I’ve decided I’m learning a tremendous amount about book marketing and apparently I feel the need to share.
Two things make me think this.
First, I’ve always been told you should learn from your mistake. I’m certain a ton of mistakes have originated with me in the last three months in regards to my marketing efforts, so I have to have learned something.
Secondly, from time to time I’ve noticed two things. 1 – Spikes in the traffic to my website and 2 – a steady pace to book sales, The Trust
It’s the strangest and sometimes unexplained, or at least unexpected, things that can cause a traffic increase, but never the less; there’s definitely a cause and effect going on.
For instance, I‘ve been on several blogs where the blog-owners reviewed my book or featured me in an interview or some other fashion. This happens, up my numbers go. When this does I generally know about it and have learned to expect it.
On occasion I will look at my numbers, Google Analytics is invaluable for this by the way, and they are up for no apparent reason.
From time to time I’ve noticed the numbers were up for no reason I could identify. On one occasion, I studied the referring sites for a bit after I noticed a spike. It turns out a prior review
of mine caught the attention of blogger. In working through her thoughts on her blog, she posted and linked to my blog. People saw it and they stopped by my blog for a visit.
The lesson on this is blogging pays off. I had no idea that a review would spark so much traffic.
When I released my book, I targeted the large newspapers in my state. I sent out focused press releases about the release of my book. The release of a book from an unknown author. The release of a book from an unknown author with no reader base or other foundation, etc. etc.
The results were astounding. That is if by astounding you understand astounding to mean absolutely nothing at all happened. Overwhelming silence.
Then from all of the announcements and press releases that had been sent out I found a few gold mines.
I started to realize that the local presses were open to unknown writers.
I’ve received excellent press and the experience has been great. Seems they love the human-interest angles and they particularly love the stories if there’s a tie-in to their locale.
Think your hometown paper. Think the setting of the book. Find some way to make your book relate to the location of the paper you target.
There are a lot of local papers and similar publications out there.
If you have a book signing, think smaller presses, community papers, etc. I’ve been amazed at how many people study these publications and will then visit my web site or show up at events. I’ll post on my signing experiences soon.
The lesson behind all of this is that I’m becoming a huge fan of small, locally focused events and marketing efforts. The likelihood of me selling a million books this way is beyond slim, but it is working to continue enough book sales to justify my keeping on with my efforts.
Best of all most of the local efforts on marketing are low to no cost. Which means that if you screw up the lesson gets written off but doesn’t hit you in the wallet.
So while you’re here why not read a chapter
from my book or even buy a copy of your own
. A portion of all proceeds from the sale of The Trust will be donated to canine related charities.
We’re little more than a month out from the publishing of The Trust
and I’m starting to realize I have a lot to learn about book promotion.
What I have learned can be boiled down to one word.
Of course reducing any idea to a single word means using an approach similar to that of a chef when an ingredient is reduced for incorporation into a dish. You concentrate the ingredient and then blend it to spread its flavor to the entirety of the dish.
This is the same approach for the presence I mention above. But of course like the ingredient in cooking you don’t want to overdo it. In other words you don’t want to over saturate and risk overpowering and ruining the dish. Balance becomes the key.
Let’s take Twitter
for instance. If you are going to put yourself out there on Twitter, and I think you should, you have to balance your presence through your tweets. Too many and you become over saturated and ineffective. Too few and no one will know you’re there. You’ll be like the kid at the high school dance leaning against the wall – watching. He can tell you what’s going on, but no one will know him and chances are he won’t be doing much dancing. If you are on Twitter you want to be in the dance.
Websites are another area where presence is important. Where presence should be a simple concept but an opportunity.
I crave information. If I’m curious about something, I hit Google at a minimum. For instance, I’ve been reading a couple of writers lately that I simply love. With each of them I wanted to learn more so I fired up Google. For one author there was no website at all. For the other there was only a brief blurb on the publisher’s website. I should also mention these two authors have larger publishers so budget shouldn’t be a problem. Their lack of web presence intrigues me.
Candidly, I was shocked at the lack of the web presence.
I dug further, no Twitter for either. Neither has a Facebook page.
I guess there’s a theory that if you’re big enough then you don’t need any additional help, but while these two authors have larger houses, read budgets, I would’ve thought websites were no-brainers. From checking around by asking friends these two authors are not unknowns, but are certainly not as wide spread as if they had perhaps a bit of a web presence.
It seems to me that a website is the logically the first place to start in establishing an online presence. You get to have complete control over what people see.
With a simple link
you can tell people where to go to learn about you, see what you are up to, read an excerpt of your writing, or, gasp, buy your book.
Used to be it cost a good deal to set up and maintain a website, but those days are long gone. There are loads of places out there, I like Weebly.com
but look around and see what works for you.
Someone once told me that it is difficult to have someone tell you “No” unless you ask them a question.
