Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

September 1, 2010

Day 78 of 365

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

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – Taming the Time Bandit
  • Marketing Topic – Keeping it Local

Writing topic – Taming the Time Bandit

How much time do you devote to ‘the craft?’ I’m not talking big picture things like, “I minored in creative writing in college”, or “Whenever I see someone on the subway or walking down the street, I can picture them as a character in my book.” I’m talking about ass in the chair, at your writing desk, pounding the keys, sweating the details, knocking out page after page time. Is it every day? It should be. Do you have a goal? You should. Is it in pages or in hours? Mine is pages. In my humble opinion, I think a page goal is better because it’s more concrete. When you complete 5 pages, you complete 5 pages. When you work for 4 hours, you may have been working or you may have been playing on the computer or watching spoofs of the Old Spice commercial on YouTube.

My goal for my new novel is 5 pages a weekday. Why a weekday? I save weekends for review of the pages from that week and for research. So let’s do the math:

5 pages x 5 weekdays = 25 pages a week, translates into 100 pages a month, so a 400 page novel should be done in 4 months.

Today is September 1. I still need a few days to finalize my outline, but I will start writing on Labor Day. So, I should be done with the rough draft by January 1.

What about you? How many pages a day is your goal?

Marketing Topic – Keeping it Local

Advertising is expensive, but one of the best advertising tools at your disposal is 1) something as a writer you can do and 2) is FREE. It’s the news release. Here’s the latest one I did to coincide with another news release about the Bank of Japan’s actions to stabilize its economy:

BREAKING NEWS RELEASE – Is The Brink coming true?

Posted on August 30, 2010

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 sovereign 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 fictionalized events split off from there.”

I put it on my website, but then I thought, “That’s great, but now, how can I get the word out about it?”

I Googled, “book marketing”, and came across this handy little tool I found while doing some research on book marketing. It’s a list, by state, of all the local newspapers and their news tips email addresses. Many PR services charge you hundreds of dollars for this list, but here it is for free. Now all you have to do is make up your own news release, send it out to your local papers, sit back and become famous! No, seriously, you’ll probably have to do some follow up with the different papers, but newspaper contacts are vital. They may not print your entire news release, or they may not print it at all. But they might print the blurb you email them about an upcoming signing. So play nice with them, okay?

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 2, 2010

Day 49 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 – Current events = your next plot idea
  • Marketing topic – It’s all about the follow through

 

Writing topic – Current events = your next plot idea

 

Since it’s the first of August, my June sales #s should have been in by now. But alas, they aren’t. Something about Ingram not having them out yet. So as I wait on pen caps and pencil tips, let’s just roll right into tonight’s writing topic.

 

The newspaper, or a publication’s online presence, is a treasure trove for us writers. Here’s a recent example about the billionaire brothers charged with fraud. They are heavily connected in the political world and their alleged scheme had been going on for 13 years. Boom, there’s a political thriller plot just dying to be written using the facts of that case as inspiration.

 

With a newspaper subscription, an Internet feed, or a trip to your local library, you’ll never have writer’s block again. I tend to think that writer’s block is just an excuse to go get lit at the bar and use some weak pick-up line on the ladies (“Will you help me breakthrough my writer’s block?” Or “I think I’ve found my muse. You must come back to my apartment and inspire me!”). Of course, I once used a version of the first line long ago in college (“Will you help me prove I’m not gay?”), but that’s a story for another time.

 

Back to the pressing issue at hand.  Newspapers are the Holy Grail for plot ideas. If you’re a novelist and you’re not reading the paper, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Reading the paper not only gives me fresh ideas to kick start the old noodle, but reading it is a good warm up to get my own writing going. Maybe that’s the reason why I’ve never had writer’s block. And, for goodness sake, if you find a good story in your newspaper, highlight the title, circle the article, cut it out and file it where you know where it is, or tape it up next to your monitor and REFER BACK TO IT over the course of your writing. Don’t just glance over the article, think about how good a similar plot could be and keep going. SAVE THE DARN THING! (I’ve just thought of another pick up line – “I’ve got a Washington Post, January 8, 1998 front page section back at my place. Want to see it?” Another winner! And ladies, I know what you’re thinking, but sorry, I’m taken.)

 

Your thoughts? Newspapers as inspiration? Writer’s block as bogus? Found a cure? Love my awesome pick up lines? Ladies and gentlemen, to the keyboards!

 

Marketing topic – It’s all about the follow through

 

So I did my signing at the Allen, Texas Borders book store on Friday night. I did the normal sending a news release to the local paper, I took posters to the store two weeks in advance and gave them 100 bookmarks to help promote the event, but I will tell you that none of the 14 people that bought books during the signing were there because of those promotions. I sold those 14 books because I was constantly walking around the store during the two hours I was there putting bookmarks in people’s hand, telling them where I was in the store and saying, “If you’re into thrillers, or you need a signed book as a gift, come by and check it out.” The gift part, I’ve come to find out, is how I sell about 20% of my books. Many people come to book stores to buy a gift. Some are there for themselves and then those nine words, ‘or you need a signed book as a gift’ trigger their memory (Oh, Uncle Joe’s birthday is coming up and he loves to read political thrillers. And I can get it signed to him!)

