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Posts tagged ‘content marketing’

Marketing, Promotion, and Other Bad Words

I saw a book recently I’d like to buy, possibly. But there’s a problem. I just bought two books, haven’t had time to read them yet, and I’ve maxed out my book budget for the month. Drat. Oh, well, I have more books in my to be read list than I can possibly read in the scant free time I have… driving on.

Then I sat back and thought it through. As a reader, this was a ‘oh, that looks neat, can’t do it, no worries,’ kind of moment. If I were that author, though. If I were that author, I’d just have lost a sale and I’d have no idea why. Now, here’s the thing: it’s absolutely not the author’s fault. There’s nothing wrong with the cover. It fits the genre and attracted me as it is signaling genre I enjoy reading. The blurb is intriguing without being too revealing. The lead-up post that got me to link through to the book was funny if wordy, but suitable to audience. What went wrong with this potential sale was all on my end. The timing was off. Read more

Breaking into New Markets

This last week I did something I have meant to do for a while, but haven’t had the time to contemplate doing: I paid for advertising, and coordinated a big promotional push for one of my books.

Most of my marketing is near-passive. I have my blog, and my social media presence, but I don’t use them to push my books in people’s faces. I’m a big fan of content marketing, and I prefer to have people want my books without me jumping up and down shouting “I write books! You must buy!” because that will turn them off and I’ll lose readers rather than gain them in the long term. It’s the project of years, not days or months. Peter Grant and I sat down shortly after we first met, along with our respective spouses (and I’m going to interject a big veering-off-track here and say that both of us are blessed in our spouses. You all know Dorothy as a marketing guru and a writer in her own right, but those years ago she wasn’t yet writing, she always has been brilliant about marketing, though. My own husband is the Evil Muse. I don’t think I need to say more!). During the course of that conversation he told me his own strategy for marketing, and it was a long-term one – spend five years, give or take – blogging regularly, then release his first book. It worked beautifully, and I have been following in his footsteps to some extent (I had already been blogging, but on his advice took it up to a daily blog and much more regular than it had been. Which was a huge challenge during college).

Above and beyond the slow audience growth a blog affords, I had decided a few months ago that I wanted to do some aggressive market growth and actually shell out money for marketing. Before I started, I had to figure out some things: What form of promotion I wanted to do, what audiences I wanted to reach, and what my budget was going to be.

The first thing I want to make clear is: I was not spending money for an immediate ROI. This is, like my blog, a long game. I could – and still may at some point – buy ads. Targeting an ad is a tricky business. You can buy ads on Facebook, on Amazon, on Project Wonderful… heck, you could buy ads in your local newspaper or TV channel, if you’re willing to really shell out the dough. I opted not to buy ads, not having the time nor the inclination to sit down and design one, research where would be best to buy eyeball time… and most important, because I don’t think they work. Advertising slots are the opposite of permission marketing. There is a reason I use adblockers and FBPurity, and I do not doubt that my readers use those, too. Which means buying an ad is nearly akin to making confetti out of my money and throwing it off a bridge. So….

Where to find readers who want to read a book?

Book promotion sites and emails, of course. BookBub is the big one, but when I looked at the cost for the genre I wanted to promote in, I decided that although it might be interesting to experiment with another time, it was out of my budget for this particular push. So I started looking at the smaller ones, the ones I’d used before, like Fussy Librarian and EbookHounds. There are a lot of them. Dorothy Grant was good enough to send me a link to a list of them, and between ones I’ve used before and that list, I picked out a total of six I wanted to try, and they fit into my budget.

Which brings me to that. I set a very modest budget for this promotion. I wanted to spend no more than $100. I spent $89, placing my book in eight different places. One was a freebie. One was a freebie, but didn’t run my book, which is what happens when you’re doing promo sometimes, so I didn’t sweat it.

Choose what book you want to promote wisely. If you only have one or two books published, do not do this. I did this knowing that I had a complete trilogy to sell, by giving away the first book in the series. In addition, I had a new release in the same genre (although not the same sub-genre) which I thought might attract the readers who liked my promo book well enough to read the whole trilogy and start looking for my other books. So I picked Pixie Noir to giveaway through Amazon, offering it for free for a total of five days. I chose to schedule the promo over a weekend, although interestingly the highest day was Friday.

