‘Dance Steps’ – Repost with comments

More on publicity.

Dance Steps – (Oct 28, 2014)

Publicity is like dancing. Although you can dance by yourself, sometimes it’s more fun with a partner (so long as it is the right partner). Your publicity agent, if you are lucky enough to have one, should ideally love your work. Their passion and excitement will make them want to promote your product, and that is a cut above simply being paid to push a work. This is something money cannot buy, and if you find a partner who would be delighted to dance with you, you can consider yourself one lucky dancer.

Publicity can take a long time because of the preparation and groundwork involved. You know as well as I do that you don’t just get up and waltz, you learn the steps first. You have to find teachers and find a time to practice that also suits your partner’s schedule.

It is sad and true (you’ve probably experienced this yourself) that some people judge others by the way they dance, so if you care about what others think, you need to have practiced your steps, so that you can look good and enjoy yourself – especially if you’re doing ballroom or want to look cool in your crowd.

Your crowd is your genre and you want to make sure that if tango is your thing, you’re tangoing with people who tango themselves, who sell tango equipment, make tango music, provide tango spaces and know famous tango dancers / musicians. You need to show them that you love tango, can discuss intricacies of tango, get what inspires them and know what’s going on in the tango world with its competitions, scandals and trends. You don’t have to move to Buenos Aires to do this because that’s what tango groups and groups peripheral to tango on the Internet are for. The point is, long, long before you display your dance to the world, you have to make friends who will, if they like how you have contributed to their discussions, be the ones watching (and hopefully applauding) your dance.

Publicity can be expensive and you do not want to waste money on buying space on a fancy dance floor that no one who dances your style visits. Figure out where your crowd goes before you pay for anything on Amazon, Google adwords, Goodreads, NetGalley, Library Thing, BookLife, storycartel.com and so on. Beware of high prices. And remember that word of mouth is, very often, the truest tune you can dance to.

So I’m waiting for my dance partners to come up with times in their schedules, I’m working on my various dances and in less than an hour I need to pick up my daughter from nursery school. As I start to finish up this blog post, I am thinking that it’s a good thing for me that dancing is only an extended metaphor that I have played with. I am an atrocious dancer. Although I did learn the first steps of the tango, for an hour during a weekday lunchtime, with a one-handed stranger in Buenos Aries many years ago. And it was fun!

Authorship and Publicity – Creating Your Market

Publishing a book in the 21st century is not only no longer a solitary endeavour where you write a book and find a publisher, it will never be so again. Publishers now expect many more of the authors they publish to bring an already created market before their first book is printed. If you are publishing your own work, it is an expectation you should have too, if you expect to sell any books. I discovered this first hand last year, while experimenting with my first international publishing project, Innerone.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – (Sep 23, 2014)

Authors usually think that once they’ve written a book and it is there, in long hand or their computer, that they are done. Then they think they’re done when they’ve had it edited. Then proofread. Then they finally publish, either as an indie author or through a publishing house. At each stage, when they think they are finished, they are wrong.

At the beginning, when the work is first crafted, it is a rare author who thinks, who is my market? Where are they? How will I get my book to them? Publishing houses like to get books that sell to large markets. Usually when I ask fiction authors who their market is, they say “Anyone who likes my genre!” I am as gentle as I can be when I contradict them, because that market does not exist. It does not exist because an unknown author is just that – unknown. Your market is your platform – people who know you. So while authors are writing their opus, they should be blogging, joining internet and local groups interested in their genre, following others and becoming followed in turn, building a reputation and creating their own market. This can go on for years. Then, as they write, they can tell their followers what they are doing, get opinions, and find ways to reach out and fulfill the needs of their market within their text. That’s more than a smart author, that’s an empathic author whose chances of prospering have sky-rocketed. It takes time and courage, but, what’s worth doing is worth doing well; and if some authors are shy, at least their keyboards will shield them for a while, so that they can build their confidence and their platforms simultaneously. Then, when they are ready to publish, they need to put the book out as a pre-release, drum up interest, let the libraries know about it and release with fanfare. You only have a short period when your book is new, as Judy Hertzl reminded me (see below for more on Judy). You have to maximise the impact and need to strategic about it, as Lee Woolf emphasised (see below for more on Lee). We are living in a world where a determined author can live in the middle of nowhere, yet have an international market. Make the most of it.

