Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 18, 2010

Day 65 of 365

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

In this issue:

  • Finally, June #s are in!
  • Writing topic – Your first words
  • Marketing Topic – New Google AdWords campaign
  • Something Funny – Finally, ‘Beer Goggles’ phenomenon explained!

 

Finally, June #s are in!

After waiting almost two long months, June’s sales #s are in. 89 books for the month brings us to a grand total of 246 for May and June. Not bad, but we can and will do better.

Writing Topic – Your first words

Your first sentence. As writers, we’ve been told it sets the hook. It opens the door to the world we’ve created. It could mean the difference between a reader moving to the next sentence or putting your book back on the shelf and moving on down the row.

But how important is the first sentence, really? Does it set the hook, and the tone, for the entire novel? Or, much like a baby’s first words, could it just be a forgotten series of letters by the time your reader gets into the meat of your story?

Here are the first sentences from my novels:

“Joel Basher crashed through the front doors of the Library of Congress.” – The Brink

“A jumper with a death wish.” – Five Days in Dallas

“The blood wouldn’t leave.” – The Campaign

Here are some rather awesome intros, otherwise known as best first sentences:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Anna Karenina – by Leo Tolstoy

“I was born twice: first as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” – Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Mark was eleven and had been smoking off and on for two years, never trying to quit but being careful not to get hooked. He preferred Kools, his father’s brand, but his mother smoked Virginia Slims at the rate of two packs a day, and he could in an average week pilfer ten or twelve from her. She was a busy woman with many problems, perhaps a little naive when it came to her boys, and she never dreamed her eldest would be smoking at the age of eleven.” – The Client by John Grisham

“All children, except one, grow.” – Peter Pan by J.M Barrie

Now, here are some rather plain first sentences from some powerhouse novels:

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie.” – from The Lovely Bones by Alice Seibold

“Call me Ishmael.” – Moby Dick by Herman Melville

“Call me Jonah” – Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Call it. How important is the first sentence? To the keyboards!

Marketing Topic – New Google AdWords campaign

Last month (July 2010) was Facebook ad month. While I did have several ads with high click-through rates, I won’t know if that translates into books sold until the end of next month (2 month time lag for book sales reports)

This month, I’m turning to Google AdWords. AdWords is set up very similar to Facebook ads, with that little Google something extra. Not only does it allow you to track how many people click on your ad, but it allows you to determine which tags are getting action and which are sitting on the sidelines like a third string punter.

As I just set up my ad last night, today is my first full day running it. I’ll let you know how Day1 goes tomorrow.

BTW, here’s the ad:

 

 

Something Funny – Finally, ‘Beer Goggles’ phenomenon explained!

I can’t believe they actually did not one, but two studies on this, but scientists have finally explained the “beer goggle” effect. The best part about it is that they researched “drunked college kids” and consulted a professional periodical called the ‘Journal Alcohol.’

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 16, 2010

Day 64 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010, which is my first official month – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

  • Writing Topic –  Should we heed the undead?
  • Marketing Topic –  Cooks n’ Books – new venues to market books

Writing Topic – Should we heed the undead?

Trends. They permeate everything from pets (70s Pet Rock phenomenon, which I’ll never understand) to pants (I’ve still got my parachute pants from the 80s. I’m hoping for a comeback by the time my sons can wear them) to books. Case in point, vampires and zombies. From Twilight to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, there’s the books that started the trends, then there’s the books that try to imitate them, and then there are those who say the ones that started the trend are just imitators to begin with (the whole Stephenie Meyer vs Anne Rice debacle)

So, should you write for trends? I’ve already commented on writing with current events in mind. Of course, I have my political thrillers in mind, so I have to pick current topics. But writing novels that are trying to predict the next literary trends, which, since it will be many months to years before your novel is written and then published, is pretty much impossible. Or is it? Let’s pass the mic, or keyboard, as it were and have some discussion on this one.

Marketing Topic – Cooks n’ Books – new venues to market books

These days, we tend to look for marketing magic bullets in the social media/online world. However, don’t overlook actual, physical places that take up space in the real world. Signings are still the workhorse of any book marketing campaign. And while most signings will occur in bookstores, it’s smart to always think outside the box about signings.

For example, my local grocery store, Market Street, offers a cooking class that’s also a book club. The events manager picks a book that has some kind of food dish in it, and the class reads the book. When it comes time for class/book club night, they cook the dish in the first half and review the book and eat said dish in the second half. For example, for my event, we will be making crab cake sandwiches and drinking them down with Shiner Bock beer. Glorious!

This is a heck of an idea and a wonderful way to pair nourishment for the body with nourishment for the mind/soul. Okay, that was a bit of a stretch. But seriously, think outside the box when planning your next signing. You might come up with a whole new format to get books signed (and sold!). And if you do, make sure to share your idea here.  