Pixie Noir Giveaway
August 3 August 4 August 5 August 6 August 7 Promo cost
Fussy Librarian x $6.00
Ebook hounds x $45.00
MHI Promo post x $0.00
Awesomegang newsletter x $10.00 x $8.00
The Kindle Book Review x X X x x $10.00
AccordingtoHoyt promo post
      x   $0.00
Daily Bookworm x $10.00
total cost $89.00

This ranking would climb, but there is the first stage…


It would peak at #2 in Paranormal and Urban, but I couldn’t get a screenshot at the time. Still!

Over the five days, I gave away a total of 4394 books. For me, this is four times the total of any previous free book drive I’ve done. On Friday there was a huge spike of 2637 books given away, which I attribute to the book having been pushed up the charts at Amazon the day before, and the momentum continuing into Friday and pushing it up the charts even more, which meant more eyeballs on it at Amazon… and so on. It was sort of exciting to watch! Saturday I left on a four-day trip, so I wasn’t able to watch as closely, but books given away did taper off and finally come to a stop. So… over four thousand new readers, right? Wrong.

The peril of giving a book away, rather than offering it at a steep discount, is that people will scoop up free books, not read them initially, and then forget they own them. Personally I have about 780 ebooks on my Kindle, and that’s not my full ebook library. I know there are books in there I got free, forgot, and will likely never read. Amazon has really fallen off the ball on offering readers a way to curate and organize their own libraries, but I digress. Even if I could create a collection of ‘books I got free’ it would be a lower to-read priority than the books of Siberian and Alaskan folktales and mythology I’ve been reading for research. So my point is that giving away free books is not a direct one-to-one correlation of a book and a set of eyeballs on that book. Still, some will read PN, and like it, and I know this because…

That’s the graph of Kindle Unlimited reads across all my titles. You’ll note that it was doing ok, not great, up until the giveaway was a couple of days old. Now, this is not what I’d call a peak. Sales are up, for the other titles in the series, but not dramatically so. I was surprised by the KU increase, I was not at all surprised that the sales weren’t – yet – up. This is probably going to take another week to see it play out (and I’ll do a small follow-up next week as well, along with another topic).

If – when – I do this again, I won’t buy the highest level promotion from Ebookhounds. It wasn’t worth that much more money than the others. I’d also start working on this further out – I wanted to do this over the first weekend in August after releasing Snow in Her Eyes during the first week of August, but I didn’t plan ahead very far. It can be done, but it would be better to start researching and planning a month out. The Fussy Librarian and Kindle Book Review between them accounted for 730 freebies on that first day, so they were well worth the fees and planning in tandem, as I think that pushed the ranks up enough to create momentum at Amazon itself.

Overall I’m pleased, and will do this again – but not soon. If I do another promo, it will be a discounted book. But I don’t have a series to do that with, so I’ll wait until I have either the rest of the Tanager series complete, or perhaps the next of the Children of Myth series. Both of those will take me a while! In the meantime, I’ll be watching my sales and reviews to see what the long-term payout on this modest investment is. For one thing, in this last week I have seen three new reviews pop up for Pixie Noir, all of them from new readers. On a book that has been out for four years, that’s pretty good.


I’ve had a series of conversations I took part in this week, and in them answered, or helped answer, some questions that I thought applicable enough to repeat them here. Writing, publishing, cover art… it’s all fodder for the blog, right?

I had a conversation the other day with a friend who is also a writer (at some point I need to sit down and tot up how many of those I have) and we were talking about world building. He was telling me he was going to make me blush, because he’d been talking to his wife about my work and they concluded that I build my world around my characters while he writes a world and then peoples it. Both work, he pointed out. I sat back and pondered on this. He’s a long-time gamer, and furthermore, the DM for his group.