In the build up to the Innerone release, I thought a few months of publicity build up would be enough. But I was thinking local, not international, because local has been my market for almost all of my company’s life; I was thinking internet, not radio and TV. And I was lucky.

Let me explain. While I have been publishing books for fifteen years, very few of my authors have had books that required publicity. The few authors that did often lectured, and as experts in their subjects are interviewed in newspapers, magazines, on TV and radio anyway. My company, ada enup, does not do any marketing, although I give what good and steady advice I have to my authors.

When it came to my own book, I thought a few months of promotion would be fine for a fiction book. (Actually, it is a bit of a rush even for our little South Africa. Four or five months are better for press releases and interviews. International requires nine months, at the least, with someone on the other side pushing for you.)  As you know, I’ve been working hard to do all sorts of internet-related promotion, such as Goodreads and Smashwords, blogging, a short story and coupon codes. I was so busy on the internet I quite forgot about actual papers, radio and TV. The day I realised I needed to do this too, I contacted a few people.

As I said, I was lucky (in the way that you make your own luck). I met with Lee Woolf (no relation), a South African producer, who I met at Chai FM while promoting one of my albums in 2010. Over coffee, I explained that I knew some basics but needed an expert to guide me, someone who knew the industry and who liked my work. She said, it’s more than who you know and who they know – it’s who they are. I thought this was quite profound, and told her I would quote her, which I have just done. Lee does seem to like my work, something that is very important to me, so hopefully we can get things together for a November launch in SA. I then contacted a platform creator in Santa Fe, Judy Herzl, who I’d ‘met’ in a Linkedin publisher group. I really liked what she had to say and how she said it, so I asked her for a Skype meeting. Fortunately, she was happy to meet with me and confirmed what I already knew – you have to build a platform and in the US it takes longer. I have not been building a platform for long enough.

So it seems as if I need to have two different release dates, one for South Africa – hopefully mid-November, in print, where I sell enough books and generate enough good reviews for it to be marketed well in the States – and one in the US, later, after building a solid platform.

At this moment I am not sure about many things; the cost of the publicity, the actual strategies, which still have to be formulated, and so on. But I’ll keep blogging about the process and hopefully you who are reading this can learn from my missteps.

I said I was lucky and this is why: it is both the knowledgeable people I have met and that I still have time to change direction. So I will push the release date of Innerone back. I will publish another short story, a satire called The Mysterious Jagg, on the second of October instead. And I hope that readers who have been waiting patiently for Innerone will forgive me.

Knock Me Sideways

Breaking news:

Holey Gamoley, people!

An anonymous person just chose to pay $10.00 for Cheery Red.

I want to thank that person. I’m eager to hear what they think of the whole story. I’d love to discuss it with them. If you read this and the person was you, please do contact me – I’d love to hear from you!

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that Cheery Red is one of my short stories. If you read my blog on pricing and marketing, you’ll also see how this has again validated Steven Trustrum’s marketing advice, which I urge you to read here:

http://trustrum.com/self-publishing-marketing-mistakes/

Thank you, anonymous person, for validating my faith in my stories. I hope you really enjoy it.

Cheery Red is now on 306 downloads.

‘A Cheery Surprise’ – repost with comments

Only a few people have paid for stories since. But I still say: give people the option! I’m nine dollars richer than when I started and that’s nine dollars better than nothing.

A Cheery Surprise (Aug 28, 2014)

It has been a tumultuous time since my last blog.

I’ve been sick, as has my husband and both kids. Apparently flu is doing the rounds because many people I know have been enjoying this change of weather sickness too.

Yesterday my eldest child started nursery school. I took her in and she was immediately swamped by the other kids in a mob. Charley Ruth is tiny for her age and I was terrified. When my vision cleared, I realised that the bigger kids love little ones and are protective of them. They led her off, hand-in-hand, to show her swings and slides and the classroom. Charley was fearless, as usual, and for that hour seemed to have the best time. I, of course, wanted to howl.

I’ve been doing my best to keep on my stepping schedule with getting the Innerone formats ready (focusing on on the InDesign for print version), as well as doing some work on the AmaZizi 2nd Edition and pushing some marketing for my authors, who are all such lovely people with excellent texts and deserve the best I can give them. I also spent a couple hours on Goodreads, where, a month ago, I became friends with Ellie.