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 16, 2010

Day 63 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010, which is my first official month – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

  • Marketing Topic – Book signings, the best of times, the worst of times
  • Marketing Topic –  Another fantastic book marketing blog
  • Something funny – Elizabeth Warren Rap Video

Marketing Topic – Book signings, the best of times, the worst of times

Sorry about the lack of a Friday the 13th entry. It would have been great to muse on the influence of Jason Voorhees in our writings, but I had a signing that night at the Dallas Uptown Borders. Which brings us to a very good point about scheduling your signings, make absolutely sure your signing is scheduled during a time when the store has the most traffic. I scheduled my signing with one of the store managers and he said that Friday nights were busy. Their store is located in an urban, downtown setting, and he said that many people come in to browse before going out for the evening. But when I get there, it was a different story.

When I arrived I see my beautiful table already set up. I start arranging my own supplies I’ve brought: Sharpie markers, extra bookmarks, bookplates at the ready in case 1) I run out of books to sign or 2) the person wants to buy the book but needs to wait to get it online for whatever reason. (For those that don’t know, bookplates are basically stickers that authors sign and the customer can affix them to the inside of the book later.) The manager on duty comes over and, after introductions, says, “You know that Friday nights are our slowest nights of the week.” Oy vey! Not to fault the manager with whom I scheduled the signing, he doesn’t work Friday nights and thought they were hopping. And while I did manage to sell 8 books, the experience also taught me a valuable lesson: real estate might be about location, location, location, but book signings are all about timing, timing, timing.

I’m scheduling more signings this week and I’m sticking with the Saturday and Sunday afternoon slots until Thanksgiving hits. Then, it’s a free for all. I’ll take any weekday night that’s offered because Christmas is a different animal altogether. And the closer Dec 25 gets, the more likely I’ll sell 30 books on a Monday night.

And really, I think the Friday night signing was a success. I met some very nice people and, like Joe Girard, the Guinness Book of World’s Records World’s Greatest Salesman, says about his Rule of 250, “everyone, on average, knows 250 people.” So, if I sold 8 books, that means I had the potential to reach 2,000 on Friday night. Think about it, if a friend of yours says, “I just finished this book called The Brink. It’s this action packed thriller that I couldn’t put down. You’ve got to read it,” wouldn’t you?

Marketing Topic – Another fantastic book marketing blog

I wanted to pass along this little nugget about another blog that offers book marketing tips. It’s called, “The Savvy Book Marketer.” The author even offers a free eBook on book marketing and a book marketing plan. The tip I’ve enjoyed the most is the 24-hour Twitter World Tour. Great idea!

Something funny – Elizabeth Warren Rap Video

It’s Monday, so I thought I’d end with something for those who have a case of the Mondays. For those who don’t know who Elizabeth Warren is, her Wikipedia entry states, “is an American attorney and law professor. She is the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School — where she teaches contract law, bankruptcy, and commercial law — and has devoted much of the past three decades to studying the economics of middle class families. In the wake of the 2008-9 financial crisis, she became the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to investigate the U.S. banking bailout (formally known as the Troubled Assets Relief Program). In that role, she has provided a critical check on the U.S. Department of the Treasury and has been a leading advocate for accountability and transparency in government. She is also reportedly being considered by President Obama to be the first Director of the new consumer agency.[16] On May 24, 2010, Time Magazine called Warren, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairman Sheila Bair, and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro the “New Sheriffs of Wall Street” in a cover story.”

As her lifelong fight has been to bring sanity and transparency to the American financial system, something that I hope The Brink does for those who read it, I thought I’d pass it along. Enjoy!

 The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

The next economic crash subject of local author’s latest thriller

The Borders book store in Mesquite, Texas was the latest stop on local author Mark Fadden’s book tour. Fadden’s new novel, The Brink, uses the current financial crisis as the foundation of a lightening-fast thriller in which a fugitive Texas Ranger helps a woman running for her life, only to get sucked into a global financial conspiracy.

Although Fadden keeps a tight lip on the intricacies of the plot, he does shed light on the frightening, real-world numbers he uses in the story. “Over the many months I spent researching the international financial system, I discovered that it is a very fragile organism. Many experts predict that the next economic bubble waiting to burst is the federal government debt bubble. The US is $14 trillion in debt. We have a $1.5 trillion deficit. We need to borrow $2 billion each and every day from foreign countries like Japan and China just to keep the federal government running. For a writer, the basic question we ask ourselves is “What if?” So I asked, ‘What if China and Japan stopped their investments? The story just grew from there.”    