A DM, Sanford tells me, runs the game. He sets up the situation and determines whether the actions of the players are successful and what the reactions of the encounters are. I can certainly see how this would translate very well into storytelling. Probably with a lot more control over his characters than I can possibly have. I’m a pantser. I fly through my worlds by the seat of my pants, no IFR available. For the non-plane types in the audience, that means Instrument Flight Rules, opposed to Visual Flight Rules, and it applies rather well to my style of writing.

I can’t outline very much. I can do a little, rough out the framework of the terrain that lies ahead of my characters. But most of the time I am writing what I ‘see’ and hear in my head. This can be a challenge if I have a character who isn’t talking to me for some reason. And yes, my worlds do revolve around the perceptions of my characters. I have a tendency to not know more about the world my character lives in than they do – since I write largely SF and fantasy where I’m making up the worlds.

The question was posed in one of the groups I belong to on facebook, “Do authors here have author-blogs or websites? How essential do you think it is for a newbie to get their own site early (before publishing)? Also for those of you who have established sites, could I get a link to check them out?” I’ve written at length here on the Mad Genius Club about the way I blog, and my motivations behind it. Some of that is formed by a conversation I had with Peter Grant when we first met at LibertyCon 25. He was telling me that he’d blogged for a few years (I can’t recall the exact number, 3-4 years I think) before releasing his first book to build a large fanbase of people who wanted it. I think that’s an excellent idea, but it’s predicated on a couple of things. First, Peter was giving his readers good content. The blog he runs, Bayou Renaissance Man, is very interesting to follow as he dances from gun geeking to social commentary to just plain funny stuff. It is rarely on ‘writing and publishing’ and the few posts I can remember seeing on those, he admitted up-front that it was inside baseball and possibly not of interest to his readers. Because here’s the thing. We’re fascinated by all topics connected to writing and reading. We’re writers, after all, or working on it. That’s why we come to the MGC (that, and the sparkling wit and scintillating commentary). Ahem…)

However, unless you are marketing to writers, filling your blog up with posts about writing is not going to build a terribly big fanbase. I modeled my current blog schedule (and went to a daily post soon after talking to Peter, although it wasn’t consciously connected)  on this thought: building a broad base of people who come to my site to get interesting material. I give them value for their time, and in return, they have a trust relationship with me that means they are far more likely to lay some money down and take a chance on my writing. I blog on writing once a week, and vary it enough that I hope it’s not boring. I also blog on food, art, social stuff, and random bits that catch my attention as they flutter by (shiny! and if you doubt that, take a look at the list of topics on a day I do link round-up based on my open browser tabs! LOL) with the occasional book snippeting thrown in for good measure.

I’m a big fan of what I jokingly term the Jim Baen school of marketing: the first hit’s free. By snippeting the first quarter of the book, I should have hooked (or I need to hang up my author hat in disgrace) the reader well enough that on release day they are waving green folding stuff at me. But just snippets won’t bring the readers in, either. So, all the other stuff that I blog on does serve a purpose. The acronym WIBBOW, would I be better off writing? is yes. Blogging is writing. It’s just not paid writing, in a direct sense. Do you have to blog? No, you don’t. It will make building and maintaining a fanbase a little more challenging, but it can be done and blogging regularly isn’t for everyone.

Speaking of which, I have paying work to go do. So I’d better get my gear tidy and head out there… I will be back this afternoon to check on you all in the comments, so keep the sparkling and scintillating down, you hear? I don’t want to find this blog had burned down when I was out.

Mud, Glorious Mud…

“Mud, mud, glorious mud,
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.”
Flanders and Swann – The Hippopotamus’s Song
So come let us wallow… Now a few weeks ago I wrote of the poor fellow who decried the terrible tragic sinking into the swamp, the morass of self-published drekk, where jewels (such, naturally, as his own offerings) would be lost. No one would ever sell more than fifty copies. Alas, alack, alackaday-dee…(and various other suitable cries of woe, and occasional alarums).

