Saturday, November 8, 2014

Advertising Ploys

When you're planning any advertisement for your book or your brand, stop for a moment and really pay close attention to commercials on the TV. Think about some of the most annoying commercials that come to mind. For me, right at the moment, my most dreaded commercial is the ad for the Fiat mini hatchback (I can't remember what the model is called off the top of my head). I'm sure you've seen it: there are several shots of women in multi-colored yoga pants, just from the waist down, circling the car in a jerky manner and repeated several times while irritating music plays. There are a few other commercials for the car that have similar themes.

Why do I bring this up? Well, the advertisement did its job, didn't it? It made itself memorable to the audience. Even negative advertisement can make an impression on the viewers. And you may have noticed how some of the big book publishers are starting to use commercials on TV and radio for their big-name authors. I've recently seen one for James Patterson's new novel Burn. It's nothing more than the author sitting on a stool and passing his book from one hand to another, claiming it's "too hot to handle". And I know I've heard some radio advertising for authors on those rare occasions I'm in the car listening to the radio.

Am I telling you to run out and try to buy advertising space on the radio for your books? No, of course not. Most of us indies can't afford to do so, and you should always remember this rule of thumb for marketing: don't ever spend more than you think you can earn back in sales. The easy alternative, of course, is to make your current marketing, such as in social media, more memorable.

Look at Twitter, for example. Most of my tweeting is done on my phone, with a small screen. So there's a very small window of opportunity for you to reach someone before your tweet vanishes forever in the pile of other tweets. Several marketing experts have said that using a photo in your tweet increases your visibility. And it really does. Think about it: a tweet that's plain simply blends in with the rest of the tweets. One with a photo stands out and increases your chances of visibility. If you can, using color variations in your text or brightly-colored symbols, as I've seen many others do, also serves to draw the reader's attention.

Anything you do to make your marketing more visible, more memorable, more accessible to viewers will increase your chances of making a sale. Instead of printing out black and white flyers, for example (for a signing or posting on bulletin boards), try printing one in color. Try attaching photos to emails or tweets. Make your blog or website as appealing as you can to the public. Sometimes even changing the layout or fonts can add to your appeal.

Check out my own website here and look at some of the changes I've made recently. I changed to a slightly brighter color, added a slideshow to the bottom of the home page, and changed the font on my header. Like the site while you're there, if you do, and leave me a comment (these are at the bottom of each page). This didn't cost me anything to do, and it may increase viewership. So give it a try in your own marketing. Remember, you're trying to stand out in a crowd of other advertising. Make yours as memorable as you can!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Promoting Your Brand

Yes, your brand! You might say, I'm an author, I don't have a brand. But that's not true, because you do have one! Your brand is...drum roll, please, YOU!

So, it's important to realize that, as you're trying to promote your brand, you are, first and foremost, promoting yourself. This is something that I have a really difficult time with, as I've never been a good salesperson. I worked at Auto Zone for a year, but that's not really the same thing as being a salesperson; after all, ANY customer that walks through the door needs something that we have! And I've always had trouble with, say embellishing a resume, for example. I don't quite have the self-confidence that I need to be able to effectively sell myself.

But I feel like I am making strides in the right direction. I purchased and copyrighted my butterfly logo when I "founded" my publishing company, Metamorph Publishing. At the moment, Metamorph's only author is myself, but both of my daughters are also writers, and you never know what the future may hold. I paid $10, I think, for the simple butterfly clip art. I added my own text to it, and it's become my company logo! Truthfully, I've fallen in love with it for its simplicity.

So in an attempt to spread that "brand", I've been using this logo for all social media "avatars" that I use for my business. It's also on my website, and you can see it's here as well. I'm also trying to integrate it into the email signature of my "business" email, and in as many other places as I can think, like my page.

Why is this important? Well, according to Mark Coker of Smashwords, one of our marketing goals should be to get our links (to books, website, author page, etc.) in as many different places as we can. Doing this changes our positioning in the search engine algorithm when people do a simple search online. The more times our links show up, and in the more places, the higher we will get in the search engine's results. I don't understand much about how this all works, but Mark explained it pretty nicely for someone as non-tech savvy as myself.

Taking that a step farther is what I'm doing with my publishing logo. It's on my blog, my website, my Facebook page, my Amazon page, my, LinkedIn, and so on. I'm even printing it on the new cover of Once Upon a Western Way, and considering printing it on the bottom of my copyright pages. Not sure how well it will turn out in the digital versions, but it should look nice in the print format.

