in the history of the high school. Brandon is trying yet again to break that record, but this is his last season to do it and time is against him. Because of that, it becoming harder and harder to hide his nasty temper. 

The Styles family comes from old money. Brandon’s great-great-great-great granddaddy was one of the founders of the town and “acquired” several thousand acres as a reward for his service in Mexican-American War. Now that it’s okay to talk about it, people are beginning to talk about how the land was stolen from the Native Americans. There’s even a lawsuit from the Caddo tribe against the Styles family for the remaining tracts of land that they still own. I say remaining tracks because they sold a lot to the state of Texas to put through I-45 and another piece was sold to build the state penitentiary on it. On the other parts they drilled for oil and natural gas and found both, lots of both.

Brandon will never have to work a day in his life. He knows this and so does everyone around him. Therefore, he has a less than perfect attendance record – I think he’s attended maybe 12 days of pre-calculus the entire fall semester. Mr. Weems, the pre-calc teacher, made a stink about Brandon’s attendance mid-semester, and the last we heard is teaching kindergarten down in Brownsville to a bunch of illegal alien children. I mean, what was he thinking? You just don’t cross a Styles in this town, and Weems should have known that. I mean, for Christ’s sake, Weems had to go by their every day on his way to work as he trudged past the Harris Style Auditorium, the high school auditorium named after Brandon’s grandfather.

As you would expect, both Clayton and Brandon have dated the prom queens, but they both have done it since they were freshmen. That’s right. Even as a freshman, Brandon bagged senior ass. Since they’re four years apart, that means a Styles has had high school royalty as arm candy for eight years. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

Stacy Sutton is this year’s queen and has been lucky enough to be going out with Brandon since the end of last school year. There was some friction over the summer, and they’ve broken up a few times. But Stacy Sutton, who looks like a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and is in the running for class valedictorian, is something even Brandon knows you don’t throw away.

So there you go. A little description, a little drama, and a little motivation to describe a character that will be an integral part of the story. There’s even a hint of unrest about a powerful family that isn’t used to getting messed with. Now this is a murder mystery, so would someone in that family be willing to kill to maintain the status quo? Families have done exactly that in the past.

What’s your verdict? Like him? Hate him? Dated someone like him in high school? To the keyboards!

Marketing Topic – What’s a Word Worth? Google AdWords Keyword Tool

I wish I had a tenth of the smarts that the average Google employee has. Every time I delve deeper into the powerful tools Google offers, for FREE mind you, I ma blown away. Case in point tonight, Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool (GAKT). You can go onto GAKT, enter a keyword that you think people would use to find your website, and see how many actual global and local searches there are for that keyword or phrase. For example, my latest book, The Brink, is about a sinister secret society planning global financial Armageddon. So, I typed in ‘financial Armageddon’ into the GAKT search engine and found that that phrase got 2,400 global monthly searches and 1,900 local. I scroll down to see related keywords and notice that ‘economic crisis explained’ and ‘surviving financial crisis’ have 201,000 and 49.500 and 368,000 and 90,500 respectively. Guess what keywords I’m adding to my site tonight? Guess where you should go right now to check your keywords?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

 

Breaking News Release – Is The Brink coming true?

Today’s Bank of Japan action eerily close to similar event that sparks global meltdown in controversial thriller

Could a suspense thriller have predicted the future? Mark Fadden’s latest chillingly current novel, The Brink, might have actually pulled off that trick with the announcement of today’s Bank of Japan emergency meeting to take “bold action” in the currency market. The book follows a fugitive cop and a brilliant and beautiful economist as they race to Washington, D.C. from the Mexican wilderness with news of a secret society’s plan for global financial Armageddon. “I wanted the conspiracy in the book to be one that could actually happen in real life, with real, if somewhat mysterious groups involved.” These ‘mysterious groups’ Fadden is referring to are the Bilderbergers, an alleged cabal of international elites such as financiers, media moguls, and members of royal families, that are bent on forming a one world government, thus destroying soverign nations and individual freedoms.  Another organization Fadden brings into his latest thriller is America’s own Federal Reserve, which, Fadden says, is awash in secrecy. “By setting the interest rate, perhaps no other organization in the world controls our lives more than the FED. Yet most people have no idea it is a network of private banks that is not under the control of any branch of US government.”  

While Fadden won’t give away anything that might spoil the plot, he does reveal that today’s emergency meeting announcement by the Bank of Japan as reported by Bloomberg.com in which Japanese Prime Minister’s Naoto Kan is quoted that, “he expects the BOJ to implement monetary policy “swiftly,” and that the government is ready to take “bold action” in the currency market,” is eerily similar to what happens in the book.