Let me draw you a picture of a hill to comfort you. Because, you know, if you don’t want to be down in the swamp… what you need is hill. Well, mostly. As a mountaineer I can tell you near-vertical bogs do exist, and many an adventure hangs… or falls, thereby, but that aside water mostly runs downhill. And where there is not more land than water, it becomes very attractive to amorous Hippopotami. If you’re a hippo, it’s a good place to be. This may not be true for aging hipsters bemoaning Indy sales. You’ll have to forgive the hokey pictures – I got coreldraw for my birthday and today I tried to use it. Take the will for the deed – because it makes my point.
mudcurve 1 001

So look, behold, and otherwise espy: A hill. Otherwise known as a normal Gaussian distribution. Stick with ‘hill’. It’s simpler and rhymes with thrill, which is what the author who does not want to be in the swamp gets, when he finds himself on a dry piece of the hill. Now that doesn’t have to be the top of the hill – just a place where there is no rain (books that can soak in there) and thirsty ground (readers who want books that appeal to them). It can be very big hill, so a dry patch can be quite enough to make an author a living.

Now the hill can ‘describe’ all sorts of things, from an interest in gay romance, or how readers feel about a particular author, to the IQ of a country. The high point of the hill compared to the high point hill that is the demographic of the whole body of possible readers isn’t the same, and, duh, obviously, the biggest hill possible matches the demographic of the possible reading populace precisely. That’s a big hill, if we just talk English first language and an IQ of over 90… say 200 million strong. Some of those will read very little. Some of those will consume a lot of books. Again you can draw a hill for consumption, and the ‘sweet spot’ highest of that hill is not with the few reading 5 books a day (like me, on a reading jag) nor with the one book in ten years, or with the very bright, or the stupid. It’s probably with the medium-bright, and 2-3 books a month people.

Once upon a time, when the world was so very new and all, men wrote books for men.
A little bit of that leaked into the female half of the possible reader population, but really, it made their heads overheat and explode and there was no point in doing something that might appeal to them.
mud2 001

As time moved on and the world was slightly more shop-soiled and worldly-wise, publishing began to realize that women spent money and really, no one knew or cared what sex the money had come from. And the books, and writers (the lady novelist…) began to cater for both genders. And the Bronte’s and Austen’s found a ready audience, and some of it wasn’t female (the area under the curve represents buyers.) And so, gradually, the publishing industry and writers adapted to pleasing and, not surprisingly, representing their audience. Of course there were bits on the edges, or out of socio-political favor who were ignored. But, in general, this was not a huge part of the curve.

mudcurve 1 003

And, let us be real here, most of the readers didn’t care if the 0.1% – or (5 or 10%) the possible reading population – be these the worshipers of the sky-spaghetti-monster, or gay, or ex-Lithuanians didn’t get books that appealed. There was a small but real market for these people, just as there was a small (maybe not as small) market for sf or fantasy. Let someone who is interested in it, who fits there him/herself, write it. For a few writers it can be a good niche.

The problem of course is when you have too many writers in one niche, especially if that’s a small niche. Which cuts to core of what this blog post is about (and mud, of course)

It’s no secret that the bulk of the NY Traditional publishing establishment has steadily moved leftwards, and nowhere more so than in sf-fantasy, which has been more accepting of the left and quite open to the avant garde for their time, for the better part of seventy years – in other words, the claim that sf/fantasy ever was a right-wing, sexist, racist etc etc totally fails to hold water. Taken in a direct comparison to other genres of the same time, sf always was more wide open to the entire spectrum than any other section of literature. That, for a genre that sold to a part of the demographic (those prepared to read sf) was its strength. It’s a strength which has gone to the opposite in the last thirty odd years.
First you had this

mud4 002
Which when the publishing establishment controlled the rainfall (books that could naturally soak in there) … meant that the rest of the hill could go dry or take the run-off, but they weren’t interested (especially in sf/fantasy, in appealing to those sectors. They could like or be educated by it. There were aspects to those authors that might appeal to some readers. And when you controlled access to retail (which is what tradpub did) You could dictate what was available.
So they pushed it to this.
mud5 001

