Friday, January 30, 2015

Do Contest Wins Boost Sales?

I'm sure winning a major prize like a Pulitzer, The National Book Award, or any of the top genre awards, translates into greater sales. I know one of the reasons I wanted to read The Goldfinch was because it won the Pulitzer for 2014, and I often read most of the mysteries that garner a top award. For the most part, I'm not disappointed.

But what about other contests? How much mileage does an author get from winning a contest that doesn't have national and international acclaim? And which contests are legit?

In a few months I might be able to answer the second question. Doubletake, the mystery I wrote with Margaret Sutton, has just won the 2015 Best Mystery award from the Texas Association of Authors. A press release will go out on Feb 1 from the association, and the award ceremony will take place in April in Austin. Since I indie-published the book, I will be able to track sales and know pretty quickly if the award is going to boost sales.

As far as other contests and their legitimacy, there are many that have been around for a long time and have an established reputation. The Romance Writers of America have quite a few contests, and winning one of those has some clout. As does winning an Edger in Mystery, or the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America association.

Many of the long-established contests are not open to indie authors, but there are other newer contests that are growing in size and industry acceptance. I discovered that a lot of contests have early entry deadlines, and now is a good time to search for contests you might want to enter.

This past July, British novelist James Minter published a comprehensive list in an article on the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) blog. Minter mentions that he does not endorse any of the contests, nor does ALLi, and encourages authors to check Writer Beware before entering to make sure the contest is not a scam. Unfortunately there are people out there who just love to scam writers.

That list from Minter was too long to post here, so I hope you will hop over to check it out when you finish here. For quick reference, I found this short list from Ben Zachheim  that includes fees and other details.
  • Discovery Awards by IndieReader.com. The IRDA entry fee is $150 per title per category + $50 fee for each additional category entered. Open to submissions until March 2nd, 2015.
  • The IPPY Awards are Open, with  a deadline of March 10, 2015.  Entry per category for the first book is $75. Winners get a nice flood of exposure, notably through Publisher’s Weekly publications and emails.
  • The Guardian is now doing a monthly contest for self-published novels. UK authors only. Who in the USA has the guts to match this? The Atlantic? Reader’s Digest? New Yorker? Anyone?
  • The Kindle Book Awards are Open and are run by The Kindle Book Review. Submissions are being accepted for the 2015 awards until May 1, 2015. 
In addition to the list of contests, Zacheim also has tips in his article for choosing which contest to enter, as well as other advice, such as "set a budget for contest entry fees." I'd never thought of that, but it would make it easier to decide which ones to enter, especially if your budget doesn't cover the most expensive contests.

What do you do if you win? Zacheim had a few good tips:
  • Announce it everywhere. Tout it on your Twitter/Facebook/ G+/Amazon author/Goodreads profiles.

  • Post a press release with the award name next to your name in the H1 of your site. This way Google will make the association between you and the award. If enough people pick up the story (don’t forget to leverage friends and fans!) your chances of having your name attached to the award’s name in search results grows.

  • Add the award to your email signature.
I need to get busy. I've only told my knitting club. Bye now.

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, screenwriter, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mysteries are Doubletake and Boxes For Beds, both available for Kindle and in paper.  Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series, hardback and digital, along with Open Season, the first book in the series. For her editing rates, visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Using Click to Tweet

Nowadays, it's all about shortcuts. Short attention spans. Being able to do things in a click. Yet we also want ourselves visible everywhere. So, how do we make it easy for people to find us, and help spread the word that we're out there?

I discovered a site that expands on the typical "tweet" button we're used to seeing on blogs. It's called "Click to Tweet" and it allows you to customize a tweet, include links, and make it easy for your readers to share information. It took some trial and error on my part, so I thought I'd share what I figured out.

It's the customization feature that attracted me. The typical tweet buttons that come with sharing packages tweet the title of the blog. But what if you want more? A long blog title uses up characters, and a short one might not convey enough to tempt readers to give you that magic click. What if you want to pull something else from your post? That's where Click to Tweet might help.

They have 2 options: free or paid. The paid version has some bells and whistles, like images, shortcuts, and tracking. The monthly charge for unlimited use is nominal, but I'm still playing with the free version. But their basic tweets, with a little planning, can let you track them as well.

How a Basic Click to Tweet works: On the site, you fill in what you want tweeted into their "message you want tweeted" box. This is where the creativity comes into play. Let's say I want people to tweet this post. I come up with the tweet I'd like to see on Twitter that goes beyond the title of the post. Maybe, "Easy Tips to Get People to Tweet Your Blog Posts." If I plug that in and get the link, the Tweet would bring people here. But what am I getting out of it? Very little.

