Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

September 2, 2010

Day 79 of 365

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

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – The Writing Life, better as fiction than as fact
  • Marketing Topic – Fewer clicks for more sales?

Writing topic – The Writing Life, better as fiction than as fact

The recent announcement from writer Christopher Hitchens that he’s battling cancer, a cancer that started in his esophagus, got me thinking about writers and what the Writing Life, or “the life” as many writers call it, does to one’s health.

While Hitchens states in the article “Topic of Cancer” in the Sept 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, that his father also had esophageal cancer, and died from it, I can’t help but think that Hitchens’s lifestyle upped the chances of getting a sickness he was already in line to get due to his genes.

Hitchens is a notorious drinker and a chain-smoker. Did these “hobbies” contribute to his cancer? Probably. But did they also make him the larger-than-life character that we see in our mind’s eye when we read his stuff? Definitely. And do we still need figures like these in our world? Absolutely!   

Hitchens is not a lonely man in the ‘hard living writers’ category. Many of the great geniuses had intimate relationships with the bottle and the pipe. Off the top of my head, Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson come to mind. Certainly these two men were great writers. But is being just a great writer enough to make a lasting impression on the world? Would Hemingway have been Papa if he drank tea at four o’clock everyday with scones and Devonshire pudding? Of course not. If I mention the name Hunter S. Thompson, does your head fill with passages from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Or does it fill with visions of the author blowing things up on his Woody Creek ranch, or the author sitting in a wrecked hotel room surrounded by enough drugs to make a dealer’s entire fiscal year?

Sadly, the images these people portray is the “hook” that grabs us to read their stuff. Hitchens played the part of the intellectual Brit who unapologetically loves his drink like a master. Whether it is a part that was the real him, or just a part he was playing, we may never know. Either way, I think he knew it is a part that all of us who like him and enjoy his stuff would love to play. And that was, in part, our attraction to him. Hopefully, it won’t be a part that will end in tragedy, for if Hitch loses his battle with cancer, a wonderful character in the play of Life will have been lost. And the world, especially the literary one, needs as many characters as it can get.   

So, the question for discussion that comes out of this is, should we judge writers solely on their words and ideas? Or, like we expect of our modern day heroes i.e. sports figures, should we hold them, behavior included, to a higher standard because they are living in the public spotlight?  

To the keyboards!

Marketing Topic – Fewer clicks for more sales

I was reviewing my website analytics page the other day and noticed two troubling things: one, I get many visitors to my site (average about 300 a week), but they don’t stay very long (avg length of visit is 40 seconds). Two, 80% enter and exit from the homepage. While I’m in talks with a web designer to change up the look of the site to make it more attractive and flow better, I was thinking about what web marketing folks say is most important: content. While my home page has links to my blog, the book trailer, a couple video interview links, and a link to read a preview of my latest book, The Brink, it doesn’t have the one thing that could suck people into the book – the sample of the book.

My book preview is over on “the novels” page, but that’s like the appe-teaser lady at the grocery store giving you a map to the sample at her booth instead of the sample itself. People don’t like jumping through hoops. They don’t like clicking and then having to click again. They should get a sample of your stuff right away! So, I’m adding my book preview to the homepage so it’s one of the first things they see when they visit my site. I’ll review if this adjustment ups the numbers next week.

Until then have a fantastic holiday weekend.

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 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 4, 2010

Day 51 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 – Joining a critique group
  • Marketing topic – Radio interview questions

 

Writing topic – Joining a critique group

 

Peer review. It’s necessary and valuable. The local group by me is called the DFW writer’s workshop (DFWWW). We recently moved close to where the meetings are held, and I can’t wait to attend my first one. I found them on the Internet under “Dallas writers groups.”

 

What about you? Have you attended or are a member of a writing group?  Do you find them beneficial? There’s a disclaimer on the DFWWW website that the critiques are frank and can be harsh at times, but that’s what we need to get better as writers. Since the group’s creation in 1977, there have been 300 traditioanly published books from their member authors, so they must be doing something right.

 

Here’s your chance to sound off about writer’s groups. Helpful or a waste of time?  

 

Marketing topic – Radio interview questions

 

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I’ll be doing a radio show this Saturday to promote my latest novel, The Brink. The “Books n’ Authors” show will be broadcast at 10:00am on 89.5 KYQX and 88.5 KMQX radio in Weatherford, Texas, and on the Internet at www.qxfm.com. I also mentioned that creating your own questions not only saves the interviewer time, but it also allows you to create answers beforehand. Many people become nervous when they’re on the radio, and having ready answers (that are printed in front of you!) will be a huge help just in case you get a massive brain fart and forget everything, including your own name.

The show lasts 30 minutes, so around 10 questions should do the trick. Here are the questions I’ve come up with for my interview:

  1. When did you begin the process of writing The Brink? Since The Brink is a follow-up to my first novel, Five Days in Dallas, I will incorporate that tidbit into my answer so that listeners know about it as well.
  2. The Brink is a follow up to your first novel Five Days in Dallas. Can readers follow The Brink even if they didn’t read Five Days? Again, this question allows me to talk a little bit more about both books and about the main character Danny Cavanaugh and what he’s all about.  
  3. How long did it take you to write it? Another open-ended question that allows me to go into the part about the research that I completed for the book.
  4. Did you do anything different in the writing process for this book than you did for your others? This answer will center around the fact that I hired a book editor and worked with him for several months. I will also mention that it paid off because the book won two awards so far.
  5. The Brink uses the recent economic crisis as a jumping off point for its main plot. Can you explain how much of the real world is intertwined with the novel? Again, this question allows me to talk about how current the book is and how it’s “ripped from the headlines.” It also shows who’s behind our recession, who stands to gain from it and a possible dire outcome of it.
  6. So is The Brink a political thriller or a financial thriller? Another open-ended question that allows for some good back and forth about what thrillers are and what kind of audience will like my books.  
  7. Settings are a huge part of novels. You have several settings that are described in rich detail. Did you travel to all the places in the book? While the Internet is a wonderful way to learn many things about a place, I grew up in Houston, Texas and lived in Washington, D.C., two of the settings in the book. So this question allows me to talk a little about my life, allowing listeners to get to know me a little better.
  8.  You’re engaged in a social media campaign to promote The Brink. What kind of things are you doing? Here I can talk about my blog, facebook ads, and news releases.
  9. What else are you doing to promote the book? Here I can talk about the library presentations I’m doing and the book tour around Dallas and Fort Worth.
  10. Are you working on any new novels? I can talk about the two novels that I have ready, but I am going to edit before my agent submits them to the big houses next summer.

 

So there you go. 10 questions that should eat up a 30 minute show. If you’ve got some free time, listen and see how close we come to the script!

 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…