Borders Sales Manager Steve Schmidt was impressed with the turnout for the signing. “The event was a big success. Mr. Fadden was very engaging with our customers and talked with people the entire time he was here. It seemed people were very interested in the book’s timely topic.”

The Brink is Fadden’s third novel and is a continuation of his first novel, Five Days in Dallas. Published in 2003, Five Days in Dallas received critical acclaim and Fadden himself was even called a “masterful storyteller” by a Writer’s Digest reviewer. Fadden, who now lives in Colleyville, then began working on the follow-up in 2006, which eventually became The Brink.

The first 22 pages of The Brink can be read at markfadden.com.  Fadden has also created a blog about writing novels and book marketing using social media entitled “The Nightstand Diaries,” which can be read at markfadden.wordpress.com.

Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 12, 2010

Day 59 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010, which is my first official month – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – Getting inspired part III – in 3D! only if you have a computer screen that does 3D
  • Marketing Topic –  marketing genius or foul play?

Writing topic – Getting inspired part III – in 3D! only if you have a computer screen that does 3D

Like Jaws 3, some tales just don’t need 3D. Like Jaws 3 and Rocky 5, some tales shouldn’t be told at all. But here is one franchise that I hope goes on and on and on.

Case in point is the Vidocq Society, a group of detectives, forensic experts, and journalists that have been meeting once a month for 20 years. They meet at an old Victorian dining room in the middle of Philadelphia to eat lunch and solve crimes that have perplexed investigators for decades. There was a story about them on NPR today, which has a fantastic book review page on their site. Talk about inspiration. Again, this is for the mystery/suspense/thriller crowd, but killers are people too, right? You romance novelists could find some kind of quirky character in here somewhere.

Marketing Topic – Selling to everyone you meet – marketing genius or social faux pas?

Again, before we get into the marketing topic for tonight, I’ll do a little shameless self promotion and let you know I have two signings this weekend, one at the Dallas Uptown Borders on Friday, Aug 13 from 5-7pm and the other at the Mesquite Borders on Saturday, Aug 14 from 3-5pm. Hope you can make it.

Is there such a thing as too much promotion? Should you shove your business card, or in our case, your bookmark into every hand attached to every person you meet? Should you take said bookmarks to any and every public outing/event/party/meeting that you attend so when that inevitable question comes up when you meet someone new, “So what do you do?” You can whip out that trusty bookmark and SMACK! “There’s your answer, sir or madam. I am writer! Hear me type! Now read my damn book!” Or do you simply say, “I’m a writer,” and mention your website, only to have the site address get lost in the frontal lobe of your new acquaintance in record time.

John Grisham once said that writing is a business. In business you sell. If you’re new to selling, you read books on selling. I’m currently reading one titled How to Sell Anything to Anybody by Joe Girard. He’s in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s Greatest Salesman.” Why not start with advice from the top, right?

I don’t think Girard, who sells cars, would look down at the passing out bookmarks to everyone you meet. After all, here’s a guy who at sporting events throws up handfuls of his business cards whenever people get up to cheer (p.63) Odd? Maybe, but if you’re looking through the ROI (return on investment) lens, he’s already at the game, and if one person buys a car from a card they pick up, that’s probably around a $35,000 car (with a commission to him in the high hundreds or even a couple thousand dollars) from a few bucks worth of business cards.

Remember, most of the people that you meet can read. Why shouldn’t they be reading your book? No reason. Giving them a bookmark is simply a tangible reminder of what you do, same as a business card. A bookmark is simply a business card for writers, and business cards are always being passed between people at initial meetings. So I say stock up on bookmarks and go for it!

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 11, 2010

Day 58 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010, which is my first official month – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

 

  • Writing topic – Getting inspired part II – searching the news for juicy stuff
  • Marketing Topic –  All writers must be bloggers

 

Writing topic – Getting inspired part II – searching the news for juicy stuff

So yesterday, I talked about getting inspired by your local newspaper. A great, and convenient, source is your local paper’s website and their crime time blog.

 

A second way to get inspired is to just keep your ear to the ground and listen around you. Grisham tells the tale that he was inspired to write A Time to Kill after sitting in the audience waiting for a trial he was working on and listening to the trial of a black girl that was raped by two white men. While you may not have access to your local courtroom, dramatic stories abound in…you guessed it, your local newspaper. People ask me how I came up with the conspiracy portion of The Brink, and I tell them that it stemmed from an article I read about the Federal Reserve is not subject to an audit by our U.S. government. The vision of an unscrupulous cabal controlling the Fed formed in my brain right then and there and I was hooked. I had to find out more about the organization, how it works, and if, in fact, there is something to the amount of authority the US government has over a seemingly secretive organization that has such an enormous impact on each and every one of us.