I want to know if people are clicking. Since I'm not using trackable tweets, I need to get those tweets to show up in my tweet stream, and in the streams of anyone who's following me. So, I'll add "via @authorterryo" to my tweet. I can use links to the post, which I shorten first because of the 140 character limit. If I wanted, I could add hashtags. Now, it'll show up in my mentions, and I can see whether people are actually clicking. (I use TweetDeck, so I can't attest to how it works for other platforms).

This is what I used for this post: Tips to Get People to Tweet Your Blog Posts using Click to Tweet via @authorterryo at The Blood-Red Pencil http://bit.ly/1wuESP2

After you have entered your tweet (making sure it's within the 140 character limit) you click the 'generate link' button and Click to Tweet will give you a link that will send the tweet. You embed that link on your 'call to action' on your site. For me, it's just the words "click to tweet"

The only 'skill' you need to use this process is the ability to create a hyperlink on your blog, but if you're blogging you probably know how to do that.

The paid version has ways to make things even easier, but I opted to try it out for a while before I decide.

Give it a try. Like this post? Click to Tweet.

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When to Seek Professional Help (with Marketing)

Writing is a solitary profession. With the exception of a few remarkable people who work in writing teams, few people can conceive of an idea, draft it, and then edit and revise to create a finished project. This much is obvious.



But what about when that initial stage is over and your book is out there in the world? For those of us who are self-published especially, once you click “publish,” approaching a writing career as a solitary endeavor might not be the best plan of action. Only one person can bring a book into the world, but sometimes it takes a little help to get it to soar.

This is where publicists and author assistants come in mighty handy. You hear about a lot of the big names having assistants, but the truth is, even someone who is just starting out or who is building an indie career can use the professional help of someone whose job it is to build up the work you’ve already done.

Working with a publicist has been one of the best professional decisions I’ve ever made. My publicist, Anne Chaconas at Badass Marketing, is a fountain of knowledge and skill about the promotional end of the business. She, like other assistants and publicists out there, sets up blog appearances for me, organizes ARC readers, puts together my newsletter, make graphics for my social media sites and swag, and generally keeps me pumped about things when the going gets hard. The fact that she does all of these things for me means that I can do more of what I’m actually good at: writing books.

We authors can spend a lot of time buried under the nitty-gritty of all things publishing that are not writing. If you find yourself lamenting that hours of your precious time are sucked away looking for reviewers, interacting on social media, or generally selling your work instead of creating it, it may be time to call in the big guns. I’m not gonna lie, it can be a big expense, but in the long run it will pay off. The returns I’ve seen since hiring Anne had increased at a rate that I don’t think I would have seen otherwise. Plus, with Badass Marketing, at least, you can hire help for a particular project or on a more ongoing basis.

The world of publishing has grown more competitive than ever. You want to make sure that you’re using all of the tools you can to put yourself in a place you need to be. If you don’t have the time or money to do it all yourself, the time has come to seek help.

So where do you go to find an assistant or a publicist? Lots of places. But I would start by checking out Author’s Atlas, a site that has been compared to Craig’s List for freelance resources for authors.


Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Piggybacking

You'd have to be living underground not to have heard of the successful erotic book, Fifty Shades of Grey, now turned into a movie. You'd also have to be living in a cave not to have recognized countless spinoffs, which for the purposes of this blog, I'll call Fifty Shades of Whatever.

There's a saying that success breeds success, and apparently many are quick to jump on the bandwagon and piggyback on others' successes. Some do it with similar titles. Others, with books in a similar genre. When that happens, what was once unique becomes one of many.

Actually, doing so is nothing new. What author didn't receive advice to compare their manuscript with a better known author's, when submitting to an agent or editor? Even in the library, I often see flyers saying, "If you like so and so, try so and so's books. You might like them."

In a way, it's a good thing to identify your book through comparison, and perhaps gain fans of like taste.

In another way, it's hard to compare your book with someone else's and still remain unique. That's walking a thin line, especially if you're determined to also follow the "Write the book of your heart" advice received from other quarters.

At least we're luckier than in the past, when books had to absolutely be pigeonholed into certain categories. Nowadays, it's possible to combine genres to suit our fancy.

So, if you wanted to piggyback and also be original, I guess you could do a book called Fifty Window Shades, Which One's Best?

After all, it's not easy to pick window shade styles, colors, or even gauge the width and length correctly. Some, you can tear off yourself to get the desired specifications, others you can't. Some are utilitarian, others fancy. Some block the light, some don't. Some you can see through, some you can't. Getting the wrong shade could lead to all sorts of trouble.

Now it's your turn. Do you have any either practical or nonsensical ideas for piggybacking on popular books or authors?