And then of course… it got far more doctrinaire. You had people like Orson Scott Card tossed from the fold because while the rest of his tenets might be ‘progressive’, he didn’t approve of gay marriage. And Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg daring to call a woman a lady… OUT, unclean unclean and so on, narrowing down on PC tenets, producing this.
mud6 001
And then this.
mud7 001
Which is far too much for the tiny part of the reading population in that part of the curve. It exists only because the dry hill is supposed to take it, and as declining sales of sf from tradpub (IIRC they’re down another 6% this year) many people either go dry or go indy. The result is the swamp. And it’s all mud, all the way down. Which if you happen to like mud flavor and color… there’s no shortage. In fact 50 books might be a good sale. Meanwhile the hill is dry.

Of course, that is over-simplifying it. There is no reason a hard-core left-winger can’t write books that appeal to readers elsewhere on the political front. It gets a lot harder when the ‘message’ trumps and invades every bit of story. It gets a lot harder when the villain is always the fellow outside your doctrinaire clique – and you still expect that outsider to buy it and enjoy identifying with the bad guy and being vilified – and knowing that the author obviously is applying a false stereotype. Try and imagine being a black reader, where any black character spend their time either apologizing for sins of all black folk, as if they were his own, or being the vilest of nasty people… I don’t see you buying another book by the author, especially if there is something else on offer, which, um, is the situation now starting to happen.

The big tag of course for indy writers is identifying the empty/under-served niches, and identifying the short medium and long term trends there. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of data available. And yes, it’s common sense – write about subjects and in genres and subgenres that interest you, which you know about, but you’d have to be a very mono-focus fellow to have that making your life easy. I write high fantasy, low fantasy, hard sf, soft sf… Steam punk (well, coal-punk) Alt history, humor, I’ve just finished a cozy whodunit, and realistically that’s just scratching the surface. They’re definitely not PC because the PC swamp couldn’t get any fuller (why do people write this? Is this really how they see the world with token minorities and prescribed attitudes? Or is this because they assume this works because there is so much of it?)

I think the only clues to take is 1) Is there a lot of the particular type of relatively generic stuff? 2) If so does it match the interests of a large demographic segment of the market?
If 1) is true, and 2) is false, don’t go there for ever-so-much, unless you have a new trick.
If 1) is false and 2) is true, you’re golden (I suspect this held true for the early adopters of indy Mil sf. It will probably change if too many suddenly try to write something they have no background in.)
If both are false or true, well, you could do okay.

A curious twist on another popular myth (at least with many trad sf/fantasy writers in their 30’s and 40’s) is that sf was a right wing bastion (false) until they stormed it, but now the future is solidly ‘progressive’, and it’s just old privileged white men (curiously many of these old white men seem to be female) yearning for their lost bastion, gnawing away at the wonderful Hugo awards. Oddly just as many of these new writers are rapidly heading into becoming old privileged white… and quite a lot of them loudly feminist men. But they are convinced that socially and politically their views are what sf/fantasy will be now and forever, once these old people die off, and will we hurry up about it.

Only… um. I had an interesting read of some UK stats that showed 20-30’s… drink less often, and use drugs less often, and are more conservative about money, than either of the previous two generations at that age. They’re also much more likely (in the UK) to vote conservative, than their predecessors. Partly this is rebellion, and partly circumstance, IMO. Socially yes, they are more ‘liberal’ about issues like homosexuality or race. But… well, three little observations here. The first is everything follows the money. The second is that this money reaction is a in itself a sign that things are tougher and more uncertain for young folk than they were when the previous cohorts were making their way through their 20’s. And nothing is more likely to turn those feeling the pinch against any group they feel are getting it easier than them. That has been the product of a PC culture – special perks for special groups. I think it’ll start with being sick of the smallest and most vocal groups and work its way up. Thirdly – people become more conservative as they get older – this is a fair well known and documented fact. So… if this lot are already more conservative… what are their tastes in sf going to be like when they’re fifty? And given that the next generation of the current 30-40’s kids are likely to rebel too… and there is only one way that can go.

