Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Aftermath

This is a difficult time of year for those of us who are both family oriented and small business owners. The real holiday, Thanksgiving, tempts us to focus entirely on the beloved visitors. We had 16 at the table this year, family up from Florida and down from New York State, plus a few from closer to home. Nothing beats a house full of love and a vast variety of yummy food.

We've all had some losses and challenges in the last year, but we were all focused on how thankful we are for our many many blessings. And I was thankful for my family who were able to join together this year.

However, the artificial holiday, Black Friday, tempts us to focus on business. Advertisement rises almost to the level of white noise because all businesses know that a lot of money will be spent on this official start of the 30 day gift-buying binge. As a publisher, I owe it to our authors to try to capture some of those dollars. So even though my parents are here with us for a few more days, and Christmas decorating starts the day after Thanksgiving, I had to turn my mind to business.

Luckily, Intrigue Publishing Marketing Director Sandra Bowman put out a call a few days ago for video promotions from each of our authors. We received some great ads and Sandra took a break from building the best tabletop Christmas village ever to post the first video online, starting with Annie Rose Alexander’s ad for her upcoming thriller, Retribution.  This video is the leading edge of Intrigue Publishing’s holiday sales push.

As an author, I want to get readers’ attention to my own work too. So I released a compilation of three longish short stories that are all set at Christmas time. These Hannibal Jones Mystery: Christmas Short Stories are available on Kindle for just 99 cents.

So the day AFTER Thanksgiving, I am thankful for a lot of people I haven’t met. Not just my fans (although I am of course very thankful for them) but also for all avid readers and everyone who loves a good story enough to keep trying new authors.

And, in case it isn't obvious, I’m also thankful for all the writers who keep at it, and risk harsh rejection by sending their manuscripts to publishers, small and large.

So thank you, readers, for supporting us. And thank you, writers, for feeding our thirst for new stories.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Sound Decision

Everyone knows that audio products are effective for getting people’s attention. The question is, do they sell books? Well, we’re going to try to find out.

Sandra Bowman, Marketing Director for Intrigue Publishing has asked each of our authors to produce a short Christmas commercial to run on Facebook. After about a half-second of consideration I realized it was not only a great idea, but a wonderful first step to see how effective audio could be.

I decided that, while I’m doing that, I’ll just voice a book excerpt. I’ll just do a reading from my newest book, BeyondBlue, and post it on my website. I've noticed that some other authors have an audio file on their sites that loads as soon as you get there. It’s usually more of a “Hi there!  Welcome to my world” type of thing than a sales pitch. I don’t mind encountering such a thing, and it might be a cool idea for you, but I don’t think it’s quite my style.

Years ago I did a weekly podcast, but that doesn’t fit into my time budget these days. I must admit it was a great way to get attention for my latest novel. These days there’s no need to download software and record a podcast yourself. It’s pretty easy to do through BlogTalk radio and other platforms. And if you have the personality, why not engage other authors in interviews? Urban drama author B. Swangin Webster does a weekly show on Listen Vision Live and now draws an international audience. In fact, this afternoon Intrigue authors Penny Clover Petersen and Jeff Markowitz will be guests on what she calls the We B Swangin show at 4pm Eastern time. If you tune in you’ll get a good idea of how this medium can be used well. 

It might take you some time to build up an audience the way the We B Swangin show has, but in the meantime don’t overlook other people’s shows. I definitely saw a spike in sales when I was interviewed on Conversations Live with Cyrus Webb. Cyrus has been doing this a while so he gets the big names on his show (from Oprah to the cast of The Walking Dead) so being on his show puts you in great company!

Of course, there’s commercial radio too, but there you’re more likely to get a three minute interview, not the 30 minutes you usually get on computer broadcast shows. So you need to prepare differently, with bullet points and short but hard-hitting answers to questions. Quick, pithy comments can drive listeners to the bookstores looking for your book.

So think about how audio can help your book sales and do your research. Of course, I've offered some easy research steps above, so be listening for Intrigue Publishing authors audio spots on Facebook, check my web site in the next couple of days for an audio excerpt, and be sure to tune in to the We B Swangin show today (Wednesday) at 4pm for an example of online broadcasting.