Experience the diversity and versatility of Morgan Mandel. Romantic Comedies: Her Handyman, its sequel, A Perfect Angel, standalone reality show romance; Girl of My Dreams. Thriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse,its sequel: the Blessing or Curse CollectionRomantic suspense: Killer CareerMystery:Two Wrongs.Short and Sweet  Romance:   Christmas Carol. Twitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com    Morgan Does Chick Lit.Com.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Social Media and Marketing: Does it Work?

We all hear how we HAVE to be on Twitter constantly, update our Facebook status often, post to Pinterest, etc., etc., etc. But do these social media sites sell books for us?

Marketing Maven Kristin Lamb has written several good posts about this subject. She writes the following in her blog:

Marketing, Social Media & Book Signings--Why NONE of These Directly Impact Book Sales

"In The Digital Age, we seem to find a lot of extremes. Either articles or blogs ranting how social media doesn’t sell books, it’s too hard, there are too many rules, whiiiiiiinnnnne. These folks might write books, maybe even great books, but I suppose they think readers will find them using telepathy. 

Or, there are those who worship the Oracle of Automation and the Lord of Algorithms. Instead of writing
MORE BOOKS, they tweet, FB, Instagram, buy flare, do blog tours, futz with the website, the cover, the algorithms…and then can later be witnessed crying in a corner with a pan of brownies and a half-finished bottle of rum.

Thus, I am here to bring some balance to The Force.

Social Media Was NEVER About Selling Books Directly—Who KNEW?

I’ve been saying this for about ten years, because the idea of using social circles for sales is NOT new. About ten years ago, I recognized that social media would soon be a vital tool for writers to be able to create a brand and a platform before the book was even finished. This would shift the power away from sole control of Big Publishing and give writers more freedom. But, I knew social media could not be used for direct sales successfully."

How? To read the rest of her blog, go to Kristen Lamb's Blog.




Shared by Heidi M. Thomas. A native Montanan, Heidi now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreamsis based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series, Dare to Dream, and a non-fiction book Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women, have just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Stepping Up Your Game

When a potential buyer thumbs through our novel in a “real” bookstore or peruses a sample of our e-book online, what does she see? What makes our printed pages (or e-book) stand out from all the others? A great cover garners instant attention. Name recognition helps. However, many of us aren’t well known; we haven’t developed a fan base. We need an equalizer.

Equalizer? How about graphics?

Most hard-copy books are printed with black ink on a cream or white background. Line art can be very effective, and a grayscale graphic can be surprisingly detailed in printed books. E-books, on the other hand, can be full color.

Are you captivated by a gorgeous sunset? A turbulent sea? Ducklings paddling after their mother in a pond? An elderly couple holding hands? As the cliché says, a picture is worth a thousand words. Just as a stunning cover may inspire us to pick up a book, well-placed graphics in the interior may incite us to buy the book.  

Look at two scenes below — with and without graphics. Do the graphics enhance or clarify the scenes in your mind? How do they help to tell the story?

Martha Hanson walked into the noisy classroom. Ninth grade boys and girls huddled in small pods, some whispering, some laughing, some tossing books and papers into the air and letting them fall to the floor. Miniskirts and shorts showed too much leg, and pants belted below the derrière rather than at the waist made her cringe. Fourteen years ago she’d left her position in a parochial school to raise her family. Her husband’s death had forced her back into the workplace. Public school wasn’t where she’d ever expected to teach.

The third time she tapped her ruler against the desktop, some students began to turn her way. “Find a seat, please.” Adjusting her glasses, she struggled to be heard above the din.

A roomful of mostly fair-haired adolescents looked in her direction, at least momentarily. A Hispanic girl and three Asian boys rounded out the group. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak.

***

Harry Samson left the college campus and began the ten-block trek to his apartment. The fresh air always invigorated him after a day of teaching. Following his recovery from a football injury, he’d returned to his alma mater to get his Ph.D. and stayed when a position unexpectedly opened up. At the end of this term he’d have tenure. Not that job security was everything, but positions in his field weren’t as easy to come by as they’d once been.

He stopped to light his pipe and leisurely crossed the street. Halfway home, he heard a noise in the alley. A quick glance made him want to run the other way. An old man, a derelict most likely, lay on the pavement. Two strapping young hoodlums took turns kicking him. The man curled into a fetal position and cried out. With each blow, the cries grew weaker.

Conflicting thoughts stampeded through his mind. What can I do? I’m only one person, but I can’t just walk away. It hasn’t been that many years since I was a star on the football field. I stay in shape. I lift weights…

He stepped out of sight, put in a quick call to 911, and returned to the alley entrance. Drawing himself up to his full six feet, he limped toward the bullies.