And no I am not trying to put you off faithfully cloning whatever ‘new and unique’ thing trad pub is claiming is new and unique – just like its predecessor. But that is the swamp.

Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.

And now for the obligatory advertising (which pays for the sand in the Arena). Yonder picture is a link to book of mine. Dive in with an ear-splitting splosh

while I work on some more.

Building a Blog

Eternity Symbiote

On sale for only 2.99 in the month of June.

In the last 48 hours I have written about 15K words of fiction, which is a lot, for me. I have about 20% of the projected length of the novel remaining, and I want to finish it as soon as possible so I can get on to other projects, this summer being very very busy. I’m having fun with the writing, the other things are both more and less fun. LibertyCon at the end of this month, an accuracy-checking gig for a professor who is writing a textbooks, the second half of my General Chemistry, and a week camping out with my kids.

So what does all this have to do with blogging? Well, about a year and change ago, I commited to a daily blog. I’d been trying to blog regularly, and for some reason I lost my mind and decided daily was a terrific idea. Right now I’m looking back at past me and wondering if she was a little soft in the head. I think she didn’t have enough to do, poor thing…

But why? Well, blogging is one way to do what is sometimes called content marketing. In other words, people come to you not to see ‘buy my book!’ but information that interests them, and keeps them coming back, while you subliminally have messages about your books for sale, just not (usually) hitting them over the head with it. Dorothy Grant addressed this nicely in yesterday’s post, how repeating it a few times when you launch is good, but not too often.

Which, since I only launch something every 2-3 months, leaves me with a lot of space to fill up. I decided right away I would make one day a week a book review day. This not only gave me an excuse to read (I was never catholic, but boy, do I get the guilt thing) so I wouldn’t feel guilty about taking time to read when there was work to be done. I wanted to do at least one day a week to writing tips, techniques, and the industry, but I didn’t want the whole blog to be that.

So many blogs from writers are targeted to writers. Think about that… talk about niche marketing. Just how many of your fellow writers are going to buy your books? Now, yes, helping newbies learn is a worthy cause, and it’s part of the reason I do write about writing, or more often, publishing. On the other hand, I wanted posts and articles that would be of interest to the general public.

Take for instance Peter Grant, whose blog Bayou Renaissance Man is very simple in design and layout, but with sheer prolific output and an audience which was interested in the articles he writes on history, guns, and much more, he had a great platform for the launch of his first book. I had a good chat with him on our first meeting about his blog, and it was part of what inspired me to build mine.

Our own Sarah Hoyt is a blogging machine, even though she has been trying to cut back recently. And According to Hoyt is rarely about writing, and only occasionally about publishing. Yet she has a wonderful platform full of fans who refer to themselves as Hoyt’s Huns. This is a power tool in her toolbox of things to help her succeed as a writer, and seller of books.

So here’s the thing, being regular is almost more important than content, but if you don’t have interesting content they won’t come back. I write on food, art, writing, snippets of my work (and rarely, whole stories), social issues, and whatever catches my fancy. I’m not sure, never having compared numbers, how my blog is doing relative to other blogs. However, in the past few weeks, I have seen fans who tracked me down and left me comments praising my work. I have seen, in this year, my ‘followers’ grow, and the daily read-count according to wordpress (I will tell you I know this is highly inaccurate, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to get analytics to work with this blog) slowly get higher. And there have been a few days where the hitcount was astronomical, when I hit a nerve with an article.

Is it worth it? Well, there are always days when I can’t come up with a flippin’ thing to write about. I may, in time and given undue pressure by outside commitments, drop back to 3 days a week. It’s a whole lot of work, it is. I may take the art day off completely, as I watch my hits drop like a rock when I do them. However, the art is something I do for me, so maybe I won’t, either.

I do think that it is helping my sales. My books are hanging in there, and I have fans contacting me to tell me they found my book through my blog. I have people telling me how they appreciate my book reviews and it helps them find other authors (doesn’t help me monetarily, but it gives me a kick). It’s satisfying to do, for now. I do think that a network, like we have been building with Mad Genius club and the people who write for it, is a great way to cross-promote books to fans who might not have heard about them. I’m equally uncertain that ‘blog tours’ do anything at all, having participated in one or two and seen no blip in my sales.