 

I’ve been to signings where the author just sits there, waiting for people to come to him. I’ve done it myself. It ain’t gonna happen. You are the only one who cares as much about your book as you do. No one else does. They will not fawn all over you because you are a writer. You need to sell each copy one at a time, to one reader at a time. George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air refers to people needing to be sharks and always moving, not swans just sitting there in life. I think that’s a great analogy for us writers at book signings. Be a shark. Always be moving and talking to people. Don’t just be a conceited swan sitting there waiting for people to come talk to you. They won’t.

 

Now, having said that, I also passed out about 100 bookmarks over the course of those two hours, so while most of those folks didn’t buy a book, they have something with my face, name, website, and a description about the book that they will look at every time they open the book they are reading at the moment. That might inspire them to come back at a later time and buy a copy at the store or online, or download the ebook version. Either way, I had an opportunity to get my message to 100 people, for next to nothing (the cost of 100 bookmarks is around $3) And of those 100 people, 14 bought books. So, for $3 I sold 14 books. And that’s if no one else buy a book. Not a bad ROI.   

 

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 28, 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 15 of 365

In this issue:

  • Have you created your Google Profile yet? Get on it!
  • The Brink is now out in eBook! Where oh where to market the eBooks???
  • MFFA – My First Facebook Ad – Day #1

 Have you created your Google Profile yet? Get on it!

 So without little or no money, how do you get people to find you online? Participate in the discussion. The internet is all about content, and content doesn’t always have to be news releases and email marketing campaigns. Sometimes, you gotta just be there for other people. Once again, I turn to David Meerman Scott and his advice from The New Rules of Marketing and PR. From page 65, “One of the currencies of social media is that when you participate, people find out who you are. When you leave a comment on someone else’s blog post, you can link to your profile on the Web. All blogging tools have a place where you can leave a virtual calling card, your own web URL where people who read your comment can find out who you are and perhaps contact you.” He goes on to suggest that the best “virtual calling card” is to create a Google Profile and then use that as the URL for people to go to when you are commenting on other people’s blogs. Best of all, it’s free.

 I made the mistake, like many writers do, of going into sites like GoodReads.com and amazon’s book club sites and in the “looking for a great thriller” forum, just typing in “hey, if you want a great thriller, check out my new book, The Brink.” That’s like shouting what you do for a living at the top of your lungs at a cocktail party. Major faux pas. Anyway, now I know better. I’m going to start going onto other writer’s blogs this weekend and join the conversation with my Google profile as my URL. I just hope they like me….I mean, I really, really hope they like me!

 The Brink is now out in eBook! Where oh where to market the eBooks???

 The Brink is now out in eBook for the Kindle and the Nook. While that’s awesome, how do we writers find people that actually have eReaders? I’ve yet to see them at my gym or on airplanes. After my current Facebook ad campaign is over (more on that in a minute) I’ll do one just for ebook readers and see how it goes. In the meantime, I went online and Googled in “ebook marketing” and the best hits I got were “start your home-based business making $300k a month by writing a real estate buying eBook” and “money-making super secrets” where you write an eBook to attract people to invest in your Nigerian black money-type scam.  Oy vey! I just tried to set up a Facebook ad and when I used “eBook” as the criteria by which the ad will be sent out, there are only 620 people out of the 113 million above 18 years old on Facebook who are interested in eBooks. Rat farts! Back to the drawing board.  Any suggestion from y’all would be awesome.

 MFFA – My First Facebook Ad – Day #1

 With the month of June coming to a close, thus ends my stint on the barnesandnoble.com Rising Star award winner page. The buyers at B and N use the results to see what books they will give store book shelf space to, what I like to call “the most expensive real estate in the world.”

 Therefore, as a last ditch effort to pump up my numbers, I am doing a 5 day Facebook ad campaign. I don’t know how familiar you are with them, but I knew nothing about them before I created my ad yesterday. It’s a simple process to walk through it. My ad reads “The Brink by Mark Fadden. Uncover the most staggering conspiracy of our time and discover an electrifying new voice in suspense fiction.” Once someone clicks on it, they are sent to my website. I set my budget at $20 a day and chose the Cost Per Click (CPC) option. I only pay when someone clicks on my ad. What I pay is a rate that I bid on, which was kind of confusing at first. I chose $.50 per click at first where the suggested rate was between $1.10 and 1.63. For the first half of today, I has something like 5 impressions, which meant my ad only went out 5 times. So I changed click bid to $1.15 and damn if the numbers didn’t jump up! Currently, Facebook has run the ad 6,301 times and I’ve had 3 clicks. Not exactly setting the world on fire, but I’ll reassess the ad tomorrow and make edits if necessary. In the meantime, here’s a great account of another first time Facebook advertiser: “My First FaceBook Ad Campaign: The Good, Bad, & The Ugly.”