“I wrote the book a few years ago and spent several years researching the financial aspects of it,” Fadden said, searching for his words carefully so to not give away too much. “Let’s just say that today’s Bank of Japan action is pretty close to what happens in The Brink. I just hope for our sakes that the timelines of factual events and ficitionalized events split off from there.”

The Brink is Fadden’s third novel. Visit www.markfadden.com for more information.

Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 26, 2010

Day 73 of 365

Books sold so far (May and June 2010): 246

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – Violence in Children’s Books
  • Marketing Topic – How Google Alerts help you write compelling news releases

Writing topic – Violence in Children’s Books

I follow Nathan Bransford’s Blog. It is a fantastic resource for writers, has won many industry awards, and just has some great, and timely, topics. For example, today’s topic was on violence in children’s books. While he mentioned the Young Adult (YA) hit Mockinjay in his blog, he also invited people to comment about the topic. So I did. Here were my thoughts:

I’ve actually been wondering the same thing. Is there a line, but like anything else where you are making choices for others, who gets to draw it? And where does it stop? For my next novel, I want to combine a murder mystery with a coming of age story, which would be targeted for both the adult and YA market. Is murder too young for YA readers? What about something that, in my eyes, is just as bad, like rape? If so, then the classic To Kill a Mockingbird should be stricken from all the YA school reading lists across the country. Sadly, violence is something many kids experience every day. If these kids read about violence as part of a greater story, a story that digs deep into their inner thoughts, maybe then they can begin to understand the context behind it. More importantly, maybe they can read one of these books and finally understand the horrific sights they see every day or the scary sounds that lull them to sleep every night. It is only when we truly understand something like violence that we can truly escape it. And it is books that help us understand the world around us.”

As writers, it is our duty to push the envelope and to make people think. My approach is very laissez-faire, let writers write what they want. Ultimately, a book is like any other product, if it’s a good product and people want it, then it will do well in the market. If it’s crap, then the market will ignore it. As far as children’s books go, my thoughts about what children should read are the same about my thoughts on what they should be watching, where they should be hanging out, who their friends are, and how they’re doing in school: it’s up to their parents to decide what’s appropriate.

Thoughts? Comments? To the keyboards!

Marketing Topic – How Google Alerts help you write compelling news releases

If you don’t know what Google Alerts are, they are free alerts you set up that will email you anytime the alert word or phrase is mentioned on the Internet. For example, if your name is Tom Jones, and you set up your Google Alert for the phrase, “Tom Jones” and you set it as an email alert every day, you’ll get an alert emailed to you every day with the link where the phrase “Tom Jones” was mentioned.

I did this with my name, “Mark Fadden.” However, as the Internet has been lighting up lately with buzz about the secret society that is in my latest novel, especially since Rush Limbaugh and Fidel Castro recently commented on it, I decided to create an alert for that group, “Bilderberg” and some of the phrases associated with them, like “New World Order” and “One World Government.”

How does this help you sell more books? Like David Meerman Scott stated in his social media bible The New Rules for Marketing and PR, news releases are a great way to promote your book. He also says to create a news release for anything newsworthy about your product or service. Well, what a better way to know what’s newsworthy about your product than if it’s being talked about in the news or blogosphere? Google Alerts to the rescue. And even if you don’t have the scratch to send out news releases on PRWeb everyday, you can put up new news releases that feature the info you culled together from your Google Alerts on your website (like I did on mine), in an email marketing campaign, or send it out to your local news outlets.

BTW, we will be covering getting the attention of local news outlets in one of next week’s blogs. Until then,

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

 

Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 25, 2010

Day 72 of 365

Books sold so far (May and June 2010): 246

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – Bringing Characters to Life
  • Marketing Topic – Google AdWords, Day 4

Writing topic – Bringing Characters to Life

One of the first things I do when I’m about to begin working on a new novel is to get the character list together. Some writers sit down in front of a blank screen and just begin where they think the story should start. That’s how I first started years ago, but over time I found out that it’s a HUGE time saver to approach writing a novel like your writing a business plan. I even use Microsoft Excel to do my outline because as the story evolves, scenes change in the timeline (But more about outlining comes later). In any business plan, you have to know what you’re trying to “sell” (the type of story) and who is going to do the “selling” (the characters). So, I think about all the characters that are going to be in the story, and I write a paragraph about their back story. Nothing big, just a couple sentences describing them and what it is about them that adds drama and moves the story forward. Since stories, whether fiction or non-fiction, are all about relationships, I then do a flowchart to show how all these characters interact. It’s a pretty cool exercise and you can really get into how all the different characters can have an affect on each other without even knowing it. Plus, it gets the brainstorm juices flowing about how each character has the ability/possibility to manipulate others. Stephen King’s Needful Things was a chilling play on how this phenomenon can work to an evil end.