And let me know how it works for you!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

‘Tis the season for live book events

As the holiday season approaches, fall bazaars, winter festivals and Christmas markets pop up. These events are all thinly disguised craft fairs – great shopping opportunities, and book signing opportunities as well. This is also the best time for book signing events in bookstores and other venues. We at Intrigue Publishing participate in these events and prompt our authors to do so as well.  

Like them, you've surely heard stories of authors sitting at events where no one shows up and no books get signed or sold. In part, this can happen because we all spend so much time and energy on our online marketing that we slight our offline marketing efforts. Reversing that trend can be very profitable.

Marketing the event itself is important, and not just through social media. If you’re going to be in a store, give the store some help promoting you. Create some flyers that will pique peoples’ interest. I like a tri-fold that shows my book covers and synopses. I create them on my own computer in Word and bookstore workers can drop one in every bag. If you don’t want to take that much trouble you could just order a bunch of bookmarks and ask the store to use them as bag stuffers. Don’t listen to people who tell you bookmarks are old fashioned.  People still love them.

When the time comes, plan to give a talk rather than just a signing. Sometimes people who have no interest in an author sitting at a table may be drawn into a discussion.

Your event might get more attention if it takes place in a unique place. I've known of writers to speak in gyms, greeting card stores, electronics and video stores. I've done it myself in bars and restaurants on slow nights. Anyplace that’s not a bookstore, like those bazaars and festivals I mentioned, gives you the advantage of not competing with a thousand other writer’s books.

Wherever you plan your event, make friends with the people in charge. For the festivals, welcome their suggestions for your display. Ask if a reading for the whole event might be appropriate. You might consider donating a book as a door prize. Showing yourself to be a team player can result in better placement at the event or being a featured vendor.  If it’s a store, see if you can leave those bookmarks and pamphlets at the Information desk in addition to the register. And it can’t hurt to let the folks at nearby stores know about your event. If you draw a crowd it helps them too.

Events often benefit from some sort of special. Consider offering two books at a small discount. You can add a less expensive book, or even an ebook that you send to their Kindle or Nook. And, price aside, make your books easy to buy. Especially at festivals and fairs, be sure to bring enough change, round your prices to whole dollars, accept checks and be able to take credit cards. I use the free software that allows me to photograph a credit card and load the payment directly into Paypal.  You can also swipe the card or just punch in the number.

Don’t short yourself during gift giving season. Remember that getting your name, face and book title out there is almost as important as selling books so make the best of live in-person events. You might even find it to be fun! I do.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Art of the Blog

As bookstores dwindle and the cost of advertising rises, online promotion becomes more and more important. But when I mention it I see many writers’ eyes glaze over. There are two reasons. First, it can be very time consuming. Second, there are so many things a writer could do it can be overwhelming. I recommend writers keep it simple… like I’m doing right now.

Blogging is easy, it can be fast, and it gives you something you can share online to keep your writing in peoples’ minds. It also helps to keep you at the top of Google search results, as long as you do it regularly. Higher search ranking is well worth blogging once a week, like I do.

But, you ask, what should I blog about? Well, your writing is a good place to start. You can blog as one of your characters to give readers an inside view. My fictional detective Hannibal Jones blogged every week for a couple of years.

What else are you interested in? You can blog about what’s happening in publishing today. You can write reviews about other writers’ books in your genre.

How about posting short stories? I taught myself how to write flash fiction by posting 1200 word mysteries. Or post snippets of your next book (what a great way to get reader feedback AND pique reader interest.)  Or you could interview other writers, editors, anybody you know in the publishing industry.

And if you run out of ideas, you can get some from the idea generator. Go to and type in any three nouns. The software will spit out five related blog ideas.

Once you’re on a regular schedule posting items of interest on your blog you need to let everyone know. So share it on all your social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, whichever you’re comfortable with. And don’t just post the same thing. Posts on each site need to be a bit different. For example, Tweets need to be very short, and Facebook posts work best if you ask questions. But they should have one thing in common – attach a picture. Most recent research indicates that photos are very important on social media.

And remember that social media is about having a conversation, and that conversation is a two-way activity. So follow other writer’s blogs, and comment on their posts. Answer questions. Send invites to grow your social media following. Offer your opinions. Above all, support other writers. This is how you build your credibility and gain followers.  

And aren’t those good reasons for maintaining a blog?