Keep content marketing in mind. Social media blasts to announce a book are all well and good, but if you don’t already have a platform of people waiting to hear you speak, who will hear that blast? Besides, this internet thing is the perfect way for an introverted performer to thrive. I love the conversations a blog post can spark, and how they get me thinking, in return.

Don’t feel like you can manage a blog on your own? Try getting together with a couple other friends, setting an iron-clad schedule, and doing a combined blog. If you can stick to it, that would be a great way to keep regular content, and pool a fan base. Like this blog…

How to Win Readers & Influence Friends

Marketing is a big bugaboo for writers. Face it, most of us write because it’s better, easier, more comfortable than being around lots of people for lengthy times. I have training in how to be an extrovert when needed. But left to my own devices I would far rather curl up with a book – even a not-so-good one – than go to a party. Fortunately, the internet saves me from having to schmooze.

Even though the world of marketing as we know it has changed radically, there are still good marketing techniques, and bad ones. We have this perception of salesmen as being the stereotyped used-car guy, greasy, smarmy, and wholly untrustworthy. Some are. But not all of them. And frankly, my dear author friend, you have a product you need to sell. Ergo, you are a salesman. So, you have a decision. Are you going to be that guy?

Dale Carnegie wrote this way back in the thirties (1930’s!) when he was writing the foreword for one of the best known sales-traning books in the world, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and it is obvious that someone was asking him the same questions that we indie authors get. “Why, then, did I have the temerity to write another book? And, after I had written it, why should you bother to read it?“

Really good question, isn’t it? Of course, what you and I write is unique, original, absolutely not just another get-rich-quick book. But we do have to figure out how to answer that question, because we want to get readers. I’m suggesting that the best way to win readers might not be by selling to them. No one wants to visit a blog where the only posts are “buy my book! Look at my fabulous covers, looove my personal appearances/signings/what-have-you.” In this new world, where information moves fast, and internet denizens move faster, you have to catch attention and offer incentives, not bore your potential clients. One term I have heard applied to this is ‘content marketing’ and it’s much more than selling a product.

This blog, for instance, is a platform for writers. All of us have books and we all want more sales. But the big idea here is to offer you, our readers, more than just those books. We’re trying to make sure you have something interesting, funny, or informative to read, to keep you coming back. And we hope that once in a while you will buy a book, because you have a relationship with us, and you already know that we write decently, if sometimes unorthodox, we’re possessed of a wicked sense of humor (well, some of us are *eyes Kate* more wicked than others). Besides, Sarah, Kate, Amanda and I just would NOT look good with our hair greased back. Dave, hm… (ducks and runs!)

So as a shy author, what can you do to win readers? Well, try branding yourself. NO, not with the hot poker (put that thing down, and step away quickly!) but with a reputation. When people see your name online, what do they think? How often do they see your name? It’s a big ocean out there, and we are all little fish. And for goodness sake, don’t buy into the myth that all publicity is good publicity. If you respond to a negative review and get into a public fight (and any fight with someone via internet is public) this is not a good thing. However, if you get to the point where, when a potential reader sees your name as a byline and thinks “hm, this guy is always interesting” then you have won a reader.

Influencing friends is harder, and not something you really want to try to do, more of an unconscious process, but something to be aware of so you do not beat friends and family about the head and shoulders with your books that you want to sell. We’ve all seen that lean, away from someone who has a one-track mind, and the person being jabbered at glazes over with boredom. After a while that friend becomes less of a friend, as they distance themselves from the author who never talks about anything other than their books. Sometimes it’s hard not to be that narcissist. What we do is fascinating to us (surely you all want to hear about my research process for a short story set in Camp Lazear! No? Why not?) but not necessarily to others. Make sure that your online presence is lively, interesting, and not a one-trick pony. Although I like ponies… not that way! Geeeshh…

So play nice with your readers, and remember, if you impress them enough, they may tip the author!