Ellie liked Susan Woolf’s Taxi Hand Sign book, so I wrote to her. And when she liked a blog post of mine, I wrote again. In our correspondence, it turns out that not only has this American met South African Susan, she is good friends with Susan’s sister, Lesley, who lives in Atlanta. I could hardly believe it.

And then, today, somebody paid for a copy of Cheery Red. In other words, someone actually paid real money for a short story that I had written. It’s taken me a while to get over the shock.

Now, I’m a publisher. You would think I was used to people buying books from me; and it’s different when the work is your own. It’s a milestone for an author when someone you don’t know pays good money for something you wrote. So I’m having a little celebratory dance inside my head.

However there is a marketing gem contained inside my cheery surprise that I want to share with you. A week or so ago I was reading Steven Trustrum’s blog:

http://trustrum.com/self-publishing-marketing-mistakes/

One of the things he said was that, if possible, rather use the ‘reader-sets-the-price’ than the ‘free’ option when putting up works. This means that if somebody wants to pay you, they have the option (he said a lot more – I recommend reading the article). I wondered if people would stop downloading at the story if it wasn’t marked free but, after 81 downloads, I decided to try it. The downloads did slow down – but that also could have been because it was no longer on the Smashwords home page, or because people who know me and who wanted to support me by reading the story ran out. Today, I am $1.39 richer ($2.00 minus fees) because I chose to give people that option.

Once I had uploaded Innerone for pre-release on Smashwords, I now had the opportunity to do something I had wanted to do for a while – create a coupon code for Innerone and put that code into Cheery Red, both as a marketing tool for Innerone and as a thank you for choosing to read Cheery Red. I put it in the ‘Thank You’ section at the end of the story and re-uploaded it. I like getting coupons for books so I hope my readers do too.

And maybe the marketing ideas in this blog can help aspiring authors too. Now isn’t that a cheery thought!

‘A Giant Leap’ – repost with comments

I did get all the versions ready in time… and I didn’t publish. I just wasn’t ready to publish. I’m still not ready to publish Innerone. Not all of the endorsements have come in (note to self, I need to write a blog on endorsements) and I haven’t built up a big enough following for the release that I want. Moreover, I will need to create new e-book versions, because there have been small changes since the last upload. So what looked like a giant leap was rather something that felt like one.

I have also realised, as I reflect on the the earlier blog posts, that I was again remiss in providing information. I was so busy thinking about the nuts and bolts of publishing books that I never gave descriptions of the works I was talking about. How is that going to attract interest in those books? Seriously, I sometimes wonder what is going on in my head. It would be too much to describe all of them now, so I’ll just give the blurb for the one that I’m experimenting with. This book, Innerone, is the one I’m using to learn how to publish in the US, so that I’m much more savy about the process when I publish my authors there.

Here is the blurb for Innerone:

How deep would you go to reclaim yourself?

A contemporary myth of courage and healing,  Innerone is an extraordinary narrative in which the protagonist meditates to her mind’s underworld to find the younger self she betrayed.

Although she thinks she knows what to expect, the surprises keep coming. Her  expectations dashed and new-age ideals thwarted, she discovers she is neither alone nor in charge. Her spunky inner-child, her esoteric higher-self, her unconvinced inner-scientist and others—all of whom hold different beliefs, values and desires—converse and argue, travel and shop (not your usual mall).  

And the subtle question swirls… how different would her actions be, what changes would play out in her life, if she flipped from believing she is broken to recognising that she is whole just as she is?

A Giant Leap (May 14, 2014)

If you have been reading my previous posts, you’ll know that I have been applying myself to the practical metaphor of ‘small steps’. Today I made a giant leap instead.

I have finally finished the Innerone e-book and am uploading it to Smashwords. I have set it on pre-order for a month, so that I have time to get the print,  print-on-demand and Amazon e-book versions ready and release all of them in early October. (That’s right – there are three versions of this book and each of them take a long slog to get right. It’s a good thing I’m doing all of this in my spare time. If I had to pay someone to do it, it would cost a fortune.) Apparently, putting a book on pre-order also generates a buzz and is good marketing. I hope so. (Tell your friends!) I’ve also given a larger sample of the book than usual – 25%.