 

There are all kinds of websites out there to get your ideas flowing. One I happen to like is The Drudge Report, because the news on it is so compelling and inspires great plots. Case in point, I found two fantastic articles today that pertain to the plot of The Brink; one is a WSJ article about the US going deeper yet into debt, the other is from CNBC about the Chief Investment Officer (CIO) and managing partner at Wermuth Asset Management stating that America is a “Mickey Mouse economy” that is technically bankrupt. Articles like these are gold mines because one, they are extremely current, and two, you can post links on your website and tag them. People will be looking for the information, because it is so current, and, walah, they find your site.  

 

 

Marketing Topic –  All writers must be bloggers

 

Again, before we get into the marketing topic for tonight, I’ll do a little shameless self promotion and let you know I have two signings this weekend, one at the Dallas Uptown Border on Friday, Aug 13 from 5-7pm and the other at the Mesquite Borders on Saturday, Aug 14 from 3-5pm. Hope you can make it.

 

 One of the blogs that I read is “Pimp my Novel.” Even though this is a “rerun” post, I think it bears repeating. If you are a writer, you need to be blogging about your book. If it’s non-fiction, blog about your topic. Fiction is a little harder. Maybe do something like I am and just talk about the writing life. Or blog about the topic of your story. Whatever. You need to blog. And here are the 10 Commandments of Blogging from the “Pimp my Novel” blog:

The Ten Commandments of Blogging (Rerun)

Posted: 11 Aug 2010 07:00 AM PDT

Work abounds, mes auteurs, so another blast from the past (this one from last September). Enjoy! — E

Episode: “The Ten Commandments of Blogging”
Originally aired: Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

1. I am thy blog. If you’re an author, you should already have a blog. If you’re not yet published, now is the time to start.

2. Thou shalt have no other blogs before me. We all love reading blogs—we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t—but yours comes first. Write your own posts before you spend all afternoon reading someone else’s.

3. Thou shalt not make of thyself an idol. Keep your ego in check; you always want to portray yourself positively in your blog. Your reputation is all you’ve got in this business, and if you earn yourself one as a likable person as well as a great writer, you’re a golden calf.

4. Remember thy Schedule and keep it, wholly. You don’t have to write a post every day, but keeping a regular schedule is a courtesy and a sort of unwritten contract between you and your readers; they’ll know when to expect new content and will come to appreciate and respect you for that.

5. Thou shalt honor thy agent and thy publisher. You couldn’t have done this without them. Give props where props are due.

6. Thou shalt not commit character assassination. Everyone has authors or critics they don’t like, sometimes personally. Don’t pull an Alice Hoffman. And, I guess, don’t try to kill anyone in real life, either.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery, but thou shalt pimp thyself. No one sells you like you do. Facebook, Twitter, &c. The more pervasive your presence, the more likely it is that people will buy your book.

8. Thou shalt not plagiarize. Always quote. Always cite your sources. Always link back to them if they’re on-line.

9. Thou shalt not deceive thy audience. Never post anything you don’t believe is true, and be sure to provide links to any research you’ve done. Always be sure to clarify whether a point you’re making is an opinion or a fact.

10. Thou shalt monetize. I don’t do it because I don’t consider blogging a part of my livelihood, but you, as authors, should consider self-promotion as part of the job. Let Google or whomever run a few relevant ads on your blog and make a little cash on the side. (Unless you’ve got a large readership, though, it probably won’t be much.)

 

 

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 10, 2010

Day 57 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010, which is my first official month – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

 

  • Writing topic – Get inspired by newspaper blogs
  • Marketing Topic –  Using Eventful.com to publicize events

 

Writing topic – Get inspired by newspaper blogs

 

We writers are always looking for fountains of inspiration, and for useful websites to help pump the plot primer inside out melons. Here’s one on my local newspaper’s website, the crime time blog. It’s comprised of all kinds of stories, both local and national, with enough details to keep the mystery writers out there in hog heaven for weeks, if not months. Newspapers might be on their last legs, but they continue to be great resources for the writing crowd. Enjoy!

 

Marketing Topic –  Using Eventful.com to publicize events

 

I have two signings this weekend, one at the Dallas Uptown Borders on Friday, Aug 13 from 5-7pm and the other at the Mesquite Borders on Saturday, Aug 14 from 3-5pm. As long as we’re talking shameless self promotion, I thought in addition to doing the usual news release to the local papers, I would also send event notices to eventful.com and the Dallas Observer, which is an alternative paper in Dallas. Both allow people to post event info free of charge, and you can always spruce up your ad if you cough up some scratch. I’ll be asking people at the signing how they found out about it to see if they saw it on one of these two sites. Regardless, I’ll continue to use these two sites for future signings. It takes but a minute to post the info and it seems like the kinds of sites the kids would frequent these days.  

 

 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…