***

Now let’s add graphics to the same scenes and see how they might enhance reader interest and understanding.

by Shannon Parish
www.illustratingyou.com
Martha Hanson walked into the noisy classroom. Ninth grade boys and girls huddled in small pods, some whispering, some laughing, some tossing books and papers into the air and letting them fall to the floor. Miniskirts and shorts showed too much leg, and pants belted below the derrière rather than at the waist made her cringe. Fourteen years ago she’d left her position in a parochial school to raise her family. Her husband’s death had forced her back into the workplace. Public school wasn’t where she’d ever expected to teach.

The third time she tapped her ruler against the desktop, some students began to turn her way. “Find a seat, please.” Adjusting her glasses, she struggled to be heard above the din.

A roomful of mostly fair-haired adolescents looked in her direction, at least momentarily. A Hispanic girl and three Asian boys rounded out the group. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak.

***

by Shannon Parish
www.illustratingyou.com
Harry Samson left the college campus and began the ten-block trek to his apartment. The fresh air always invigorated him after a day of teaching. Following a football injury, he’d returned to his alma mater to get his Ph.D. and stayed when a position unexpectedly opened up. At the end of this term he’d have tenure. Not that job security was everything, but positions in his field weren’t as easy to come by as they’d once been.

He stopped to light his pipe and leisurely crossed the street. Halfway home, he heard a noise in the alley. A quick glance made him want to run the other way. An old man, a derelict most likely, lay on the pavement. Two strapping young hoodlums took turns kicking him. The man curled into a fetal position and cried out. With each blow, the cries grew weaker.

Conflicting thoughts stampeded through his mind. What can I do? I’m only one person, but I can’t just walk away. It hasn’t been that many years since I was a star on the football field. I stay in shape. I lift weights…

He stepped out of sight, put in a quick call to 911, and returned to the alley entrance. Drawing himself up to his full six feet, he limped toward the bullies.

***

Do these graphics enhance the scenes for you? How could you incorporate illustrations into your books? To step up your game, you can insert graphics above chapter headings, at chapter endings (line art can be especially effective here), or with a text wrap, as shown above.

Graphics reprinted with permission.
ShannonParish.com

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at DenverEditor.com.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Steps: Situation or Story?

I've heard a lot of great ideas for stories from people over the years. The problem? They describe a situation, not a story.

Writer: "This girl is in this really unhappy relationship. I mean the guy is an obvious psycho, but she just can't leave him."

Me: "So it's a woman in peril story. She has to escape the psycho boyfriend?"

Writer: "No. It isn't that kind of story."

Me: "So what kind of story is it?"

Writer: "It's about abusive relationships."

Me: "So what does your character do about it? What makes her realize the danger? How does she get away?"

Writer: "She can't leave. That's the point. Women get trapped in these things and they can't get out. There's no one that really helps them."

Me: "True. So what happens in this story?"

Writer: "This woman lives with his horrible guy. And he does (fill in list of awful things)."

Me: "And she learns to fight back?"

Writer: "No, no. She can't fight back or he'll kill her."

While all of this may be true, and the author could highlight this plight in a nonfiction article, this isn't a story with structure.

For it to become a story, the main character trapped in a hellish situation becomes the hero by finding a way out. A catalyst comes along that makes the situation untenable enough that she is forced to take action. It could be a literary story. It could be a thriller, or even a police procedural.

But, until the character defines a goal, makes a decision or takes action, and faces obstacles, it's just a situation. The story could have a down ending. The woman could try and fail and try again and end up dead. Not too many readers would love the ending, but it would be a realistic cautionary tale. The struggle for safety is the story.

A situation is Dick being in an unhappy marriage. The story begins when something comes along to make him want to leave it or fix it.

A situation is Sally hating her job. The story begins when she is fired, competing for a promotion, or finds the courage to start her own company.

A situation is Jane being betrayed by a friend. The story begins when Jane decides to do something about it: get revenge, confront and heal, or make her friend see the error of her ways in a misguided fashion.

A story goal with obstacles and responses are the gears that power narrative. You can write pages and pages of anecdotes that, while entertaining, do nothing to propel the story forward.

If you can't identify a central conflict and resolution of your plot, you could be illustrating a situation and that is how you lose readers.

Every chapter should include conflict represented by obstacles and responses. Every chapter should show characters moving toward or away from the goal until they reach the final outcome.

There's nothing worse than turning pages and wondering what the whole point of a chapter was. If I have to go back and reread it, looking for a point, the book goes in the "to be burned" pile.

As you go through your first draft, make sure each scene pulls its weight. Don't waste the reader's precious time, or you might find your book in ashes, your name blackened in the process.

To learn more about obstacles and responses, check out Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict.






Diana Hurwitz
 is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...