Showing posts with label book marketing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book marketing. Show all posts

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Career Leveling Up: What Jeffe Is Doing


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Room for Growth." We're discussing one aspect of our writing or publishing careers - that we can control! - that we'd like to improve this year.

This topic is apropos for me right now because I'm in the midst of a push to boost (wedge, shove, or squeeze) my career to a new level. I should caveat that I know I'm doing relatively well. I'm grateful for the success I've realized in my writing career and I never want to lose sight of the fact that many excellent and deserving authors haven't seen the same success. 

But I've reached a real sticking point.

For those who don't know, my husband has early onset Parkinson's Disease. He's over ten years into diagnosis, so while his progression has thankfully been quite slow, he's reached the point where he really can't hold down a job. That leaves supporting our household up to me and my books. I'm stubbornly resisting getting a day job again, so this year will really be the make or break on whether I can make enough money to pay the bills and have a cushion for the future.

So, what have I been doing?

Since I can't bottle lightning - which, I admit, I've kind of been hoping to do as getting a book or series that takes off into the stratosphere would be super nice - I've been learning to *shudder* market and advertise.

I attended Romance Author Mastermind in December. Something I'd been leery of before for many reasons. My bestie and sister author Grace Draven talked me into it and I'm so glad she did! I learned so much from it! Mostly I came to the realization that it would behoove me to treat my business like an actual business. 

The other thing that happened is I completed my contract with St. Martin's Press (all but for page proofs on book 3) and they passed on my option book, which is one I've mentioned, DARK WIZARD. They passed on it - even though my editor loved it and the house loves me - because they feel like they can't move fantasy romance in the print numbers that they'd like to. (They don't care about ebook sales. They want what they can sell at Walmart, which is Cowboy Romance and sweet contemporaries these days - so a tidbit for those of you who write that!) 

Once I got over the initial sad, because I loved working with St. Martin's, I took this as a Sign. While my writing income had been pretty close to 50/50 between Indie and Trad for the last few years, in 2020 that changed to 65% Indie - and my Trad income was only 75% of what it was in 2019. That's not a good trend. At Romance Author Mastermind there were many former Trad authors who been where I am and said they'd made their money switching to Indie. Yes, I've heard this before, too. These people showed the numbers. 

I decided that, instead of taking DARK WIZARD on submission to other Trad houses on submission, I'd self publish it. So, DARK WIZARD, book one in my new series, Bonds of Magic, will come out on February 25, 2021. (I loved writing this freaking book so much that I'd already written the whole thing!) 

(If you want a sneak peek of the cover of DARK WIZARD and what it's about, it will be in my newsletter going out Monday. Sign up here.)

Then, because I'd already planned a new series, Heirs of Magic (unrelated, I didn't realize the series title echoes until too late, ah well), with book one THE GOLDEN GRYPHON AND THE BEAR PRINCE releasing on January 25, 2021. You can preorder it here, or here are some handy buttons.


That means in 2021, I'll be taking advantage of the fact that I'm a relatively prolific writer - not writing anything for Trad - and releasing two Indie series. My release schedule will look like this. 

The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince (Heirs of Magic 1) 1/25/2021
Dark Wizard (Bonds of Magic 1)                                                 2/25/2021
The Sorceress Queen and the Pirate Rogue (Heirs of Magic 2) 4/19/2021
The Promised Queen (Forgotten Empires 3)                                  5/25/2021
Bright Familiar (Bonds of Magic 2)                                         6/26/2021
The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon (Heirs of Magic 0.5) 7/15/2021
The Dragon's Daughter and the Winter Mage (Heirs of Magic 3) 8/25/2021
Bonds of Magic 3 (Bonds of Magic 3)                                     11/1/2021
The Storm Princess and the Raven King (Heirs of Magic 4)         12/31/2021

Of those, three are already written, so it's not as intense as it looks. Also, because I track my productivity so intensely (something I always recommend all writers do, so we know exactly what we can and can't do), this is a doable writing schedule for me. (Hopefully. I'm pretty sure I can do this, but light a candle for me.)

I'm also doing things like reading books on marketing and advertising! I very much recommend David Gaughran's AMAZON DECODED: A MARKETING GUIDE TO THE KINDLE STORE. It's easy to digest and full of excellent, practical advice, absent the ickier kinds of self-publishing shouting. I bought the Publisher Rocket app and have been taking the online classes on maximizing keywords. 

I'm going all in, people. Wish me luck! (And buy my books :D) 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Covers That Don't Know What They Ought to Be - AND Cover Reveal

What a serendipitous topic for this week. Deceptive marketing/book covers. I was just given the new cover for Enemy Within. You'll be the first to get a look. And we can analyze. 

This cover had a very tall order standing behind it. I wanted it to do several things: 

1. Convey Science Fiction
2. Convey Romance
3. Convey that this story isn't entirely a light read - I hope to all the gods it's fun, you know? But there are -- issues. And there's a body count. The heroine has PTSD for a reason. So I really, really wanted the cover to not be all sunshine and roses. Basically, I didn't want my cover to sell the promise of a light SFR when I've been told I'm writing grim SFR. 

How do you think the cover does?

Because this is a rerelease, several of you will remember that this book was originally pubbed with a very different cover (which I cannot link in because it is the property of the publisher.) THAT cover had a very different look and feel. It was sunnier. The background was bright yellow. The heroine was in a very different posture on the cover. Over all, I felt like that print cover did a better job of conveying Urban Fantasy than SFR. But I'll never be able to prove that hindered the sale of the book in any way. I can only speculate. 

