Thursday, August 14, 2008

What a writer's gotta do...

Like others have mentioned I long for the day when I can turn to a professional publicist and say, "Fine. You handle it." Of course I also feel the same way about cleaning my house. Turning either of those chores over to a professional isn't happening anytime soon, so like most other e-book/small press authors, I'm forced to handle it myself.

What works? Got me. My sales numbers don't give me much of a handle on that. I've tried ads in the big magazines, blogging, guest blogging, chats, myspace, promo giveaways, contests, you name it. Each time I think I'm onto something big, my sales stay steady. So I'm left shaking my head. Yes, I've had people win a copy of one book and then go buy the others in that series. Yes, I've had people leave comments on blogs and go buy the books. I've had booksignings where I sold three and others where I sold thirty. Honestly? I can't figure out any trend or pattern. And that's using my scientific analysis background. The best I can tell you is that all of it works--sometimes.
In the two years since I made my first sale, I have noticed a couple of things. Chats aren't as well attended as they once were. From an author's point of view, that's a disappointment. Even if hundreds or thousands are reading the excerpts later on digest, it's hard to keep a chat going if you have three readers show up. And if you do run a free download contest, you honestly don't want to give free books to the same reader time after time.

Like many authors, my promotions budget is essentially zero. I can afford to chip in on the occasional big prize or mail out the occasional goodie. I bought magnets for RT and have another hundred or so to pass out. I do not have a software program to produce cool flashy banners or other graphics, and therefore what I do end up investing is time. And every hour I spend promoting is an hour I don't write. I do have my dragon logo. At one point I was told that he was too juvenile for the romance/erotic romance market, so his image has gotten an overhaul (above). He's still Cedric and he still shows up on my emails, but it's now in his grown-up persona.

So what works, what doesn't? Don't ask me. I'm just plugging away at it like everyone else. Of the two publishers I'm with, I will say that the one I do more promo for, I'm one of their lower sellers, while the one where I mostly let the books sell themselves, I'm sitting at #1 on their bestseller list. Go figure.
As the US inches deeper into recession, we're competing harder for what small amount of money is left for luxuries. I know a number of authors are sending promo to the Australian romance conference this winter in hopes of expanding their readership overseas, where the economy is stronger. I will probably do likewise and hope they like dragon magnets too.

Oh, and one cool note? One of our recent Saturday guests here on the grip had an email from her publisher the day of her guest appearance asking what she'd done for promo, and to please keep doing it. Thought that was a very cool testament to the whole blogging thing, and to the Grip in particular.

Anyway, promo is a part of the job description and it's not going away. We do what we can, what we have to, and what we can afford to get the word out. Why? Because there's not much cooler than having someone come up to you and say,. "Oh, I love your books!"
One last thing... Last Saturday, Lisabet Sarai offered a free download of Rough Caress to one lucky commenter. Jeanine if you would please contact Lisabet at lisabet@lisabetsarai.com to claim your free copy?



14 comments:

  1. I, personally, love your little dragons. Good step in branding and you've done well with it. I still say Cedric needs a cowboy hat and boots because your cowboy stories ROCK.

    I think most of us are looking for inexpensive to free ways to get our names out there and it isn't easy. I mean, how can you tell if the promo worked? When we get a check in the mail there's still no hint of whether the reader just got on the site and loved cover and blurb or if she bought because of something you did. Most readers never contact us and say, oh, read your blog and picked up your book. Or, I got a pen and bookmark from you at a convention. It's just so hard to KNOW what's working. ARGH. Frustrating.

    Excellent post, Cindy!

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  2. Great post! I certainly agree with you that it's wonderful when someone tells you that they love your books!

    I'm with you. What works? Who knows? Its nearly impossible to define a working strategy. And as you've pointed out--what works one time may not work another time.

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  3. That's why when I read a book I love, I either contact the author personally, or at least rave about it on my blog. We all have different blog readers, so I hope maybe my readers will expand to yours or any other author's books.

    And I love 'baby' Cedric:) Any plans to come to Indiana so I can get a magnet?