Same concept here with the online presence. If you want people to be able to learn more about you, and maybe buy a book or two, give them a way to find you – give the several ways to find you. If you’re not there and people come looking they won’t come back and they certainly won’t send other’s your way.
So as long as you’re reading this, why don’t you stop by my website
and read a sample
or maybe buy
a copy of The Trust while you’re there.
I’m a planner.
Vacations? I know where I am going, where I am staying, the things I want to do on vacation and likely even the days I’ll be doing them while I travel.
Dinner? I know today what I am having tomorrow.
My day? I know what I’m doing Monday of next week.
My first novel? Zero planning.
I don’t know if I would suggest this to other writers as a method, but it worked for me. I started with nothing more than one scene.
For a few months an idea kept playing itself out in my head.
The Executor of a will comes into an attorney’s office and asks to see him. The Executor presents the attorney a will and demands to know why not only is the attorney’s name in the will, but why the will directed the attorney handle the legal work for the estate. The Executor is also curious about why the will directs that the attorney receive the contents of a safe deposit box after the work on the will was completed. To complicate matters, no one, knew of the safety deposit box’s existence or what may be inside.
That set up expanded into a scene where the attorney and the Executor have it out, so to speak. This worked well for me as an initial starting point to set some tension and immediately set the stage for some degree of conflict in the book. It’s a good thing since all I had was the initial idea. There was a great deal of editing from the first draft to publication, but there was no other advance planning done. To see what the first chapter ended up looking like check it out here
The rest of the book was the same way. Characters appeared, sub-plots emerged, tension developed and resolution happened. About halfway through the book I decided to go back and add a prologue, but from start to finish on the book that was it.
Then when I finished I had more than a few people tell me that just wasn’t the way to do it.
Through the process I had a number of head scratching sessions where I had to really thing about how things were going to develop, but I think this provided a check for me and gave the plot a more realistic feel.
I have a friend who knows every twist and turn a book will take before he starts writing. He uses index cards and charts the progression of the book by taping the cards to the walls in a horizontal sequence around the office. If he needs to add more detail, different characters or sub-plots he expands on the vertical. Confuses me but it works for him.
I have another friend who starts with an outline and expands it and expands it and expands it until he has his book. Again, confuses me, but works for him.
For my follow up book I am doing a bit more planning. I have my opening scene, a few sub-plots from the first book I want to develop further (book two is a sequel), but beyond that the book is coming to life as I write it.
Plan or no plan, roadmap or not - if it works for you then it works.
Eddie Van Halen once was asked, or so I was told, how when someone was learning a song by ear if they would know if what they were playing was correct. Eddie said, “If it sounds good it’s right.” Now Eddie Van Halen has also said, “hat if you make a mistake make it again so people think you know what you’re doing. I think if you read these two pearls of wisdom together you’ll be well on your way to some tasty morsels of prose by allowing your own style to develop and let what works for you be your guide.
So today started out pretty icky. It was cold. It started raining. It kept raining. In fact it is still raining.
Then at one of my random breaks during the day, I decided to check Amazon and lo and behold there was the fruit of my labor available for purchase. Nearly 7 years after I first decided to actually write the novel I had been talking about for longer than that it is up on Amazon.
When I first started writing I found myself sitting around thinking how amazingly great it would be if I could have a book available on Amazon. That was a while ago and I do feel a sense of accomplishment that I can go to Amazon (and soon Barnes & Noble) and see my book there, I have elevated my goals.
Now I want to see two (or three or more) books on Amazon and B&N. Perhaps the most immediate goal is to be able to walk into a bookstore and see it on the shelf. That, I will admit would be great.
However, right now the main think I want to start doing is writing on the follow up book. I've had a bit of creative block finishing the second book not knowing what the first was doing. In hindsight, this was probably something I should have handled differently. If I had just kept writing then I would likely have one book published, one in the proverbial can and then been able to focus on an idea I have been kicking about for another book. Never-the-less I'm happy with where I am now, but have learned that regardless of circumstances the easy answer to what to do next as a writer is just write some more. The product may be less than stellar, but at least you'll have something to edit and not be faced with an empty monitor screen!
Who knows is the short answer.
I've been thinking about exactly how I want this blog to go. I've been wanting to start a blog for some time now and I certainly have a surplus of thoughts on a variety of issues. But I've been asking myself what people would be interested in hearing my on.
So I've had a couple of thoughts on this. I have a friend that does an amazing legal blog and his counsel is and has always been "Write what you know."
So that is what I will do.
First, this blog is a blog about The Trust - what got me here with the book, what I have learned and what is happening as I move forward with it. So I'm going to spend some time writing about all of these things.
I plan on writing about the writing process.
I plan on writing about the progress on my next novel and upcoming ideas.
I've also decided to spend some time talking about how writing and the practice of law blend together.