Keeping in mind that this rerelease is coming out as an ebook, I have to say I like this new cover. It's clean. It's simple (apparently TWRP has done a serious bit of reader surveying about covers and came up with a 'no more than three elements per cover' rule to accommodate thumbnails). I feel like it communicates more than it shows, if that makes any sense. Now, granted, I have no idea whether that will translate into book sales, but hope springs eternal. Or maybe wishful thinking does. 

I think above all things (and as a great surprise to me) I really love that the woman on the cover comes across as both vulnerable and capable all at the same time. That, to me, feels like a hit out of the park. Now I hope readers will agree.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

When Book Marketing Betrays the Reader

Recently an old family friend asked me for advice. She was coming out with her first book, had hired someone to help package for it - formatting, cover, uploading, etc. But she wasn't happy with what that person advocated for the cover. She wanted an image that represented her author's vision of the story, which was her coming to peace with a problem, whereas the designer's cover images all focused on the problem.

I gave her my pick from the choices, and then explained that it's not the job of the cover to express the author's vision. The entirety of the INSIDE of the book does that. The cover has two jobs: 1) to entice a reader to look more closely, and 2) to convey the genre and kind of story it will be. In her case, a cover that transmitted the problem was what she needed, so readers would understand what the story would be about.

The cover above is one of my least favorite because it fails on both parts of its job, in my opinion. I don't think it's particularly enticing, as the guy looks ill enough to be mostly dead. Also, nothing about this cover communicates erotic paranormal. The font looks like something post modern, and he... well, NOT sexy. MASTER OF THE OPERA is actually a modern retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, set at the Santa Fe Opera. Kensington published it as a six-act serial novel starting in January 2014. Those covers are marginally better - at least giving a Phantom of the Opera vibe - but I think the genre communication is murky still. Also they didn't do the marketing the way a serial novel needs to be promoted.

Anyway, the zombie cover (though Assistant Carien says I'm insulting zombies by calling it that) was on the print version that brought all six acts together in one place, which came out in the fall of 2015. I asked then if there would be a digital version compiling all six and they said no.

Then, last week, I got tagged on new release congratulations for ... the digital version compiling all six acts, complete with zombie cover and a release date of April 30, 2019.

Surprise!

So, no. This isn't really a new release at all. It's barely a new format. Coincidentally enough, our topic at the SFF Seven this week is marketing suckering readers into reading a genre they don’t enjoy.

In this case, I'm irritated by the marketing attempt to sucker readers into thinking this is a new release from me. The cover mostly just fails to do much of anything, really.

It's even worse, however, when the marketers decide to cash in on, say, the Romance audience. I think this mainly happens with Romance, though I'll be interested in the takes from the others in the SFF Seven if they've seen it happen in other genres.

What happens in Romance is, a story with a love affair in it gets marketed as Romance, but then has an ending that doesn't satisfy the Romance promise. The affair ends in some way - with a death, a sacrificial parting, or a permanent parting of the ways for one reason or another.

It happens a lot in Romance for two reasons: 1) The Romance audience is huge, avid, and passionate, therefor a tempting market, and 2) marketers (and some authors) regard Romance readers as kind of silly and short-sighted in their desire for a happy ending to the love affair. They think the readers don't know what they really want and that this book will change their minds because it's just THAT good. Either that or the marketing folks don't care past getting that one sale. The advertisers of widgets can be like that, not understanding that the book is not simply a one-sale product, but the beginning of a lasting relationship.

(Of course, this is also why the big box bookstores failed. They never understood that readers have relationships with the books they buy that goes far beyond something like acquiring groceries or the latest tech gadget.)

The thing about reading is we do it for pleasure. We scour covers, copy, and reviews to find the story that will sing to us. If we get suckered in by misleading marketing and are disappointed in the end?

UGH.

(But MASTER OF THE OPERA is a Romance and the story is way better than that cover. Just saying.)


Friday, January 11, 2019

Book Marketing Rage

I am sitting at my kitchen counter watching a trio of not-so-little-anymore black kittens lose their minds because the landscape crew are here trimming bushes right up against the house. The kittens are dashing from window to window to alternately watch and freak out when the hedge trimmer revs.

This is book marketing in one tidy metaphor.

Authors race from thing to thing, claws scrabbling for traction on the hardwood in their desperation to abandon FB ads for Amazon ads. Or BookBub. Or whatever else is au courant. Sixty seconds later, the scramble is on again.

It's interesting to watch. Certainly someone is making book marketing work for them or the rest of us wouldn't be chasing around trying to replicate their results. And with that sentence, you can surmise that I have no idea how to play Moneyball with book promotions. What you may not know is how much it annoys me. The whole point of the movie, Moneyball, was using hard data to drive decisions. Not instinct. Not heart. Not gut. Numbers. That's possible in baseball. It is almost entirely impossible with books. Especially if you're traditionally published. It is not possible to trace a customer from ad click thru to a purchase. I should imagine customers would be annoyed if we could track them like that. I would be. But it does make the entire book marketing thing a bit of a black box. Somewhere inside of it, weird magic happens, and we don't get to observe it happening.

Yes. You can run A/B ad tests. But unless you are direct selling through your own website only, you cannot possibly track sales. You can only track impressions and click thrus. You can infer from your click thru rates which ad drove the most buys should you see an uptick in sales, but you cannot prove which ad actually drove the spike.

You may now picture my little SQL database-driven heart trembling in rage.

My take away is that if you want to play Moneyball, you need to change to a career with actual, trackable metrics, cause this ain't it. We're all of us dancing on the edge of the volcano with book marketing - basically pleading with the gods and offering to sacrifice pretty much anything for just one shot at selling enough books to make the mortgage next month.

I comfort myself with the adage that your best marketing for your last book is your next book.