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  4. Cindy -- I like both versions of your dragon, but I think you're right to use the "grown-up" dragon for your books, due to their sensuality level. My dog logo looks to some like it might be a logo for a kid's book author, so I find myself telling people I hand my keychains to that my site is R-rated and not to give my keychains to their kids without removing my laminated business card with my URL on it.

    What started as something I thought I should do to warn people has actually grown into an opener to discuss what my books are about. E.g., Me: "My site is R-rated." Potential reader: "Really? I like hot books." ;-)

    By the way, I gather some info on which of my PR efforts are working by putting a question in my Web site contest form that asks, "How did you hear about my site?" Most people fill that out. I know other, more technologically talented authors use programs that track visitors who come to their Web sites, but I haven't "graduated" to that level of Web sophistication yet. ;-)
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  5. How I wish I could afford to hire a publicist, housekeeper, and personal chef. Even one out of three would be helpful.

    I like to analyze things, too, and I've yet to figure out rhyme or reason as to which PR and advertising works. Some say it's the rule of 7 - that people have to see a brand at least 7 times before it sinks in. So it's probably a combination of everything we do. One thing alone, one or two times, won't work.

    But I'm also a reader that usually goes by blurbs and excerpts and really fine writing. So the best thing, I think, we can do is to write the best possible books, blurbs, and titles. A neat title will get me to read the blurb. Now, if I can just come up with dynamite titles and blurbs and take my own advice.

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  6. Most of you know me and are aware that I promo my be-hind off. I have done several radio interviews, a newspaper interview, and have hung out on chats for days straight. I have postcards that I insert into magazines at the newstand, into romance books at the library, and other less than okay practices as well. And to be honest with you, the only people who know my name seem to be other authors. I mean, I have received emails from people who have read my books (2 of them) and a few more from people who have heard me on the radio and want to know when I will have a "real" book available because I sound so interesting. And we have all learned by now trying to explain to some people that e-books are real books is about as effective as ramming your head against a brick wall to alleviate a migraine. NOT HAPPENING.

    But for the most part, my sales are not spectacular. At all. I don't complain too much about that if I can help it. I am at least getting paid something to do a job that I LOVE, and probably couldn't NOT do. But how much ass busting do we have to do before we see a sizable return on our efforts.

    Do our careers really hinge on what publisher we have been contracted with? Y'all have discussed name recognition and branding, but what of the publisher? Even if our name is recognized, how willing are people to put their credit card numbers online for a pub they've never heard of?

    And Cindy, I LURRRVE Cedric. Young and grown up.

    Great post sweetie!

    XoXoXo
    Dakota

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  7. Wait, what? You don't have a promo budget???? How ever do you manage? ;)

    If only there were an endless purse. In the meantime I think we all just keep plugging away and hoping something sticks. Thanks for the blog, Cindy. Nicely put.

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  8. I hear you Dakota. Part of this lies with the publisher with whom you've placed your work. In the beginning, I didn't research my publisher much because I was so damn happy to be accepted somewhere, anywhere. It turned out to be a big mistake but live and learn. I'm sooo lucky now that I'm with publishers who seem to do all the right things to help promote their authors, maintain kickass websites, etc. I think we can work our asses off with promo but if a publisher doesn't get themselves out there too, it's futile. It should be a hand in hand operation between author and publisher and more often than not that's not happening.

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  9. Ooops. Let me clarify something. I didn't mean YOU personally, honey. LOL. I mean an in general 'you' as in anyone. Sorry. *blushing*

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  10. LOL. That's okay, you weren't typing with your blamey face on, so I knew it was a generic "you."

    D

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  11. Ah, WHEW. I feel better now. SNICKER.

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  12. Hey, y'all want to see something awful? Check out the pic I posted for you on my blog just now.
    www.vampsmut.blogspot.com

    It's not depraved or anything...well not in the gross sense...well I mean it isn't going to offend anyone.

    Oh hell, just go look. ;)

    XoXoXo
    Dakota

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  13. Viola!

    That's it! I get it now; about why just this kind of promotion won't work!

    That is because its only the closed book that is being promoted. Maybe with a short paragraph of a review!

    What we need to do is to get the book talked about..The OPEN book that is!

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  14. I don't mean chats. I mean real articles published!Probed into, a critical appreciation!

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