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…  

 

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 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 2, 2010

Day 50 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 – The dreaded question, “So when’s your next novel coming out?”
  • Marketing topic – Video may have killed the radio star, but radio can still rock your message

 Writing topic – The dreaded question, “So when’s your next novel coming out?”

 Blog #50! It seems like some kind of milestone, but I still don’t have my June sales #s in yet. Curses!  Oh well, let’s keep plugging away, shall we?

 I love every person who has invested the time to read my books. And that’s exactly what it is you know, an investment. They are taking a chunk of their finite time on this planet and using it to read what I’ve written. God love them. After they finish the latest book, the question sooner or later comes out, “So when does the next book come out?” A writer, like so many entertainers, is only as good as his or her next product. So that begs the question, “When the *&*$#@#% do we find the time to work on the next novel when we’re busy marketing the current one, and holding down a day job and probably having some kind of interaction with our families?”

 If I sound like a crybaby, I don’t mean to. I’m trying to give a voice to the overwhelming consensus of most writers that must struggle with time management. While I have 3 novels in the hopper, they are less than ready to go. Whenever I review them, I spill much red ink. It’s just goes along with evolving as a writer. On The Brink, I worked with Mark Graham, who did an amazing job editing the novel. I’ve referred to him as my “writing coach” during that period, because he taught me so much during that time period. He took a pudgy and slow Philly leg breaker and turned him into the greasy-fast Italian Stallion who spit lightning and crapped thunder (If you haven’t seen the Rocky movies, you ain’t gonna get that one). I wrote those three novels before working with Mark and they all need work. So, starting in September, I’m going to whip 2 of them into fighting shape to be ready for next summer when my promotional campaign for The Brink ends. My plan is to devote 2 hours a day to them. How about you? Got any novels that are ready but not really ready? Starting from scratch? How much time every day do you plan to commit to it? Just want to vent about something? To the keyboards!  

 Marketing topic – Video may have killed the radio star, but radio can still rock your message

 This Saturday (Aug 7), I’ll be doing a radio show called, “Books n’ Authors” on a local radio station. The 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. This is my third time to do the show and Linda Bagwell, the host, is absolutely fantastic. She’s a great interviewer for two reasons – one, she can show enthusiasm even if your book was titled, “The 101 Most Boring C-Span Transcripts” and two, if you send in the questions you want asked, she’ll ask them to you on the air. Most TV and radio shows give their guests some input into the questions that are being asked or let them create the actual questions. It saves the station staff time to try and come up with questions. So, as far as my best radio interview tip is concerned, if you’re ever on the radio, TV, or are doing any kind of interview, ask the interviewer WELL IN ADVANCE if you can give them a set of questions to use for the interview. 9 chances out of 10 they’ll jump on it.

 Tomorrow night, I’ll post the questions I came up with tonight after your sweet heads have hit your pillows. Until then…

 The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…