I think the longer my butterfly brand is out there, the more people I will get to follow me. Once this brand is established, especially if I continue to strive to put out quality books (new and revised older ones), I think it will continue to attract more and more people.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Importance of Cover Art

This subject is something I've been reading a lot about in the past few days, and I'm certain the idea has some merit. After all, a good percentage of our book sales will be made based on the cover (especially for e-books!) and the description or blurb from the back of the book. Put yourself in the place of the reader. If you see a great book cover, don't you take a few more minutes to check into that book? And if you see a poorly-done or generic cover, don't you click the 'back' button quickly, sometimes even without reading the description? Your cover is going to be your first impression with your potential readers.

So, with this in mind, I set about redesigning the cover for Once Upon a Western Way. I'd used an image years ago when I first published through Smashwords, an image I really liked. But when it came time to go to print, I didn't have the capability to take that same image and make the resolution good enough for a hard copy. So I used CreateSpace's cover designer, which has a lot of different options, images, font types, and so on. But what I came up with, though I was satisfied at the time, seemed a little generic and didn't describe any of the story. Plus, I'd seen another author on Twitter who had the EXACT same cover, even the color! Here is the before image.

I recently read another book published by Mark Coker, of Smashwords, regarding marketing of e-books (though the same principles can be applied to print books as well), and he tells a story of a Smashwords author who, simply by upgrading her cover, went to the top of the New York Times' Bestselling Ebook list. Now, I'm not aspiring to be that author (or shall I say, expecting to be), but it got me to thinking of my book cover and if I could improve sales with an upgraded cover.

So, I started looking in to some of the lower-cost cover designers that Smashwords maintains a list of (plus a few others I'd gotten to know on Twitter). My budget for something of this magnitude is virtually nil, but Smashwords' list has people who can design covers for starting at $45. I had an idea of a young man and young woman in medieval clothing, with a castle in the background. But in looking through several portfolios, I noted that a lot of the people had a cartoonish look, or that type of look that just says, CGI rather than photo. I didn't want that kind of look for this.

My husband suggested I return to my original image, and I was trying to explain about Dots Per Inch and image resolution, and how I kept getting error messages in my CreateSpace cover creator when I'd previously tried to use it. Plus, I'd lost the original file to the old laptop's blue screen of death, and I tried taking a picture of the picture (I think I had scanned it, for the Smashwords version), and the colors hadn't turned out the right way. I'd even taken it and the camera outside in natural light. So he tells me he'll take a picture of it with his phone and Bluetooth it to me. I'm thinking, "Yeah, like that's going to work." Good thing I didn't say so, because it did!

So, my new cover, with the old image, will, I hope, invite the reader into a world of kings and queens and princesses and epic love stories. Here's the new version, already uploaded and just waiting for approval (since I had to go through the review process all over again, I added the first chapter of Triple Heist to the back of it as well, as a teaser for the reader). I hope it works out well enough! Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Featured Author Stef Schuurman and book Thoughts From My Inner Soul


Comments in blocks [ ] are my personal comments, not to be confused with my citations ( ).


Stef Schuurman was born and raised in South Africa. He is recently engaged [congratulations!], and has 5 cats and 4 dogs [sounds like my house…the local zoo, ha ha]. In his “day” job he’s a night auditor and duty manager of a hotel, and has written three books of poetry, one novel, a literary fiction, and a short story.

Thoughts From My Inner Soul was just released October of 2014, and can be found on Amazon as well as other e-book retailers.  Classified at literary fiction, this book takes everyday topics discussed in general terms with the author’s added opinions on each one. He also reveals quite a few secrets about his life and himself in general.

Stef says, “There’s no other book like it. The book has a lot of artwork in it and also consists of a very personal perspective… …The inspiring factor of these topics will be the hook that will attract more and more readers.” (Quoted from e-mail)

Each topic in the book has its own message of inspiration, and Stef hopes that it will put the “over-thinkers” minds’ at ease and make them feel inspired. His story should invoke every emotion in a different sort of sense.

At the moment, he’s planning a second volume as companion to Thoughts From My Inner Soul, and has ideas for a few other books as well. He’s an indie author who published online as a means to have more control over the end result of his books and works.

Other books by Stef include Justin’s Final Heavenly Prayer, Frozen Emotions (Stef’s Poems Book 1), Powerless, Aurora, and Rou Emosies: Lewe deur gevoel (Afrikaans Edition) [My Google translate phone app translates this to “Raw Emotions Felt By Life”, which I hope is close enough, Stef! I imagine this is the Afrikaans Edition of Thoughts From My Inner Soul?]

