It’s the Characters, Stupid

“It’s the economy, stupid.” That one sentence, spoken by then Clinton campaign strategist James Carville during the 1992 presidential campaign, referred to the notion that Clinton was a better man for the job because then President George H.W. Bush had not adequately addressed the economy, which was still healing from a recession.

Those four words still have resonance today and will continue to resonate into eternity because in politics you can talk about your plans for a better future, better education, better technology for the masses, better transportation, better energy that’s cleaner and more abundant, but if the economy is in the crapper, all the other grand plans and ideas don’t mean zip.

Writing, I think, is the same way, a notion I was reminded of during my lecture on being an “authorpreneur” last night. I was giving my “Beyond the Book: how being an authorpreneur will help you sell more books and make lifelong fans” at the Weatherford Public Library in Weatherford, Texas. They are starting a new book club and wanted me to come talk about the writing life, how to get published, how to get an agent, and my latest novel, The Brink. During the end of the lecture, I opened it up for questions and we talked about how I do my research, the formula for a successful thriller, and the conspiracy behind the book. Then, out of nowhere, one lady raised her hand and said that, for her, what made her like the book wasn’t all the action and conspiracy and suspense, it was the characters. The main character, Danny Cavanaugh, who also is the main character in my first novel, Five Days in Dallas, is a troubled soul, to say the least. In Five Days in Dallas, he was a Dallas detective that had some issues that had plagued him for most of his life and that he had dealt with by self medicating with the bottle. In The Brink, he is now a fugitive Texas Ranger on the run for killing a dirty FBI agent. In some respects he’s grown, in some he hasn’t. It’s only when he meets the woman in The Brink, Sydney Dumas, who forces him to deal with his issues while they are running for their lives, does he actually begin to take a hard look at himself for the first time in his life. I must admit, I love his character, and her character, too.

Anyway, her comment about it being “all about the characters” touched off a long discussion about characters and we came to find out that for all the people in the room, it is mainly about the characters. Readers see bits and peices of themselves in characters, either who they are or who they would like to be. If they didn’t care about the characters, and fast (meaning a few pages into the book) they would close the cover and be on to the next book.

“It’s the characters, stupid.” No one actually said those words last night, but I will make sure that no matter how fast-paced, suspense-packed or conspiracy-laced I make my next story, I will remember those words. I’ve already put them on a sheet of paper and taped it up next to my computer.

What about you? Do you agree about the importance of characters? Or is there something else that’s more important? To the keyboards!

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The Brink by Mark Fadden has just been nominated for the Star Award from its publisher! Read more about The Brink and Mark’s writing at www.markfadden.com.

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…  

The Nightstand Diaries – 1 year, 5,000 books, and an (almost) anything goes approach to book marketing

June 30, 2010

 It’s named “The Nightstand Diaries” because in terms of publishing a book, it doesn’t mean squat that we’re published. It doesn’t mean squat that our book is on a bookstore shelf. It’s only when someone takes our book home and reads it – as a way to relax on a lounge chair, pass time on a subway, or as the last mental exercise before putting it on the nightstand and going to bed – that we become a part of our readers’ lives. With this notion in mind, I invite you to come along as I try to do that very thing. My goal is to sell 5,000 copies of my new novel The Brink over the next year using mostly social media with a limited marketing budget. And this is an interactive blog, so if you have good marketing ideas, or want to critique mine whenever I do something stupid, let’s hear it! So, without further ado, let the book marketing madness continue…

 Day 17 of 365

 In this issue:

  • MFFA – My First Facebook Ad – Day #3 of 5
  • Getting ready for Stop #3 on the book tour – the store visit
  • Get The Nightstand Diaries emailed directly to you!

 MFFA – My First Facebook Ad – Day #3 of 5

 I’m doing a 5 day Facebook ad campaign. I started with an ad that read “The Brink by Mark Fadden. Uncover the most staggering conspiracy of our time and discover an electrifying new voice in suspense fiction.” There was also a cover pic. I set my budget at $20 day and chose the Cost Per Click (CPC) option and sent it out to the “Political thriller” interest group, which there were around 1,200 on Facebook. With that ad, I had 15 clicks out of 19,858 impressions, which translates into a Click through rate (CTR) of .08%. So I chanTime to change the ad! I changed it to read “The Brink by Mark Fadden. Uncover the most staggering conspiracy of our time. “A masterful storyteller” – Writer’s Digest. Here’s a screenshot of the ad in the right hand column:

 

I also changed the interest group to ‘author James Patterson’ rather than ‘political thrillers.’ Here are the new numbers:

Date Imp. Clicks CTR (%) Avg. CPC ($) Avg. CPM ($) Spent ($)
06/30/2010 94,052 25 0.03 0.80 0.21 20.00
06/29/2010 54,210 29 0.05 0.69 0.37 20.00
06/28/2010 7,555 4 0.05 1.08 0.57 4.32
Lifetime 155,817 58 0.04 0.76 0.28 44.32

 As you can see, the Click through rate (CTR) is still pretty low, but that’s to be expected. I’m now going to change the interest group to “Conspiracy Theory”, which there are 16,280 people and see what happens.

 I’ve also signed up for Google Analytics of my website. It’s relatively simple to navigate through the process and, most important, its free. Hopefully, it will tell me where my website visitors are coming from and, more importantly, if they are buying a book so I can see if the Facebook campaign is worth it.

 With Facebook ads, it seems that people either love them or hate them. They either work really well or not at all. Again, if you want another in-depth story of doing Facebook ads, here’s a great account of another first time Facebook advertiser: “My First FaceBook Ad Campaign: The Good, Bad, & The Ugly.”

Getting ready for Stop #3 on the book tour – the store visit

Man, do I love Borders. I hope they don’t close their doors like this story on MSN.com says they will.

Anyway, I took my two posters…

 

 flyers and bookmarks by the store today. They had 40 copies of the book ready to go for the July 10 signing, so I signed a few in case they had some folks in who wanted a signed copy but couldn’t make the signing (always carry a black Sharpie marker, like a college freshman with a condom, except you’ll actually use the Sharpie.)

 I got an email from the store manager later saying because I gave them all that loot, he’s going to make a special end-cap display to help with in-store promotions. Viva La Borders!

Get The Nightstand Diaries emailed directly to you!

 Lastly, I added an option if you want this blog emailed directly to you. If so, please look in the right hand column and submit your email. Hopefully, you’ll start getting it emailed to you tomorrow, if I don’t jack something up, or I’ve had a beer or two to kick off the holiday weekend early.