Curiously, Amazon only allows big, favoured publishers to put a book on pre-order. That means that I can’t create and upload a .mobi file at any point – I have to upload it the day before the pre-order on Smashwords expires so that the book on Amazon is semi-synchronised.

One thing I don’t know how to do is reach the 81 people who have so far downloaded Cheery Red and give them a coupon code for Innerone, to say thank you and to help market the book. I’m going to put the word out on Facebook and my website.

So…let’s hope I get all the versions of this book ready in time 🙂

‘Watching the Stats’ – repost with comments

I have to admit it – despite how keen I was to collect and analyse data, after all the analytic setting up I did after this post, I never looked at it again. I have discovered that analysing data is last on my very long to-do list.

I need to treat analytics like a writing a book, something I’ll blog properly on later. In brief, you have to write the book before you edit it or you’ll never finish writing the book. I think, when all the rock climbing up the cliffs of communication and publishing are accomplished and I’m sitting flushed and triumphant on the plateau of maintenance, I will finally be able to turn my attention to analysing the data properly and making the adjustments that are necessary.

As for asking for reviews – of the many people who contacted me to say they loved the story and promising to put up a review, only one did. I’ve thought about why this is and it did not take long to understand why. It’s not about being better at asking for a review. The fact is, asking for a review is a lot to ask for. In a person’s busy life, they have to make time to think about what they want to say, write it down in a way they feel they can put in a public space and then go through the process of putting it on their favourite site. It’s a charitable act. Perhaps people need to be incentivised with a coupon for the next book or something. In any case, you can ask, but it is better to expect nothing to avoid disappointment.

Watching the Stats  (posted Aug 21, 2014)

At this moment I’m up to 64 downloads of Cheery Red. It’s exciting! I never hoped for so many.

It’s also a period of discovery. Aside from a journalist friend of mine, Jon, who wrote on Facebook that he enjoyed the story, there have been no other reviews. Two of the 64 people have put Cheery Red into their permanent Smashwords libraries. And I foolishly didn’t add Google Analytics to my new website before I published it, so I have no idea where visitors preferred to go on the site or any other stats at all.

What does this mean? Well, firstly, I’m going to have to get better at asking for reviews. They are important for both author and readers. I get to understand what people think of the work and readers can see at a glance what others thought of the story.

Regarding the permanent libraries, it’s a compliment every time someone wants to keep your work in their collection. So the story has been complimented twice. Of the 64 people who have so far downloaded Cheery Red, there is no way of knowing how what percentage have Smashword accounts, so I don’t know whether it is 2 out of 64 or 2 out of 2. I just don’t know. I also don’t know what the typical download of a free short story is within 48 hours, so I cannot say whether the download amount is good on average or not. I’m still trying to find out.

Finally, I must add Google Analytics to my site. I will never recover the first few days of stats, and I have lost the information it would have given me. Let that be a valuable lesson to my fellow writers who wish to share their creative output with a new website. Ensure you have statistical functions in place before you go live!

‘Cheery Red’ – Repost with comments

Sorry for the long wait! Life got in the way of blogging about it. Here’s the next repost, focussing on the the release of the short story, Cheery Red.

This was exciting to experience and write about. This moment is the one I think all authors anticipate, the release of a work and how it is embraced by others. It’s a mental holding of the breath – the work to get it out there is done – and now what? Either you slump, or there is a steady movement, or a whoosh of delight as the work streams from the distributor.

I marvel that, as an unknown author with no followers and minimal marketing, I had so many downloads for this work in those first few hours. To date, 291 copies have been downloaded.


Cheery Red
(posted Aug 19th, 2014)

This morning, after weeks of five minutes here and five minutes there, I finally finished the Smashwords formatting for my first short story ebook, Cheery Red. I uploaded it to Smashwords and dashed out the house to meet a friend, Sedrick, and do some chores. I came back to discover that 22 people had downloaded the story!

I wanted to dance a celebration dance of happiness. I wrote on Facebook, something I have seldom done in the past and suspect will do more regularly in the future:

“I am so excited! I just published ‘Cheery Red’ on Smashwords and already 22 people have downloaded it! It’s free and it’s short, but there are now 22 people I don’t know who are reading my work. I’m so inspired… I’m breathless with it! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/468557

The “so’s” and exclamation points get across my emotional state quite nicely, don’t you think?