What about you? Are you a throw caution to the wind and just start typing kind of person? (and there’s nothing wrong with that). Or do you take more of an analytical approach to beginning your writing project? If so, what’s your technique?

Marketing Topic – Google AdWords, Day 4

The ads are doing well. The “Bilderberg ad”

got 19 clicks today, maxing out my $10 a day budget. My second ad tied to the upcoming Labor Day holiday was:

and I changed it to the following ad because it was sucking eggs with 0 clicks:

It’s gotten 9 clicks so far and is scheduled to run through Aug 26. It’s linked to my website home page where there’s a banner about getting the book on Amazon for 22% off and it will get to the customer by Labor Day with standard shipping.

Since starting the Google ad campaign, I have seen a 26% rise in traffic on my website. On Aug 24, two days ago, I had over 800 hits, a 53% increase in the number of hits from the day before. Aug 24 is when I started the Google ads, so there must be a correlation between the two. But, does that in turn mean higher book sales? With a 2 month lag time until sales numbers come out (August come out in Oct from the publisher) it’s too soon to tell.

I promise this is the last post about Google AdWords. Tomorrow night’s marketing post will be a lot more exciting. Here’s a sneak peek at the title:

Marketing Topic, Part Deux – How Google Alerts help you write compelling news releases

Until then,

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

 

Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 24, 2010

Day 71 of 365

Books sold so far (May and June 2010): 246

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – To Prologue or Not To Prologue?
  • Marketing Topic – Google AdWords, Day 3 and Yippee!

Writing topic – To Prologue or Not To Prologue?

So now that my kids are back in school, and I have some more peace and quiet around the house (I work from home, which meant a lot of late nights during the summer to churn out freelance projects while I was “Mr. Mom-ing” it during the day – but I wouldn’t have given up a second of it.) That means it’s time to start churning out the next novel. My main intention of this blog was to provide a chronology of my book marketing efforts so you could see which worked well and which crashed and burned. However, since I’ve decided to write another novel this year, I will be blogging about that effort in the “Writing Topic” section. So, if you are a budding novelist, or know someone who is, I’ll be kickstarting the old noggin tomorrow to get it in shape for the next novel.

That brings us to tonight’s topic – you lika da prologue-a? Prologues typically set up the main story by providing some backstory info. Sometimes, it will be an event that happens later in the book, like a juicy murder scene or some breathless action event. Some critics say that prologues are signs of a weak book. Like a crutch, the prologue props up an otherwise lackluster story that can’t stand on it’s own. It is the prologue that hooks the reader, and then drags them through misery for the next 400 pages.

I vacillated back and forth between prologue or no prologue for the next book. It’s a murder mystery and the opening murder scene was, I thought, some of my best work. It was its own separate scene, so I decided it must be the prologue. Then, I thought about what Stephen King said in On Writing, about how you should “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” The scene really didn’t fit because the pace wasn’t there and it had no ties to anything else in the story, so out came the sickle and slice! Thank you again Mr. King for lighting the way.

Marketing Topic – Google AdWords, Day 3 and Yippee!

Yesterday’s post mentioned that I changed up the ads. And viola! It seems I may be getting better at this AdWord stuff.

Here’s the new ad:

I got quite a lot of hits pretty quickly and my $10 a day budget was topped out before I knew it. Here are the keywords associated with this new ad and the # of clicks for each: “Bilderberg” 9 clicks; “Bilderberg Group” 4 clicks; “New World Order” 18 clicks. Again, the sinister secret society in the book that our hero and heroine are running from are based on the real-life Bilderberg Group, which is said to be planning a One World Government through a combination of efforts including bankrupting the world and social engineering. During the Xmas holiday season, I’ll ramp these ads up a bit.

I also created a second ad. With Labor Day right around the corner and people looking for a good Labor Day read, I am trying to direct them to my amazon page where they can get the book 22% off and get it shipped in time for Labor Day.

Here it is:

Why the “finish it on your vacation” part? Simple. One thing that people have been commenting on about The Brink is that it’s so fast paced and “unputdownable.” One customer review stated that he finished it in a day and a half!  If people are looking for something to take them away over Labor Day, which is only 3 days, they want something they can finish. It makes them feel like they accomplished something in those three days. If not, they feel like its yet another task on their to-do list if they have to finish it once they come back off vacation and into the real world. Of course, that’s just my theory, and it could be a naive one. I guess only time will tell if the ad works or not.  