So make sure to check back often to see where things are going.
In the last couple of weeks since I started spreading the word my novel was to be published, I've had a lot of questions on how I managed to get an agent onboard with the book.
Interesting tale I tell them.
I had not one, not two, but three agents and all were a huge help in different ways.
When I finished the book I wasn't sure what to do next. So after some research, I started submitting it to agents - actually many agents. I researched the agents, the genre's they represented and the titles they had sold. I focused on reading books in my genre and researched the agents that represented them. I read books written by agents and followed their guidance. The sum total result of my efforts was an ever expanding file of rejection letters. Some on very nice letterhead, some on very impersonal forms, but occasionally rejections with an encouraging note on what to tweak or improve.
Finally I landed an agent who went after the publishers with a conviction. After that contract ran its course, I started the process of searching for an agent again and the process above repeated. With another agent the process was similar to the first. Then one day I found myself with my third agent after a repeat of the same.
Fortunately along the way the the book kept getting improvement after improvement. Some were major overhauls, some minor tweaks. Ultimately it kept getting better. Overall I think that having several agents was tremendously helpful.
Now, I have also talked to people that have never had agent one and have had their book published. Some of these people self-published, but some did not. There are an increasing number of publishers out there that will allow authors to approach them in the fashion the author would approach an agent. There are ups and downs to this that whole books have been written on, but needless to say, it is possible to be published without an agent by going straight to the publisher. Keep in mind that the publishers that work this way are generally smaller, independent houses. Few if any of the major publishers deal with unsolicited manuscripts.
So the bottom line is that there is no clear cut answer to have an agent or not have an agent so long as you keep the process moving forward!
I was coming out of Court this week and ran into an attorney friend of mine who stopped to talk about The Trust. Prior to last week I hadn't told a lot of people about the book mainly because I was overly cautious, not wanting to jinx the pending publication. It was not until after my publisher said everything had been shipped to the printer did I let people know it was on the way. Since then I have had a number of conversations about the release and I am always humbled and flattered.
So I'm talking to my friend and he asked me what the book was about. While I haven't told a lot of people about the pending publication, a number of people knew I had written a book and the most frequent question was what I had just been asked. So it was no problem to give a 30 second overview that hopefully left him with the, "I have to buy a copy and read it!" feeling.
Then he threw me a curve ball of a question - "So am I in the book?" My unusual silence must have been a bit on the disconcerting side for him. I thought about it a moment and then it occurred to me that in fact, I had based a character on him. So I told him that I had. Then it occurred to me that the character I created based upon him meets a rather unfortunate and untimely end in the follow up to The Trust. Needless to say that comment got a rather uncomfortable chuckle from him though I am sure he walked away feeling the need to look over his shoulder to make sure I wasn't following him.
After my chance meeting I started to think about how I create my characters. I find that as the character starts to come to life on the pages, I start to visualize people I know or people I have seen and then start to build the character around that visualization. Sometimes it is a mash up of several individuals, sometimes it's a single person (when this happens I find myself having to be careful so as to not be too obvious).
So is this normal or odd, who know? However, I find it the process works for me. It allows me to picture a face, a body style, mannerisms that I have seen, of any of a number of similar traits or characteristics. There's probably a little artistic license, but after all, its my book, so basically whatever works.
Yesterday was a productive day, but one where I found myself somewhat out of my element.
As many know, I am first and foremost a photographer - photography is something I have studied and have enjoyed doing for years. As a result of this, I am most comfortable behind the camera. However, yesterday I had to have photos taken for the website and for the novel. I have decided I make a horrendous subject, but thanks to having loads of photos taken, and with the help of a very talented photographer, I now have photos to use for the book and the website.
On that note, I also finished the website for The Trust last night. I'll be revising and adding content often so check back from time to time.
I also started a Twitter account - @thetrustnovel so feel free to follow for more updates and unique content!
This is my first post to The Trust Blog.
As I am writing this, I find myself on the eve of the publication of my debut novel which is called (you guessed it) The Trust. It took a long time to get here. Nearly 6 years, a folder bulging with rejections letters, a smaller folder with a few letters of encouragement and finally a letter from a publisher who decided there might be a market for my novel.
In the last few days since I've realized I am less than a week week away from finally holding in my hand the book that started at 40,000 feet somewhere in the air between Pennsylvania and South Carolina, I've been overwhelmed by the support and words of encouragement from friends and family. To all those who have called, emailed, posted, sent words or good thoughts, I can't thank you enough.
It seems that I am learning on a daily basis that the writing of the book is, while perhaps not the easiest part of the process, is definitely just the tip of the iceberg in the grand scheme of publishing a novel. More on this later, but until then check back often. I will be posting as often as time allows about how things are going with The Trust, with the work on my new novel and any other items of interest I happen across that seem to fit with the idea of The Trust.