Stef uses social media as much as possible to promote his work, even going so far as to offer contests and prizes [something I myself have done in the past] as rewards for sharing. He also has the idea to involve his social network followers in gaining HIM more followers, offering a free book or even a specially-written, one-of-a-kind poem just for them  [I hope you don’t mind if I borrow this thought; a special story “short” could be an excellent incentive!] in exchange for bringing in new followers.


**Note: reviews help authors more than readers really understand. If you’ve read his books, please go to Amazon and leave a review. I know he’ll be grateful.**


**Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of any of the subject material, as I have not read the book, and cannot vouch for its contents.**

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Butterfly Cancer

Since I have a Kindle countdown in the UK scheduled to start on Saturday, I'm going to take this opportunity to shamelessly plug one of my books. My Butterfly Cancer is my personal memoir, portraying the battle I fought just last year with a life-threatening illnes: leukemia.

To explain leukemia in basic terms, it is a condition in which immature stem cells in the bone marrow never mature; they never become oxygen-bearing red blood cell, infection-fighting white blood cells, or platelets (responsible for blood clotting). They just sit there in the bone marrow, taking up space and crowding out normal, healthy cells. Initial symptoms can include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, easy bruising, easy bleeding, and colds or flus that just don't seem to go away.

My memoir was intended to be an inspirational hope to others who are suffering from cancer or other life-threatening illness. After all, when we initially heard my diagnosis, we were sure it was a death sentence. I'm sure others have felt that way too. Even though it was the hardest thing I've ever done, I tried to face each morning with the thought that I was going to fight another day.

Be prepared for raw, heart-wrenching emotion and bald honesty. One reviewer said "I could see it all in my mind, all too clearly." She lost a husband to leukemia on Valentine's day of this year. Another reviewer wrote: "She bares her soul and does it so eloquently...I cried in sadness and in joy."

So come and join me through the course of this journey, and find out how the butterfly effect took over my life, one small interaction that started an avalanche that culimated in me becoming a self-published author!

Am I the same person I was before cancer? Definately not, and I doubt I ever will be. I still have bad days. I still have pain from scar tissue left behind by a secondary infection. I'm still underweight, and I'm still waiting for my hair to return. Some organs don't work as well as they used to. That includes my brain; I think my memory may be irrevocably damaged.

But I'm still alive. I'm still here, and I never gave up. It was a life-long dream to get my stories published. I've tried many times, sent manuscripts to publishers myself (and most never even bothered to send a rejection letter), to hiring an agent, to self-publishing Once Upon a Western Way digitally two years ago. But cancer was obviously the catalyst I needed, that, and the gentle urging of an old friend. Am I sorry that I lost the person I used to be? Not anymore! There's my cover for My Butterfly Cancer. The second pic is my first post-cancer ride on my horse, Athena, July 4, 2014! What an independence day for me!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Reviews Do Help (and Hurt!) Authors

When you hear the word review or feedback, often you might think of a product you purchased online at eBay or other auction sites. Perhaps you've even left feedback for DVDs or games you've purchased. But reviews are important to authors, too, as well as to potential readers. I encourage everyone who purchases books to leave reviews for them.

But reviews can hurt authors too. As I was browsing the Masquerade Crew's blog looking for tweets I could use as part of the tweet exchange program (I think I talked about this in my Promotions post), I came across one that deeply disturbed me.

This tweet was about an Amazon review. The reviewer claimed, "I bought it by mistake so I thought it deserved 1*". Not only that, but this same reviewer had 3 OTHER reviews that read almost the same thing! I checked out all of them.This person had 22 total reviews; they were either 5* claiming "excellent, loved it, etc.", or they were 1* saying "terrible, waste of money, hope Amazon pulls this, etc."

Not only is this kind of review completely insensitive to the author, but unneccessary. Amazon has a seven day return policy on books, even Kindle books. I know, because I had one refunded myself (I hoped it was because someone bought the Kindle version when they wanted the print). If you'd bought the wrong size jeans, you wouldn't leave such a review with the jeans company would you? No, you'd return to the storefor a refund or exchange, wouldn't you? Even if the reviewer decided to read the book she accidentally bought (or if the 7 day period had expired by the time she realized it), she shouldn't have left a review like that.

Writing reviews are more difficult than you might think. Even if you didn't like the book, try to pull something good from it. In other words, say something like "people who enjoy fantasy stories might truly enjoy this book". If the book is full of glaring grammar and typographical or formatting errors, you might gently suggest having someone edit it. In other words, remember that authors have feelings. Often, we're just as sensitive as painters, photographers, or other artists.
 I'll leave you with one last thought. Keep in mind that reviews can and do help authors, especially independent authors without the might and backing of big publishers (who can afford to pay for reviews). But if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!