Keywords on this one include: thriller books, crime thriller books, new mystery books, mystery and thrillers, and good mystery books. I just created it in the past hour, so no info yet. Stay tuned until tomorrow’s post.

There is one problem, though. Since the ad is small and doesn’t allow for many words, I can’t tell customers that once they order it, they can then go to markfadden.com to get their book signed for free. And ad about buying a signed book will also be a huge part of the xmas ad campaign.      

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 23, 2010

Day 70 of 365

Books sold so far (May and June 2010): 246

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – Could I have a side of pommes frittes with my bildungsroman?
  • Marketing Topic – Google AdWords – the only constant is change

Writing topic – Could I have a side of pommes frittes with my bildungsroman?

I was actually going to talk about the topic, “Should novelists try to educate through their work?” But after going back through old posts, I realized we already covered that one. But as I was researching one of the greatest ‘teaching novels,’ To Kill a Mockingbird, I came across a fascinating word: bildungsroman. The official definition of bildungsroman in Wikipedia is, “is a genre of the novel which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood.” We Americans refer to it as the ‘coming of age’ story. Now, the YA genre is filled with novels dripping with bildungsroman: the aforementioned To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island, the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson novels, and Great Expectations, just to name a few. But, does that mean that it must only occur in YA novels? I never found the German word for adult novels where the characters also “come of age” during the story, but as I thought about it, I’ve always connected with those characters that mature psychologically and morally during the story. What about you? Are the flawed heroes your favorite? What are the books that contain their stories?    

Marketing Topic – Google AdWords, the only constant is change

Last week, I started doing ads on Google AdWords. As I mentioned in a previous post, while Facebook allows you to include a pic with your ad, Facebook doesn’t track which keywords are working for you, and which aren’t. Facebook only allows you to send your ad out to one group of people, say ones that listed, “reading” as a hobby. With Google, you can get really specific. For example, my ad last week was:

The keywords I listed, in order from most to least clicked were: “double-dip recession” 7 clicks; “financial crisis” 4 clicks; “award winning thriller” 2 clicks; “best political thrillers” 0 clicks; and “US bankrupt” 0 clicks. My daily budget is $10, and I have a maximum bid of $1 per click.

I’m changing up the ad and the groups of people that will see it.

Here’s the new ad:

The Bilderberg Group, which is the secret society referred to in the novel, has been in the news lately. Both Rush Limbaugh and Fidel Castro are talking about them. Anyway, I’ve changed the keywords associated with this new ad to “Bilderberg”; “Bilderberg Group”; “New World Order”;  and I’ve kept “financial crisis”; “award winning thriller”; and “best political thrillers.” I’ll have some new numbers for this ad in tomorrow’s post.

Until then, I’ve got to go play tooth fairy tonight. Anyone got a good idea about the going rate for the 2nd tooth?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

 

August 19, 2010

Day 66 of 365

Books sold so far (May and June 2010): 246

In this issue: 

  • Writing topic – Trapped in the ‘Net
  • Marketing Topic – First day of Google AdWords was a scorcher!

Writing topic – Trapped in the ‘Net

We all know that Big Brother’s been spying on people over the Internet since they were doing it to Sandra Bullock in the 1995 thriller The Net. When I say the word ‘cookie’, you probably know it’s 1) a delicious treat and 2) it’s a tidbit of information stored on your computer that tracks where you’ve been on the Internet. But do you know about ‘beacons?’ They are other intrusive trackers that try to determine why you are on a page. On NPR’s Fresh Air program today, the show was “Tracking the companes that track you online.” They were talking about Internet privacy, cookies, and beacons. Now, if you’re a conspiracy lover like moi, there are all sorts of ways to incorporate this story into your novel. Or maybe take it to the next level with a new kind of Internet, one say 20 years from now that has evolved using this tracking technology. What would it look like? What kind of crimes could be committed using it? How would our hero in the story figure out whodunit?

Marketing Topic – First day of Google AdWords was a scorcher!

Well, I hope I’m not a one hit wonder. On my first day with Google AdWords, I got 1 hit. Kick the tires and light the fires! My ad budget is $10/day and my default bid per ad is $.75. Here’s the ad:

 And here’s a screenshot of the ad’s performance:

 

 

The keyword “double-dip recession” got the most impression and also got the hit. If you remember, my Facebook ads were getting in the tens and hundreds of thousand of impressions per day. On Google, I got 1,032. I’m going to up my bid and see what happens, especially since most keywords got very little impressions. More tomorrow night as the Google AdWords campaign rolls on.

 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…